Culotte Hell

storytelling, stylin'

I went to an extremely strict private school when I was a kid.  Strict.  Very strict.  Boys-must-keep-their-hair-short-strict.  Girls-can’t-wear-dangly-earrings-strict.  When gym class came around, we girls would huddle in the bathroom and change out of our below-the-kneecap skirts into white t-shirts and red culottes.  In case you’re unaware, this is what culottes look like.

That girl is so cute, but you know little hon-bun is in culotte hell right now.  Not sure how she plays tennis with all of that material swathed around her legs.

Modesty was the name of the game at this school, which I am ALL for.  Except, their plan of attack was missing a whole lot of logic.  Culottes are supposed to resemble skirts, unlike form-fitting pants, which can accentuate buttocks and the ba-gine-y.  I get that.  Awesome.  But what happens when you have a fleet of seventh grade girls running towards the jungle gym in their billowy culottes, and they climb to the top?  They’ve got a skirt for each leg, and the culottes have now turned into a Ringling Bros. Circus Tent with floral print Hanes Her Way as the center attraction to an audience of pubescent boys, slack-jawed on the blacktop.

Really?  Sweatpants wouldn’t be the better option here?

One morning, when I was six years old, I started the day off just the same as I’d start any schoolday.  Roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, put on some undies, a shirt, a long jumper dress, socks with the lace and bow at the ankles, and black mary jane shoes.  A bowl of Clusters (remember those?) and a glass of orange juice for breakfast.  Mom puts a barrette in my hair and hands me lunch (or if I was lucky, lunch money – for a pizza slice, ice cream, and a chocolate milk), and I was out the door.  Dad dropped me off early on his way to work.

I was part of the “Before School Care” crowd.  For about thirty minutes before school started, all of the “early kids” played on the playground under the watchful eye of an adult – a teacher or a parent.

On this day, I had been hanging out on the swings, and was ready to climb up the slide when I saw everyone heading towards the school – meaning Before School Care was over, and school was getting ready to start.  One slide down, and I’d walk in with the rest of my classmates.  This was a fantastic slide.  Steep, metal, rusty – a total death trap.  I sat at the top of the slide and pushed off.

Slid.  And suddenly stopped.

The hem of my dress had gotten snagged on a rusty bolt at the very top of the slide.  I couldn’t catch myself.  I was halfway down the slide, with the bottom of my dress pulled up past my chin, naked legs flailing against the metal slide – willing my feet to climb back up.

But I couldn’t.  And here I was, enrolled at the School of All Things Amish, with my underwear on proud display.  My skirt around my head, my arms completely useless.  And I panicked.

What if someone SAW me on the playground like this?  Worse yet, what if someone DIDN’T see me?  I’d be stuck like this until recess, except I’d miss snack time and lunch and surely die of starvation before then.

I’d be a malnourished beacon of nudity, and my only hope would be that I passed out from hunger and the principal would pity me instead of kicking me out and sending me to public school.  Kids join gangs in public school.  Kids get beat up in public school.  Kids expose their elbows in public school.

I kicked.  I waved my arms about, reaching in vain for the hand holds at the top of the slide.  I jerked my torso haphazardly, hoping my skirt would rip off the bolt and I would be free.

Nothing.  Nothing worked.

And then I heard footsteps.  A seventh grade boy walked up to the slide, mercifully ignored my ribbon trimmed undies, and yanked my skirt off the bolt.  I silently slid down the slide, pulled my skirt back down over my knees, and ran inside the school.

I ate my pizza slice with a little more gratitude at lunch time, and gave that slide the side-eye for the rest of the week.

Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply Tweets that mention Culotte Hell | nice girl notes -- Topsy.com September 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Roo {NiceGirlNotes}, Jessica Flamingo. Jessica Flamingo said: Culotte Hell | nice girl notes: For about thirty minutes before school started, all of the “early kids” played on … http://bit.ly/bXQdf4 […]

  • Reply Mindy September 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Oh my, that is funny, and it brings back terrifying memories of my own childhood, growing up in an extremely conservative home. We weren’t allowed to have short hair (as a 42 year old woman I still have PTSD when I go into a Great Clips) and we were absolutely not permitted to wear pants. But I grew up in Small Town, Colorado, which frequently is the low spot for the nation when it comes to cold temps in the winter. So my parents compromised and allowed my sisters and me to wear pants UNDER our skirts and dresses during the winter. Boy if that didn’t make us the most popular girls in school. Not socially awkward in the least. While other kids were wearing cute oxford shirts and “I’m With Stupid” Mork rainbow suspenders with their Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, my sisters and I were sporting K-mart cords under our homemade wool skirts. Who knew that look would actually become a fashion trend for a brief blip 30 years later? I guess I was just way ahead of my time. Oh, and we got the culotte treatment too – again handmade. They were a summer staple to replace shorts. Thankfully by the time I hit high school my parents had mellowed a little and I had a somewhat normal H.S. fashion experience (if you call fingerless lacy gloves, asymmetrical hair cuts and leg warmers over jeans normal).

