Beautiful Anne sent this request via e-mail:
I just watched a blurb about shorts for every body type on the Today Show, except that they only showed 4 models and they all looked about the same to me, so it wasn’t very helpful. Can every body type really wear shorts? I know you tend to wear more skirts and dresses, but sometimes a skirt isn’t quite appropriate. With summer kind of approaching here in the Midwest, I’d be interested to see your take on this.
This is quite a challenge to me, my friends, as I probably wear shorts twice per year. But I know they’re a summer staple for many, so I’ll weigh in on Anne’s questions as best I can!
Can every body type really wear shorts?
But of course! Whoever said that certain body types should avoid shorts is a Clothing Tyrant and should be immediately overthrown in a bloodless coup. If you like shorts and feel comfortable in ’em, wear ’em. Find a style that suits you, and sport them all summer long. The end.
What’s the right length for me?
It will all depend on how long your legs are overall, how long your thighs are in comparison to your torso, how much thigh you want to share with the world, and how important leg-lengthening is in your personal hierarchy of figure-flattery priorities. But in my humble opinion, a hem length at least one hand’s width above the knee is almost universally flattering. (Did I mention almost? Only you and the dressing room mirror can decide for sure.)
Longer shorts such as Bermudas are great in the coverage department, and if that’s your objective, then by all means go long. But remember: A SKIRT that hits at the knee allows the observing eye to imagine thigh shape relatively freely. A pair of loose shorts that hit at the knee may trick the eye into thinking your thigh fills the entirety of the pant-leg. If you can, show some knee and a wee bit of thigh above the kneecap because it reveals more of your true shape.
Notice how just a few inches in length can make all the difference. The Bermudas at left are totally cute, but the patterned shorts at right give a better idea of overall leg shape. Both via L.L.Bean.
Higher than a hand’s width above the knee can be super flattering, too, so go shorter if you’d like. How short is going to depend on your comfort level with your upper thighs and your personal preference. But I’m gonna come right out and say it: Shorts that have an inseam of 3″ or less aren’t my favorite, even on lithe teenagers. I just plain don’t like how they look. Shorts that are, in essence, panties with a zip fly make me frown since they look neither comfortable nor chic to my eye.
Not my favorite. Via Bebe
Shops like J.Crew and Land’s End offer shorts in a wide variety of hem lengths, so you can truly choose how long or short you’d like your pair within a few inches. You’ll find 3″, 5″, 7″, 9″, and 12″ hems on these sites. Talk about selection!
What’s the right style for me?
Again, only you can truly make this call. But here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If you’ve got a small waist and a spare-tire belly, shorts with pleats that hit at your natural waist will emphasize the tire. Flat-front styles that sit two fingers below your belly button won’t pooch as much.
- If you’ve got no curves and wish to emulate curves, embrace pleats. They’ll flare out a bit and give the impression of volume where there is none.
- If you’ve got no curves and a short torso that you wish to lengthen, try the loose, hip-slung approach.
- If you want to emphasize your curves, shorter shorts that hit at your natural waist will do just that.
- If you’ve got no waist to speak of and carry weight in your midsection, flat-front styles that hit at or just below your natural waist will create a balanced figure. If you’ve got slim legs and want to show ’em off, by all means choose a shorter hem length.
- If you’ve got a long torso that you want to shorten, try high waists, paperbag waists, and belted styles.
How should shorts fit?
Semi-constricting hems are sometimes unavoidable when you sit down, but I still believe that shorts should not cut into or subdivide the thigh when you’re standing. If you go for a style that fits closely, make sure it has some stretch.
And, as is the case with ALL bottoms, shorts should not cause your midsection to spill out over the waistband. When you try on shorts at a store, bring a fitted top into the dressing room, too, so you can be sure they’ll sit flat and quiet against your midsection.
What else should I consider?
If you are concerned about leg length and proportion, shoe choice is extremely important when constructing a shorts-based ensemble. (See an entire post on this topic here!) Take a peek at these images from the Nordstrom website for a quick lesson:
Here we’ve got a versatile length short with a great fit, but those flat sandals that hit at the ankle bone shorten the calves and make them look thicker.
Now, these t-straps also hit at the ankle bone, but since they include a wedge heel, they’re far more lengthening than their flat compatriots above.
If you can’t imagine wearing heels or wedges with something as casual and knockabout as a pair of shorts, a shoe with a nice low vamp will still elongate your gams. I’m not a huge fan of flip-flops, but these make the model’s legs look marvelously long: It’s nothing but skin from just above the knee to just before the toes.
Hope that helps!
Top images courtesy Gap.
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