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Shorts — that article of clothing once relegated to casual, day-time affairs such as beach outings, picnics and sweat sessions on the treadmill — has become a suitable alternative to miniskirts, cocktail dresses and, in the case of Amanda Brooks at last week’s Costume Institute gala, ballgowns with flowing trains. “I’m not a gown girl,” says Brooks, adding, “For me, dressy clothes are as much about fabric as they are about shape.”

And Brooks isn’t alone in her thinking­: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Stam, Rachel Bilson, Jessica Alba and Milla Jovovich have all recently turned to shorts for dressy affairs. And each has found a way to avoid looking like a camp counselor: Paltrow paired her look with a sophisticated matching blazer, while the others turned to formal black stockings (and, of course, all relied on major heels).

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Yet, even with all these bells and whistles, shorts still retain the comfort factor that made them popular in the first place. “I have to be able to move, walk, dance,” says Brooks. “Ease is always a factor.”

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