Memorial Day is upon us and that usually means that women will be packing their bags for a long and restful weekend out of town. It’s also incredibly likely that the suitcases of the most fashionable females will hold a variety of bottoms from cotton capri pants to kneegrazing gauchos; from miniskirts to Daisy Duke- inspired denim shorts.

Call abbreviation a trend in bottoms these days. Alle Fister, a spokesperson for ShopBop, a hip online destination, has a theory as to why. “We are seeing a lot of abbreviated bottoms, as we’re in the heart of the spring and transitioning into summer. Cropped styles are great for this time of year because they provide the perfect amount of coverage for this weather.” But to give fashion its due, there is also a movement at hand, aside from the warmer weather, which might account for the hike in hemlines. “Another huge trend now is leggings and what is great about this is it affords more women the opportunity to wear shorts and micro-minis,” Fister continues. “They can still get coverage with style when combining and layering these looks with leggings; leggings allow more women to feel comfortable in these shorter styles.”

According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, a majority of women gravitate towards trends in dressing, indicating that they will probably be embracing the prevalence of shorter silhouettes this season. 57% of female respondents told the Monitor that their typical clothing purchases were for new and different clothing, rather than replacing current items.

Number of Denim Jeans 7.85 9.11 +1.26
Number of Denim Shorts 2.86 3.4 +0.50
Number of Denim Dresses 0.76 0.78 +0.02
Number of Denim Skirts 1.48 1.58 +0.10

“There are a wide range of options out there in bottoms that allow us to do our own thing,” tells Stephanie Pappas, a co-owner of Eva, a boutique in downtown Manhattan. “It’s a great time for mixing and matching silhouettes; many skirts are knee-length and short shorts are really happening right now.”

But that is not to say that the trend towards short is without taste or style. “Bottoms may be abbreviated, but the look is new and fresh. It’s still conservative,” says Ashley Thompson, owner of Addict, a stylish New York store. “Take for example, the pencil skirt, which is cut right above the knee.”

“Gap is loving the skirt this season,” affirms Sean Krebs, Style Expert for Gap, the national retailer. “We are offering a number of different styles including reversible, dip-dye, cotton eyelet, and tiered versions as well as printed denim minis. Skinny cropped capris and shorts, both super short and knee-length, are also big news.”

“We are seeing the bubble hem sell very well,” offers Rowan Cohen, a manager and co-owner of Oxygene, a hip South Florida boutique, referring to this spring’s super popular skirt. “We are also seeing cropped silhouettes and tapered legs doing very well but of course, this is Miami; they’re always going to be important here.”

Temperate climate or not, it appears that women of every region will be slipping into a shorter silhouette in bottoms this season. According to the Monitor, 54% of female respondents like or love to shop for apparel, and clothing remains the number one choice of things to shop for among most women, far surpassing other categories including shoes and home electronics.

“It’s easy to build a wardrobe of different types of bottoms that can be mixed and matched with all types of tops. These days, it is less about buying ‘outfits’ and more about buying great ‘items’ that you love,” Krebs from Gap details.

Data from the Monitor indicates that women prefer to do just that. When asked if they were more likely to buy an entire outfit in one store, 54% of female respondents stated that they preferred to buy pieces at different stores. When it comes to bottoms, denim ownership is edging even higher, with strong growth in the first quarter of 2006. According to the Monitor, on average, female respondents owned 9.11 pairs of jeans, 3.4 pairs of denim shorts and 8.81 pairs of casual pants.

Designers appear to be offering a continuous stream of options to keep women buying both denim and casual pants this season. “Cropped denim is doing really well right now and we’re seeing a range of lengths with different style details such as cuffs and rouching,” observes Fister. And it’s not just the designers inching up the bottoms of bottoms; consumers themselves are literally taking matters into their own hands. “Women are rolling up and folding the cuffs of their denim and wearing them very stylishly,” Thompson from Addict shares.

Kelly Monks, Store Manager for Foley and Corrina, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, details a Bermuda short that her store will be debuting this summer. “It’s a straight cut, mid-rise cigarette pant that is cut just above the knee. It’s great for either day with flip-flops, or for night with high heels.” That’s comforting news for many women; six out of ten female respondents told the Monitor that prefer to wear one comfortable outfit for the entire day rather than changing their clothes to fit their varying activities.

As the experts attest, women will have plenty of choices in skirts, pants, leggings and shorts to accommodate any occasion and in the most stylish of ways. Any way you look at it, it’s bottoms up!

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.

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