Lovely reader burntphotograph popped this into the suggestion box a while back:
I’d love to see a post on capris … I’ve been reading a lot that they are not good for body proportions and various other reasons we should trash ours. What are your thoughts?
Weeelllll, my thoughts are many and varied. Capris come in SO many styles, and there really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about who “can” and “cannot” wear them. Making capris, crops, and clamdiggers work for your body type is going to be a matter of experimentation. If you’re interested in wearing them but not sure how, I’ll level with you: Your best bet is to try on as many pairs in as many styles and as many hem-lengths as possible until you find a pair that flatters you. Or determine your ideal length with a regular pair of pants, some safety pins, and a friend willing to play fake-tailor, and THEN hit the shops.
Annoying, but true.
But since that might be the crappiest, most disappointing advice I’ve ever given on this blog, I’ll try to get a little more specific. Before I dive into analysis of this style, here are some initial thoughts on fit and flattery:
1. A little length makes a huge difference: Capri and cropped pants have immense power to distort the proportions of your legs – and, really your entire lower half. Where the hem length hits your leg impacts how wide your calf appears to be, and a mere half-inch can make all the difference between a flattering capri and a proportion-distorting one. It’s all down to where your leg curves in and where the hem hits relative to those curves. Tricky stuff.
2. The devil’s in the details: Cargo pockets add bulk, cinched ties at the hem can create a ballooning effect, slant pockets may pooch out on a curvy figure … as you are with all pants, be aware of how detailing affects overall fit.
3. Capris are not pants: Just because you rock a wideleg slack doesn’t mean you can rock a wideleg capri. The fit of a short-hem pant is vastly different from a long-hem pant, so don’t be afraid to try out some styles that you normally fear. In fact, just try everything and see what works. Like I said, it’s a bit of a crap-shoot.
OK, let’s see what all this means on some actual bodies:
Generally speaking, a pant that hits at or just below the knee should be fairly flattering. Did you notice all the wimp-out words in that sentence? That’s because this style will look utterly horrendous on some of you just because of how your legs are proportioned. I really can’t say for certain that this length will work for even 60% of you! BAH!
Anyways, the theory is this: If the entire lower half of the leg is visible and part of the knee peeks out, the viewer can still discern the overall shape of your leg, and you’re golden. (Think knee-length Bermuda shorts.) If the knee is covered, things get trickier, but the more of the calf’s natural curve you can see the better. Think of skirt lengths: Mid-calf makes you look shorter, knee-length is much more flattering. But, again, it all depends on your personal leg proportions.
These look damned decent on the model, but are often dicier on us non-models. Some of the same principles are at play: The hem hits above the ankle, masking the entire calf but leaving the entire ankle visible. So what you’re focused on is the curve of those slender little ankles. In theory. But depending on how long your legs are or how slender your ankles are, this style can be disastrous, too. Sigh. Also this is a darker color of pant so it creates a softer break against the model’s natural skin tone than the previous pair.
Cuffed and pegged pants are super cute, I realize, but beware, friends. This form of capri can be hazardous to your proportions. In this particular case, the hem hits slightly higher than the above, dark brown pair and shows a little more calf. Because of where that hem sits, the eye has a hard time imagining the curve of the entire leg and just sees bigness. I mean, it’s not eye-searing or anything, but its also not ideal if you’re hoping to make your calves look lean. A slimmer fit would work better at this length because the contours of the leg would be visible … but it’s not like we want to wear tight capris all the damned time. Am I right?
If you sensed a little frustration in this post, full points for astuteness! I wish I had some more concrete advice for burntphotograph and for you all, but I have found capris and crops to be some of the trickiest garments to generalize. However! Cropped pants are a timeless style, they are fun, and they are versatile so I do encourage you to explore and experiment. Just take a long, hard look at your leg shape, decide what you want to reveal and conceal, and then hit the dressing rooms to determine your ideal hem-length.
Good hunting, my friends.
- How Shoes and Shorts Interact
- A Guide to Pant Length
- The Pant Hem Dilemma
- All Already Pretty posts on proportion
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