Crops, Capris, Pedal Pushers (And the Scary Stuff In-Between)


Ok Mamas.  We promised.  We promised to give explicit detail on the whole cropped pant thing.  Ever since we made this bold (obnoxious) statement in our 2012 Style Resolutions for Moms article:

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So yes, to summarize:  Dowdy capris that hit at mid-calf:  Bad.  Slim cropped J.Crew pants:  Good.

Right?  Right.

But that’s not really all there is to it.  Not all of us (myself included) have gone running out to J.Crew for their adorable cropped pant.  Most of us (me again)….already have some sort of cropped pant/capri/pedal pusher hybrid in our closet.  So what to do?

I pulled my one-and-only pair out of storage for this little exercise.  Here’s mine:

Oh good.  It hits at the widest part of my calf.



I….don’t….know.  I don’t know about these, Mamas.

But here’s the deal:  I really, really really want capris to work.  As Mamas, we often have to fight varicose vein issues, or crazy-pale legs from lack of sunbathing time, and one really can’t dispute the practicality of cropped pants for just about any summer activity:  short enough to be cool, long enough to climb, run, jump and cartwheel.

So I went right to the cropped pant source:  My mother.  My mother could outfit a cropped-pant army.  She has been buying cropped pants and capris since….well.  One can never reveal a lady’s age.  Let’s just say it ends in “ixty-something”.  But Mom didn’t disappoint:  She has a capri-pant motherlode.  And none of these straight-forward, sophisticated, Jackie-O style pants*.  We’re talking capris in suspicious lengths.  Odd colors.  Strange cargo pocket placement.  Cropped pants from Old Navy.  Target.  And even….Younkers.  With brands like Plugg.  That’s Plugg with two G’s!  Two!  Wanna bet those came from a Juniors section somewhere?

*To be fair, my mother keeps all of her suspicious capris at the lake house.  To be used only for gardening, etc.  She does have her fair share of sophisticated, Jackie-O style pants too.  But it’s waaay more fun to make fun of her for those Plugggggs. 

Anyway, I chose three of my Mom’s…challenging cropped pant/capri/pedal pushers to try and style (and you can bet I grabbed those Pluggs). But first?  Definition time!  What the heck is the difference between cropped pants, capris, pedal pushers, etc?

(HUGE thanks to reader Sonja in Portland for this awesome graphic/diagram idea!!)



Cropped Pants

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This length is, by far, the most flattering to wear.  The most classic look is pure Jackie:  straight-leg, flat front, and ends right at your ankle bone.  The slimmer cut J.Crew version (pictured at the top of the post) is the more modern version.

You can also just roll up your jeans or any ‘ol straight-leg pant to approximate the cropped pant look.  Here’s my take:


Jackie O I’m not.  But I like that the roll shows off cool shoes. You can lower the hem if you want – play around with it.  I usually roll the hem two or three times.  Here’s a shot with only two rolls:


You can roll bootcut jeans as well…but the overall effect is a little different.  Not bad, but not as sleek.

Capri Pants

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The actual line between capris and cropped pants is a bit nebulous…I just did my best.  However, the theme is the same:  a slim cut, flat front is always the best option.

HOWEVER.  That doesn’t mean that you must throw out anything that doesn’t look like Audrey’s.  Remember my mom’s Pluggs?  In the odd color?  With the cargo pockets?  And the wider leg?  Yeah.  I tried them:


Holy Moly.  I liked them. Incredulous, I styled them for work:


Not bad, right?  (Although I’d probably swap out the sandals for a closed-toe at the engineering office.  As opposed to the blogging “office”.  Which is, uh…my bedroom.)

I’d even wear these pants out….like Out-Out.  Well, maybe not that far.  But to a backyard BBQ fo’ sho.


Ok Mom.  I’m down with your Plugggs.

Danger Zone

Not all danger zone pants must be tossed.  To illustrate, Mom had these confusing-but-cute pants:


The bottom hem hits in the danger zone…but then gets pulled up at the side?  I don’t know.  They aren’t bad.  High heels and lipstick make up for a lot.  I actually liked this outfit.  Was all set to go Out-Out in it.  Until Mike put down the camera, said “Go change your pants!!” and smacked me on the bum.  Oh.  Ok.  (My inner goddess stomped her foot and pouted. #FiftyShadesOfCroppedPants)  But I put on my white skinnies.  “Muuuuch better” says Mike.  So there you go.

But wait!  There’s more!  I have to share the worst – the absolute rock bottom – in my Mom’s battilion of capris:

Know what these need?  Some pleats



Hits at the widest part of the thigh?  Check.  Saggy bum?  Check.  Inexplicable flared hem, long crotch, oddly placed pockets complete with a mini-me pocket?  Check, check, check and check.

