How to wear capris and cropped pants – an extensive guide!

by Sylvia

How to wear capris and cropped pants

Capris are notoriously hard to wear and they are unflattering to many women. Yet shops are currently full of these cropped pants! Should you wear them anyway? And if yes, how can you wear capris?

Why are capris so unflattering?

Capris are cropped pants that stop above the ankle but usually well below the knee. They are different from cropped pants like bermudas which stop above the calf and are less challenging to wear.

Why can capris be  unflattering:

  • First and foremost they shorten your legs! For almost all women a silhouette with a longer leg line is more flattering.
  • They can highlight chunky calfs




So why are they so on trend right now?

It’s difficult to tell why they are so much in favour now with the designers, but here are a few reasons I came up with:

  • The overall look of capris tends to be quite trendy
  • They are playful and geeky
  • They can be sexy too with the revealing of the ankle bone
  • They are more associated with fun
  • They are great for showing off your fabulous shoes!
  • They keep you cooler in summer

How to wear capris?

If you like the trendy and playful vibe of capris and decide to wear them, how can you do so to maintain a flattering silhouette? Here are some guidelines that will help.

applying the rule of thirds to wearing capris | 40plusstyle.com

  1. Make sure that your capris are tapered. If they follow the natural leg line  they will look much better. Avoid those really wide capris. If you like the look of wide trousers (I do) then go for a full leg, but for cropped pants and capris I stay to a very tight leg line.
  2. One way to overcome the leg shortening effect is to wear higher heels. If I don’t want to wear heels, I’m (usually) not wearing capris.
  3. Try to create a rule of thirds with your dressing. Your top part is usually 1/3 and your bottom part 2/3. But you can also create a 2/3 top 1/3 buttom silhouette. You achieve the 1/3-2/3 look by tucking in your top of the cropped pants. I also like to wear my capris with a long tunic or dress which creates the 2/3-1/3 silhouette.
  4. If there is not too much contrast between your shoes and your legs, your legs will appear longer. Shoes without straps are more leg lengthening as well. You will see that I don’t follow that rule so much myself as I prefer my high heel shoes with straps. I feel this still works when I wear heels, but if your legs are very short you may want to apply this tip as well.

Who should not wear capris?

Of course everyone can wear them, but if you like to have a flattering silhouette I would advise on not wearing capris when:

  • You have very short legs.
  • Your legs are proportionally short to the rest of your body and you’re not wearing heals (for more info see also vertical body types).
  • You have big calves (capris will just accentuate them).

What to wear with your capris?

To give you some ideas on how you can wear capris I will show you some of mine. To make it extra fun I will show you both the capri / cropped pants version of an outfit and a version in which I wear normal length pants. In both photos I’m wearing the same shoes, so you can see the exact difference. You be the judge on what looks best or which look you prefer!

Combine capris with a tunic or short dress

This is one of my favorite ways to wear capris. I like the 2/3 – 1/3 silhouette it creates and capris certainly make this a more trendy look.

How to wear cropped pants | 40plusstyle.com

Calvin Klein short dress / tunic with Zara long pants and Zara capris

Wear with a short or tucked in top

Capris usually look good with a funky top tucked into your trousers. The bulkiness at the top of these particular white capris add a bit more fun to the look. Why not add a polkadot belt as well for even more fun! You can clearly see that the cropped pants here create a more trendy and quirky look as well if that is what you are after. Please note that my wide pants are too short for these high heels. My legs would look much longer if the pants almost reached the ground as they should do!

what to wear with capris | 40plusstyle.com

Orange top from Alldressedup, paired with (left) wide legged Kookai pants and (right) Zara cropped white pants

Wear them in an elegant, classic way with a statement necklace

This look is more elegant and classic in my opinion, caused partly by the simple black and white combination and the woollen fabric of the capris. The necklace makes this outfit hipper.

What to wear with cropped pants | 40plusstyle.com

Silk top and necklace from Alldressedup. Pants (left) from kookai and (right) Alledressedup

Give them a bit of a bohemian look

This tunic / short dress gives the capris a more boheminan feel, even more so when it is combined with long wider pants.

