You’d think that the short—an abbreviated form of the pant—wouldn’t be such a tough nut to crack, and yet with every summer comes the reminder that enjoying a pair of shorts isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Denim shorts are often the barrier to entry here: once you’ve had your fair share of substandard jort experiences, it makes sense to abandon ship altogether and consider the greener pastures of summer sundresses and miniskirts.
Throughout this summer, I’ve solidified a rotation of excellent casual shorts that are great to wear both at home and out and about (dogs don’t walk themselves!). These shorts are comfortable, versatile, and perfect to pair with your most casual of tees and most dressy of blouses. Check out these twelve options that make a case for being Team Short (no matter your age!), and suggestions of how to style each below.
If you’re well-versed in Instagram scrolling, or have frequented several of the previous shorts stories on this very website, you will find that Patagonia Baggies shorts are truly fan favorites. The women’s style is a bit shorter (there are two inseam options: a 2.5 inch and a 5 inch) than the men’s (with 5 inch and a 7 inch inseam options) — both which I wear. I think of these as the perfect alternative to a pair of denim shorts. Pair these with a crochet tank or a scarf-as-top, and you’ll have quite the “why didn’t I think of that” outfit. Comfortable and really, really cool.
Athletic shorts are a summer hero, and half the equation of my go-to summer outfit (athletic shorts + a summer blouse). The blouse balances the sportiness of the bottoms so if you’re going to wear these out and about rather than for you know, running, I suggest pairing with an unexpected ruffle blouse or poplin shirt. Or not! Do whatever your heart desires! These shorts also come in a great range of sizes: from XS-3X and plenty of color options. I personally like the simplicity of the black and white but I also love that unexpected shock of chartreuse.
Okay, hear me out. I understand these are not for everyone but for someone who’s favorite silhouette happens to be a tree (billowy on the top, minimal on the bottom), I am of the school who adores these extremely lightweight, ruched shorts. Insider tip: these don’t ride up!
These are shorts I define as borderline pajama shorts—with the right top, they become daywear. My go-to with these is usually a printed short sleeve button-down stolen from my partner, or an eyelet cotton blouse. The yellow or beige options keep them looking classic but I also came across these from La Double J that are on hefty sale and really pack a punch!
A pair of simple sweat-shorts are more versatile than you may think. I wear mine a few different ways: with a tank, with a blouse and the bottom hem rolled twice, or with a short sleeve cardigan. I like how a cardigan is buttoned-up to contrast these casual shorts, which come in pistachio, lavender, blush, and sand. Pair them with a loafer (and the matching socks Tier also offers) or a strappy sandal.
6. The Full Set
A set is the easiest summer outfit. These Ganni shorts have matching tops in rose-print, horse-print, and checkered seersucker, which you could swap for a lightweight summer tank and linen blazer if you want to look a tad professional, or a tube top and several necklaces for a summer happy hour. It’s not a bargain set, but if you think you’d wear this a lot of ways and often, I think it’s a cool option. And just look at those horses!
7. The Khaki
In theory, a khaki short is extremely bland. In practice, Kule’s style with orange piping and ruffled pockets are so fun. I imagine wearing these all the way into fall and dressing them with a sharp pair of black loafers and blazer. They are the most expensive pair in this list, but will do your bottom half well in three-out-of-four seasons. I found a linen-cotton blend option for $40 (and sizes 00-22), too.
I’ve had my eye on these for many months. They come in black/white or light yellow/white. Because they’re gingham, they also do a lot of the work in an outfit if you want to keep the rest simple. I personally envision either colorway over a one-piece swimsuit, with an oversized button down, mule sandals and sunglasses. That’s a really fun summer look, non?
I tried to ease up on wearing bike shorts when I realized that that’s all I wore. Now I’ve cut my bike short habit down to two to three times a week (trust me, that’s nothing) but the number of bike shorts I’ve tested over the years is comical. I’m a huge fan of the simple but trusty pair of Universal Standard bike shorts which come in sizes 00-40. You can machine wash them and then tumble-dry, which is a huge deal when you wear bike shorts as often as I do. Another worthwhile mention is this fancy, ribbed pair by Year & Day, so I consider them the black tie of bike shorts. I recently recommended them to a client who was planning a vacation where she was going to be literally bike riding but then going out to a nice lunch immediately after.
10. The Cargo
When I think of cargo shorts, my mind doesn’t usually go to a cool pair like these. These are certainly not the paternal style that the words “cargo shorts” evoke. They’re a shiny nylon and I can even see them dressed up with a going out top and heels. Or, if you want to be a little ironic, wear a tropical-printed shirt with the sleeves rolled up, along with a couple of pearly necklaces and slides. I’m already jealous of whoever wears that.
11. The Crochet
I have a borderline overboard obsession with crochet this summer. Normally, I think of crochet halter tops or dresses when I think of crochet, but these handmade crochet drawstring shorts are an alternative to a bike short silhouette. They come in up to eight different colors, sizes XXS-2X, and an elastic waist option, too. They’re not see-through, so you can wear whatever underwear you want (Days of the week? Cartoon characters? Go nuts!). I like them paired with an oversized top, with the front tucked in just so. These make a really great swim coverup, too.
Pushing the envelope here, but why not try a skort? Outdoor Voices makes my favorite skort — it has a little slit on the side that reveals its true identity. I wear mine mostly with blouses but these are also quite cool with a collegiate vintage sweatshirt or a t-shirt with a necklace or two. Add on a pair of ballet flats or glove shoes to balance out the casual.
Those are my top twelve suggestions—what’s your favorite way to clothe the surface area from your waist to your thighs these days?
Feature Image via Tier.