How to Wear Culottes to Work (And: CAN You Wear Culottes to Work?)

how to wear culottes to workSeveral years ago, when culottes started to come out from major workwear brands like Theory and Ann Taylor, I’ll admit my first reaction was HELL NO… followed by “my eyes, my eyes!” In short: not a fan. Several years later, brands are still trying to make culottes happen, and what’s worse: my eyes have started to become accustomed to them as an option for casual offices or casual days at conservative offices. So, ladies, it’s time to discuss: CAN you wear culottes to a conservative workplace? What are your best tips for HOW to wear culottes to work? What styling tips make culottes more professional vs more weekend?

The answer here is going to vary by office, I think — so know yours! For my $.02, I think these factors make a world of difference if you’re wondering how to wear culottes to work:

how to wear culottes to work 2018

Pictured:  one / two / three (plus) / four 

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  • What shoes to wear with culottes: Wear heels or other shoes that might be described as “sleek.” The clunkier the shoe, the more the look says “weekend.” (I particularly love them with heels like tie-on styles.) This isn’t to say you have to wear heels — I think some oxfords with low treads and cutouts can look OK, or perhaps a sleek baby wedge like this one could also be nice. For colder days of spring and warmer days of fall, I do like the look of mid-calf boots with culottes (like in our picture at top with red boots).
  • What top to wear with culottes: Again, here you want to go for structure — the slinkier the look or the more slouchy the top, the more it says “weekend.” (Note that spaghetti straps are almost never appropriate for work!) Some of the peplum tops or wrap tops we’ve seen lately could be nice, like this or this.
  • Accessorize like you mean it: Add a watch, a long pendant necklace or other work-appropriate jewelry — skip anything that says weekend like dangly earrings that move, hoops (although I must admit I am almost always anti-hoops), an arm full of bracelets, etc, etc.

What say you, readers — are you for or against culottes for work? Can you wear culottes to your office? What styling tips help to “dress culottes up” — and which styling tricks put culottes solidly in “weekend” territory?

Are culottes appropriate to wear to conservative offices? Every office is unique, but if you're wondering how to wear culottes to work, we've got some tips for you...


  1. Anonymous :

    I was just wanting a pair of white ones for some reason. I would wear them with tall pointy heels. I could totally rock that to my AmLaw 50 firm.

  2. no

  3. Lana Del Raygun :

    Culottes always remind me of that scene in “The Good Master” when Kate shocks her aunt by splitting her skirts to go riding, and “rebellious Hungarian peasant teen” is never the vibe I want to project at work.

  4. Loved my short little culottes when I was in elementary school in the 80’s. Looks like a skirt, but no, it’s actually culottes! I remember a white pair with pastel polka dots…

  5. Anonymous :


  6. Anonymous :

    Even if I can, I won’t, because I’m no longer a small child in 1987.

  7. Anonymous :

    A woman I work with has been wearing some recently to our AmLaw 50 firm with a business casual dress code. However, she’s tall and rail thin, so it’s works perfectly her. She’s worn them with tucked in short sleeved blouse and looks fabulous.

    I should note she’s also the same person who defies the dress code on a regular basis and will wear full workout gear and sneakers to work (yes, even with partners in the office). She basically just does what she wants clothing wise, so wearing culottes for her is just sort of … normal? I guess.

    • I wish I looked like her, but being somewhat short and squat with a curvey tuchus is NOT good for coulotte’s. I much perfer to wear a pencil skirt, which highlights my curves and keeps men lookeing at my leg’s, which ARE pretty.

    • Good for her, take a lesson.

  8. They aren’t for me, but I think you can in a semi-conservative office if done right.

    But that window of right is very small. This blogger did a good job of making culottes work, imo.

  9. OMG no, please no. We wore these (in suiting fabric for some reason?) in the early aughts with knee high boots and I still do not know why nobody told me I looked like a pirate…who somehow had a day job in an office.

    • Anonymous :

      In thrift stores I periodically come across dress “pants” that are WAY too short and then remember…oh right, we wore those with knee high boots back around 2004. A trend I hope doesn’t come back as it made very little sense.

  10. The ancient dress code at my office expressly forbids them. A few years ago there was a revival of the dress code in response to some truly inappropriate clothing. My 50+ male boss sent an email to our female assistant asking what they were and if there was any chance he’d ever be in violation of this rule. Our assistant forwarded it to me (we’re all pretty close), and we got a good laugh. We told him to think of an outfit that Sophia from Golden Girls might wear.

  11. Anonymous :

    They definitely wouldn’t fly in my conservative office, even as part of a full suit. We have a pretty strict “no cropped pants” policy. Even some ankle pants are a no-go.

    • Same here. I just started wearing ankle pants to the office in the last year, so clearly we tread carefully with trends around here. They have to be truly maintstream (i.e., no longer a trend).

  12. Ginger in Tech Support :

    My work dress code specifically forbids them, and we are considered “business casual” though most folks dress on the very conservative end of that spectrum.

  13. I’m not a fan of the look as my own personal preference, but what is the purpose of banning them under a dress code – too fashion forward? Because they don’t show more skin than knee length skirt, nor are they particularly form-fitting. Do these same dress codes ban jumpsuits? Which as a category is both fashion forward-ish and not necessarily inappropriately skin-baring or form-fitting. Seems to me an over-policing of women’s bodies.

    • Anonymous :

      Ours is “no shorts or cropped pants” and applies to both men and women. It’s a formality thing.

  14. Anonymous :

    Wow, so much hate! I’m surprised to see them included in dress code rules against short pants I call and think of these as split skirts. The look of a skirt, without the risk of showing too much when you bend down too far, or if you commute by bike, or Idk, someone walks into your private office while you’re sitting in an unladylike pose.

    I’d like to understand why people are so up in arms about them, but the hate seems too visceral to be explained.

    I’d wear them in the same length as a midi skirt, with slightly more swishyness, and the same kind of sleek top and simple closed-toe shoes (not like these pix) that I would wear with that kind of skirt. Whose going to be looking between my legs to see if the thing I’m wearing comes together there or not?

    • Aunt Jamesina :

      I think the aversion makes sense for very conservative offices, where even cropped trousers might be a no no. For any office, it’s also a very different silhouette from what women have been wearing over the last decade +, which means it’s going to meet some resistance before it’s able to become midstream. I love this look on others, but I’m not convinced it’s for me yet– and my muscular calves tend to not be flattered by pants this length. The blogger See Anna Jane rocks this look flawlessly, IMO.

  15. No. Just no. Amusing that these were a maybe while dangly earrings are still a no. Why the hate on lovely statement earrings?

  16. I could see someone wearing them at my casual-end-of-business-casual office. Personally, they’re not to my taste. I’m young enough to be a Millennial but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not that into trends, and I don’t see this sticking around another 5 years. Pass me the full-length trousers.

  17. Anonymous :

    The tall, thin hipster chic associate in IP occasionally wears them at my firm, but she’s the only one I’ve ever seen pull them off. I’m not opposed in principle, I think it’s just a very narrow set of people they look good on.

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