Crops Are Tops

Fashion: Pants chopped to end somewhere between knee and ankle are all the rage.

May 16, 1999|By Staci Sturrock | Staci Sturrock,Cox News Service

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Shins are in. Their moment in the fashion sun comes courtesy of capris, cropped pants and clamdiggers -- all those britches hitched up at the hem.

They, along with pedal pushers and toreadors, are the latest style to be served up at century's close. Fashion's capricious finger now points back to the '50s and early '60s.

"It's the end of the millennium, and we're revisiting our favorite times," says Michele Weston, fashion and style director of Mode magazine. "And weren't the '50s a wonderful time to be around?"

When shorter pants resurfaced last spring, fashionable New Yorkers quickly took them to the streets. The look is still going strong this year, and high waters are now hot around the country.

In the Baltimore area capris have done well with women of all ages, says Robyn Fischer, owner of the Red Garter in Pikesville. This is her second season carrying the cropped pants. "Women who can't wear shorts and are tired of pants love them," she explains, "and there's a style and shape for everyone. My older customers have actually been more accepting of capris than the younger ones. But this season they're catching on with them as well. It's the new hip look."

Hollywood has enjoyed a lengthy love affair with hiked-up hems. Capris turned Audrey Hepburn into a beatnik for her first screen musical, "Funny Face," and transformed Mary Tyler Moore into a trend-setting housewife in her first big TV foray, "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Despite their retro pedigree, capri pants and their short-seamed sibs are resolutely modern.

"They look now," says Suzanne Yalof, executive fashion editor of Glamour magazine. "They're an instant updater."

Easy to wear, too. Just about everybody can find a capri or clamdigger to suit her figure and style personality. Some hit just below the knee, some hug the calf, some hover above the ankle.

"We've seen it work for so many women, whether they're petite or tall," says Weston of Mode, which targets sizes 12 and up.

Modern-day capris and clam-diggers are cut from denim, gabardine and twill. Army-fatigue green and khaki stand ready as the next look, says Anne Slowey, fashion news director of Elle.

"It's less about looking edgy and more about looking fresh," she says. Capris "look smart, in that old-fashioned sense of the word."

Trendy though they may be, capris possess a timeless quality. Think Jackie Kennedy wading in the Hyannis surf.

"Capris are almost a staple," Slowey says. "As women build their wardrobe, they should go out there and find the best pair of capris they can and never get rid of them."

Sun staff writer Elizabeth Large contributed to this article.

A short history of shortened pants

When magazine editor Anne Slowey thinks of capris, the standard-bearers who come to mind are Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Onassis.

Hepburn gave capris a kick in "Sabrina" and "Funny Face." More than 40 years later, her signature look is still fresh.

But Hepburn wasn't the only one to give capris that "je ne sais quoi" sense of everlasting cool:

In capris and a tee, Jean Seberg left Jean-Paul Belmondo waiting to exhale in "Breathless."

Jackie Kennedy hit the green in capris as first lady.

Mary Tyler Moore popularized capris as a trend-setting housewife in "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

In "Pulp Fiction," Uma Thurman wore cropped pants on her heartstopping date with John Travolta.

Mix and match these separates

Can't tell a capri from a clam-digger?

You're in good company: Distinguishing toreadors from pedal pushers can prove daunting for even the savviest New York fashion editor. We consulted Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion. See how well you do and then follow suit -- all these looks are current.

1. Capri pants

2. Clamdiggers

3. Cropped pants

4. Pedal pushers

5. Toreadors

A. Pants cut at varying lengths between ankle and knee.

B. Tight-fitting, below the knee pants, patterned after those worn by Spanish bullfighters.

C. Tight-fitting, three-quarter-length pants, with short slit on outside of leg. Named for the Italian resort where the look first became popular in the '50s.

D. Below the knee, straight-cut pants. First popular during World War II for bicycling.

E. Snug calf-length pants. Originated as cut-off blue jeans, worn while wading to shovel for shellfish.

ANSWERS: 1) C; 2) E; 3) A; 4) D; 5) B.

A user's guide


Try a wide variety of cuts to find the shape and length that works best for you.

Pull on a pair of form-fitting clamdiggers if you've got great calves, or fuller cropped pants if your calves are on the chunky side.

Keep the top sporty, simple and lean. However, if you like the coverage of a bigger shirt, that's "great as long as it's worn with a slimmer-legged toreador," says Michele Weston of Mode.

Wear flats: sneakers with or without tiny socks, sandals, slingbacks, mules or ballet slippers. "Anything else looks kind of silly," says Glamour's Suzanne Yalof.


Don't go for the shortest of the cropped styles if you're petite. In general, the shorter you are, the longer the style you should opt for.

Don't wear cropped pants if you're pear-shaped. "For some reason, they make [a big rear end] look bigger," Yalof says.

Don't show your stomach. "I wouldn't recommend a bra top with capris," says Anne Slowey of Elle. "That brings to mind 'West Side Story.' "

Don't forget your toes. "The three words we always say are 'pedicure, pedicure, pedicure,' " Weston says.

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