How to wear short shorts

How to wear summer shorts and pants

Nikki Parkinson Fashion, How to 63 Comments

I’m mostly a frock girl when it comes to keeping my cool as the temperature rises but sometimes the occasion calls for me to wear the pants.

Yes, it does.

Recently I was asked by a couple of readers what alternatives there were to wearing 3/4 pants in summer. Which is a very good question, don’t you think?

I have some thoughts on 3/4 pants and they are not friendly thoughts, so let’s just get those thoughts out on the table, shall we?

If your summer wardrobe staple is the 3/4 pant I totally understand why you might just hate me a teeny bit right now but I’d like you to hear me out.

These pants evolved from our wanting to cover up our legs but not with jeans because that was just too damn hot.

I understand that and trust me, I went there too. In 1998.

It took a long hard look at myself in the mirror wearing those pants to jolt me out of my mumsie ways and on to a more flattering alternative.

That long hard look is something I’d like you do to do too. I’ll wait here while you do, but please consider these points when in front of the mirror.

How to wear summer shorts and pants

1. Is the length of the pant and width of the leg actually making you look wider and shorter? It does for me – having a wide bit of fabric flapping about my calves enhanced this illusion. The overall shape? That just boxed me out.

2. Find the most flattering leg length for you. Start playing with the length of those pants. As you roll them upwards (yes, upwards), do you reach a part of your leg where the overall look is more flattering? The universal spot for this on most people is just at the top of the knee.

3. Maybe you can go even shorter. If you’re still able to bring that short length higher, then go for it. Mid-way down the thigh is super stylish and very much works. And hey, if you’ve got the legs and the confidence, then flaunt them like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not an age thing. It’s a leg and confidence thing.

4. Avoid the shorts as underpants look. I maybe showing my age here but I honestly struggle with this look even on 18-year-old models. I just want to run up and wrap them in a towel or something. As for the “scaping” needed when wearing so little down there? Well, it’s high maintenance. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

5. Opt for cuffing your coloured jeans or wearing slimline cropped pants.  If I cannot convince you to show a little leg, then these are you best options. They are more flattering than the 3/4 pant and like the styling we did for coloured jeans, slim or skinny styles are always best. It’s how you balance this out on top that will make this style work for you.

Summer shorts and pants styled 3 ways

How to wear long shorts

1. Virtu Sparta short $59.95 | 2. Samantha Wills ring $69 | 3. City Chic Crushed Brights top $69.95 | 4. Steve Madden wedges @ Style Tread $119.95 


How to wear short shorts

1. Lovisa necklace @ Style Tread $22.99 | 2. Witchery Sateen Shorty shorts $79.95 | 3. Tony Bianco heels @ The Iconic $149.95 | 4.  Seed Bubble Lurex tee $59.95


how to wear cropped pants

1. Country Road 5 Pocket Crop jean $79.95 | 2. Witchery scarf $19.95 | 3. sass & bide tee @ The Iconic $89 | 4. Walnut sandals @ Style Tread $59.95

Ok, now it’s over to you. Do you wear shorts? How do you style them up? 

Have you been looking for an alternative to 3/4 pants? Or perhaps you don’t very much like me right now for my thoughts on them? 😉

Comments 63

  1. Nikki what about big boobs? I’m not a fan of big flowing tops as they tend to make me look big upstairs. I’d like to step into shorts but concerned what to wear up top that won’t then emphasise my 12G girls…

    1. Hi Bel, yes you can do a flowy top but you need to make sure that the neckline is a v or a deep scoop – where a stretch cami underneath for shape and even choose a sheer fabric in the top so that we see that shape underneath.

  2. Well you’ve got me thinking Nikki….I am a 3/4 pant girl & sometimes I feel like my mother…depends on how you put it together. I am going to make a concerted effort to think outside the ‘3/4 pant square’ and look for a fresh alternative. I will need to shop my wardrobe though as I on a self imposed shopping ban for 2013 – 8 months down & 3 to go!! It is quite liberating really but I know I’ll be ditching the old & shopping for the new come January:-)

      1. Yes, I’m looking into that today. I sew, so that’s an advantage:-) I’m always happier in a 7/8 pant, so I guess I should have known all along…..Thanks Nikki.

