Now & Then: The History of Shorts

Get Shorty. Elegantly tailored in luxe materials and vibrant prints, its time to rethink this summer staple.

Most of us have a pair packed away in the back of our closet for when the weather heats up. With temperatures steadily climbing, rather than digging out your old standbys, consider an elegant new style in printed satin or metallics. This season’s short trend is emerging as the summer evening style statement.

Alice Marble caused an outrage by wearing mid-thigh shorts in 1932

Do shorts as suitable eveningwear seem shocking to you? Consider this, in 1932, tennis star Alice Marble wore knee-length, A-line bottoms to a professional tennis match and caused an outrage. Less that 40 years later in 1971, the hugely popular trend for “hot pants” made skin-tight short-shorts widely acceptable. Women wore them to the office, to weddings, and were even allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot in Britain.

Hot pants went from risqué to everyday streetwear in 1971

From Bermudas, cycling and board shorts – not to mention hybrid versions such as jorts and skorts – they represent two very American qualities, freedom and inventiveness. The desire for shorts is enduring. They are one of those items of clothing that have the ability to change chameleon-like depending on who’s wearing them. Take a pair of similar white high-waisted shorts from the 1950s, patrician on CZ Guest; they are sporty on Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina.

C.Z. Guest in patrician white shorts photographed poolside in Palm Beach in 1955

No look back in time on shorts would be complete without mentioning the most memorable shorts ever captured on film, the “daisy dukes.” Named after Daisy Mae Duke, a fictional character played by Catherine Bach in the 1979 TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, the tiny denim hot pants made Bach a household name and a bona-fide calendar girl. During the show’s run, her poster sold 5 million copies, outselling even Farrah Fawcett’s iconic red swimsuit shot.

Demi Moore at the Oscar’s in 1989 wearing glittery bike shorts, a bustier and a brocade cape. Needless to say, this is a look that did not catch on.

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Read more Now & Then articles here.


Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.