Style Panel: Proving that women with every body type can wear shorts (and how!)

Love ’em or hate ’em, shorts–the poster item for summer–are here to stay, at least through the next three months. While some of avoid these thigh-flaunting guys at all costs, others have succeeded to find a pair that flatter whatever assets they may have. By others, of course, we’re talking about the ladies of Style Panel, which now includes Edmonton’s Kassandra Camponi and Fredericton’s Kristin MacDonald. So without further ado…

Question 4: Can all body types wear shorts? If so, how? Read the answers now! »


Got a question for the gals? Send ‘em through to [email protected] and watch as your most irritating styling problems are solved.

Niki Blasina, 26
Vancouver | A Haute Mess

I’m a huge advocate of shorts-wearing, and so I have to answer this with an enthusiastic “yes!” followed by the obligatory “but…” because I truly do think shorts are a wonderful option for both day and night. In fact, shorts are my favourite, though it’s really important to make sure you find a fit that works in your favour. “Duh!” says you, and I know it’s cliche to say that fit is important, but I think it’s especially important when it comes to wearing shorts. Sometimes you need to find a specific cut, rise, length, or size up, to ensure that you are making them work best for you.

Regarding me, and my body type, I’m tall, but short-torsoed—all arms and legs, with a big ol’ butt. So yeah, I’m built like a spider—an unfortunate but true simile. Many people give us tall girls grief because we “gain weight less obviously” (this is false) and “clothes look better on tall people” (yeah, Gisele, and uh, she’s kind of an anomaly). I’m sure this is usually a case of the grass being greener on the other side, but tallness should never be envied until you’ve tried buying a pair of shorts as a tall person… or tried dating as a tall girl with an affinity for high heels, but I digress.

It is so easy for tall women to look vulgar in shorts, especially if we’re all butt and legs, because shorts in stores now are definitely not made for non-exhibitionists over 5’8″ and fit more like underwear. Why did Dolce & Gabbana have to be so cheeky (pun intended) and make hot pants happen? Nevertheless, it’s still possible for us to wear shorts, and present ourselves well, as long as the length and size of them is appropriate, and the simplest way to avoid tightness and shortness is to size up. I usually purchase shorts at least one size bigger than my actual size, and have my tailor take them in at the waist if need be.

In terms of styling, my favourite way to wear shorts is to dress them up for a night out: add a matching blazer and throw on a pair of heels. It’s a great way to show some skin and avoid showing too much, while keeping the aforementioned legs and booty in check.

Photography by Paul Hillier

If I had to describe my daily uniform, it would revolve around one staple item: shorts. No matter what the season, I usually gravitate towards a pair of high-waisted shorts for any occasion. Something about them speaks to me. Maybe it’s the boyish effortlessness of wearing a pair of jean cut offs, or the way the shape is feminine without being overtly sexy, but shorts are my sartorial soul mate.

I think shorts can be flattering on everyone, it’s just about finding the shape and cut for your bod. As a slightly curvy lady, I like to accentuate my waist in mostly every outfit. I usually tend towards high-waisted everything, in order to create an hourglass silhouette without going overboard (no bandage dresses, please). In terms of length, I usually go reeeeal short (I’ve been known to boast some under-butt in my day), but it’s all about time and place. No booty shorts in the office place, and no need to wear bermuda shorts to a sweaty summer bash. Do show off your gams if you so desire.

One of my favourite staples is a good pair of leather shorts. These ones were actually vintage leather pants that I picked up at a thrift store, cut and hemmed. I wear them with everything; they’re the perfect versatile piece for basically any occasion. I like to pair structured leather with something more airy and feminine, such as a sheer lace blouse. I added some utilitarian pieces like this army vest and studded bag to create a daytime vibe, but come nighttime, the leather/lace combo is a godsend.

Wearing: Vest and blouse, Zara. Shorts, vintage. Heels, Dolce Vita. Bag, Alexander Wang.

Kristin MacDonald, 27
Fredericton | Doll Parade

I have to admit it: I had an absolute aversion to wearing shorts for the majority of my younger years, and it was only very recently that I came to embrace them and incorporate a handful or two into my repertoire. Coming to realize that they marry the pant and the skirt (which I have embraced in full form for as long as I can remember), I decided to throw my reservations out the window and find shorts that I fancied. My body type is extremely petite, but beyond that, it’s pale: wildly & starkly pale. With all this accounted for, well-fitting white has become a go-to in the shorts department, as it can create an instant glow on the absolute fairest of skin. Throw on some classy pumps to offset your look and compliment with an elongating high-neck blouse, and you’ve successfully created yourself some legs for days (or maybe hours, in my case). So all of this said, shorts can absolutely suit anybody, as long as they are willing to suit them back.

Vickie Laliotis, 28
Edmonton | Adventures in Fashion

The prospect of wearing shorts can be a scary one, especially for those who are a little self-conscious about baring their legs to the world (present company included). But sometimes heat dictates hemlines, and shorts become a necessary evil… Am I right? So instead of recoiling at the idea of showing off those legs, get excited about all the different styles and silhouettes on the market today. If you’re petite, hike up that hemline to create the illusion of longer legs. If you’re not stick thin, opt for something a little longer or higher-waisted to create a slimmer appearance. Either way you slice it, there’s something for everyone out there, so put your best leg forward!

