Who wears short shorts? Not me.
April 22, 2009 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I don’t like wearing shorts. I also don't like being hot. Can you recommend your favorite, comfortable, somewhat flattering summer pants for women?

I’m forty pounds lighter than I was last summer, so I need some new clothes. I’m 5’9’’ and 140 pounds, but I have a long torso and short legs, which, while they have some definition to them, I can charitably describe as “sturdy” (that sounds so much better than “cankles”). I’ve also got a touch of the standard cellulite/varicose combo common to many women in their late 30s –not too much, but enough to make me unenthusiastic about displaying the back of my thighs.

I don’t feel comfortable in shorts that have less than an 11’’ inseam, but narrow bermudas make my legs look even stockier. I also dislike most Capri pants for much of the same reason. That mid-calf crop does me no favors.

But I spend much of my summer outdoors in Colorado weather (low humidity, but often in the 90s), and I’d like to be comfortable. I’ve been wearing men’s cargo shorts for the past few summers, but that’s not really the look I want anymore. Basically, I’d like to find some comfortable clothes that don’t reveal too much but don’t make me look dumpy.
posted by bibliowench to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Are dresses completely out of the question? For different reasons (of which I can't pinpoint) I purchase a lot of inexpensive sun dresses at Target and just wear those all summer in addition the the capris that you already mention.

It may help to know what summer activities you are partaking in to direct you to the type of clothes you should look in to.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:53 AM on April 22, 2009

They make capris that stop around the knee.

You can also look for seersucker and gauze type material. When you go shopping, pick up the clothes, feel them in your hand, gauge their weight. The lighter they are, the cooler they'll be. If you can, avoid "knit" clothes. They're more the thicker shirts you would wear in winter.
posted by royalsong at 8:56 AM on April 22, 2009

American Apparel offers nice casual knee-length knit skirts. Buy a size up.
posted by lakeroon at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Drawstring pants, in linen or silk pants? If you've got a Nordstrom (or Nordstrom Rack) near you, check out the Eileen Fisher stuff. A lot of it is matronly (if chic-matron), but some of it isn't and her summerweight fabrics are lovely.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2009

L.L. Bean and Orvis have washable linen pants. Talbots has washable linen crops with a wide bottom. Crops and capris don't do me any favors either, but their wide-bottoms are fine because they hang straight down. I wore them in Bermuda and here in DC last year and was very comfy. I wouldn't touch any other style crop or capri with a ten-foot pole.
posted by jgirl at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2009

Sounds like I'm built a lot like you. I shall watch this thread with interest. Couple of things:

-- Capris that stop around the knee (as royalsong indicates) are good. I'm playing around with whether or not cuffs at mid-calf are any good... sometimes I feel like they appear to minimize the circumference of my ankles/calves, and sometimes I feel like they make them look bigger. Haven't decided yet.
-- Skirts. I love my knee-length skirts. True, they're not really work-appropriate, but they're great for walking around. I never really wore skirts before this, so it was an adjustment, but now I'm perfectly happy with them.
-- I have noticed that my shoes make a big difference in how capris look on me. Ballet flats with a rounded toe make my otherwise long skinny feet look better, and just makes the whole leg/foot shape more flattering. Tennis shoes are right out. I haven't tried doing heels sandals with capris yet, but it makes all the models look great, so... has to work for me, right?
posted by olinerd at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Skirts. With guy's boxer briefs underneath them to eliminate that sticky feeling in the summer.

(Boy, does Mr. Llama hate that nod to hyper-functionality, but oh, well. After he's worn tights in the summer he can give me a hard time. )
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:03 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, just a clarification of not-work-appropriate skirts: skirts that are comfy in summer are floaty and pretty and I can't wear those to work and be taken seriously (bummer). Not to say that pencil skirts (which I also love) aren't work appropriate. They just suck for hot sweaty days.
posted by olinerd at 9:03 AM on April 22, 2009

I'm sorry, you really did ask for pants. My apologies for doing the metafilter thing where someone says, give me a recipe for scalloped potatoes and everyone goes: lightbulbs!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

Second the capris that end at the knee...they are slightly more flattering than the mid-calf variety.

Also, have you looked into hiking pants at all? I have a pair of REI hiking pants (similar) that I really like. They are mostly nylon and I find them breathable and comfortable. I wear them when traveling to warm places and have yet to find them to be too hot. There are a ton of different ones and you can easily find ones that are not zip-off (which I think are stupid, but YMMV.)
posted by cabingirl at 9:05 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It may help to know what summer activities you are partaking in to direct you to the type of clothes you should look in to.

Good point - mostly child wrangling and running errands outside, writing and cleaning inside. I have my summers off, so don't need any professional garb.
posted by bibliowench at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2009

I have the same 'leg issues' as you ('cankles' and veins) and spend the whole summer in wide leg linen pants. The 'wide leg' part is important - you'll feel hot otherwise. Plus, that's pretty stylish, if i dont say so myself, and that shape looks great on tall women. (I have black, brown, and white, they are 'cool', temperature-wise, and there is nothing they won't match!)
posted by Kololo at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2009

Skorts. No, really. Hear me out. Most skorts these days aren't the dorky shorts-with-a-wrap that moms wear, but cute skirts with hidden shorts underneath, so you look like you're wearing a skirt but you can still run around and climb things.

Title Nine has a good skort selection, and I've seen decent skorts at REI too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2009

Skirts, definitely, and what about gauchos? I've pretty much lived in those for two summers.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I like the Old Navy perfect khakis. They sort of have a jean-like fit (in the waist, seat, and rise) which I like, and they are lightweight.

