Culottes or Palazzo Pants? Deciphering The Perplexing Trend


[All Photos: Getty]

Culottes are going to be making a strong comeback this Spring, but when the trend first started appearing on the ever-so-stylish a couple of seasons ago, normal people saw the wide-legged designs and found them pretty foreign. Well, at least I did.

Once people got into the trend, a different confusion seemed to ensue: When is a pair of pants ‘Palazzo’, and when is it a ‘Culotte’?

Are they even perhaps interchangeable? I decided that is was time to dive in and find out when culottes end and Palazzo pants start.


I thought I could turn to official dictionary definition and solve the confusion quickly - I wish it were that simple! First of all, when you type the word ‘Palazzo’, they start to talk about: “large imposing buildings especially in Italy”. Nope. Not helpful.

Secondly, it defines a ‘Culotte’ as a, “divided skirt; also: a garment having a divided skirt —often used in plural”.

Wait, wasn’t this what Palazzo pants were, too?

So I turned to another source: Wikipedia.

While Wikipedia explains Palazzo pants as long women’s trousers cut with a loose, extremely wide leg that flares out from the waist. The article on culottes turns out to be far more interesting—although admittedly I’m using the word “interesting” subjectively here.

Culottes, which were “a style of tight trousers ending just below the knee”, dated way back in late Middle Ages when they were worn by “the gentlemen of the European upper-classes”.


The article goes on to illustrate the rich history of culottes but I was sure I already had my answer so I confess to doing a light skimming after noting down the definition!

In summary: Palazzo pants are long, wide-legged pants, whereas the basically similar culottes are cut off at anywhere from above the ankles to below the knees.

And that solves one of the greatest style riddles around! Well, at least for me.

Do you find this thorough online search on the culottes vs. Palazzo pants issue satisfying and convincing, or are you still hesitant on calling your wide-legged pants with either names? Perhaps there really is such a thing as a culottes/palazzo ‘hybrid’?

What’s your say on this Culottes vs. Palazzo pants debate?

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