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Why I (Still) Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Of all the articles I’ve ever published, this one about my contempt for capri pants, originally written on a whim a decade ago, is my most popular.

I haven’t shared this post in several years since it looked like capris were finally officially out of style.

Sure, you could still buy them at some mass retailers, but they weren’t a sartorial consideration.

And then this year something inexplicable happened and they started to creep back around.

So here we go again.

What I find both odd and fascinating about this conversation is that my saying, “Hey, capris pants aren’t flattering. We can do better. Here are some alternatives.” sparks WILD comments.

With capri-pant lovers in the comments calling me all sorts of terrible names, and LOTS of comments on my body and weight, one lady even called me a “Heffer.”

And the emails and Pinterest comments I get are even worse, one women wrote that she would “punch me in the face if she ever saw me on the street”. Like, what? 😮 lol.

Comically wild.

In all my years as a stylist, I’ve deemed countless pieces of clothing less than flattering, but only capris garner so much vitriol.

Believe me when I say the comments don’t bother me. I like myself and have lived enough to know what feedback to take seriously, but it’s weird, right?

So, may I gently remind everyone that this is a website about fashion, specifically for women over 40 who are interested in keeping their personal style updated and modern, who want to look and feel great in their clothes and feel confident in their choices.

Our goal is to help you do that while explaining why some things work and some don’t.

If you fall in the camp of “don’t tell me what to wear,” I’m probably not for you.

So here we go again, let’s talk about why I (still) hate capris and what you can wear instead.

Why I Hate Capris (And What to Wear Instead)

Before you leave a comment telling me how bad I look, I know.

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years.

I spent the first half of my career in corporate retail as a buyer before becoming a personal stylist and then eventually created The Well Dressed Life.

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 for Fashion Bug.

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, at Fashion Bug we were selling sweatshirts with Betty Boop on them, so it wasn’t exactly known for its high-quality standards or high-style.

Basically, 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.

However, our head of QA was well-trained and often frustrated that items were ordered despite looking awful. Capris were her least favorite garment.

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

Yes, my butt looks huge, that’s the point.

There are a lot of 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.

Why Capris Are Ill-Fitting

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 

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 widest part 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. 

We can do better. 

Why Do Retailers Still Make Capris?

The ugly truth is that capris are cheap pants and anything that is cheap to make has a high margin.

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

What To Wear Instead Of Capris

The biggest reason I hear for wearing capris is that they are more comfortable than shorts, are good for the summer heat and cover your knees.

Fair enough, you shouldn’t be uncomfortable or feel self conscious.

But there are so many other options with better fit in a more modern style that can accomplish that.

To compare apple to apples, let’s look at the difference between capris and cropped pants both in a lightweight denim for about the same price (you can pretend these are twill, khaki or any other fabric).

There is about a 3″ difference in length, that’s it, but the fit is night and day.

The capris (a pair of Levi’s I bought on Amazon) cling, and the cuff is tight around my calf. I tried on three different sizes, each one the waist got bigger and bigger on me, but the leg stayed the same. Hence, their flawed design.

The cropped jeans are from Gap Factory. They fit well in the waistband and hips, just skim my body and slightly flair at the bottom, creating a sense of balance for my shoulders and waist.

It was a HOT day when I shot these looks, and I can tell you I’d rather spend my day in the Gap Factory jeans than the capris.

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 to 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 or ankle pant in a breathable fabric.

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.

What to Wear When You Don't Wear Shorts

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

Final Thoughts on Capris

Dressing well is all about finding the cuts and proportions that work for you and your unique shape and frame. Which is really hard to do because the decision makers at the helm of retail don’t care what is good for you. They’re not interested in what will work for you. They aren’t even thinking of you.

Capris, unfortunately, falls short in so many ways.

But if they are your favorite pants, just go ahead and ignore me.

Why I (Still) Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)
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MEET THE AUTHOR

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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Sandy

Monday 9th of March 2020

I agree with you 100 percent. I am a short woman, and even petite sized capris look horrible on me. Thank you bring this fashion subject up with spring and summer around the corner. Love your articles.

Cherise

Friday 31st of January 2020

Stop buying ill fitting or cheaply made capris, problem solved! Sorry but your experience at one of the cheapest clothing stores is not indicative of how capris are made by higher end designerS, or even just decent designers. If tailored right, they look just fine on as variety of body styles. Cheap jeans and pants work exactly the same. Nothing revolutionary here.

Megan Kristel

Friday 31st of January 2020

Assuming such a thing even exists, how many women in this country can afford high end or "designer" capris and then have them altered? Considering all the other places our budgets have to go, that's not a practical solution.

Susan

Sunday 27th of October 2019

Bullshit, Capri looks awesome on me. And a lot of other women. Why would it be famous for so long anyway?

Ashley

Thursday 6th of August 2020

Capris are popular because of middle-aged soccer moms who are too embarrassed about their legs to just wear shorts.

Megan Kristel

Monday 28th of October 2019

Do you know how many unflattering items of clothing are popular? Retailers don't care if it looks good on you. If you like them wear whatever you want and ignore me.

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?

David

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!

Kathi

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,.

ROBIN

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.

Ann

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?

Amanda

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.

https://www.macys.com/shop/product/style-co-pull-on-skimmers-created-for-macys?ID=3287643&PseudoCat=my-wl-xx-xx.mylist_pdp

They are on sale now.

Kristyn

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!

Fran

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!

A

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 ... :)

Eileen

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.

Jknapp

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.

Amanda

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.

Jane

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. :)

sherry

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.

Missy

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:)

Teesie

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!

Angie

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 Www.yourtrueselfblog.com

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 6th of March 2019

Thanks Angie!

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