If you’re part of the short squad, you’re fully aware how hard it is finding the right pair of jeans. And now that we’re barreling toward summer, you probably feel the same frustration while shopping for shorts. While we don’t have to worry about excessive fabric and jagged hems, there are still a few things we need to keep in mind when buying shorts. So, to prepare for summer, we tapped fashion stylist Liz Teich to help us find the best summer shorts if you’re under 5’3.
The 15 Best Summer Shorts to Buy If You're Under 5'3
Meet the Expert
Liz Teich is a fashion stylist and lifestyle blogger behind The New York Stylist. She has over a decade of experience in fashion and home goods, and has worked with brands and retailers like Marshalls, Peloton and Rent The Runway. Teich is also an on-air style expert who’s worked on campaigns for White House Black Market and Fox5 New York.
What’s the Biggest Challenge in Finding Summer Shorts for Petite Women?
When it comes to shopping for shorts, petite women often get the short end of the stick (literally). “Often, petite women aren't the size of the clothing racks, so they have to turn to a tailor to make things work,” says Teich. “They may find the perfect short that fits in the hips, but would need to ask to have darts put in the waist. Or if shorts are pre-cuffed, they have to ask a tailor to remove the stitches or even if they're too long, they have to get them hemmed.” Bottom line: We shorties are left having to spend more money and time trying to make a pair of shorts work for our height.
What to Look for in Summer Shorts If You’re Under 5’3
Fortunately, there are key features we can look out for when shopping for summer shorts without needing help from a tailor. You’ll want to:
- Check out specific sihouettes. There are plenty of styles that work well for petite women. Teich prefers high-waist shorts as they “create the illusion of a longer torso and legs.” Other options include mom jeans, tailored shorts and short shorts that are all flattering and comfortable for all body types.
- Look for specific hem finishes. For us shorties, length and hem go hand in hand. Avoid cuffed hems and instead opt for distressed or traditional hems that flatter your height. “Cuffs will break up your proportions instead of giving you the illusion of a longer stature,” explains Teich. “It’s better to hem the shorts or keep them longer (but not too long).”
- Grab shorts with a shorter inseam. “While longer shorts are in style this season, look for a shorter inseam that will make your legs appear longer,” she says. The sweet spot is a three- to four-inch inseam, but you can get away with going higher (up to six inches) rather than shorter. As Teich explains, “Shorter inseams will not look polished, while anything longer than six inches (like Bermuda shorts) is not an ideal proportion for petite women.”
Wait, How Can I Measure an Inseam at Home?
If you’re curious to see what’s the best inseam size for you, take a second to measure yourself or any shorts you have in your closet. Note: If you don’t have a measuring tape lying around, Teich suggests using a piece of string to get the job done. Just measure from the center of the crotch down to the inside of the leg to find the exact inseam. Now that you’re all caught up, ahead you’ll find 15 of the best summer shorts if you’re under 5’3.
The Best Summer Shorts If You’re Under 5’3 at a Glance
- Great Color Selection: Skies Are Blue Neon Structured Shorts
- Best Vintage Shorts: AGOLDE Parker Vintage Shorts
- Best Pleated Shorts: J.Crew High-Rise Pleated Shorts
- Trendiest White Shorts: Spanx On-the-Go Shorts
- Great Lightweight Material: Quince 100% European Linen Shorts
- Best Denim Shorts: Frame Le Bardot Denim Shorts
- Great for Active Days: Old Navy Cloud 94 Sweat Shorts
- Best Mom Jeans: ASOS Design Petite Slouchy Mom Shorts
- Flattering for Wide Hips: Everlane The Easy Short
- Flattering Longer Option: Maeve Avery Pleated Shorts
- Great for Casual Days: Skim Cotton Rib Boxer
- Best Khaki Shorts: Gap Downtown Khaki Shorts
- Best Cargo Shorts: Style & Co Cargo Shorts
- Best Knit Shorts: Karen Scott Knit Shorts
- Flattering for All Body Types: UNIONBAY Delaney Shorts
How We Chose the Best Summer Shorts If You’re Under 5’3
First, we used our expert’s guidance to look for specific shorts like high-waist designs, traditional hem finishes and three- to six-inch inseam ranges. From there, we were able to look for brands suitable for petite women like Gap, Everlane and Macy’s, and scrolled through the reviews to hear from actual shorties. And of course, we asked our fellow PureWow petites that know a thing or two about the best summer shorts to check out.
