AskDefine | Define culottes

Dictionary Definition

culottes n : a divided skirt [syn: culotte]

User Contributed Dictionary




Related terms


a divided skirt
  • Hungarian: szoknyanadrág



  1. Plural of culotte

Extensive Definition

The word culottes is of French language origin, and is the diminutive form of the word "cul," which means "backside," from the Latin "culus." Historically, the word "culottes" has always referred to the knee-breeches commonly worn by gentlemen of the European upper-classes from the late Middle Ages or Renaissance through the early 19th century. Culottes were normally closed and fastened about the leg, to the knee, by either buttons, a strap and buckle, or by a draw-string. During the French Revolution (late 18th century), the working-class revolutionaries were known as the "sans-culottes" (literally, "without culottes"), and derived their name from their preference for pantaloons rather than the upper-class culottes.

Culottes in military uniforms

Military uniforms incorporated culottes as a standard uniform article, the lower leg being covered by either stockings, leggings, or knee-high boots. Culottes were a common part of military uniforms during the European war of the eighteenth-century (the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, the Franco-British Colonial Wars, and the American Revolution).

Other, later definitions

The women's fashion industry commonly co-opts words that have historically been used to describe men's garments and uses them to describe an entirely different garment, often creating confusion among historians and those who read history. For example, currently, the term "culottes" in French is now used to describe women's panties, an article of clothing that has little or no relation to true culottes.

Women's culottes

Another latter-day use of the word culottes describes a split or divided skirt. During the Victorian Era (mid- to late-nineteenth century) long split skirts were developed for horseback riding so that women could sit astride a man's saddle rather than riding side-saddle. The term "culottes" was co-opted from the original French definition of the word to describe these split riding skirts. Later, split skirts were developed to provide women more freedom to do activities such as gardening, cleaning, bike riding, etc. and still look like one is wearing a skirt.


  • In place of the term "culottes," the term skort (a portmanteau for skirt and shorts) is more widely used in some areas. While some garments sold as culottes resemble short trousers, to truly be a skort it needs to look like a skirt. Thus, they differ from trousers or shorts by being much fuller at the bottom (hem) than at the waist. A skort is shorts that have a front covering to resemble a skirt or short pant legs with a same length or longer skirt sewn over the top.
  • Some culottes have a part sewn over only the front, some are shorts with a skirt sewn over them.
    • While these may not be completely the same, they are often called by either name, so either term can apply.

School uniforms

Culottes are used in girls school uniforms along with skirts as an option or culottes are brought in as a replacement to skirts. Culottes are mainly worn as part a uniform mainly to primary, middle and Catholic schools. Culottes were also part of the uniform of Brownie Guides up until recently when the uniform was modernised and the traditional brown cullotes were replaced.


culottes in German: Culotte
culottes in Spanish: Culotte
culottes in French: Culotte (vêtement)
culottes in Italian: Culotte
culottes in Japanese: キュロットスカート
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