How to wear capris | 40plusstyle.com

Dress bought in Seminyak, Bali, pants (left) unknown (right) Zara, necklace Alldressedup, shoes Zara

Some more capris I have worn before

Below are a few more examples on how I wear capris and cropped pants.

With a simple top

white capris with red tops | 40plusstyle.com

wearing laced capris with shades of yellow | 40plusstyle.com

Capris worn with tunics

how to wear capris with tunics | 40plusstyle.com

Wearing capris with tunics | 40plusstyle.com

Combining capris with jackets

Combining capris with jackets | 40plusstyle.com

3 quarter pants or clamdiggers

wearing three quarter pants or clamdiggers | 40plusstyle.com

White capris

wearing white capris | 40plusstyle.com

Black capris

black capris | 40plusstyle.com

Green capris

how to wear green printed capris | 40plusstyle.com

Cropped leggings

how to wear croppped leggings | 40plusstyle.com

how to wear tunics with cropped leggings | 40plusstyle.com

All of the above looks can be found in the What I wore section of this site.

Capris you can buy right now

Here are some capris you can buy right now online.

Some final thoughts

While looking at the images my conclusion on wearing capris would be that capris look a bit hipper and more fun, while my long trousers combinations are more elegant and provide the nice long leg silhouette.

So each combination is perfect for a certain mood. I will continue to wear my capris (mostly with heels) as I like the fun and trendy aspect of them, but I will be careful not to buy too many of them. Often, long trousers still provide the nicest silhouette and I find them more versatile.

Please bear in mind ladies that all these are just guidelines. Always let your eyes be the judge if the outfit with capris looks good on you. Some of you may even be able to rock your capris outfits without following any of them. And if you are in a a funky mood or just want to have fun with your clothing and don’t mind forfeiting the perfect silhouette, then that’s fine too. These guidelines will just let you be aware of the challenges of wearing capris so that you can work with those and make it work!

While doing this exercize myself, I actually discovered some fun new combinations in my cupboard as well. Why don’t you do the same and shop your closet to see if you can come up with some great capris outfits!

I would love to hear from you!

If you want to make sure, you never miss an article and to get the best tips straight into your inbox as well as a free latest trends report, be sure to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

Enjoy!


Will you be wearing capris this season? How will you wear them? And which is your favorite combination of the above? Do you vote for the capris looks or long legs looks?

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lissy

Great tips! I especially love your first look with the tunic and capris. I have definitely been wearing my share of capris but they do have their challenges. Luckily I too am tall so it’s easier to get away with.

Lissy

Sylvia

Thanks Lissy. That is one of my favorites too!

Jennifer Bradley

I’m contemplating making some capris for summer (here, it starts about November) because in hot weather I want something that’s shorter than full length and isn’t shorts, so I was very interested in this article and found your information useful. I do dance classes in summer and find this length excellent for that and travelling to and from, so I’m less concerned with elegance than being comfortable and decent (and will be wearing sox as my dance shoes require them)! One comment – I always think high heels look like middle aged women in mauve shell suits, peroxide hair and too much makeup; sorry, but much prefer a small heel, which does lengthen legs but avoids the tarty.

Anne @ The Frump Factor

These are great tips! Thank you so much. I realize now that some of the “capris” I’ve tried aren’t capris at all — hitting at mid-calf or even higher. (I think the clothing manufacturers need to be more consistent with their labels). But your explanation of 2/3 and 1/3 helps a lot, and I think I can translate this idea to different lengths. (And as I suspected — shoes are key!) Thanks so much for this timely and very useful post.

Sylvia

Hi Anne, Sorry I made an error (now corrected). Any pants that stop anywhere at the calf are classified as capris. But when they stop at or just below the knee they are bermudas. Pants that end anywhere around the calf are the most challenging to wear as they shorten the legs.
Happy to read that the article was helpful to you!

Anne @ The Frump Factor

OK, thanks for the clarification! I really love the length that you are wearing.

tammy @ silverstyle

Thank you for this post. I have actually been wearing capris for several years but am now wondering if mine are slightly to short. I too wear them with tunics which is a favorite style choice. They currently are still hanging out in the rubber maid bin waiting for the weather to decide what the hell it’s going to settle down to!
If you have time I just put a new Trending link up. I’d love to see you pop over..