But wait!  Wait!  If you juuuust….



….roll these bad boys up….you have….

Pedal Pushers



Not…too…bad. These look a lot better with some wedges, though:


So yeah – rolling up Danger Zone Capris into Pedal Pushers?  It works.  In addition to the wedges, I prefer to pair these pants with a chic top – something other than a basic tee or tank.  M nailed the styling of pedal pushers in her article about summertime styling with varicose veins.


At the end of the day, Mamas, I’m a big believer in wearing what you love.  So if you want to wear Danger Zone capris?  Then rock ’em.


Happy Summer, Mamas.




  1. My sister and I are purging my closet tomorrow (shudder). I have a lot of clothes I “like” but just aren’t my style anymore. And I have a LOT of danger-zone capris. Sigh…how I wish you could be here to help me! HELP. ME.

  2. love the post, I’ve been struggling with this, but in maternity. My capris from my pregnancy 2 years ago hit in that danger zone, and I just can’t bring myself to wear them. I’ve been hunting for maternity skinny jeans (that I can alter to crops) or capris that are a skinnier cut, and have been striking out. The Citizen dani crop is the only pair I have found, and I am so desperate I might just splurge. Would love a post about summer maternity pants options.

  3. love me some capris! i swore off shorts a looong time ago & have been faithful to the capris/cropped pant look ever since. the Gap has some awesomely comfy (and reasonably priced) cropped pants right now. actually, now that i think about it, they’re full length but displayed rolled…but yeah, they’re super comfy & come in a rainbow of colors! this mama likey 🙂

  4. Allie – Good luck, Chick. I’ve been giggling about your comment all night. “HELP. ME.”
    rsc – Have you tried ASOS? One of my favorite places for maternity clothes. Are the Danger Zone capris roll-able? Or just bad? (And did you see Rachel’s comment? Grab some slim-fit khakis from the Gap and just roll to cropped pant length….)
    Rachel Starr – Nice pick!!

  5. Thanks so much for the breakdown. I purged all my capris a few years ago and have been going the rolled jeans/trousers since discovering ANMJ. But where oh where did those grey wedge shooties come from? Must…have….now!!!!

  6. I live in my capris during the summer, and I think all of them hit in the danger zone. Oh well, maybe I’ll try rolling some of them up.

  7. You do make your mother laugh, Shana. So if I understand correctly, I can get another season or two out of those capris by rolling them? Done, done and done! Oh, but only at the lake, right? They all look really cute on you, but do remember to bring them back in July. I’m sure Mike will remind you. Love you tons!!

  8. Great tips on shape and length for various cropped pants. I have everything from short shorts to ankle-length skinnies, so I love a varied length. However, I’m pretty sure some of my capris hit in that Danger Zone, so I should probably give them another look–assuming I plan to wear them anywhere other than the boardwalk on vacation!

  9. Finally! I now know the difference between pedal pushers, capris and cropped pants. This was so helpful. I am now going to consign my wide leg danger zone capris. Whew!

  10. Thank you! I love the diagram! I’m in the midst of a huge purge of my closet. Someone’s hips may not be going back to pre-baby size and someone might not be able to fit into any of their summer pants/shorts which is a good thing because that someone may have been heading down the frumpy/dowdy road of post career stay-at-home mommydom. Your diagram and styling pictures will help me so much. Just wish you could take me shopping. 🙂

  11. Shana, this is one of the most helpful posts you’ve written! I undertook a full closet purge after the birth of #3 in September (how on earth did I survive the first 31 years of my life with NO style?), and after trashing all my pants-of-a-questionable-length have been rolling my jeans a la ANMJ. Turns out I’ve been doing The Right Thing! All on my own!

  12. Shana, this is one of the most helpful posts you’ve written! I undertook a full closet purge after the birth of #3 in September (how on earth did I survive the first 31 years of my life with NO style?), and after trashing all my pants-of-a-questionable-length have been rolling my jeans a la ANMJ. Turns out I’ve been doing The Right Thing! All on my own!

  13. S – haven’t tried ASOS, will give them a shot, thanks! Part of my problem is that I like a full panel, and gap doesn’t offer too many options. the danger zone capris are pretty wide at the bottom. I got a great pair of skinny jeans that I am altering to hit just at the ankle. should work nicely.

  14. Haha! Your moms comment made me laugh. Great article! Btw – where is your white shirt from you? The one with the shoulder cutouts?? Looooove it.

  15. Thank you, Shana! I live in capris most of the summer. I have really long legs and a very short torso, so I prefer something to cut off my legs to balance my proportions. I will try rolling them until I can get to the store (really want to lose the last 10lbs of baby weight first), great idea!

