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Capri pant DON’Ts

Categories: bottoms


Spring is here, which means that my Twitter feed is full of questions about alternatives to shorts. I love shorts, but as a former shorts boycotter, I understand the resistance many women have to them. The logical alternatives to shorts are skirts and capri pants — and for many moms, capri pants seem more practical and logical.

The danger of capri pants is that they can go from chic to frumpy so easily, and no one wants that. I’m assuming that the whole reason you’re not wanting to wear shorts is that you’re concerned about your legs, but keep in mind that the wrong capri pants can be even more unflattering than the right shorts.

Let’s start with a visual:

Screen Shot 2012-05-09 at 9.40.42 AM

There are a lot of things wrong with these pants — specifically, the length, the width, and the details. I’ll break it down for you:

The pants in the photo are bad because they hit the model at the widest part of her calf, which makes her legs look wider. Avoid this by choosing a cropped pant that hits just above the slimmest part of your ankle (typically an inch or two above the ankle bone). Pants that stop just above your skinny bits draw attention to those bits, while pants that stop just above the wide parts make you look wider.

The pants in the photo are super skinny; that, plus the awkward knee length, makes it look like the model is straining the fabric, which is not slimming. Instead, look for a capri that falls straight from the widest part of your hip. Steer clear of pants that taper at the ankle; this creates an ice cream cone shape that isn’t flattering on anyone.

Keep your capris sleek and minimal; too many details just add bulk and draw attention to the parts you’re trying to camouflage. Slash pockets widen your hips, while an overstated front seam cuts your leg in half. Stick with a flat-front capri with minimal detailing; avoid flap pockets and cuffs, too, as they add bulk in the wrong places.

So what do the right capri pants look like? Like this:

Screen Shot 2012-05-09 at 10.30.16 AM

Are you a capri pants girl? What’s your strategy for styling your capris for the spring and summer?

Photos via LOFT

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11 comments so far...

  • I would consider the ‘correct’ capri photo to actually be a photo of crop pants, not capris. What would you say about capri pants that come to just below the knee, vs the mid-calf area? Is that still a bad placement?

    Melissa  |  May 9th, 2012 at 9:33 am

  • It’s nearly impossible to make that just-below-the-knee length work; it’s best on someone who is both slim and petite. For those of us who carry any weight through our hips and thighs, a knee-length cropped pant is really a don’t.

    Susan  |  May 9th, 2012 at 10:05 am

  • I’m with Melissa–those are really cropped pants (and I’d love to know where they’re from!). Capri pants truly just don’t work on most people. Skirts and dresses are much more universally flattering and are definitely cooler than pants.

    Leigh  |  May 9th, 2012 at 10:18 am

  • Up here in Canada, we would call the pants in the first photo ‘clam diggers’ (and that particular pair are not flattering at all and would look downright awful on me, yuck) and the bottom pants we would probably call cropped pants. I have a pair of pants (I thought they were long shorts, actually!) that hit just below the knee from Ann Taylor that I bought last year. Even though I am heavier through the butt/thighs, they are too, too bad, as I have nice shape to my lower leg and slim ankles. This is all too complicated, I am sticking with skirts and dresses, LOL! (though I do love those white pants, but they would never look like that on me, too hippy….but I am working on it!)

    Tracey  |  May 9th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

  • Oh dear, I meant ‘they AREN’T too, too bad, not they are, oops!

    Tracey  |  May 9th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

  • I agree, that 2nd picture shows pants, not capris.

    I tend to be more a fan of bermuda-style shorts, but I’m short, so usually have to go to petite sizes to find something that hits above the knee.

    Jaime  |  May 9th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

  • Capri pants are a big Don’t for me. Period. Ever. Also, Tim Gunn totally backs me up on this one! See-

    elz  |  May 9th, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  • I think Capri’s are hard for tall women to wear. There’s a fine line between them looking like flood pants or Capri’s.

    Nancy  |  May 14th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

  • I really disagree with your tips here, though I normally find your advice spot on. I do think the first capris are not great partly because they are tight/loose in the wrong places. But if they were fitted all the way through and a bit shorter they would look much better (I.e. just a bit under the knee). The fabric on these is not doing them any favours either.

    But those second pants just make you look like your legs got chopped off partway. I’m 6 ft tall and they make me look stumpy, I’d hate to see them on an average/petite woman who does not have a model’s figure.

    I do agree with you on the third point to avoid embellishments. I think this is good advice for most any type of bottom unless you are specifically trying to draw attention to your hips/butt.

    Olga  |  May 15th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

  • I wear capris that hit just below the bulge of my calf, are slim through the whole leg, and I ROCK those mothers!

    I think the advice to choose something that falls straight from the hip only works on gals with slim-to-medium hips. Us wide-hipped gals who have finally eschewed wide-leg pants know we look better in something closer-fitting. Boot cuts don’t balance us out, they just add bulk!

    I’m sure your advice works for many bodies, but not mine - and I’d guess there are others like me out there too!

    Shaye  |  June 1st, 2012 at 6:58 pm

  • I was sad to see such a critical eye used on such a women-friendly site! The first pair may not look as “hot” or “slimming,” but they’re certainly not as awful as you’re making them out to be. The model is of slim-to-average build, and they don’t add enough bulk to make her look heavy, which is where I would see a problem. Otherwise, they look just fine to me!

    Kate  |  July 3rd, 2012 at 1:44 pm