Sorry, Skirts. Fancy Shorts Are This Summer’s Surprising Essential

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Women’s shorts are usually associated with clueless tourists and hikers, but this season’s roomy, dressy styles are attending power meetings and weddings. How to make the cut.

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Shorts are finally shaking off their associations with park rangers and lost tourists. Women like Ms. Veurink are reconsidering the garment, and realizing that some iterations can confer a certain defiant confidence when styled with creativity and grace. “It was the one opportunity to be me,” actor Kristen Stewart said of her recent eyebrow-raising Oscars outfit of a blazer and itty-bitty Chanel shorts.

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Though packed with utility—shorts are comfortable, breezy and often amply pocketed—smart, tailored cuts telegraph a modern self-assuredness. “As far as I’m concerned, shorts and heels are the new jumpsuit,” said Olivia Villanti, founder of the Mexico City-based fashion line Chava Studio. Her slow-fashion company is known for its made-to-order shirts, but this summer its second most popular seller was a boxer-style short in a twill cotton with a subtle sheen. “It doesn’t feel like you’re going on a hike when you’re wearing them,” Ms. Villanti noted.

Among the latest offerings from any luxury brand, you’re likely to find a dressy, Bermuda-style short or two—sufficiently fancy to wear to your office or even a dinner party with a judgmental host. Carolina Herrera designer Wes Gordon would like to interest you in a high-waisted version in darted wool; Saint Laurent’s wool-blend-bouclé take features a scallop hem and four-figure price tag. E-commerce website Net-a-Porter reports that Dolce & Gabbana’s poplin shorts, their pattern inspired by majolica tiles, are brisk sellers. “It’s a natural next step in a world where everything is less gendered,” said New York designer Daniella Kallmeyer, whose pleated dress shorts (see “The Big Shorts” below) accompanied actress Zosia Mamet to the Tribeca Film Festival’s screening of a collection of bite-size movies (appropriately called “Shorts: Sex, Love and Rock & Roll”) earlier this summer.

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According to global shopping platform Lyst, searches for shorts including the words “linen,” “suit” or “formal” have leapt 49% this year over 2021, with a major uptick during the last two months. “You look tomboyish, but you are showing some skin. A short has polish, and it’s cooler than trousers,” said New York designer Maria McManus, whose contribution to the trend is a pleated knee-length trouser short. The style also poses an intriguing challenge: Anyone can pull shorts on, but how many among us can pull them off without resembling a clueless dad or a bumbling extra in a redundant “Jurassic Park” sequel? “It’s challenging, and I like that,” said Los Angeles portrait photographer Alex Scott, 41, who recently sent friends an outfit selfie in which she demonstrated finesse by pairing her high-rise, linen Creatures of Comfort shorts with a linen button-down shirt and crossbody bag from Building Block. Shorts, she said, create a “more put-together [outfit] than I would have initially thought.”

The shorts in Blazé Milano’s recent collections are an acknowledged descendant of the belted, long-shorts suit that Julia Roberts wears with white heels, post-posh-makeover, in “Pretty Woman.” The nine-year-old Italian brand, initially built around blazers, has started selling equally elegant shorts in corduroy, linen and silk, including a pair that is “quite short but not ‘hot,'” and another with a “voluminous, high” -waisted, A-line” silhouette, said co-founder Delfina Pinardi, who is currently pondering a bouclé short for ultramodern brides. “For a tropical wedding, why not? It can be very elegant with a simple blazer.”

Speaking of nuptials, Tina Lundin, a fashion influencer based in Gothenburg, Sweden, plans to wear a pair of thin, wool Filippa K shorts, paired with a blazer and Celine slides, to an upcoming ceremony. “I see [shorts] as a cooler, more polished version of the dressy skirt,” she said. Her rule? “The crotch can’t be too low or you look like a balloon.”

But in professional settings, some fashion insiders consider even upscale shorts untenable. Though linen and silk versions are selling like gangbusters for Milan brand La DoubleJ, the label’s founder, JJ Martin, isnt about to model the look to work. “I actually hate shorts at all times so I can’t even comprehend wearing them to the office,” she said. “They feel either masculine or childish to me.”

To avoid juvenile associations, Victoria Sass, 38, a Minneapolis interior designer, teams her pleated, high-waisted Ganni shorts with a crisp button-down, and platform heels. Others argue that amid global warming, shorts’ practicality trumps other concerns. New York stylist Julie Ragolia, a fan, can’t help seeing the correlation between rising temperatures and rising hems. For her, shorts signify “saying yes to straight-up cool.” In more ways than one.

The Big Shorts

Four elegant, wide-leg pairs far too spiffy for a camp counselor

Rise and Shine

A gilded silk-blend set with a flashy but formal sheen. Shorts, $517, Blaze-Milano.com

Khaki Crop

Rendered in a caramel wool blend, this tailored take hits above the knee. Shorts, $780, Khaite.com

Noir and in Charge

This stretch-suiting version has (literal) deep pockets. Shorts, $420, Kallmeyer.nyc

Of a Certain Beige

Long, light and high-waisted, this linen pair boasts permanent pleats. Shorts, $385, US.OfficineGenerale.com

Businesshala is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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