Bye Bye Chafing, Hello The 11 Best Shorts Dedicated to Plus-Sizes of 2022

Universal Standard's Twill Shorts are at the top of our list for their combined comfort and durability.

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Best Plus Size Shorts

Universal Standard / Eloquii

When temperatures rise, pull out your favorite pair of shorts and let your legs get the sun time they deserve. Even when short-clad sweaty thighs start sticking to car leather or the signs of chafing appear, wearing shorts is a warm weather classic that no one should miss. 

But if you’re looking for a new pair, finding the right fit can be tough. So, we streamlined your search and hunted down the best plus-size shorts that won’t ride up, while also limiting chafing. Options like the overall favorite, Universal Standard Smart Stretch Twill Shorts, offer a stretch that keeps shorts from losing their original shape and a long inseam that keeps your backside covered even when bending and moving. In addition to our shopping expertise, we spoke with experts and influencers across fashion and plus-size retailers to develop this list of brands and products that’ll make you wish you lived in a sunny climate year-round. 

Shop our favorites below.

Best Overall: Universal Standard Smart Stretch Twill Shorts

Universal Standard Smart Stretch Twill Shorts

Universal Standard

What We Love: The deep pockets could probably hold about 15 lip glosses.

What We Don’t Love: They ride up a little bit.

These shorts deserve a special place in your closet for their versatile style, colors, and long-lasting comfort. You’ll want to have them front and center so you can wear them when you need something easy to throw on. Whatever your style, these shorts, which come in navy and black, can be absorbed into your wardrobe for different occasions. Add a light blazer and button-up for a casual work outfit when it’s too hot for pants, or tuck a graphic tee into the hem for outings with friends. 

Never again will you have to worry about shallow pockets; functional, deep pockets on the front and back of the shorts can hold your phone, wallet, and entire hand, with extra consideration for larger stomachs that tend to cut off pocket space. Expect the shorts to ride up a smidge — it happens — but thanks to the loose cut around the thighs and 6.5-inch inseam, it will never be extreme. One more thing: please pay attention to the Universal Standard sizing guide, using your numerical measurements to follow it as the brand tends to skew big.

Size: 00-40 | Colors: 2 | Fabric: Cotton, elastane

Best Splurge: alder Take a Hike Short

alder Take a Hike Short

Madewell

What We Love: You won’t need to bring a purse with the eight pockets that can hold everything you need.

What We Don’t Love: The colors fade quickly over time.

Alder created these shorts with hiking in mind (I mean, it’s literally in the name), but they gave us so much more. Nylon and spandex material holds the stomach without stretching the fabric too much. If you’re anti-purse or want to carry less, these shorts have all the pockets you need. The front two pockets have a secret space within themselves with a zipper closure for protecting your belongings. 

These shorts come in three colors; red clay, gray-ish black, and forest green. Through various sun exposure and frequent washes, the color starts to fade, but the fabric itself holds up during physical activity; it won’t cause any discomfort due to the water-wicking materials that keep thighs from getting too sticky and rubbing against themselves. These hiking shorts have a shorter inseam, so slight chafing might occur on the thighs. Stick the mini version of the BodyGlide Original Body Anti-Friction Balm in one of the many pockets before long walks or taking a hike. 

Bonus: these shorts come with a removable belt with an extra long strap to work with the sizes available. 

Size: XS-6X | Colors: 3 | Fabric: Recycled Nylon, spandex.

Best Distressed Shorts: Eloquii Distressed Short

Eloquii Distressed Short

Eloquii

What We Love: The subtly distressed patches won’t unravel around larger thighs. 

What We Don’t Love: We wish Eloquii made these shorts in a dark wash.

Distressed jeans are a fashion staple in the denim world. When I was in high school it seemed like everyone was buying pre-ripped jeans or taking scissors to their blue denim to make their own. For plus-size bodies and those with thick thighs, distressed jeans can seem counterintuitive, especially when the tears keep ripping every time you pull on a pair. But you won’t have to worry about that with these shorts, which are made with stretch in mind by keeping the fraying parts away from the inner thigh area. 

While shorter in length than a Bermuda cut, these six-inch inseam shorts keep chafing away. You can only purchase these shorts in a light or medium denim wash, which isn’t a dealbreaker, but additional dark colors will be missed. More colors, please!

Size: 14-28 | Colors: 2 | Fabric: Cotton, spandex

Best Casual Short: Meri Skye Dayana Super Stretch Button Fly Short

Meri Skye Dayana Super Stretch Button Fly Short

Dia & Co

What We Love: The four-button closure has a chic and practical flare.

What We Don’t Love: If you have thicker thighs, you’ll want to size up to avoid extra tightness.

