Capri Pants: In or Out?

On Friday, I wrote a fashion post about alternatives to shorts, for ladies who don’t care to wear shorts in the summertime and were looking for other casual alternatives. I mentioned in that post that I no longer wear capri pants, which created some curiosity in the comments section. Several of you asked why I no longer wear capris and if they are out of style.

Personally, I am not a fan of capris — at least, capris as I think of them — where the hemline falls somewhere in the mid-calf region. Although I definitely participated in the trend during its heyday, I never thought they were particularly flattering, and lately I have started to feel like they look dated. These days I opt for cropped pants or boyfriend jeans, or I just wear a skirt or shorts. When I want the look of a cropped pant, I like to cuff my regular jeans like this.

Fashion for Women Over 40: Capri Pants vs Cropped Pants and everything in between!

But I know that a lot of women who live in warm climates swear that capri pants are a “must” for surviving the summer heat. I was curious about the current party line regarding capri pants, so I did a quick Google search. As you would expect, opinions are mixed.

I also asked over on my Facebook Page, and of course there are always a few who pipe up and say we should all just wear what we want to wear and who cares what anyone else thinks. Well, yeah, I agree in theory, but I want to wear clothing that is current and on trend (and of course flattering) so I do consider what is in style and how to wear the current trends appropriately. Judging by the popularity of my fashion posts, I will assume that many of you do too.

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

I know the term can be a catch-all for any pants that are longer than shorts and shorter than, well, pants. But when I say capri pants, I am thinking of the pants that cut off in the middle of the calf. In fact, if you look it up in the dictionary, it says this:

capri pants: definition

However, when you go online to shop for pants, you will find capri pants a catch-all for cropped pants, ankle length pants, pedal pushers, and of course capris.

I think it is safe to say that capri pants, like every trend, ebbs and flows. They aren’t necessarily out of style, but the style of capris has evolved. Just like blue jeans, some capri pants are “in” and some are “out” so paying attention to style and cut is key.

Here’s my personal list of Capri Pants Dos and Don’ts.

Capri Pants Dos and Don’ts

Don’t wear capri pants that are baggy or hang straight.

DO wear capri pants that are tapered and create a slender line of the leg.

Don’t wear capri pants that end at the widest point of your calf.

DO wear capri pants that end between your calf and ankle, where your shin starts to curve.

DO wear capri pants that end above the calf. I consider these pedal-pushers, but they fall under the umbrella of capri pants, I suppose. Incidentally, this length is better with flat shoes if you are on the shorter side.

Don’t wear boot-cut capris! (Anyone remember THAT trend? It didn’t last long.)

DO wear capri pants with heels. This helps elongate the leg and make you look slimmer. Wedges are great for this. If you wear flats, make sure they flatter the outfit and your body type.

Don’t wear capri pants with an elastic waist unless you are slender enough to tuck in your shirt without creating bulk around the middle. (I steer clear of these, but some ladies can pull them off.)

Don’t wear cuffed capri pants unless you are tall enough to pull them off.

Do consider what you wear on top. Make sure the proportions work for your body type.

What is in style now is more of a cropped pant rather than a traditional capri. Call it what you will, but use the rules above to make sure your summer pants are flattering and fashion forward!

So, what do you think? Do you wear capri/cropped pants? What would you add to my advice?

For more fashion inspiration for women over 40, check out all of my Fashion posts. Or better yet, sign up to be emailed my weekly fashion & beauty digest with a recap of the week’s fashion & beauty posts.


Fashion for Women Over 40: Capri Pants vs Cropped Pants and everything in between!

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42 thoughts on “Capri Pants: In or Out?

  1. I agree that keeping all the bottoms that fall between shorts and pants defined is really tough. They all seem to be called different things at different places. I do tend to find that crops are typically a wider leg, capris are more tapered, and ankle pants are tapered but longer. I don’t think I’ve seen anything being sold as a pedal pusher, I usually see those called capris too.