But I recently found some long shorts, and I've been wearing shorts for the first time in about 6 years. I love these J. Crew bermudas. Fortunately I was able to find them at the outlet for much cheaper, but now that I'm in love with them, I would pay more.
posted by peep at 9:26 AM on April 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Linen, definitetly.. I got a great pair from banana republic last year and wore them constantly. Not the exact same style, Here's a cute pair.
posted by delladlux at 9:27 AM on April 22, 2009

nthing sundresses and gauchos. I have a similar body type and I just stocked up on them for the summer.
posted by easy_being_green at 9:28 AM on April 22, 2009

My mom has almost the exact same build as you (lives in CO, too!), and she looks fabulous in the right cut of capri pants. There's a huge difference between baggy capris that end somewhere mid-calf and more fitted capris (not tight, but fitted like a good pair of jeans) that end right below the knee. I'm thinking something like this Anthropologie pant or this pair of capris from REI. (I have the latter pair and LOVE THEM, although my legs are pretty long so they might fit differently on you.) Unfortunately, it's just one of those things where you need to try on a bunch of pairs to find something that fits right. Do you shop in the petite section? Even though you're tall, you probably will have better luck searching for capri pants that hit in the right place in the petite section if your legs are shorter, your height notwithstanding.

In general, it's my opinion that anything too floaty or baggy is just going to reinforce your sense of "stumpiness" while more fitted pants (in a lighter fabric to deal with the warm weather) are going to look much better, as well as be easier to move around in. I think people gravitate towards hiding body parts they don't like in a lot of fabric, but this often has the opposite effect, plus you just *feel* hot in all that fabric. Linen is the one exception to the "lots of floaty fabric" looking okay rule, but in my experience it wrinkles really quickly, then I'm back to feeling rumpled and unkempt. Your humidity may vary, though.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ah, found a picture! I'm thinking of capris that basically fit like this in terms of length.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:33 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

You usually want the capris at the narrowest part of your leg. Usually that's the bit *just* below your knee and kind of on top of the calf. If it hits the widest part (calf or thigh) then it just makes your legs look stockier. This is the same trick that people use when fitting skirts too.
posted by barnone at 10:07 AM on April 22, 2009

I'm taller than you, and I also hate wearing shorts. I live in flared capris such as this during the hot summer. A flared leg is ankle-slimming, and pants like this can be dressed up with high heeled sandals (if that's your thing) or dressed down with flat sandals or sneakers.
posted by applemeat at 10:12 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lands' End has some casual crops and capris that might work for you. I like their Sport Knit Crops - super comfy and great for casual wear in the summer. They also come in capri length. Wear with some Fit Flops which will give you a bit of leg lengthening.
posted by socrateaser at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2009

Walking shorts.

More walking shorts.

I swear by them.
posted by tzikeh at 10:24 AM on April 22, 2009

I also distrust shorts. I like my capris hit mid-calf, with a 4-inch cuff. The cuff in that pic is in a contrasting fabric, but I'm not into that- I just chose the pic to clearly illustrate the cuff size.

This type of cuff is wider than the widest part of your calf. It makes your ankle and knee look slim by comparison, so your leg has a shapely curve to it- to me, the "problem" with sturdy legs is just when they look straight-sided, like candles. No matter how sturdy the leg is, if it has curve, it will look sexy. So you want your calf to look rounded and larger than knee and ankle. So see how, in those cropped capris, see how the cuff visually helps her calf muscle to gently flare out, then it naturally narrows again at the ankle, and how nice that looks? Pair these with wedge sandals (no ankle strap) that show a little toe-cleavage, maybe like these Fly wedges, and you're good to go.

To find this length of cuffed capri in a perfect fit, I suggest you buy a few pairs of inexpensive pants that fit you well in the hips & waist and are slim-fitted all the way down. It's ok if they're a little narrower than you usually wear, because the ankles will be cut off and cuffed, which will add flare to balance your thighs and calves. Just go to a tailors' and get them hemmed. Should only add about $12 to the price of the pants.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I hate both shorts and skirts so I buy loose trousers in light colours (black attracts heat!) and thin, natural materials, preferbly linen-cotton blends. I test that they billow a bit both around the leg and thigh to get get some air circulation.

I have found that the cheap linen trousers are better than expensive ones since the material is thinner, I buy mine at H&M, and they cost me about 200 NOK (30$), and they are decent enough to use at work. Sadly since the material is thinner they usually don't last more than one or two seasons before they are totally rubbed to shreds between the thighs.

Actually I have found that airy long trousers aren't particularly hotter than shorts of capris since you get circulations around your legs anyway.
posted by mummimamma at 11:27 AM on April 22, 2009

As someone with the cankles, i have to say: Capris make them look way worse. They show off the ankle/lower calf part of your leg only, and if that is a part you hate, you don't really want that to be showcased.

Long, airy, wide leg pants. Preferably linen. Really!
posted by Kololo at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2009

Luvees panty coveralls were what made it possible for me to wear skirts. I know, you asked for scalloped potatoes and I'm giving you lightbulbs... Sorry. Seconding gauchos. I think they look a lot better than capris.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:52 PM on April 22, 2009

In a similar quest, I've been looking at these linen pants on sale at Victoria's Secret (of all places) for $29.50. The fit looks a bit loose, and they only come in shades of pink, gray, and brown, but they're tempting. I'm a little reluctant, though, to test the non-bra waters of VS, as I'm not sure what the quality is like.
posted by SmazenySyr at 9:31 PM on April 22, 2009

Love the wide legged linen pant - many options above. Old Navy has them in funky colors
posted by darsh at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2009

I got a pair of VS pants (really cheap at Goodwill) and they're fantastic. I'm looking at their pants online now, was just too spoiled by price before!
posted by Salamandrous at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2009

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