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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best elastic shorts for women

The comfort of an elastic waistband cannot be denied. If you’re in search of a pair of shorts that will look stylish, keep you comfortable, and allow you to move easily, you have come to the right place. In this buying guide, we explore the many elastic shorts for women on the market today.

People seek elastic waistbands for a number of reasons. Perhaps you are an athlete or weekend warrior who wants a comfy pair of shorts to pursue your sport. Perhaps you are simply looking to escape the tight, constricting fit of a zipper or button fly. Whatever your reasoning, a world of options awaits you.

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If you like the look of a skirt but prefer the comfort of a pair of shorts, consider investing in a versatile skort. These bottoms pair well with both casual and formal tops.

Key considerations

Style

Elastic shorts for women come in a wide array of styles.

  • Bermuda shorts: These baggy, airy shorts have a comfortable look and feel. They tend to have a cuff at the hem and usually hang about an inch above the knee.
  • Bike shorts: These stretchy, clingy shorts were initially designed to help prevent friction and chafing in cyclists, but they can be worn by anyone and tend to look great with sports bras, loose-fitting sweatshirts, and even blazers.
  • Board shorts: These longer shorts stretch down to the knee. Modeled after men’s swim trunks, they have a drawstring and a loose, casual look.
  • Chino shorts: These shorts are medium to long in length and are designed for comfort while walking. They exude a classic look and show a modest amount of leg.
  • Gym shorts: This term can be applied to any pair of shorts worn for exercising, whether you’re participating in high school gym class or enjoying your morning jog. Gym shorts are designed for movement and are typically made of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, or spandex.
  • Low-rise shorts: On low-rise shorts the waistband sits a few inches below the waist. This trendy style comes in an array of colors and lengths, though most pairs tend to be form-fitting and on the shorter side.
  • Pedal pushers: These shorts hit below the knee, but they are not so long as to be considered capris, which hit at mid-calf.
  • Skorts: These shorts look like skirts in the front. A drawstring or cloth belt at the waist can help hold them in place. You can find skorts in a bevy of styles, from solid neutral colors to fun prints.
  • Yoga shorts: Yoga shorts are similar to yoga pants – stretchy and flexible enough to accommodate different yoga poses – only shorter.

Materials

Breathable cotton is a top choice for elastic shorts. If you buy shorts made of 100% cotton, however, note the care instructions before washing them. Often these items must be hand-washed to avoid shrinkage. Those who like to iron their shorts may find that the lowest heat setting is recommended.

For shorts designed for physical activity, a cotton blend is more practical than pure cotton. Pure cotton will easily become drenched in sweat, whereas a blend will help keep you cool and dry. Polyester, nylon, or spandex may be blended with cotton in bike shorts, gym shorts, and yoga shorts, to name a few styles.

Denim is actually a form of cotton, but it’s such a popular shorts material that it merits its own category. Elastic-waist denim shorts go with just about everything. Wear them with a casual T-shirt or tank, a blouse, or a sweatshirt on cooler days. Distressed and frayed styles with a cut-off hem are common, and you are likely to have your choice of at least a few washes and colors.

Length

How long shorts appear is determined by several factors, including the style of the shorts and the length of the wearer’s legs.

Length is sometimes identified by an inseam measurement, which is the length from crotch to hem. Short shorts tend to have an inseam length of around 5 inches. Mid-length shorts tend to have an inseam measurement of 6 to 7 inches. Longer shorts, including Bermudas, may have an inseam anywhere from 8 to 12 inches.

Size

Most elastic shorts for women do not come in numerical sizes. Instead, they are sold in sizes that can range from XXS to 5X. Each manufacturer has its own sizing chart, which should be available for you to reference as you shop online.

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Did You Know?
A popular style of denim shorts is boyfriend shorts, which usually have a loose, baggy fit and a rugged look.
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Features

Pockets

A common complaint about women’s clothing is the lack of functional pockets. To an extent, that trend is changing, but buyers who want pockets in their elastic shorts should remain vigilant when shopping. Sometimes a pair of shorts will have a “faux pocket” that doesn’t really go anywhere. This non-functional pocket is designed purely for looks.

