Shorts story

Knee-length trouser shorts can be dressed up to wear in the office

July 09, 2006|By ELIZABETH LARGE | ELIZABETH LARGE,SUN REPORTER

Here's the long and the short of it: Long shorts are this summer's most important trend. Yesterday's Bermuda shorts have been updated with new, more tailored styling and fashion-forward fabrics to become today's trouser shorts, the knee-length style also known as walking or city shorts.

Stores and boutiques have been filled with them this summer.

"They are one of the hottest sellers this season," says Karen Ciurca-Weiner, merchandise manager at Vassari in Pikesville. Walking shorts are the only style that the upscale boutique carries.

On the Internet, the fashion site Bluefly.com featured a shorts suit recently as the Look of the Season. In the last two weeks in June, when brick-and-mortar stores began to be sold out of summer styles, more than 5,000 trouser shorts sold on eBay.

While long shorts appeared on runways last year, they didn't become mainstream until this season. Constance White, a former fashion writer and editor and style director of eBay, attributes their explosive success to the usual suspects: Jennifer Aniston, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Mischa Barton.

"When celebrities warmed to the look, it really caught on," White says. "That's what's different this summer."

Give a little credit to a couple of other trends as well: the continuing interest in menswear and the popularity of preppy styles this season. Trouser shorts also fit right in with the trend to more polished looks. And you could argue that they aren't really longer shorts, but part of the continuing abbreviation of pants that started with capris and last summer's gauchos.

Yasmine Geller, who with her husband owns Geller Lighting Supply in Arbutus, didn't have a pair of shorts in her closet last summer. This year she bought "about 10 pairs" at Vassari.

"They're ideal for me, casual but professional," she says. "They're long enough to be comfortable, and I can dress them up or down." On the weekend at the shore, they work with a T-shirt and flip flops. With a little jacket, espadrilles and jewelry, they are dressy enough to wear out to dinner.

And the look is multigenerational -- Geller's 13-year-old daughter wears them, too.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about trouser shorts is that they are accepted in many business settings.

"What was previously dismissed as too casual and inappropriate is now perfectly on trend," says Melissa Paynor, chief executive officer of Bluefly.com.

Since trouser shorts are tailored like a pant and most lengths are at or below the knee, points out Deborah Lloyd, executive vice president of design at Banana Republic, "Women can pair them with a suit jacket or knit top for a professional, office-appropriate look."

She also recommends a solid button-down shirt for work and heels to elongate the leg. Another option is to wear them with a mannish shoe, like a loafer or a wedge, for a more conservative business look.

While trouser shorts are the It item for warm weather this year, don't be surprised to find lots of versions for fall in stores soon.

This is one trend that has legs.

elizabeth.large@baltsun.com

HOW TO WEAR THEM TO WORK

Check out your backside before you buy a pair of trouser shorts. If you're going to wear them to the office, they shouldn't be too tight or too baggy.

Look for menswear fabrics or cuffs to make them more appropriate for business attire.

Dressier shoes like pumps, wedges and kitten heels look fine with the more sophisticated trouser shorts.

Layer your tops to make the transition from office to evening.

If your office is conservative, wear androgynous shoes like loafers and a fitted jacket or blazer with trouser shorts.

A white button-down shirt always looks right in a work setting.

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