Style Tips

Capri Pants: In or Out?

I originally wrote this post eight years ago, and I dug it out of the archives because I’ve been getting some questions lately about capris and if they are in or out. It’s funny because I sort of thought this topic had been laid to rest, but apparently not!

The first thing we need to clarify is, what is a capri pant?

What Is A Capri Pant?

If you look it up in the dictionary, it says this:

capri pants: definition

However, depending on who is using it, the term can be a catch-all for any pants that are longer than shorts and shorter than, well, pants.

When I say capri pants, I am thinking specifically of the pants that cut off in the middle of the calf. Like this or this or (heaven forbid) this.

And those, my friend, are a solid NO. I’m actually surprised to see that they’re even still selling them! But capris are in, fact, alive and well at certain retail outlets.

Some are certainly less offensive than others (I’m looking at you, elastic waistbands!) but in general, capri pants are terribly unflattering on almost everyone.

This is because they create a horizontal line across the widest part of a woman’s calf, which makes you look shorter and wider. They also shorten the line of the leg and throw off your overall proportions.

Capri pants also look dated because they were everywhere 10-15 years ago, and since then, they’ve slowly faded out of the mainstream. To determine if a style is in or out, take a look at stores that do a good job of curating current styles, such as LOFT and Evereve. HINT: You won’t see capris.

Of course, if you love them, wear them. Full stop. But if you’re asking if they’re in or out, and you’re trying to stay current, there are better options.

blouse (S) // crop jeans (29) // sandals (8) // tote

What to Wear Instead of Capris

Cropped and ankle length pants are just as cool and comfortable as capris, but they look more current, and they’re more flattering because they end where most women’s legs are the narrowest — right at or a couple inches above the ankle.

These days, all different silhouettes are trending for crop pants – from skinny to wide leg, and from straight to bootcut – so wear what you like best.

t-shirt (S) // crop jeans (29) // similar slides (8)

If you’re worried about looking like you’re wearing “floods,” just go ahead and wear full-length pants. You can find all kinds of lightweight, flowy fabrics these days that are *almost* as cool and comfortable as wearing shorts.

Here are some guidelines for wearing crop pants and jeans in a modern way.

Tips for Wearing Crop Pants & Jeans

  1. Make sure the hem is at a spot on your leg where the calf narrows.
  2. High rise versions make the crop pants look longer, which in turn makes you look taller and slimmer.
  3. Pair your crop pants with tops that are shorter, or tuck them in, to maintain that pleasing Golden Ratio.
  4. If you’re vertically challenged or have shorter legs, avoid crop pants with cuffs, as they shorten the leg even more.
  5. A low heel or wedge looks great with crop pants, and remember that shoes with a lower vamp will help extend the line of the leg.
  6. Slide sandals and fashion sneakers look great with casual crop pant outfits. Avoid bulky sneakers and ankle straps.
  7. Match the color of the shoe to the color of the pants, or wear a skin-colored shoe to make your legs look longer.

Shop Crop Pants and Jeans:

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photos: Alison Cornell

Join the Conversation

46 thoughts on “Capri Pants: In or Out?

  1. I detest capris! I am shocked that they’re still sold, but stores sell them because some women still buy them, which also shocks me.

  2. I don’t agree with your assessment of capris. I like them and I don’t think they make me look frumpy. They can be styled to look very cute. And if they are no longer “current” then why are they still sold almost everywhere? And so many people are still wearing them? Also, most people can’t afford to keep up with the current trends or fashions. I personally think that ankle pants just look like the person wearing them are wearing pants that don’t fit correctly. I think capris are getting a bad rap just for the sake of making high water pants more acceptable.

    1. While I’m not a fan of Capri pants, I agree with you on the full-court press the blogging world as done to make “ankle pants” fashionably acceptable. These are the “floods” or “high waters” that, once upon a time, stylish women who not have been caught dead in 😉

      I don’t think anyone ever looks better in ankle pants than full length ones. However, I suppose I can understand wearing them as an alternative to shorts or capris in warm weather. Nothing screams ‘ fashion victims’, imo, that seeing women with bare ankles in cold winter months.

  3. Wow I’m surprised we are still talking about them! They don’t hit a woman’s leg at the right spot so never found them flattering.