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 5:12 am

      Hahaha @ Mork rainbow suspenders.

      Why do the neo-cons think pants under a skirt is some sort of consolation prize?

  • Reply Bev @ FlamingoToes.com September 30, 2010 at 1:16 am

    ‘malnourished beacon of nudity’. Ok. I just totally frightened my children with how loud I laughed when I read that. And they’re teenagers. They don’t frighten easily.
    This reinforces the reason I always sent my daughter to school with bike shorts on under her dresses. Actually, she still does that. haha.

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:01 am

      Tell your kids I’m sorrrrry.

  • Reply Ali @ Honey and Maple Syrup September 30, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Oh, how embarrassing!! I think my shorts split when I was in 3rd grade, but honestly I can’t remember if it really happened or it was just a really bad dream.
    And I went to one of those private schools for high school. I wasn’t allowed to put my hand on my boyfriend’s backpack while we walked. And we didn’t have school dances because dancing was too sexual, I guess. But at least I didn’t join any gangs in public school!

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:01 am

      Hahahaha, we didn’t have school dances either. I did end up in public school, which is why I’m so gangsta now.

  • Reply Kristen September 30, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Ahh, cullotes. I went to a conservative baptist church as a kid and we had to wear those things at church camp every year. As if I wasn’t awkward looking enough as a skinny, pale and not-allowed-to-wear-makeup young girl. Nope, I had to dress in a hideous, oversized skirt/short combo. Definitely no chance of attracting the opposite sex at all (probably the whole reason behind the culottes in the first place.)
    Oh, and thankfully I now go to a church that has no problem with women wearing normal clothes and even (gasp) pants!!! I vow to never subject my daughter (if I have one in the future) to ‘culotte hell!’ I know all to well the psychological affect it has on a girl! :p

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:02 am

      Kristen, your future daughter thanks you. I thank you. :)

  • Reply Tonya September 30, 2010 at 1:58 am

    That is such a funny story. Now. Certainly not then.

    And oh my, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I also wore culottes WAY back in the day.

    Stopping by from Mama Kat’s
    Tonya / Letters For Lucas

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:03 am

      I think at one point I even had a pair of corduroy culottes. Kind of depressing.

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:04 am

      Oh! And thanks for stopping by. :)

  • Reply Erin September 30, 2010 at 2:16 am

    OMG that is so embarassing. And how nice of that 7th grader to help you out instead of leaving you there to be the laughing stock! I went to one of those strict private schools as well!

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 7:05 am

      Seriously. If only I could remember who he was. I’d stalk him on Facebook.

      Ahhh yessss. Super strict private school twins. :)

    • Reply Krys72599 August 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      It would have been an awesome ending if that 7th grader turned out to be your hubby…
      My husband and I found out we had passed through each other’s lives several times before we met in our 30s and 40s… Of course, I was too young at the time to be his first wife; he’d have gotten arrested! So he married once, divorced her, and now we’re perfect together! I think it’s our common history…

  • Reply Tarunita September 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Really funny!!
    I loved your style of writing.


    • Reply Roo October 3, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you! :)

  • Reply Mariposa @ A Stranger in this Land September 30, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Ha! I remember culattes… I never liked them. lol. Blessings on your day! :)

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      They’re pretty unlikable. :)

  • Reply Amy September 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

    This made made laugh like crazy! My daughter wore culottes to her private preschool. Needless to say, we’ve moved schools!

    And btw, I gave you an award!


    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks, Amy!

  • Reply Dianna September 30, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This makes me think of a song …

    ‘I’m too sexy for my skirt, too sexy for my skirt, so sexy it hu–urts’

    So sorry, I couldn’t help myself, my gangsta Amish gal pal :)

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      Ahahahahahaha. Dianna, you’re pretty gangsta yourself.