Sylvia

For me it’s certainly true that the longer they are the easier they are to wear. If they are not too short you may want to wear them now already with some ankle booties!

Tangobabe

As always a nice, clear and structured article. Love the polkadot belt and how you ‘shopped around’ in your own closet! My favourites are both ‘tunics with capri pants’- outfits. One question: you show 3 pictures with outfits you posted in the past. The most left one is indeed a capri. For me the 2 other ones look like regular ‘skinny’ trousers and not like capris, since they come to your ankles. Or do I see that wrong?

Sylvia

Hi Anja. the middle one is definitely a capri. It’s the same one as the other white one. The last one is borderline for sure. But the pants are definitely too short. And any pants that are too short, I treat them like capris.

Tangobabe

Aha, thanks for the explanation. And it shows how things can appear different in different pictures;-).

Nanne

Thanks for a very informative article! I love the outfit with the white dress and camel capris! I’ve been wearing capris for some years now, and I find that the lenght that is most flattering for me is about 4- 5 inches above the ankle, as it shows the slimmest part of my legs, and I have nice ancles:) Paired with nude shoes I feel that I can pull it off:)

Sylvia

That is how I like them best too. The longer the better!

GreetjeKamminga

I cannot chose between the orange top outfit (nice, the polka dot belt) and the black and white (very nice necklace). But that is because I love black and white and I love colour. But I don’t have to hesitate to chose between long trousers or capri: definately capri. And especially when you are wearing a dress on top of it. I prefer the silhouette to go “in” again at the bottom. Dresses with trousers are a difficult thing for me, and you love the look. So many people… so many opinions.
I would call trousers that end just above the ankle a 7/8. As my pair with the black stripe at the side and the orange top (see style forum). I still have a lot of trousers that end halfway my calf. But I have nice legs, so I will keep wearing them. Always emphasize your assets, n’est pas?
Thanks for the tip of 1/3 -2/3 or 2/3 – 1/3. I think I follow all your rules, but I will pay more attention.

Sylvia

You probably would have liked the combination I wore today then. I wore my dark grey capris with the orange top and the polkadot belt!

ExecutiveKnitter

Thank you so much for this review. I have really been confused by the pant leg lengths this year. Capri – cropped- cigarette – never sure where they should hit on my leg and how to wear them. Since I am 5′ 2″ most capris land at the top of my ankle bone – adding a high heel has been enough to make them lean looking. But now know that some should be hemmed to look more capri-ish.

Sylvia

I’m not sure if I would hem them. I actually like them a bit longer… For a slightly shorter look on certain occasions you may just twist them over. Thanks for your first comment at 40+Style!

Suzanne

Another great article Sylvia. You never disappoint your readers. I love the new ankle length pants. I am short but have long legs for my height so I can wear shorter pants if they are tight enough. That is the key to looking good in them – they must hug my legs all the way down. And I agree that the number one reason to wear them is to “show off fabulous shoes”!!! I think they are a modern and playful look – the fun in fashion keeps us youthful. :)
One idea you gave me that I have not tried is to wear a longer top over them. I need to do some mixing and matching in my closet. More inspiration!

Sylvia

Very happy that I can still give you new inspiration Suzanne!

GreetjeKamminga

I appreciate the extensiveness of your advise. Must have cost you a lot of time. And it is very helpful. As a matter of fact, it inspired me so much (… you know what is coming now..), that I ran to the shops and bought a grey capri,. Little pleat at the top and turned up at the bottom, together with a long yellow/white striped shirt, tucked in at the front and hanging loose at the back and a pair of, irresponsibly pricey but lovely black platform Acne sandals. Very hip but not too young. I know, I know… I should go through my wardrobe and make other combinations…, I am so weak.

Sylvia

Look forward to seeing it! :)

Petra

Hi Sylvia. I just LOVE capris! Yours are fabulous – the skinny look is so flattering. (You’ve lost weight too methinks!). I think the capri length on yours is just right – any shorter and I don’t think it compliments many women’s legs at all; and very hard to get the 1/3-2/3 etc balance. Well done!

