The Long and Short Of Capri Pants

Capri pants -- essentially pants that somehow lost their nerve on the way to becoming shorts -- are a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped inside a 24" inseam. Ending somewhere before the topmost part of the shin and the ankle, they have one major effect: to make the wearer's legs look shorter and squatter. This is not usually viewed as a positive change. But day after shopping day, women pay for the privilege of looking like they washed pants that they were supposed to dry clean.

Supporters of the capri inevitably claim the pants are "cute," and maybe some wearers see themselves as Gidget twisting the night away at a beach barbecue. Or maybe the point is to look like you had a sudden growth spurt. But whatever the philosophical underpinnings of capridom, the result is an unhappy one.

Indeed, the societal domination of capri pants has reached oppressive levels. Capris, and their insidious relatives, pedal pushers and clam diggers, now comprise 98.5 percent of the women's trouser market. In nearly every store, shoppers are blinded by the glare of bare mannequin ankles. Racks and windows are full of the things.

Finding full-length pants has become at best stressful and at worst impossible -- last week, I was forced to buy yoga pants marked "tall" in order to have them cover the tops of my shoes. I am but 5-foot-5√; truly, this is a sign that the capri has vaulted from its respectful place as just another pants option to a full-blown spree of totalitarian world domination.

Even e-commerce mocks the long-pants seeker. On a recent visit to BananaRepublic.com, I found that even the suits came with capri pants -- except for a few whose jackets had three-quarter sleeves. Is there an underdocumented world fabric shortage?

Have we learned no lessons from the past? Must I be the Cassandra in this Trojan War of the inseam? Our nation has struggled through pants disasters before, and barely survived -- recall the MC Hammer Pants Crisis and the Big Sloppy Carpenter Pants Age of the early '90s. In both cases, expert negotiators had to be brought in to convince designers to stop making so many pants that were so damn weird.

It's time to take a stand: Ask yourself whether you want to wear shorts or pants. Reject this split-the-difference approach to fashion thrust upon us in the innocent form of the capri. It's all fun and games until someone loses the bottom quarter of their pants.

Where will this folly end?

At the ankle, of course.

Liz Khalil (thegreatlizby@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer in Washington DC.

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