Those aren’t my words…they are Tim Gunn’s, and I love Tim Gunn. “A crime against fashion,” is how he described Capri pants, but I think he was referring to the modern, and usually unflattering, variants of the original.
The first cropped trousers were introduced by Prussian designer Sonja DeLennart in 1948. The original Capris were a casual trouser-like pant with a tapered leg that ended just above the ankle and featured a vertical slit at the bottom edge. They were named after the Isle of Capri (above) on Italy’s coast which was just emerging as a European tourist destination. Ernest Hemingway and his first wife went there with their friends F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Their crowd of friends followed, and then the movie stars began to come.
They had become quite popular, but hadn’t been shown on television until the early 1960’s when Mary Tyler Moore caused both a fashion sensation, and a bit of a scandal, by wearing them on her program for a sexy dance number. Until then, women had always been shown wearing dresses, but Mary, playing housewife Laura Petrie, wanted to show a more realistic view of women, real housewives, who had adopted this latest style.
Back to Tim Gunn…his objection to Capri pants is that most women want to look as long and lean as possible, and current capri styles cut us off at the widest part of the calf making us look shorter, and not flattering our legs in the least! He points out that to make matters worse, some have cargo pockets on the outer thigh which adds even more visual width. Cuffs and pleats should be avoided since cuffs make your legs look shorter and pleats make your tummy look poochy, and who needs that? These are a “never-leave-the-house-looking-like-this” pair of cropped pants. Well, maybe you could change into these at the gym for your work-out, but change out of them before going back out in public!
If you choose to wear capri pants, the kindest cut is above the fullest part of the calf, or just below it, where it begins to taper down to the ankle. Just above the ankle, like the originals, is very retro-chic and also very flattering if your legs aren’t what they once were (age and gravity being what they are). Be mindful of the fabric, be sure it has some body and stretch to it. If you like designs, keep prints small so the scale of it doesn’t overwhelm you. I know Audrey Hepburn popularized ballet-flats with her capris, but I still prefer a pointy-toed flat with capris. Better yet, I love an espadrille with a bit (or a lot) of height to it. Generally speaking, the best choice for cut and length is the one that shows off whatever part of your legs you want to highlight. If you find yourself smiling when you look in the mirror, I’d say that you’re good to go!