Great Color Selection
1. Skies Are Blue Neon Structured Shorts
- Why We Love It: eight colors, hip pockets, elastic waistband
- Inseam: N/A
- Size Range: XXS to XXL
- Promising Review: “I have these in neon pink and I love the pop of color and the fit—they're not too long and not too short and don't wrinkle easily.” — Nicole Briese, 5'2", commerce director at PureWow
Whether you’re eyeing a neon hue or a neutral tone, these pull-on shorts are a great addition for the warmer months. They’re crafted in 100 percent polyester that’s comfortable and flattering for shorties, and they also come with two front pockets and an elastic waistband for a relaxed fit.
Best Vintage Shorts
2. AGOLDE Parker Vintage Shorts
- Why We Love It: raw hem, five pockets, 100 percent cotton
- Inseam: 4.25 inches
- Size Range: 23 to 34
- Promising Review: “Last summer, I basically lived in one pair of shorts the entire season and it was these denim cutoffs from Agolde. I like that they're longer than the usual negative-two-inch inseam but also not so long that they cut me off at a weird point on my thighs.” — Katherine Gillen, 5'2", food editor at PureWow
If you’re searching for distressed shorts, look no further than this pair by AGOLDE. The raw hem and faded denim material offer a vintage feel that pairs well with a graphic tee or a flowy button-down blouse. Made of 100 percent cotton, this pair gets a stamp of approval from the petite crowd, but Gillen does note that they run big, so you might want to size down for a better fit.
Best Pleated Shorts
3. J.Crew High-Rise Pleated Shorts
- Why We Love It: three colors, high-rise, 98 percent cotton material
- Inseam: 4 inches
- Size Range: 00 to 24
- Promising Review: “They are high-waist, so they lengthen the appearance of the leg, and also the 4-inch inseam is modest, but not so long that it’s a Bermuda short (which is a style that makes me look really stubby). I appreciate the lightweight stretch fabric because when I’m stuck in traffic, they won’t leave a mark from binding into my legs like some non-stretch or heavier shorts like denim do.” — Dana Dickey, 5'3", senior editor at PureWow
For folks looking for a non-denim option, these chino shorts will definitely be a hit for the season. They’re crafted with lightweight fabric (98 percent cotton and two percent elastane) that offers flexibility for any summer activity, plus, the pleated design and high-rise silhouette is both flattering and chic for a day in the sun.
Trendiest White Shorts
- Why We Love It: opaque fabric, stretchy cotton material, pull-on shorts
- Inseam: six inches
- Size Range: XS to 3X
- Promising Review: “I popped them on after not wearing shorts for, no joke,15+ years and was delighted by what I saw in the mirror. The opacity changed everything. I also love the length (FYI, the shorts are available in short and tall) and the fact that they don’t have side pockets (only pockets in the back), helped minimize my hips.” — Rachel Bowie, 5'2", senior director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow
Let’s be honest, the biggest struggle when it comes to rocking white shorts is, well, finding a pair that doesn’t let the world see your underwear. Well, these bad boys by Spanx have your butt covered—literally. They’re designed with the brand’s patent pending technology that offers 100 percent opacity, so you can wear the brightest pair of boy briefs without any worries. Aside from the no-show feature, the stretchy cotton material lets you slip them on sans buttons or pesky seam lines. If you need further proof that this pair is the real deal, it made one editor change her mind about wearing shorts after 15 years.
