Capris and cropped pants are notoriously hard to wear and they can be unflattering on many women. Yet they are still incredibly popular and wonen (including me) love them. They are comfortable, fashionable and fun!

So how can you wear capris in a way that’s stylish and flattering. Discover that today in this article on how to wear capris and cropped pants.

How to wear capris: Why can capri pants be 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.

  • First and foremost, cropped pants can be unflattering as they can give the effect of shortening your legs! Especially for women whose legs are proportionally short this can present a challenge.
  • They can highlight chunky calves if your pants end at the ‘wrong’ part of your leg. The eye will be drawn to where the hem on your capris ends.

So why do we still love cropped pants so much?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • 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 look fabulous with booties, which are still very much on trend this year.
  • They are more associated with fun and style
  • 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 while maintaining a flattering silhouette?

Here are some guidelines for wearing capri pants in flattering ways

1. capris that are tapered are easier to wear.

Capris and cropped pants that follow the natural leg line they will look much better. 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.

white pants and a blue top outfit | 40plusstyle.com

2. Wear higher heels.

Rita in cropped pants | 40plusstyle.com

One way to overcome the leg shortening effect when you wear wider pants is to wear higher heels. Wide cropped pants especially look better with heels.

Rita @ritapalazzi (read her style interview here), above, looks fabulous in her quirky peep-toe booties.

Steal her look with this similar jacket, pants, open toe sandals and crossbody bag.

3. apply the rule of thirds

Your top part is usually 1/3 and your bottom part 2/3 when putting together an outfit which follows this flattering golden ratio guideline.

But you can also create a 2/3 top 1/3 bottom 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.

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

Tucking your top into your pants is an easy way to achieve a 1/3 – 2/3 silhouette.

If you prefer not to tuck your top in and prefer to hide your belly, you can also wear a wider shorter top that skims over the belly.

An Unexpected Brand Crush: Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF) | 40plusstyle.com

Below is an example where I wear 2/3 on top and 1/3 at the bottom. This can be a very flattering look for many women and is a great option for tighter cropped pants and leggings.

how to wear capris with a short dress | 40plusstyle.com

The cropped pants below are challenging to wear. They are both wide and end at a traditionally unflattering (wider) part of the leg. To make it work I applied two strategies:

  • I wore a short top that ends at my waist
  • I wore heels to balance the shortening effect of these pants
  • If you wanted to make this look more flattering, you can opt for heels in the same color as the pants.
Fit for fashion in a gray and white outfit | 40plusstyle.com

4. Think carefully about your shoe choice

Jamie in white cropped pants and studded sandals | 40plusstyle.com

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.

I don’t always follow this “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 avoid straps at your ankle.

Jamie @moreturquoise (read her style interview here), above, wears sandals with ankle straps. Because the straps are transparent they don’t visually cut across her ankles.

Recreate her outfit with this similar long top, pants, sandals and hat.

5. Higher booties are very effective with cropped pants.

This is a good way to prevent the shortening effect of cropped pants, especially if you choose them in the same color as your pants.

Wearing cropped pants with booties
wearing cropped jeans with silver shoes | 40plusstyle.com

6. Wear a shorter top.

Claudia in cropped pink pants | 40plusstyle.com

When wearing cropped pants that are flared or wider, be sure to wear a shorter top. High waisted cropped pants look fabulous with tops that end at the waist.

Wearing a shorter top will ensure that your legs look longer.

Claudia @glamupyourlifestyle, above, wears a jumper that ends at her waist. She adds some height with her platform shoes and, because her shoes are similar in color to her skin this also creates a lengthening effect.

Get her look with this similar sweater, cropped pants, bag and platform shoes.

For more tips read this article on how to wear wide cropped jeans.

Who should not wear capris or cropped pants?

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 heels or a very short top.

For more information on this type of body shape, look at this piece on vertical body types.

In principle though, almost everyone can wear capris or cropped pants so long as you take your body proportions into account and make adjustments accordingly to create the silhouette that flatters you.

The length of your capri trousers is important

Cropped pants and capris come in sorts of lengths and widths. Just a few inches can make a big difference to how flattering your capris look on you.

Where should your cropped pants end?

Melissa in leather capri pants | 40plusstyle.com

You need to find a pair which stop at the slimmest part of your leg, as this will be what is highlighted with your capri pants. Effectively, capris draw a line across the leg and draw the eye there.

For you, it may be just below, or just above, the widest part of your calf. You may decide on a pair of capris or a pair of slightly longer cropped pants, depending on what the best length is for you.

Melissa @melissabultburns, above, opts for capris which end just below her knees.

Check out this puff sleeve top that you can wear with these similar leather capris, sandals, belt and sunglasses.

