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What Are the Best Shorts for Women?

Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

Shorts are wardrobe staples for a reason. More comfortable than trousers, more practical than skirts, and — if you find the right pair — flattering as hell. They’re also the perfect throw-it-on item when the sun comes out. But why is it so hard to find a good pair of shorts for women? From denim cutoffs to bike shorts, tailored chinos to glittery hot pants, there are a million and one styles to choose from. So we asked ten style bloggers, designers, and fashion professionals to help us narrow down the selection. Here’s their pick of the best shorts for women, including everyday denim, chic workwear, and classic linen options.

Best denim shorts

You can’t get more classic than the Levi’s 501. Ciara O’Doherty, a fashion content creator and stylist, calls them “one of my ultimate wardrobe go-to’s.” Levi’s have been favourites with folks of all genders for generations, and in the case of the 501 Original Short, it comes down to their fit and simplicity: They’re flattering on most body types and versatile enough to be dressed up or down. They come in a range of colours and styles, and are high-rise and non-stretch. They’re also famously hardy. O’Doherty has a few well-loved pairs herself: vintage 501s that she’s had for eight years, as well as a couple of new pairs that she’s been wearing for three years. According to Ciara, “They look better with age!”

Photo: retailer

If you like to show a little more skin with your denim, Dee Alfaro — a Zurich-based fashion blogger and marketing professional — recommends these ripped, light-wash shorts, from high-street favourite Bershka. For her, they have a winning combination of style and shape, and she recommends them if you want to play up your curves: “This pair has a natural ‘A’ structure, which is perfect for giving slim-figure gals like me a bit more shape. The cut is also immaculate, not too short and a bit more ‘irregular,’ which gives a really edgy vibe.” The shorts have a more distressed surface than the Levi’s, with a mid-rise waist and long rips framing the upper thigh, but Dee considers these shorts similarly versatile.

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A good pair of black denim shorts can be a real chameleon in your wardrobe. Louisa Hatt — a former model, now a business professional and minimalist fashion blogger — recommends this pair from ARKET. She likes them for the feel and the colour, which is darker and more consistent than the “washed black” you often find in denim. “The denim is great quality and the overdye black makes them look more expensive than they are,” she says. They’re her go-to shorts for a monochrome outfit: “I wear mine at weekends with a black T-shirt, blazer, and Birkenstocks for a relaxed but put-together look.” According to Louisa, the shorts have fairly roomy fit — she suggests sizing down.

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If you’re after mid-length denim shorts, Patricia Batatas suggests this affordable option from Mango. Patricia — a fashion, beauty, and travel blogger at Peexo — says these shorts initially appealed to her because “anything high-waisted is an instant win with me,” but adds that “these shorts are great as they’re also a longer length, so no bum-skimming over here.” The shorts come in a light or dark wash, with a deep hem at the base, and look great belted or otherwise. Although these shorts are on the longer side, you don’t have to cover up while wearing them: Patricia says they look terrific with crop tops and “a little bit of midriff on show.”

Photo: retailer

Abigail Kwakye recommends the Sand Balloon High Waist shorts from Topshop. The shorts have a rolled hem and come in a range of colours, including denim and off-white, and have a “mom short” cut that’s short at the back and pleated to flatter the waist. Abigail likes to wear them with a tie blouse and heels, “but they can also be dressed down in summer with a white tee and Birkenstocks.” As a bonus, the shorts are part of Topshop’s CONSIDERED range, meaning they’re made with organic, sustainable or recycled fibres.

Best workwear shorts

A pair of tailored shorts can be a fabulous workwear option: They’re sleek enough for a meeting but comfortable enough for long days of standing or working at a desk. Louisa Hatt recommends these navy-blue Bermuda shorts, from Massimo Dutti, which cut just above the knee and have a pleated, fitted waist. “The beautiful navy shade is a timeless classic,” she says, and adds that the tailored look and high-waisted fit “give the illusion of having longer legs.” Although they’re easy to dress up for the office, Louisa says they work well for a refined weekend or evening ensemble too. “The shorts look great paired with an oversize white linen shirt tucked into the shorts and black loafers.”

To maintain that crisp, tailored look, but add a pop of colour, art director, stylist, and author Zeena Shah recommends these linen-blend shorts from L.K. Bennett. They cut just above the knee, come in a dreamy baby-pink shade, and have a long pleat running down the center of each leg. Zeena says that they’re “tailored to perfection.” Like the Bermuda shorts, they’re also good for lots of different occasions, and you don’t have to shelve them when you’re out of the office.” Plus, there’s a matching jacket if you want to lean into the power-suit vibes.

Best cotton shorts

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For a splash of sunny colour, Zeena Shah recommends this breezy cotton option. “I’m such a huge fan of these Ganni shorts,” she says, because “they’re not too short and have an elasticated waist for ultimate comfort.” The shorts — which slip straight on, with no hooks or zips — are made of a featherlight seersucker material and are decorated with cheerful candy-coloured checks. Zeena also loves the shorts’ wider “relaxed” shape, which she says makes them “flattering on lots of body types!”

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Nothing says summer like a bright print. Abigail Kwakye, a YouTuber and the founder of jewellery brand Saint Kojo, recommends the brand Grass-fields, a U.K.-based brand that specialises in African prints, and is owned by twin sisters from Cameroon. “I love wearing patterns in the summer,” says Abigail. “Grass-fields has cute matching top and short sets.” These gorgeous blue shorts, with an elasticated waist and pleated front, are her current favourites.

