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Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Of all the articles I’ve ever written, this one about my contempt for capri pants, written on a whim several 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.

If you’ve been part of our community for any amount of time, you know I really don’t care what you wear.

Instead, I like to give suggestions and advice that help you find what works best for you. 

And I really loathe this influencer culture of promoting an item one season only to talk about how it’s “dated” the next.

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 you.

Especially if you’re a woman over 40.

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.

And capris are a mess.

I get a lot of questions from readers in the spring and summer, like, “why do capris feel so awkward on?” and “why are they so unflattering on me?”

So, today, let’s talk why capris are the worst and offer better alternatives.

We Deserve Better Than Capris

Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)
How terrible.

Why I Know What I’m Talking About

I spent the first half of my career before becoming a personal stylist and founding 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.

Then 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 production samples’ fit to ensure 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 exactly known for its high-quality standards. 

If it didn’t fall apart in the wash and met size standards, you could get something passed. 

And we sold a ton of capris.

But our head of QA was well-trained and often frustrated that items were ordered despite looking awful. 

Because of that experience and subsequent relationships with tailors and clothing makers over the years, I learned the nuances between good and bad design and why an item is sometimes inherently unflattering from a construction standpoint.

Related: What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Shorts

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 below about how these are not capris.

Let me assure you, they are.

It says so on the label.

These were being marketed and sold as CAPRIS.

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 neutral and presentable as possible.

And for the comments telling me sneaker would make all the difference: false. Nothing would look worse.

They both look so terrible on me; I can’t believe I’m putting these up for all the internet to see.

Why Capris Are Ill-Fitting

Why I hate Capris (and what to wear instead)
Horrible fit and collapsing in the back.

Capris were a notoriously challenging style to get through the QA approval process because their design is inherently imperfect. 

Technically speaking, most capris are made with a leg opening that becomes too narrow too quickly, almost like there is not enough runway, as it moves down the leg, making them 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 

Why I hate Capris (and what to wear instead)
Atrocious and embarrassing.

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 the hem 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.

I read somewhere that they make you look like you are standing in a ditch and I couldn’t agree more.

To make matters worse, designers often add ridiculous embellishments that only cheapen the item further, like oversized pockets, cargo straps, zippers, grommets, and cuffs (above).

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 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 any of 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.

And because they cost little to make, there’s little quality.

Yet women keep buying them because they think they are the only warm weather alternative to shorts.

But there are SO MANY other options that provide the same coverage with infinitely better design.

Related: Follow Along Over On Instagram for Daily Real Life Style and Fashion Tips for Women 40 and Up!

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 more flattering, modern and easier to style.

First of all, if you like shorts by all means, wear them!

And also skirts and dresses are all wonderful options.

But let’s focus on pant options.

Starting on the left with these FIVE stare wide-leg linen-blend pants that will hit at our around your ankles.

The pair above is from Old Navy and one of the most popular pants we’ve featured.

They come in various colors and all sizes. 

You can see three ways to style them here.

Three Ways to Style Old Navy’s Wide Leg Linen Pants

The next option, also from Old Navy, is a simple, lightweight chino with the same casual vibe as a Capri, but they fit 1000 times better. 

Available in all sizes and several fantastic colors

The Difference Between Capri, Cropped and Ankle Pants

The difference is as simple as the inseam.

Typically capris have an inseam of 23″ – 25″, a cropped pant is about 26″ and should hit two – four fingers above your ankle.

And ankle pants have a 28″ inseam and should hit at your ankle.

As you can see, there is a small difference between the three options that make a big difference in fit.

Some of the push back I get when I say to avoid capris is that they “keep you cool.”

To which I say, wear a cropped pant instead.

It’s a difference of about an inch or two and looks a thousand times better.

Of course, retail calls things whatever they want, but these are the standard inseams for each style of pant.

The Bottom Line on Capris

I get a decent amount of negative comments on this post because they think I’m trying to “tell women what to wear.”

Again, I don’t care what you wear.

It’s not that deep.

Certainly not worth getting offended over.

But if you appreciate things like fashion and personal style, we can do so much better than capris.

And if you want to look modern, chic and classic consider some of these alternatives to capris.

Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Related Posts

 Join Megan Kristel for a comprehensive, 3 hour long, LIVE Virtual Workshop sharing personal style and shopping tips for women over 40 on March 31, 2023.


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.

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Lin Haraway

Tuesday 3rd of September 2019

Even cropped pants are too long where I live. Outside, the heat index can be above 105F for over a month during July and August. It doesn't dip below 100 until September. Offices are usually kept cool to accommodate hard drives, but those of us who are retired or work in other settings usually keep the temp around 78-80F to keep power bills down.

So what's an older woman to do besides bare her whale-belly colored legs in a dress or in shorts?


