Wednesday, 7 December 2016


Culottes were the breeches worn by the nobility and upper gentry; they reached only to about the knee in comparison to the full-length trousers worn by the peasantry. To add to the class distinction the culottes were often made of silk rather than the coarse cloth affordable to the peasantry.

During the beginning of the 18th century the socks reached just above the hem of the culottes; this changed over the decades so that stockings eventually were tucked in underneath the culotte.
The hem of the culotte was fastened either by a buckle or by string to ensure that the breeches fit tightly to the wearer's legs.

The culotte was also equipped with a fly which was usually closed by buttons.

Billedresultat for 18th century breeches
Silk culottes

The upper classes' culottes had a slit at the side which was then fastened by a buckle; those of fewer means simply tied the culottes around the knee.
Over the 18th century the culottes became tighter as the waistcoats got shorter which meant that a man's silhouette altogether became slimmer. Those who insisted on wearing the tightest version occasionally had to be helped into them by their valets!

The culottes were part of the standard military uniforms in the 18th century. For riding the delicate silks were laid aside and the culottes were made of leather or other tougher materials.

Billedresultat for french nobility 18th century
French nobleman showing off his culottes in the park
of Versailles

Due to the connection with the aristocracy the term sansculotte - which emerged around the time of the revolution - implied a person without culottes (sans = without) and referred to a revolutionary.

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