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Take a long gander at these shorts

Ladies, dust off the Thighmaster, claim your spot on the StairMaster or do whatever else it takes to get your legs in shape.

The summer, always a more revealing season, belongs to shorts.

This summer the crop of warm-weather clothes is all about showing skin with halters and light dresses and an array of shorts -- from super-high numbers to longer, classic city lengths and bermudas.

"Shorts kind of faded for a while, I think," said Heather Morris, owner of Mod, a boutique in Lexington, Ky. "People were afraid of shorts; they didn't think they were flattering. Now they have these new cuts, and shorts are back big this season."

Designers have added cuffs and pleats along with decorative buttons and high-end fabrics to make a reliable summer staple more dressy and flattering on different body types and ages.

"If you're not as comfortable in a shorter short, there are city shorts, and trouser shorts," Morris said. "There's all different kinds of lengths."

If you have legs to die for, then the short-short is the way to go. Thigh-baring styles are available in most stores, and women are pairing them with cute summer heels.

"I think a lot of people feel cut off with shorts, and the heel lengthens the leg and makes the look a little more dressy," said Allison Herrington of Bella Rose, another Lexington boutique.

Rev up the look a bit for night by switching to a cute halter and a funky wedge.

Even if you do buy into the thinking that shorts are off limits to anyone older than 35, the right pair of knee-skimming tailored pants isn't out of the picture, Herrington said.

"The shorter length is definitely a young trend," she said. "With the Bermuda length, that's across the board. It suits any age group."

The Bermuda short generally cuts off around the knee.

At Ann Taylor Loft in Hamburg, Ky., customers are buying long and short styles, said Tina McLane, general manager of the store.

"I think we tend to carry both, and a good quantity of styles so we can please everybody," she said. "They both sell equally well. It just depends on the client."

As versatile as these new shorts are, the office seemed to be off limits, until now, with many labels pairing longer cuts with other polished pieces, including crisp white shirts and blazers.

"A lot of companies are making a suit, with nice cropped jackets and a city short," Herrington said."

Depending on what industry you're in, it can work for your job."

The fabric, too, can make a style look more grown-up, McLane said. "We have the more refined fabrication, the linen and the different blends that are a dressier short." Add a nice top to pull it together, she said.

Unlike other fashion hits that come and go, shorts are a sure bet for retailers.

When warm weather hits, customers want shorts "just because the weather demands it," said McLane. "Either shorts or cropped pants, both sell very well."

Red and white seersucker and other classic looks remain strong too.

"Part of what we're seeing right now is the Americana patterns -- the gingham, the seersucker and the bandanna," she said. "We always get a lot of Americana this time of year, because it makes us think of the beach and the Fourth of July."

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