Casual, Cool Alternatives to Shorts
As soon as spring and summer roll around (and she's dragging her feet here, unfortunately) I get asked for alternatives to shorts. I'm not a huge shorts-wearer either thanks to varicose veins that I've had since my early 20's. But since hitting 50 I've come to peace with them and do wear shorts when it's hot out and my legs have the glow of a nice fake tan;)
But I realize many of you don't like wearing shorts, and the good news is there are lots of alternatives that look great and will keep us looking and feeling cool. My top picks are dresses and loose fitting pants. There are lots of options and styles that fall into those categories, so here are some tips.
The easiest alternative, and my personal favorite is the one-and-done dress. There are basically 3 lengths of dresses, and I like to have at least one in each length for spring/summer:
The most universally flattering length, and or petites sometimes it's helpful to go an inch or two above the knee too. My go-to dress on hot days that also double as a swim suit cover-up is a swingy tank dresss. This versatile tank dress can be worn as is or without the hem tied. It can also be worn with the scoop neck in the front as shown in the 2nd picture. Tying a chambray shirt around my normally undefined waist helps to give the illusion of a waist with a casual vibe.
This dress (with pockets!) can also be worn with the scoop neckline in front as show in the (blurry!) middle picture below.
These looks show how a casual tank dress can be dressed up or down. The black sandals on the right are ok, but I think a neutral sandal would still be better as it would blend in with my legs. This exact dress is old, but Old Navy comes out with them every year and they are very affordable. I got this black and white stripe one this year and also really love this color.
The midi length dress is a great alternative to shorter lengths (read: varicose veins and pasty white legs). Many people (especially petites) have been told they "can't" wear midi-lengths. Here are some tips for how to wear them if you are so inclined:
1. Select a length that is slightly above or below mid-calf: FIRST - remember the cardinal rule of dressing: never put a HORIZONTAL line across the widest part of your body - (unless you want it to appear wider).
You don’t want the midi dress to end exactly at mid-calf, which is the thickest part of your leg. Look for a midi dress that is slightly above or below.
2. Consider Fabric:
For your midi dress look for a fabric that is light and doesn’t add much weight to your figure. Look for light and floaty fabric, and if you are petite, or want to avoid making your legs look shorter consider a dress with an asymmetrical hem or generous slit.
3. Opt for a solid color or same pattern from head to toe:
This is not a dress you want to color block. Look for a midi dress in a solid color or one that has the same pattern from top to bottom. If you do want a dress with a little bit of pattern look for a dress with a small pattern. By small pattern, I mean a small floral pattern, tiny polka dots or something along those lines.
4. Cinch in the waist :
You don’t want to wear a midi dress without giving your waist definition. If not, it's easy to look like rectangle of fabric. This is especially true for my hour glass and pear shapes. Even if the midi dress you buy doesn’t come with a belt, you can still add one, unless you’re going for that easy, breezy summer look. The red floral target dress below has the appearance of a band around the middle, creating the illusion of shape while still being comfortable and "breezy". For a casual, cool look, consider the chambray shirt trick I did above.
Ahhh...the shoe question. In a perfect world we'd wear nude colored strappy heels like these, and they really do look the best, and elongate the leg. But the reality is, especially these days, comfort is key. Especially if you're petite, you will want to steer clear from clunky chunky shoes with midi-dresses. While I love the look of white sneakers with a midi, they can make short legs look even shorter. Opt instead for SIMPLE and sleek skin-tone sandals for the best look. See below for some ideas. Here are two midi dresses from my closet...a floral from Target and a gray t-shirt dress from Amazon (that is technically a maxi, but I tied the hem to shorten it..It could be belted too! And see how much better the nude shoes look vs. black??
Last but definitely not least in the dress category is probably my favorite -- the maxi dress. It eliminates all leg issues (and shaving too;) and is usually more comfortable and cool than pants on warm days. Traditionally, petites have ben told to steer clear from the maxi and only wear dresses that hit at or above the knee. But I disagree, and here are some tips to help:
1. Pick the Right Length:
Contrary to popular belief, floor-length dresses will work better for petite women compared to ankle length ones, NOT the other way around.
Why? Well, once the hem of your dresses touches your ankles, whether or not you’re wearing heels, you will appear shorter because the hem is like a horizontal line cutting across. (Remember the cardinal rule about horizontal lines).
2. Go for Solid or Monochromatic:
Maxis in solid colors, especially darker ones, will definitely make a short person appear taller for the simple reason that it is slimming and elongating and it offers less distraction to the eyes.
If you prefer patterns and find them more fun and flattering, look for prints that are proportionate to your size. If you’re thin and short, pick maxi dresses that have small prints. Wearing a long dress with large prints will overwhelm your tiny frame.
If you’re medium built and short, you can go for medium sized prints. If you’re plus size and also a petite, just go with medium prints instead of large ones (large prints are most ideal if you’re tall and plus size). Pay attention to the seaming and lines in the pattern and remember that vertical lines lengthen and horizontal lines can cut off or shorten.
3. AGAIN...Wear the Right Shoes:
With the maxi dress already covering most of your body, it’s best to keep the feet open and and as bare as possible.
The best companion of a maxi dress is a pair of heeled strappy sandals, with wedges being the most practical and comfortable. If you want to wear flat sandals, go with thong sandals that show a lot of skin, ideally in nude or gold metallic. See below for shoe ideas. Here are some maxi dress ideas.
#2 LOOSE FITTING PANTS
I don't know about you, but once summer and warm weather hits (please? soon? someday?) I pretty much stop wearing skinny jeans and leggings and opt for loose fitting and flowy pants.
When it comes to looser fitting pans, remember another cardinal rule - BALANCE! When your bottom is loose or flowing, your top is best more fitted. By fitted I don't necessarily mean tight or cropped, but consider doing a loose half tuck , or tying the shirt hem. I use these little dittys when I can't tie a true knot.
My go-to in this category are:
1. Girlfriend Jeans (love these from Target!) color: summer fling, TTS, I have size 4.
2. Wide Leg Flowy Pants (my favorite are these from Old Navy) TTS, I have small, white. Also like the cream, olive and stripe!
3. Shocking (not) - My beloved modern bohos in the light buttery fabric that makes me so happy and comfy. I especially love the gray. And how about this cute $16 graphic tee? (used the clear rubber band trick).
4. Cropped Wide Leg Pants: Many are nervous to try these, and all I can say is that they are worth trying and snapping a pic and see what you think. As with the midi dress, pay attention to where they hit on your calves,and go for a nude sandal for the most flattering look. Mine below are from Peach, an old collection, but I also found these from Amazon and they are their way to me. Highly rated by Cassie from Sugarplum!
Now for SHOES! Here is a collection of wearable, stylish and comfortable shoes that will work with most of these options. I include flats, heels and sneakers with a focus on COMFORT brands and styles in basic neutrals for maximum versatility. Scroll under each collage to see the individual shoes and click to shop (hit the > arrow to scroll through).
Which non-shorts alternative is your go-to favorite? Or do you love wearing shorts?
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