lunch box culottes – jean paul gaultier style

Here comes a creation that was inspired by a Jean Paul Gaultier mannequin modelling culottes, a Breton top, and lace up boots. We have a crazy haute couture knock off time coming up! And it’s brought to you by no other than our regular contributor Shelley. Take it away Shelley!


Oliver + S Lunch Box Culottes Jean Paul Gaultier style


So, you’ve just seen that title picture and I’m imagining you might be wringing your hands, shaking your head and muttering “she’s nuts” under your breath. Or perhaps you’re having a chuckle. I certainly am.

Do you ever make something purely for the amusement in making it? Do you sew because you’ve had an idea that just won’t go away until it’s been realized as a garment? It’s a kind of sewing that I relish. Luckily, I have the luxury of a fabric budget that allows for the occasional bit of whimsy as well as membership of the art gallery where I drew my inspiration for this outfit. A potentially dangerous combination! (I wrote another blog post for Kid’s Clothes Week about finding inspiration at the Art Gallery).


Oliver + S Lunch Box Culotttes Jean Paul Gaultier style


So, what was at the gallery that had me sewing Lunch Box culottes for my six-year-old son? Simply the most fabulous collection of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier. I’m no great follower of trends, nor am I ever particularly on style with my own dressing, but I love a bit of high fashion with humor. Throw in a designer who just oozes Gallic charm, and lots of stripey tops, and I’ll call myself a fan!

My kids were both intrigued by the exhibition. From the intricate beading (including some rude-y bits) of gowns through to film costumes and mermaid dresses, they were enthralled. My son especially liked the London Punk look from the mid-1980s.


Jean Paul Gaultier Punk London


But it was when we saw the mannequin of Jean Paul himself that I was hit with the compulsion to sew culottes for the boy. With the Lunch Box pattern having been released only a week or two earlier, I knew I had my starting point, and I immediately began thinking of the fabric and modifications I’d need to make.


Jean Paul Gaultier


I’m not going to turn this blog post into a “how to” tutorial as I’m doubtful that everyone else’s sons are going to want culottes. But for the record, my son loves these pants and his new boots, and thinks he is super cool. My husband’s reaction to the outfit was more like that of a person at a pickle eating contest eating their hundredth pickle.

What I did do to boy-ify the Lunch Box culottes was to redraft the pattern pieces to go straight down from just below the pockets and from the inner crotch. This takes a lot of the flare out as well as making plaid matching possible at the side seams. Then I pinched about 1 inch of width out of the back pattern piece to slim them a little at the back.


Modified Oliver + S Lunch Box Culottes


As I was using a cheap, scratchy wool I also lined the culottes. This is certainly worth doing and is surprisingly easy. I cut an additional front and back pair of culottes from Bemberg lining, then stitched straight up the side seams and trimmed off the pocket flap excess.

I assembled the culottes right up to the point of attaching the waistband then basted my lining culottes to my main culottes. The waistband was then sewn on as per the instructions. I didn’t bother pleating the lining, but gathered it instead in the spots where the pleats would be. Because of the scratchy wool I cut the waistband from one strip of main fabric joined with a strip of cotton, such that the inner waistband is a nice, soft cotton.


Lined Oliver + S Lunch Box Culottes


The look of surprise on his face when he felt the lining on his legs for the first time was priceless. With the rare exception of lined trousers this sensation is one that boys seem to miss out on.

Styled with boots and a bit of attitude, I don’t think the culottes look at all girly, but they definitely look different to any ready-to-wear boy’s clothes I’ve seen. A step too far? I’ll let the kid decide and watch to see how often they get worn, and how he wears them.


Oliver + S Lunch Box Culottes Jean Paul Gaultier style


I’m curious, does anyone else appropriate haute couture for their own kid’s clothes sewing? Do you play with gender stereotypes in what you make for your kids? Get carried away with ideas, or use your sewing ability to make those garments that you can’t find anywhere in the stores?

If you like the idea of playing around with your sewing but your son wouldn’t want to wear culottes, then perhaps his teddy bear would. After all, dressing up teddy was how Jean Paul Gaultier started his illustrious career in fashion!

Well, what do you think, hilarious or hideous?


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  1. Mel

    not hilarious or hideous — hands down awesome! Why should girls have all the fun outfits? He looks fantastic and it’s so cool that he got to see the inspiration outfit in person.

  2. icicle

    I agree with Mel – neither, it’s a bold, brave new look. He looks like he’s got the moxie to carry it off too, so why not?

  3. lisa

    Here in Seattle, where men in kilts is commonplace, I think you’d find grown men who would also love this look. Beautifully done!

  4. Helena

    Brilliant! I think gender stereotypes are just that, stereotypes and the more they are challenged the better! Enabling your boy to have different options and choices is brilliant.

