I hate to brag, but I have legs for miles. Except that I’m 5’2″. So I guess it’s actually inches. I have legs for inches.
Seriously, with a short waist and longish legs, shorts have always been my friend. Add to this the fact that I live in Florida and my legs (unlike my face) haven’t changed much since high school, and you can see why shorts are a summertime staple for me.
But shorts are not for everyone. And that’s totally fine. I have had so many women tell me that they are uncomfortable with the way they look in shorts. My answer? Then don’t wear them. There is absolutely no reason to wear something unflattering or that makes you feel less than lovely. None.
It pretty much comes down to this question: How do I feel about my legs? If you like them, or are relatively comfortable with them, then you can find a pair of shorts to fit and flatter. If you don’t, then skip the shorts. There are countless alternatives. Cute, comfortable culottes, maxi skirts and midi skirts might be more flattering choices, and they’re just as practical and comfortable.
If you are ready for shorts, you’ll want to find just the right pair. Fortunately, I can help! Here, how to wear shorts, in 71 simple steps.
Before we dive into flattery, and finding the right fit and style for your body type, let’s talk length for a minute. The length of your shorts is critical to how flattering they are, and fortunately, many brands, from Old Navy to J. Crew, have caught on, and are selling shorts by the length of the inseam. The key with shorts, and skirts, and virtually anything else, is to avoid drawing a line at an unflattering part of your body. If you’re not fond of your knees, then don’t choose a pair of shorts with a hem that hits directly at or above the knee, or you will, in effect, be pointing an arrow at them. The hem of your shorts is a detail that attracts the eye, so make sure it is at a flattering place.
Sometimes, it helps to have a starting point. If you already own a pair of shorts that you love, or a pair that you loathe, try them on and try to determine why they flatter — or don’t. Measure the inseam, and make note of the details. This will inform your future shorts-buying decisions.
(Note: As always, just click on the picture to shop, and Amazon links are affiliate links.)
Search by Inseam is a fabulous site developed by a frustrated tall woman who was unable to find pants. It allows you to search for styles by inseam length, so that you can find a great fitting pair of jeans, shorts or pants.
Here, some more hints for finding the right length for you!
Shorts for Petites
Most stylish mamas steer clear of short-shorts, but if you’re petite, shorter shorts can do a great job of lengthening your leg! Look for a length of 3 1/2-5″, which lengthens the leg while still covering the inner thigh. Avoid horizontal stripes (unless they’re skinny stripes) and huge prints. If you’re petite with long slim legs, cuffed and rolled up styles can work, but other petite women should avoid them, as they tend to make legs appear shorter. If you have a long waist/torso, try the leg-lengthening effect of high-waisted shorts. Petite and plus? Go for a mid-length short (7-8″ inseam) in a thicker fabric with a side zipper. Heels and wedges can also help you appear longer; just make sure to balance out shorter shorts with a relatively modest top. And make sure the top hits at your waist or just below it. Short shorts and a long top are a sloppy combination.
Shorts for Plus Sizes
Bermuda shorts are the most flattering length for most plus-sized women, except those who are petite and plus, who should go for mid-length shorts. Bermuda shorts are usually anywhere from 8-10″ in the inseam. Their downside? They can make your legs look shorter. Just make sure they don’t hit below your kneecap, and go for a slightly shorter inseam if you feel that the shorts take too much away from your height. Look for a thicker, durable fabric that will hold up well all day and won’t show lumps or bumps. Heels or wedges can also counteract the shortening effect of Bermudas.
Shorts for Tall Girls
If you’re tall, with slim legs, the always flattering mid-length shorts, with about a 7-8″ inseam, will be super flattering, although you can pretty much wear any length, from short shorts to Bermudas. To maintain the balance of long legs in shorter shorts, break up the eye with cuffs or a roll-up style.
Shorts for Everyone
Walking shorts, sometimes called classic shorts, are mid-length and universally flattering, with an inseam of about 7-8″. These are short enough to lengthen the body yet long enough to provide thigh coverage, and they can be dressed up easily with a pair of heels and a silky top.