The blend of cotton and synthetic, stretchy materials of these shorts feels like magic. It has just enough elastic to fit over large bellies, but the sturdy cotton blend keeps them from losing shape. However, the tightness can be a lot for those with bigger thighs as it creates more compression than expected from non-activewear pants. Because of this, tummy spillage at the top can occur if not sized up. And instead of having a zipper that might not go all the way up, these shorts close with large coin-shaped buttons, which also adds a sweet sailor-like design on top of always staying together. 

With muted versions of dark olive, gray, lilac, and coral, these shorts can be the main focus of your outfit or a solid base for numerous summer looks. Even better, shoppers can find brands like Meri Sky at Dia & Co, which offers many smaller plus-size brands to shop from to fulfill any other outfit needs. 

Size: 10-32 | Colors: 4 | Fabric: Cotton, polyester, spandex, and rayon

Best Boyfriend Shorts: Kut from the Kloth Catherine Boyfriend Short

Kut from the Kloth Catherine Boyfriend Short

Nordstrom

What We Love: They’re effortless with any top you already own

What We Don’t Love: It’s a mid-rise fit.

Boyfriend- and mom-style shorts are like two sides of the same desirable coin: a loose fit with a straight leg cut that doesn’t tighten around the midsection. Still a classic style in denim shopping, the boyfriend cut offers a relaxed choice for an easy summer look paired with whatever top you feel like throwing on. Kut From The Kloth takes their denim very seriously, no matter your size. 

Similar in design to the straight-and petite sizes from this brand, the plus-size option has a high waist cut that supports rolls and fat. If you carry your weight more in the stomach, these shorts might ride up because of their mid-rise fit. However, they're still long enough to cover private bits. Though they're not skin-tight, there's still enough room to move with the addition of spandex in the fabric blend. Neatly cuffed at the hems, these shorts roll down to an eight-and-a-half inch inseam that won't suffocate thighs and can go with you anywhere, from casual Fridays at work to outdoor activities like hiking or the beach. 

Size: 10W-26W | Colors: 4 | Fabric: 99% Cotton and 1% Spandex

Best Workout Shorts: Girlfriend Collective High Rise Bike Short

Girlfriend Collective Black High-Rise Pocket Bike Short

Girlfriend Collective

What We Love: The hem stays put.

What We Don’t Love: The brand's sizing runs small.

No matter the level of exercise you plan to get, you’ll want a good pair of workout shorts. Especially if you're bigger and need to keep your lower half compressed, a pair of shorts that keep hems free from folding down your stomach matters. These bike shorts from Girlfriend Collective always sell out because of their fit across sizes, comfort, and compression abilities. After one set of jumping jacks (my warm-up of choice), I usually have to adjust my shorts to keep up with my bouncing stomach. Thankfully I can pull up the high-rise cut of the shorts over my stomach without creating a severe frontal wedgie. Even after bending, jumping, and the occasional tripping through various activities, the waistband stays up without the annoying folding and rolling of the material. 

Girlfriend Collective's sizing runs small, so check their size chart before selecting your fit. An added half inch for every size after a small ensures the proper length in the shorts that sometimes gets lost when stretched around stomachs and backsides. (If you purchase an XXL, the inseam from 10 1/4" would be 12 1/4", and so on with larger sizes.) Plus-size influencer Nicole Denise Johansson recommends a seamless cut when purchasing biker shorts and athletic leggings for extra comfort. The added spandex gets put to work and covers the tops of the thighs to prevent chafing with seamless lining and thicker material added to account for deep squat movements. No ripped seams here.

Size: XXS-6XL | Colors: 5 | Fabric: 79% RPET and 21% spandex.

Best Bermuda Shorts: Lane Bryant Tighter Tummy High-Rise Bermuda Short

Lane Bryant Tighter Tummy High-Rise Bermuda Short

Lane Bryant

What We Love: The added compressive materials offer a slimming style.

What We Don’t Love: The pockets barely hold hands, let alone an iPhone.

Lane Bryant knows how to make cute plus-size clothes made from durable materials that’ll last you as long as you take care of them. Freelance writer, Arielle Bines calls these high-rise Bermuda shorts a personal favorite, in fact she’s only gotten a Bermuda cut from this retailer. A welcome mix of a casual denim look, with the length and stretch of a Bermuda cut makes these shorts a solid everyday bottom that can go with anything.

The 10-inch inseam rests the hem of the shorts a little above the knees, making chafing non-existent. Cotton and polyester blends limit the eventual wear and tears on the thigh area – so you won’t need to buy new shorts every season. For those who want extra compression, the brand described “tighter tummy high-rise panels” slightly cinch the stomach without any discomfort or straining on the waistband when sitting down. Note: A lot of plus-size styles will advertise, “tummy control” materials like these shorts, when in reality it’s just a tighter fit in the mid-section that leaves angry red lines on your stomach. Because of this tight fit, deep pockets are sacrificed, so make sure to grab a purse to hold your phone and wallet – these shorts can’t hold them.