  16. I swear you could style anything! I have tossed most of my danger zone capris and was going to chop the remaining for shorts- now I think I might be able to scrape an outfit together. Also, I second the request for more details on the grey wedge shooties- LOVE!

  17. I am desperately looking for straight leg, slim cut khakis that are dressy enough for work (university professor) but slim and hip. Only I have enormous calves from running, so most “skinny” jeans etc. don’t fit. My khakis are super comfy but WAY too baggy and I don’t want a high waist.
    Any idea where to turn to? I will try the J Crews but I venture a guess they are too slim at the calf. I want slim from below waist to ankle. Finding non-boot cut anything is so hard these days!!

  18. I live in capris during the summer, since my thunder thighs cannot rock shorts. Not even bermudas, thanks to my chicken legs and humongous hips. I have a pair of…capris?…that have the option to be rolled and buttoned on the side. Rolled up look terrible, hitting at the worst part. I’ve been using them as longer capris since. I have some maternity ones from my pregnancy last summer that I love, and they don’t look maternity, yay! And since I can’t rock skinnies either, I got a nice pair of straight legs that I roll into an ankle crop and are more styled/slim and look wonderful with just about everything.

  19. Julia, have you tried J Brand? I have wider calves and found J brand to be heaven sent. They even sell midrise so Moms can BEND! I’ve also had luck with 7 for all mankind but usually just jeans For more dressy, Jcrew. Also, sometimes the material stretches just enough after the 2nd wear. My friend once suggested I take them home and wear them for a bit to see. Last but not least try a Target or similar place. The pants tend to be cut just a bit wider. Good luck! Happy shopping.

  20. I can’t thank you ENOUGH for this post! I see capris and just want to grab people and scream “Make a decision! LONG OR SHORT!!!” I know so many moms who wear them, and they just aren’t flattering on anyone. Gisele? Maybe…just maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I just grabbed a pair of skinny crops at the Gap on the super clearance rack for $7. Cheaper than a pair of capris at Walmart. Yep.

  21. Capris are a godsend for we mamas that have completely sworn off shorts basically forever (I have a fair amount of cellulite and just have never had attractive upper legs or knees, and right now, 2 months post baby #2, I’m still plus sized). But the tips are helpful as as I lose this extra weight (for good! no more babies for me!), I will be looking to try to avoid the Danger Zone as much as I can (-; I can’t give up capris/pedal pushers though….they are a summer lifesaver for this somewhat overweight and extremely pear-shaped mama!

  22. Memories, memories. As someone who was a little girl when Jacqueline Onassis was a young mom, I have to laugh at the evolution of these pants. Back then, pedal pushers were tapered and usually slit on the side, giving extra room to move your leg when pedaling your bike. My Mom never wore them, or clamdiggers. Despite raising seven kids, she had strict dress standards; she would wear shorts to garden, but Capris were standard wear for the Moms in our neighborhood who wore pants. They zipped only on the side and were worn with flats or Keds, NEVER high heels. Tight capris with high heels were worn by loose women on the cover of 50-cent trashy novels where all the sex scenes were exactly the same: * * * (I had a sneak peek at a few when I was babysitting).
    Cropped pants came several years later, but they were called gaucho pants and were always worn with boots and often with a wide and flat-brimmed hat (I don’t remember Jacqueline Onassis every succumbing to this fad). I do remember that CBS made Mary Tyler Moore wear mostly skirts or dresses because that’s what most American women wore most of the time. Mom never wore jeans in her life (they were for farmers) and wore a dress or skirt to the supermarket. My Grandma never wore pants in her life–how could you possibly wear trousers and be decently corseted?
    Mom called me into the house one day, and she had changed from Capris into a really nice matching coat and dress outfit that she had made. Her hair was worn up, and she wore jewelry, makeup, high heels,and stockings attached to her maternity garter belt. She had gone into labor and Dad was about to drive her to the hospital to deliver her sixth baby. Many African Americans dressed very formally in those days because it was terribly important and a matter of pride to make a good impression. But I bet that if you young ladies of all backgrounds ask your Moms and Grandmas, you’ll find that many of their habits were the same. I graduated from high school without ever wearing pants to school–it wasn’t allowed unless you wore snow pants under a dress and took them off with your coat. But starting in 1970, I wore bell-bottom jeans and tie-dyed shirts to college, and I never looked back. Today I have two skirts in my closet and no dresses. Ahhhhhh.

  23. Good fashion article and still going strong! Cute pants – capri, flares,bootcut, kick flares,leggings, pedal pushers, wide leg, palazzo pants- you name it , anything goes, they all look fab! Yay we are free to choose what we feel comfortable and happy in.

    Now shoes – The pedal pushers in this article are worn with the right shoes and you look gorgeous.
    It is finding the right damn shoes that matter! I’m always looking for the right shoes for the outfits! never ending!!

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