Can Capris Be Cute?

Halsey at Givenchy Fall 2023 Ready To Wear Fashion Show on March 2, 2023 at the Military School in Paris, Fashion. (Photo by Swan Gallet/WWD via Getty Images)

From extra-long Bermuda shorts to flowy culottes, fashion is really trying to make capris happen. And it just might be working.

They say the only way forward is to never look back. But if fashion’s revolving door of widely hated trends is any indication, the true key to innovation is by pushing through what pains you. In other words: The future is here, and it’s full of chock full of capri pants.

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You can thank/blame celebrities. Earlier in May, Jennifer Lawrence made headlines in New York City after wearing a baggy pinstripe button-down with equally XL capri pants from The Row and a pair of ballet flats. A few months earlier, Halsey attended the Givenchy Fall/Winter 2023 show in a lime green bra and a pair of low-slung cropped cargos, putting a dramatic take on the tiny-top big-bottom trend. We’d be remiss not to mention Bella Hadid, whose trend-transcending wardrobe has long included bottoms that are cropped just so. With each new street-style look, stars are spreading the redemption of capris like a virtual virus. And…we fear we’re ill.

In their truest form, capris hit a few inches below the knee. But the general concept of cropped slacks takes many shapes and sizes, from flowy culottes to Bermuda shorts. With each not-quite-a-pant design, a baseline level of contempt is baked into it. For one, capris are the prime vehicle for controversial skirt-over-pants styling. Not to mention, they have a history of coming exclusively in low-rise iterations — a scary flashback that most of us don’t want to relive. On top of it all, some people have come to see capris as inherently unflattering, awkward and just plain irredeemable.

Like other oft-vilified trends (tube tops; bloomers; cargo shorts) their mere presence elicits questions. The main one being, why? Why not commit to full-length trousers or a pair of decisive jorts? Why fall somewhere so ambiguously in the middle? In their defence, capris were in fact created for a functional purpose. (Can those Big Red Boots say the same?) Their first iteration dates back to the late 1940s, when designer Sonja de Lennart was walking on a beach in Capri, Italy, and cut off the bottom of her pants so as to not get them wet. This scientific alteration stood the test of time — (support women in STEM!) — with variations of cropped pants popularized by icons of the ’50s like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. In the ’90s, capris made a return in slim, fitted styles before getting bigger and baggier through the 2000s. To further reinforce their status as a controversial noughties design, they became a staple in Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe, before fading into the realm of outdated dressing.

Ashley Tisdale (Photography by Getty Images)

Today, perhaps the thought of capris jolts you back to sitting awkwardly in a middle school classroom, fresh off a department store shopping spree with your mom. Or maybe the capri return is a welcome go-ahead to dress like Ashley Tisdale and Beyoncé on the lawless red carpets of the early 2000s. However you choose to view it, though, capris are coming back in all iterations. Chanel has been championing cropped pants for a few seasons. Dua Lipa’s recent viral Versace collection was peppered with colourful just-below-the-knee pants. Capri enthusiasm is thriving on TikTok, too, where cropped trousers of all kinds are worn with gleeful abandon. Sheer lace pants with a disco ball belt. Calf-length slacks accentuated by a string. Faded jean gauchos that theatrically billow about. Turns out, 2023’s capris dial up the quirkiness of their predecessors.

Wearing capris today is taken as a challenge to sartorial risk-takers. They’re sported by It girls like Devon Lee Carlson. They’re the in-the-know uniform for niche fashion fanatics at a Chloë Sevigny closet sale. They’re intentionally “controversial,” and that’s kinda what makes them cool. Above all, perhaps their return can be chalked up to much-needed practicality. At this point, we’ve withstood short shorts, micro minis and ditching pants altogether. It’s undeniably refreshing to have alternative warm-weather bottoms that feel like substantial clothing.

Think about it: there are many reasons to wear capris. Actually, don’t think! Simply slip on your cropped pants and scamper out the door. Are you cosplaying Marilyn Monroe? Are you channelling Britney Spears on an MTV red carpet? Are you honouring your twelve-year-old self? That’s for you to know, and others to endlessly theorize about. Embrace the utter mystique of the three-quarter length slacks, and understand that you look cool doing it. In the needlessly cryptic words of TikTok, “I’m all for capris, if you know what I mean.

Not sure where to start with the 2023 trend? From Barbiecore to business casual, below are our top picks for easing back into capri pants.

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