How to cope with Washington heat?

Some, including Carol Towe, wife of the Canadian ambassador, try to ignore it by playing harder tennis when it is hot. Others try moving as little as possible. "I just stand still and drip," admits Mary Ann Stewart, wife of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.

But others prefer short cuts -- loose, easy pants often cut off above the traditional lengths. A cut apart from the popular culottes of the mid-1970s, these new cropped pants are less tailored and are not contrived to look like a skirt.

Lori Jackson, a data-processing intern wearing a light cotton, white ruffled blouse and cotton gauze culottes, says her ground rule for comfort in the heat is wearing clothes with a loose fit. And light color. "I'm sure if my culottes were a light color instead of what they are [rust], I would be cooler still," Jackson says.

Janet Spadola, a marketing representative, says some form of culottes and things that are cotton feel best to her. She wears shorts, like the safari-style outfit from Marie Claire, strictly after work hours. "I wish I could wear some form of shorts to work, but I don't think it would be right," she says.

College student Esther Brimmer notices lots of heads turn when she stops by her father's downtown office in Perry Ellis' shorts and matching jacket. "People just aren't used to them," says Brimmer. Her tightly braided hair also helps her keep cool, though she says the main reason for this style is that it makes her look older and is easy to care for.

Louise Beasley has recycled a favorite pair of gauze pants to get her most comfortable look this season. Cutting them off below the knee seemed exactly right with loose-fitting tops for summer, she says. She's not sure if it isn't just her imagination, but she finds she is always cooler when her shoes are comfortable.