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CURRENT

Pattern play

First, we saw splashy patterns on spring pants. Now florals, plaids, dots, paisleys and ikat prints are showing up on shorts.

They come in a choice of lengths and offer shorts-wearers a change from denim and chino styles. LOFT and Talbots are among the retailers that offer them.

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Short answers

Whether the shorts are patterned or plain, neutral or bright, you'll want to pick the right style to fit the occasion.

In its May issue, InStyle magazine calls spring shorts "your skirt alternative" and offers these tips for choosing them:

Keep the fit easy, not snug. Go up a size if need be and choose a roomy leg that covers the widest part of your thigh. Knee-length is the most conservative; keep higher hems for weekends.

For day, pair crisp cotton shorts with a tucked-in, button-front top and a blazer. For evening, shorts in a flowy fabric can be paired with a silk tank and tuxedo jacket. InStyle suggests saving baggy styles and big prints for relaxing.

For a clean, modern look, accessorize tailored shorts with a thin belt and flats.

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For fun, some fringe

Leather or suede fringe accents may not be something you expect to see in warm weather, but fringe has made the transition into spring and summer fashions.

For starters, you'll see touches of it on handbags, sandals and belts.

Shown here: In nickel suede or black leather at hushpuppies.com, priced at $90 a pair.

Fringe also can be found in a variety of fabrics on tanks, scarves, skirts and swimwear. And, in jewelry, a metal fringe necklace can be simply eye-catching.

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And finally

"Growing up, I had a really amazing mom who was really creative. She made stuff for every holiday, and I learned how to sew She has really good style -- and I feel like my parents let me be creative -- but they'd always check my skirt length. They were strict."

- Gwen Stefani, singer/fashion designer, in the Associated Press