How to wear utility pants, shorts and skirts this summer

Date: July 1, 2024

These are not your dad’s favorite cargo shorts, promise. This summer, we’ve been feeling all things cargo and utility to add an outdoorsy touch to any outfit — even the more dressed-up ones.

A woman wearing beige utility shorts and a blue striped shirt at the beach.

Our love of the utility jacket is practically legendary at this point. Like the jean jacket, it’s the perfect third piece for styling and it’s practical too. Think of all the pockets and places to stash your keys, credit cards, lip balm and kids’ toys! But this year, we’re taking our love of the utility jacket one step further and adding in shorts, pants and even skirts.

Don’t be intimidated by the utility look! Your Trendsend stylist can help you figure out which silhouettes, styles and colors work best for your personal style and daily life.

What to wear with cargo pants and utility pants

Wide leg or relaxed fit utility pants are built for comfort and durability, so treat them like jeans and wear them with all your favorite tees, tanks and summer sweaters. We also love them with a simple basic or a lightweight blouse, especially one with boho-inspired details; the softness of the shirt adds a feminine touch to the more masculine pants.

Paige’s Anessa pants are a cropped, wide leg style in a soft, stretchy cotton that remind us of the carpenter jeans trend of the ‘90s, but all grown up with subtle cargo pockets and a high rise. Sanctuary is known for its cargo pants, and we also love Citizens of Humanity and Pistola’s safari chic takes on the style.

Close-up view of a woman wearing utility pants with a brown belt, showcasing the practical and stylish design of the pants for summer.

Cargo and utility-style pants are typically styled more casually, but you can dress them up too! A slimmer fit cargo pant with a chic tank, clutch bag and heel is a sleek, stylish and timeless combo. Army green and earthy brown shades look great with lots of gold jewelry, a tan and a white shirt or tank, plus a metallic bag and heel.

What to wear with a utility skirt

The utility skirt tends to veer pretty casual due to its cotton or twill fabric, so lean into the relaxed fit and feeling with low-key tanks. We love the juxtaposition of an earth-toned utility skirt in tan or army green with stripes, or a pale blue denim skirt with a pastel top or even tie dye. If you’re wearing a longer utility skirt, pair it with a sleeveless top to balance the silhouette.

A woman on the beach wearing a grey t-shirt and a utility skirt, illustrating a casual summer outfit featuring utility pants style elements.

The utility dress is another summer fave. It’s cute, comfortable and easy to throw on and go to brunch, the office or a weekend block party — a slightly less formal version of the classic shirtdress. In keeping with the more casual vibes of a utility skirt, dress or shorts, stick with flat sandals instead of something with a heel.

How to wear a utility vest

Of all the styling pieces in your closet, the vest has so much untapped potential, and it won’t make you look like a server in the ‘90s, trust us! Style it with a vintage-style tee, shorts and flat sandals for the weekend or use it to give dressier pieces a more casual, effortlessly cool vibe. We like a semi-cropped fit, which works well for layering and feels more modern than a longer length.

How to wear a utility jacket or shirt

Like we said above, the utility jacket should definitely have a spot in your wardrobe rotation if it doesn’t already! This summer, we like a lightweight cropped version in cream or tan, more like a shacket than a true jacket. It’s the piece you’ll be wearing to the office, on the weekend and well into the fall.

Another underrated fave is the utility shirt itself, a lightweight, breezy button-down style with long or short sleeves, worn with high-waisted jeans or shorts. Button it up, tuck it in and you’re ready for your next outdoor adventure.