In the Victorian era, showing one's ankle was rather risque. By the 1920s, exposing one's knees was racy. So when did we all get casual and don sportswear? Shorts? How about short shorts?!
Surprisingly enough, shorts have been around for casual wear much longer than people realize. Chances are, your grandmother wore them at some point, at least as a teen. The first regular use of shorts was in the 1930s, when athletic types like dancers wore shorts with fitted waists & loose, almost fluttery flared legs during exercise. These were similar in style to tap panties but not lingerie, though their fabrics were often thin and silky, otherwise all-cotton. While it's fairly common to see tap panties in vintage clothing today, their outer-worn counterparts are rarely found but can be seen in vintage movies, such as the exercise segments of "The Women" from 1939.
During the 1940s, short shorts were seen on pin-up girls and teens during relaxed times of day. Majorette were sometimes outfitted in short shorts at this time, as well as all-girl drum corps. World War II cheesecake art highlighted leggy silhouettes in these cute brief separates, usually made of cotton. They were nearly always in muted, feminine hues like these authentic examples:
By the mid-1940s, teens and young ladies wore made-to-match ensembles that included crop tops, cabana jackets and button-closed skirts with shorts underneath to match. These summer sets were meant to go from street wear to poolside sunning with the removal of jacket & skirt.
In the 1950s, the girl next door was wearing shorts on weekends and around the house in summer. The shortest of shorts were still meant for sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe, and movie versions of girls-next-door like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. Here's a sampling:
Other shorts and variations of such burst onto the scene during the 1950s - there were capris, clam diggers, Bermudas, pedal pushers, cigarette pants, etc. The popularity of these various styles shows how accepted shorts (and short pants) had become by this period.
By the 1960s short shorts arrived in street wear due in large part to the youth-focused culture at the time. Short shorts during this decade showed up in the form of hot pants, either worn alone or under a slit-front skirt for dramatic legs that appeared in a flash! Here's some seriously 60s styles in suede, barkcloth & fake fur:
In the 1970s, short shorts were sexy again on Farrah Fawcett as well as other Charlie's Angels (and Angel wanna-bes!). And Dukes of Hazzard made a Southern sex symbol famous in her daisy dukes. You might remember Nair's famous slogan "Who wears short shorts?" from this era, which went hand-in-hand with skin-baring briefs. Check 'em out:
For more shorts, check our available selections on VintageVixen.com; lengths range from mini to modest!