Culottes are clothes that were famous in the late 18th century worn by European gentlemen of the upper classes all up to the nineteenth century, and also famous in the west with some of America’s first presidents. They were the definition of classic dressing for the men of that time, and that meant a distinction of the elite from rest in the society. This definition is however biased on menswear, but women too had something to partake in the dressing code and actually more than the men. For womenswear, it was more of a skirt that was split into pants, and that has been the picture painted of the culottes fashion history hitherto.
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Culottes Fashion History
When these clothes were first introduced in the industry, they came with a lot of controversies for reasons relevant at the time. These controversies rose because the dressing acted as a symbol of oppression in the French Revolution in towards the end of the 17th century. These revolutionaries were therefore branded as san culottes, which meant opposing of the aristocratic ideologies.
That was not the only source of controversy though. Many concerns were raised when the dressing was changed into a free cloth for women, down from its noble role over the years. These designs gained popularity among women in the Victorian era where women embraced manly sports and activities as opposed to the past. They started being actively involved in tennis, horseback riding among other activities, and in their defence, the traditional skirts were not convenient for these. They needed something freer to perform the best.
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In 1931, designer Schiaparelli went to London for fabric shopping dressed in culottes and received very negative critics from the British press. They defined her dressing as manly and one that perpetrated lesbianism in broad daylight. Lili de Alvarez, a renowned tennis player also wore a Schiaparelli at Wimbledon and was not spared either. Outrageous reporters of the Daily Mail claimed that Alvarez deserves a sound beating for coming out like that in the public. A few years later, a French law was passed that forbade people from wearing the pants unless holding a bicycle handlebar or a horse. Those who wore them in public in Paris were arrested.
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Cullotes – Fashion Statement
Fortunately, this didn’t go for a long time as the mentality eroded quickly and it became a way of dressing for most women. The culottes fashion history began around this time and women wore them as a fashion statement. It is the very ideologies introduced by Schiaparelli that gave the world a different twist of perception of the fabric.
Some fashion moguls argued that the dress was aggressively sexy, even though they were meant for a completely purpose altogether. This was, however, an opinion of some. The vast majority thought of the dress as completely unsexy but still wore it for other reasons.
Later on, their glory fell to the grass and they went out of the market for quite some time, until recently when some made an appearance in the industry. History always repeats itself: the culottes got the same critisism in recent seasons as they did back in the days when they were first introduced. Opinions have generally varied, but one positive thing that has stood out is the versatility and the comfort of the fabric which make it ideal for the summer heat!
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