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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. 

I like shorts. 

They are a practical, sporty option for long, hot days between balancing working at home with three kids in the summer. 

But there are many reasons why you might not want to wear them. Some women are uncomfortable in them, preferring not to show so much leg. Others are fine showing their legs but want something different, less casual. The good news is there are many other options you might enjoy more. 

So let’s talk about 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

Again, if you like shorts, keep wearing them. Shorts are for all ages and body types!

When thoughtfully styled, they can even be super 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. 😉

Style is personal, so if shorts aren’t your thing, let’s explore different options.

Dresses

Summer dresses are the obvious first suggestion and the best alternative to shorts. And within the category, you have four great alternatives.

Summer dresses
Endless Tee Dress, $79 | AirEssentials Tank Midi Dress, $148 | Faux Wrap Maxi, $47.99 | Shirt Dress, $148.00

First, if you are happy and comfortable wearing an above-the-knee hem, look for a better-quality tee shirt dress. I say “better quality” because you want the fabric to be solid (sometimes inexpensive options feel like tissue paper), and you want some structure. Otherwise, you look like you are wearing a sack. 

Our first recommendation is the Essential Tee Dress from Athleta. I like this because it’s made of breathable cotton with a tiny bit of stretch and flattering seam placement. You also have side seams and one center down the back that helps gives it some shape.

Available in four colors, in regular, tall and petite for $79.

Next, the AirEssentials Tank Midi Dress from Spanx. This is a midi length so it will just cover your knees with a racerback giving it a sporty feel. Available in gray and “dark storm”, would look super cute with sneakers or flat sandals. Available in XS – 3X for $138.

If you are looking for something elevated ,and breezy while still affordable, this faux wrap, from Amazon is a winner and under $50.

With lots of color and pattern options (I have this in the featured red floral) in sizes XS – XXL, you can make this casual with simple flat sandals (something like this best seller from Jack Rogers with be lovely) or give yourself some height with a heel (like this under $100 pair from Naturalizer that are a reader favorite).

Finally, I had to include a shirt dress, particularly this versatile one from Anthropologie. You can wear it like an oversized shirt, OR, I would belt it to cinch in your waist. Several interesting prints are available or classic black and white in standard, petite and plus sizes.

Linen and Lightweight Pants

Next up are lightweight pants and once again you have lots of options.

Linen and Lightweight Pants
Wide-Leg Linen Pant, $98 | High-Waisted SleekTech Joggers, $39.99 | Linen-Blend Pant, $20

If you are looking for something tailored, go with a summer fabric (like a linen) in a classic trouser style. J.Crew makes a wonderful pair, in a range of colors, in sizes 00 – 24 with petite and tall options. We’re featuring it in red above.

For a sporty look, try a jogger. Featured is a pair from Old Navy in a “tricot knit” which is a popular nylon and spandex blend used in activewear because of it’s breathability and performance. All that to say these are comfortable, will move with you and also won’t make you sweat. Available in five neutral colors, in XS – 4X with petite and tall options for $40.

Rounding out the pant recommendations are the Wide Leg Linen-Blend Pants from Old Navy, a long-time reader favorite, available in 8 color options in sizes XS – 4X with petite and tall options. You want these to fit like the featured image, with the hem just grazing your ankles.

We recently shared how to wear these three ways here.

Skorts

Skorts are another popular alternative to shorts. They are ideal if you don’t mind shorts but want some other options. I broke these down into three subcategories.

Skorts | What to Wear When You Don't Wear Shorts
Mid Rise Skort, $59 | Linen-Blend Pleated Skort, $75 | Everyday Stretch Skort, $69.50

On the left is a utility skort. You would actually work out or go for a walk in this but it’s still cute and polished. Featured is the Zella Mid Rise Skort at Nordstrom in sizes XS – XXL (runs small). Or try their Vantage High Waist Skort, also at Nordstrom.

To the right is an “outfit skort.” You can still go for your walk and move about your day, but it’s a little be elevated. Above is the Everyday Stretch Skort from Talbots available in blue (featured) black and white sizes regular, petite, plus and plus petite. On sale for 40% off. I also LOVE how they styled it with a preppy cardigan and updated sneakers.

Finally, in the center is a dress-up pair from Banana Republic Factory, a linen blend with pleat detail in four colors in sizes XXS—XXL. I love that they paired it with the matching top to make a sweet set. You can also wear it with a simple short white tee. 

Cropped Bottoms

Next are cropped bottoms, in summer fabrics and colors.

Cropped Bottoms
Demi-Boot Cropped Jean, $99.50 | The Cotton Crop Pant, $55.50 | High Stride Wide-Leg Ankle Khakis $79.95

Starting with a cropped jean, these Demi-Boot cuts from J.Crew are timeless and have incredible fit. They offer sizes from 26 – 37 including petite and tall. Pay attention to the various inseams to get your best fit. They can go from just skimming your ankle to an inch or so above. For shoes you’ll want either a heel or a better flat, these are too short for sneakers.

For something more traditional, you could also do a cotton crop pant, like the pair above from Ann Taylor. They are available in eight colors, from basic neutrals to bright green and yellow. I’m featuring the light blue – super pretty for summer. Offering sizes 00 – 18 with petite and tall.

Finally, I like these wide leg khakis from Gap. Above is a beautiful green/blue but it’s also available in black, cream and brown if you prefer a neutral. Sizes range from 00 – 20 with petite and tall.

Jumpsuits

Finally, an unexpected option might be a jumpsuit. You either love these or hate these so if you feel the latter you can skip right over this part.

Jumpsuits | What to Wear When You Don't Wear Shorts
Chambray Linen Jumpsuit, $66.00 | Sleeveless Knit Jumpsuit, $44.00 | AirEssentials Jumpsuit, $148

Looking for a polished jumpsuit? Consider this chambray linen style from LOFT. Available in sizes 00 – 18 these have a cropped bottom and self belt. Wear with kitten heels. It would also be lovely for a celebratory brunch or a graduation. 

For something sporty, you might like this knit option from Zella, in either grey (above) or navy. Sizes are limited here to XS – XXL on sale for under $50. Pair with sneakers and grab you denim jacket in case you end up in air conditioning.

And finally, for a casual jumpsuit in a full length, you can try the AirEssentials Jumpsuit from Spanx. This is soft and breathable, with a drawstring waist. Available in navy (above) black, brown or grey in XS – 3X with petite and tall options.

Classic Alternatives to Shorts

You have lots of flattering shorts alternatives keep you feeling cool and looking chic all summer!

Happy Shopping!

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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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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. :)

Sandy

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!

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