  • Reply dawn September 30, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Coming at ya from Mama Kats

    I feel ya on the panic… and the devastating horror of the entire episode.
    When I was 6 (I could have done this story for today..hmmm) anyway, I was in 1st grade and had this really big, loud, scary, mean teacher. She actually broke yard sticks on knuckles if you forgot how to add or subtract!
    Of course I cringed when she came near me with all of her frightening glory because she loved to break her ruler on the kid next to me’s knuckles- I think she is directly responsible for his dropping out of 7th grade at the age of 16… So, one day I had to pee. I mean like I could not possibly hold it a second longer and she refused to acknowledge my waving hand in the air. I held my breath and tried not to move waiting for her to give permission to run to the girls room. She nodded my way and then, she said NO! What? No? I couldn’t go to the bathroom? I HAD to go. My little 6 year old bladder had no concept of ‘hold it in’. And it couldn’t. My valiant effort to be respectful and good was ruined by my bladder emptying of it’s own volition all over the chair, the floor, my gauchos… and then, she yelled at me for making a mess. I collapsed in tears and to this day have panic attacks just thinking about Math.
    I feel for the 6 year old you… and am glad the big kid was a gentleman.

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      Oh my goodness, Dawn, I just want to give you a hug! That’s terrible! What a jerky teacher. :(

      • Reply Ruth S September 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm

        yes if that happened today she would be in jail. wow.

  • Reply Tweets that mention Culotte Hell | nice girl notes -- Topsy.com September 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Good Day, Reg People, Dianna Kennedy. Dianna Kennedy said: she could be the funniest girl I know http://ow.ly/2MlAe Visit @nicegirlnotes this morning and show her some love :) […]

  • Reply Steph September 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Couple people came into my office to see if I was ok after I cackled so loud reading your post. Do you think the 7th grade boy remembers? I bet he does.

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      I wish I remembered who it was. Hope you didn’t scare your coworkers. :)

  • Reply Michelle September 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    That is mortifying! I think we’ve all been in similar situations though – where you just want to crawl under a rock for the rest of your life. I’m sure if I think hard enough I’ll remember an incident like that from childhood. Luckily I always wore pants to school…lol.

    Michelle ~ fellow writer’s workshopper ;)

    • Reply Roo September 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      Yes.. or click your heels and disappear. :) Thanks for reading, Michelle!

  • Reply Jennifer @ The Mommy Mambo September 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Sorry about the culottes. But I did enjoy this post….you write wonderfully!

    • Reply Roo October 1, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      Awww, thank you!

  • Reply undomestic housewife September 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Aww.. that was so nice of the 7th grader to help you out!! Oh my.. I don’t know why they thought culottes were a better idea than sweatpants! I can’t believe how strict a private school is – I always went to public school.

    Loved your post! Stopped in from Mama Kat’s.

    • Reply Roo October 1, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      I think I just went to an extremely strict private school. My brother went to a different school, and his was a lot less dictator-y. :)

  • Reply Karen September 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Oh my word. Thank you, thank you So much for sharing your slide ‘incident’!! Can I tell you how perfect the timing was for me to read this?! I’m sick and when I went to take my wee girl to her dance class, I discovered a flat tire. I needed a good chuckle….THANK YOU! :>:>

    • Reply Roo October 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      Bwah! I saw you tweeted about your flat tire. I hope today goes better for you. :)

  • Reply kelley @ the eclectic owl September 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    oh gosh, i remember culottes…they were the devil. what horrible person invented those? i went to private school until 7th grade – one of those can’t wear nail polish or opened toed shoes ones…that slide incident sounds familiar. i think we must have had the same embarassing during those awkward years of our lives!

    • Reply Roo October 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

      I was in private school up until high school. As you can guess, I was suuuper popular and not at all awkward in high school. Yuuuuup.

  • Reply Dawn September 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I would laugh, but the story kinda makes me want to cry. ;) I also am a culotte girl, but thankfully I was terrified of the slide!

    • Reply Roo October 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Hahahaha, awww, Dawn.

  • Reply Crystal March 11, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I found you via parenting By dummies…and I’m loving you! You are hilarious!!Sorry aobut your traumatic childhood slide debacle. We had those scary metal slides too…but I thankfully never suffered such a fate as yours.

  • Reply Heather March 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Hi. Nice to meet you from the Dummy Blog.
    That was sweet of the 7th grader. I hope he has a nice life!!!

  • Reply Roger Swanson March 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Would you believe that it took twenty years for your principal to hear about that incident? I am glad that it never affected your sense of humor. P.S. I don’t like culottes either. I have seen too many pink panties.

    • Reply Roo March 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      Hi, Mr. Swanson!

      Fancy seeing you here. It was a painful incident in my life; took over two decades to even talk about it. I’m sure you understand. :)

      Your Best Behaved Student

      • Reply Roger Swanson March 30, 2011 at 4:03 am

        I guess that you were in my wife’s class at the time. I am glad that you had nothing negative to say about her or any of your other teachers. The rules may have been stiff, but the teachers genuinely tried to do their best.

        If you really were the best behaved student, you must have been very good because you had a lot of competition especially if you were in Alicia’s class.

