Is it just me, or is the shorts situation getting out of hand? Shorts of all styles are a Southern California staple, and they're not usually a challenging look to pull off. But lately, they've inexplicably become the incredible shrinking bottoms, and upper thighs all over Los Angeles are having a cringe-worthy moment in the sun.

Short shorts (or hot pants), the minuscule garment once reserved for Laker Girls and Beyonce's backup dancers, are becoming ubiquitous on young celebrities and tween girls.

At Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, groups of teenage girls stroll in and out of Abercrombie and Fitch and Forever 21 wearing jeans shorts cuffed and rolled so high they could be bikini bottoms. Retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters and Heritage 1981 are filled with denim shorts that fit like hot pants. And more often than not, they're worn so tight they dig into the skin of the upper thigh.

Girls, ladies: Let's review. The big idea is to flaunt what you've got, not look like Britney Spears during her bad days. So here are a few basic guidelines.


Rule 1: Use the mirror

Run a few tests before leaving the house or dressing room. Check the backs of your thighs -- are the shorts so short that lumps and broken veins are visible? Longer could be better for you.

Try sitting and standing several times. Does the crotch of the shorts pinch or ride up so that you need to yank them down every few minutes? If yes, do yourself a favor and try a less revealing or larger pair that are still sexy but won't make you look like you're stuck in a sausage casing. Remember: There are no Spanx for shorts.


Rule 2: Know what makes short shorts work

Choose something with a trouser-style waistband and flat tab front. The inseam should be no shorter than 4 inches. The legs of the garment will sit straight and crisp with some wiggle room around the thighs. (Shorts + too tight = deadly, and not in a good way.) Trina Turk makes colorful, bold-printed shorts that have punchy, retro appeal. Wear them with a solid, bright-colored tank top or T-shirt, jeweled flat sandals and a straw fedora.


Rule 3: Be bold enough to go longer

Not everyone can or should wear micro mini shorts. A mid-length style that has an inseam that's about 7 inches suits most bodies because it will cover the fleshy upper and inner part of the thigh, leaving the thinner parts of the leg to see the sun. The Gap has a great selection of styles appropriate for a casual Friday or running weekend errands. The denim cut-offs have a 7 1/2 -inch inseam and fall about 3 inches above the knee.

The great thing about mid-length cut-offs is that they can be rolled up and show as much or as little skin as you feel comfortable with. Pair the roughly cut shorts with something polished and elegant for that high-low appeal. Try a solid-colored twin set in a vibrant color, layered jewelry or a statement necklace and metallic sandals or loafers.


Rule 4: Don't go too long

Bermuda shorts, which have an 8- to 10-inch inseam, cover trouble areas, but they can also swallow up someone whose legs are short. So unless you're hitting the golf course, longer shorts should still land about 2 inches above the knee. They tend to be slouchier, so pair them with a tank top or snug-fitting shirt that can be tucked in and accentuate a less bulky top half.

The trick is finding a shorts length that flatters you, then balancing out proportions on the top. It's really not hard to look great. Especially if you're willing to leave the hot pants to the volleyball players.


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