Can Every Body Wear Shorts?

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This morning Refinery 29 sent out their e-newsletter with the headline, 10 killer outfits that prove ANYONE can wear shorts.” Well with that headline, you’re going to have this soft curvy size 12/14 gal click to read more!

And this is what I saw, all images via Refinery29’s slideshow for these, “10 shorts styles and the outfit tips that'll make 'em sing.”

refinery29 shorts

Not a single plus sized woman, no one with large hips or thighs, no ladies with bellies and no butt, no cellulite, saddlebags, or knees over 30 years of age (because those of us over 30 know the knees start experiencing gravity, no matter our size). Well thanks a whole heck of a lot for NOTHING Refinery 29 for showing us how tall, young, slim, white women can rock anything under the sun. That’s just as groundbreaking as florals for spring.

I spent many a summer sans shorts. My legs are fleshy and pale, susceptible to chicken skin and visible stubble by 5pm. Now that I am over 35 and over 150 pounds, my legs also have some blue veins showing through my less-elastic non-tanned skin, and yes, the thighs have… we’ll call it texture. The past two summers I said screw it. I’m chasing after a kid, I spend a lot of time outdoors, and shorts are cheaper and more convenient than spending all summer in sundresses with bike shorts underneath (for modesty and to prevent chub rub).

Last summer I bought a pair of denim shorts from Target and self-distressed them. I bought them a size larger so they wouldn’t pucker at the crotch or ride up and they are totally, completely my jam. You can see me wear them here and here. I also got a pair of shorts from Nordstrom’s Caslon line, regular not petite, again one size larger than normal. I cuff them once for a good length on me, but chose regular instead of petite to have the waist higher/less muffin top.

They’re a faded orange which is a nice contrast with the navy and white striped tees I always wear and also looks nice with neutrals like gray. I still have pale, soft, veiny, textured legs but now I don’t have sweat running down them or have to iron something every morning. I don’t think one should be punished for not being built like one of the women in the Refinery 29 slideshow.

And so, I will provide you with pictures of women of all shapes, sizes, and colors who ROCK shorts in summer. Do they look like the models in the Refinery 29 piece? No. Do they look fabulous? Yes. Are they comfortable and able to enjoy their summer like everyone else? HELLS to the YES.

curvy women shorts 1
curvy women shorts 2
curvy women shorts 3

It’s summer, we ALL deserve to have a good time. For some, a pair of cropped pants or a full cotton skirt is perfection. And for some of us, it’s just damn nice to be able to whip out a pair of shorts.

Tips for Buying Shorts if You’re Built Like Me:

  • Go up a size. Go ahead, cut out the tag if that number upsets you, but having them a size larger will reduce muffin top, will reduce creasing at the crotch/leg joints and will just make them more comfortable. I don’t mind them slung on my hips/held up by my booty, but sometimes I do whip out my Beltaway to keep them from hanging too low.
  • Buy one inch longer than you think you need. Most shorts are made of cotton, and cotton shrinks. I have a pair of white shorts that were PERFECTION in the dressing room, but after one washing (in cold and line dried even!), they ended up looking like hot pants. For those that don’t shrink, I do what I do with the orange Caslons – I just cuff once. This looks perfectly fine and on trend for most styles of twill, chino, and denim shorts.
  • Run away from pleats. Even one pleat in the front can make your soft belly look like second trimester. Flat front is my jam.
  • The fewer pockets, the better. I like those little coin pockets – they’re big enough for a hair elastic or my driver’s license, but not so big that they gape, add bulk, or deform my figure. Same with back pockets – I never buy styles with flap pockets, and prefer besom pockets over patch because it gives a smoother line and draws less attention to my booty.  The only time I like a lot of pockets is for denim shorts, but they're expected and usually pretty streamlined.
  • If you’re petite, buy regular. Unless you’re very petite and have a very short torso, I as well as friends I have with similar figures like the extra length in the rise of shorts because it’s more likely to hit the natural waist. And if you’re built like me, you’re not going to be tucking tops into your shorts on a regular basis. This way, when you sit, your tummy doesn’t spill over, you don’t get that creasing that is like arrows to your crotch, and you don’t end up having plumber’s crack.

