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What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts

If shorts are on your “do not wear list,” you are not alone. I hear from readers daily asking for alternatives to shorts in the warm weather. 

Personally, I don’t mind wearing shorts. 

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, especially when there are so many other options. 

So today, I’m sharing What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts.  

What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts 

what to wear when you don't wear shorts


Before we dive into it, a few things before I get it from the comments, lol. 

Just so we are clear: WEAR SHORTS IF YOU LIKE THEM. 

I like them; I don’t think there is an age limit on them, and when thoughtfully styled, they can even be chic. 

And if you think your “knees are ugly” and that’s why you don’t wear them, I would gently remind you that no one has “pretty” knees. 😉

But I get it, and the most important part of getting dressed is being comfortable and confident. 

So if you don’t wear shorts, here are some alternatives to keep you polished and cool. 

Tee Shirt Dress

Black crewneck maxi dress

Tee Shirt Dress, $27  

This tee shirt dress from Amazon is fabulous and under $30. I discovered it in 2020 when I was looking for easy ways to feel pulled together while we were stuck at home.

It’s 100% cotton, so it breathes nicely and has slits on either side so you can move around easily. 

Pair it with sneakers, sandals, or flip-flops – the definition of “throw on and go.” 

I also featured it in an Outfit Formula a few weeks ago, so you have a few ways to style it. 

If you don’t like the crew neck or long length, you have a few style options here. I like this sleeveless v – neck style a lot, also from Daily Ritual. The cut of the skirt will help give your leg a long look while still covering your knees. 

Midi Dress

Floral midi dress in pink


Midi Dress, Under $40

With the popularity of Midi Dresses, I get questions about their awkward length and where the hem hits on the leg.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t create the best proportion.

But, a midi like the one above, with a high/low hem, creates a pretty movement to the skirt and distracts the eye.

This one is on Amazon; I have a few of them. You can dress it up with strappy heels or wear a cute pair of white sneakers.

Maxi Dress

V-neck maxi dress in navy



Maxi Dress, On Sale Under $50

Maxi dresses come in all kinds of styles, from stretchy cotton to linen blends. They can be cut slim or full and work on any occasion, from a casual day at the beach to an outdoor wedding.

But what makes a maxi a maxi is it goes to the ground. So, the maxi should be full length while a midi hits mid-calf. 

This simple one from Nordstrom is on sale for under $50, in petite and regular sizes, in seven solid colors

Shirt Dress

Belted Shirt Dress


Shirt Dress, $148

A shirt dress will provide some shape and structure to your look.

This one from Ann Taylor looks so much better on the model here. Available in regular, petite, and tall in XXS – XXL. 

Remember, a full sleeve only works if you have narrow shoulders and a small bust. 

Wide Leg Linen Pants

black wide leg linen pants


Wide Leg Linen, $39.99 plus an additional 40% off at checkout.

If covering up your legs while staying cool is your goal, than linen pants are a fantastic alternative.

And these wide leg pants from Old Navy are a reader favorite,  in regular and tall, from XS _ 4X.

You can see how to style it here

Ankle Pants

new seaside pants in pistachio


Ankle Pants, Select Colors On Sale $65

Another linen option is a straight legged ankle pant. 

These are from J.Crew, in a range of colors, in regular, petite and tall sizes up to a 3X. 


golf skort in navy


Skort, $69 

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 sporty and Athleta makes a few fantastic ones.

Above is their Fairway Golf 18″ Skort.

We also love the the Brooklyn 16″ Skort, available in black and navy from an XXS – 3X. 

What about Capris? 

You likely already know my opinion on capris.

They are the only piece of clothing I universally recommended avoiding.

Because of their flawed design and cheap quality, they are unflattering to just about everyone.

And they are often over-embellished and hit at the worst possible place on your leg.

I recently read somewhere that they make it look like you are standing in a ditch, and I couldn’t agree more.

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

What to Wear When You Don\'t Wear Shorts

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Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Sunday 19th of June 2022

I’m in my 70’s and don’t wear shorts as such. I alter my trousers and shorten them to just below my knee, and I find these look better as I have thin legs. Shorter than Capris. I also feel comfortable wearing them.

