What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts

If shorts are on your “do not wear list,” you are not alone. Over the years, requests for alternatives to shorts begin to flood my inbox starting in early May. 

I don’t mind wearing shorts. For me, they are a practical, sporty option for long, hot days jumping between working at home and raising three kids. But lately, as they have been getting shorter, (and shorter, and shorter) and I’ve been getting older, they are not always my first choice. 

So today, I thought it would be helpful to highlight options to wear if you don’t wear shorts. 

Related: Top Pick! Classic Mid-Rise Chambray Shorts 

The good news is (1) there are a lot of options to choose from, (2) they are all more polished than a pair of shorts, and (3) in this season of staying closet to home, you’ll look and feel pulled together without even trying.

Plus, all the items below are on amazing sales with fabulous size options! 

What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts

What to wear when you don't wear shorts

Tiered Maxi Dress, $129  |  Linen Pants, $59  |  T-Shirt Dress, $29  |  Ankle Pants, $69 

Maxi Dress

three maxi dresses

J. Crew Factory, $34.50 |  LOFT, $30 | Banana Republic, $89.40

Maxi dresses come in all kinds of styles, from stretchy cotton to linen blend. They can be cut slim or full, and work on a casual day at the beach to a sun-filled small outdoor wedding.

What’s nice about a maxi is that you have plenty of room to breath and because you are wearing a dress you look chic and pulled together.

This cheerful tiered maxi from J.Crew Factory takes no effort to wear. It’s available in sizes 00 – 20. 

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I own and love this red maxi from LOFT. I wear it with a strapless bra and have no issues (remember I have an 18 month old so comfort for me is key). LOFT is doing an amazing job with sizes. This dress is available in regular, petite, plus AND tall. Also in black. 

Finally, if you would like something a little more finished, and with a proper sleeve, this floral print from Banana Republic is gorgeous. It’s available in regular, tall and petite sizes up to a size 20. 

Linen Pants

olive green and navy linen pants

Old Navy, $24 | H&M

If covering up your legs is your end goal than linen pants are a fantastic alternative. Yes, they wrinkle, so if the wrinkles bother you don’t wear them. 

For a full length, wide leg option, look no further than Old Navy. Available in six colors, in regular, tall and petite sizes, these are an easy, light weight option. Wear them with a simple tee shirt and flat sandals. 

I’m also a big fan of these slim lined ankle pants by H&M. I wear them casually with a cotton top and have also dressed them up with a silky tank and wedges. Sizes are more limited. 

Tee Shirt Dress

three t-shirt dresses

Daily Ritual, Assorted Colors Under $20 |  Everlane, $45 | Old Navy, $27 

If you don’t mind showing some leg, a tee shirt dress is ideal.

You can wear with sneakers, sandals, or flip flops. They almost always come in cotton or a cotton blend, so they travel and wash well. Pay attention to their length because, like a tee shirt, they may shrink a little bit. It’s always better to have it run long at first.

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Add a baseball hat and a crossbody bag for a busy summer day with or take on vacation for a casual day of sightseeing. 

These are the definition of “throw on and go.” 

The options above are all similar. Amazon’s brand, Daily Ritual, makes a simple dress, in a ton of colors, up to a size XXL. I always order two sizes from Amazon since they tend to be all over the scale. 

Everlane is the most polished of the three, with a seam at the waist detail that really changes the whole look and gives just enough shape. The color options are also the most sophisticated. 

Finally, Old Navy has regular, petite and tall options up to a size XXL here. I don’t like the prints offered, but the solids and stripe are all winners. Plus size here

Ankle Pants or Skorts

a skort and ankle pants


Talbots, $24.50| Old Navy, $30

Skorts are rising again in popularity and I am here for it. If you like the idea of shorts, but wish for a little more coverage, try out a skort. They’re cute, preppy, and still look sporty.

This bright and happy pattern one from Talbots (always size down) comes in missy, petite and plus up to a size 3X

An ankle pant is a more formal option, that you can wear casually or to the office, especially if you live in a cooler climate. Pair them with an open shoe and a sleeveless, lightweight top.

These pixie pants from Old Navy are a cotton blend with a little stretch. They are available in regular, petite and tall up to size 20 in an array of fun summer colors and year round neutrals. 

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Finally, by now, we all know my opinion on capris. I skip over them as a category because they have been over-designed and mangled to the point that they are unflattering. They have too many pockets, are often over-embellished, and they hit you at the worst possible place on your leg. 

Any of the options listed above are a practical alternative to shorts and capris. 

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Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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What to Wear When You Don\'t Wear Shorts

9 thoughts on “What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts”

  1. I love your site and all of your suggestions. Unfortunately every time I try to look at the choices you made that I like, the item is sold out or only smalls left in stock😔. I will keep trying and you keep up the good work you do for us.

    • The current situation, with supply chains not operating at full capacity is making it especially challenging – things sell out so fast. But thank you for following along!

  2. My daughter played school golf from middle school all the way to college so skorts are plentiful in my closet. I rarely wear shorts because its hard to find longer ones but I love my skorts. 🙂

  3. I am a tour guide and in the spring and summer I will only wear skorts or lightweight pants when I’m working. Even though I work with a lot of school groups, I’ve always felt shorts were too casual. I generally like the breathability and flexibility of golf skorts. Plus they tend to be a little longer, just above my knees.

  4. Great suggestions, as usual, Megan. I have one more idea to add to your list. Cropped yoga pants or 7/8 length. I am particularly fond of Zella–there’s a reason the brand has a cult following. Sizing is pretty inclusive (2XS-2XL) and they’re on sale now (some starting at $20) at HauteLook, a Nordstrom company. I especially like the styles that have cell phone pocket. Also, you can size up a bit if you want to wear them all day and through the evening, as opposed to going for maximum compression for a yoga/Pilates class.

  5. I love the simplicity of The Old Navy t-shirt dress! Very comfy! I also got their maxi during their Memorial Day sale. Very casual and comfortable. I also recommend Athleta’s City pants. There are now several different styles to choose from, and many are made with recycled polyester/spandex. They are lightweight, breathable, and don’t wrinkle!


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