Do you rock shorts?  What are your tips for flattering shorts for your figure?

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  1. in love with this article. thank you so much for saving me from dressing room meltdowns this summer!

  2. Great post. I get thoroughly sick of seeing the same body type over and over and over and over and over and over and over…get the picture? 🙁

  3. I haven’t worn shorts outside of the house (unless with my swimsuit) since I was a kid because I’ve been self conscious about my thighs but seeing these ladies rock ’em just inspires the heck out of me.

  4. I decided a few years ago that it was too hot to not wear shorts. I started with Bermuda shorts and eventually worked my way to short shorts. At 5’3″ I feel like shorter shorts elongate my legs. I love the way they look, so f#*k what anyone else says!

  5. Wonderful post, the blogger pictures are so inspirational. I’m starting to head into my mid-30’s and I’ve noticed that I’ve gained some weight in my hips and thighs that wasn’t there a few years ago. It’s been hard to accept, and I’ve mostly shied away from shorts and embraced skirts that hit at the knee. But sometimes you need to wear shorts.

    One piece of advice so called “experts” always seem to give is if you are a “pear shape” or have full thighs, you should wear capris or long Bermuda shorts. I have TRIED Bermuda shorts in different colors and lengths and they just seem to make my thighs look bigger and more obvious. I much rather prefer 3.5″ or 5″ inseam shorts, they flatter my figure better, rules be damned!

  6. This is an awesome blog post! I don’t wear shorts very often. While my legs are relatively toned (since I’ve been running) and more slender than the rest of me, they’re also pale and, in my mid-40s, have a few blue veins you can see if you look hard. And I’ve decided, after this post and the comments, that nobody is looking as hard at us as we are. So the heck with it–when iit’s warm, I’m wearing shorts (well, as long as I remember to shave).

    As for the best fit and most comfortable length for me, I like Land’s End shorts–they come in petite, medium, and tall, in various lengths from bermuda up. My favorites are the 5″ shorts–short enough to be a good proportion on my 5’4″ body (bermudas make me look off and dowdy), long enough to feel modest enough and flattering.

  7. I stopped wearing shorts 17 years ago after my son was born. My weight has always been just fine, but I honestly felt at that point that the only people who needed to see my thighs were my husband any gynecologist. My skin texture is just not as it was in my teens and twenties. I prefer to wear a skirt when I need to be cool.

  8. I hate it when i see things like this because i feel left out, like i am not in the “inner crowd” and it’s just high school all over again 🙁
    I have to admit i do not wear shorts that often, I am always looking at the veins and “textured” skin and I am so pale that it’s like the shinning… however I do have several pairs and most have no pockets in the back, are mid thigh or lower and with a flat front.

  9. Amen to this! My struggle with shorts are finding a pair that doesn’t have my booty hanging out! That’s cute when you’re 20 but at 31, not so much! I actually like shorts that have flowy legs that almost look like a skirt. And I don’t discriminate on elastic waistbands like I used to! 🙂

  10. I wish up a size was an option, but if you don’t have hips or a butt to hold up your clothes (I have a big tum and no behind) that can really be a problem.

    Thanks for showing all the different kinds of shorts – all I am seeing on the females around here (downtown large metro area) is suuuuper short shorts. I am over 40 with chubby legs – no way am I wearing that!!!

  11. I’m trying! I really want to wear shorts, but I can’t find find anything in a size that works, especially when it comes to length (I want ’em not far above the knee) and rise. I’m a tall, long-torso’d, size 16 girl. I don’t want hot pants! But the search continues.

  12. I have a hard time with shorts. Especially because of the rubbing during the summer, it kills me! I personally don’t find them flattering and I really dont’ know where to wear them to other than to the beach or pool. I still see them as super casual, so I wouldn’t wear them to a party, go to church in them or a dinner and I wouldn’t go out on a date night either. I dont’ know. I have ONE pair I bought when I was slimmer and that was the first pair I had worn in 10 years!

  13. BRAVO for this post. Articles like the ones you reference are such a pet peeve to me. It is particularly prevalent in articles about swimsuits. – Signed, the girl with a stomach and no arse.

