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A short tale: What your legs are wearing this summer

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

Short smarts

If you are inspired to show a little leg, there's still a lot in store -- literally and figuratively -- for you this season. In fact, shorts and members of their extended apparel family are at the forefront of fashion!
It's shorts season!

"The new spin is to wear your shorts with a baby doll or flowy top. Because of the varying lengths, sometimes the shorts peek out from underneath the top, or sometimes the full length is exposed," says Sara Rogers, trend specialist at the Mall of America.

ShortsShe notices that girls are also wearing their shorts with cropped jackets and it looks modern. But still there are more variations. "Another way to wear shorts is to wear them with a jacket that is about the same length," Rogers adds.

Shari Shakun, VP and General Merchandise Manager at SmartBargains.com, agrees that this has been a big season for "short" apparel.

"Anything goes in terms of length for summer bottoms," Shakun says. "The new 'alternative-length pants' like city shorts -- that hit just below the knee in linen or cotton poplin -- are very trendy and acceptable to wear in the workplace." (City shorts are sort of an upscale version of Bermuda shorts, such as these To The Max City Shorts with Button Tabs from Nordstrom, below right.)

"Capris, hitting mid-calf, have also become a staple," Shakun adds. "Cropped pants just above the ankle are great to show off all those cool sandals and ballet flats."

ShortsSmartBargains.com is a great resource for finding styles at low prices. Some of the short pants we love on their site include Michael by Michael Kors Petite Denim Cargo Capris and Generra Green Cotton Twill Bermuda Shorts (shown at the bottom of the page).

Which style is which?

"Oh, the ever-increasing pants battle, and now to top it off you have varying lengths and opening to reconcile as well!" says Rachel Fauman, a personal shopper in San Francisco. "We all now know that there are full-length pants, shorts, Bermudas, clam diggers, Capris and board shorts."

Confused as to the difference between a Capri, cropped pant and a clam-digger? Rogers explains:

ShortsA Capri pant is usually a tight-fitting 3/4-length pant with a short slit on the outside hem.

Shorts

A cropped pant can be a fuller cut and varies in length between the knee and ankle.

Shorts

Clam-diggers are generally snug-fitting mid-calf casual slacks or pants. (You can dig for clams without getting your pants wet.)

A multitude of varieties

Cuffs, extra buttons, tabs, buckle detail, and pin-tucking are a few of the details that add pizzazz, Sara Rogers says. She is also seeing fabrics that are smooth and textured. Solid colors are available and also patterns from florals to plaid. Furthermore, retailers are offering shorts to all demographics, not just the younger generation. Women of 'a certain age' are embracing this trend and continue to wear shorts, sometimes even with jackets to the office. The nice thing is that shorts are shifting from day to evening and from casual to dressy.

Shorts

For the many women whose body types don't fit neatly into the "slim and slender" mold, there are plenty of options for you, too. For instance, these cuffed denim capris from Levi's (at left) are available in regular and plus sizes and in varying lengths. Old Navy also carries a range of plus-size shorts (see top of page on the left) and cropped pants on their website.

Shoes and shorts

Short shorts are also being shown with heels and flats. Rogers recommends leaving the short shorts with heels to the younger fashionistas among us. "I love the Bermuda-length short with a heel, however it can also be worn with a flat shoe," she says.

It's true: you can pair all of these short pants them with just about any of your favorite shoes. Shorts are being worn with flip flops -- "Hopefully not to the White House!" -- as well as ballet flats, wedge and platform heels.

"Something great that is showing up with these trendy little guys is pants that can be pinned up to have different lengths," Fauman says. "For instance, Joie has been showing for summer a Bermuda that rolls up and pins. These are great because you can wear them as shorts when you are not at work and while there you can roll them down as Bermudas and wear a great pair of flats or knee-high boots with them."

ShortsWhen considering the Bermuda-length short with a heel, think of it the way you think of a pencil skirt. "Bermuda-length shorts can be extremely flattering with heels as it elongates the leg line," Fauman says. "The heel can be stiletto-esque; however I recommend a wedge, platform or chunky heel if you really want to have the look of the moment."

For the casually urban, sexy look, the styles from Kasil (kasiljean.com) and Fidelity Denim (fidelitydenim.com) are some of the hottest looks of the summer. Kasil Jeans' Alexandria cropped jeans fit slim and slender, a perfect mate to the season's newest baby doll and sandal styles.

Flattery will get you everywhere

That said, shorter women will want to choose carefully. "The only thing to watch out for is if you are height-challenged, wearing Bermudas that stop right at the knee can make you look shorter then you really are." She suggests trying to make sure you wear Bermudas that stop at least two inches above the knee, and this will actually make you look taller.

Shorts

"Theory has also been showing full-length pants that pin up to become Capris in great fabrics and colors," Fauman says. "The versatility of these pants is really great." Rogers adds, "In my opinion, Capri pants are generally more flattering on women than leggings."

Cropped pants appear to be a mainstay and are a nice alternative to a short for any women that is not interested in -- or comfortable with -- showing off her legs.

Pairing your shorts

One of the biggest trends is to wear long over cropped, such as a tunic length top with cropped pants.

"The 'volume' trend is going strong, and one of the best ways to pull of this look is to partner a fitted item with a loose-fitting item," says Fauman. "Capri style pants work perfectly with the volume trend, as they look great with all the flowy tops retailers are offering this season."

"If you have great ankles, yet dislike your upper leg, cropped pants may be a great alternative to a pair of shorts. Consumers will find a variety of cropped pants to choose from, styles are ranging from tailored to casual."

Keep in mind that cropped pants shorten your leg line, however, so if your objective is to elongate the look of your leg, this is probably not the best option for you. Cuffed pants will also cut off the design flow of the leg line. Rogers says that the key to looking your best is knowing what looks best on you and to always play up your best features -- and do what you can to downplay or camouflage any problem areas.

And that, really, is the long and the short of it!

More about looking great when it's hot outside:

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