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Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Why I Hate Capris and What to Wear Instead

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

Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

How terrible.

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.

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 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

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 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 

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 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.

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 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.

The pair above is from Old Navy and comes in various colors and all sizes. 

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

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. 

Why I 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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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!

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.

Julie

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!

KS

Tuesday 17th of July 2018

I got here by typing “I hate capris”. Love the coworker; hate the gazillion pairs she must own.

They are SO universally unflattering.

And have none of these people never worn a longer dress or skirt? Infinitely more comfortable in hot weather (in a nice, lightweight fabric) than sad capris.

Megan Kristel

Tuesday 17th of July 2018

"Love the coworker; hate the gazillion pairs she must own." Is the funniest thing I've read all day! Thanks for stopping by.

Leslie L Kaye

Sunday 1st of July 2018

I don't own any of the following because they are not attractive at all on me or others I have seen : clam diggers, pedal pushers, cropped pants, capris and anything else the fashion world wants to call them. They look like the manufacturers ran out of fabrics or wanted to charge the same ridiculous prices and make a bigger profit!

When I watch Lori Goldstein's (LOGO) models in them - and they are short, tall, young etc., they all look frumpy, dumpy and they are not my age of 75! Lori herself wears them because she is selling them and wants everyone to buy them!!! No matter how much sparkles, fringes at the bottom, embroidery et al they attach to these ugly pants, they are ugly on everyone!!!

If I were in my 20s or younger, I may possibly try one pair out ... no ...for one split second I thought maybe but that's a solid no!

Mary

Friday 17th of June 2022

@Leslie L Kaye, I never liked the length of the Capri. Most older women buy them to fit their waist and therefore the leg is wide and such an awkward length. I prefer the above the ankle look. And occasionally I wear Bermuda shorts. What's good for old men is good for old women.

Suzanne

Wednesday 13th of June 2018

Sadly, I don't think capris will ever go away. They seem to be popular because they are seen as a "safe" choice for middle-aged (or older) women who want to be comfortable in hot weather but don't want their legs to be visible, like with shorts.

Kim Gomes

Tuesday 12th of June 2018

Hands down, this is one of my favorite all time posts! Couldn’t agree more.

Elizabeth

Sunday 16th of July 2017

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.

.

Hilda

Saturday 21st of May 2022

@Elizabeth, agreed they can be sexy

Carol Ahuja

Saturday 3rd of June 2017

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!

Lana Smiley

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Either wear shorts or long pants!! Anything at all between the two will be hideously unflattering. That has always been the case

Megan Kristel

Monday 5th of June 2017

Totally agree! Thanks for the comment!

Cheryl

Thursday 1st of June 2017

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.

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

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

Tracy

Thursday 1st of June 2017

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

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

Thanks Tracy! And thanks for sharing the link - super helpful!

Tracy Gray

Thursday 1st of June 2017

I agree 100% with you on capri pants.

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

Thanks Tracy!

Melanie

Thursday 1st of June 2017

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.

Elizabeth

Wednesday 13th of July 2022

@Melanie, I think Capri leggings are great…a totally different look for me than regular capris.

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

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.

Sarah Tostrud

Thursday 1st of June 2017

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!!

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

Yes! Next week we'll have a deeper post with some casual and dress options.

Lyn Hutchinson

Thursday 1st of June 2017

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 :)

Megan Kristel

Friday 2nd of June 2017

Hi Lyn! Glad it was helpful! :)

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