  • Reply Kathy March 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    At least the boy actually helped you out. He could have been brutal. I wore my share of cuolottes too but I am not a fan! I won’t be putting my girls in them.

  • Reply My Face Likes Your Face. Honest. | {NiceGirlNotes} | {NiceGirlNotes} April 5, 2011 at 9:19 am

    […] We both wore culottes to the same elementary school. She’s a little bit younger; I’m a little bit cooler. 2)  Her baby and my youngest baby […]

  • Reply Hannah September 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Lol! I knew there was a good reason we always wore shorts under our uniform jumpers and skirts.

  • Reply Jacquie January 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Oh I feel your pain. I also went to private school. I was a cheerleader and there was a very long discussion on the “appropriate” cheer-leading outfit…very interesting. I do appreciate the aim for modesty though.

    I also wore culottes but with suspenders. Yup, you read that correctly…culottes AND suspenders, such a great fashion statement. :-)

  • Reply Alicia January 8, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Oh My!I would honestly say that you brought me back to that hell but for the past 4 years Ryan and I have lived directly behind Heritage> I stare at the parking lot that we were forced to play kickball in colottes and with a white t shirt? Come on! I had size d chest by 4th grade! It was just plain wrong! And they still do it! Ryan and I had to come to terms with all our private school baggage early on. 4 years later we still have never taken our children over to the playground. Its just too painful. :) Remember the musty old books in the library/cafeteria/after school homework area? They were probably deadly…. I met Ryan there though so it kinda is the best thing that ever happened to me in a wierd way and I met amazing friends that will be forever bonded by culottes and musty books…..

  • Reply Sheila February 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Oh. My. God. I’m still wiping tears from my face (and legs) from loud, prolonged, raucous laughter. I’m pretty sure my poor dog is upstairs packing a bag, muttering, under his wee Scottish breath, “She’s daft! Daft, I tell you! I canna take nae more.” Thanks for the laughs, I needed them!

  • Reply Ladybug11780 April 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I just read this for the first time! Loved it. How embarrassing. I kept 2 pair that i “liked” just in case i ever needed them. No idea where they are now. Obviously, i havent needed them in 14 years

  • Reply Hey, Girl. I Dig That Denim Collar. | {NiceGirlNotes} | {NiceGirlNotes} April 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    […] slapping me in the face with a pillow.  “WELCOME TO REAL LIFE, SISTER.  NOBODY WEARS CULOTTES […]

  • Reply Megan June 4, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I went down a slide like that at a cabin and the rusty screw tore a big chunk right out of my butt. Stitching up a butt on a girl in hysterics is no easy feat either…a whole lot of jiggling.

  • Reply Oh Hi Again | {NiceGirlNotes} | {NiceGirlNotes} August 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    […] – I ripped my cornea off my face. – I went on a road trip with my brother. – I thought I was going to die at private school. […]

  • Reply stephy gugs August 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Oh my word Roo I am crying reading this! Hilarious!The tragic tales of elementary school

  • Reply How to Keep Your Kids’ Room Clean, Stay Sane, and Look Really Cool Doing It | {NiceGirlNotes} | {NiceGirlNotes} September 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

    […] blog about stupid stuff like stick figure Abraham Lincoln and being scared of wildlife and wearing culottes.  Not parent-y stuff.  Not usually, […]

  • Reply Ashley November 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Oh boy, Hated me some culottes. My favorite injustice of culotte wearers were those that had the extra long ones; as if coming up from your ankle one inch did not make them pants. #youdontfoolme

  • Reply Hey, Girl. I Dig That Denim Collar. - NEON FRESH April 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    […] slapping me in the face with a pillow.  “WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, SISTER.  NOBODY WEARS CULOTTES […]

  • Reply How to Keep Your Kids' Room Clean, Stay Sane, and Look Really Cool Doing It - NEON FRESH April 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    […] blog about stupid stuff like stick figure Abraham Lincoln and being scared of wildlife and wearing culottes.  Not parent-y stuff.  Not usually, […]

  • Reply 3 Items I Can't Pull Off But I'm Bringing Back Anyway - NEON FRESH April 16, 2013 at 9:53 am

    […] Culottes.  Just kidding.  Still too […]

  • Reply Katie April 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    This reminds me of my third grade stirrup pants in gym class incident. We were doing butterfly stretches and my lovely stretchy purple stirrup pants split right in the crotch. I was so embarrassed that I started crying, my classic 90’s gym teacher gave me her swishy color blocked track jacket to tie around my waist for the trek to the office to call my mom. I made it out of the gym and to the hallway before hearing an eruption of laughter. I (10 years after graduating high school) have been asked about this incident. I still thank mom for not letting me wear jeans to school for the first 4 years. That humiliating incident changed that rule.

  • Leave a Reply