Thursday, June 6, 2019

In Which Gail Carriger Goes Into An Emotional Quandry Over Capris ~ The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In which Gail discusses, at length (or should I say at short?) her volatile relationship with capris.

I can't stand cropped trousers.

No, there it is, I simply can't.

I agonized over this blog post and finally decided, Fashionable Reader, that I owed you honesty.

This is, of course, my opinion, if you are a fan of the crop than you should wear it. But . . .

I have dabbled in every single one of the styles I discuss herein.

Most, I eventually rejected. Like the middi skirt, I feel the capri foreshortens me by chopping me at the calf. I believe wholeheartedly that just above or just below the knee is a far more more flattering look.

I'm only 5'6" and curvy, a cropped pant is just Not Good. Often they are even unflattering on models.

I tend to feel to get away with it I must wear very high heels.

I think the rail skinny pixie-type can carry them off, like Audrey Hepburn. But I don't look like her, and neither does most everyone else on this earth.

The tall girl (5"8'+) can sometimes work a capri, but please make certain you stick to only a few inches below the knee (otherwise it looks like you just have pants that are too short).

Now, a word on the subject of definitions:
  • Capris
  • Clam diggers
  • Pedal pushers
  • Cropped pants
  • Breeches (as opposed to britches or jodhpurs)
  • Knickerbockers
On the internet and in fashion blogs, there seems to be a good deal of confusion as to which cropped trousers of which style mean what. So I am going to bypass the whole discussion and give you my own definitions. Wha ha ha!

Department stores tend to file any pant that ends below the knee and before the ankle as a capri. Since I'd rather avoid department store lingo, I'm going to ignore that word altogether from here on out. We will broach each style with a look at both vintage and modern takes, ending with my suggestion of what you might choose, if you simply MUST wear a cropped trouser.


The general idea behind breeches is that they are slightly baggy at the top and then come in tight at or just below the knee, then then end or stay tight down to the ankle.

I own a few pairs of breeches, both with a very equestrian look to them. One is part of a 1930s riding suit in grey with matched blazer, very Madame Lefoux. The other are light-weight brown that I have been known to wear them to ride a bicycle. (Sadly, I've no pictures of either.) In general, I prefer to pair this style with riding boots and use for more casual steampunk events. If you are going to go for breeches, try something like this . . .

Clam Diggers

Sigh, is there anything good that can be said of clam diggers? I tend to throw this term at any pair of baggy cropped pants either shortened or (more commonly) cuffed/rolled. So unflattering.

If you must wear clam diggers, do it for digging clams. If you are quite slender and tall, you might be able to carry off this retro take, but proceed with caution!

Of course if you are going for the super hot butch look, carry on, I'll be drooling in the corner.


They are very wide legged, cut short anywhere after the knee and to the ankle, can be quite skirt-like. Ugh.

I would not sleep well tonight if I suggested, in good conscious, that anyone ever wear culottes. But if you must, go all the way to vintage and don't look back.

Cropped Trousers

I use this phrase to refer to any mensware inspired trouser that is then cut short, usually just above the ankle. To me this kind of trouser has the look of someone who just didn't buy the right length.

Ralph Lauren 2011 Fall Runway
Who can carry of a cropped pant? Well a man from the 1950s, and adorable gay boy . . . Or, if you must, punk it up with chunky boots in the same color as the pants. Or the Femme Dandy look can sometimes work this, but I think they need to be a LOOK. You know?


Besides being fun to say, knickerbockers are quite baggy and come in tight at the knee. Traditionally worn by paperboys, they still have that feel. They were also worn for gentlemen sporting events, hunting and fishing, a so have a strong tweed association. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are still worn for golf.

They tend to be baggier than breaches and don't have the longer cuff. I own a pair of black which, again, I mainly use for steampunk and bicycle riding. If you are going to wear knickerbockers, you'll always look a little costumey . . run with it.

Pedal Pushers

This is a style I wear. I tend to define them as tighter and almost legging-like. I prefer ones that ended just below the knee or right abov the swell of the calf, and I wear them with very high heals.

If you wear pedal pushers, I suggest going retro with the whole look. Otherwise they can seem too sloppy and lazy. A knit top instead of a t-shirt and a simple scarf tied about your head can make all the difference. For example if you are on the pixie end of the spectrum . . .

Of if you are bit more statuesque and of Alexia's proportions, try something like this . . .

Which brings me to my final thoughts.

 No matter what your look or size, in my mind the most flattering form of a cropped trouser is something that ends just below the knee. This look can be chic and modern even work appropriate, ultra retro, or punky cute. To that end I leave you with three of my favorites, hoping that if you are hellbent on the cropped trouser that you consider these options first . . .

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

You can shop my recommendations via the following lists:
Steampunk, Retro Jewelry, Makeup, Retro Clothes, Lifestyle

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