  4. I just typed a long post on why crops are not very flattering. Having said that, I want to thank you for helping us make the current trends look good. I’m waiting for crops to be gone with the cold shoulder tops. Have a great day and thank you again for helping us.

  5. I cringe when I see an old photo of myself wearing capris– I look like I’m wearing my great-grandmother’s culottes. They hit my legs in exactly the wrong place. That said, ultimately, I think we should wear what makes us feel good. I wish my clothing didn’t affect how I feel about myself– it would make my life easier. lol. But feeling like I look good makes me feel good.

    1. I think most of us feel that way. And I cringe looking at old pictures too. I remember when capris were coming in, I had a friend who SWORE she would never wear them. Declared them so unflattering. Well, guess who ended up wearing capris? Haha! It’s funny how the eye adjusts over time to what’s in or out of style.

  6. Never liked them, never wore them, never will. If you check out the age of those still wearing them, its usually around 60 plus years of age and older. I think they age a person and for sure hit at the wrong part of a woman’s leg. I know they are appealing for those older woman who don’t want to wear shorts, but still stay cool. I agree with Jo-Lynne’, there is long flowy pants that can be just as cool as shorts. From other comments, I think this is still going to be a big debate and yes, wear what you like in the end, but Capri’s are out of style and have been for along time.

  7. While it seems that most of the commenters agree with you, I am on the fence about this. Let me preface this by saying that I no longer wear capri pants. I want to be current at 64 and wear ankle pants instead, or Bermuda shorts that fit closer, such as some I have from Liverpool jeans and the Gap. I have always found jeans waaaay too hot to wear in the summer. My dissent comes from this: everyone says Capris cut you off at the widest part of the calf, thus making you look shorter and wider than you are. Now, I am not talking about the baggy, loose ones that older ladies wear with the big white tennis shoes, I am referring to the ones that fit like a normal jean, but stops somewhere below the knee. Maybe it’s because of my petite, hourglass body type, but my husband and I both have always thought I looked slimmer and better in that type of pant. I have found some wide leg ankle length pant that look okay on me, but I am sorry—it does make some women look wider and shorter and personally, I think in my case, I would look better in general wearing the capri length—but I won’t, because it’s not currently in style. But styles change quickly, and I wonder what will happen when ankle length is out and capri length is back in.

    1. There are always exceptions. I like how Jen at Everyday Style School says it: “Never put a horizontal line across the widest part of anything… unless you want it to look bigger.” Every woman’s body is different and sometimes we don’t mind making an area look wider, if it balances out the proportions of the rest of the outfit.

      If you like a shorter length, you can always play around with that mid range. Even an inch or two below the widest point of your calf would be considerably shorter than typical crop or ankle pants, and might be more flattering on you personally. In other words, maybe you can split the difference and feel both current and like you’re wearing the length that best flatters your body.

    2. I think it’s all about the length and shape. I have some longer capris (hit right where the calf narrows) that also have a slight flare but due to my big calves, they don’t look flared, just makes my legs look smaller. Sometimes capris are the lesser evil in situations where a dress won’t work but I don’t want to expose everyone to my thighs. However, I’m also over 60 and wear what I want….the big chunky sneakers are just over the horizon!

      1. Haha! We should all wear what we want. 🙂 There are certainly no fashion police coming to take your capris away, if that’s what makes you feel comfortable and confident.

  8. Jo-lynne – what would we do without you? Thank you so much for keeping us on track. I also hate capris but my older sister loves them — I wonder if I can forward the blog post to her anonymously! 🙂

  9. I really don’t care for capris but I own some. I wear them when it’s hot around home. Sometimes it’s hard to find something to replace them since shorts are not an option and I can’t wear linen. I’m looking for light weight ankle length.

  10. Can you explain to me how ankle pants and other crop styles are not doing the same thing in terms of shortening the leg? While I agree that cutting at the widest part of the calf is mildly worse than ending it above the ankle, both artificially cut the leg short to my eye. Ankle pants, to me, are nothing more than the garment world’s version of shrinkflation; they save money by cutting 2-4 inches off the bottom of every pair and selling them for the same price.

