Privilege Blog

Aging Out Of Shorts, And Into A Long, Navy, MaxMara Dress

This post is sponsored by Halsbrook. Retailer particulière to the Grande Dame in all of us.


The photo above, although I didn’t know it at the time, signaled the end of my street shorts days. I’ve aged out.

It’s not that I hate my knees, or worry about shocking my neighbors. But, to be blunt, I find the texture of my skin now argues for more coverage. Long shorts then unbalance my preferred modern/classic, masculine/feminine aesthetic.

Now, giving up shorts in Northern California is not so hard. We can mostly make do with jeans. But there are always two hot summer weeks when you want to wear as little as possible. I have found myself wearing this ancient dress – and thinking, “Could I find another such?”


In choosing an outfit from Halsbrook, as part of their sponsorship, I happened on a long shift from MaxMara, the designers of my beloved camel coat and pale blue peacoat, and cheered. (The dress has now sold out, but I found other options, further on.)

The fabric is a cotton weave with subtle luster and linen-like hand.


Loose, floaty, but disciplined by a strategic pleat or two. And, it’s navy. Tailored just enough to avoid that paper bag impression.

I should confess that the Italian size 6 needs some alterations — too-tight shoulders. I’ll have the sides let out for more room across the back. What you can’t see here is the few unzipped inches. Ah well, glamor is as glamor does.


Worn minimally with white Birkenstocks and pearls for suburban errands. Hair back. The Sturdy Gal allows one floaty piece per outfit, any more and heaven knows what dogs we’ll loose.


Smallish people do well to let architectural clothing speak for itself. Someone 5’10” could add a cuff to good advantage.

For the evenings when fog rolls in — not all the way to my little suburb’s skies but close enough to cool us indirectly — I need a scarf. From Bindya, also courtesy of Halsbrook. The site offers many in the cashmere/silk blend I found with Etro and keep acquiring from other makers.


While Halsbrook styles their clothes with classic Grande Damery, in fact they excel in the polished, nay soigné, casual for all of us. I’d say they have a special love for Italian designers – Piazza Sempione, MaxMara, Alberta Ferretti. With one or two small tweaks you can wear their dresses with an Artsy and minimal elegance. A little black number for summers in the city.


The Grande Dame adds a large necklace and a colored clutch to heeled sandals. We might choose black mesh espadrilles, a raffia tote and small black pearl earrings.

In the suburbs, an ‘S MaxMara pastel shift – with rose-gold thong Birkenstocks? Although the dress looks short on the model, it’s 36 inches, which would hit me right at mid-knee. There’s one size 6 left, on sale.


Or this gray polo, by Amina Rubinacci, a designer new to me. Maybe even worn with fashion-forward ugly black sandals. Feels very Milan to me, although, to be sure, Imaginary Milan.


The Cousin is her own work of art. The Gal endorses comfort and simplicity. The Dame, well, she’d add heels and a clutch, but she approves. And perhaps, inside, jettisons a rule or two. We look Italy for license.


Affiliate links may produce commissions. Dress and scarf pictured c/o Halsbrook.

94 Responses

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was hot yesterday and I thought to myself, “Ah, I need that dress!” I just have to get over to the tailor, and I will do it soon.

  1. I haven’t worn shorts in years now. I wonder when the very last time was–and if I knew it at the time. I spend my summers in dresses and most of them are from Eileen Fisher–some are long and others are knee length.

    1. The few times I’ve been to Texas, in the summers or even spring, shorts felt too hot in any case. I have resisted dresses for so long, but this shape, long, loose, straight, feels great.

  2. My days of wearing shorts are numbered. With each passing year I find myself wearing more skirts and dresses rather than shorts. This is a brand I will keep in mind too. The navy is amazing on you.

  3. Refreshing to see this kind of fashion post in the blogosphere with full disclosure and a site-wide ban on the kind of gushing prose that normally makes the genre so insipid. You look fabulous…I’m on the holiday sweating like a damp hag and after seeing your elegant photos I feel quite ashamed of myself!

    1. @Emily, Well what a nice, fun, intelligently-written, compliment! However, if I provoke shame in anyone I should be ashamed of myself! I suspect anyone capable of using the term, “damp hag,” is probably very naturally elegant one way or another.

