Capris and cropped pants are notoriously hard to wear and they can be unflattering on many women. Yet shops are currently full of these cropped pants and the trend is continuing into summer 2020 with wider cropped pants getting increasingly popular. Should you wear them anyway? And if yes, how can you wear capris?

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 the give the effect of shortening your legs! For almost all women a silhouette with a longer leg line is more flattering.
  • They can highlight chunky calves as they are likely to end at this part of your leg. The eye will be drawn to where the hem on your capris ends.

So why are cropped pants so on trend right now?

how to wear capris |

Gucci – Paco Rabanne – Chloé

Figure flattery is usually not on top of the list of designer’s priorities so here are 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

You can see (above) how designers are interpreting the capris trend for spring and summer 2020. Paco Rabanne opted for a 70s feel, while other designers, including Chloé and Gucci chose a wider leg style.

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 for women that will help.

1. Make sure your capris are tapered.

If they 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.

2. Wear higher heels.

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

3. Try to create a rule of thirds with your dressing.

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

4. Think carefully about your shoe choice

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.

5. Higher booties are very effective with cropped pants.

wearing wide-leg 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.

Deborah (above) shows the leg lengthening effect of heeled booties in the same color as her cropped pants.

Recreate her look with this similar top (plain option), capris, booties and earrings.

6. Wear a shorter top.

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.

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 into account and make adjustments accordingly to create the silhouette that flatters your body and proportions.

The length of your capri trousers is important

cropped pants for summer |

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to dressing for you. And, this is important to take into account when looking for a pair of capris. Just a few inches can make a big difference to how flattering your capris look on you.

Karen (above) chooses a pair of cropped pants which end at a lovely slim part of her legs.

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

Where should your cropped pants end?

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.

The best women’s cropped pants and capris

Now that you are thinking about what will be the most flattering option for you, below you will find some of my favorite capris to choose from this season.

1. Black capris

If you love the look of a pair of black capris as much as I do, you might like this pair from one of my favorite jeans brands, Eileen Fisher.

Eileen Fisher tapered ankle pants  |

Eileen Fisher tapered ankle pants

2. Jean capris

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.

FRAME mini boot jeans |

FRAME mini boot jeans

3. Women’s cargo capris

A pair of cargo capris could be a good addition to your vacation closet. You could wear with walking shoes for sightseeing, or heeled sandals for evening. Or, of course, with sneakers and a t-shirt for a casual look.

Liverpool crop cargo pants |

Liverpool crop cargo pants

4. White capris

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

Hue capri denim leggings |

NYDJ straight leg capri jeans

5. Colorful women’s ankle length pants

A pair of colorful cropped pants in a bright shade such as red can be a lovely way to update your neutrals during cooler weather, and into spring and summer.

red cropped pants with neutrals |

Jill (above) wears her red capris with beige.

Check out this similar stripe top, capris, mules, scarf and sunglasses.

Theory crop suit pants |

Halogen crop pants

6. 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.

Halogen wide leg crop pants |

Halogen wide leg crop pants

7. Linen capris

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.

Eileen Fisher wide leg crop linen pants |

Theory crop trousers

8. Denim capris 

Just like black and white capri pants, denim capris can be a very versatile option that you can wear with anything from sneakers to sandals.

Gloria Vanderbilt capri jeans |

Gloria Vanderbilt capri jeans

9. Patterned women’s capris 

Of course, you don’t have to stick to plain, block colors. A pair of patterned pants can add interest to your outfit. You could always print mix or choose a plain color top.

J.Crew leopard print chino crop pants |

J.Crew leopard print chino crop pants

10. Stripe capris 

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.

Karen Kane stripe pants |

Karen Kane stripe pants

Cropped pants outfit: Tops to wear with capris

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.

How to wear capris with a shirt |

Sally (above) opts for a classic, yet very modern look by tucking her shirt into her capris and accessorizing with snakeprint pumps.

Recreate her look with this similar shirt, capri, pumps, handbag and earrings.

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.

Tops to wear with capris |

AWARE by VERO MODA shirtProject Social T ruched detail tankBand of Gypsies ruched sleeve topSocialite crewneck t-shirt

Sweaters and cardigans to wear with capris

You could opt for a number of sweater styles with your capris, but be careful about where your sweater ends. A sweater which ends at your hips will effectively cut your body in half, which isn’t usually flattering.

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.

cardigans and sweaters to wear with cropped pants |

Topshop crop cardiganFRAME crop sweaterHalogen long cardiganTreasure & Bond longline cardigan

Jackets to wear with capris

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.

wearing a moto jacket with cropped pants |

Oxana (above) chooses a moto jacket and adds booties in a similar shade to her cropped wide pants.

Check out this similar shirt, capris, booties, moto jacket, handbag, scarf and sunglasses.

Jackets to wear with capris |

Blank NYC fringe trim suede moto jacketMadewell denim jacketBlank NYC suede drape front jacket1822 Denim leopard print denim jacket

Shoes and boots to wear with capris

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.

wearing cropped jeans with sneakers |

Estrel (above) wears a pair of classic Converse with her cropped jeans.

Steal her look with this similar blouse, denim jeans, sneakers, crossbody bag, belt and sunglasses.

Shoes and boots to wear with capris |

Paul Green low top sneakerBella Vita open toe muleFly London wedge sandalCalvin Klein ankle strap sandal

Accessories to wear with capris

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.

floral cropped pants outfit |

Bev (above) perfectly styles her capris for summer with a pair of wedges and a woven bag.

Check out this similar linen shirt, floral capris, sandals, straw bag, earrings and sunglasses.

Accessories to wear with capris |

Nordstrom hobo bagTory Burch crossbody bagKate Spade New York crossbody bagArgento Vivo small hoop earringsSterling Forever twisted drop earringsKate Spade New York chain necklaceHalogen twisted chain necklace

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 see how you could mix and match to create countless other options.

You could, for example, also wear the white shirt with white pants and top with the moto jacket. Or, you could choose to wear the zebra print top with the red cropped pants.

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

Capris pants capsule wardrobe |

What to wear with your capris? More inspiration

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 with a short dress |

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 |

How to wear capris and ladies cropped trousers – more ideas!

Cropped flare pants

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.

Cropped flare pants with long tunic |
wearing cropped jeans with silver shoes |
Fit for fashion in a gray and white outfit |

I feel that is essential with wider cropped pants like these ones (above and below) to opt for a shorter top in order to keep a streamlined and flattering silhouette. Cropped pants will always be more challenging to wear than full-length pants and wider cropped pants are even more so.

What you want to do, is to try and achieve the right balance within your outfit to come closer to the golden ratio in dressing and create a balance that comes close to 1/3 – 2/3 (a concept I explain in a lot more detail in my style course).

That way you can achieve an overall silhouette that is at least flattering enough and will allow you to wear outfits that are currently fashionable or just fun to wear.

dianevonfurstenbergjacket with wide crop pants |

Skinny cropped pants

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

a vacation outfit of white capris and a relaxed fit top |

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 |

With a simple top

summeroutfits - cropped pants with a short top |
white pants and a blue top outfit |

Capris combined with jackets

Combining capris with jackets |

White capris

wearing white capris |

Black capris

black capris |

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 |
how to wear croppped leggings |

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 2020, 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 |

Feature image by Deborah

Want to get more articles from 40+style in your inbox, subscribe here.

You can also connect with 40+style on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Support 40+style by using the links in our articles to shop. As an associate for Amazon and many other brands, we receive a small commission (at no cost to you) on qualifying purchases which enables us to keep creating amazing free content for you. Thanks!