    1. That’s where taking daily outfit pictures has helped me a ton. I know they are 2-Dimensional rather than 3-D, so they’re not always accurate, but they are definitely enlightening.

  2. LOL – I say if you like them, wear them and find a look that works for you. If capri pants are “dated” then I guess a lot of the stores in the mall didn’t get that memo!

  3. I embraced the whole Capri style with caution from the beginning. Whatever you call them I find it more important where they land on your leg. The widest part of the calf isn’t always the most flattering unless you have skinny stick legs, and then they don’t always look good. I prefer the longer Capri look for myself but then it can get too long. If mine are a little too above the ankle I look like I shopped in the wrong department! I prefer to hit somewhere below “pedal pushers” and above “high waters”!! Short girl problems! Although I will say I have a pair of cuffed denim that would definitely fall in the Capri length and I love them!

  4. Oh, how timely as it’s starting to slowly warm up here! I’ve always had a hard time – I’m on the shorter side and not very thin, and sometimes it’s very hard to find pants/capris that flatter me. For pants, I always go the bootcut route to balance out my hips and larger thighs, so the idea of capris or crop pants that taper or are slim is a bit scary, haha. But i also know I look horrible in baggy capris…and elastic waist? Eww, lol. I think this spring/summer, I’m going to definitely be trying on lots of different lengths and cuts and trying to find out what I like best. Thanks!

    1. Hey Kelly. In your case, I think the key is in the shoes. A chunky wedge sandals is probably best, or a converse sneaker can work for casual days — a chunkier shoe will help balance out the hips. And then be sure to wear tops that have some structure to show off your waistline! 🙂

  5. It’s so interesting you posted this, because I’ve been thinking about this subject the last few weeks. Even last year I found I wasn’t wearing my capris as much as I had the previous years. I love rolling my jeans and definitely prefer that look. I do want to pick up a few more shorts for the summer, but the length of those can be tricky too! I am 42, and I want to wear shorts that are appropriate. That would be a great post too! Skirts and cotton dresses during the heat of the summer are mostly my favorite things to wear. 🙂

  6. I’m not sure they will ever be totally out just because of demand and need. I have a friend who hates them, but realistically as we get older, you don’t want to be totally covered up in the summer. And as much as I love skirts & dresses, they aren’t practical for every situation! Truly, I think it’s like every piece of clothing, you have to find what looks good on you (and I think they’ve gotten a bad rap because many people have worn them incorrectly) jodie

  7. I do like capris or other cropped pants for certain occasions. For me the slim capris that are slightly below the knee are my fave to wear when shorts seem too casual or revealing and long pants would be too warm! That evokes classic style a la Jackie O.
    The baggier style cropped pants I actually wear more for super casual tasks like working in the garden on a cooler day or something like a walk on the beach. I actually like both denim capris and “pedal pushers” again for a bit more coverage.
    I totally agree the fit and length are super important. I have tried on many a pair that hit at the wrong spot or are not slim enough and make me look frumpy!

  8. Interesting! All of them look like cropped pants to me, except the ones you label “pedal pushers” are what I call “Capri pants.”

  9. I love the cuffed jeans. But, in all honesty, some days we need a draw string/ elastic waist band. Also? pedicures are a must now that it is sandal weather.

    1. I could not agree MORE about the pedicure. It is a must. I can’t do drawstring pants. They look hideous on me. But I do love my workout capris for those days that I just want to be comfy. 🙂

  10. i love that you did a follow up post on capris. Lots of good advice in this post. I still like my capris. A fitted tee and a cute pair of sandals and I’m good to go almost anywhere.

  11. Your timing is impeccable, Jo-Lynne. Just last week I cleaned out my closet and got rid of all of my capri pants! I hesitated just for a second–they have been good to me over the years–but last year I barely wore any of them and when I did I felt completely outdated. Now I am collecting skirts and have a few pairs of “ankle” pants that I love. And, yes, I wear them with heels or wedges. Great post!

