The Hunt: The Best Women’s Shorts for Summer

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

There was a time in my 20s and 30s when I had virtually no casual shorts. During the week, I worked in a very conservative office (definitely no shorts), and I spent most of the weekend days lounging around in workout clothes until it was time to get ready to go out with friends, when I generally preferred denim or dresses. Even if I was running errands or doing something on the weekend, I generally preferred easy, jersey dresses, generally paired with everyone’s favorite Jockey Slip Shorts.

For me that changed when I had kids — even if the slip shorts were opaque it felt wrong to be crawling around on the floor playing in a dress. Around the same time, I started working from home, and as I’ve noted before I prefer having a pocket for my phone. So shorts re-entered my world. 

Enter 2020, and I think a lot of working women are rediscovering shorts, as we work from home more and more — and I’ve watched with interest a number of great reader threadjacks on the best shorts, particularly for those with curvy thighs or in a cusp size of 12–16.

We haven’t discussed the best shorts in a while, so I thought I’d go on a hunt and round up some of the reader favorites and bestselling styles that are out there right now. 

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Pictured on home page, clockwise: hot pink / olive / black & green / denim / center

Ladies, are you wearing shorts more often in 2020? Which are your favorite women’s shorts for summer — and what has made them your favorites? 

Reader Favorites: Shorts for Curvy Thighs / Sizes 12+: 

tan / gray / red / denim

Readers had a lot of great threadjacks recently about the best shorts for curvy thighs in the 12/14/16 cusp-range — reader favorites include the four shorts pictured above, along with shoutouts to Crown & Ivy, these linen shorts from Athleta, these workout shorts from Under Armour, and Carrie Underwood’s line, CALIA

Best Pull-On Shorts for Summer

Caslon / Athleta / J.Crew / Target 

Pull-on shorts have become wildly popular over the past few years, and if you’re having a super relaxed, easygoing summer, these might be perfect. The blue chambray pair above is one of the best reviewed shorts at Nordstrom and comes in lots of colors — the Target ones above are a recent budget find from Elizabeth. (Stock seems to be changing every time I look; if they have your size and color you may want to buy now.)

Some favorites that readers called out were the Athleta linen style (pictured above in beige) or this slightly different Athleta pair; these Old Navy shorts are a heavier fabric but bestsellers there. And J.Crew Factory and J.Crew are both leaders in, well, pull-on shorts… 

If you want a pair of shorts with a pull-on waist but more of a twill fabric, check out these interesting ones from Everlane

Best Women’s Shorts for Summer in Twill/Chino Style

red / olive / pink

A lot of readers have noted that they loved the Old Navy and J.Crew options for twill/chino-type shorts, with someone noting that the Crown & Ivy ones (hot pink) “are almost always on sale.”

In previous discussions most readers love the 5″ length, but note that you can find similar shorts in 3.5″–9″ lengths.

If 5″ feels a bit too short but 7″ feels a bit too long for you, take a look at Loft and Ann Taylor Factory, where I was happy to see they have 6″ lengths. (Boden too!)

Best Shorts for Working Out/Lounging

Under Armour / Gap / CALIA / Nike Dry Tempo

If you’re looking for shorts for general lounging/working out/outside adventures, this is your category — a number of readers have given shoutouts to the UnderArmour shorts (particularly in reader threads on curvy thighs). A very similar pair is the Nike Dry Tempo (in black), which is a bestseller at Zappos. 

The CALIA line is new to me, but these “anywhere” shorts with double layers look lovely — Dick’s Sporting Goods has a ton of colors in the style. 

If you’re looking for water adventures, readers sang the praises of these Eddie Bauer “amphib” shorts… which seem to have sold out over the weekend. (Keep checking back…)

My personal favorites for working out/lounging are tighter shorts with pockets, like the tie-dye ones pictured above from Gap, or these Amazon bestsellers; Zella and Old Navy both sometimes have similar styles. 

Best Tailored Shorts

Boden / Ann Taylor / Banana Republic

It can be really difficult to make “tailored” shorts look non-frumpy — but these are all huge bestsellers, so perhaps other ladies are more successful than I am. (Readers who wear these, what are your secrets?)

I would add Bermuda shorts in this category, which may look most at home on the golf course. Some bestsellers are from Vince or NYDJ; note that the Boden pair above come in multiple inseams from 3–9″. 

Best Denim Shorts

AGolde / Madewell / BlankNYC / Levi’s 

Denim shorts are really in fashion right now (and yes, they do come and go out of style!). Major pros here include that they almost always have pockets, are really durable with nice, thick fabric if you have issues with your cellulite, and can have a cool, laid-back vibe.

“Relaxed” denim shorts are super popular right now, with very distressed options like the ones from AGolde, BlankNYC, and Levi’s being bestsellers at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. Madewell’s has a bestselling pair as well. 

Readers gave shoutouts to these Eddie Bauer “boyfriend” shorts when discussing the best shorts for curvy thighs; personally, I’ve always been a fan of Kut from the Kloth for my curvy thighs.

Readers, what shorts are you wearing this summer? Do you prefer shorts or casual dresses in general for summer weekends — and how has that changed this year if you’re working from home more frequently? 

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