Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Survival Guide, Part III: Shorts

I'm sure somehow, somewhere there is recorded evidence of me talking about how much I hate shorts. Because I have mounted a nearly lifelong battle against them. Most of it has been in vain because my mother, well, she loves shorts. ADORES THEM. She will probably be buried in a pair of shorts. As a kid, she was always pushing shorts on me, partly because she loves them and the rest because I grew up in VA. And she didn't want me to die of heat stroke.

I went along with it, rather halfheartedly. I, at one time, got obsessed with these overall, shortall things that were very, very long (it was the early 90's--shut up), like manpri length. Kind of Dexy's Midnight Runners come to think of it (and it is here that I will take the time to give big up's to the Pizza Hut in Alamogordo, NM, where once, my darling husband serenaded me with Come On, Eileen and, for that matter, Free Bird). They were basically pants, but I had this whole theory that they were much cooler than shorter shorts because the air could circulate freely. I shared this theory with others, and God bless my mother, but she let me, and shook her head in agreement. It was totally stupid, and probably came off a bit unhinged, but it did the job of hiding the real issue.

The issue is that I HATE MY CALVES. MY GOD. My calves, due to preadolescent ballet dancing and bad-fat-leg genes from my mother's family, can grow to gargantuan proportions. The good news? They are strong. I have a muscle in the back of my leg that is either amazing/totally gross, depending on who I am running with. But when you are 12, you don't care about strong. You want long, graceful. Beautiful. I shared this with my stepmom at about that age, and she said, "But you are so lucky! Your legs are shapely!" And now, I look at that, and I truly thank her for the compliment. But then, I thought, "'Shapely' can kiss my ass." Even worse was when my college roommate was looking at my high school annual and saw a pic of me in my cap and gown. She goes, "Oh look, you're wearing cute white pants." Um, no. THOSE ARE MY LEGS. Awkward. And let me tell you--I have done some hardcore work on my legs to make them more shapely and less, um, fat, white and gross. Has it worked out the way that I want? No, not totally. It is something I think of and work on (not as much as I might want, I'll add). But I am more proud of their strength now, I'll tell you that. And that is a good feeling.

So I have started wearing shorts. And to be honest, I probably would have whether I looked good or not because ya'll, it's hot. And the older I get, the less I care, you know? I mean, not that I am going to be walking around in my pajamas--no one except my immediate family has ever seen me not fully dressed and without make-up, and I'd like to keep it that way. But if I can look nice and still be cool at the same time, I'm all for it. I'm less concerned with making sure my legs are picture-perfect. Shorts are just a means to that end.

And you know, shorts can be very flattering and truly cute. They are not just for the beach, ya'll. Witness one Anita Pallenberg:

Now, granted, to look like this you either have to be a) dating a rock star and getting a little something-something from his bandmate, b) living in a much more glamourous world than the one I currently inhabit (I JUST SPENT MY MORNING DESIGNING AND FOLDING BROCHURES! GLAMOUR! FABULOSITY!) and c) be totally freaking gorgeous. But I love this picture, and I am not even kidding when I say that I would gladly shoot someone in the face to look like this. So shorts! Let's rock with it! (And I'm sure I'll be back with more pictures like this, because me and Anita--well, we're having a moment.)

1. Know your inseams. From most companies, the shortest you can get is about a 3" inseam. That's pretty short. I have read that shorties like myself should wear shorter shorts to make the legs appear longer, but you have to think about comfort. 3 inchers, on me, give me that bizarre, riding up in the front, front wedge. Know what I mean? If you don't, go to any theme park, and I guarantee you that within about 10 minutes you'll see a few. Because my legs touch each other when I walk. No matter how thin I get, no matter how many cupcakes I sadly throw in the trash, my legs are always gonna touch. Chances are, you have the same issue. Know this going in. I like a 5" inseam because it is still short for maximum leg lengthening, but it is comfortable. And I think the look given by a 5" inseam is flattering on a lot of different legs. Plus, it is comfy and you have that whole "dress it up/dress it down" thing that is a bit trickier with shorts, but is still there.

2. That said, longer is not always better. You may hate your legs. They may truly be disgusting. I doubt it, but you know, it could happen. But you're doing yourself no favors by going with whatever is the longest thing available. I used to gravitate towards bermudas for that reason, but here's the thing: bermudas made me look like I was on the one way express to Stumpytown. They drew attention to my calves in some bizarre way and made me look like I had the legs of a piano. Because of the stumpy thing, I felt pressured to wear heels with them, which And the thing is, bermudas typically look the best on people who are long and slim. Now, ain't that just a kick in the nuts? It's the truth. When buying, don't concentrate so much on what the length is (just make sure it is comfortable to you), but rather, how it looks on you. Trust me, the hideousness that you think you are covering is just going to be magnified if the shorts don't flatter you.

3. Have fun with color. Shorts, in a great number of cases, are the ideal "Let's not take this so seriously" clothing. That's why they are so prevalent amongst stoners and Jimmy Buffett fans. So have fun with them. I recently bought a pair of French lavender colored shorts from the J. Crew Factory. Would I wear French lavendar pants? HELL NO. But I love the shorts, and really, they are much more versatile than one would think. I, for instance, love them with an orange striped tank I have. Orange and lavendar?!? Say it ain't so! It is so totally so, and I love it.

4. Do denim...with reservations. I used to be very, very anti-denim shorts (you can read a past blog entry with a cute pictorial lesson here), and still am in a lot of cases. But this year especially has shown me the error of my ways. I actually have two pairs now (gasp!)--a pair of beat-up looking ones and a pair of dark denim, more refined ones (kind of like a denim trouser in short form). Given the right circumstances, I love them both. For instance, the beat up ones are perfection with my Frye Harnesses, an old cut-up ACDC shirt and a dark eye. The trouser-y ones were recently worn with a structured white top, Jackie cardigan, and a chignon. The message is, watch your styling, and you can really have fun with denim shorts. Just remember this cardinal rule: DO NOT WEAR THEM TO A THEME PARK (or really, any place where you are going to be walking a lot or getting wet). Why? You'll look ridiculous, you'll be hot, and MY GOD, PEOPLE, THE CHAFING. My thighs are weeping right now at the thought of the thousands of thighs that will be chafed this year in denim related theme park accidents. Sadness.

5. Watch your shoe choice. Nothing says, "I played the decoy on To Catch a Predator" like wearing denim shorts with socks and tennis shoes. Leave that look to the 12 year olds. Opt for sandals (you decide how dressy you want to go) on that. In a pinch, Converses or Jack Purcells are acceptable, but only with NO SOCKS or at least, very short ones. STEP AWAY FROM THE SOCKS, PEOPLE.

6. And remember, whatever you wear, don't sweat it. It should be obvious, but don't wear anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you can, order some shorts online and try them out. If they make you feel icky, don't keep the suckers. I know this seems obvious, but I think a lot of times we try to force ourselves into wearing something because someone says we should, and it just doesn't work out. I'm here to tell you that you probably look pretty awesome in them, and not to worry about it. Again, just because you're paying mondo attention to your legs, doesn't mean other people are. They are too busy worrying about their own shit/wondering if their baseball team will ever win again/trying to force themselves into NOT singing "S&M" every time someone says something about Matt Kemp/being insecure about their own dimples and rolls. Sure, there's someone out there who cares--as a wise man once said, "Haterz gotta hate"--but you shouldn't care.

Here are some shorts I like, have tested out, and own:

J. Crew 5 Inchers. I've bought these in a 6, I've bought them in a 16, and they've always been flattering. And, as is the case for most Crew items, the color choices are amazing. Quick tip--the Factory ones are good as well. Fabric is a little thinner, but I like that during the summer, and from what I've seen thus far this year, they hold up much like the non-factory version. In a lot of cases, these are cheaper in the store than online (just be wary of the size choices--they were dicey with middle sizes--6/8/10--in my closest outlet).

Land's End Canvas Lightweight Chinos. Basic, with a nice fit and good quality material.

Old Navy Distressed Denim Shorts. Very cute on. It is very hard to find a denim short that doesn't skew "Daisy Duke," and these fit the bill.

Gap trouser shorts. Mine are these, just the Gap Outlet version, and I love mine (and they were just $17!). Very versatile. Love the look with something crisp and white and a big turquoise necklace.


  1. Great advice with your fabulous humor. I am totally sharing this with my readers!