With the rising temperatures that are definitely here to stay, shoppers across the country are preparing their seasonal wardrobes for a summer of fun — and shorts!
But what should you consider or look for when buying shorts? What are some styling ideas to keep your outfits looking fresh and cool? Fashion stylist and creative consultant Julia Gudova tells Byrdie that there are three types of shorts that everyone should own. “Denim shorts in a classic medium wash, high rise, and above-the-knee inseam never go out of style. High-waisted, knee-length shorts in sleek black fabric are incredibly adaptable. Khaki or army green utility shorts can be worn in a variety of situations and paired with crochet tops, eyelet blouses, or simple tank tops.”
We conducted hours of research on the best shorts for women, evaluating each brand for their material, colors, and size range available, as well as inseam length and overall quality. After consulting with Gudova for her expert recommendations, we landed on the following best in show.
Girlfriend Collective Snooze Shorts
We are huge fans of Girlfriend Collective, a brand once known for activewear. Currently, the label is a destination for lifestyle-oriented pieces, including the Dawn Snooze Short. Available in several colors, these shorts are the perfect balance between casual dress and loungewear.
Material: 50% Texloop™ RCOT™ Primo Recycled Cotton, 50% TENCEL™ Modal | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: 3.5 inches | Size Range: XXS-6XL
Price at time of publish: $48
These high-waisted yet slouchy shorts from the tried-and-true retailer are ideal for sunny days. They have a wide selection of denim for all body types. These shorts have an elasticized waistband that can be adjusted to sit at or below the belly button, making them a versatile and comfortable choice. Put these chinos on with a halter top and wedge sandals for a night out or a racerback tank and low-top sneakers for a casual day out.
Material: 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex | Colors: Cloisonne, Flower Trail, A Stone’s Throw, Alpine Tundra, Black Jack, In The Navy, Sisal, and Panther | Inseam: 5 inches | Size Range: XS-4X
Price at time of publish: $25
Simone Rocha Draped Cotton-Blend Brocade Shorts
If you’re planning to drop some serious coin on a pair of shorts, then we suggest you spend your hard-earned money on a true statement piece. These draped brocade shorts from whimsical designer Simone Rocha can be styled in many creative ways.
Material: 58% cotton, 39% acetate, 3% acrylic | Colors: Cream | Inseam: n/a | Size Range: 00-10
Price at time of publish: $850
Banana Republic Lido Italian Wool Bermuda Shorts
If you’re planning a trip to the tropics this year, the Banana Republic Knee-length airy Bermuda shorts are a must-have This style is made with fabric from Italy’s Marzotto mill, one of the oldest and most innovative mills in the world. Belt it or wear it as you would a tailored blazer to finish your outfit.
Material: 100% Virgin Wool | Colors: Light Beige | Inseam: n/a | Size Range: 0-20
Price at time of publish: $95
Athleta Cabo Linen 4″ Short
For an easy, breezy, yet stylish addition to your vacation wardrobe, the Cabo Linen 4” Short from Athleta is a great option. With a 4” inseam and relaxed fit, you can wear them while lounging poolside or sightseeing.
Material: 100% linen | Colors: Assorted colors| Inseam: 4 inches | Size Range: 0-26
Price at time of publish: $59
L.L.Bean Women’s Stretch Canvas Cargo Shorts
If you’re in need of shorts for utility purposes or a nature walk, then consider the Stretch Canvas Cargo Shorts. The pockets are durable enough to hold all your gadgets, while the fabric is lightweight to keep you cool.
Material: 98% cotton, 2% spandex | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: 7 inches | Size Range: 2-18
Price at time of publish: $50
J. Crew 4″ Stretch Chino Short
Sometimes, you want a more relaxed feel to your shorts, but for the most casual of days, the Stretch Chino Shorts from J.Crew are just that. A simple silhouette in high-quality fabric creates the ideal summer short.
Material: cotton, elastane | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: 4 inches | Size Range: 00-24
Price at time of publish: $60
Kiya Tomlin Draped Short
While these shorts come in other colors besides black, they had to make this round-up because Bermuda is such an interesting take on shorts. With draping on both legs of this pair, the style feels like a cross between Bermuda shorts and gauchos.
Material: 66% bamboo, 26% cotton, 6% spandex | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: n/a | Size Range: XS-XXL
Price at time of publish: $125
PacSun Tie Dye Boyfriend Carpenter Shorts
If we’re going to mention prints, then we might as well include this mainstay. Tie-dye has had a hold on fashion in all styles, and it was only right that we find some tie-dye shorts. The Boyfriend Carpenter Shorts are great to style with a hoodie for running errands or with a brightly colored swimsuit top for a beach day.
Material: 100% cotton | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: n/a| Size Range: 23-30 |
Price at time of publish: $30
Best Faux Leather
SCHHJZPJ High Waisted Wide Leg Faux Leather Shorts for Women
With over 4,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, it’s clear that these shorts are popular! With a drawstring waist and wide legs, these faux leather shorts are a good year-round addition to your wardrobe that doesn’t sacrifice your bank account for style.