Great Lightweight Material
5. Quince 100% European Linen Shorts
- Why We Love It: seven colors, linen material, elastic waistband
- Inseam: 3.25 inches
- Size Range: XS to XL
- Promising Review: “They're lightweight for super-hot days and also a perfect length that doesn't feel too long on my short legs but keeps me covered.” — Natalie LaBarbera, 5'2", assistant commerce editor at PureWow
The hottest days need lightweight material that won’t make you sweaty or overheated. Made of 100 percent European flax linen, reviewers say these linen shorts are breathable and comfortable to wear all day. They also come with deep side pockets and an elastic waistband that cinches your middle but still feels relaxed.
Best Denim Shorts
6. Frame Le Bardot Denim Shorts
- Why We Love It: high-rise, cotton material, patch pockets
- Inseam: N/A
- Size Range: 23 to 32
- Promising Review: “I just got these shorts and I love them. They’re so comfortable and the front pockets make them different from your typical denim shorts. They’re also the perfect length and have enough room in the thighs area.” — Kelsey Lundy, 4'11", brands partnership director at Gallery Media Group
When it comes to these denim shorts, it’s hard to pinpoint the best feature, which is why they’re on our list. For one, the patch pockets make them super stylish and practical without looking or feeling bulky on a shorter frame. Plus, the high-rise design and blend of cotton, lyocell and elastane offers a straight fit.
Great for Active Days
7. Old Navy Cloud 94 Sweat Shorts
- Why We Love It: four colors, high-rise waistband, moisture-wicking material
- Inseam: four inches
- Size Range: XS to XL
- Promising Review: “These shorts are super soft and comfortable. The generous four-inch inseam allows for more curvaceous figures to wear shorts without showing all their assets. Even with the longer inseam they do not look boxy on a shorter person.” — an Old Navy reviewer
Whether you’re doing a morning stretch or lounging on the couch watching Queen Charlotte, you’ll look and feel great in these shorts. Shoppers can’t stop talking about the soft material, which is made of recycled polyester and spandex, that’s cozy, stretchy and quick-drying for any activity. The sweat shorts also have small slits at the leg openings for flexibility and a flat-lock seam to prevent chafing.
Best Mom Jeans
8. ASOS Design Petite Slouchy Mom Shorts
- Why We Love It: high-rise, cuffed hems, side pockets
- Inseam: N/A
- Size Range: 00 to 12
- Promising Review: “It fits so well and is super comfy! I would 100 percent recommend [them] for summer.” — an ASOS Reviewer
Per Teich, mom jeans are a great option for petite women and this pair should be on your radar. Made of 100 percent cotton, the khaki material delivers on leg room, functional pockets and an overall relaxed fit. However, shoppers say they run a bit small, so consider sizing up.
Flattering for Wide Hips
- Why We Love It: seven colors, cotton material, elastic waistband
- Inseam: five inches
- Size Range: XXS to XL
- Promising Review: “If Everlane ever stops making the Easy Short, I may just cry. I have an hourglass shape with large thighs and rear and somehow these fit me perfectly. Usually, shorts are far too tight on my hips but these are perfect. I have them in a few colors and they are my go-to shorts.” — an Everlane reviewer
With over 150 five-star reviews, this $50 pair is a fan favorite on Everlane. Known as “The Easy Short,” reviewers say this pair is soft, breathable and easy to dress up or down depending on the occasion. The shorts feature a cotton and elastane blend, an elastic waistband and stretchy leg openings, all of which are great for curvier shapes.
Flattering Longer Option
10. Maeve Avery Pleated Shorts
- Why We Love It: four colors, front slant pockets, machine washable
- Inseam: 7.75 inches
- Size Range: 00 to 16
- Promising Review: “The color, cut, length and structure on these shorts are beyond flattering. Not too much fabric, weight or detailing. Well-constructed so you can wear them in many different situations and feel polished but juiced up!” — Elle, an Anthropologie reviewer
Searching for summer shorts that are work-appropriate? This pleated number should be right up your alley. As some petite reviewers claim, the length and structure don’t make you look frumpy or shorter. Plus, the relaxed silhouette is chic and stylish for a day in the office and then a happy hour with friends after work.
