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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2010

The long and short of shorts: find the right style for your age, size, and shape

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Trying to reinvent shorts would be like trying to make something new out of the T-shirt or the loafer.

How? Why?

They're classic, trusty wardrobe essentials, the more comfortable and uncomplicated the better.

In terms of fashion, "It's hard to talk about the short. It is what it is," says Jerry Talamantes, director of special events and public relations for Dillard's Midwest.

Still, shorts can show dashing multiple personalities depending on what you wear with them.

"It kind of works as a basic canvas," says Mr. Talamantes in a phone interview from St. Louis. "In whatever alternative length you're most comfortable with and what you're piecing it with is the newness to this very wonderful utilitarian item for the summer months."

Depending on your age, shape, and size, choose a length ranging from wee shortie shorts to below-the-knee capris and crops. Pair with heels and a jacket or sweater set for one look, sandals and a big tunic top for another, flats and a button-down shirt for yet another. Add flair with jewelry and a scarf or chain belt at the waist.

"There definitely is becoming a blending of day and evening, or casual and dressy," observes Sara Paulsen, wardrobe stylist at Ragazza women's boutique in Perrysburg.

"Other new ways to wear shorts are sequined or leather shorts for the younger crowd. They're great for a night out or can be dressed down with an over-sized tee," she adds. And, "Whether it's shorts, crops, or full-length, white denim is white hot."

Cheryl Nicolaidis of Sylvania Township, a wardrobe consultant who sells the Etcetera line of women's clothing, says that "One of the top trends this summer is the short suit which can be worn to the office in place of a skirt and jacket."

Still being seen a year after becoming trendy is the romper, a one-piece shorts jumpsuit with a tank or blouse top. "That is a really great style, very easy and comfortable," Ms. Paulsen says. That style too is mostly for younger women, she advises.

Talbots' spokesman Meredith Paley notes via e-mail that "Capris are always in and cropped pants are very trendy right now — any length of the cropped pant [is] very stylish and trendy. Shorts that are in right now are shorts with a cuff, a tie-waist, pleated shorts, and a cargo utility short."

Also via e-mail, Kohl's agrees on this summer's "hardware details and utility influences."

"Look for shorts that combine roll-tab and zipper details in relaxed silhouettes," writes David Hacker, vice president of trend and color for the department store chain.

But as Ms. Paulsen delicately puts it, "shorts are not for everyone."

"Overall, women that have larger thighs really shouldn't wear them," she says. "What I would recommend instead would be a skirt or a dress," which can be just as cool as shorts. Linen pants are another good option in hot weather.

Mr. Talamantes of Dillard's says "your size is the lead into the search for the right short. ... Be honest about your size and stature and proceed from there. There's many options."

Longer is better, the fashion experts say.

"Bermuda shorts are always the best bet — always flattering," Ms. Paley says. "The lean and tailored look is always slimming."

She adds that "Black is always slimming as a general rule. Patterns can be tough and unflattering so choose them wisely."

Styles that close just below the natural waist are usually the most flattering of the waistline choices, she adds. And while front pleats are trendy, a flat front is smarter if you have tummy issues.

The shortest shorts should probably be worn only if you're young and in great shape.

Men also have been seen on the runways in short shorts, "but to be honest they're not for anyone in Toledo," Ms. Paulsen says.

Ditto for men's capris.

"When you travel outside the United States, you see it all over the place," notes Mr. Talamantes. Here, "men are always going to be comfortable in their Bermudas. It's just a staple."

Younger men still favor long and loose "urban shorts," he says.

Ms. Paulsen recommends those shorts end right below the knee. "Anything longer is going to look sloppy."

Here's more advice from Mrs. Nicolaidis on how women can look their best in shorts or capris:

•

The length should be in proportion to your size, shape, and figure. The length of the short should hit the shapeliest part of your leg and not be too full or too tight. Showing more leg, when there is leg worth showing, will make you appear taller, as will a shoe with a little lift to it.

•

Wearing a blouse untucked in a complementing color that grazes your figure will create a longer, leaner visual illusion than tucking your top in and breaking the line.

•

If you are short-waisted, a high-waisted pant with the shirt tucked in makes your waist look even shorter. If you tuck a shirt into a short that sits just below the natural waist you create a more balanced look by visually lengthening the torso.

•

If you have an apple shape (heavier through the middle) or pear (heavier through the hips), it's easier to achieve a better fit with a lower-waist style.

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Capris are great for women who aren't comfortable with their legs because they're heavy or have visible cellulite. Petites have to be careful as capris can make you look even shorter. The key is to make sure the capri hits the shapeliest part of the leg. Also, wearing a bit of a heel, especially in a neutral color, can create the illusion of a longer leg.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6126.



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