Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Why I Hate Capris and What to Wear Instead

This is a repost from last June because it’s that time of year!

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 better alternatives for you, so hear me out.

My first buying job out of college was at Charming Shoppes in their Fashion Bug division buying plus-sized bottoms. 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, worked 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 put them on.

Why I Hate Capris and What to Wear Instead
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 become too narrow as it moves down the leg, so they bunch at the knee and huge the calfs. 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 to explain why you get too much fabric and folds between your back pockets and the back of your knee. The back of a Capri especially should fall 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.  (You can see in the photo above how the back of the pant is collapsing onto the back of the leg.)

From a proportional standpoint, they do the body no favors. The number one point I try to make in most of our style posts is how to create the most flattering, proportional look, regardless of your personal style. 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.

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 the 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. And worst of all, the play with the leg, making them flair out right below the knee giving an unnatural shape to the leg.

I have no idea why these things are produced. But now you know why my disdain runs so deep.  So what are you suppose to wear instead?

The cropped pant, which is a similar but better option because of it’s construction. The cropped pant stops right below your calf instead of midway through. These slim cropped pants by NYDJ are a great example.   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.

Sometimes cropped pants are called ankle pants.  Retail does a terrible job with consistency. Technically speaking a cropped pant will be a little bit shorter than an ankle and an ankle hits right at the ankle.  Either style, in a lightweight fabric, will be comfortable and appropriate for hot days. These days cropped/ankle pants come with all kinds of leg cuts, from wide, to slim to tapered in all sorts of fabrics.

Depending on your leg, 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.

Like shorts? Go for it. The best rule of thumb for shorts is to keep them at or above your knee. By the way, everyone has ugly knees, so there is no need to try to hide yours.  I like these casual shorts by Patagonia , Sejour (Nordstrom’s private label) does a nice option for sizes 14 – 24 and Old Navy’s mid rise “everyday” short is fantastic for the price and color options.  


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.

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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!!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

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

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