Great for Casual Days
- Why We Love It: ten shades, stretchy cotton material, soft elastic waistband
- Inseam: N/A
- Size Range: XXS to 4X
- Promising Review: “I loved these boxers! They are so comfortable and stretchy and hug all the right curves.” — Whitney, a SKIMS reviewer
We’ve tried our fair share of SKIMS products, but lately reviewers are turning to these cotton rib boxers as a top pick. They’re made of cotton rib jersey and spandex, so expect soft and stretchy material that you can lounge in all summer. They also have a soft elastic waistband and are long enough to cover the upper leg without being too showy. And if you’re wondering if they’re actually good for petites, Kim K is about 5’2", so you’re in good hands.
Best Khaki Shorts
- Why We Love It: four shades, stretchy cotton material, front and back pockets
- Inseam: four inches
- Size Range: 00 to 20
- Promising Review: “They fit perfectly; no gap in the back, crotch isn't forever long, great length, comfy material. Love them!” — a Gap reviewer
A rooftop brunch calls for a nice pair of khaki shorts. This pick from Gap delivers on comfort and style fit for petite women. They’re made of stretchy cotton and have four pockets to store all your necessities. Tip: The waistband isn’t super stretchy, so reviewers say to size up for a looser look.
Best Cargo Shorts
- Why We Love It: seven colors, mid-rise, cotton material
- Inseam: six inches
- Size Range: 2P to 16P
- Promising Review: “I’m a 5’1, curvy 8-10 figure, so these shorts are perfect, not too short, [made of] comfortable cotton and they look great with everything. The material is not cheap, so they will last through two to three summers.” — MJ, a Macy’s reviewer
From morning hikes to fun family BBQs, these cargo shorts are great for a day in the sun. Made of a cotton and spandex blend, shoppers note they have plenty of legroom and a cinched waistline for a snug fit. The only downside is that the pockets aren’t real, so don’t forget to add a small bag (or fanny pack) to your getup.
Best Knit Shorts
- Why We Love It: seven colors, pull-on style, side pockets
- Inseam: six inches
- Size Range: PP to P/XL
- Promising Review: “These shorts are actually built well, and the fabric is soft without being clingy. Love the pockets!” — Janet, a Macy’s reviewer
Look, denim shorts are fine, but there’s something about knit shorts that screams summer. This Karen Scott find offers a relaxed fit whether you’re by the pool or heading to a picnic day at the park. These shorts are crafted with cotton and spandex that’s roomy and breathable for the warm weather.
Flattering for All Body Types
- Why We Love It: 15 colors, stretchy cotton material, low rise
- Inseam: 3.5 inches
- Size Range: 0 to 17
- Promising Review: “These shorts are the perfect length (I'm 5'2"—longer shorts look weird on me) and fit me perfectly. I have just a bit of extra lower belly, and this has just the right amount of stretch to allow room without being too loose and too tight. Quality is great, and these can easily be dressed up with a nicer top, or super casual with a tee or tank.” — Rachel, an Amazon reviewer
If you stay away from low-rise clothing, let these shorts (and the 5,900 five star reviews) convince you otherwise. They’re made of 96 percent cotton and four percent spandex that’s stretchy, comfortable and flattering to all body types. The 3.5-inch inseam allows for shorter heights to wear these bad boys without looking bulky.
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Why You Should Trust Us
Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet for the latest beauty trends (and testing the coolest products out herself), informing you on ways to be a better ally and offering a native New Yorker perspective on what to do in the Big Apple. When she's not writing, she's spearheading PureWow Cultures that focuses on uplifting and highlighting the BIPOC community.
PureWow is the best friend you never had when it comes to finding the best, most useful lifestyle products online. Founded in 2010, our company’s editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which ones are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series, which sees each and every item we test being ranked on a 100-point scale of awesomeness, to the painstakingly curated lists our fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family editors create as vertical experts, you can trust that our recommendations include some of the greatest items you’ll find on the internet. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.