Style and Styling

How to Style Shorts

5 Tips for Polished Short Style!

Happy day, Reader Dearest!

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is warming and it’s time to face the elephant in the closet…


Love ’em?

Loathe ’em?

Think you are too old for shorts?

Pish tosh. If you want to wear shorts, you can.

Want to love shorts but can’t figure out how to style them?

I’ve heard that warm weather complaint before!

Actually, I hear two different complaints. One is: How do I style shorts so that they are flattering? Because let’s face it, many shorts are not. Flattery is a matter of proportion and is simple to sort out; I address the proportion problem, here.

The second complaint is from those who prefer a little more structure to their looks or a higher level of refinement than most shorts outfits provide. They say shorts are just too casual (or in their words, sloppy.) There’s got to be a place between running shorts/beachwear and city short suited Jimmy Choo stiletto clad stylista. Let’s spend some time there!

(1) Choose Shorts with Structure

Waistbands with a tab and zip closure have more structure than an elasticated waist. For waisted figures, belting is a flattering way to add structure, too! If you want the comfort of elastic, look for a pair with a half waistband at the front and elastic in the back. I’ve seen these with a fabric self-belt for a finished look. Another tip: Look for vintage styling; if the shorts have a 1940’s or 1950’s feel, their higher waist will give them more polish, especially if they zip on the side! Speaking of polish, look for fabics with a tight weave and smooth finish.

Click the image for shoppable links!

(2) Walk Away from Distress

Doesn’t that sound like good all-around life advice? Distress is the antithesis of ease and polish! In this case… Raw edges, worn, sun-faded and distressed finishes are always going to look relaxed and casual. For more finesse, choose fabrics with a tight weave and smooth surface. Save the rough and rugged for your beach vaycay or working in the yard.

(3) Adapt and Overcome

Some of my best shorts were trousers in a previous life! You can’t (generally) make trousers longer, but you can always make them shorter. Don’t have a pair of trousers to sacrifice to the cause? Look for (and purchase) a duplicate of your favorites on Ebay and shorten them! Need tips for shopping preloved on-line? Read this. Meanwhile I’ll be there looking for duplicates of my ruffle pocket trousers…

(4) Level Up Your Top Half

Click the image for shoppable links!

Leave your tee in the drawer! Top your shorts with a shell, a short sleeved or sleeveless sweater or a blouse or button up shirt. Yes, you have permission wear a silk blouse with shorts. Even with denim shorts if that works for your personality! I’ll be wearing my navy polka dot blouse and my floral blouse with shorts for sure. Crazy, I know.

Some people won’t wear 3/4 or long sleeves with shorts. Why not roll your long shirt sleeves up past the elbow? If even that is pushing it, you’ll probably be happier in long (or ankle length) trousers paired with a sleeveless top. That’s fine. You do you.

(5) Step Up Your Footwear

Deep breaths! I’m not suggesting those Jimmy Choo stilettos. How about a ballet flat or a low heeled pump? A leather sandal with a block heel works beautifully to lengthen the leg and is stable enough for walking about! Put all the tips together for your summer Outfit Recipe

Click the image for shoppable links!

Skip the flip-flops, sneakers and comfort sandals here. NOT that comfortable sandals can’t be stylish! I would happily pair any of my 5 Ride-or-Die shoes for spring and summer with shorts. I might even wear the high heels with a longer short out to dinner… If I owned a pair!

Click the image for shoppable links!

How About You?

What’s your attitude toward shorts? When do you wear them? When won’t you? What’s your favorite way to style your shorts? Which of the combos above do you like best? What do you think about the shoppable links? Share your favorite shorts Outfit Recipe below… I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,


  • Sally in St Paul

    One advantage of living in MN is that we don’t have so many hot days as where I’ve lived before (e.g., OK, Texas, NC) so I don’t own any shorts right now! I will wear cropped pants and skirts, though, and skirts are really my go-to in the summer for work and casual wear. I’ve also found that a pair of skimmers that ends *just* below the knee works…and I suppose you could call them long shorts (which sounds contradictory but whatever). Your suggestions for elevating a shorts outfit for people with a more polished style could definitely apply to other kinds of bottom pieces, too…and those cute flats get me where I live!

    • Liz K

      Your skimmers sound darling, Sally! I imagine a vintage vibe… MN certainly doesn’t have the same number of hot days. I’ve also lived in both TX and NC. They’re hot for sure! You’ve got us beat on the mosquitoes, though. Large and fierce!


    Liz, I don’t wear and won’t wear shorts!! Just not me!! I wear skirts only so I guess most people find that unusual. That’s just me!!! I do like the way you wear shorts!! Great style!!!

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