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, shocking I know, but I have my reasons and can offer better alternatives for you, so hear me out.
Today we are reposting our most popular and talked about post because it’s that time of year! Links have been updated. May 15th, 2019
Why I Hate Capris
My first buying job out of college was at Charming Shoppes, the parent company to stores like Catherine’s and the now-closed Fashion Bug. I worked as an assistant-to-the-assistant buyer, in the bottoms department.
As you can surmise from my job title, it was not the most glamorous gig.
I primarily focused on casual fabrics, including denim and twill. We sourced merchandise from manufacturers and also 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, work 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 try them on.
Capris are 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 as it moves down the leg, so they bunch at the knee and hug the calves.
The narrowness of the leg doesn’t allow for the material to fall correctly, so what happens is the back of the pants “collapse.” “Collapse” is the technical term used to explain there is too much fabric and folds between your back pockets and the back of your knee.
The back of a capri should sit away from the body, off your bottom, but because their design is flawed, it was hard to pass a pair without them looking like a big mess in the back.
Why Capris Are Not Flattering
From a proportional standpoint, they do the body no favors. 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 middle of the calf, making 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.
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To make matters worse, designers add ridiculous embellishments that only cheapen 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 oversized pockets, usually with topstitch, that kind of look like a pork “chop” that sits on your thighs.)
They put cargo straps and zippers or grommets all over them. Which, aside from doing nothing to enhance your look, competes with whatever else you are wearing.
Worst of all, most capris legs flair out right below the knee giving an unnatural shape to the leg. Visually you are chopping off your height and will almost instantly look frumpy.
I have no idea why these pants are produced. But now you know why my disdain runs so deep. We can do better.
What to Wear Instead of Capris
Your first alternative to a capri is a cropped pant. The cropped pant is a similar but better option because of it’s construction. The cropped pant stops right below your calf instead of midway through.
They are going to look very similar at first to capris, in fact many retailers call cropped pants, “ankle pants.” Such is the case with these slim cropped pants by NYDJ are a great example. Retail does a terrible job with consistency. These are cropped pants not ankle pants.
You can see how the pants almost 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.
Technically speaking a cropped pant will be a little bit shorter than an ankle and an ankle will hit right at or an inch or two above the ankle.
Depending on your leg length, 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.
Your next option is a cigarette pant, which, again, get muddy in the retail waters. A cigarette pant, is really just an ankle pant with a slim silhouette. They’re also sometimes called “skinny” pants. As an example, Michael Kors is calling these cigarette pants, when in reality, they are obviously capris.
So what’s the bottom line?
First, you can wear whatever you want. I get a decent amount of push back when I publish posts like this because readers think I’m trying to “tell women what to wear.”
I don’t care what you wear, but I do care that if you are trying to pull off a particular style, knowing why it’s not working and how to achieve it is important. Retail isn’t a woman’s friend.
Capris, to me, can destroy an outfit, but with a little technical understanding, you can create the look you are intending and ultimately look and feel confident in your clothes. Which is all I really want.