Mail-Order Living

Jenna Lyons, I love you, but you’re bringing me down


Written by Mattie Kahn.

It’s only taken me about three years, but I’ve finally come to accept the fact that I do not look good in capris. I am now reasonably sure that—deep breath—I never have. Worst of all, I suspect our incompatibility has been fairly obvious from the start. At 5’2, I’m not exactly the target demographic for a clothing item that deliberately slices my already pint-sized limbs in two. This seemingly obvious logic notwithstanding, I’ve probably tried on well over a hundred pairs. In observance of pastel-hued resort seasons gone by, I’ve dutifully experimented with stiff cotton ankle-grazers and stretch denim skinnies. On particularly adventurous occasions, I’ve whisked printed silk styles back to low-lit dressing rooms—only to be hopelessly disappointed. Just last week, I slipped into three neon versions of the same questionable cut. They looked predictably horrendous. Year after year, my frame and I are forced to face the same dispiriting conclusion. The cropped pant is not the pant for me.

Or at least it hasn’t been since I graduated pre-school.

I hate to point fingers, but there’s only one person to blame for the hours wasted in search of this would-be platonic pair of pants. Jenna Lyons, I love you, but you’re bringing me down. Or perhaps, more precisely: your catalogue is.

My relationship with the monthly J.Crew catalogue began innocently enough. I first subscribed to it on an early visit to the retailer’s Columbus Circle location in New York. “It’s sort of like a magazine,” explained some bespectacled saleswoman. “We can send it to you, if you’d like.” Given that—as anyone who has ever been fifteen can attest—there are few things in life more thrilling than mail that arrives with your name on it, I did not hesitate to give her my home address.

In truth, I have always liked catalogues. I can only suppose affection for them—and their promise of orderly commercialism—served as my own minor rebellion against the resolutely mismatched décor of my Upper West Side apartment. My alternative father—not merely “artsy,” but actually an artist—had always rejected the upholstered dining sets and coordinated flatware characteristic of my friends’ homes in favor of flea-markets finds and antique-store acquisitions.

Once, when I asked him to buy me an area rug for my room so that I could curl up on the floor to read, as my best friend did on her I’m-straight-from-page-18-on-the-Pottery-Barn-Kids catalogue, he picked up a street-fair-issue carpet that somebody had probably died on. After I told him how jealous I was of the Tiffany’s Elsa Peretti bean necklaces that all my friends sported, my father bought me an old jade necklace that weighed as much as a plate. In protest, I put myself on Limited Too’s mailing list. (By the way, when I finally rediscovered the jade necklace some time ago, Zoe Saldana stopped me on the street to ask its origin. Ugh, parents. Am I right?)

And yet, despite my enthusiasm, I have only vague memories of those early years of J.Crew subscription. Were it not immediately disposed of, the brand’s “magazine” was likely most often relegated to my family’s multipurpose “arts-and-crafts” drawer. What I imagined I’d someday do with a stack of then-more-CPA-than-CFDA glossies is anyone’s guess. When I finally emptied that drawer on one of my manic cleaning benders, I discovered a collection so great that I could have easily gift wrapped my entire apartment in twinset-laden wallpaper.

Under Jenna Lyons’ matchless supervision, the twinsets of yore have since been replaced by a preponderance of chambray and sequins and somehow winningly ironic taffeta. Lumpy blazers have been excommunicated, Lulu Frost reigns supreme, and I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on olive green outerwear. And while I’ve never pasted the pages of the J.Crew catalogue onto my room’s walls, I’ve pinned more than a few to my corkboard. There’s a moody black-and-white image of a girl perched on a seaside cliff wearing the kind of one-piece bathing suit that I’d never be caught dead in. (Polka dots? Not my thing.) There’s the cheery bridal party grinning in orange-pink lipstick and paler pink gowns. (I don’t even want bridesmaids.) And then, of course, there’s the J.Crew catalogue circa Summer 2012.

In it, a Parisian-looking character rides a leather-trimmed bicycle wearing a pair of—what else—micro-printed capris. I was in love the moment I laid eyes on them. But more even than I wanted the capris—and, oh, did I want them—I wanted to be the girl outfitted in them on page 47. Did it matter that I didn’t own a Dutch-style bike and that when my hair was frizzy it never looked so unintentionally chic? Did it matter that I looked jaundiced in orange lipstick?


Since its transformation into high-street icon, J.Crew has been celebrated for its accessible, on-point offerings, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not merely the J.Crew wardrobe I crave. It’s the lifestyle. The truth is I don’t want to buy J.Crew as much as I want to live in its perfectly proportioned universe (which is to say, fishing lobsters, on a boat, off the coast of New England). And I don’t need capris for that. A certain citron-hued yellow shift dress, however, is an absolute must according to a bespectacled someone I know.

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  • from one shortie to another… (5′ to the beat) a “perfectly proportioned lifestyle” is a coveted thing and prob only attainable while wearing those amazing mcqueen titanic ballerina shoes…which are themselves… unattainable *sigh*
    🙂 xoxo

  • moi

    capris work on shorties, they just need a decent cuff………

  • Lauren Lynch

    I feel you. I’m 5’7″ and no matter what I pair them with; whether they are cotton, silk, blend; mid-calf or ankle length, capris look terrible on me. I adore the current J Crew look, but wait with bated breath for the day Jenna Lyons rediscovers full length pants.

  • alcessa

    Yeah … I’m 5’9 and anything above ankle just makes me nervous … (pants, I still do knee length, midi & Co. skirts/dresses).

  • lou

    denim ripped capris is always cute !!

  • monkeyshines
  • Anita

    Jcrew offers the minnie pant in petite, just a thought.

  • thank god you want to live in the j.crew catalogue and not the abercrombie catalogue.


