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Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

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

The Capri pant is the most unflattering, frumpy-dumpy, ugliest piece of clothing designed for women in modern history. 

Here’s the deal.

Retail does women no good. No one is sitting in an office, deciding on the next season’s inventory assortment, asking themselves:

Is this the best option for our customer?

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 am going to show, on me, 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.

Before we dive, I want to be really clear: I am not telling women what to wear.

Instead, if you’ve ever tried on a pair of capris and wondered why they look terrible, there are reasons. 

Today I’m reposting our most popular and talked about article because it’s that time of year. It’s been viewed almost half a million times since it was first published. Links and photos were updated on March 9, 2020

Before We Dive In

I spent the first half of my career, before I became  a professional stylist and image expert, in corporate retail as a buyer. 

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.

From there I became a buyer for a small high end boutique and eventually landed at QVC. 

But it was at Charming that, despite it being the least glamorous gig, I learned the most 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 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, worked with the fit model and design teams to make sure the fit was correct.

Granted, Fashion Bug wasn’t known for high-quality standards. Our head of QA was often frustrated that things were ordered despite looking awful. Basically if it didn’t fall apart in the wash and met size standards you could get something passed.

But her and her team did the best they could.

It was because of her, and subsequent relationships with tailors and clothing makers over the years, where I learned the nuances between good and great 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. 

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 in an attempt to make them look as okay as possible. 

I swear to you that these “fit” me. They are not too tight, even though they look it. 

They both look so stunningly terrible on me, I can’t believe I’m actually 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 are a notoriously challenging style to get through the approval process because their design is inherently imperfect. Which means, what you see in the stores is as good as it gets.

Technically speaking most capris are made with a leg opening that becomes too narrow 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 for the material to fall correctly, so the back of the pants “collapse.”

“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.

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.

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

Which, aside from doing nothing to enhance your look, visually chop off your height, instantly making you look frumpy.

It’s hard to make me look short. In wedges I’m close to 6′ tall. Yet, these pants diminish my height significantly. 

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.

Capris don’t do that. 

We can do better. 

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

What to Wear Instead of Capris

Work: Vince Camuto,$88 | Casual: Ann Taylor, $69 (Petite and Missy up to size 18) | Vacation: Old Navy, $35 (Regular, Tall and Petite XXS – XXL)


Cropped Pants Instead of Capris

Your first alternative to a capri is a cropped pant (above). 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, “capris.” As we know, retail does a terrible job with consistency. Have you ever worn the same size in every store? No.

Then don’t get hung up on what something is called. 

You can see how the pants 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. 

I rounded up three options to give you a visual. By adding just a few extra inches you make the proportion so much better. 

Work: Vince Camuto,$88

Vince Camuto makes a high quality, under $100 work appropriate pant. The fit is always on point, have just enough stretch and wear well. They are calling these an ankle pant, but they are technically cropped.  Petite option here.

Casual: Ann Taylor, $69

Simple, classic, and easy to wear these cotton blend pants that can go to a casual office or on the weekend. Available in petite and missy up to size 18 with a “regular” and “curvy” fit option. 

Vacation: Old Navy, $35 

If you are wearing capris because you hate your knees but need to stay cool, a cropped pant, in a lightweight fabric is your best option. Like these linen blend cropped pants from Old Navy. Available in six colors and patterns (for the most sophisticated look skip the patterns) in regular, tall and petite XXS – XXL.

You could also wear an ankle pant. 

Technically speaking a cropped pant will be a little bit shorter than an ankle pant and an ankle pant will hit right at or an inch 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, sometimes called “skinny” ankle pants. 

So what’s the bottom line on Capris?

First, of course, you can wear whatever you want. I get a decent amount of push back on this post because readers think I’m trying to “tell women what to wear.”

I don’t care what you wear.

If you are trying to achieve classic, timeless, chic style, then understanding why certain styles don’t work is important.

Retail isn’t a woman’s friend. 

Capris 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. 

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Our Style Content is Inspired by Our Readers

Our readership inspires all of our posts and is not sponsored or paid for by brands or retailers. 

Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

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Tuesday 14th of September 2021

It was a picture that did it for me--I looked 3 sizes bigger in those frumpy capris--I did have one pair that was amazing--denim, fitted properly and triple the cost of the frumpy khaki ones from the sad, sloppy picture--after reading this blog I realize now that the amazing 'capris' were actually really well made crops--makes sense. I'm late 50s and so miss shorts but they are gone forever...I wore only skirts and dresses for several years after that horrible I wear denim crops a lot in summer and they are far cooler than full length and I feel younger in denim somehow...

Robin Holbrook

Monday 23rd of August 2021

Funny! I’ve told my 50 year old daughter that NO WOMAN, not even Heidi Klum, looks good in cropped pants! But I didn’t know why! I’m 75 and even though I live in the Sunbelt where we melt 7 months of the year I won’t go out in public in anything skimpier than ankle pants! Linen is a year round fabric here. Dark colored linen is for fall and winter! Lol


Monday 7th of June 2021

Holy cow you should of kept a tab going on this, we almost all hate capris, lol. I have fat calf’s and skinny ankles, the look is a horror! Cropped for me, long shorts only for golf, I can’t take the heat in summer. Thanks for sharing!


Sunday 2nd of May 2021

I went to VCU & have a degree in fashion. A simple way to look at capris is it divides your body too much. Visually it splits you in to 3rds. If you must wear them, don’t wear a belt. I’ve tossed all mine.

Pat in AZ

Thursday 29th of April 2021

I have always hated capris, even when they were called 'pedal pushers' back when I was young. At 76, I don't worry as much about what's fashionable, but that doesn't mean I want to wear something I know isn't the least bit flattering. I no longer wear shorts, and I'll leave skinny pants to the young. I'm not wild about ankle pants because, to me, they look like pants that have shrunk. My favorite alternative is a loser leg linen or linen blend pant. I live in Arizona, so long pants can get hot in our days of 100+ weather, so linen is a perfect option, especially if it has a touch of spandex to control the wrinkles. Chinos and knits are another good choice if they are a good quality. Unfortunately, there is too little information or choice out there for women my age. Everything is geared to young women, leading to a closet full of bad decisions, trial and error and frustration for seniors who want to look good. I wish you could recommend or provide good advise for those of us who aren't ready to stop caring about how we look when we go out.

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