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What Are the Best Shorts for Women?

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Tracking down the right pair of women’s shorts can prove tricky. Once you’ve selected a style — be it denim shorts or tailored chinos — finding a pair that flatters and stays put without gaping or riding up is not as simple as it seems. To help, we asked 11 style bloggers, designers, and fashion professionals to help us narrow down the selection. Here’s their pick of the best shorts for women, ranging from classic denim to breezy cotton.

Best denim shorts

You can’t get more classic than 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 O’Doherty, “they also look better with age.”

If you like to show a little more skin with your denim, Dee Alfaro — a Zurich-based fashion blogger and marketing professional — recommends some 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. Whilst Alfaro’s exact pick is no longer available, this pair (also from Bershka) has the same flattering mid-rise waist with an equally irregular cut and some exposed pockets for added edge.

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 a 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.” Hatt’s pick is no longer on sale at ARKET, but this almost identical pair from COS has the same deep-black hue, boxy fit, and no-stretch denim.

Photo: retailer

If you’re after mid-length denim shorts, Patricia Batatas suggests this affordable option from Mango. Batatas — 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: Batatas says they look terrific with crop tops and “a little bit of midriff on show.”

Best breezy shorts

As the summer months approach, art director, stylist, and author Zeena Shah recommends this pair of 100 percent linen shorts from Arket. “With the matching shirt, they’re so chic,” says Shah, who calls the shorts “a gorgeous look for warmer days.” With an adjustable drawstring, the shorts offer a comfortable, relaxed fit, and angled pockets add a laid-back slouch.

Shah also says she’s a huge fan of these Ganni shorts, 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. Shah also loves the shorts’ wider “relaxed” shape, which she says makes them “flattering on lots of body types!” Although Shah’s favourite checked pattern is no longer available, we like this similar checked pair, also from Ganni.

Best athleisure shorts

For content creator Josie Taplin (known as @JosiePeaches), you can’t beat a pair of versatile cycling shorts. “I style them in so many different ways — they can be super-dressy and super-casual,” she says. Taplin likes to shop for cycling shorts from Boohoo as they double-line their shorts, making them thoroughly opaque. “TMI, but even when I’m on my period, if I want to wear shorts, they will be the ones I reach for as I don’t get a VPL with them being so thick,” she explains. “They’re my ultimate go-to.”

Best wide-leg shorts

Photo: retailer

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.”

Hatt enjoys styling these leather options with either a pair of loafers for the office or heels for an evening out. She enjoys the taupe, sandy shade of the shorts, which “will be flattering on different skin tones,” and the high-waisted fit, which adds a “level of comfort.” The shorts are made from 100 percent sheepskin.

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What Are the Best Shorts for Women?