The best women’s cropped pants and capris

Now that you know how to wear cropped pants and capris, it’s time to find the perfect pair. Below you will find some of our favorite capris to choose from this season.

JEAN capris

A pair of slim jeans, like he ones from Rag & Bone (below) which end just a few inches above your ankle will be flattering for most women.

rag & bone boyfriend jeans | 40plusstyle.com

rag & bone boyfriend jeans

crop flare jeans

Skinny jeans have been on trend for many seasons, and they are still a stylish option, but bootcuts and flares are also making a style comeback this year.

A pair of cropped flare jeans is a flattering option, particularly if you wear with heels.

1822 Denim high waist frayed crop bootcut jeans | 40plusstyle.com

1822 Denim high waist frayed crop bootcut jeans

Wide leg capris

Despite their leg-shortening characteristics, I have embraced wide cropped pants for a few of my own looks. Wearing them is even more challenging than normal cropped pants but what all my looks have in common is that I keep my top short in the front or tucked in.

Club Monaco silk culottes | 40plusstyle.com

Club Monaco silk culottes

linen capris

cropped pants for summer | 40plusstyle.com

As many of you will soon (hopefully) be heading into warmer weather, a pair of linen capris can be the start of a great outfit, either for casual days at home or on vacation.

Karen @styledbykaren, above, opts to keep her outfit neutral and classic.

Steal her look with this similar tank top, capris, sandals and sunglasses.

For a casual option, you could try the capris below from Caslon which are styled like jogging bottoms and would look good with your sneakers.

Caslon linen joggers | 40plusstyle.com

Caslon linen joggers

capri leggings

A pair of leggings is always a good option for any season. You could wear them with a longer tunic top.

Alo Airlift high waist capris | 40plusstyle.com

Alo Airlift high waist capris

stripe pants

Stripes are always a timeless option when it comes to choosing a print. You could easily style a pair of striped capris in many different ways – with a tee and sneakers, a camisole and sandals, or a blouse and pumps.

Caslon stripe twill pants | 40plusstyle.com

Caslon stripe twill pants

eyelet cropped pants

The Alice + Olivia cropped pants (below) would be perfect as a beach cover-up on vacation as they have an eyelet detailing which adds an unusual element as well as keeping you cool.

Alice + Olivia eyelet crop pants | 40plusstyle.com

Alice + Olivia eyelet crop pants

Black capris

If you love the look of a pair of black capris as much as I do, you might like this pair from Halogen which would go with plenty of tops in your closet.

Halogen soft crop flare pants | 40plusstyle.com

Halogen soft crop flare pants

white cropped pants

Do you like the look of white capris? They can be a great style staple for your summer closet.

Tommy Bahama twill high waist crop white jeans | 40plusstyle.com

Tommy Bahama twill high waist crop white jeans

olive pants

The Wit & Wisdom stretch cotton pants (below) have a nod to a cargo style, but without any leg pockets. Perfect for casual days.

Wit & Wisdom stretch cotton pants | 40plusstyle.com

Wit & Wisdom stretch cotton pants

Which of the capris (above) are your favorites and what should you wear with them?

Keep reading for inspiration on tops, shoes and accessories to wear with your capris and cropped pants.

Cropped pants outfit: Tops to wear with capris

Dawn Lucy in jeans and a lace top | 40plusstyle.com

When choosing tops to style with your capris, think about shirts you can tuck in, or tops which are fairly short and will make your legs look longer.

Dawn Lucy @fashionshouldbefun (read her style interview here), above, wears a top that comes down just past her waist. Her heels and the neutral tone of her shoes help to create a leg lengthening effect.

Check out this similar top, jeans, sandals, necklace, earrings and sun hat.

Tops to wear with capris | 40plusstyle.com

Nordstrom ruched side T-shirtRomwe knot front teeCaslon jersey wrap topNordstrom silk blouse

Jackets and cardigans to wear with capris

Nancy in cropped pants and a leather jacket | 40plusstyle.com

Cropped or short jackets can be a flattering style with your capris as they can make your legs look longer in comparison with your torso.

Instead try a cropped style – you could always wear it over a longer shirt – or choose a longer style of open cardigan to create slimming, long lines.

Nancy @nancysstyle (read her style interview here), above, wears cropped pants with her leather jacket.

Check out this similar shirt, cropped pants, blazer, sandals, belt and sunglasses.

jackets and cardigans to wear with your capri pants | 40plusstyle.com

CHARTOU suede moto jacketKUT from the Kloth denim jacketMadewell print cardiganBarefoot Dreams long cardigan

shoes to wear with capris

Heidi in cropped white pants | 40plusstyle.com

There are many shoe and boot options you could choose. Leg lengthening options include heels or booties, while you could choose sneakers or sandals for a more casual look.