  3. I will be rocking heels with shorts this summer. Wedge sandals as well as fancy pants high heels. I’ve found a couple of great shorts that are like skinny pants but just above the knee (perfect length for me) which I will wear with floaty tops, but I’d love a pair of cuffed paper bag waist with a bow tie belt that I can wear with fitted tops. Loads of them in the shops, but they’re all too short (and by short I mean WAYYYYYY too short) for me!

    I dream of the demise of the ubiquitous denim knickers!

  4. Trying to find denim shorts that don’t make me look like, to use the USA parlance, ‘a crack ho’ is difficult these days; So now, I just get my old jeans and cut them down to where I think my legs look ok and whack on the fake tan if needed on the my pins to cover the odd spider vein. Works for me!

  5. here’s how to wear 3/4’s … never have the length of the pants (or a skirt for that matter) stop at the middle of your calf muscle (ie, the widest part of your lower leg), it will visually cut your lower leg in half making you appear shorter. Instead find that half way point between your knee cap and your ankle bone and then halve that section again (hence the name 3/4) this will show the narrower part of your lower leg, creating an illusion of a slender leg and creating a vision length to get there. Please note that this does not apply to those of us with ‘cankles’ – sorry x Karen

  6. I can not stand the short, shorts that young girls are wearing. You can actually see the butt cheek hanging out the bottom. It’s not good. I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts. I have always avoided them. I do like those Virtu ones. They are a nice length. Rachel x

  7. oh my hat I am canning myself as am SO on your wavelength. I am always telling my clients to banish their 3/4 pants or at least cut them into shorts. they are THE MOST unflattering thing a girl can wear!! (never mind men who wear shorts to below the knee – ghastly!)

  8. I HAVE to have a pair of shorts. But, I work hard to get them just right. The last two summers I have scored me some really nice ones at Esprit. Not too long, not too short, tailored enough and …well… just – right.

    I wear mine really dressed down with birkenstocks and a cute T or dressed up with some cute sandals and a silk blouse I snaffled up at Country Road.

    I have moved away from the 3/4 in recent years. I think I have done them for too long…

    Great post. Love the stying. I shall ponder whether I can wear heels with my black shorts…

    1. Style it up B … if it’s a semi dressy occasion, you definitely could. My bloggie friend Beth, from Babymac did it in NYC and looked the bomb! And you’re right, work hard to find shorts that are right for you.

  9. Yes I agree, 3/4s are awful on me – I’m 5′ 2″ and used to cut my already short legs in half by wearing them for far too many years – I’d like to say it was my first mummy uniform but I know I was wearing them to work years before then – eek! Anyway, I replaced them all with skirts and a nice pair of ‘winter white’ Esprit shorts which finish at the knee – much better! Tanks are my tops of choice, tucked in or bunched up because many are too long for me – story of my life 😉

  10. I definitely wear shorts around the mid thigh, cuffed with an array of t’s or shirts. I’m 6ft tall but not model thin, hence I also agree with a perma-ban on the denim shorts (underwear) look ! I haven’t yet found a pair of 3/4 pants which don’t look mumsy on me. I shall continue on with this quest !

  11. Totally agree with you on 3/4 pants,so no disliking from me,I cannot see the need to wear them as most are unflattering and why wear them if you can get a nice pair of ankle lenghth pants that do the same job,they have the same coolness factor and I think they look better on anyway,I have a beautiful pair of Zara skinny white pants in a stretchy cotton mix and they are not as heavy as jeans but not see through and they fit beautifully,are a great cut and look nice and and go with all my tops.So win win for me.I don’t do shorts often as I dont like my scars on my legs.I do have 2 pairs of shorts both black one cotton home ones and one in silk ,that goes with a jacket ,but much prefer a dress I am dresses all the way ,they are cool comfy and lazy ,me to a T.
    Nikki need to tell you and all your stylers has 80% off at the moment so if you need/ want shoes go have a look,they have some great bargains I bought 2 pairs on a black lipstick wedge and a pair of black metallic sandals yesterday and they came to just over $30 so just saying, as you have a pair pictured in your style guide.I need to ask as well Nikki I have the silk shorts in black that come to just above my knee and a jacket that goes with them but I have never worn them out as I am a bit scared ,I know you need wedges or heels ,what’s your take on this look.I think I am maybe too old ?

