Shorts season can be stressful. Finding a pair that will keep you cool, won’t ride up (or down), and will protect you from the dreaded fiery thigh chafe — all while still looking stylish — is no easy task. “For as long as I can remember, shorts seemed as though they were not made for plus-size women,” says style expert and model Sharonda Grandberry. “Finding the right pair of shorts has been a journey.” To help you find your new favorite pair (and fast, since the days are only getting hotter), we spoke to Grandberry and 11 other stylish women about the best plus-size shorts, including denim cutoffs, stretchy cotton utility options, and breezy, high-waisted linen in a range of sizes from XL to 15XL.
Best under-$50 plus-size shorts for women
According to model Priscilla Del Castillo, “from the prices to the quality to the size range, you really can’t go wrong with Target.” She especially loves these belted shorts that go up to size 18 and have a Gwyneth Paltrow–in–The Talented Mr. Ripley feel. They also come in four other colors.
Arianne Thigpen, a fashion blogger and co-founder of the Austin-based community Curvy in Austin, has been eyeing this Ava & Viv striped pair at Target because “they can be easily dressed up or down as needed.” They also go up to a 4XL.
Writer Marie Southard Ospina told us she gets most of her shorts from ASOS Curve’s denim range because “they’re particularly sturdy and built to last.” You can also get a lot of styles in a high-waist fit, which she says she “absolutely adores as it pairs so well with crop tops in summer or cropped sweaters and wool tights in colder seasons.” You can often find fun prints, too — like these green gingham shorts she purchased earlier in the summer, which go up to size 22.
Grandberry told us she has tried shorts from expensive brands and her neighborhood Walmart alike. “I would get so annoyed by shorts not fitting in the right places or not having the right amount of style,” she says, until she finally found Fashion to Figure, which carries options up to size 24. Grandberry says she loves everything from the company’s high-rise denim to its non-denim options, like these utility cutoffs.
When these cotton Madewell shorts were recently featured as our Deal of the Day, two Strategist writers (including the writer of this story) snatched up a pair. The extra-large fits up to a size 16 but has a touch of stretch and an elastic waistband to offer extra room. As a bonus, they’re even cheaper now than they were then.
“Even though I’m not a mom, I love rocking the high-waist mom-jeans look, so a short in that same fit is my go-to for the hotter weather,” says Samantha O’Brochta, a travel blogger and digital strategist. The blue acid wash is a “great shade for summer,” she adds, and the shorts go up to size 28. “The best part? They’re long enough in the inner-thigh area to avoid painful chafing.”
Sarah Chiwaya, a plus-size-brand consultant and the founder of Curvily, calls this pair of denim shorts from Royalty for Me her “cutoffs holy grail.” While she says she has tried plenty of different styles, “nothing holds a candle to these.” She notes that they are a “true short short” but that the slightly high-low hemline offers enough coverage, so you don’t have to worry. “They are so good that they’re the only pair of cutoffs I’ve packed on any trip in the last couple of years.” They work just as well dressed up with strappy sandals and a bodysuit as they do thrown over a swimsuit, she says. The shorts are available in both light-wash denim and white and go up to size 24.
Del Castillo told us that Forever 21 is one of her top “go-to” destinations for denim shorts because “they have so many cute options” that go up to a 3XL.
Photographer and style expert Marielle Elizabeth told us “the return of high-waisted bike shorts has been game-changing for thigh chafing,” especially since walking dates have become the best (socially distanced) way to catch up with friends. Elizabeth recommends this pair of Girlfriend Collective bike shorts in the brand’s recently released lightweight, quick-drying “float” fabric. Like all of its clothes, these are available up to size 6XL. As we’ve noted before, Girlfriend Collective is a slow-fashion company, so its clothing is produced in smaller quantities to avoid overproduction and waste. This super-popular style got snatched up in many sizes after it dropped, so we suggest joining the waiting list for the restock. According to Elizabeth, these shorts are worth the wait. “The high waist means I never need to pull them up, and the length is perfect for under tunics or paired with loose tank tops,” she says, adding that, while they are cute on their own, they “work double duty as thigh-chafing protection under dresses on those hot, sticky summer days.”
“I love the Lane Bryant cargo Bermuda shorts because they are comfortable and easy to dress up or down,” says lifestyle and fashion blogger Ashley Carter, who owns two pairs. The shorts are available from sizes 14 to 28. Carter has worn them with a T-shirt and Doc Martens sandals but notes that you could also pair them with a flowy top and heeled sandals. She says the shorts’ fun details, including the wide belt, “elevate them above the average Bermuda short.”
“In my eight years of working in fashion journalism, I’ve never come across a brand with such an inclusive size range, from XXS to 15XL,” says Ospina. “Designer Mallorie Dunn creates pieces with the perfect amount of retro nods while still feeling completely contemporary — like the Gloria high-waist shorts, which come in a whole selection of adorable patterns,” including gingham, polka dots, and stripes. Plus, Smart Glamour offers the option to customize the rise, inseam, waist-to-hip ratio, and waistband height for a small added fee ranging from $5 to $20.
Best under-$100 plus-size shorts for women
If you’re on the hunt for a bike short with a smaller inseam (or a snazzier print), dancer Jessie Diaz-Herrera says she “ loves, loves, loves” the DayWon active-shorts collection because it offers two inseam lengths — five and seven inches (both of which are shorter than Girlfriend Collective’s 8.5-inch inseam). Plus, the patterns are cool-looking enough to be “worn with just a tee for a casual look.” They are available up to size 32.