Today, wearing shorts isn’t confined to any gender or age, but people have not always enjoyed such freedom when it comes to dressing. In the past, women could only wear long dresses that went down to their feet and only men were allowed to show their legs. Men eventually lost that privilege and then it was only acceptable for younger boys to wear shorts, a tradition that dates back to the 16th century and endures today in countries like the United States, where it is still forbidden for men to expose their legs in formal work environments. However, women gradually gained the freedom to show some leg. In the 1960s, the miniskirt appeared and soon all other garments, including pants, began to get shorter.
British designer Mary Quant, famous for popularizing the miniskirt in 1965, also promoted shorts for women. She introduced a design that featured a leg length of just five centimeters. The style soon became popular, and the American fashion magazine Women’s Wear Daily christened them “hotpants,” a term that is still used today to refer to the shorts. Hotpants captivated leading figures of the time including Twiggy and Jane Birkin.
Over the years, hotpants have been reinvented, with designers exploring new shapes, fabrics, and lengths. The shorts were very popular in the 2000s, and pop stars like Britney Spears and Beyoncé chose to wear the tiny garment on stage. Since then, they have been presented as a summer trend for several seasons, making them one of the pieces that survives out of the many offerings that fill the catwalks each season. But this doesn’t mean that shorts lack variety. In recent years, we have seen them in many labels’ fashion shows including Saint Laurent and Chanel, which presented more sophisticated versions in 2018 and 2020, respectively; Dolce & Gabbana and Jaquemus, which featured knit fabric offerings that became popular in 2020; and Isabel Marant, which showed a more casual denim version in 2019. These designs have little to nothing to do with the first shorts, which were made of fabrics such as velvet or silk and had a much more minimalist, demure aesthetic. The endless capacity for reinventing shorts might be a reason why they are still in vogue.
While longer shorts like Bermudas—which cover the thighs with relaxed lines that blur the silhouette—are a trend this season, fashion can also highlight a very different type of shorts. With celebrities like Rosalia and Emily Ratajkowski wearing them, micro shorts are becoming trendy again.
The Catalan singer, who is in the middle of her Motomami World Tour, makes everything she touches go viral. She does it with both her songs—even before releasing them, as in the case of Despechá, which came out on July 28—and her outfits. This weekend, while shooting the video for her recently released song on the beach in Mallorca, the artist wore a pair of shorts in their most daring form, which she combined with a red bikini. The stylish outfit—the tiny proportions of which blurred the line between underwear and pants—received many comments this week.
Miu Miu has been a key label in bringing back the trend of very short garments. Earlier this year, it surprised with its viral (and controversial) top-miniskirt set worn by women of different body types and ages. Nicole Kidman wore it in the U.S. edition of Vanity Fair, and Paloma Elsesser, who wears a size 46, modeled one of the Italian firm’s tiny outfits on the cover of i-D. Elsesser’s appearance won praise on social media; users celebrated seeing the outfit on bodies that differ from the ones that usually grace the catwalk. However, despite the powerful message of body acceptance, most fashion brands’ catalogs do not offer a wide enough range of sizes for different body types; sometimes, they do appear on a brand’s website but are unavailable, as was the case with the Miu Miu set.
Now, after slaying with that outfit—despite the controversy, it was one of the season’s most viral looks —the brand is showcasing tiny shorts for the upcoming autumn-winter season. Presented last March at Paris’s Fashion Week, the collection offers a number of variations on short shorts that use different fabrics and prints while retaining the characteristic mini cut and low waist. Emily Ratajkowski starred in the label’s new campaign wearing double-belted tiny shorts paired with a diamond sweater, coat, and bag from the brand. Singer-songwriter Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, has also embraced the trend and appeared on stage wearing mini shorts more than once.
Although it seems like a difficult sell for the general public, several labels besides Miu Miu have decided to bring back this trend, which enhances the legs with a minuscule garment. From the most sophisticated sequined shorts such as those Chanel proposed in its spring-summer 2022 collection to the most daring ones that reject traditional aesthetics like Blumarine’s, from Isabel Marant’s colorful and comfortable designs to Hermès’ next fall-winter offerings, they all share one common feature: they are very short.