En español | We're not exactly shy about fashion. In fact, women in their 50s, 60s and 70-plus are some of the edgiest, most stylish around. We fearlessly strut our stuff in leather jackets and jeans. We sashay like divas in shaggy bobs and locs, cat-eye sunglasses and dark toenail polish. So why does the idea of shorts and bare legs make us run for the hills — or at least a pair of black leggings? Let's all get over bare-leg insecurity together. Here are 10 stylish ways, along with the capris, skirts, shorts and skorts that do it.
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PHOTO BY: Dermstore; CVS; Ulta Beauty
1. Use leg makeup
If skin discolorations like broken capillaries, brown spots and varicose veins are making you leg shy, body makeup can help. Though some face makeups are labeled transfer- and sweat-resistant, don't count on their performance as body makeup. For real coverage confidence (especially in high heat and humidity or a day at the pool or beach), count on specialty formulas like Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray ($16, cvs.com) and Dermablend Leg and Body Makeup Foundation ($36, dermstore.com) that won't cake, pool, drip, smear or stain clothes, car seats and furniture. Choose a shade to match your skin tone or your usual face foundation. For a lighter kind of coverage, try Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Finish ($39, ulta.com), which works more like a tinted BB cream and blends discolorations to mute them.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Nordstrom
2. Try a DIY self-tanner
A sunless tan is an alternative to leg makeup. It bumps up your skin tone so there's less contrast between the background color and discolorations. However, here's the catch with self-tanner. You must use regular self-tanner on all exposed skin — otherwise you end up with tanned legs and an untanned rest of you. Not a good look! There's a better solution that requires less maintenance. Mix tanning drops like SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum ($21, target.com), Trish McEvoy Instant Solutions Tanning Drops ($48, nordstrom.com) or L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops ($17, target.com) into your usual body lotion (and face cream). The number of drops you use depends on your desired degree of extra color and allows you to control and customize the sun-kissed effect and camouflage.
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PHOTO BY: Lane Bryant; Catherines; Walmart
3. Switch from ankle pants to capris
Not to be confused with cropped pants, capris are a whole other length somewhere between right below your knees and mid-calf. That's long enough to cover discolorations and veins but short enough to feel almost like shorts. Trendy wide-leg capris like the Lane Bryant Knit Kit Pull-On Wide Leg Capri in Sangria ($60, lanebryant.com) and Catherines Gauze Pull-On Capri in Mariner Navy or Clover Green ($55, catherines.com) provide the essential hemline lift and are a good choice for those with generous thighs and calves. Relaxed pull-ons like the Hanes Women's French Terry Pocket Capris in Black ($9 to $22, walmart.com) provide a slim athleisure option without the cling. This might be all you need!
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PHOTO BY: Eloquii; Walmart (2)
4. Try skirts that flash your legs
Any skirt that hovers below the knees and has a sassy slit at the front or side plays peekaboo with your legs. It's a now-you-see-them, now-you-don't kind of thing. Summery skirts are a bare-leg option for those who don't like shorts. Try a swirly A-line with elastic waist like the Allegra K Women's High-Waist Slit A-Line Belted Floral Print Midi in Orange Blue ($19 to $21, walmart.com), a draped maxi like the Eloquii Drape Tied Maxi Skirt in Potting Soil ($70, eloquii.com) or a slip style with a flirty hem like the Scoop Women's Slit Skirt in Multi Bouquet Ditsy ($13, walmart.com). Remember it's the combo of longer length and hint of legs via that all-important slit that makes you dare to bare.
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PHOTO BY: Kohl's; Walmart; L.L.Bean
5. Try skorts instead of shorts
Women golfers and tennis players who are 50-plus have been wearing these for years and love the combo. Here's why: The skirt provides an extra layer of coverage, while the “shorts” (pretty much hidden beneath) provide extra security. You're wearing shorts but incognito and get to move, sit, bend or squat without feeling self-conscious or exposed. Look for modern above-the-knee styles like the L.L.Bean Women's Vista Camp Skort in Toasted Almond ($55, llbean.com), Women's Croft & Barrow Easy Pull-On Knit Skort in Multi-Stripe or Blue Stripe ($30, kohls.com) or Woman Within Women's Plus-Size Sport Knit Skort in Vivid Red or Navy ($22 to $24, walmart.com).