Dawn Wrich

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Your articles have helped me in so many situations. And thank you for showing me where I can finally find the ever elusive petite sized maxi dress. I don't wear anything that shows my legs, due to scarring from a traumatic incident years ago. However, I have a 27" inseam and I am shrinking (osteoporosis). So, I was wondering if you know where to find more of these pant options in petites, or as I like to call us, super petites. Peace and love. 🥰


Tuesday 17th of May 2022

What do you recommend wearing when you have a large hang down stomach. I'm not comfortable in high waist tops or dresses. I usually wear tunics or longer type shirts. I'm also 72 and don't go in for some types of clothes. I like to dress a little younger than my age sounds but I don't like frumpy or too baggy


Sunday 24th of April 2022

I love your site and find your articles to be VERY helpful. I particularly like your "How to Wear____" articles. They always make me relook at clothes in my closet and help me break out of wearing the same pieces together over and over. I am now more conscious of making sure an item will work with multiple pieces in my existing wardrobe before I buy it. This article on alternatives to shorts gives great suggestions and helpful ways to wear them. I would love it if you would include an article about different ways to wear skorts in an upcoming article. I generally wear skorts when I play golf, but would love some different ways to style them so I don't look like I am on my way to the golf course.


Thursday 21st of April 2022

I love the options shown. I am petite and wear size 6. The problem is my thighs are not as thin as I'd like. How do I wear wide leg pants, without looking short and squat?

Megan Kristel

Thursday 21st of April 2022

You're best bet is to just make sure that the pants aren't adding more width where you don't want it. That might mean getting some fullness taken out of the legs by a tailor or just looking for a pair with slimmer leg. Also, pay attention to your shoe and avoid a flat. You want to create some height with a heel that will keep the leg looking long. And finally, play with tucking in which ever top you wear, again, to give you more leg length. :)


Tuesday 19th of April 2022

What about the obvious choice? Skirts of your preferred length!

Tracy Gray

Tuesday 19th of April 2022

I do like wearing shorts but want to change up every so often and I love the short. It is a great style break from shorts and still look good. Thanks for this!


Tuesday 19th of April 2022

Thanks for these suggestions, Megan! T-shirt dresses are unflattering on me (flat chested with few curves so they don’t drape nicely) but skirts with a shirt tucked in might work. I’ve seen some knee-length skirts at J. Crew Factory as well as midi length boho style skirts on Amazon that seem like good options. I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on casual skirts!


Tuesday 12th of April 2022

I have trouble knowing what footwear to wear with all the various fashions. Can you do a segment on that?


Wednesday 20th of April 2022

@Jan, Same! I feel conspicuous wearing a heel with shorts for a casual day, but I would like something more stylish than tennis shoes or flip flops.


Tuesday 19th of April 2022

@Jan, I'm so glad to know others struggle with this. I do wear some capris in summer, but favorite pants are the Athleta city pants. Still struggling for shoes to wear with both. Would love a fashion expert advice on this.

Tracy Gray

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Love this!!! Thank you. Begin newly retired I felt at first as if my summer wardrobe was constantly shorts and I was tired of wearing them all the time. Your suggestions are perfect.

Megan Kristel

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Thanks Tracy!!!! I'm glad it's helpful :)

Karen Jones

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Please excuse my ignorance, but what is the difference between crop pants and capris? I love your recommendations, Megan even though here in New Zealand we are moving into Autumn.


Sunday 31st of July 2022

@Carey, also known as flood pants! 😁


Saturday 24th of April 2021

Karen, The difference is, mostly, length. Capri’s stop mid-calf & cropped pants go to the ankle, basically just a tiny bit shorter than regular pants.


Tuesday 20th of April 2021

I wear cotton dresses mostly, , and don't like Capri pants either.


Tuesday 7th of July 2020

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!

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Agreed! And I love that they don't wrinkle - that's a big deal :)

Julie M. Wood

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

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.

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Thanks for the recommendation Julie!!

Karen Pohlmann Miller

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

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.

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

I started golfing and really love skorts - especially for walks in the summer, and working from home.

Tara Davis-Lindlahr

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

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. :)


Tuesday 7th of July 2020

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.

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

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!