Heidi @mams_middleagedmomstuff, above, chooses sandals close to her skintone to create a leg lengthening effect.

Recreate her outfit with this similar top, jeans, sandals and earrings.

Shoes to wear with capris | 40plusstyle.com

Schutz slide sandalBella Vita sandalFly London wedge sandalCaslon platform sneaker

Accessories to wear with capris

Tamera in striped pants | 40plusstyle.com

What do you like to wear as the “finishing touches” to your capris outfit? Below are just a few ideas of accessories you could choose.

Tamera @tamerabeardsley, above, chooses summery accessories including a large sunhat and rattan bag.

Check out this similar top, jacket, pants, mules, crossbody bag, earrings, straw hat and sunglasses.

Accessories to wear with capris | 40plusstyle.com

Kate Spade New York leather toteRebecca Minkoff leather shoulder bagKarine Sultan braided collar necklaceKate Spade New York stud earringsNEST hoop earrings

A capsule wardrobe featuring capris

Below you can see many of the capris, clothes and accessories used in this article put together into a capsule wardrobe that is perfect for transitioning into spring and summer.

There are 9 outfit suggestions for you, but you can mix and match these items to create countless other options.

Capris capsule wardrobe

Below you can see the clothes, shoes and accessories used above together in one capsule.

You may also like to take a look at how to create a capsule wardrobe.

Capris pants capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

shop all items above here:

What to wear with your capris? More inspiration

There’s more inspiration for you below. Below are some previous capsules we created. Although these items are no longer available online, they will still give you inspiration on what sort of outfits you can create.

Capris pants capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

To give you some more ideas on how you can wear capris and cropped pants I will show you some of mine.

These images are older, but I thought I would still include them here as they illustrate how timeless cropped pants looks can be. I still wear many of these outfits.

This outfit (below) 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 capris and ladies cropped trousers – more ideas!

Wear women’s capris with a short or tucked in top

Capris usually look good with a funky top tucked into your trousers.

You can simply tuck it or, if you need to hide a belly, can wear a longer top underneath in the color of your cropped pants. This will still give you a flattering silhouette.

Wearing white capris | 40plusstyle.com

Cropped flare pants

Cropped flare pants with long tunic | 40plusstyle.com

These (below) are my favorite cropped pants right now. They are my cropped flare jeans by Paige. I wear these with longer tops and shorter ones, with jackets and without.

They look great with different types of shoes too.

For more of my favorite jeans brands check out my article on how to wear jeans over 40.

Skinny cropped pants

Below are a few more examples of how I have worn capris and cropped pants in the past.

a vacation outfit of white capris and a relaxed fit top | 40plusstyle.com

My white Zara cropped pants are still going strong. Here worn with my new Rollie shoes which are super light weigh (highly recommended).

With longer tops

wearing capri pants with a longer top | 40plusstyle.com
black capris | 40plusstyle.com

With a simple top

summeroutfits - cropped pants with a short top | 40plusstyle.com

Capris combined with jackets

Combining capris with jackets | 40plusstyle.com

White capris

wearing white capris | 40plusstyle.com

Cropped leggings

These look best with a wider and long top and can be very flattering. They are perfect for warmer weather.

These Second Nature Capri leggings  from Stella Carakasi are super fab. Not too thin and very stretchy and comfortable. They are also great for tucking in your tummy. Take a look at how to hide your belly with the right clothes for more tips on this.

You can pair these leggings with one of their asymmetrical tops and a long camisole.

hidingyourbellywithleggings | 40plusstyle.com

For more tips on wearing leggings, check the article how to wear leggings after 40.

Some final thoughts about capri trousers

Right now you can wear pants in all sorts of styles and lengths.

Currently in 2021, cropped pants are still very much on trend and many of my pants are now cropped in some ways.

Please bear in mind ladies that all these are just guidelines. Always let your eyes be the judge of whether the outfit with capris looks good on you. Some of you may even be able to rock your capris outfits without following any of these suggestions.

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 exercise 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!

Will you be wearing capris this season? What will you wear your cropped pants with?

Continue reading:

  1. How To Wear Jeans Over 40 – Guidelines And Lots Of Ideas
  2. How To Wear Leggings Over 40 – A Complete Guide With The Best Leggings And Tops And Shoes To Wear With Them
  3. The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Capsule Wardrobe That Works For You

P.S. Want to get our full comprehensive guide on how to wear all kinds of pants the right way and what shoes to wear with them? Be sure to request our free style guide below!

Like this article on how to wear cropped pants and capris? Save it on Pinterest!

How to wear capris or cropped pants | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Dawn Lucy @fashionshouldbefun

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