Size: 12-28 | Colors: 1 | 73% Cotton, 15% Polyester, 10% Rayon, 2% Spandex

Best Linen Shorts: Athleta Playa Linen Bermuda Short

Athleta Playa Linen Bermuda Short

Athleta

What We Love: The breathable material offers a looser fit, adding to the amenity.

What We Don’t Love: There’s no stretch in the material.

Unfortunately, we can't be on vacation 24/7, but we can pretend through perfectly tailored playlists and comfortable clothes between zoom meetings and hundreds of emails. Linen shorts always reminds me of the beach, walking in the sand with only the worry of whether or not I brought enough sunscreen. Athleta’s athleisure wear keeps people shopping for more, and now they’ve taken its designs further for cottage core comfort in these linen Bermuda shorts. 

Offered in a black and aqua shade, you'll wish they sold even more colors to match every vibe of your closet. Wrinkling happens with these 100% linen shorts that might need a quick steaming between wears. Except for the elastic waistband, these short’s don’t offer any stretch. Make sure to pick the right size. It’s not exactly the bottomless pit of Mary Poppins bag, but the pockets can hold large smartphones, even when stretched through different activities. When you’ve booked your vacation, make sure to pack these linen Bermuda shorts that deserve to have mountains of sand accidently fill their pockets. 

Size: 0-26 | Colors: 2 | Fabric: 100% Linen

Best Cargo Shorts: A New Day High-Rise Utility Shorts

A New Day Women's High-Rise Utility Shorts

Target

What We Love: Both straight and plus-sizes can find a pair that fits.

What We Don’t Love: The smaller inseam causes minor chafing.

Erase whatever idea you have about cargo shorts from your mind and replace it with these stylish high-rise shorts that don’t skimp out on pocket space. The high-rise cut of the shorts and the four-inch inseam can cause minor irritation if worn all day, but the loose-fitting legs of the shorts help subside some of that friction. While traditional cargo and utility shorts might have more bells and whistles, these simplified the look with deep stitched pockets and styles in varying colors because who doesn’t like color options.

Size: 14W-26W | Colors: 5 | Fabric: 98% Cotton 2% Spandex

Best Denim: Levi’s High Waisted Plus-Size Mom Shorts

Levi’s High Waisted Mom Shorts

Levi's

What We Love: You can wash them without fear of shrinkage.

What We Don’t Love: These shorts don’t have any stretch to them.

Levi’s quite literally made the first pair of blue jeans, and when it comes to denim, the best always comes from this brand. Over the years, the brand has expanded to include more diverse sizes, with their plus-size collection going up to a 26W. If you’re new to the world of denim shorts, these high-waisted mom shorts will become your favorite for it’s coverage in the thighs. No panty shots when ending over, or excessive chafing. Soft to the touch, these shorts consist of 100% cotton and will become a regular part of your summer with the durability expected from Levi’s. Of my collection of shorts, the pair I always pack with me are these high-waisted Levi’s. I’m not particularly eager to dry my usual denim in a dryer out of fear of shrinking, but I don’t have that concern with the cotton fabric that keep its shape. 

Denim shorts make a good base for rotating outfits in your closet. Style-wise, you can get several outfits from these shorts with combinations of button-ups, tank tops, bralettes, or graphic tees to bring your own fashion taste to life. Unfortunately, these pants have no stretch, so it’s crucial to get the right fit. The high-waisted cut holds snuggly on the stomach but may leave lines on wide-set bodies that might be unable to size up.

Size: 14-26 | Colors: 2 | Fabric: 100% Cotton

Best Hot Pants: ASOS Curve Structured High Rise Satin Hot Pants

ASOS DESIGN Curve Structured High Rise Satin Hot Pants

ASOS

What We Love: The light pink satin color gives these hot pants a stylish welcome.

What We Don’t Love: The zipper in the back isn’t “between sizes” friendly.

Before the Miu Miu mini skirt, we had short shorts. And while both can live peacefully together in fashion harmony, my bias goes to the one that’ll cause the least amount of chafing (and comes in plus-size). ASOS created the dreamiest high-rise hot pants made from a cotton and polyester blend that mimics the sleekness of satin at a fraction of the price. Zippers on pants scare me, and I’m sure other plus-size folks who have been let down too many times by partially closed bottoms. Whereas denim options like the Levi’s above have thick traditional zippers in the front, these hot pants have a thin zipper in the back. While the closure creates a seamless look, the nightmare of a zipper doesn’t offer much wiggle room with the satin-like material. Slight tapering at the top of the shorts gives them a structured look that shows the illusion of a smaller waist with smooth lines throughout. Let these light pink shorts be the star of the show with a quick addition of any blouse, a pair of strappy heels, and a small bag. The compliments will be endless and you’ll have an outfit worthy of a night with friends. 

