What to Buy Now: Shorts

Real Style on 01.30.12
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Photos (from left): Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew

We've had an unusually mild winter where I live, which is both wonderful and a little odd; it's been nice not to have to contend with ice and snow, but I'm pining a bit for days cold enough to wear boots and a heavy coat. Of course, now that I've said that out loud we're sure to have a blizzard. Sorry neighbors.

No matter what the weather, February is shorts season for most casual wear retailers. Despite the actual temperatures, your favorite stores are rolling out their spring and summer lines, and this means it's time to get serious about your summer wardrobe. When we start shopping for the next season, we tend to gravitate toward those pieces that lend themselves to a wear-it-now, wear-it-later approach because, of course, we can wear them now -- that pretty summer skirt you've been eyeing doesn't have to languish in the closet until Memorial Day; pair it with a sweater and some tights while it's cold out, and with a tank and sandals when the weather heats up.

Shorts, however, are strictly warm weather gear (unless you are young and chic enough to wear winter shorts, which is not a look that works for everyone, and particularly not a look that's good on those of us over 35). Spending the money on shorts now, in the dead of winter, seems silly -- you're just going to bring them home and put them away, so where's the fun in that? And of course, we're all still moaning about that extra five (or six or eight or ... ) pounds from the holidays, and promising ourselves that before the kids get out of school and the pool opens and the weather heats up, we'll have lost that weight and gotten into shape. Plus it's just depressing to try shorts on now, when vacation seems so very far away.

But I'm warning you: If you don't buy your shorts now, they'll be gone when you want them. Or at least all the good colors and sizes and styles will be gone, and you'll wind up with shorts you hate. And that's a terrible way to go into summer.

I know what you're going to say: I don't wear shorts, ever. They look terrible on me. I hear you; I went through that phase, too. But eventually I realized that part of the reason shorts always looked terrible on me wasn't me, it was the shorts -- specifically, it was because I would decide in a panic the week before summer vacation started (or the week after, sometimes) that I could not bear to wear capris in the heat and skirts weren't practical for the park, and I would race out to find a pair of shorts, any pair of shorts, quickly. Of course, I would wind up with some horrible, ill-fitting, unattractive thing that I hated to put on, and then I would blame my thighs for being shorts-unfriendly and pray for a cold snap in July.

A few years back, though, I got smart; I realized that shorts -- in all the good colors and sizes and styles -- are everywhere in January and February, piles of them, all around me. If I really wanted kelly-green bermudas, or just basic khaki chino shorts, this was the time to buy, while they were still in stock. I also realized that if I bought shorts that fit me right now, they would still fit once summer came around -- after all, if I really lost that five (or six or eight) pounds, I could always put a belt on with my shorts, which would just make me look that much slimmer. And if I didn't lose anything, the shorts would still fit, which makes those days at the park so much more comfortable (and fun).

This summer, don't be an I-don't-wear-shorts mum; get a pair (or three) that fit and flatter you, right now, while the selection is good. Don't wait until the shelves are clearing and the only thing left are short-shorts and the kind with cuffs (the cuff makes your thigh look wider). Shop now, while the flat-front, straight-leg options are available; try on khaki and black and all the fun colors (I'm really into pink and navy this year). And then put them in your closet where you can see them and get ready for summer. It's right around the corner, after all.

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