Sylvia

Thanks Petra. I agree I like my capris longer rather than shorter!

Heather Fonseca

I love capris! I’ve never considered them unflattering, though I can see how they’d be a challenge to a certain figure type. Because Im so tall they’ve always looked good on me.

I currently only have one pair but I’d like more. I like your suggestion to wear them with a tunic but what I really liked was the 1/3 – 2/3 ratio explanation. I had never thought of it that way before but it’s so true!

Sylvia

Thanks Heather. I use the rule of thirds with all my dressing. Breaking your body in half is just so unflattering!

Greetje

I have added a couple of new topics with capri trousers (and mix&match) on your style formum. Couldn’t resist it. Love the forum. Hope that more people are going to contribute. If not, I hope it inspires them. Either to say: oh no…., not like that. Or : hey, not bad. I am open to any comment.

Sylvia

Great to see that you are mixing and matching Greetje. To go to (one of) the threads Greetje has posted and to give feedback visit: http://40plusstyle.com/forum/40-style-forum-group3/style-what-i-wore-forum2/capri-not-with-high-heels-no-go-thread37/

Karen

You might be interested in knowing that the tunic-cropped pants look was popular at the Fall 2012 Fashion Week. Here’s an article on it: http://www.style.com/stylefile/2012/04/are-tunics-and-cropped-pants-a-winning-look/ It’s definitely a warm look for winter.

P.S. I love your website and plan on returning often. You have wonderful fashion tips.

Sylvia

Thanks Karen for your kind words. Yes I know. Cropped pants are here to stay! I also included these trends in my trend report for Fall 2012

Sharmila

great article Sylvia.. solved my dilemma! Though I am tall and slim, still was hesitating to wear pants which stopped just above ankle. Now I definitely know how to pair them with tunics and tops. Can I wear formal looking capris (longer ones)at workplace??Should I pair them with shoes or heels?

Sylvia

Yes, I think that capris can look very chic in the worklplace and would be suitable for most workplaces. I think a shoe with a (low) heel would be nice. The shoes I showed in the pictures are actually not ideal as shoes with no straps will be even better for a longer leg line. But if you are tall, you can get away with many types of shoes.

S. Glover

Thanks for the article. I wanted to share one more reason why people love capris (at least my mom’s favorite reason). When you’re in that middle height range, it keeps you from having to do a lot of alterations.

Sylvia

Very true! Thanks for your feedback.

Bridget

Capri pants were much in evidence yesterday in London where the sun finally decided to shine. I was thinking of altering my black Joseph work suit to make the trousers (as we English say) capri length. I am not short and very slim. But now I am hesitating. I don’t like heels. But I don’t like formality much either.

I suppose I will pin them up and try some shoes first and the tucked in top.

Thanks for the great article.

Sylvia

Capris are very much on trend and will continue to be so for the coming season as well. But yes, as I’ve illustrated it’s important to pay attention to proportion. I’m still having fun with them though, even in flats.

Chrissy

I’m actually 37 but feel 40! Try as I might I cannot get into wearing capri’s. I just can’t! They look and fit horribly on me and I don’t think they look good on anyone because they chop your legs in half. I’m all about the long leg look. I suppose I take it to the other extreme because I wear all my pants floor length or dragging. This is also the look I see most often out and about and it’s very popular even on pantsuits. I love the look of the long black Zara pants above but that’s even too short. My flare yoga pants, flare jeans and all my business slacks and pant suits all drag the floor at least a little. My palazzo pants puddle on the floor but that’s what they are supposed to do. To me, if my pants aren’t totally covering my high heeled shoes or just have the toes barley peeking out, they are too short. If I want to wear something cooler than long pants, I wear shorts or a short skirt. Pants that come 1/2 or 3/4 down the leg just don’t make since to me. It’s amazing how many people are getting away with wearing capri’s at work or wearing them to job interviews of all things. My dress code for work has a strict policy against cropped pants. I’m required to wear full length flare leg dress pants that go to the floor or short skirts that are above the knee. No in-between’s.