  12. I don’t like capris anymore. They were always so convenient but not terribly flattering. I actually just took some of my really nice ones and had them made into shorts. 🙂

  13. I have lots of capris or cropped pants in my closet. Now I am going to really be checking them out in the mirror each time I put them on to decide if I am looking awful or not. Never really examined where they were hitting on my leg, but I will now. I do admit that I have some of those elastic waist ones too! I hate draw strings also on me. I have been known to pull them out of a few pair of pants. Thanks for the post to get me rethinking my closet. But ugg too because now I WILL be rethinking it. lol

  14. One thing to take into consideration is height. I’m 6 foot tall so everything is going to be shorter on me. It’s been pretty hard to find shorts long enough but I did manage to find some nice denim Bermuda shorts at Wal-mart. As for capri’s they hit me at just below the knee and I’m pretty sure it’s because I have long legs. So I actually like the way they look on me because it doesn’t look like they are trying to be pants or shorts. They are what they are because of the way they fit me. I live in Florida and it’s hot and I can’t stand to be uncomfortable so I basically live in tank tops, flip flops and shorts. My style is buying all those things in different colors. I have about 9 pairs of flip flops and 15 tank tops. LOL!
    I remember my mom stopped wearing shorts when she was in her 40’s. She said it was because her legs had all those spider veins and stuff. Even though at age 44 my legs aren’t what they used to be, I’m comfortable in my own skin and don’t worry about what others think. Cause for me comfort trumps style most of the time.
    But I will say you can totally dress up a tank with a cute necklace or what not. I do that a lot if I’m going to the store. So I’m not completely styleless.Just made that word up. It’s so got the red squiggly line under it. LOL!
    Sorry to babble but there you go.

  15. Thank you for this post! I bought some cropped pants at the loft and was wondering what the difference is. Do you think they are appropriate for a casual work environment?

  16. I am free! I have a small stack of capris that I have not worn in several years…and now I know why! I’m getting rid of them today. Thanks so much for the clarity. I get it!

  17. Great post! Would you mind sharing the brand of jeans you are wearing cuffed in the photo? Think a pear shape could wear those and be as adorable? Thanks!

    1. Hey Lisa. Those are my AG Stilt. I do adore them. Not sure about curvy, as I tend to have a larger waist and do better with jeans styles that aren’t too curvy. These are the exact ones: but I didn’t pay that! I got them when Bloomies was having a Friends & Family sale last spring. You can find other washes at Nordstrom, and they go on sale occasionally. They are great jeans. You can always try them and return them if they don’t work. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns. Right now it looks like none are on sale, but if you watch, they will go on sale sometimes: I think what you like about them is the Cigarette Leg – you can search for that style in a curvy cut, maybe?

    1. Hi Charlotte, I’m in the process of updating this post since it’s rather old, but ankle length and crop pants are on trend and flattering on most of us. I would just pay attention to the shape it creates – some are flared, some are straight, and some are tapered. You want it to work with your body type and be flattering. I hope that helps!

  18. Rules are meant to be broken! Just know fashion is driven by $$$–if you live long enough–what goes around comes around. Just my two cents! 

  19.  Is there a pant  that falls between a Bermuda shorts and a Capri ?  I’ve just had bilateral knee surgery and need to cover up the scars!

  20. I loved your advice. Ankle pants are my favorite, and Jean crops. I wear with sandals, flats, and wedges. I don’t prefer to wear them with heels. it just doesn’t look right. 🙂

  21. Guess I am officially a dino! I just can’t bring myself to put on shorts. The idea of sitting, crossing my legs, etc, you get the idea, is simply out of the question. I have several capri pants for warm weather. With linen tops or what ever the companion is, I can walk about without concern about how I look. My husband would tell me not to worry about it, but old habits die hard!

  22. Ty for your post on capris. Now that im in my 50s i want look good without looking old.. Still like to have somw sense of what in w en though I’m no longer twenty

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