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PHOTO BY: JCPenney; Gap; LOFT
6. Count on jean shorts
If you love to wear jeans, jean shorts are a logical choice. The shapely structure and hold of stretch denim works the same way to firm up a tummy and chunky or flabby thighs, as well as sculpt a generous derriere. Don't be tempted by short cutoffs or light washes. Choose a length that's a few inches above your knees in a darker blue or black — like the cuffed St. John's Bay Women's Mid Rise 11-Inch Bermuda Short in Dark Deep Indigo ($37, jcpenney.com) or the frayed hem Gap 9-Inch High Rise Denim Bermuda Shorts with Washwell in Washed Black ($60, gap.com) or Loft Curvy Fresh Cut Denim Bike Shorts in Dark Wash ($55, loft.com). Still shy? Don't forget tips number 1 and 2!
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PHOTO BY: J.Jill; JCPenney; L.L.Bean
7. Stay classic in tailored Bermudas
This version of long shorts (also sometimes called “walking shorts") used to be kind of stiff, stuffy and boxy. In other words: frumpy. They have gotten a makeover and are a good shorts choice if you don't like jeans or prefer a more polished look. Try a trim, crisp pair like the J.Jill Essential Cotton-Stretch Shorts in Navy Blue ($64, jjill.com) or the St. John's Bay Women's Mid Rise 11-Inch Bermuda Short in Memphis Yellow ($37, jcpenney.com) in stretch cotton with fly front and a tapered leg, or a classic straight leg such as the L.L.Bean Women's Lakewashed Chino Shorts, Bermuda in Boulder ($50, llbean.com) for an updated lived-in look. Add a polo or half-tucked button down, loafers and white sneakers, and everyone will be checking out your style not your legs!
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); Target
8. Try sweat shorts, not bike shorts
If you wear leggings all winter long and are tempted to try bike shorts ... don't. That cropped skin-tight fit is not your legs’ best friend. A way better choice are superlight pull-on athleisure shorts like the Baleaf Women's Long Cotton Jersey Athletic Shorts with Pockets in Soft Knee Length-black ($23, amazon.com), Wild Fable Women's High-Rise Bermuda Shorts in Black ($15, target.com) or Arrive Guide Women's Workout Sweat Shorts with Pockets in Smoky Gray, Green or Khaki ($10 to $21, amazon.com). The above-the-knee length, easy fit and elastic waist look dressed — not “gym” — so you can wear them all week long with a tee. Get them in neutrals to make these soft, unstructured shorts look sophisticated and not too loungey.
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PHOTO BY: 6pm (3)
9. Look for leg-lengthening sandals
Leg length and proportions are not something you can change. But there is one major visual trick that can create the illusion of longer, leggier and more toned bare legs. Simply choose sandals toned to your skin color for a low-contrast effect. This works the way nude pumps used to back in the days when we wore serious clothes. Just check the shade boxes for tan, beige or brown when shopping online to see hundreds of nude tones — like the Aerosoles Cady in Tan ($44, 6pm.com), Naturalizer Fayee in Lodge Brown Crocco ($33, 6pm.com) or Steve Madden Crozz Sandal in Nude ($29, 6pm.com) — in shoes that range from slides to mules and strappy sandals and wedges. Your legs will seem inches longer, even in flats.
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PHOTO BY: Torrid; J.Jill; Ann Taylor
10. Choose a statement top
Shifting the focus to your top half is another way to psyche yourself up for shorts. Instead of dressing tonally, pick a top in a contrasting color or print. Make sure it has short sleeves and a square, V or scoop neckline instead of high neck and longer sleeves. Here's why: A top that displays more arm and chest skin (rather than a crew or even three-quarter sleeves) creates a balanced look, so your legs aren't the only thing in the spotlight. Let breezy tops like the Torrid Lace-Up Babydoll Crinkle Gauze Green ($46, torrid.com), the Ann Taylor Gauze Split-Neck Top in Tropical Rose ($70, anntaylor.com) or the J.Jill Textured Stripes Tie-Front Top in Sapphire/White ($69, jjill.com) divert attention and provide a style statement.
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PHOTO BY: insta_photos/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Last words: Whichever of these 10 tips you choose, please be sure to make pampering your legs part of your regular beauty routine. Just exfoliating, shaving and moisturizing this strong, sturdy duo (which hold us up and keep us going daily) will improve their look. Sorry, hairy legs devotees — but sleek, smooth bare legs of any shape and length really do look more appealing than furry ones!
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.