Boomer fashions are the stuff of which family legends are made. Not since the 1920s had so many fashion choices been available to men and women. One style for women that returned in the boomer years was culottes. Simply put, culottes were, in essence, a skirt that was sewn together in the middle, forming loose pants. They were more formal, which helped differentiate them from shorts.
Culottes were not an invention of the boomer era. In fact, the original term was used to describe the knee-breeches that men wore, both as traditional wear and military uniform, from the late Middle Ages through the early nineteenth century. The first five U.S. presidents wore the style that is easily identified in paintings and drawings of the era.
In the late nineteenth century, split skirts were developed for Victorian-age women to go horseback riding. Into the twentieth century, split skirts allowed women to look like they were wearing a skirt so they could go bike riding as well as do household activities such as cleaning or gardening. The length of these split skirts varied to the degree that the shortest could be perceived as more shorts than skirts, so were termed skorts.
During the War, many women wore pants since they were heading to factories to replace the men who had been sent to fight. As men returned to the factories, women were sent back home, though many refused to be told that they could not wear pants. By the time the first Baby Boomer girls reached teenage years in the 1950s, pants, shorts and skirts were even more desirable than dresses. Like some culottes, popular Capri pants were shin length, but they were practically the antithesis of culottes, in that they were tight to the body.
The mini skirt made its debut in 1964, ushering in a new era of freedom for women to choose the style — and length — that suited them best. Perhaps it was the response to the very short that brought culottes back into the minds of fashion-conscious women. By the late 1960s, women had a multitude of choices, including culottes, skirts and dresses of varying lengths, as well as jumpsuits, jeans and trousers.
In the early 1970s, hot pants supplanted the shortest culottes, continuing to expand a woman’s choices. Culottes — from shin length to above the knee — were still around as a more modest alternative to short skirts and hot pants.
The girls in Mister Boomer’s early life were saddled with school uniforms, and once in college, adopted jeans more than any other style. Yet in the 1970s Mister B recalls his mother and Boomer Sister started wearing culottes as semi-casual attire for social gatherings like graduation parties and weddings. Mister Boomer has been told some boomers wore them to school, too.
Evidently culottes are “on trend” this year, as a shin-length version has been embraced by fashionista celebrities. What do you remember about culottes in the 1960s and ’70s, boomers?