Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Why I Hate Capris

The Capri pant is the ugliest piece of clothing designed for women (and men too but I can’t even get into that) in modern history. They are the most unflattering, frumpy-dumpy pant a woman can wear. I have a strong opinion, I know, but I have my reasons and better alternatives for you, so hear me out.

Back in my early days in corporate retail, I worked for Charming Shoppes in their Fashion Bug division buying plus-sized bottoms. I primarily focused on casual, including denim and twill. We sourced merchandise from manufacturers and produced items in-house. Before final runs could be approved, we had to check the fit of production samples to make sure they met quality standards. I was responsible for keeping all the samples organized, and, this was my favorite part of an otherwise miserable job, working with the fit model and design teams to make sure the fit was correct. I learned so much, like the nuances between good and great design, and why, from a construction standpoint, things sometimes look terrible when you put them on.

Capris were a notoriously challenging style to get through the approval process because their design is inherently poor. Technically speaking most capris are made with a leg opening that is too narrow, so they hug the thighs and bunch below the knee. The narrowness of the leg doesn’t allow for it to fall correctly, so what happens is the back of the pants “collapse.” “Collapse” was the technical term we would use for why a pair of pants would fail their fit test. It means the back of the pants would “collapse” onto the back of the model’s leg when they weren’t supposed to. The back of a Capri especially should fall away from the body, but because their design is flawed it was hard to pass a pair without them looking like a big mess in the back.  (You can see in the photo above how the back of the pant is collapsing onto the back of the leg.)

From a proportional standpoint, they do the body no favors. When I dress a client, my number one job is to create the most flattering, proportional look, which helps her look long and lean. The Capri does the opposite because of where it cuts at the leg, usually, right through the top to middle of the calf, making most legs look stumpy and cutting the line of the body at its most awkward point. If you are trying to dress well, it’s important to make choices strategically. Every piece of clothing you wear should either support, enhance or improve the overall outfit. The Capri doesn’t do that because the fit is usually off and the proportion is incorrect.

To make matters worse, designers add ridiculous embellishments that only cheap the item further. They add things like chop pockets – the least flattering style pocket known to man. (A chop pocket is a term used to describe the oversized pockets, usually with topstitch, that kind of look like a pork chop that just sits on your thighs.) Or, they put cargo straps and zippers or grommets all over them. Which, aside from doing nothing to enhance your look, compete with whatever else you are wearing.

I have no idea why these things are produced or why women continue to buy them.  But now you know why my disdain runs so deep.  So what are you suppose to wear instead?

The best bet if you like the idea of a Capri pant is the cropped pant, which is similar but constructed better because the pant stops right below your calf instead of midway through. These slim cropped pants by Eileen Fisher are a great example.  (Also available in plus size.) You can see how the pants cover the calf, highlighting the curve between the calf and the ankle – much more flattering.  That extra length allows for better construction, less “collapsing” and a more proportional look.

An ankle pant is another style to consider. In a lightweight fabric, it will be comfortable and appropriate for hot days. These days ankle pants come with all kinds of leg cuts, from wide, to slim to tapered.  You can wear any leg cut you like, just make sure the hem hits at the very top of your ankle – you want to see it.

Depending on your leg, there might not be a huge difference between a cropped and ankle pant, and that’s cool.  You might have long legs and more length between your calf and ankle.  Or, your calf might go right into your ankle.  Whatever the case, just make sure that the pant hits somewhere between the bottom of your calf and the top of your ankle.  These pants by Nic + Zoe are a good in-the-middle pair.

Like shorts? Go for it. The best rule of thumb for shorts is to keep them at or above your knee. By the way, everyone has ugly knees, so there is no need to try to hide yours.  I like these casual shorts by Patagonia , Sejour (Nordstrom’s private label) does a nice option for sizes 14 – 24 and Old Navy’s mid rise “everyday” short is fantastic for the price and color options.  

I say this with love and affection for everyone of our readers and clients, do yourself a favor and get rid of every Capri hanging in your closet or sitting in your drawer.  This month we are going to focus on helping you pull together stylish, affordable, and super wearable outfits for all the plans you have this summer.

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

15 Comments
  1. Thank you for the validation! I bought a few pairs of capri pants because my legs are no longer shorts-worthy. I always felt like a stump in them and could never get them to look the least bit flattering. Now I know why! You don’t know how much better that makes me feel 🙂

  2. Thank you, Meg! Can you give some suggestions on a denim cropped you’d recommend? I have a wide cuffed pair that I like with a wedge shoe – would love your input on them and other suggestions!!

  3. Megan, do you feel the same way about yoga pants? I think the yoga capris are far more flattering the the full length yoga pant.

    1. No, I don’t think yoga pants count since your not using them as an part of an outfit. I work out in capri length pants all the time in the summer.

  4. I love your take on capris Megan! I wore them back in the day, but no more… I like JBrand for skinny jeans and find them flattering even for my size 31(US 10) figure. A few years ago, I found a pair of JBrand cropped boot-cut pants (silver beige) at Anthropologie that are perfect for spring/summer. JBrand still makes them (and in many denim styles and other colors!). I always check for JBrand sales via Nordstrom or other fashion websites, but I’ll share the link to share the cropped jean style that they make. I love mine!
    https://www.jbrandjeans.com/women/featured/cropped-boot#?offset=0&limit=24

  5. I agree with you completely on this and like another remarked – thank you for the validation! It’s long skirts and casual dresses (to the knee!) for me most of the summer. Sadly, my shorts days are behind me. I do love cropped pants and where these professionally most of the time. Have struggled to find good casual crops that work.

    1. Hey Cheryl! Thanks for commenting. I’m working on a follow up post with more options for casual ankle and cropped pants. Stay tuned!

  6. Thank you Megan! I have been saying the same thing since Capri pants first appeared.
    I thought they would last one season but alas they are still here! Cropped pants are flattering for all body types; the boot crop is a very contemporary look. I do think shorts are usually best left for younger women. Of course, all that really matters is how the wearer feels!

  7. Those are not capri pants!! Those are clam diggers.

    Capris are sexy and look like what Laurei Petrie wore on the Dick Van Dyke show. Capris are made for dancing in jazz clubs or sitting cross-legged at a Beat poetry reading.
    Clam diggers are what Barbra Striesand wears on the cover of the People LP. They are work clothes and do not have any fashion merit.

    .

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