Why I Hate Capris (and What to Wear Instead)

Why I Hate Capris and What to Wear Instead

Today we are reposting our most popular and talked about post because it’s that time of year! Links have been updated. May 15th, 2019

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 can offer better alternatives for you, so hear me out.

Why I Hate Capris

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. As you can surmise from my job title, it was not the most glamorous gig.

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, work 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 try them on.

What to Wear Instead of Capris 
Why I Hate Capris and What to Wear InsteadWhy Capris Never Fit Well

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 becomes too narrow as it moves down the leg, so they bunch at the knee and hug the calves.

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 used to explain there is often too much fabric and folds between your back pockets and the back of your knee.

The back of a capri should sit 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.)

Why Capris Are Not Flattering 

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.

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.

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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 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.

Worst of all, most capris legs flair out right below the knee giving an unnatural shape to the leg. Visually you are chopping off your height and will almost instantly look frumpy. 

I have no idea why these pants are produced.  But now you know why my disdain runs so deep. We can do better. 

What to Wear Instead of Capris

Your first alternative to a capri is a cropped pant. 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, “ankle pants.” Such is the case with these slim cropped pants by NYDJ are a great example.  Retail does a terrible job with consistency. These are cropped pants not ankle pants.

You can see how the pants almost 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. 

Technically speaking a cropped pant will be a little bit shorter than an ankle and an ankle will hit right at or an inch or two above the ankle. 

Related Post: Can I Wear Bootcut Jeans?

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. They’re also sometimes called “skinny” pants. As an example, Michael Kors is calling these cigarette pants, when in reality, they are obviously capris

So what’s the bottom line?

First, you can wear whatever you want. I get a decent amount of push back when I publish posts like this because readers think I’m trying to “tell women what to wear.” I don’t care what you wear, but I do care that if you are trying to pull off a particular style, knowing why it’s not working and how to achieve it is important. Retail isn’t a woman’s friend. 

Capris, to me, can 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. 

 

Shop What to Wear Instead of Capris 

Why I hate capris and what to wear instead. Breaking down WHY these are the worst kind of pants for women to wear and offering flattering alternatives for all body types.
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.

56 Comments
  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!
    https://www.jbrandjeans.com/women/featured/cropped-boot#?offset=0&limit=24

  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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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

    1. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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

    1. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

    1. 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. 🙂

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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!!

  21. 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. ?

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

  25. 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?’.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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?

    1. 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.

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