  • Somebody from Somewhere
  • Casey Williams

    Sounds like J Crew marketing has worked on you! We all (in some way) buy clothes / rugs / things exactly BECAUSE we want the lifestyle associated with it. It’s why I purchased a grape purple crocheted disaster in 5th grade – I WANTED to be ‘cool’… not realizing being unique would have been way more truly cool.

  • Must have been fun to see all those old catalogues again 🙂 love the photos

  • brunetteletters

    I absolutely hate hate capris!!! I’m tall and they still look terrible on me!

    Brunette Letters Blog

  • Look Sharp Sconnie

    If only perfection had a price tag.

    side (bottom) note: I’m tall and I look horrendous in capris…so…
    who exactly are these working for?


  • illaCamilla

    Life’s too short (no pun intended) to lament the things we’re not. Capris aren’t you? That’s amazing. Why? Because YOU are amazing!

    • Look Sharp Sconnie

      this is cool

  • Tatiana Popovitchenko

    Nice article. Well written, good change of pace from the normal thing on here.

  • Elizabeth

    I, too, want to lifestyle and not the capri-length pants. such a wonderful and well-written piece.

  • jaclyn

    I believe i think wearing capris at our height (5’2” twining!) is acceptable maybe or at least the trick for me is to wear heels. I do however make an exception for flats at work.

    check my blog:

  • Recent years I have been enamored with JCrew and the catalogs but for the past year I have fallen out of love with the clothes. Something is off for me.. eh

  • Brilliant. Poignant. And at 5’8″ I don’t love nor look good in capris either (I’ll take short-shorts or full pants any day over 3/4 of pant). I am convinced Audrey Hepburn is the only human alive to successfully pull off capris. With or without the perfect boat to accessorize.

  • unvanquished

    I’m 6 feet tall and I hate to admit it but I can get away with capris. Don’t hate me 🙂

  • *sigh* I know what you mean about capris and the darn jcrew catalogues that keep making me want to buy capri trousers and cuffed denim!! On the upside…there will always be the power of high heels!

    Jcrew is making me have polka dots in my mind..and an obsession with big jewelry.

  • acchicken

    spot on from the olive green outerwear to the jaundiced orange lipstick. you owned this, girl.

  • Donna

    The amount of ‘dogeared’ pages I have in this month’s style guide is unreal. I mentioned to the beau that I wanted to be the girl in the magazine and he sadly replied that we didn’t live in the amazon. Anyways, short or tall, rock whatever you feel amazing in. But I feel ya on the shortly deal (5’2) and I’ve tried on so many capris, its hopeless.


  • Edwardia

    capris can smd. i’m 5’11 and they still look terrible on me, don’t let them get you down.

  • Racheal

    I’m 5’2 and the cafe capris fit perfectly. I wear them all the time.

    As far as wanting the lifestyle, can’t you say that about all ads. Look at Dolce and Gabanna, I want to be Monica in a black lace dress in Portofino surrounded by attractive Italians. That’s the point of ads. It’s suppose to evoke a feeling and mood.

  • Gahh! The same story across the globe… Who are they making capri pants for? The tall crib about it and so do the short ones!

  • Rozena

    In terms of catalogues that make you salivate for New England, LL Bean gets me every time. Not as stylish as Jcrew but man do those quadregenarian preps look they they are loving their lives.

  • Erika

    It’s true. Oh man, how I long for a cute looking capri look, but as your fellow soul sister (5’4″), they just look like normal dumpy pants on me. No bueno. Perhaps Jenna is just creating more things for herself to wear? I mean, the woman is an Amazon—clocking in at 6 ft even.

  • Bird

    Wait, capris work on some short girls! I’m 5′ and they’ve always been flattering and chic on me, even with flats! Now, high-waisted pants and shorts- different story (they make my small legs and round torso look fat and stubby!) It depends on the girl.
    As for hoarding catalogues, my young obsession was Free People. The colors! The jet-setting locales! Yeah, we absolutely want what we can’t have.

  • V from The Drastically Blog

    Sometimes I go into JCrew just to FEEL the clothes! The technique they use on their fabrics is amazing! How do you think the models feel when they have to leave the shoot and the boats behind? Sigh

  • FKxoxo

    J.CREW always have the most beautiful clean cuts 🙂

    OSAP GIVEAWAY (Free Clothes)

  • Dandy,

    FUCK! i love jcrew! and now they ship to aus! SQUEEE

  • guest

    Capri pants? Ha! Capri, or cropped jeans I wear them as full length pants. I’m 5’4″ and J Brand’s cropped jeans are finally that perfect hit right at the ankle snuggly without paying an extra $45 to have a foot chopped off them and altered like mad skinny jeans in my life.

  • Amy Pitts-Lore

    Capris and cropped pants are not the same! I’m 5’3″ and a jean or trouser cropped 1/2 – 1 inch above the ankle looks great with flats or heels.

    Capris, on the other hand, are best left to clam-digging ladies who shop at the gap.

  • Guest


  • Mountain Jade

    Your father was a smart man buying you a jade necklace!

    You’ll be pleased to know there’s still jade necklaces out there that weigh as much as a plate! For example:

  • Victoria

    Capris are so contentious. I hear women who are well above ‘average’ height complaining that capri’s or any other crops don’t suit them. It’s all in the fit of the pant, as far as I can tell. Also, we can blame Jenna all we want, but as a fellow ridiculously-tall-homegirl, capris are a godsend. Having an inseam of 36″ and rarely finding printed pants that come in the right length, regular length pants can often be worn as crops, thus saving my sartorial blunder of always wearing solid color pants – which is beyond boring. Gotta do what you gotta do. And, in the winter, throw on some boots and you’re none the wiser.

  • Hayley Clark

    I love you.