Make denim shorts chic at any age!

Make denim shorts chic at any age! They’re all the rage but tricky to wear — unless you follow top designer Amanda Wakeley’s clever tips

  • Amanda Wakeley says that it is incredibly freeing about wearing denim cut-offs
  • UK-based fashion designer describes the best way to style denim shorts 
  • She says an unbelted kimono provides effortless arm and top-of-leg coverage

Sundown drinks on an uninhabited Greek island and I’m sitting in the evening glow wearing denim cut-off shorts. 

Maybe it’s something to do with the Mediterranean vibe — or the delicious local wine — but the sense of liberation is sublime. 

Daylight fading, we sail back to port and an evening meal where, as I raise my second glass, I find myself chuckling at the thought that my younger self would have been far too self-critical to be sitting at dinner in something so casual as a pair of denim shorts. 

But they are having a celebrity moment this summer. And not just on teenagers, supermodels and pop stars, who let’s face it, can get away with wearing pretty much anything. From Zara Tindall to Carrie Johnson, women the world over are daring to bare in denim. So how do you find the style that suits you? 


Left: Top, £120, wyselondon. com; shorts, £25, marksand spencer.com; sandals, £49.99, zara. com. Right: Leather jacket, £449, baukjen. com; shorts, £9, river island.com; heels, £225, russelland bromley. co.uk

When choosing what to wear I always start with ‘How do I want to feel?’ For me, there is something incredibly freeing about wearing denim cut-offs. Somehow I feel young and so carefree. 

So my rallying cry is: girls (yes we are all still girls at heart), throughout humanity we have never looked so good for our age. 

Top, £120, wyselondon.com; shorts, £25, marksandspencer.com; sandals, £49.99, zara.com

So take a long look in the mirror, pat yourself on the back, appreciate who you are and stop worrying about what other people, or society may think. 

Next is a quick check-in with your personal style DNA. By that I mean, who am I sartorially speaking? For example Boho Ibiza (think Kate Moss) or ­Effortless Chic (Elle Macpherson)? I am a big fan of the latter. 

Blouse, rent from £33.60, hirestreetuk. com; shorts, £12, newlook. com; sandals, £35, marks andspencer. com

Here are a few pointers as to how you may achieve this as there are a plethora of style options out there for all body shapes. 

A great way to start is to focus on your strengths — if you are happy to show more of your legs in a pair of slim and hip-­skimming cut-offs, try adding an oversized shirt or top. I love contrasting textures and proportions, so for me a fluid, oversized silk shirt with rolled-up sleeves is one answer.

If you want to lengthen your legs and cinch your waist you may prefer a more high-waisted flared proportion (definitely easier on the upper thigh) and pair with a neat T-shirt bodysuit or even a sleek one-piece swimsuit. 

Throw an unbelted kimono over the top for effortless arm and top-of-leg coverage. Earlier this summer I noticed St Tropez market was full of these and they add a wonderful boho nonchalance. 

Jumper, £17.50, m&s; shorts, £25.99, zara. com; sandals, £89, mintvelvet.co.uk

If you prefer more leg coverage but still want the cut-off vibe, there are some great denim Bermuda shorts… still cool and unexpectedly leg lengthening. 

Also, if your favourite denim cut-offs are super-distressed (mine are), elevate the look by keeping everything else more polished, so perhaps leave your wellworn rock band T-shirt for another time, otherwise you can just end up looking scruffy. I hate to say it, but scruffy can be ageing. 

Adding a statement belt can elevate your cut-offs and it doesn’t need one with a designer logo. 

A sustainable and more personal alternative is to pull an old silk scarf through the belt loops or raid your husband/partner’s wardrobe for a belt. If that proves unpopular (or the wrong size) search charity shops for men’s belts — if wearing cut-offs lower on your hips you may need a longer belt than usual. 

Jumper, £17.50, m&s; shorts, £25.99, zara. com; sandals, £89, mintvelvet.co.uk

In terms of other accessories, a straw hat — either wide-brimmed or a trilby — can be transformative and will make beach hair a little less unkempt and a lot more cool… For jewellery I always love an oversized man’s watch and never more so than with this look. 

When it comes to shoes I would head for a flat sandal…whether chunky or the Ancient Greek variety, but wedges fall into the trying too hard category for me at least. 

I love to throw in a sustain­ability style hack. Old jeans that still look great on your rear but the leg shape doesn’t work any more, but you’re too fond of to throw away as you think they may work again? They probably won’t. 

Why not do your bit for the environment and repurpose them? Grab some safety pins, and mark the longest point you would want them to be (remembering you can always chop more off, plus they will lose length when they are chopped and once they have been washed and are suitably frayed). 

Top, £69, uk.saintjames.com; shorts, £7, riverisland. com; sandals, £125, lkbennett. com

Slice them off with sharp scissors and double-check the length before throwing them in the wash and the dryer to fray the bottoms. If you feel they are too narrow, slice up the side seam a few centimetres to ease the fit. 

Alternatively, chop them off longer and just roll them to the most flattering length. Between you and me, I have never bought cut-offs. I have always repurposed my old-favourite jeans. Far more satisfying all round. 

Remember, denim cut-offs don’t have to just be worn in summer — I intend to wear my black denim shorts well into the winter with thick tights, chunky boots, a statement belt and an oversized cashmere rollneck this autumn. 

I think we will be seeing a lot more shorts of all varieties this winter. I may even slice off some old leather trousers. 

Blazer, rent from £30, hire streetuk. com; shorts, £25.99, zara.com

And finally, own the look. If you love it, throw your shoulders back, lift your bottom and walk tall and proud. Remember, good posture is one of the best things we have in our Ageless Toolkit. 

If you are uncomfortable in something, it shows. So before you leave the house, look in the mirror and think about how you will feel wearing this style. 

In my head and my heart I am ageless. Whatever it may say in my passport.

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