Material: 100% faux polyurethane leather | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: n/a | Size Range: XS-XL |
Price at time of publish: $30
Alice + Olivia Cady High Waisted Leather Short
It’s difficult to find genuine leather shorts that aren’t absurdly expensive, even though these still cost a pretty penny. If you love the look, texture, and buttery feel of leather, then the Cady High Waisted Leather Short from Alice + Olivia might be for you. With a simple cut, these shorts are understated and act as a great base for any look.
Material: 100% lamb leather | Colors: Black, White | Inseam: 3.5 inches | Size Range: 0-14
Price at time of publish: $595
Madewell Relaxed Denim Shorts
Of course, one of the most well-loved denim brands made it into the roundup. Composed of only cotton in a slouchy fit, it’s no surprise that the Madwell Relaxed Denim Shorts are so popular for the warmer seasons—even making their way into 1400 shopping bags at the time this article was written.
Material: 100% cotton | Colors: Assorted washes | Inseam: 3 inches | Size Range: 23-33W Standard
Price at time of publish: $78
Best High Rise
Good American Good ’90s Short
With a 12-inch front rise and frayed hems, the Good ‘90s Short is the epitome of trendy yesteryear. B cotton blended with elasterell-P and elastane has replaced the restrictive non-stretch denim of the 1990s for added comfort.
These 90s-inspired shorts from Good American are such a vibe if you’re into high-res shorts with a relaxed fit. With light distressing on the pockets and a gap-proof waistband, these jeans are perfect for a casual day off.
Material: 97% cotton, 1% Lycra| Colors: Indigo 433 | Inseam: 3.5 inches | Size Range: 00-30
Price at time of publish: $199
Best Low Rise
Gap Low Stride Shorts
Another go-to brand for jeans that are high-quality and stylish — Gap! The Low Stride Shorts are for lovers of trends that are gradually coming back into style, like no-stretch denim and low-rise pants. These shorts need to be worn in for absolute comfort but have a modern edge with raw hems.
Material: 100% cotton | Colors: Assorted washes | Inseam: n/a | Size Range: 23-35W
Price at time of publish: $60
Best for Workouts
Nike GO Women’s Firm-Support High-Waisted 8” Biker Shorts with Pockets
Made with proprietary midweight InfinaLock fabric, these bike shorts feel compressive and supportive without gripping skin. The addition of multiple pockets helps you stash personal items to stay on the go. We love these for working out (they are squat-proof, so they stay put and keep their shape over time), but they’re so stylish we love them for lounging and running errands, as well.
Material: 68% Nylon, 32% Spandex | Colors: Assorted colors | Inseam: 8″ inseam | Size Range: XXS-2XL
Price at time of publish: $65
When it comes to picking the best shorts, it’s all about comfort with Girlfriend Collective’s Dawn Snooze Short. This is a must-have summer piece thanks to the breathable, cooling fabric and adjustable drawstring with soft elastic inside the waistband. If you want a chic chino fit, consider the J. Crew 4″ Stretch Chino Short, which comes in classic colors like black, white, and navy, as well as vibrant colors like orange, baby blue, and more. For something more elevated, consider the Alice + Olivia Cady High Waisted Leather Short, which can take you from day to night with a sleek, sophisticated silhouette.
What to Look for in Shorts
Stylist Julia Gudova notes that eye-catching details are important when shopping for shorts. “I love pieces with intricate details, embroideries, or something special and unique. Not over the top, but I love pieces that you want to look at over and over.” We think the Simone Rocha Draped Cotton-Blend Brocade Shorts fit the bill here, they’re a stunning, unique pair of shorts that’ll be a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.
Quality fabric is important in shorts, as these items are going to see a lot of wear. “Whether I go for the silk/satin option, faux leather, or sequins, it’s very important for me to feel comfortable,” notes Gudova. “For summer, linen and cotton fabrics are a go-to!” Overall, when considering fabric quality, it’s worth factoring in the function of your shorts. If they’re your go-to workout shorts, for example, you’ll want to be sure that they’re made out of the best Spandex and/or Nylon out there, like the Nike Go Women’s Firm-Support High-Waisted 8″ Biker Shorts.
Length and Waist Line
Proportions are something to consider when shopping for shorts. “Being 5 ‘4,” I always go for high-waisted shorts and the above-the-knee length,” Gudova notes. If you’re tall, super short shorts may make you feel a bit too exposed, opt for a more modest pair like the gorgeous Banana Republic Lido Bermuda Shorts.
What is an inseam on shorts?
Let’s break down what “inseam” means in the easiest way possible. “The inseam is the measurement determined by the distance of the crotch and the length of the shorts on the inner side of the leg,” Gudova explains. “For example, the inseams for the Athleta Cabo Linen 4″ short will be smaller than the H&M linen-blend Bermuda shorts, as they’re longer.”
What is the difference between chino and Bermuda shorts?
“The primary distinction between chino and Bermuda shorts is the fabric. Chinos are thick cotton twill fabric commonly used for pants and shorts due to its durability,” Gudova shares. “The second difference would be the style—while chino shorts could vary in length, Bermuda styles will always be knee-length [but] Bermuda shorts could be made from chino fabric as well.”