Saturday 17th of August 2019

Love this! I was recently in a meeting of retired teachers here in small-town Indiana. Thought I had gone to Capri Day at the local nursing home instead! Goddd they are awful; so unflattering. Does that 6 inches of skin really make you that much cooler? Wear shorts or actual pants, but not these -- abominations! I know exactly why - the need to fit in here is so important - you wear capris, or go to church, or-- whatever, predominantly because that's what your girlfriends do - and, goddd forbid, that you be different, because different = WEIRD. And, we just can't have that now, can we? I've gotta get out of here!


Thursday 1st of August 2019

I'm sorry that you all hate capris, but apparently you aren't finding the right ones. My capris don't have any of the issues that were mentioned. Mine do not collapse or bunch, they don't hit my legs at a bad length to make my legs look choppy, there are no weird embellishments, zippers, or grommets, and the bottoms definitely do not flare out. As far as any type of ankle pant, I think those look worse. They look like you bought the wrong length or they shrunk. They definitely do not look good on my 5'1" body at all. With the right top and the right sandals, my capri outfits look great.

Christine Moore

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

Amen Sista! The 1/3 and 2/3 formula - capris are NOT in the equation,.


Tuesday 28th of May 2019

I have never worn and never will wear a pant that doesn't break at the top of my foot. Oh wait--I think I have a photo of myself at age three circa 1955 wearing clamdiggers at the beach. Doesn't count, or at least I hope not! We baby boomers called short pants "floods" or "high water pants" back in the '60s and '70s. I like to present a long, clean line from head to toe (even when I'm fat), so I hate short and 3/4 sleeves as well. Not to mention maxi dresses that don't touch the floor! I'm strictly a catalog shopper in my dotage and these unflattering lengths seem to be de rigeur for the spring and summer months. How depressing.


Sunday 26th of May 2019

You might as well be wearing your grandma’s pajamas. I’ve owned one pair in my life- 15 yrs ago. At first I thought they were chic- one day while shopping for more- I took a quick glance in the mirror - and to my horror- saw my grandmothers profile. They went into the trash and no one ever asked ‘where Did your grandmothers pants go?’.

Phyllis Stanley

Friday 24th of May 2019

I AGREE..capri pants look old lady.frumpy....Anything that creates a chopped look is going to make you appear fatter AND shorter..This is the opposite of fashion dictates AND common sense. The arguments i hear in favor say they are cooler and more comfortable for SUMMER. Not true at all. Wear.a skirt or short at a flattering length and cut.

Bethany Anderson

Friday 24th of May 2019

Uh oh! I'm in trouble, lol. I wear capris instead of shorts, because for awhile, a decent pair of shorts was impossible to find. Either butt cheeks were hanging out, or they were "old lady" shorts - not fitted at all, which made my legs looks like toothpicks sticking out comically. Any direction on decent shorts?


Thursday 23rd of May 2019

Macy has these skimmers that just covr the knee. I have them in all colors and they work well for hot weather and a casual look.

They are on sale now.


Saturday 18th of May 2019

I recently found your site, and am enjoying all the posts. Based on this one, I decided to get out my 2 pairs of capris for the season, tried them on, and NOW I SEE IT! The bagging fabric stacked above the back of the knee. I'm thinking these may be moving to the giveaway pile, and I will look for ankle pants to add to my closet instead. I am 59, and though I'm tall and weight proportionate, I have varicose veins and arthritic chubby looking knees, so I always like to learn about flattering summer pants options. I've never been much of a skirt wearer, maybe it's time for that to change, too.

Megan Kristel

Saturday 18th of May 2019

Thanks Kristyn! Your comment made my day!


Saturday 18th of May 2019

I love capris! Don’t care what you think. They look great and are just perfect! Love them.

Lana Smiley

Saturday 27th of February 2021

You must not have ever checked yourself out in a full length mirror...But hey, its a free country!


Thursday 16th of May 2019

I completely agree with this! You just did a great job explaining what I intuitively knew. I would say this is very important if you are over 45 . No one wants to look like a fashion mess as they age. ?

Cynthia Taylor Huff

Thursday 16th of May 2019

HI Megan, Can you do an article similar to this on shorts. I'm so confused on what length is respectable, especially for my age, 63 - I have decent legs, but still I tend to hide in the summer behind ankle length pants. Please help! Thanks!!

Megan Kristel

Thursday 16th of May 2019

Working on it! Stay tuned ... :)


Thursday 16th of May 2019

Thanks for this article explaining why capris don’t work. I agree they are not flattering at all. I get the feeling people like them because they definitely don’t have to alter them, being that the average woman is 5’4”. And I would guess they are cheaper ( less fabric). I think they are the frumpiest thing retail has ever made.


Thursday 16th of May 2019

Does this also go for Capri workout pants/leggings?

Megan Kristel

Thursday 16th of May 2019

I say wear whatever you want to workout, right?

Mary Warren

Thursday 16th of May 2019

I am delighted to find this feature.


