By  on June 1, 1994

DALLAS -- Whatever the trend is, my husband will always love short shorts. I, however, prefer a more modest mid-thigh. Recently, I embarked on a shopping expedition to Dillard's and J.C. Penney's to look for blue denim cut-offs -- the latest thing -- that somehow fulfilled both our requirements.

My search began at Dillard's in Northpark Center, where denim shorts are located just off the escalator on the second floor. The different styles were logically displayed by brand and color, either in open shelves or on tables. As I browsed, five teenage girls wandered into the department, all wearing very short floral or pastel denim shorts. They deemed a rose and blue flowered pair of Pepes "very cute" -- until they saw the $48 price tag. That caused them to walk away, saying they were going to the "cheap department."

Most of the shorts I saw were blue -- with every imaginable shade available -- but there were also a number of pairs in off-white, red or black, as well as a selection of pastels, florals and stripes. I found I was drawn to the same brands I've worn for years: Pepe, Levi's and Guess. I like their classic styling, colors and the way they fade.

The predominant shorts style had a rolled-up cuff. Steel Jeans and Pepe had styles with frayed hems, but I thought these would be more appropriate for a teenager than for me. In the end, I took seven pairs into the dressing room and quickly discovered I had gained a size in the last year. I called the salesperson to retrieve larger sizes, which she did.

Prices ranged from $20 for Steel Jeans to $48 for Pepe. They all fit pretty well, and I almost bought a pair by Levi's, but in the end, I found that I agreed with the girls about the prices: $30 was more than I wanted to pay. So, I returned my stack of shorts to the salesperson and walked down the mall to J.C. Penney.

I had never shopped at this Penney's, so I asked a salesperson where to find denim shorts. She informed me that I had just passed the misses' shorts, but that I would find more in the junior department.I backtracked to the misses' department and saw Dockers, Lee Wrinkle Free, Bill Blass, Hunt Club and Cherokee labels, with prices ranging from $22 to $38. Most were hemmed at the knee, which is too long for my taste.

Moving on to the junior department, I found it small and crowded with rounders, T-stands, wall displays and tables loaded with shorts in a rainbow of colors and patterns. The trend at Penney's seemed to be, anything goes. The myriad merchandise was overwhelming, but I tried to focus. I saw brights, pastels, darks, stripes, florals and plaids by Lee, Mixed Blues, Bongo, Paris Blues, A. Byer, Whooz Blooz Jeans, Levi's and Arizona.

I picked up a pink and blue floral with a button fly and rolled cuff by Bongo selling for $27.99, a faded blue striped pair by Paris Blues for $34 and several others. I found five-pocket blue denim shorts with a frayed hem by Arizona for only $19.99 that looked great, but the smallest size they had left was a 9, and I wear a 7.

By the time I was ready to try things on, I had short shorts, medium shorts and long shorts in solids and prints. First, I tried on a pair by Lee in medium blue for $26. I liked the color -- a very authentic faded look -- and they had notches in the outside seams that allowed for more room. But they were very short, barely covering the cheek. My husband would have loved them, but I couldn't do it.

Next, there was a pair of wine denim from Mixed Blues, which had the opposite problem -- they were too long. Then came a classic, five-pocket style in raspberry by Arizona for $19.99. They were comfortable, fit well and the fabric was heavy but not too stiff. Even though they weren't blue -- and they weren't cut-offs -- the length was perfect. They hit a little higher than mid-thigh, which left me feeling that I would be comfortable and that my husband would be happy. Getting an additional 25 percent off at the register left me feeling good about my $15 pair of raspberry almost-too-short hemmed shorts.

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