Sylvia

I can understand your view on capris. I have seen many examples just recently where they just don’t look good. Still I think they can be fun on occasion. You are right that my long pants can be longer. I’m also careful now not to get anything that does not come close to the ground. Still I would not let my pants be too long… I must say I don’t understand your company policy for skirts not being allowed at knee length!

Chrissy

I suppose some people pull off the look, just not me. In casual environments they are appropriate I agree. I think close to the ground for long pants is great but I just prefer mine to be a little longer than that as a personal preference. The skirt length rule is over the top I agree but I signed on for it when I took the job. I can understand companies expecting their employees to be dressed well though, especially in this modern day of people wearing rediculously casual clothing to the office. In my case, long pants are a good alternative when I don’t want to wear a short skirt or when I don’t feel like wearing pantyhose.

Diahann Moyler

I have been looking for 2 days for ideas on how to wear some ivory capris I recently purchased. I didn’t want to wear flats but I wasn’t sure what heels would accentuate the pants or detract from them. I used all kinds of key words and some brought me to your article. BINGO! I got everything I needed, along with photos of different capris styles and shoes (don’t like them with pumps). I am visual so I need photos. Well my search is over. Thanks so much!

Sylvia

Thanks for letting me know that this information has been helpful to you Diahann! Hope you enjoy the other articles at 40PlusStyle as well!

Georgette

Sylvia, you look amazing in everything. Thanks for the tips. I now see I need to lose about 10 pounds. Also, being short, I now know I shouldn’t be wearing capris. Thanks

lena

dear sylvia, i have recently discovered your site and i am amazed by it!! it was about time for style tips for women of our age too! since i ‘ve been many-many times in the netherlands (particularly in amsterdam) i am a big fan of the women’s style over there (smart, relaxed and unpretentiously elegant) and you express it so beutifully! wearing short dresses/long tunics over trousers is something that i first saw it in the netherlans and since then i have a reason not to toss away all that lovely short dresses that other way would look ‘inappropiate’ on me (i am 50, look like 40+). looking always forward for more and more!!

Sylvia

Hi Lena. Thank you for your lovely feedback. It’s so nice to see that women like yourself find my articles useful! Yes, it’s true that tunics and dresses over trousers are popular in Holland. It’s the country of layering for sure. I hope that I can continue to inspire you with my articles and of course I always love receiving your comments!

Evelyn

Just found this site and I love it. I, too, was searching for the best way to wear capris/cropped pants. What shoes do you suggest for wearing them in winter (I have aubergine and rust pairs), do I need to wait for spring to wear them again? Thanks very much!

Sylvia

Thanks Evelyn, Capris can be great with boots. I like them with tight high boots worn over them (of course you will lose the capri effect then), or short ankle boots with a bit of a heel.

Veronica

Where can I buy the white dress? Love it…

Sylvia

Thanks Veronica. It was bought years ago in a little shop in Bali. It will be hard to find, I’m afraid…

Krist

Greetings from North Carolina, USA. I just found your blog and I Love, Love, Love it!!! I am an over 40 with very small kids, and have found finding the right age-appropriate, as well as, lifestyle fit very challenging. Life was alot easier (regarding clothing), when I worked! Your blog is amazing and very helpful! I have avoided capri’s simply because of the “they shorten you” mantra, even though I have beautiful ankles, I do not have thick calves, and my legs are not particularly short. At 5ft 6in I am not particularly short, but I suppose us ladies always wish we were a little bit taller! I am thrilled to be able to throw some capris in the mix, because that style does seem to suit my stay-at-home-mom, lifestyle. Thanks for the well thought out post and PHOTOS!!!! on capri’s–and well, every other post I have read today!

Sylvia

Hi Krist. Lovely to read your positive feedback. Enjoy wearing your capris and I look forward to connecting with you further on the site.

soniya

You don’t need a definite height to wear clothes u love to wear! its a myth..it depends on you how u wear it! all u need is a good trick!

Tracy Harper

Hi Sylvia,
I love your website and this article was great! I agree, I have seen alot of bad capris out there. I have a couple of pairs, and what I’m wondering is this, I am an inverted triangle, 5’5 and a half and 130 pounds, high waist and long legs in proportion with my torso length. Can I get away with capris? If so, what tips mentioned would apply to me?
Thanks for the help,
Tracy

Sylvia

Yes, it sounds like you are. I would apply all 4 tips (high shoes not always necessary), but just have a good look in the mirror. These guidelines are not set in stone and everyone is different. Have a good look at the silhouette you are creating. If it pleases you then you are on the right track!

