Capri pants are back. And that's bad news.

May 05, 2002|By Susan Reimer

Capri pants are back. And that's bad news.

The fashion item suburbanites used to call pedal-pushers is everywhere this season, on every rack in every women's department in every clothing store. They are the no-choice choice this summer.

Let me be frank.

Capri pants were a bad idea when my mother, with her test-tube figure, wore them in the 1950s and they are a bad idea now.

They were a bad idea for every woman except Audrey Hepburn and Sandra Dee 50 years ago, and they are a bad idea for every woman except teen models now.

To wear them, you must have a perfect rear end, perfect calves, perfect ankles and perfectly manicured toes, and if you look that good you should be wearing short shorts, not something it looks like you outgrew.

Capri pants, named for the resort island, were created by Italian designer Emilio Pucci in the '50s as part of a revolutionary new sporty-casual look. At the time, women were still wearing shirtwaist dresses to backyard barbecues.

These trousers, cut just above the ankle and worn with a bateau neck top or a twin set, were absolute liberation. They morphed into "pedal-pushers" and "clam-diggers" of varying lengths when they hit the mass market.

They returned, like a bad penny, a couple of summer seasons ago. But this year, they have pushed out shorts like crabgrass crowds out Kentucky blue. You can find them in every designer's name; in eveningwear; in patch madras; in denim and in, God help us, florals.

They are paired with, yes, bateau-neck Ts or camp shirts, but you better find a full-length mirror before you plunk down your credit card. You need to see how you look in these things to believe it.

Ordinarily, I would guess that the racks and racks of Capri pants are the trickle-down effect of the fashion industry. Last year's haute couture is this year's Kmart blue-light special. But I think something else is at work.

All those women whose mothers wore Capri pants the first time around are wearing them this time around. The reason? They are all 50 and haven't got the guts to wear shorts anymore.

Capri pants are particularly good at emphasizing most of a woman's shortcomings. But they have one advantage. They cover loose thighs, veiny legs and scrubwoman knees.

A woman of a certain age could always choose to wear slacks in the summer. But she would look like a female police officer or a FedEx delivery person. Capri pants are the lesser evil.

They have couple of other characteristics that are particularly disadvantageous to women in midlife.

First, wear them more than twice and the knees bag and the fanny pooches and they look like old pajamas.

Second, they require cute shoes -- usually strappy little sandals with a two-inch heel. That's not exactly footwear for the active woman, or the carpooling mother of school-age children.

And finally, they require regular pedicures.

There is nothing like brightly polished toes to draw the eye away from a wide caboose or thick ankles.

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