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When the weather gets warm, flippy shorts are a particularly good option: You get all the benefits of denim shorts, without the rigidity, for a silkier, loose fit. Patricia Batatas recommends these printed New Look shorts. “I’m a big fan of leopard print, which puts these high up on my list of best shorts this summer.” The shorts are made from a lightweight, woven fabric, and for Patricia, they tick all the boxes: “High-waisted? Check. Wide leg? Check. These are great for city life but equally great to wear for a day trip to the beach.” And speaking of the beach, they’re also “light, breezy, and cool,” making them a great option all summer long.

Best athleisure shorts

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With all the time we’ve spent at home during lockdown, most of us have gotten used to lounging around. Fashion, travel, and lifestyle blogger Louise Cooney gets it, so she recommended these comfortable shorts from Topshop. “Coming out of quarantine, wearing anything other than comfy clothes is going to be an adjustment for all of us. I moved from sweatpants to sweatshorts for summer, and I think if they’re dressed up right, they actually look really cool.” The shorts are made of plush cotton-blend fabric, with simple piping down the sides. Louise calls them “sporty chic” and — although she’s partial to her Topshop shorts — says H&M do some lovely pairs as well.

Photo: retailer

If the sweatshorts trend appeals to you, but you’re looking for something a little more glam, Dee Alfaro suggests these velvet shorts from Bershka. She says that they combine comfort and style, and loves that they give her room to move. “They’re super soft and non-restricting, perfect for lounging in the house or for when I’m filming TikTok dance videos.” Although the shorts are an easy option for laid-back days around the house, they can also be dressed up for an on-trend outing. Dee suggests wearing the Bershka shorts “with the matching velvet crop top, long-sleeve sweater tied over your shoulders, white sneakers, some silver jewellery, and a sleek low bun … Range Rover optional.”

Best bike shorts

Photo: retailer

Although there are plenty of options for plain black bike shorts out there, fashion blogger Lindsey Holland has recently discovered these lovely, pastel lilac ones, which are made from a soft, ribbed stretch knit. “I never thought I’d be the type of woman to wear my cycling/workout shorts outside of the house, but here we are. Lockdown changed me!” Now, she’s been living in them, as her Instagram attests. “I’ve loved the comfort of these,” says Lindsey, who likes to wear them “in a true ’90s way — with ankle socks, trainers, and a big T-shirt.”

Le Short Arancia
£110
Photo: retailer

Louise Cooney is also a big fan of the bright bike short: These two-tone ribbed shorts from French designer label Jacquemus are her pick. “These are definitely an investment — but a comfy, chic, gorgeous one at that.” She says that the vibrant pink-orange shade looks fabulous, allowing you to keep it simple with tops and accessories: “They’re quite loud and daring, so I keep the rest of my outfit simple to compliment them. I style mine with an oversize jumper, but they are equally stylish with a plain white tank or T-shirt.” But although these shorts are eye-catching, Louise assures that you’re not sacrificing cosiness for style. “They fit a little shorter than your usual bicycle shorts,” she says, but “the knitted material makes them extra comfy.”

Best linen shorts

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Alex Stedman, editor of the Frugality, says she loves linen shorts because they’re so useful, and especially comfy and versatile in hot weather. Her pick is this affordable option from H&M, which comes in two colours, with a drawstring waist and two deep pockets. In Alex’s words, the “elasticated waist and linen fabric are ideal for a blazing summer.” She likes to wear them with “an oversize, slouchy linen shirt and chunky sandals,” for a laid-back look and an airy feel.

Lindsey Holland’s favourite linen shorts come from the Australian label LMND. Although she says the shipping might take a while, they’re absolutely worth it, as these are the shorts “I’ve been living in recently.” For Lindsey, it’s the fabric that makes these shorts so easy to wear and style. “Linen makes them acceptable for lounging or heading outside, and they look so great with a tank top, oversize sweater or shirt.” Although the shorts have a lovely refined look, they’re also super comfortable: with an elasticated waist, a mid-length leg, and two side pockets. [Editor’s note: This price does not include shipping costs.]

Best wide-leg shorts

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Alex Stedman recommends this streamlined pair from ARKET, which are made from silky lyocell and have a high, paper-bag waist. She’s a fan of ARKET’s clothes because they “always strike that balance between tailored and relaxed just right.” These belted shorts are a good example of that balance — slouchy but refined — and she suggests wearing them as part of a classic ensemble: “I love the idea of a tailored short with a blazer and T-shirt.”

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For Nicole Ocranpodcast host and fashion blogger at the Noteworthy — “finding the right pair of shorts has always been a tricky one. As someone with larger thighs, friction is always an issue in the summer.” Shorts with a wider leg and an above-the-knee length can help with that warm-weather discomfort. Her current pick is these “skirt effect” shorts from Cos, which come in a pale grey and have some volume at the bottom. Nicole says she loves the look, but also the feel: In her words, the cotton material and circle-cut shape “allows for a bit of breathability without the chub rub!”

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For a lot of colour but a little more length, Nicole Ocran recommends these bright, printed culottes from Monki: “I have been a print-lover from day one, and these culottes have fully ticked that box.” She likes them because they’re summery, but since they’re knee-length, they offer a bit of coverage too. “It’s a play on leopard print and is bolder with the larger print, with a pop of light blue, which is perfect for this time of year.” The culottes come in several other printed designs, as well as a plain black.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Are the Best Shorts for Women?