  14. Hello, I just discovered your blog today via MUA fashion board. I was facing the shorts dilemma for this up coming summer until I read this article. Due to weight gain (size 12), large thighs with cellulite, and aging knees I felt shorts were over for me. I haven’t found a flattering pair but I will try some of the places recommended by the commenters and other bloggers. Great post

  15. Shorts! I hate them, but there are some times they are useful. I usually wear the ones that go to the knee, and I might wear them to run to drugstore, but I would never wear them outside the house for lunch or brunch. But all these ladies look so fantastic, I should try wearing them with more than my white t-shirt/beige short combo.

    I hope you’re feeling better Allie; you work so hard in all areas of your life. I couldn’t do it so I left my job to be home fulltime with my son, after a year long maternity leave and 3 days a week working from home. About a month later I got seriously ill, so I’m glad you have yoga and friends and family to help you. I get the feeling, though, that you might be the “helper”

    Take care!

  16. Personally I don’t wear shorts as I also don’t wear too short dresses any longer. I have a small size but now (I turned 50) I feel more confident with a length slightly above my knees. Here in Europe women tend to wear less shorts than in the States. But that is how I feel and doesn’t mean others shouldn’t wear shorts!

    If Refinery 29 was clever, they advertised their shorts on women with all sorts of ages, bodies and colours! Wouldn’t they attract a lot more customers rather then turn them away with this campaign? How shortsighted of them…

    Lady of Style

    1. Refinery 29 isn’t a store, and their fanbase isn’t old, plus-sized or anything other than young, hip spenders, who would click off the minute any of those photos shown here were posted. Sad but true. I think some of these people look okay, and some would have been better off wearing something else, but I’m not the fashion sheriff.

      1. I don’t think that’s true, there’s plenty of people of different ages and sizes who read Refinery 29. They’re doing what many companies do, they assume their audience wants aspirational. With the boom of blogs showing a variety ofnbodies and ages, fatkinis selling out overnight, and even actresses of older ages getting coveted roles it’s clear that money isn’t just with this young and hip. By them doing such a damn lazy job with this and many of their other posts, they’re just proving how out of touch they are, and I think the comments on their original article prove it.

      2. I actually just came across this thread while doing research for my upcoming plus-size shorts article for Refinery29. I cover all the plus fashion for R29, and believe me, they do care about offering options to people of different shapes, sizes and ages. You can find all my plus articles here:

        1. Liz, I just shared two R29 posts on my blog’s FB page today, and can clearly tell how much has changed in less than a year. Thrilled to have you writing about plus size fashion for them, and glad you came by to share the link!!

  17. As per usual, you are spot on. I was thinking the same thing when I saw that post, so I feel honored you included my textured thighs in your line up 🙂 We’ve got a crazy heatwave going on in Boston, so you can bet I’ll be rocking some shorts tomorrow!

  18. I’m going a little different with my praise on this piece…Thank you for mentioning stubble!! I am currently very pale and have naturally dark brown hair. This means I shave and within half a day, I have stubble! My legs are big, even now post weight loss, and more soft than muscle since I have slacked on working out, but the thing I have been worried about was leg hair. In the cosmic scheme, who the heck cares if I have stubble. Probably no one!

    I wore shorts last year for the first time since college, and already have ordered a few new pairs for this year. I do wish I had thought about sizing up though….maybe I can exchange them once they come in.

    1. I agree — I am really pale and nothing in the world will change that. I also have almost black, really thick hair that is great on my head, but equally visible on my legs. I have not worn shorts or skirts without tights for years, especially as my legs age. I wish I had the courage to wear both!

      1. Waxing takes time that a lot of people don’t have. It costs money to do professionally, which a lot of people don’t have. Some people also can’t do it because of skin sensitivity, medication and more.

  19. Love this. Way to do R29’s work for them;)
    Also, do I only have 6 months left of good knees? wth… haha

    1. LOL I didn’t really notice the knee issue until after having Emerson so over 35 but I can recall friends saying their knees started changing at 30. I guess it’s genetics, and if you had good looking knees to start with? I’d say you’ve got a few years to go 🙂

  20. What a freakin’ awesome post! Good calling out of the clueless, and great role models on all those awesome blogs!

  21. This post is so perfect for me right now! I NEVER wore shorts out in public, ever, even when I probably could have before I had children. But I live in Texas, and it gets hot, so I live in them at home. Since having two boys, I’ve felt comfortable in longer bermuda shorts, either khaki or dark denim, paired with a dressy top and sandals. I still don’t wear shorts many places, but I’m learning that it’s okay if I do.