That said, because just about everyone carries a smartphone these days, some manufacturers have gone out of their way to create pockets large enough (and deep enough) to securely carry your phone. If this appeals to you, check the product specs before ordering to be sure the shorts have roomy pockets.

Pleats

Pleated shorts are gathered at the waist. Box pleats, also known as kick pleats, gather at the front of the shorts, and only at the front of the shorts, to create a flat-front look. Accordion pleats travel all the way around the waist. To the dismay of some, this type of pleat can add a lot of bulk.

Belts and drawstrings

While some elastic shorts have a simple waist with an integrated band of elastic, others have a drawstring or belt. If you will be tucking in your shirt, a belt that ties in the front or on the side can add a nice tailored touch. If you prefer baggy or untucked shirts, however, such a belt might create unwanted bulk in your midsection.

Heavyweight cotton such as canvas, denim, and corduroy is more durable and less likely to wrinkle than thinner, lighter cotton. However, shorts made of heavy cotton hold heat in and have a stiffer feel, at least until they are broken in.

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Pricing

Inexpensive: For $7 to $12, you can get a pair of solid-colored, pocket-less elastic shorts. Many of these are considered gym shorts based on their athletic look and cut. The shorts may be short or mid-length, but you are unlikely to find Bermudas or pedal pushers in this range.

Mid-range: In the $12 to $22 range, elastic shorts can be found in all lengths. They may have a slim or loose fit, pleats or flat fronts, belts or no belts. If you’re looking for something affordable, aesthetically pleasing, and of good quality, this price range is a great place to begin your search.

Expensive: Shorts that cost over $22 may be made of cotton, polyester, or a pricier material like linen or even leather. They may be engineered for specific physical activities, such as playing volleyball or practicing yoga. If you’re looking for shorts that are comfortable, functional, and fashionable, look in this price range.

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Did You Know?
Can you wear socks with shorts? The truth is, you can wear whatever you want. But these days, no-show socks are popular with shorts because they cushion your feet and keep sweat out of your shoes while staying out of sight.
Staff
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Tips

  • If you want a pair of tropical or animal-print shorts but are concerned that your outfit will appear too “busy,” pair your shorts with a plain white or black tank top or T-shirt.
  • Some shorts have a slim fit, whereas others have a relaxed fit. Slim-fitting shorts tend to look great with crop tops, loose shrugs, and untucked T-shirts. Looser shorts tend to look great with tucked-in T-shirts, blazers, and blouses.
  • Shorter legs can look great in short shorts. Try a pair with a hem that sits a few inches higher than your knee. If you’re uncomfortable showing that much thigh, opt for knee-length shorts with a pair of wedge sandals, which will elongate your legs.
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Some shorts are labeled as “breathable,” while others are “sweat-wicking.” Breathable materials allow air to pass through to keep the wearer cool. Sweat-wicking materials pull moisture away from the body so it can evaporate. The two terms are not mutually exclusive: sweat-wicking shorts can also be breathable shorts.

FAQ

Q. I’m looking at a pair of shorts that are described as “5-inch shorts.” What does this mean?

A. This measurement refers to the length of the inseam. The inseam is the length from the crotch to the hem of the shorts. Common inseam lengths for women’s shorts are 5, 7, and 9 inches. However, inseam length is not always provided by the manufacturer.

Q. Can I wear compression shorts for my regular daily activities?

A. Compression shorts can be very comfortable, so we understand the urge. But it’s important to understand that compression shorts are designed to increase the flow of oxygen to your leg muscles during physical activity. After intense exercise, they can also be worn for a short period to help reduce swelling. However, it is not advisable to wear compression shorts as everyday shorts for hours on end.

Q. What are paper bag women’s shorts?

A. Paper bag shorts have extra cinched fabric around the midsection. (There are paper bag pants, too.) These shorts usually come with a matching cloth belt and tend to look good with a tucked-in tank, T-shirt, or blouse.

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