TV & Movies

Every Pair of Culottes In Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar, Ranked

Culottes are such a critical part of the film that they’re basically a character all their own.

by Tom Smyth
Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar
Lionsgate Films

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar begins with a mission statement in the form of a title card. It reads, “cu-lottes / ‘kü-lӓts / noun. 1. Women’s trousers, usually calf length, cut full to resemble a skirt. Typically worn by women in their middle age years.” Starting the movie this way is both an artistic flourish and a necessary measure, because if the viewer was unaware of what culottes were, half the fun of Barb and Star would be lost on them. Culottes are such a critical part of the film that they’re basically a character all their own, like New York is the fifth character in Sex and the City.

The film’s writers and stars, Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, conceptualized the titular mid-lifers while writing Bridesmaids (another film in which the garment makes an appearance, this time on Melissa McCarthy’s scene-stealing Megan), and the duo leans in to fashion as a characterization tool via costume designer Trayce Gigi Field throughout Barb and Star. The film features references to Midwestern mom staples like Chico’s, sequined leotards, “tube tops and full jewelry,” socks with individual toes, and Costco’s Kirkland brand. But reigning supreme are the culottes that are worn, discussed, and read about throughout the movie.

The lovechild of a skirt and capris, the pants are reminiscent of a tiny middle schooler in XL men’s basketball shorts, particularly if those basketball shorts borrowed a color scheme from a tropical sherbet. While they can give the look and feel of a skirt, their separate legs allow for adventure, making them a natural fit for Barb and Star’s epic journey.

Below, we've ranked every pair of culottes that appear throughout the film based on fashion, practicality, and the general concept of shimmer. Warning: Spoilers — and culottes aplenty! — ahead.

The Suitcase Culottes

Before we actually see Barb or Star wearing any culottes, we see them packing them for their big trip to the fictional Floridian paradise of Vista Del Mar. Amongst an assortment of curlers, rope, and traveler’s checks, we see them add a variety of colorful, patterned culottes to their suitcases. “I’m gonna bring those culottes I bought at Kaboom,” Barb says at the beginning of the montage. Their suitcases end up including some eye-catching looks, like a silky purple culotte with red and white flowers. But since we don’t get to actually see these looks in action, this assortment is ranked last on the list.

The Culottes In Culottes, Culottes, Culottes!!

We get a glimpse of this gorgeous khaki culotte on the cover of Culottes, Culottes, Culottes!!, the fictional culottes-themed magazine that Barb and Star read throughout the movie. This khaki look is a great way to demonstrate the pant’s versatility and show that it’s not just a vacation garment. This particular culotte would be perfect for a job interview at Jennifer Convertibles or even a night out at an upscale Red Lobster. The magazine also features articles like “5 Ways to Wear Culottes to Impress” and “Our Favourite Fashionistas Wearing Culottes,” with the surprise spelling of the latter headline indicating that this is an overseas publication.

The Culottes In Culottes, Culottes, Culottes!!: Part 2

We first see the magazine appear in the film here, as Barb reads an entirely different edition of Culottes, Culottes, Culottes!! in bed, suggesting that the publication has at least a weekly print cycle. Though a different photo, this cover appears to feature the same khaki culottes, but what sets this issue apart is what we as the audience don’t see. “Do you know they make denim culottes?” Barb asks while perusing, “They’re for all weather.” The mystery of these unseen culottes is just as gripping as Annie Mumolo’s pronunciation of “ahhhll weather.” Perhaps we'll see these denim culottes pop up in a sequel.

Debbie's Brown Patterned Culottes

Vanessa Bayer’s character Debbie, head of Talking Club, is famously a fashion icon known for her ability to dress up her white pharmacy work uniform with fun character socks. In the film, she shows off her coffee bean socks to the group with an outstretched leg that, thanks to a killer pair of brown patterned culottes, match the footwear flawlessly.

These culottes look like a beautiful, autumnal Vera Bradley bag. The color also matches Barb and Star’s signature hot dog soup seamlessly, making it the perfect culotte selection to camouflage any potential stains that might happen while Debbie pours Delores’ serving into her own bowl as punishment for talking about horses.

Barb's Solo Night Out Culottes

We only get a brief glimpse of Barb’s dark blue, yellow-flowered culottes that she wears as she checks on Star, who’s faking the flu to hang out with her love interest Edgar behind Barb’s back. They appear to feature a lovely botanical design of yellow lilies, though it’s difficult to know for sure, because once she sees Star’s 137-degree fever, she and her culottes flee the scene as quickly as she arrived. She’s off to continue her solo adventures, which include riding a motorcycle over a canyon, walking across hot coals, and meeting Tommy Bahama.

Barb And Star's Evening Culottes

These are the only pairs of culottes that the film introduces by name, and deservedly so. The women decide upon these breathtaking bottoms for their night out after Barb says, “You know what we should wear tonight?” and they answer, “Our evening culottes!” in perfect unison. From afar, the pattern is reminiscent of those QVC blouses from the clip in which Isaac Mizrahi confidently declares that “the moon is a planet, darling.”

These are some of the looser fitting culottes we see throughout the film, and that soon proves to be an asset, as these bad boys befit not only drinks at the bar with a new gentleman friend, but also a drug trip set to a club remix of "My Heart Will Go On." The movement and flow provided by these bottoms are key to the dance montage.

Their Epic Escape Culottes

At first glance, these might appear to be the most inconspicuous set of culottes — though they're a vibrant yellow and pink that match the characters’ respective tops, they don’t feature any flashy designs or patterns. However, these culottes play a key role in the plot of the film’s final act. After villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman corners Barb and Star, she gives them the choice of jumping to their deaths down a rocky cliff or staying to be eaten by hungry alligators. The pair decide to make the leap to evade the hungry ‘gators, but right on the cusp of certain death, their wide, flowy pants catch wind. “Our culottes,” they exclaim, “They’re natural parachutes!” Thanks to their pants, the two gracefully glide through the air and land safely on the shore.

But beyond just helping Barb and Star escape the evil clutches of Sharon Gordon Fisherman, the pants prove to be a resource throughout the action-packed final act, perfect for riding a “tit-flapping” banana boat, jet skiing a deadly weapon away from land, and sailing on two sea turtles to safety with the help of a fun-lovin’ water spirit named Trish. In fact, culottes prove to be such a perfect match for an action sequence that other films should take note.

Imagine how much more Tom Cruise would be able to accomplish in Mission: Impossible if he wore culottes instead of being encumbered with long, tight-fitting pants? James Bond would surely find himself saving time if he dressed for comfort rather than wearing a suit everywhere, and Batman would double his agility if he ditched his custom armor for Chico’s apparel. Only then would these characters truly be on the same level as Barb and Star.