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
Wednesday 05 August 1998
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.
From the Fashion page of `The Independent', Friday 5 August 1988
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre