Walking through the streets of style-conscious Madrid last week, I was struck by how many times I passed a glamorous woman confidently striding along wearing a pair of shorts.
Not just any old shorts, the type you’d pull on when gardening or hoping no one spots you in when popping to the shops.
No, smart, tailored shorts — paired with blouses, jackets and the smartest of shoes. And boy, did they look good.
The majority of these sophisticates wore their heels high and their legs bare, while I noticed some wearing black shorts over dark tights, a style which looked super-sharp. Many of the women elevated the look even further, sporting jackets draped elegantly across their shoulders.
I was so impressed with this parade of effortless chic that I returned home determined to have a go at emulating it myself.
Fortunately, the UK High Street is currently awash with similarly elegant shorts in various cuts, lengths and fabrics, making them a must-have update for your summer wardrobes.
I’ve always been a fond short-wearer myself — they’re incredibly comfortable and it’s lovely to feel the sun on your legs without having to worry about how to arrange yourself when sitting down. Unlike a skirt, where you live with the perennial fear that a sudden breeze could put your dignity on the line at any moment.
Even so, I’d pigeon-holed shorts as being purely an off-duty or holiday look.
I’ve always kept a denim pair in my wardrobe, which I’ll wear when I’m schlepping around at home on hot summer days, along with a couple of pairs of classic white shorts that are easy to dress up or down in sunny climes. But that’s been my limit. Until now.
White belted Bermuda shorts, £79, mintvelvet. co.uk (left); Paperbag high-waisted shorts, £65, boden. co.uk (right)
Observing Madrid’s fabulously leggy display, those confident women no doubt flitting between business meetings and smart lunches, was a revelation. Now I can’t get enough of them.
And there’s no limit to the styles on offer on the High Street and online — from slim-fitting to baggy, and daringly thigh-high through to the more modest capri. And as these pictures prove, the range is so wide you really can’t go wrong.
A navy pair matched with a striped tee creates a casual Breton look that’s perfect for an outdoor lunch, while a lacy black pair paired with a black sleeveless blouse and smart cream jacket would make for a glamorous evening-do outfit with a bit of edge.
I know I’d feel confident and relaxed wearing the green shorts and fitted black top to an informal evening get-together with colleagues or friends. The high-waisted linen pair seem universally flattering and would be perfect for a jubilee garden party — as would the capri-length shorts in baby blue with matching shoes and jacket.
Lace belted shorts, £66, karenmillen.com (left); High waisted linen shorts, £65, boden. co.uk (right)
My favourite outfit, though, has to be the black shorts made from buttery soft leather, worn with a delicate, off-white silk shirt. Wearing these, I know I’d feel impeccably dressed for a business meeting or any smart social event. They could even make for a sophisticated wedding guest outfit.
Heels seem to elevate every short style, largely because they elongate your legs — handy if yours aren’t as long as you’d like, and you’re making that a reason to avoid trying out shorts yourself.
There’s also a great misconception that shorts are an item of clothing that only the very young and lithe can get away with.
Certainly, this had been the depressing conclusion to a recent conversation I’d had with the middle-aged women in my local running group. I admit I’d felt slightly crestfallen when the general consensus was reached that our short-wearing days were behind us.
So take heart — and raise those hemlines with a style that will prove the doubters wrong. For whatever your age, shorts can look both dignified and chic. A short cut, no less, to summer style.