Best of the Best: The Isle of Capri, and its inspiration

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best

According to her website, European fashion designer, Sonja de Lennart, sketched Capri pants in 1948 as part of her Capri Collection. Named after Italy’s Isle of Capri, the three-quarter-length pants fall anywhere from mid-calf to high-rise ankle. Grace Kelly elegantly wore them on the Isle, ensuring their popularity. Audrey and Marilyn, among other famous fashion celebrities, followed suit.

If I could wear capris and, in any way shape or form, resemble any one of those fashion icons I’d never take them off. But, capris do not work for me, and are problematic for many women, if I’m to be honest. At 5 feet, 9-and-a-half inches, I get that I’m-so-sorry-you-ruined-those-nice-pants-in-the-dryer, look. Although it’s a wardrobe staple, it’s a tough item to wear well. Whether you’re over-endowed with height or under-endowed seems to matter not. The under-endowed have a difficult time getting the proper length to accent the legs rather than shorten them. The over-endowed struggle with the high-tide look; they have to hit just right. Ankle size gets in the proportion picture as well. Pairing capris with a low heel, at least a kitten heel, seems to aid both parties in pulling off a better-proportioned look. Audrey wore capris and ballet flats, a perfect proportion for her. Let the mirror be your guide as to what shoe works best for you. Be critical. I’m going out on a limb here, and most likely it will snap: flip-flop style sandals and capri pants are just not attractive on most women. I just said that. I’m falling fast. I know, it’s a comfortable combination; I’m not advocating giving up comfort. I’m just saying, “If capris are a wardrobe staple, length and shoes are critical.” Remember the column about altering clothing, and hem length, to achieve the right proportion for your body type? I’m not a fashion guru, not even close, just a rambling observer. You’ve seen me in the grocery store; I need not go into detail.

I have an easier time accepting capris’ practical siblings: clam diggers and pedal pushers. They have a purpose and style is not it. As with many fashion staples, white T-shirts come to mind, clam diggers and pedal pushers were humble beginnings for capris; they were a far cry from today’s runway and wardrobe essential. My paternal grandmother, Flo, wore clam diggers digging razor clams on the Pacific coast of Washington State. Her digging ensemble was site specific; I don’t recall seeing her in them beyond the beach and campground.

Allow me to digress; I think you’ll find this interesting. Annually, Flo parked her travel trailer in one of a number of state parks along the Southern coast. For two weeks she dug 15 razor clams daily; her DNR limit. At an average size of 4 to 5 inches in length, this meaty clam is a tricky mollusk to harvest. Dug at low tide they burrow down 2 to 4 feet below the sand. Armed with a special shovel, one chases the bubbles as the clam digs faster than you can. By the time you catch him, you’re fanny in the air and shoulder deep in sand. To ensure freshness for her infamous clam chowder, Flo canned her catch daily in the trailer. I can’t describe the chowder, you’ll have to taste it. I promise to share the recipe one day.

Before the day of spandex shorts, cyclists popularized pedal pushers. They were not intended to be a fashion statement. As a college student, I peddled an orange 10-speed bicycle to and from classes, work and housing on the hilly UGA campus. The closest I came to wearing pedal pushers was rolling my jeans up to my calf to avoid catching them in the chain and, as my sons say, taking a digger. I still would not choose official pedal pushers over jeans. At least with jeans I can roll the legs back down. Yep, it’s a long history of avoiding mid-length pants for me. It’s not an aversion; it’s more the iconic photos that stop me from wearing them. Dang… Audrey looked good in capris.

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