  4. I love this on you, Lisa! Especially with the scarf. I won’t give up on shorts…yet.

    1. @Mamavalveeta03, Thanks! Believe me, I hung in there as long as humanly possible. And I still wear them if I am going on a walk for exercise first and foremost.

  5. I’ve never been a shorts wearer, it’s always been dresses for me in the summer. This navy MaxMara shift is a stunner and you totally own the look. Beautiful. And, additional benefit, it’s so much more stylin’ than shorts. :-)

  6. Lisa, that is the most fabulous look since your wedding dress. It suits you perfectly. Colour,line,proportion,flow……just beautiful.I covet it and think for a short person, it might work as well.

    1. @barbara, Why thank you! And I am not terribly tall at 5’5″ so yes, I do think it would work on someone a few inches shorter still than me.

  7. Great solution. I stopped wearing shorts a few years ago, due to skin issues(a miss-spent youth with too much sun and too little sun block). There are nice options around. I have purchased 2 maxi skirts this year, one navy(bien sur) and have enjoyed wearing them. I know we will get more polished tomboy ideas from you and they will be both comfortable and attractive.

  8. Oh, that is lovely. That color, that sheen, that movement! Just beautiful. You’ve inspired me to look for something similar. It’s been a coolish summer in general here in the valley, but the week before the 4th was murder, and a floaty blue dress would have been just the thing.

  9. the women in NYC often wear long dresses in summer during the daytime – especially grecian style, thin and flowy. Check out Bill Cunningham’s “On The Street” videos from last summer. Such a great, colorful variety. There’s something comforting and feminine about wearing a long dress vs shorts. I find it cooler too – without constricting fabric around the waist!

    1. @Linda G, Oh thanks, I”ll take a look. I thought I hated maxi dresses, because I don’t like the “tube” variety, anything clingy or strapless. But this pyramid shape really works, for me.

  10. That dress is absolute perfection on you – well, when it’s been altered ;)

    I’ve always been a skirt/dress wearer in the summer, saving my shorts for only when absolutely necessary for modesty or safety.

  11. Love the Max Mara maxi on you. It looks like the perfect summer dress, and I continue to find skirts and dresses to be cooler than shorts when it is hot. Even though I started wearing shorts again a couple of years ago, I am probably tapering off this summer; I find the proportion of long shorts does not fit with my preferred style proportions at this point, and I’m probably aging out of shorter shorts except in the yard and walking the dog.

    Having just been converted to Birkenstocks, I covet that rose-gold pair, but alas I did not discover them in time to find them in my size.

    1. @Accidental Icon, Thank you – I think you have put your finger on one big part of its appeal – “Rich utilitarian details…” I needed someone with a real fashion background to articulate that.

  12. quite nice! lovely fabric.

    Yes, dresses and skirts are wonderful in hot weather. I find myself shifting that way as well.

    1. @Jean S, Thank you. Shifts in preferences are funny, aren’t they? You know what you like and then one day you just like something different:).

  13. Absolutely love this dress on our beloved Sturdy Gal. Minimalist heaven. The sheen of that dress, ohh… Ankle length is usually out of the question for shrimpies like me (5’1.5″), but I am admiring it on you.

  14. You look gorgeous! Pure perfection!
    I really love Max Mara, my coats and suits are mostly MM. Coats, dresses and pants are ok but skirts need some alteration,in my case. And Marella (side line) has some interesting things.,too.
    I don’t wear shorts any more,because best lenght for me was very short ,and these days are over forever. Linen trousers and midknee dresses are my favorites for summer. I like to see long dresses on others ( you look great)

  15. This may be my favorite thing ever that you’ve worn. I have a number of long linen dresses in this basic style, though in black. I’d call it artsy more than sturdy. I LOVE the way you look in it.

  16. I generally dislike maxi dresses, but this is the best I’ve seen. Sort of more like a modern “hostess gown”. I’ve never been a shorts person, as I have a phobia of anything that makes me look like I play golf (even though I do occasionally.)

    I wish this dress you’re wearing wasn’t out of stock!

    1. @kathy, Sorry about the OOS:(. And I usually don’t like maxidresses either – somehow this silhouette feels really different.

