You wear the trousers

By Jan Shure, May 17, 2010
Silk trousers, £109, silk top £83, Comptoir des Cotonniers

Silk trousers, £109, silk top £83, Comptoir des Cotonniers

Now that spring is really here, the season’s most pressing fashion dilemma is no longer avoidable: what are we going to be wearing on our bottom half?

The options are varied and mainly “difficult”, particularly if you do not have the legs of a ’90s supermodel, and include shorts, harem trousers; peg-top trousers; crop-trousers; playsuits (technically, a top and bottom half, I know) and leggings, of course, to wear under a tunic or dress when temperatures dip.

What most of these have in common — playsuits apart (they are dead easy, just worry about the right footwear) — is that they need a lot of thought; in some cases a course at styling school is required in order to have a gossamer-thin hope of getting the look right.

If you are planning to wear shorts other than on holiday, I’ll make a wild guess that you are under 25. But don’t dismiss them if you are over that age. While very tiny, gym-knicker-style shorts do need to be left to the very young and very leggy, well-cut, well-styled shorts — and there are some great ones around — that hit somewhere around mid-thigh, can be a strong look. They look great with a softly-cut top and one of the season’s blazers or, on warmer days, with a draped top, loose vest or vintage-looking blouse.

While a 6ft model with the body mass index of a moth may look stunning in full-volume harem trousers, so far I have seen just one Real Person look sufficiently good in them to make me covet a pair. She was at least a size 10 so I am prepared to concede it is possible to pull off the look if rigorous attention is paid to detail. That means a skinny vest or tee, or a fitted shirt tucked in to achieve a narrow silhouette. A jacket should be a long boyfriend blazer, or a cropped blazer — but try all the pieces together before you buy to ensure proportions work.

The summer’s most on-trend trousers are those with a bit of extra volume going on in the hip area. Sometimes called peg-top or carrot-top or draped, they also require disciplined styling.

Slightly slouchy or slim tops work best. Breton stripes look strong (like a three-quarter-sleeve boat-neck tee at Gap, £10, or a long-sleeve linen tee, £19.99, at Zara), as do softly styled ruffled or frilled vintagey blouses. Alternatively there are the slightly sheer crop tops, like a plain linen tee at Zara (£19.99), or a sheer tank, £10, at Topshop, which also has a gold lace and lurex crop top at £38. Perfect for glamorous evenings.

Last updated: 1:10pm, May 17 2010