Size: XXS-4X | Colors: 4 | Fabric: 71% Cotton/29% Recycled Polyester

What to Keep in Mind

Fabric

If you’re doing a lot of activity, consider picking shorts that have more stretch than cotton and can keep up with warm, sweaty days. Spandex and elastic will add some stretch to your shorts, making them more wearer friendly. Of course, it’ll always come down to preference. Styles like the Kut from the Kloth Catherine Boyfriend Shorts and the Meri Skye Dayana Super Stretch Button Fly Short last through long-time wear without losing it’s shape thanks to the added flexible material. Keep an eye out for elastic bandings to ensure comfort around the stomach, butt, and thighs when picking shorts with non-stretch fabric. Pants made with materials like linen or satin might not have any elastane combination, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear them. 

Fit

Size guides suck. Almost every store has something different, and if you’re plus-size you already know the struggle. And I know I sound repetitive, but it’s essential to know your measurements to convert them to varying charts. Most size guides for plus-size shorts ask for approximate waist and hip measurements, be sure to have at least those two estimates down. To find your correct size, start by putting on a pair of shorts or pants that already fit comfortably. Take a measuring tool and wrap the tape around your waist where you usually wear pants. Take the same tape near your bottom for hip measurements, and measure around the largest part of that area. If you’re still unsure of your size, many brands like Dia & Co and Universal Standard offer customer-friendly return policies and “try before you buy” programs. 

Inseam

Not every short cut has to be high waisted or short-short length, before picking a pair check the inseam size to guarantee it’ll fit the way you want on the thighs. Those with larger stomachs will want shorts with a longer inseam to accommodate for any riding up of hems. According to Eloquii creative director Yesenia Torres, the brand’s best-selling shorts has a longer inseam that customers find most flattering. “Customers love this style with an inseam at the perfect length to prevent thigh chafing, and made in our amazing high recovery stretch fabric,” Torres explains. 

Your Questions, Answered

How do I find the best fit when shopping online?

Always check your measurements compared to the brand’s chart to find your best fit. If you’re concerned about chafing or too-tight waist brands, consider sizing up to give thighs extra space and to keep those dreaded pant marks off your stomach. 

Plus-size model Nicole Denise Johansson recommends taking new measurements every season to compare with companies varying size charts and to keep on hand for yourself. “Every brand’s size chart is different, and sometimes our bodies change throughout the year. For me, I measure my bust with a bra on since I usually wear a bra. I measure the smallest part of my torso for the waist and the widest part of my hips/butt for the hip measurement.” 

How do you tackle chafing?

Thigh chafing is usually one of the main reasons plus-size folks avoid wearing extremely short shorts. Tackling chafing has advanced since the days of coating inner thighs in a baby powder that, most likely, contained way too much hazardous talc anyway. Thankfully, we now have designated products to keep skin from rubbing together and causing irritation. Having dealt with chafing myself, I’m a fan of the Megababe Thigh Rescue that doesn’t feel greasy or irritate my skin and comes in a mini form that easily fits in my bag for on-the-go application. Friction-resistant lotions and creams like these create a barrier on the skin that keeps thighs from rubbing too harshly together, with the freedom to wear your favorite loose-fitting pants or skirts.   

Can Plus-Size people wear shorts?

One of the most searched questions on Google when looking up “plus-size shorts” is “Can plus-size people wear shorts?” The fatphobia around curves and fat bodies has created unfair fashion standards, leaving many plus-size individuals questioning even wearing simple things like tank tops, bathing suits, and shorts. Let it be known here and always that any body type can — and absolutely should — wear shorts. Quite frankly, it’s too hot outside, and your body deserves to weather endless cute shorts out there. In her book, Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life, Sturino discusses the importance of putting your confidence on first. “My whole life, I never thought I could wear jean shorts, she shares with InStyle. “Ever since I reached body acceptance, I’ve loved being able to feel confident wearing things that I used to hold back from, like shorts!”

Why Trust InStyle

Alexis Gaskin is the former commerce writer at InStyle covering beauty and fashion, with the latter focused on fat-fashion and inclusive styles. Having been big her whole life she’s seen the ups and downs of shopping while fat and used to dread where shorts when the weather got war. Now, she jumps at the chance to wear shorts whenever she can, chafing be damned. Finding a good pair of plus-size shorts can be hard, so she asked plus-size influencer Nicole Denise Johansson, freelance writer Arielle Bines, and author of Body Talk Kate Sturino, for their favorites and advice on chafing and confidence.

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