Vickie’s wearing: Crop top, thrifted. Shorts, H&M. Wedges, Spring. Clutch, American Apparel. Necklaces, Forever 21 and Loft 82. Watch, Michael Kors. Bracelets, vintage and House of Harlow. Cross ring, Forever 21.

Photography by Janick Laurent

Gracie Carroll, 24
Toronto | Gracie Carroll

Shorts are a tricky summer essential that can look oh so cute, or oh so wrong, so very easily. The secret to wearing shorts successfully? Dress for your body type. There’s nothing worse than seeing a pair of shorts worn way too tight, revealing far too much in all the wrong places. My favourite way to wear shorts is by channeling my inner pin-up. It just so happens that one of the only plus sides to having a shorter torso is that the short-hem/high-waist combo really suits me. These shorts by Antipodium that I purchased at Liberty in London are my favourite pair because they nip me in at the waist perfectly, and seem to go with everything I own. They are also loose around the legs, which I find to be far more flattering in all “short” cases.

Gracie’s wearing: Silk jacket, Yohji Yamamoto at Fashionably Yours. Crochet top, Alternative Apparel at Shoppalu. Shorts, Antipodium at Liberty London. Shoes, Joie at Winners. Sunglasses, Luella.

Alex Grant, 25
Toronto via Vancouver | To Vogue or Bust

Having an hourglass body definitely has its advantages. If it’s in the right dress, skirt or bathing suit, it’s easy to feel grateful for your curvy body. But try putting on shorts, even shorts that are high-waisted and should be highlighting your waist, and usually, frustration is on the horizon.

The problem with shopping for a pair of shorts that will flatter small waists and wider hips is that most retailers don’t take into account the more extreme proportions of an hourglass body. To be perfectly honest, given many retailers’ demographics, it’s not hard to see why making “hourglass-friendly” bottoms isn’t on the top of their priority list (which is why vintage is always a good place to start).

The best piece of advice I can give is this: if you’re going for a casual look, then find a pair of jeans that already happen to fit your body’s unique proportions well, and then cut off the legs. The best way to get a pair of perfectly fitted cut-offs is to do exactly that: cut off your own. Most of the cut-offs that are being sold nowadays are (again) created with a less curvaceous body in mind. You may lose a pair of jeans but trust me, I’ve worn my DIY cut-offs pictured above for five years now, and have never found a pair on the market that’s even come close to fitting me so well.

And while I’ve yet to find the perfect pair, I can attest to paperbag styles being particularly flattering options too if you want something a bit dressier. You can always opt for a size up to give your lower half breathing room – thanks to the tie front belt, you can cinch in the waist even if the cut is far too big around the waistline.

Alex’s wearing: Cape, MinkPink. Cut-offs, DIY. Tank and wedges, H&M. Bag, Rebecca Minkoff.

Mo Handahu, 29
Halifax | Curvy Geekery

Oh, most definitely! The challenge for me is in finding the right pair of shorts for my body. I pay more attention to how the shorts will fit my midsection; the bottom doesn’t matter as much because I can always shorten and/or taper the shorts if need be. I love wearing shorts with tights because it gives me a fluid silhouette. I’m 5’11” with longish legs, and I welcome any opportunity to elongate them even more. Wearing heels with shorts certainly does the trick. A bright blazer is one of my staples, so it’s natural for me to throw that on top of a pair of shorts and an airy top and I’m out the door.

Mo’s wearing: Shorts, blazer, bag, earrings and belt; thrifted. Top, Jules + James. Shoes, Torrid.

Kassandra Camponi, 26
Edmonton | Kastles

Being a bit vertically challenged, I like to opt for shorts that are on the shorter side. And by shorter shorts, I don’t mean booty shorts.  By choosing a shorter style it gives the illusion that my legs are longer than they actually are. To add a bit more to my height, I like to throw on a pair of heels. While you’re at it, why not pick a pair in a fun colour? After all, it’s summer, and you should celebrate with a bit of colour!

Kassandra’s wearing: Top, H&M. Shorts, Joe Fresh. Heels, Sam Edelman. Purse, Target. Necklace, PinkyOtto.

Lolitta Dandoy, 32
Montreal | Fashion Is Everywhere

I love wearing shorts, but I’m not a size 2, so I look at many things when buying a new pair. First of all, it’s really important that they’re not too tight on my legs. There’s nothing worst than looking like a sausage! Same thing for the waist band.

Since I love to wear heels to elongate my legs, I prefer going for a tailored, masculine-inspired short (and shirt, in this case), because mini-shorts and high heels can easily be too sexy. Lastly… I like to choose an interesting print, to catch people’s attention!

Lolitta’s wearing: Shirt and shorts, Joe Fresh. Pumps: Le Château.

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