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7 Alternatives to Shorts in the Summer for Women

Choose from these seven alternatives to shorts so you can remain cool during summer, but achieve a dressy look, too. You can wear these options for casual events or dress them up for the office or after five

Women at the beach wearing shorts and bikini.

It happens every summer. You happily live in your shorts until that one event on your calendar too formal for shorts. Rather than cry at the thought of broiling in the summer heat or pulling a Lady Godiva and going naked, try these still cool, still comfortable alternatives to shorts.

You can pull off a casual look that keeps you from overheating.

Alternatives to Shorts

Yes, you can enjoy the same airflow and comfort of shorts in a dressier look. Try this multitude of options in the blissful rotation this summer to look fabulous at any event while remaining as cool as the proverbial cucumber. Presumably, since you want an alternative to shorts, you want something that still has a split leg, so you can remain comfortable and casual even in a dressier setting.

Sure, you could just wear a sundress, a shift, or an A-line skirt, but you would miss out on the joy of having two pants legs and never having to worry about standing, squatting, or bending over and accidentally showing your underwear. These options provide you with the benefits of shorts in a design appropriate for all but semi-formal to formal occasions. Some of these options, you can even wear to the office or to religious services.

Wear a skort! 

A woman wearing a patterned yellow skort.

On the outside, it will look as if you wore a skirt. As far as anyone looking at you or taking a photo will know, you wore a skirt. Underneath the skirt layer though, sewn into the fabric, you have a pair of comfortable, cozy shorts. Although you won’t want to “sit like a boy” while wearing a skirt, if, for some reason, someone looks up at your skirt, all they will see is the same fabric as the skirt.

Talk about the perfect outfit for preserving humility. The skirts on the outside vary in length. The shorts beneath typically come to about mid-thigh. You can wear the best of both worlds.

Try out culottes

A woman wearing a pair of brown loose culottes.

Your mom probably wore these as a kid. It looks like a skirt from a distance but is split into two pants like a pair of capris. They provide a flowy alternative that allows a lot of airflows.

These options also typically cover the knees, one reason moms love them for little girls. They hide skinned knees and bandages on them that do not lend a ladylike air to their look. They also provide an ideal option for tomboy girls who detest skirts.

You can purchase them in denim or dressy fabrics, so they make a great option for wearing to church, synagogue, or your office.

Capri pants make a lovely option

This is a close look at a woman wearing a pair of black carpi pants and a pair of pink flats.

These fitted pants can show off your fit build. Capris come to about the same length as culottes, but unlike the flowy fabric and cut of the French-inspired pant, this Italian option fits you like a glove. Wearing these can actually seem to elongate your legs as long as you choose a hue close to your skin color.

Doing this creates the illusion of a longer silhouette. Choose pocketless capris for the best results.

Palazzo pants 

A woman wearing a pair of white loose palazzo pants.

They provide another fantastic option since these wide-leg pants use thin fabrics like linen. You can wear them on most dressier occasions and they naturally complement all except the pear-shaped build. The pant length typically falls at mid-calf.

You can think of them as long culottes. Style them with a close-fitting top that hits at the hip or waist. Otherwise, you need to tuck the shirt into the pants, so it does not ruin the outfit’s silhouette.

Harem pants

This is a woman wearing a pair of harem pants at the park.

Forget the MC Hammer look. Today’s harem pants provide much more fashion and less street look. Made with lightweight fabrics, these billowy pants give you comfort and freedom of movement since you can safely sit cross-legged or assume a yoga pose without revealing your underwear.


This is a woman wearing a blue pin-striped romper.

romper or playsuit, as they also get called, provides an entire outfit. This jumper (not in the UK English term, but in the US English meaning), provides an all-in-one outfit with a coordinated top and bottoms as one piece. When a baby wears this, it goes by the term onesie, but those have full-length footed pants.

So, this is essentially an adult version of a onesie called a romper in the US or a playsuit in the UK. If it had full-length, fitted pants, you would refer to it as a catsuit. Meow. As a romper, the bottom half hits at mid-thigh to just above the knees.

Although it flows like a skirt, the bottoms actually consist of two pant legs, so you get the look of a skirt with the comfortable wear of shorts. Typically made of dressier designs and fabrics such as silk or linen, these options provide a sexy, but not risqué way to wear something like shorts in a dressier situation.

Cropped pants 

This is a close look at a woman wearing a pair of green cropped pants.

They let you choose the cut that suits your body and provide you with added leg coverage since they hit about three inches above the ankle. Choose wide-leg for the most comfortable, shorts-like fit. You can also choose from straight-legged or skinny styles.

These let you hide any self-tanner mishaps until you can let it wear off or you shower it off with quite a bit of exfoliant and a loofah. Choose them in a lightweight fabric or, in casual situations, wear denim jeans in this cut.

Where to Buy These Shorts Alternatives

You have a plethora of options for shopping for these great looks. Choose from major department stores such as Macy’s or Nordstrom’s, or try regional department stores such as Dillard’s, Foley’s, Belk’s, and Kohls. You can shop these stores online or in person.

Of course, Amazon and eBay provide a vast array of choices. Subscription box options include ThredUp and Stitch Fix. You can find athletic wear options in these cuts and styles at Lululemon and Fabletics.

For other options, shop H&M, Lord and Taylor’s, or designers’ online shops such as Versace, Prada, and Calvin Klein. Most designers will ship directly to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

You want to know more about these terrific alternatives to shorts and we want to help. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions about these fashions.

From what fabrics do designs make these shorts alternatives?

Most designers offer these alternatives to shorts in linen and silk. You can also find these pants and skorts in denim, polyester, bamboo, cotton, and fabric blends.

How should you style these summer looks?

Typically, you need to balance the weight of an outfit by using a shorter clothing piece with a longer one. This means if you wear a pair of long, flowy pants you already have a heavier piece of clothing and you need to create balance in your outfit by wearing a cropped top or a fitted top.

What accessories go well with these summer looks?

In the summer season, fashion revolves around the ideas of the outdoors and sunshine. The idea is easy and breezy, like the Cover Girl ads. Light makeup, ponytails, sleek accessories like crossbody bags in wallet size, ballet flats, canvas sneakers, or loafers. Choose simple and elegant jewelry.

Avoid too many accessories, since using these bogs down your look. Avoid piling on a scarf, a belt, chunky jewelry, busy hairpieces, or clunky or flashy hairclips. Plan streamlined outfits that move easily and keep you cool by providing light fabrics and wide-leg cuts to maximize airflow.