Why would we ever say aging boldly and shorts are mutually exclusive? Well, sure, some of our knees may have started to wrinkle. And perhaps our thigh skin is shifting and starting the dreaded journey south when we throw ourselves into downward dog. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t get leggy with it.
There are more shorts styles for older women these days than you can shake a leg at! We don’t have to give up short-hemmed pant silhouettes because of skin tone, style confidence or fashionability.
Of course, the longer the length of shorts, the more forgiving the style on crepe-y, stretchy-looking skin. If this is your top concern, look for longer, Bermuda-style shorts or those where the hem falls just above or below the knee. Or go full-on with pedal pushers, capris or bike shorts that will cover a slew of concerns. There’s also the uber pretty full-legged skater shorts that look like a skirt, oh-so pretty and so forgiving of so much!
Not Your ’70s Hotpants
Today’s shorts story is a disco-ball mirroring of that ‘70’s trend, the hotpants. I’m not suggesting the super short length that defined those early iterations. I’m talking about the places they made the scene—Studio 54 for instance (on the likes of Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall) and so many places other than the gym or the tennis court or a picnic.
Fast forward to now and shorts (in the right style) can be worn to cocktail parties and to the office. Let me repeat that. To. The. Office. And not just fashion-centric workplaces. At corporations. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t been practicing the office life daily myself, on staff and onsite five days a week, 10 hours a day.
I see a whole range of gorgeous styles: lace, eyelet, wrapped, ruffled, wildly printed, canvas, linen, silk, denim, destroyed. Shorts have definitely preempted skirts as the summer sartorial style choice of the cool. Many millennials at my office wear shorts almost every day, even during winter, with winds whipping off the East River and icily skimming our tip of Manhattan.
The rules have shifted around this leggy option, and I find myself drawn to dressier and more sophisticated interpretations.
While a lot of women think they can’t wear shorts at an older age—even Helen Mirren quipped “I wouldn’t be seen dead in shorts,” adding, “only very secretly and privately but never in public” —our set IS getting into the gam game. And, off course, while we LOVE Dame Helen, we quite respectfully disagree. Maybe she just hasn’t seen the current crop of shorts.
If you feel shorts are just too, um, short, try the skort, a popular fashion lovechild: shorts bred with a skirt. You’ll still feel all the freedom of shorts tempered by the modesty of that skirt panel.
Check the Mirror
Now, I’m not saying that if you’re in an office environment you should make shorts your go-to. But with so many styles and lengths, why let anything hold you back? Except maybe your, uh, backside. A friend once told me, “Women should never wear spandex unless they have a full-length mirror in which to view themselves from behind.” The same could be said for shorts. It’s imperative to know both what’s coming and going when wearing them.
That doesn’t mean you should 86 all pants options with hems above the thigh. I merely advise caution in trying and buying the right style for your comfort level.
Here’s my, ahem, short list of options for working the look this summer.
The Short List
Where: Summer Fridays at the office, soccer games with the grandkids.
Where: To Opera in the Park, the farmer’s market, sunset cocktails out.
Where: Garden parties at friends’ country houses, shopping at Renovation Hardware.
Where: From office to a night out on the town with BFFs.
Where: Reunions with former classmates, backyard BBQs.
Where: Any place! This is the perfect shorts silhouette for sophisticated dressing.
Where: Beach boardwalk luncheons, summer city excursions.
Where: Breezy day trips to visit family, weekend meet-ups with dear friends.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2017.