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

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week