  17. You look so comfortable with this look, and the color and cut are very flattering on you, to say nothing of how cool you must feel in it on a hot day.

  18. You look fine in sleeveless, dear girl.
    For me .. yay for the dresses with sleeves

  19. That color and fabric are gorgeous. I,too, have abandoned shorts and have embraced my linen maxidress.

  20. I love maxi dresses. There is such a great variety of them and they are so much more graceful than most of what you see on the streets in summer.

    Rachel Zoe said she considers them the most wearable piece of clothing for both beauty and practicality.

  21. That’s a great dress, Lisa. I still wear shorts, longer ones, almost to the knee. But only with flat sandals, and a loose tee…and not nearly as much as I used to in the past. I wish I could wear that long dress…but with my skinny ankles and long narrow feet, a dress that hits me below the calf makes me look like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. Seriously:(

  22. I’m reaching the end of my shorts life too, actually. Lots of ideas in this post for the Australian summer I’m hanging out for so badly.

    The Halsbrook dress looks gorgeous on you!

    SSG xxx

  23. I’ve found that for me, shorts are the only way to go. Even cropped pants are too warm. The dress would be ok if I could hike it up!

  24. That is truly lovely on you. I am a big fan of maxis in summer — so much more soignee than shorts. I think for the hippier among us (ahem), something without a pleat might be kinder; I’ve recently been wearing the ultra-affordable J. Jill linen maxi, which is straight up-and-down. There’s also the Everlane jersey maxi, which has some elastic at the hipline to control the fullness; Everlane is limited on their sizing so it’s basically only good for size 8 US and under, but within that constraint it’s a nice silhouette.

    1. @maryn, Thanks for the options. I will say that the pleats might be more flattering than you suspect – if you are comfortable with a fitted look around the collarbone and shoulders, the pleats allow the rest of the dress to skim the body. That J. Jill dress looks like it might be very useful – you don’t find the armholes to be too large?

  25. Hello Lisa!

    It seems sad that you have aged-out (love that phrase) on your shorts….but I hear you when it comes to texture of legs etc. I feel it is more about personal comfort and confidence than what you actually look like in the eyes of others.
    As for the Maxi’s, love them!! You look happy, confident and beautiful.


    1. @Samantha, Exactly. As long as you stay within the {very wide} range of what society has gotten comfortable with, it is just about what you yourself want to wear.

  26. I feel like I missed some of the intent here. You’ll never wear shorts, or you’ll retire them from occasions that demand a bit of wardrobe presence -casual backyard parties, lawn-chair concerts, farmer’s market Saturdays?

    I can’t see myself climbing in and out of my car to do my marketing in a long dress. Where will I stash my keys and cellphone? We’ve had a string of 90 degree days here, all jeans are at the bottom of my drawer.

    I have replaced several pairs of shorts in the past year. I took Sally of Already Pretty’s advice and sized up, that gives them more ease. I also look for longer lengths. Although I’m too short for Bermudas to look anything but frumpy, I don’t consider anything that leaves my former tennis playing thighs exposed.

    I can’t imagine jettisoning them entirely. You aren’t that old and don’t they say that the “legs are the last things to go?”

    1. @RoseAG, I no longer feel comfortable wearing shorts out of my house or occasions with my family or exercise. One day I was fine, the next day, not so much. I may change my mind again in a few years, who knows?

      So the intent is to feel good in my skin, no matter what my skin is doing. It’s a personal thing. Just like I don’t like wearing short dresses for casual wear – I always curl my legs up when I sit down, and short dresses don’t work in that scenario.

      I stash my key and cellphone in my purse, or, the dress has pockets. My car is a Rav4, so, one steps down vs. climbing out.

  27. I hear you on the shorts after a certain age but here in hot, humid Virginia, we must soldier on in our shorts! Also not a fan of the maxi, maybe because I am 5’3″, so it’s knee-length or tea-length linen dresses for me. Having said that though, you look fabulous in your maxi!

    1. @Jane, How funny. I think a maxi makes you look taller! It’s the middle of the calf skirts that make people look shorter.

