Of all the articles I’ve ever written, this one about my dislike of Capris, written on a whim a few years ago, is my most popular.
Today, it’s been read by over one million women.
And it gets people fired up, which was never my intention, but I guess that’s just the nature of the world.
If you’ve been part of our community for some time now, you know it’s not my style to tell you what to wear. Instead, I like to give suggestions and advice that help you find what works best for you.
But the Capri pant is the exception.
It is the most unflattering, frumpy-dumpy, ugliest piece of clothing designed for women in modern history.
Here’s the deal.
Retail doesn’t care about women. So no one is sitting in an office, deciding on the next season’s inventory assortment, asking themselves:
Is this the best option for our customers?
Is it flattering?
Will it work with what they already have?
Will she feel confident in it?”
They are not trying to advocate for us.
But I am.
The basis of my entire business is to sort through the mess you see in stores and online and highlight the best options each season while providing inspiration and practical tips.
So, today, I will show you why capris are so unflattering and offer better alternatives.
We Deserve Better Than Capris
I want to be clear: I don’t care what you wear.
But I can tell you that after dressing thousands of women, I know my stuff, and if you’ve ever tried on a pair of capris and wondered why they look terrible, there are reasons.
Before We Dive In
I spent the first half of my career before becoming a personal stylist and running The Well Dressed Life in corporate retail as a buyer.
My first buying job out of college was at Charming Shoppes, the parent company of stores like Catherine’s and the now-closed Fashion Bug.
I worked as an assistant-to-the-assistant buyer in the bottoms department.
I became a buyer for a small high-end boutique and eventually landed at QVC before starting my company.
But it was at Charming that, despite it being my least glamorous gig, I learned about garment construction.
Our department focused on casual fabrics, including denim and twill. We sourced merchandise from manufacturers and also produced items in-house.
Before approving final runs, 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 worked with the fit model and design teams to ensure the fit was correct.
Granted, Fashion Bug wasn’t known for high-quality standards.
Our head of QA was often frustrated that items were ordered despite looking awful.
You could get something passed if it didn’t fall apart in the wash and met size standards.
Because of that experience and subsequent relationships with tailors and clothing makers over the years, I learned the nuances between okay and terrific design and why, from a construction standpoint, things sometimes look terrible when you try them on.
Why I Hate Capris
Today, to help prove my point, I purchased two pairs of capris. One in denim and one in khaki, both sold as “capris” for about $40 each from a mainstream retailer.
There are a lot of angry comments about how these are not capris. Yes, they are. They have the word “Capri” on the tag.
For context, I am 5’10, and I wear a solid size 8. I paired them with a simple white tee, a long necklace, and wedge sandals to make them look as okay as possible.
I swear to you that these “fit” me. They are not too tight.
They both look so terrible on me; I can’t believe I’m putting these up for all the internet to see.
Why Capris Do Not Fit Well
Capris were a notoriously challenging style to get through the approval process because their design is inherently imperfect.
Technically speaking, most capris are made with a leg opening that becomes too narrow too quickly as it moves down the leg, making them a bunch at the knee and hug the thighs (see above).
The narrowness of the leg doesn’t allow the material to fall correctly, so the back of the pants “collapses.”
“Collapse” is the technical term used to explain what happens when a pant is constructed in a way that makes the back of the pant bunch and lay on the back of your legs.
Why Capris Are Not Flattering
They do the body, regardless of shape or size, no favors from a proportion standpoint.
In all of our style-related posts, I try to teach readers how to create the most flattering, proportional look, regardless of your personal style, body type, budget, etc.
The Capri makes this impossible because of where it cuts at the leg, usually right through the top to the middle of the calf, making the legs look stumpy and cutting the line of the body at its most awkward point.
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To make matters worse, designers add ridiculous embellishments that only cheapen the item further, like oversized pockets, cargo straps, zippers, grommets, and cuffs (above).
And, aside from doing nothing to enhance your look, the length visually chops off your height, instantly making you look frumpy.
It’s hard to make me look short.
In heels, I’m close to 6′ tall. Yet, these pants diminish my height significantly.
For my petite ladies, it’s even worse.
If you are trying to dress well, you want to make choices strategically. Every piece of clothing you wear should either support, enhance or improve the overall outfit.
Capris don’t do that.
We can do better.
Why do Retailers Still Make Capris?
The ugly truth is that capris are cheap pants to make with high margins. So even on sale, retailers make a profit.
And because they cost little to make, there’s little quality, making their construction awful.
Yet women keep buying them because they think they are a better alternative to shorts or want to stay cool in hot and humid weather.
What to Wear Instead of Capris
If you are wearing capris because you are not a fan of shorts, you have many other options that look so much better. However, if you like shorts, wear them.
Let’s start on the left with these wide-leg linen-blend pant that will hit at our around your ankles.
You could even go shorter if the legs of the pant are wide and flowy.
Finally, you could wear these “stovepipe” pants from Talbots. You can see in the leg line that they don’t collapse; those extra few inches in the pant length make a huge difference. Available in all sizes, in several classic colors.
Understand the Difference Between Capri, Ankle, and Cropped Pants
Technically speaking, cropped pants will be slightly shorter than ankle pants, and ankle pants will hit right at or an inch above the ankle.
Cropped pants look best when they have a wide leg or the fabric drapes.
Depending on your leg length, there might not be a huge difference between cropped and ankle pants, and that’s ok.
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, make sure that the pant hits somewhere between the bottom of your calf and the top of your ankle.
Your other option is cigarette pants, which get muddy in the retail waters.
A cigarette pant is just an ankle pant with a slim silhouette, sometimes called “skinny” ankle pants.
So what’s the bottom line on Capris?
Of course, you can wear whatever you want.
I get a decent amount of pushback on this post because readers think I’m trying to “tell women what to wear.”
It’s not that deep. But I think we can do so much better than Capris.