How to Choose Shorts


I recently asked my readers on my Facebook page what their warm weather fashion dilemmas were, with the tease that I might address them on my blog. Amy White wrote:

How about a few pointers on selecting shorts for different body types? Buying shorts can be a challenge if you’re not 16 and a size 2.”

Amy’s question is a great one and I’m going to give you some short buying tips here. First off, (having been that small in my teens and 20s) I can tell you that it is a challenge to find flattering shorts even when you are a size 2.

We are all in the same boat in that it is work to find off-the-rack clothing that fits our unique and definitely not-off-the rack bodies.

Modesty and Flattery


Shorts generally call to mind two specific issues: modesty and flattery. I do not apologize for believing that modesty is important. Before you get all up in arms, read my reasons.

  1. I am a Christian and I believe that dressing modestly honors my commitment to Jesus Christ.
  2. Research by a group of psychologists headed by Professor Kurt Gray at the University of Maryland shows that, regardless of your gender, baring more flesh makes others see you as less intelligent and more vulnerable. I don’t know about you, but vulnerability and a lesser intelligence are not on the list of things that I hope to communicate with my wardrobe. (The only exception for this I think is Marines, who are known for their tiny workout shorts, which I have never seen them wear in any way that suggested they meant anything but business. I came by this opinion when I visited my brother at MCRD San Diego and Camp Pendleton. I wouldn’t accuse them of appearing vulnerable, either.)
  3. More modest lengths of shorts tend to be more flattering, and who doesn’t want that?!

The Fingertip Rule


I have found that shorts that are at least fingertip length or a little longer, tend to be the most flattering. For most women, this length covers up what we want to hide (dimples, cellulite, lack of tone) because those issues generally occur higher up the leg. Also, this length insures that your shorts don’t disappear into the bend of your lap and expose your entire leg when you sit down.

Thankfully, many brands of women’s clothing have caught on and are supplying options in this “in-between” length, as well as the full-length walking short. Look for styles that are listed as having around a 5 1/2″ to 7″ inseam. That length is generally around fingertip length for most women.

Walking Shorts & Walking Short Hazards


Walking shorts are the most conservative length of short, coming to just above the knee. The traditional, preppy look of a walking short can be particularly flattering for women who are above average height.

Walking shorts are not without their hazards, though. Because they are hemmed so long on the leg, they can visually rob shorter women of their height and make them appear squat. Not a good look. At 5′ 1/2″ I am very familiar with this unwanted effect. If you are a petite or just on the shorter end of the spectrum, I recommend hemming your shorts at least 2″ above the knee to give yourself more visual length. Technically, that shorter length moves them out of walking and into Bermuda short territory. Names matter less than flattery, so shoot for whatever length is most appropriately flattering on you.

My Top 5 Tips For Finding Flattering Shorts

  1. Stay out of the Junior’s department! If you are over the age of 18 you have no business wandering into the Junior’s department with its fast-fashion (think clothing equivalent of fast food) and clothing designed for still developing bodies. Women’s departments offer many different cuts for different figure types. You may have to kiss a few clothing frogs before you find your clothing prince. Don’t let that keep you from trying.
  2. Make quality your goal. Don’t try to buy cheap. Just because it’s a seasonal purchase doesn’t mean it isn’t worth investing a reasonable amount in. Good shorts should last you through several springs, summers….sometimes falls and winters in Texas.
  3. If you are more traditional in your short preferences go to more traditional shops for your shorts. Don’t go to a little boho boutique for a conservative pair of shorts. You may not be the preppy type, or like anything else in that conservative clothing store, but their classic shorts may be just right for you. Add your creative flair in other pieces you wear.
  4. Remember, you don’t have to take a pair of shorts at its face value. If you can’t find shorts the length you want, consider buying a pair of walking shorts and having them custom hemmed to your preferred length. A good tailor can give you exactly the length you want for a modest tailoring fee. A tailor can also remove pockets and stitch the pocket flaps shut for a sleeker appearance.
  5. Do the scrunch test to see how a pair of shorts will wear. We sit in shorts, we lounge in shorts, we put them through the wringer. Find out if your shorts will look a rumpled mess after all that punishment by scrunching up part of the shorts in your hand and then releasing them. That will give you an idea of how badly they will wrinkle when you wear them.

Let me know what you think in the comments, share your shorts buying tips or ask me another style question. If you haven’t followed me on Facebook, click here to get even more tips, learn about special offers and more!



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