    1. Shrinkflation… snort.

      The difference is the issue with where the pants fall on the calf, which makes you look stumpy. Crop pants do shorten the line of leg but you counter that by keeping the overall outfit in proportion. You can also work with the color of the pants and the shoes to elongate the leg even though the pant are shorter than the floor.

    2. I second that! They’re pretty much one and the same! I especially think the ankle pants that fit through the entire leg then flares out at the bottom looks very much out of proportion, example: the Loft brand in the widget. I have both Capri’s and Ankle pants and will wear both. Let your eye and body type be your guide, instead of falling for the latest fashion trend. I was so happy to see the cold shoulder march off the runway but now we have all these ruffly puffy sleeves making a woman’s shoulders look wider not to mention a bit babyish. But to each her own as JoLynne says! 😉

  11. A bold post to be sure!!
    Skorts and dresses are a very nice option during warm weather. This is my current favorite look. I don’t care for wide leg cropped because I am so short. They DO look like floods to me. Let’s all wear what we are most comfy in.

    1. My 97-year-old mother-in-law counted her white Capri pants the other day getting ready for the summer season and she had 14. Enough said.

      1. I suppose if we have the pleasure of getting to live to be 97, we’ll understand! Way to go for your MIL! 😄

  12. I think capris look very nice on some women- I think it should be left up to the individual-some are not flattering, just as some ankle pants and crops are not. Some of my best friends look darling in capris-Sure are a lot around.

  13. First of all, I 100% agree with your assessment of the capris that a lot of women are still wearing. I quit wearing them years ago. However, I think we need to make a distinction between what looks good and what is in style. The current wide leg crops may be in style, but I think they are just as unflattering as capris. There isn’t a way to upload photos in the comments, but I cropped a screenshot of JLS in the white pants in today’s post and compared it to a screenshot of the green capris that are shown as an example of what not to wear. Honestly I think the green pants are much more flattering, slimming and youthful than the white pants that are on trend.

  14. Totally agree with your post. I used to wear capris. I wore them with wedge sandals and thought I looked stylish. But now looking at pictures I see how unflattering they are. I’m short with short legs so my legs look like little stumps. I like ankle and crop pants. I also wear bermudas if it’s real hot. I think capris are like skinny jeans. They’re not going away. I was surprised some of your readers like them. They are liked by mostly older women except for this 68 year old. My 66 year old sister got rid of hers too. QVC had a today’s value of capris last week. They talk about capris like they are still in style. The hosts had high heels on and it didn’t help. Reminded me of Peggy Bundy on the show Married with children.

  15. Wow you’ve stirred up a hornets nest! Lol. I think some of the older ladies think capris are still in style because they see other older ladies wearing them and retailers that cater to this clientele still sell them. Or maybe they just personally love them and don’t care if they are flattering or trendy. Regardless, I appreciate you posting this, and everyone can do with the info as they please (if you want to look current, take note; if you don’t care, move on). And btw I laughed out loud at the “just say no” pic, reminds me of drug Ed ads in the 90s! Thanks for the laugh!

      1. There was a similar debate in my age range (mid 30s) when skinnies first started trending out. One meme I saw said “you can pry my skinny jeans out of my cold dead hands”. Lol. Clearly the 70+ crowd feels the same about their capris!
        However like I said you have to decide if you want to look current or don’t care. I finally gave in on letting go of my skinnies because I like to look current. Also I’ve noticed a lot of older ladies who like looking trendy have given up their capris. But to those that don’t care, wear what you want regardless of what’s in style and enjoy it! But don’t be angry that others enjoy keeping up with the trends.

  16. I love your brown sandals! Since I have very narrow, skinny feet I struggle to keep slides on, Do you have that issue with these sandals? I have the navy born ones from last year. Do they fit about like those? Thanks in advance! Love the post as a reminder.

  17. You must have read my mind, so glad you did this post. I have never loved capris either had one pair years ago and gave them away. I am 5’2″ approx 138 -140 lbs and have been looking for white crop pants and after your post I will definitely be getting the higher waist style and not cuffed, would prefer frayed hem.
    Northstrom has the cutest outfit with NYDJ in white but they are capris and model wearing Golden Goose black shoes and a gray t-shirt BUT she is in her twenties probably I ordered the pants which were listed at 25″ and they were only 21″ so they went right back! Plus I could never afford those sneakers.
    I find that petites don’t usually fit me right and my search continues.

  18. IMO, that length only looks “good” when they’re gym stretch pants. If you aren’t confident in your legs being tan enough before Summer to wear shorts, but you don’t want to swelter in ankle pants all day when the temps warm up….then capris (to me) seem like a practical option.

  19. Jo-Lynne, thank you so much for this laugh! I needed it so badly today and you have completely brightened my day with this post! The Lands End option is….I have no words. 😭

  20. Wow, I agree that it is suprising some women still need this reminder. For those, thank you for sending this PSA and hopefully it will make some at least think twice before donning capris! 🙂

  21. I’m 49 and haven’t worn capris in probably 20 years. Now I have more body confidence and wear shorts about 4-5 inches long (with self tanner), and jeans/pants, including ankle/cropped. I have slim ankles and think they make me look good. I’ve never thought of cropped pants as “floods” or “highwaters”, no one I know uses those terms except in the comments of this blog. Maybe I’m too young to remember. A big benefit to cropped pants is that it shows off your shoes, without showing a lot of leg like capris do. Puts focus on the shoes, which are my favorite fashion item!

    1. “High waters” is definitely a generational thing, lol. And I agree, I love how ankle length and crop pants show off your shoes. They also don’t get caught in the back under your heel when wearing slides.

  22. I’m 64 years old, but never wore Capris. Not when they were considered”in style,” not now. Not ever. I’m tiny and they made me look like a stump. They were always waaaay too much fabric for me. I am old enough to remember the term “flood pants,” and some of the current wider cropped pants do remind me of those. I won’t be doing those either. Nevertheless, a slightly cropped slim pant is nearly universally flattering – think Audrey Hepburn in a pair of black cigarette pants from the 1950s! I think a slim pant worn just above the ankle bone makes my short legs look longer. I suppose if you have cankles and your ankles are NOT the slimmest part of your leg that argument is moot.

    One exception: I am a runner and I wear capri tights in certain temps, but I notice we call them 3/4 tights now! LOL

    If older ladies want to wear things that they wore 20 years ago because they feel comfortable in them, and they see their friends in them, they should go for it. Just don’t expect people to say they are in style! Just you do you!

    1. I’m 43, 5′ 7″, and typically a sz 10/12. I think capri/”3/4″ leggings with a sweatshirt or baseball-length jersey this time of year look sporty and cute. Obviously, not for weddings or funerals LOL — but, certainly, comfortable and in no way “old” looking!

  23. Sharon, I think your comment is unkind. If seniors want to wear capris and chunky sneakers that are kind to their feet, then go for it. They are out touring, enjoying life, so why attack their clothes?

  24. I find it funny that you have to even post that capris are out of style. They have been for some time. But, if someone likes them, go for it!

    I prefer a more straight leg, high waist crop pant. Having your ankles bare is cooling and shows off your footwear. Don’t we love our shoes?!

  25. NO, NO, NO, PLEASE don’t wear capris!!! I live in FLORIDA and they are worn by “older” ladies. I do not wear them, even though someone might consider me one of those lades. Ha ha. I am very much into fashion and what’s in style currently. I think they cut most ladies off and in my opinion, and they just don’t help elevate any look in a good way.

  26. Capris
    Cropped pants
    Cropped flares
    Ankle pants
    It’s all relative. Who would have thought gauchos would come back in style?
    I suspect we will be cringing over the wide legged crops in a year.

    Everything comes back around eventually!

  27. I read all the comments and laughed at many of them! Fashion is supposed to be fun! But I was a little saddened that some have used this platform to shame the older ladies. It’s one thing to have an opinion, it’s another to to single out a particular age group to justify an opinion. I was raised to respect and honor my elders. Please be kind, we have no idea the shoes anyone has walked in, young and old alike.

    1. I totally agree. I think as people get older some wear what they like and feel there are more important things than being “in style.” Trends come and go, and being thought of as out of style by some isn’t the worst thing in the world. Older ladies can wear what they want and we shouldn’t judge them.

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