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What are the Best Women’s Lounge Shorts?

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Despite the partial (or complete in some cases!) return to the office, loungewear remains a big part of daily life, especially during off-duty hours. You can go long, in the form of sweatpants or track pants, but you can also go short, in the form of lounge shorts. If you’re looking for the latter, you have plenty of choices. Lounge shorts are a broad and all-encompassing category — there are gym shorts, pajama shorts, sweatshorts, and even sweatershorts — so to get the lay of the land, we asked women with excellent taste about their personal favorites. For some, the shorter the better, like the Patagonia Baggies in the 2.5-inch inseam. Longer, retro-looking styles like the sort you’d see on a basketball court or lacrosse field are also popular choices to wear at home and out and about. And for others, nothing beats a menswear-inspired pair of boxer shorts.

Best menswear-inspired style

Hommegirl menswear boxer styles are a favorite among the women who work in fashion. “When I’m at home, I’m usually in a pair, but I think they look cool enough to wear while running out to grab coffee,” says writer, editor, and brand consultant Aemilia Madden. 10 magazine editor-in-chief Dora Fung is also a fan. “I especially love the striped styles that look taken straight from the boys but interpreted in a feminine way,” she says. Madden wears her shorts with a white AMO tank top, while Fung likes to pair hers with vintage tennis sweaters she sources on eBay.

Best for travel

Summer Fridays founder Marianna Hewitt spends a lot of time traveling for work, and her go-to lounge shorts are a versatile white pair like these from Anemos. “I like to style them with a tank top or over a swimsuit, and I find they’re the perfect capsule-wardrobe item to pack for a trip since you can wear them to dinner as well,” she says. Made from linen and cupro, they’re lightweight and can be crumpled up into suitcases without excessive wrinkling.

Best sustainable option

Journalist and self-described “climate optimist” Sophia Li prefers brands that are gentle on the environment. New Zealand–based brand Maggie Marilyn is a favorite. “I love the sustainable elevated basics like these shorts,” she says. “They’re made with 100 percent linen, and the entire supply chain is transparent and traceable.” The length, which Li says covers enough without feeling like hot pants, makes them perfect for wearing over a swimsuit, out for the night with strappy sandals, or lying around the house.

Best sweatshorts

Another ethical brand worth noting is Ninety Percent, a favorite of T magazine market editor Angela Koh. “The brand’s name is derived from the founders’ vow to distribute 90 percent of its profits to the people who actually make the clothes happen and between five charities the buyer can choose from,” she says. Her favorite Lyla shorts are cut high on the leg, which Koh says makes them on the short side but perfect in the summer heat. “At home, I wear them with a bralette and then I toss on a graphic vintage T-shirt when I’m out walking my dog.”

Best-fitting shorts

Marie Claire editor-in-chief Nikki Ogunnaike is a big fan of the AYR shorts’ fit. They’re made with lightweight cotton, and she has found the thick waistband coupled with the flared leg offers the right combination to be equal parts flattering and comfortable. “I size up so they’re roomy around the thighs and sit low on my waist,” she advises, adding that they’re excellent to sleep or lounge in but also make for a good outfit when paired with the matching shirt.

Best gym-inspired lounge shorts

Stylist Mecca James-Williams’s go-to pair, whether she’s running errands, heading to the beach, or meeting friends for casual drinks, is by streetwear label Eric Emanuel. “They remind me of gym shorts, which is so nostalgic,” she says. “I typically buy them in bright colors and pair them with white tank tops or a colorful crop top.” The brand tends to sell out quickly, but there are quite a few pairs on StockX at the moment in an array of hues.

Best knit shorts

“Yan Yan, which means ‘everyone’ in Cantonese, is a Hong Kong–based brand that makes bold knitwear with eclectic designs, and I love how eye-catching it looks,” says Koh. These shorts are made of hand-knitted, Italian-spun cotton, and Koh says they’re another comfortable favorite for lying on her couch or when she’s on weekend getaways with friends: “They’re longer, offering more coverage, and I like them with either a matching blue top or a fun yellow one.”

Best size-inclusive brand

Ranging from size 00 to 40, these Universal Standard linen shorts are the preferred off-duty look for Lauren Chan, a model and founder of Henning, a size-inclusive workwear label. “My job requires me to be on set in complicated clothing, so when I’m home, I live in lounge shorts,” she says. “I’ve tried them all, from sweatshorts to bike shorts to boxers, but these look the most elevated. My favorite color is the tennis-ball hue — a real hit at the dog park!”

Best for petite women

Since I’m only five-foot-two, what may be too short for most people fits me perfectly, like this 2.5-inch-inseam style by Patagonia. Made from recycled nylon with a water-repellent finish, they’re lightweight, breathable, and versatile enough to wear on the couch, out running errands, or on hikes. I also love Patagonia’s return policy, which ensures that if they rip or snag, the company will either repair or replace them.

Best longer-inseam option

Are lacrosse shorts having a moment? Kat Typaldos, a stylist and founder of Marriage Skate Shop, and Michelle Li, a stylist and writer, both think so and are fans of Relax Lacrosse’s vintage-inspired styles. “I love mixing sporty and feminine in my everyday outfits,” Li says, noting that she sizes up for an oversize effect. Typaldos agrees: “I like mixing this athletic design with unexpected pieces like a classic oxford shirt and ballet flats or kitten heels and socks.”

Best cotton shorts

“These shorts and their matching button-down are my absolute favorites to throw on, whether I’m getting work done at home or running errands around town,” says writer and brand consultant Chrissy Rutherford. “It’s a soft cotton, the waistband is comfortable and doesn’t warp even after many washes, and it has pockets, which are essential in my opinion.” Since she spends half the year in London, where it’s rare to see anyone out in pajamalike clothing, Rutherford says this pair has the right balance of comfort and presentability.

Best retro-inspired lounge shorts

“I stole my boyfriend’s Bernard Gifford shorts, and I’ve been wearing them nonstop,” says Essence senior fashion editor Devine Blacksher. “For lounging or working from home, I add a white T-shirt and then I switch into a one-shoulder top and a kitten heel if I need to go out. The design feels like a look no matter what I wear them with.” The Black-owned, Brooklyn-based brand is known for its fun, retro-inspired designs made in small batches that tend to sell out fast. “Every pair tells a story, whether it’s about athletes or jazz music,” Blacksher says.

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What Are the Best Women’s Lounge Shorts?