Off with your thong! Capri pants and Bermuda shorts are the chic summer thing. By Tamsin Blanchard. Pictures by Heather Favell
For a short time in the Fifties, Capri was the centre of the fashion universe. Emilio Pucci had opened his first resort wear shop on the island after the success of his colourful ski wear in 1949. The beautiful jet- set flocked there in search of brightly patterned silk jersey shirts and scarves to add a little more colour to the year-round sunshine of their lives. And the ideal things to wear with that Pucci shirt were the sawn- off Capri pants that took their name from the island, as worn by Gina Lollobrigida, Brigitte Bardot, and countless other European starlets.

The other option was Bermuda shorts. Although named after an island oceans away, it is thought that Bermudas actually originated in Capri in the Forties when local laws forbade women to reveal too much of their legs. A happy compromise was struck when the uniform of the island's policemen provided the inspiration for knee-length shorts - chic, cool and decorous all at once. These days, when a minuscule thong is considered appropriate for most beach resorts, never mind Capri, Bermuda shorts might seem a bit excessive. But this summer, they are making something of a comeback, and not just for days by the sea.

The German designer Jil Sander and the young British names Copperwheat Blundell have made formal versions of Bermuda shorts or pedal-pushers for their summer collections to be worn as an alternative to suit trousers for work. Donna Karan has even given them a new souped-up mid-Nineties name: "the short pant", to be worn by urban woman with a jacket as a suit. They are in the Old Bond Street shop now at pounds 150, proving that less fabric does not mean less money. And ultra-hip Italian label, Miu Miu, has a version in stretchy synthetic, strangely reminiscent of girl guides. By next summer the catwalk look will, no doubt, have filtered into workplaces everywhere.

Ghost's viscose Bermudas are more casual and can be worn with easy flip- flops and a lazy T-shirt, or a bikini top. Marks & Spencer have picked up the Bermuda look with stretchy leggings cut off at the knee in a summery check, at under pounds 20. And Top Shop customers are showing that they are prepared to give Bermuda shorts a try if they are the right price. Hawaiian print shorts at pounds 29.99 will make you feel as though you are in a Fifties clam bake with Elvis Presley even if you are only at home in your back garden with a fish steak on the barbecue.

For the serious Capri look, however, Top Shop has a stretch-cotton version in black or white, to be worn with a pair of flat pumps, a silk-knit twin- set and a pair of fantastic movie-star shades - and, of course, a Pucci scarf tied at the neck.

Stylist: Jo Adams; hair and make-up: Helen Walsh; model: Maya at Storm

White stretch cotton bermudas, (top left) pounds 24.99, at Top Shop, from branches nationwide (0171 291 2351); blue long-sleeved cotton shirt, pounds 25 at Benetton, from branches nationwide.

Lime green crepe bra top, (centre left) pounds 75, and matching capri pants, pounds 75, both by Ghost, from 13 Hinde Street, London W1 (0181 960 3121); red rubber sandals, pounds 42 by Camper, 39 Floral Street, London WC2 (0171 379 8678).

Hawaiian-print bermudas, (bottom left) pounds 29.99, from Top Shop, branches nationwide as before; turquoise vest, pounds 39, from Joseph, 26 Sloane Street, SW1 (0171 235 5470); blue sunglasses, pounds 20 by SPi, from Urban Equipment (0171 359 0012).