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Fashion archive: Short pants in London

All the evidence in London suggests that we must begin to take shorts seriously. Managing directors with beautiful secretaries, trendy typists, and fearless women executives must make up their minds about shorts because they are going to appear in the office. Restaurant managers of Simpsons in the Strand, the Savoy, and Claridges, also the head barman at the Connaught Hotel, must make a decision. Faced with prosperous male guests escorting ladies in shorts, they may at least look more tolerantly, even affectionately upon those in trouser-suits.

Across the road from the Connaught, Michael of Carlos Place showed several shorts outfits in his spring collection last week. While saying that shorts are “strictly for the kids” in London, he insists they are an important part of leisure fashion for women of all ages, given the right shape, and also given a matching skirt or long sleeveless coat. At the Christian Dior boutique in Conduit Street, the Diorling collection includes a navy blazer and shorts suit that is unequivocally a town suit, with elegant white cravat blouse, navy hat, and navy tights. The Diorling collection is ready to wear, intended for the kind of young customers who buy Miss Dior in Paris; but from talking with Joan Langberg, Christian Dior London designer, I predict that there will almost certainly be some versions of shorts outfits in his spring couture collection.

Shorts for town
At the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique in Bond Street the assistants are already wearing shorts with dark tights and long belted safari jackets. Here the spring collection includes blazer shorts suits for town; and for casual wear there are denim shorts that you wear with belted sweaters, heavy tights, and boots of denim and leather. Across the road at Fenwicks, inexpensive fashion springboard for so many model girls and West End secretary birds, they are selling tough denim shorts, velvet bib shorts, tailored gaberdine bib shorts, jersey shorts – “We are not short on shorts,” Fenwick announce proudly.

Well, at any rate, it is a relief to be able to write about other things than the skirt length. “The skirt length is no longer important,” said Michael, “the thing to watch now is the shoulder width.” He himself has broadened shoulders considerably, using padding with top coats. And from broad shoulders, clothes must hang loosely. Michael is doing a lot of wrapped bodices, and he uses soft sash belts throughout his collection for jackets, dresses, and top coats. His skirts, just covering the knee, often have wrap-over slits front and back, showing more leg in the stride. Often they turn out to be gauchos.

The Guardian, 19 January 1971. Click to enlarge.

Chic denim
Denim is the fabric of the year. Why this workaday stuff should have become so inordinately chic is something psychologists might explain as inverted snobbery, along with khaki drill and last year’s craze for calico. Myself, I just feel that denim is right for today’s casual daytime look. Its chief characteristic is a very close twill weave ; and it is often woven with a white weft yarn and coloured warp which gives its colours an attractively broken pastel look. The name denim comes from Serge de Nimes, a woollen twill cloth woven in Nimes from the end of the seventeenth century. It was first imitated in cotton in the United States to make workingmen’s dungarees and overalls, and most of the denim now used is cotton. But the Diorling collection includes two groups of clothes in worsted denim, the real Serge de Nimes, for some of the outfits being embroidered, as shown in our picture. Embroidered denim! The Dior touch.

No denim, no shorts, no gauchos at Hardy Armes. Here the Chanel length, which is now being called “demi,” looks familiarly at home. I asked Mr Amies if he would mind my calling him the Chanel of London, and he said he would take it as a compliment – but added that I must make it clear he is not 87 years old, and is still alive. I said I would take his word for it on both counts. He added Chanel always said she designed what her customers wanted, and so does he. We all know, of course, his top customer. Indeed, it is loyalty to Queen and country that takes us to No. 14 Savile Row, where the Union Jack flies over the doorway on collection days. But one is also drawn by the pleasure of seeing beautiful workmanship in beautiful fabrics, and the evening dresses are a delight. Those models which are shown from the Hardy Anises boutique collection are always more immediate to the fashion mood than the couture – but then the range of boutique customers for which they are designed is less exclusively establishment.

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