The long and the short of it

Shorter, narrower pants are big for spring. Cropped Capri pants are pure Fifties starlet - but if you will opt for pedal pushers, who are we to stop you?

HERE'S THE dilemma: you could always rely on a good pair of pants. Yes, they swung out to the slouch last season and sometimes slim down to cigarette. But, as a rule, pant length was one less thing for women to worry about. Now we are presented with two lengths: the Capri pant, which stops above the ankle, and the pedal pusher, which sits just below or on the knee. Both are fitted and both have been vaunted as the new length. Neither are particularly new. Capri pants were worn by Fifties starlets like Bardot and Kay Kendall. They have never really left summer fashion since. As to who wore the pedal pusher, you've got to look to ingenues like Leslie Caron.

Capri pants don't really pose a problem. Worn with flatties or kitten- heel mules, the capri will give you a little more shape than the voluminous draw-string summer pants at Kenzo, Calvin Klein and TSE. Hermes have made Capri pants in camel suede (pounds 500) which stop just above the ankle and are cut in panels to make them move with you. Fine for Capris that will undoubtedly last longer than the pedal pusher's fashion moment. Viscose mix black Capris, from Sui by Anna Sui (pounds 49), are closer to the Style Police shopping budget. Agnes B's simple Capris in mushroom lightweight cotton (pounds 58) are also on-the-button easy. One variation on the Capri theme is the kind sold in Indian sari shops: shantung satin in faded pastels or delicately embroidered in hotter high summer colour.

Pedal pushers, aka clam-diggers, paddy field pants or crop capris, are a tough length to wear. The cardinal sin at Chloe was to add a frilly little hem to a white pair of pedals, which followed a slight split at each side. Fine if you want to look like a doily. A good pair of pedals is fitted, slit a couple of inches at each side and resting below the knee. Have a really good think about what this bastard length does to the shape of your legs. If you still want to wear them, then who is Style Police to stop you? Myra, the funky fashion chick at Soho boutique Shop, says, "I love pedal pushers, but I'm not spending pounds 400 on Prada. I'm waiting for Shop's new shipment of Sophia Coppola's Milk Fed label (from pounds 100) from LA. I've got a pair of 3in Miu-Miu kitten-heeled mules waiting for them."

Gianni Versace has presented the pedal pusher suit (pounds 710). Don't. Alexander McQueen made them all-in-one with a white cotton bustier. Please don't. Pedals work with minimum effort and an untailored top. French Connection report that their first stock of black stretch satin pedals (pounds 60) are sold out. They are being restocked in charcoal grey satin (pounds 60) and you'll have to wait a month for dusty pink stretch cotton pedals (pounds 50).

For pedal pushers with the French Riviera feel, go to the woman who knows: Agnes B again. We've all agreed that jeans have no place this season. And quite right, too. But Agnes B are working in a lightweight black denim for summer pedals (pounds 58). In basic black or white cotton (pounds 58), Agnes B can't be beaten. Remember, black slims and white balloons. The easiest pedals are a black Lycra-mix pair by Whistles (pounds 85). It is even more important to elongate that leg with kitten mules when you're wearing pedals. Try to wear them with killer stillers and you may be a contender for the Isabella Blow Award for Howling Fashion Mistake of 1998.

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