How the Shorts Set Became the Boss of Summer

shorts sets on the runway and on celebrities

Getty Images; Courtesy of the brands; Hadid: Via Instagram

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Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.

On Instagram, Bella Hadid reclines in Hockney pool-blue vintage Prada shorts and a matching oversized shirt. Dior’s models look ready for the ring in primary-hued boxing shorts and coordinating shirts. At Valentino, silhouettes are strewn with flowers; Brandon Maxwell’s take is enlivened with neon swirls. It’s a style that crosses fashion lines: up-and-coming labels like Marcia, Alfie, and Le Set are showing their own versions, as are mass brands like Abercrombie & Fitch.

The shorts set—the vacation-ready cousin of the primmer shorts suit—has run riot on all of our feeds. With its billowing shape, it sits in stark contrast to the body-con mania that’s dominated most of the past few seasons. Instead, it’s loose, tomboyish, and insouciantly sexy—a cool-girl uniform in a sea of try-hards.

bella hadid in vintage prada matching set

Bella Hadid in vintage Prada.


Matching sets, more generally, have been a pandemic-era hit. Think of the tie-dye sweatsuits that swaddled us through much of 2020, taking the guesswork out of getting dressed. Poshmark reports that demand for matching attire went into the stratosphere during that time, rising 223 percent between May 2019 and this past May. Chloe Baffert, the site’s curation and merchandising expert, says the style offers “the ultimate fashion flex without sacrificing comfort.” The warm-weather version has been a hit, too, with shorts set sales up 24 percent on the resale site compared to last month alone. (Popular brands include Farm Rio, Reformation, LoveShackFancy, and Anine Bing.)

alfie shorts set

A look from Alfie.

Courtesy of the brand.

Britt Theodora, a stylist who works with Pete Davidson and Sofia Bryant, says a number of her clients have requested shorts sets, especially after Hadid wore that matching set on Instagram. “There is something so polished and cool about a matching set,” she says. “I think a lot of people are gravitating towards short sets because it’s an effortless way to look put together. It also has ’90s nostalgia to it, which is an era that is widely trending right now.” Stylist Jared Depriest Gilbert notes that it’s also appropriate for summer’s scorching climate: “People still want to appear polished and put-together, while accommodating the current temperatures.” He is drawn to sets because “they feel intentional when it comes to the styling, and there’s a point of view.”

cannes, france may 27 maria borges is seen during the 75th annual cannes film festival on may 27, 2022 in cannes, france photo by pepe mendezgc images

Model Maria Borges sports the trend at Cannes.

Pepe Mendez

Depending on how it’s styled, the shorts set can be a bit of a chameleon, tying into a number of current trendlets. For those who adhere to the TikTok-celebrated “clean girl” aesthetic, which emphasizes airy fabrics in minimalist tones, neutral-hued shorts sets have become as essential as sleek middle parts and no-makeup makeup. (Hadid just so happens to be one of the biggest muses for the look.) On the other side of the spectrum are maximalist, riotously printed options—that, Baffert notes, are in step with the dopamine dressing craze—from brands like Poupette St. Barth, for example.

“I think people are eager to be out and about again and that excitement is translating into experimenting with fun statement patterns,” Baffert says. And while the shorts set’s heyday may be limited to summertime, she predicts “we should expect to see the matching set evolve yet again come fall and winter—comfy cashmere, muted, richer hues, and elevated silhouettes.” For those still clinging to their sets, take heart: their sartorial reign is far from over.

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