  22. I have been too afraid to wear shorts since 1999. I have not worn a pair of shorts in 14 years (almost half my life!). Maybe this summer is the summer I finally bite the bullet. It’s 90 degrees today and 100% humidity, so I am seriously considering it!

  23. Love this! I’m tall and have muscular legs, and they’re starting to get vein-y (genetics, yay!), but hell if I’m going to let that stop me from being comfortable in a DC summer! I really wish the entire fashion world would just wake up and realize that not everyone is a perfect specimen of humanity and people come in all shapes and sizes and all are wonderful!

  24. I found your second and third paragraphs hysterical! LOL But, in all seriousness, I agree with you 100%.
    As a woman of color and a certain age, I rarely wore shorts. As a result, my legs became pasty and almost white by comparison to my nicely tanned face and arms. Once when I visit my doctor he laughed at the stark contrast! So I decided to wear shorts again.
    Coincidentally, like others who posted on this blog, I bought mine at Walmart and Costco. Why spend big money on them? I still feel a bit uncomfortable wearing them, but going out still means being stylish and wearing nice slacks, dressy denim or a dress.
    Thanks, Allie, but bringing this issue to light–excuse the pun!

  25. My biggest problem with shorts is that they ride up. So even though I bought three pairs of shorts this year, I don’t wear them as much as skirts and dresses.

  26. Thank you so much for this post! Being on the higher end of the plus scale, it always frustrates me that sites and magazines only show models in “plus sizes” that are about a size 8. Just once I’d love to see examples like the great women you’ve shown here.

  27. What a great post– I love some of the shorts these ladies (that you rounded up) are rockin’. Can we talk about how fabulous those leather shorts look? I am not a fan of shorts in general– but I know that I too must weather them to survive DC summers. They are functional and I am learning all about buying a size up. It eliminates so many problems– and hey, size is just a number!

  28. Thanks for this post – loved it!
    I’ve recently given in to wearing shorts in summer after many years of saying “oh no, I’m not hot at all” while wearing jeans in 90 degree weather. One suggestion: if you still are having thigh chafing problems rub some prescription strength suave or secret deodorant on those areas. It seriously works and lasts quite a long time! Not only am I rocking the shorts, but I also now can wear skirts with NO bicycle shorts!!! It’s a miracle!

  29. OMG, Alison, you are my hero! I am not a plus-sized girl, I am realtively tall and thin, but I still have had a pretty strict no-shorts-ever rule for most of my life. They just make me so self-concious (the paleness! the stubble! the veins! the squishiness-upon-sitting-down!). Now that I have a toddler though, I am seeing the need. I wish you has posted this before I bought the too-small pair , awkwardly low-cut pair from the jr’s dept at Target a couple of weeks ago.
    I will try again, buying up a size.

  30. LOVE THIS! I remember seeing those 2 British ladies (Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine – thank you, Wikipedia) on Oprah talking about shorts and how they were amazed at how many American women insist on wearing them when they “shouldn’t”….

    Also love how you did the work to SHOW what someone else just TALKED about. That’s what makes a great blog (that and many other things I love about Wardrobe Oxygen!!

  31. Agreed! Most clothing sites send those stupid newsletters that say “every woman can pull off” ….. but it always shows the svelte model in multiple type shorts. Yes! we are aware skinny women can pull off all if not most things. Thanks for including me!

  32. I rock the shorts now that I found some I like ! For the past three years, Costco has carried a Bermuda length short that went up to size 16 and this summer they have up to 22W. I’m short, just five feet even and the shorts hit perfectly on the thinnest part of my knee. If I buy a pair of shorts that I’m going to wear for nicer occasions (dress shorts ?) I will pay to have the pockets sewn shut.

  33. I saw that too and thought the exact same thing but really its refinery 29.. they wouldnt know about style for EVERY woman if it bit them on their ass!

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