The Right Shorts for Your Body Type
If we’re really going to be friends, you’ve got to let me help you out. And no, I don’t mean watching the kids while you nap or anything, although I’m always up for cuddling with some littles. Let me help you discover your Body Type! I promise — it only hurts for a second. When I first started training with The Stylist Online, the concept of body types seemed limiting to me. I felt like I would be given a long list of what-not-to-wears. What I learned, however, is that it’s actually the opposite. A true understanding of your unique body shape opens up your options and gives you ideas for can’t-miss silhouettes and styles that flatter you every single time. After I do a Virtual Style Dial® Analysis and tell you your Style Dial® number (i.e. your body type), you can use the Shopping Cheat Sheet to buy clothes with confidence. Focusing on the most flattering options helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed, and prevents you from making expensive mistakes!
Need a little hand-holding through the process? Connect with me on chat when I’m online, or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! After all, that’s what friends are for.
Once you discover whether you’re a Proportional Hourglass (Style Dial® 1), a Curvy Hipped Goddess (Style Dial® 2) or a Straight Up Supermodel (Style Dial® 3), it will be easy to choose the right shorts to fit and flatter your body type! Here, the best shorts for each body type, and why they work!
Shorts for a Proportional Style Dial® 1
The key with flattering this proportional body type is to keep the shapes of the clothes simple so that you don’t throw off its natural balance. Shorts should have a sleek simple shape, with streamlined pockets and a mid-width leg opening. You can pull off prints, but avoid extra structure or embellishments on the hips. Cuffs are okay but not preferable.
Shorts for a Curvy Hipped Style Dial® 2
Balance out your curvy hips by drawing the eye upwards with a pretty patterned blouse and a statement necklace, while keeping the shorts simple and subdued. Look for a mid-width leg, minimal pockets (or sew them down) and avoid bulky button fronts. Look for a side zipper or tab closure instead. Angled pockets tend to open up, unless they’re sewn down, so avoid them when possible. Also avoid cargo pockets or any other extraneous details.
Shorts for a Straight Style Dial® 3
The straighter lines of the Style Dial® 3 body type means that you can add as much detail and structure in your clothing as you like, provided you have the height to pull it off. (If you’re a shorter Style Dial® 3, scale back on the detail a little!). Flared, cuffed, drawstring and full flowy styles are all flattering, as are cargo styles, pleats, fun pockets and other embellishments. The key is to create shape with clothing. By adding fullness to the hip area with flared styles, you help define the waist and create the illusion of curves. If you are a plus sizeStyle Dial® 3, a flared or slightly wider leg can help highlight your legs while balancing out a fuller torso and bust.
What to Wear if You Won’t Wear Shorts
As I mentioned earlier, shorts are not for everyone, or for every occasion. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to have options. Strangely, none of these options for shorts are actually short, but that’s sort of the point. The pieces shown here are versatile, comfortable and a little more covered-up.
I hope these tips have helped you to confidently choose the right shorts for your body type, or to skip them in favor of stylish substitutes. Either way, you’ll look cool and comfortable all summer long!
Nada Manley says
Hi Debra! Thanks for the comment! I would absolutely start with your body type and not your size. Regardless of your size or weight, knowing your body type (Style Dial 1, 2 or 3) can really help you dress in a way that is flattering, and then everything else falls into place. For bras, I recommend reaching out to my friend Crystal Patrick who is a Ruby Ribbon consultant. It’s an amazing line of shaping camis that take the place of a bra and offer great support and control. I hope that helps!
I am plus sized and I cant seem to find the right size clothing for me I also needs a really good bra can u help
There is best advice for every shaped body that what types of shorts will look best. I will definitely follow your advice. Thanks and keep sharing.
Nada Manley says
So glad to hear that Caroline! I hope you love them!
Thanks for the advice. I’m having some linen trousers made into shirts for the summer & now I’m confident they will look lovely if they are the right length ?
Nada Manley says
Thank you so much Corrinne! I love your site and have mentioned it on the blog. 🙂
This is such a helpful article for finding flattering shorts!
Nada Manley says
Thanks Ellen! That made my day! I think women in their 50s can wear both! It’s just a matter of choosing wisely. 🙂
What a wonderful article about shorts. I read many years’ ago that women over fifty should never wear bikinis or shorts no matter how in-shape one is. (When you hit that age, you understand why). So, I avoid shorts and bathing suits, but now I won’t.
Thank you for the suggestions and options. I’ll be running to Norstrom Rack this week to find some shorts!! Enjoy your day…