Thursday 16th of May 2019

Well, I am a petite size, but most of my height is in my legs (petite tops, misses bottoms). I find with the right (for me) top, capri's that fit the leg (not away from the leg) are one of my best pants. I live in Texas, No matter what I wear, darker at the top is most likely my best combination. And I am on the wrong side of 65. As hot as it gets here in the summer, the shortest pant one can get away with is best. Shorts are way in my past. Cropped pants chop me right in half and I have to be careful with ankle pants. Needs the correct shoe or sandal. Color of the pant with the correct shoe can work. I use to be a buyer and clothing coordinator (in the 70's). Anyone can look great if they proportion correctly.


Tuesday 26th of March 2019

Unpopular opinion here, but I actually love capris! I always get or tailor them to just below my knees, and like the proportions. I guess it's just as well, since long shorts don't cover enough for my liking, and I don't get chub rub as can sometimes happen to me in skirts. I feel the way you do, but about crop pants - what a contrarian, I tell ya!

Valentine Smith

Friday 10th of December 2021

@Jane, I wear my capris as you do, just below my knees. That is how you can tell them from my shorts which I wear just above my knees. I have thin legs and crop pants because the legs are always so wide, look really dorky on me. Ugly!

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

Hey Jane! It sounds like what you are wearing is more like a clam digger, if you're having it stop right below your knee. That can be a very flattering length on most body shapes and heights and a nice alternative to shorts and skirts. The issue with capris comes when the hem cuts through the middle of your calf, the you're really messing with your proportions in a not so flattering way. :)


Saturday 23rd of March 2019

I live in AZ where it is extremely hot for 6 months of the year. I do wear capris because i am in my 60's and don't look good in shorts. I have a pear shape and am 5'3" and the pants that you suggest look terrible on me also because they cut me off to look shorter and heavier. So I keep going back to the capris. Kind of feel stuck.


Friday 6th of May 2022

@sherry, Sounds just like me. I gained quite a bit the last few years from medications and it is all in the mid section. I hate the look of cropped pants. They always look like what we used to call "flood pants" and not something you bought on purpose. I guess I have no taste because I thought she looked fine in those first two photos with capris on:)


Friday 15th of March 2019

Thanks very much. I hate capris as well, but I thought that a cropped pant was the same thing. Thanks for clarifying! I will look for cropped. But what kind of shoe do you wear with cropped pants? I have big feet, so footwear is always an issue for me.

Best, Teesie

Megan Kristel

Tuesday 19th of March 2019

Hey Teesie - I have big feet too! Size 10 - I just look for a shoe that has a more narrow profile, other than that you can wear any kind of shoe or heel.

Kathleen Keenan

Saturday 9th of March 2019

I totally agree with you! I have worn capris in my lifetime, unfortunately, but a few years ago happen to notice how unflattering they are - for the same reasons you have mentioned. I think that, by not buying them, they will eventually stop making them. They are u-g-l-y! Thank you!

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

Thanks Kathleen!


Friday 1st of March 2019

Hi, Megan I read this post because I, too, can’t stand capris. But I thought it was just me they don’t look good on. I have a long torso, short legs and thick ankles, so I can’t even seem to wear ankle pants. Thanks, Angie

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 6th of March 2019

Thanks Angie!

Patricia Hornbeck

Sunday 24th of February 2019

Megan this was a very interesting article, I’m only 5’3” and I’ve had a really rough time with capris, ankle pants etc. I find petite too short and regular too long. I am resigned to getting them altered but it’s hard to figure what length & what shoes to wear. Quite a dilemma. If you have any pearls of wisdom I would love to hear them. Thank you so much for all your wonderful articles. Patricia

Leigh Ann Tidwell

Friday 27th of August 2021

Figure out what the length is you are going for. Some companies, like Land’s End, will custom hem your pants (for a fee). Otherwise, find a good tailor in your town. I’m 5’3”(ish), and sometimes pants labeled as “cropped” are full length on me. I do prefer an ankle length or cropped length, however, because full length pants always seem to need to be altered in some fashion.

Megan Kristel

Monday 25th of February 2019

Hi Patricia, One of the reasons I like ankle pants so much is because you can dress them up or down and wear any shoe. They wore well with heels or flats/loafers. Have them hemmed so the skim your ankles. Capris are tricky. If you want to wear them have them hit about three inches above your ankle, and make sure they are a straight leg with a simple design. They lean more casual so any shoe from a flat sandal to a casual wedge will work.


Thursday 14th of February 2019

I couldn’t agree more. I never knew exactly why I hated capris. I just knew it wasn’t right. Thank you for explaining the science behind it.

Elizabeth Kasprzak

Monday 4th of February 2019

Thank you for an excellent article.! You put my feelings into words.. I own capris but I prefer what we used to call Bermuda shorts. My very tall girlfriend gets away with Capris because she is so tall.. On me they hit midcalf which just looks terrible on me.. Kindofcuts me in half.

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 13th of February 2019

Thanks Elizabeth - Good point. I'm about 5'10 and can technically can wear a Capri but there are still better alternatives for me. It's all about the proportions. Glad the article was helpful!

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