If it seems like short shorts and miniskirts just keep getting shorter, blame it on one very dignified 74-year-old Milanese woman who likely wouldn’t be caught dead in either one of them. The effect of Miuccia Prada’s designs on the trend cycle has been strong throughout her career. What’s remarkable today is that it keeps getting stronger.

This past March, the Prada Group reported a 17 percent increase in year-on- year sales, a boost that was largely due to a surge at its younger-leaning brand, Miu Miu, which was up by 58 percent compared to 2022. Coincidentally or not, this jump occurred in parallel with Ms. Prada’s reinstatement of micro-minis two years ago and micro-shorts a season or two later. What was new about her take on the leggy look was that she proposed it as a sophisticated evening-appropriate bourgeois essential rather than a casual denim statement-maker for hippies or rodeo sisters, thus pushing the leg-baring style into a high-fashion arena while solidifying it as an on-point choice for almost any occasion year-round. Now, the seasons-long success of the trend has made it clear that the legs-out look shouldn’t be limited to high summer: Hot pants layered over tights—and paired with knitwear up top—are proving a perfectly viable option for a winter’s eve too. Miu Miu’s micro proposition for spring/summer 2024 is arguably more of a classic men’s speedo than shorts, but it somehow looks purposeful paired with a preppy polo shirt.

The micro-shorts trend in particular has garnered support from a wide range of celebrities. Emma Corrin, Hailey Bieber, Dua Lipa, Camila Coelho, Jodie Turner-Smith, Olivia Wilde, Sydney Sweeney, Camille Rowe and Nina Dobrev have all sported the nearly-bum-baring item. Worn with cardigans, blue collared shirts or luxe jackets, these hot pants have also claimed red-carpet staying power for their styling versatility and the way they seem to say “Here I am, naked from the waist down—or am I? Don’t be so stuffy!”

Miu Miu

And what better way is there to celebrate the return of warm weather than with a little empowering leg action? The new season’s short shorts feel like a natural continuation of fall’s no-pants fever. As spring tiptoes in, brightly coloured tights under hot pants provide an on-trend solution to transitional weather. Though if you’re worried about looking like a 15th-century courtier, a toddler running about in a diaper or someone who forgot to put on pants after swim practice, look to slightly less extreme versions from the Milan and Paris spring/ summer runways. For those only now feeling psychologically ready to take on the trend, invest freely—the leggy look isn’t going anywhere soon.

In Milan, Gucci showed satin short shorts with sophisticated satin evening tops or matching tailored jackets, while at Bally, similar shorts-suits came in shiny black PVC fabric and were paired with classic blue button-up shirts over white tees. Menswear references—and the implication that these shorts are perfectly appropriate for work or play—were strong. Prada’s take was sophisticated tailored short shorts made of classic men’s-suiting flannels and firmly belted at the waist. French houses went in for the leggy look too: Short shorts grounded romantic blouses at Chanel, and high-waisted tonal safari shorts were paired with luxe bra tops at Hermès.

Some of the most desirable takes on the trend appeared at more-up-and-coming brands. Alfie Paris, beloved by young women in the know in its namesake city, continues to make headway with its proposition of itty-bitty miniskirts and micro-shorts made of carefully sourced LVMH deadstock materials. Meanwhile, New York City brand Area (of Taylor Swift’s crystal-slit jeans at the Super Bowl fame) has come out with a variety of hot pants in Dalmatian-print denim (more Perdita than Cruella) and, for a track-shorts-inspired version, salmon-pink nylon.

The new season's short shorts feel like a natural continuation of Fall's no-pants fever.

It’s not like hot pants, miniskirts or even pantsless-effect hosiery have never been seen before. Hot pants first appeared in swinging 1960s London. The trend for shorter shorts and skirts for young women can be largely attributed to designer Mary Quant, an instrumental figure in the London mod- and youth-fashion movements. In fact, the legs-all-the-way-out look held aspirational status long before the ’60s; it can be traced right back to medieval menswear. In mid-15th-century England, a law restricted the wearing of short tunics that revealed the male buttocks to members of the upper class—making it a privilege and helping maintain class division. Italian Renaissance artists like Paolo Uccello and Francesco Pesellino depicted men in contour-emphasizing tights and extremely short doublets. (The current trend for bright-red hosiery seems to have originated with Florentine noblemen.) The outline of the leg was conspicuously on display, while the groin area was sometimes covered by a fabric pouch called a “codpiece,” which was not dissimilar to today’s hot pants. These brilliantly clad noblemen were somewhat controversial and received regular rebukes from the Church but continued to saunter around the courts of Europe with their legs out until well into the 16th century, when a mode for breeches took hold.

Today, the trend is open to anyone with the chutzpah to get their pins out, and such nakedness feels more like an empowering female-led statement than a snobby status symbol, though perhaps with a similar vein of decadent eccentricity running through it. As Prada herself once told 10 Magazine: “Very often, women try to enter into the eyes of men. I’ve always tried to help women express themselves, to be free and do whatever they want. And be free from the judgment of men. […] I always say ‘You can go outside naked or in a really provocative dress—if it’s your choice. But never for finding a rich husband.’” It’s an excellent mantra with which to saunter into spring, legs first and fancy-free.