  28. Minority opinion here, and it may very well be because (not being slender) I am averse to all clothing that adds unnecessary volume. I prefer the “ancient” dress that does not conceal your trim physique. Obviously this dress has lots of fans which is an eye-opener for me, since I am always puzzled when my thinner sisters choose clothes that seem (to me) to “swamp” them. Perhaps that is the ultimate “privilege” of a smaller size??

    1. @kathy, It’s a very good question. I really don’t like to show my whole shape. I’d rather hint at it, with bare arms, or a tightly defined waist, but rarely all over fitted unless I’m dressed for an evening. Why do I feel that way? I don’t really know:). Probably partly growing up in my culture, probably generational.

  29. I am 60, and have chosen not to wear shorts any longer. Most of my tops look just as cute with jeans, and I love wearing casual skirts, too. Some of my casual skirts are to my knee, and some are long.

    1. @susan22, I’ve seen some women here in great sporty skirts – knee length, as you say, and almost jeans-like in their styling.

  30. A knee length dress for summer in San Francisco? It’s been so windy this month I’ve had a difficult time keeping my baseball cap on my head; my other hats are dusty on a shelf. Jeans, trousers, or your maxi dress with a sweater are much better suited to our wear.

    1. @Kimberly, Ha! Good point. I’ve been mostly down here on the Peninsula. But wasn’t it hot end of June? It was sweltering here, and has remained a few degrees above usual ever since.

  31. This dress is amazing on you, the fabric, colour and shape, just beautiful.
    I don’t wear shorts because they are not my style, I prefer a dress in summer and I think wearing a one piece outfit is best in the heat, cool and uncomplicated. xo

  32. I own one pair of shorts in black and they fall to the knee…like you I want more coverage.
    Love the look and versatility of your new dress and think it must be as cool as a summer breeze to wear for any number of occasions. I can see you on the terrace of your Mother’s home in Santa Barbara or sipping a beverage at a tony bistro in SF…running errands at Whole Foods or perhaps strolling in your neighbourhood. You’ll have this for many years to come… a great choice.
    I have invested in an Italian linen long dress which I pair with a linen tee that I purchased in Paris this past spring. Many of the women I met in the South of France buy loose linen dresses from Italy…it’s their uniform when the heat spikes.

    1. Then I’m in good company all over the globe! I plan to wear this to Whole Foods:).

  33. The dress looks lovely on you, Lisa. I also really like how you paired it with the scarf, being very much a scarf person myself.

    The best thing about that dress, though, IMO? It has pockets!!! Women’s clothing these days don’t have enough decent pockets.

    1. Thank you. And the pockets are genius. Sometimes you do just want to carry keys, phone, driver’s license.

  34. Another minority opinion here. I much prefer the ancient dress as well. I love the color and fabric of the new dress, but just don’t care for the “shape” – too much excess fabric for me. PS – I think you look wonderful in shorts.

    1. I take this as a compliment and I thank you:). Civil, intelligent minority opinions help the Earth rotate serenely and correctly on its axis.

  35. I’m afraid I love the putamayo much more. I feel like the gray swallows you up. It’s a bit too much…but the fabric does look amazing. I’m turning 50 this year and my wardrobe has not shifted much although I imagine it will. Do hang on to your shorts for gardening and travel though… Fuchsia – when I buy from big box stores I always feel like I am rescuing a plant from an uncertain fate…

    1. It’s the story of my fashion life – like the skinny jeans, clearly it’s a neater look:). And I am totally keeping my shorts for gardening, vacations, and cooking on hot nights.

  36. Yes. you’re right: In Northern Cali you have different options than we do in hot, humid Florida. If I sit on my porch which I love to do most of the day, I find a maxi acts like a balloon trapping hot air under my skirt. It’s too much. I prefer short chemises or lined cotton gauze dresses especially with an empire bodice so I need not wear a bra. I have found lots of them on ebay. I realize some peeps are not comfortable with wearing used clothing but I don’t have that issue. I’ve picked up several dresses by Vintage Havana or Free People which didn’t cost more than $25. including shipping. I’m determined to sell my name brand stuff either on ebay, Etsy or consignment. I love to wear Lilly and saving searches on ebay, I get notifications when something perfect for me becomes available. I adore Boden, Malabar Bay, Needham Lane (Nantucket) and Mella B Designs which are almost always made of organic cotton.

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