The shorts answer to short skirts

The Independent Archive; 5 August 1988 City shorts are high fashion this summer and are the modern answer to the rising hemline

THE PRINCESS of Wales walked into Le Caprice last month in khaki shorts and a bush jacket. Not since the sun set on the Empire has there been such a fetching outfit to show off royal knees.

The shorts suit has become the star of this doubtful summer. The princess put her seal of approval on an outfit that is now city sleek, rather than just for weekends and sportswear.

Long shorts have become the answer to the short skirt. You see shorts in the office - trim, well-pressed in cotton drill, and as business-like as when they were part of a colonial military kit. The favoured colour is khaki, but shorts come also in crisp navy blue poplin, in pin-striped linens, in dark Madras checked seersucker, or in white cotton. They look their best with a tailored top half - a plain white shirt or waistcoat.

The idea of shorts as a divided skirt is as old as gymslips, St Trinian's and games mistresses who played jolly hockey sticks. In those far-off schoolgirl days, the motive was to keep girls looking decent while playing male sports. Today's shorts - so different in spirit from the stern navy serge and chaste pleats - serve a similar function. They are worn by women who are in favour of the freedom and style of the short skirt, but unwilling to accept its sexist connotations.

The mini-skirt of the 1960s was born of the Pill and sexual liberation, and its perky, peek-a-boo image expressed that social change. Now that women are aware of the darker side of the sexual revolution, such insouciant, come-on clothes seem foolhardy. For professional women in positions of authority, the mini-skirt suggests dolly-girl status.

This summer, there are far more shorts on the streets than short skirts, and they come for both sexes - convincing proof that shorts are accepted as stylish and practical. But, whereas men have only pleat-front shorts in varying degrees of bagginess, women's fashion has come up with alternatives.

The tailored above-the-knee shorts, cut like trousers, are by far the most popular and are worn in heavier fabrics as well as the summer cottons. There is also a flirtier short, shaped on Lana Turner lines, with a defined waist and flaring legs. These shorts look more playful and are therefore for the beach rather than the office. They are worn with shapely off-the- shoulder blouses or scoop-front T-shirts, with wedge-heeled sandals or ballerina flatties.

On the waterfront, there are also sporty cycle shorts in stretch lycra, that mould to the figure and are also worn by both men and women. On Mediterranean beaches, boxer shorts are still the height of fashion, this season coming up in fluorescent colours and wild primitive prints.

In town, there is another type of shorts which should more properly be called culottes. They look like a skirt except when sitting down, and seem to be worn by women who are hovering uncertainly between mid-calf skirts and shorts, and have settled at half-mast.

How the shorts are worn makes the real difference between sporty and city styles. Holidaymakers will wear shorts in the familiar way, with white socks and trainers, with a T-shirt or cotton sweater on the upper half. It is essentially a casual look.

For work, shorts are worn with sandals or flat pumps or, increasingly, with a low-heeled shoes that smartens up the outfit. On the streets of Paris, shorts suits are pulled together with a battery of accessories - wide elastic belts to cinch in the waist with a brief bolero jacket, or a tan leather belt to grip tailored shorts or to fasten the longer fitted jackets that partner them.

Accepting that shorts are a modern fashion far removed from their original sporty associations is the hallmark of this summer's style. The Princess of Wales wore her shorts suit with beige pumps and a clutch bag tucked under her arm. Perhaps the only thing that cannot be worn with shorts is a pair of tights. Even in a British summer, the ultimate accessory is a pair of well-browned legs.

Suzy Menkes

From the Fashion page of `The Independent', Friday 5 August 1988

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York