    That aside, I want you to get to the Alexander McQueen show at the V&A (previously at Met Museum NY), I would LOVE to see what you came up with after seeing that.

  5. Sandy

    amazing!!! They are awesome!! Great job and so creative!

  6. I am meh about it. (Not meh as in it isn’t cool.) I am more, “meh-kids should wear what they want and feel comfortable with so long as it is appropriate to their age and the weather, and perhaps the dressiness level.”

    But then again, I had purple hair, a shaved head, and rocked my Docs back in the day. LOL (You’d never know it to look at me now. But at the same time, when I turn 50, I am getting a lovely periwinkle strip in my hair.)

    I applaud your son’s confidence and character to wear something so “off norm”. Rock that look my man!

  7. He looks fantastic, Shelley! Good for him. And for you!

  8. Traveller

    He looks like the coolest kid on the block! With those docs… I would swoon if I saw a grown man in that outfit! Definitely a success! I hope he wears it again!

  9. This post makes me want to cuss: “%&#$ing-A!!!” You killed it. I think it’s fantastic. If he likes it, &$%# the establishment. LOL. I agree with Lisa, I think in certain hipster neighborhoods of San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle, this would fit right in!

    Next up – a utilikilt? 😉

  10. These are awesome! I bought the culottes pattern for my little guy and now I think he needs plaid ones!

  11. Those are so fantastic. I love your description of your husbands reaction, too!

  12. emily

    I love it! Great work. 🙂

  13. Lee

    Shelley my 9 year old son also thinks it’s a cool outfit, though I think he’ll be hitting me up for a pair of docs rather than culottes!
    Last time I was in Spotlight with him he desperately wanted some neon yellow vinyl for a jacket – very 5th Element I’m thinking now. Maybe we do our boys and their indiviuality a disservice by following the herd sometimes on what’s suitable for,boys.
    ps minus the preppy striped shirt the outfit has quite a skate vibe going on.

  14. Brenda

    altho I love the work that went into this, if a boy went in public wearing this around here in Argyle (upstate NY), he’d be a target for bullies and others who would make unkind remarks. It’s hard enough being a kid without making him a target. As far as kilts, this town was settled by the Scots and remains very much Scot. Kilts are everywhere, on men as well as boys, particularly at athletic events where they show town pride. Graduation (in our gym, we are a small one school town) has the kids being led in by the pipes. So, it’s not that folks have an issue with kilts and bonnie men knees, but the culottes would not be in that category. That being said, they would make great hakama pants for the person who engages in martial arts like the Samurai and Ninja. These pants are very expensive to buy, and this pattern would work. This is the pic link I posted on fb.

  15. Helena I’d love to see the McQueen exhibition, that would be fun!
    I have quite mixed feelings about these pants. Obviously s large part of me loves them. The amusement from the couture knock off, the not-your-normal-trousers trendiness and the fun inherent in playing with fashion.
    I also have the feeling of “so what” like Cybele said. It’s hardly a ball gown, so not so subversive after all.
    And I completely understand what Brenda’s saying about other people’s reactions. I certainly wouldn’t push my kid to wear them. But then, by not providing him with a choice I do push him away from wearing skirts and dresses… My husband’s family were Scottish so there is some “kilt culture” to explore, but that would feel more odd for me. For formal dress occasions where expressing some Scot-ness sure, but I feel like it’s less everyday wear. I didn’t spend much time in Scotland in my travels but while i was there i never saw regular blokes on the street wearing kilts.
    Now in Seattle, that’s a different scene all together! I think Melbourne is similar, (I don’t know if these would work in Sydney) although I hazard a guess that our coffee is better. 🙂
    My husband’s objection is not to do with gender roles, expectations of dress, or risk of ridicule. He just isn’t into fashion like this. Polo shirts are his thing. I’ll have to make a couple of those to redeem myself in his eyes.
    I figured I had probably just a little window in time when my son could play with fashion like this and not care much what others think. I hope it proves to be a wide open window, but then maybe I’m not as cool a mum as I like to think and I should watch what I wish for!
    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, thank you all. Enjoy your sewing, I always do!

  16. Doh, “sewing” not “seeing” . Wretched predictive text!

    1. I went and fixed it for you, Shelley. But I still like your comment, so I left that!

  17. Gladys

    While your husband was ‘in a pickle’, I would have been the one sharing a glass of red with you and having it come out of my nose! Your kids crack me up – I love it! And I seriously admire the outfit too. Please, please give us more of your clever couture.

  18. Gladys what a lovely comment! I was once a member of a forum where we had our own little picture of “red wine nose guy” for just those moments when no regular emoticon would suffice!

  19. Sarah

    These are amazing!!!!!

  20. SShaw

    Fun! One of the greatest things about sewing is being able to create things you can not easily buy. Nicely done!

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