Lynne Weidenmiller

Living in Florida, capris are a year-long staple for me. I especially like pairing capris with a waist-slimming top that make my short body look longer, taller and more shapely. Thanks for the tips!

Sylvia

You’re welcome Lynne and thanks for the feedback!

Sirena

I am disappointed and sad to find out that because I have short & not too attractive legs, this look will make that worse.
I was actually trying to figure out what kind of socks to wear with capris and lightweight tennis shoes when I found your blog. I avoided capris for years because I suspected they weren’t the best choice for short & curvy ladies but was finally talked into buying some for vacation. There will be a lot of walking, so wearing heels is out of the question.
Thanks for sharing your advice and the pictures (it helps to have the visual cues).

Sylvia

If you like wearing them and they make you feel happy you can still wear them Sirena! It’s not always necessary to go for the most flattering silhouette.

virginia

HI — what brand/style of shoes (the beige pair in the left and right photo) are in the images above “Capris you can buy right now?” Super cute! I want a pair!!

Sylvia

I bought those many years ago in Italy, so they will not be available in shops anymore I’m afraid……

paris

hi it was very nice article but i have a question im a short person(160cm) but my legs are tall in relation of my body which kinda capris iis better for me?2/3-1/3 or with short top?

Sylvia

Creating a 2/3-1/3 silhouette is always nicest in my opinion, so a shorter top would be better. Just try a few variations in front of the mirror and see what works!

Lori

I love these tips! My husband’s ex-wife had been giving me some of her older clothes when she started losing weight, and most of the pants she were giving me were capris (I’m 5’8″, she’s not even 5″, so they fit her like regular pants). Now I know how to wear these!

Sylvia

Thanks Lori for your feedback. Great to hear that these tips helped you!

helen

I have just bought a pair of capri pants, but sorry am not inspired by your outfits. You are drowning in a huge top in most of them. At the very beginning of the article you say to wear a short top with CaprIs ( which I would agree with) then you go on to model very unflattering looks, the tunic top is particularly hideous. I am going to ear mine with a crisp white fitted shirt or a neat jumper or cardigan

Sylvia

Well, we can’t all have the same taste in clothes, although I would argue that hideous is a very strong word to use in this regard. I do agree that close fitted tops with short cardigans are under represented on this page and would look great with capris. Feel free to send me your pictures so I can add them to the roundup!

Gael

Living in Florida, clam diggers or capris are how to dress for hot weather when shorts are too casual. Many women use them to camaflouge aging legs. Now I know what to avoid, though: wide-legged, cargo short pants of any kind. The key is slim cut. I had suspected this, but you confirmed it. Thanks!

Louise Marwick

Definitely the longer ,slimmer capri with with a tunic style top or a more cropped top/blouse,depending on how large my rear appears to me on the day,with heels.

Nancy

I have always worn a pair of my black capris to work with a heel or wedge and never had a problem. The other day I wore them (they are mid-calf and I have skinny ankles) at my new job, which is still business casual like the others, with a belt, cute black and white wedges and a nice white knitted top and my boss had a closed door meeting to me about it. I was completely taken aback and never have I been talked to about my outfit in 20 years! She made me feel like I showed up in a tank top & shorts. She almost told me to not attend an informal meeting because of it too. I’ve never been so embarrassed. Funny thing is I got more compliments from others for my “cute outfit”. Just beware ladies, some people don’t think they’re okay for work. On the other hand my boss likes to wear a lot of shorter skirts with super high heeled boots (hooker boots, in my opinion) so to me, it’s a matter of opinion which is more appropriate. Just make sure your boss agrees. lol

Sylvia

I agree with you Nancy. I think capris can look very chic and I don’t see why they could not be worn to work. It depends on the quality of the capris of course and the way you combined them with your other clothes, but like you I feel they would look chicer in many cases than a short skirt (certainly when that skirt is worn with high heeled boots).

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