Push those pedals

Summer, and it's time to shorten those trouser legs and cycle back into fashion. Melanie Rickey looks at the latest revival of a perennial favourite: short pants, otherwise known as pedal pushers
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The German minimalist Jil Sander was the first designer to put tailored slim shorts back on to the catwalk during the winter of 95/96. A trend was not born - but the fashion world noticed. A year down the line and Brits Copperwheat Blundell, Antonio Berardi, Bella Freud, Margaret Howell and Justin Oh simultaneously decided it was time to resurrect them, and six months later - hey presto - the shops are full of slim trousers that stop at the knee. In the Eighties we called them cycling shorts, but in the Nineties Donna Karan has called them "short pants", although the term most likely to illicit a nod of comprehension is pedal pushers.

The image conjured up by the words pedal and pusher involves rusty old bicycles and wicker baskets, or perhaps the Fifties Riviera looks popularised by Grace Kelly, but today's interpretations are far from fusty. Antonio Berardi's spring/ summer collection featured shiny bronze tailored short pants that looked modern and funky, worn with slashed deep-V T-shirts, and a frock coat and pedal pusher suit. Berardi was inspired by the idea of skinheads wearing shrunken trousers, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, but what came out on the catwalk was a sexy modern look. "They show off the calf better than a skirt can, and worn with high heels they look brilliant. I don't design for women who are girlie-girlie, anyway; I design for women who are girlie with attitude," he says. After his show at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden last October his models all bagsied a pair of the cropped trousers as their fee.

Pedal pushers have not been around for a while (they were last seen circa 1984, worn by New Romantics dancing to Adam and the Ants), and some hoped never to see them again, but it is time for them to be reworked, and that was Berardi's attitude "I like to pick up on forgotten items, then I can make them look completely new." Joely Davis, from the fashion company Joelynian, is another designer who has been bitten by the pedal pusher bug, but it was by accident: "i-D magazine featured a pair of my trousers in a shoot which they had cut off at the knee. So many people responded that I had to make some myself, and they sold out," she says. Her microfibre pedal pushers look like schoolboys' shorts; they are flat-fronted, but in baby blue, rouge and black, and when worn with mules and a smart jacket they make an evening look to rival a slick suit or long dress.

This summer, if you fancy wearing a shortened version of your favourite trousers you won't need to cut them in half (although that is an option); there are plenty on offer that haven't already been snapped up. Nicole Farhi and Mulberry have done classic shapes in fresh colours that are ideal for the holidays, and Soft Grey, which is sold through the mail order catalogue La Redoute, has stretch cotton pedal pushers in a rainbow of colours from bright yellow to turquoise and white. These are perfect to wear with platform mules (shoes that expose the ankle are essential with pedal pushers; Hobbs do an excellent pair for pounds 62.99) and a basic T-shirt. Joely Davis has some words of wisdom for first-time wearers. "Shorter people don't feel confident wearing them, so I advise them to alter the shorts so they rest above the knee. That will elongate the leg." Finally, if you are still not convinced, get yourself into a flowery pair from Bella Freud. Everyone will be so busy marvelling at the loud print that you won't have time to feel self conscious. instead you will feel - as you should - like a trendsetter.

Justin Oh, cotton stripe pedal pushers, pounds 128, available from Pelicano, 63 South Molton St, London W1

Margaret Howell, enquiries 0171-584 2462

Clockwise from above:

Yellow stretch cotton pedal pushers by Soft Grey pounds 21.99 (page 6, code E) available by mail order from La

Radoute on 0500-777 777

Navy, red and white daisy print pedal pushers, pounds 167, by Bella Freud available from Pellicano, 63 South Molton Street, London W1 and Hervia, Royal Exchange Arcade, Manchester

Royal blue waffle cotton pedal pushers from Naf Naf, 328 Oxford Street, London W1 (0171-580 7463)

Lilac raw silk pedal pushers, pounds 195, by Mulberry available from 11-12 Gees Court, Saint Christopher's Place, London W1 (0171-491 3900)

Red stretch cotton / lycra Pedal Pushers pounds 129 from Nicole Farhi, 158 New Bond Street, London W!, and branches nationwide (enquiries 0171-499 8368)

Stretch cotton blue and white gingham pedal pushers, pounds 39.99, by Peter Golding available from 151 King's Road, London W1 (0171-351 3164)

Blue/beige cotton dogtooth check pedal pushers pounds 39.99 (page 60, code E) by Irene Van Ryb available by mail order from La Radoute (as before)

Antonio Berardi, bronze pedal pushers, pounds 295 (to order). Enquiries 0171-836 4265

Copperwheat Blundell, lightweight nylon camoflage pedal pushers, pounds 120, from Liberty (0171-734 1234) and Pellicano (as before)

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