  12. Fisherman’s pants, made in a lightweight cotton. Or just long pants made out of cotton. For some reason, my legs always get cold. Yes, I’m the woman wearing long jeans on a 35 degree day.

  13. I am a short person, so 3/4 pants end up being capri pants on me and I simply tapper them in just above the ankle and achieve a cute look with ballet flats. I think they look great but now mentally I am concerned because they originated as 3/4 pants on the rack – oh dear, I am in a quandary because I can’t wear shorts with nobly veins!

  14. I’ve just bought a new pair of shorts (and jeans because we’re heading to NZ on Thursday) and got slim fits, so yay, I got the right ones! I really didn’t know what I was doing. Haha.

    What do you think about the harem pants?

    1. so long as they’re not a drop crotch, fine! I’ve a pair of black baggies I adore – better with heels, but okay with flats. The top does need to be fitted though.

  15. I’ve bought 3/4 pants before, but I don’t have the longest legs in the world, so I ended up looking like I was wearing too short trousers! Short shorts work better for me and I like to team them with a heel or wedge.

  16. I agree Nikki I have nothing nice to say about 3/4 pants!
    I used to be a short short wearer ( back in the day) but as age, weight & veins have crept up on me I have embraced the knee/above knee shorts. I love to wear shorts with floaty tops in summer, especially denim shorts. I think it’s a cute look & was getting quite upset at not being able to find some nice maternity ones but Jeanswest came to the rescue!
    I do think though that as temp reaches silly heights dresses are your best friends, especially the maxi!

  17. I must go shopping for shorts. And will take my daughter with me to supervise. And this advice on board…

    I call them denim undies, and I want to go and wrap towel around them as well!!

  18. Hmm, I always wear capri pants. Do they fall into the evil 3/4 pant genre? I thought they looked quite flattering but maybe I am kidding myself????

      1. Oh good! They are my summer staple and I suddenly thought perhaps I have been walking around looking horrendous but no one has wanted to tell me. My knees are one of my worst features so I am a little scared of shorts.

          1. Phew, me too…I just bought a pair of slim line cropped pants in orange, thinking I was right on trend and being very adventurous. Hopefully I’ll be brave enough to wear them!!

  19. Living in Qld, shorts are essential summer wear. Though they can be tricky if you don’t put the effort in to find the right ones, like so many things. The right length is definitely key. I also like 7/8 pants more than 3/4 … But saying that 7/8 pants are generally ankle skimming on me as I am more on the shorter side of the scale.

  20. I think shorts are fine, on young people. I just don’t think they are flattering on women.
    3/4 pants are the work of the stumpifying devil.
    Skirts or linen pants are a much better alternative.
    I wonder about palazzo pants though? Do they work on mere mortals who are under 6 foot?

      1. Yes I did think it was down to the styling. I have a pair of Hasbeens I’ve been wearing in for summer glamming up.
        Quality fabric that is also conducive to summer weather? Suggestions?

  21. No, No shorts here! Due to Varicous vein issues. I am guilty as charged. Luckily I am on the tall side and can get away with the 3/4 length (well I am more a 7/8 girl) and try to get them close fitting these days. Somehow though cropped skinny jeans don’t look right on me either. I usually go for the bootcut on long pants, so that I can well, wear boots under them, a staple around here for paddock work. Summer in long pants in this neck of the woods is cruel, unless they are linen and wide. Shorts I just can’t do.

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