For years I used my height against me, as I am rather short (approx 5″1’ish), I was always bullied for being short and ugly (like the ugly duckling). However, this changed when I was doing my coaching qualification and coaching myself a few years ago. Now I fully accept myself the way I am; height, weight, body shape etc – especially when I found out there is a specific term for people of my height; PETITE!
When I refer to Petite, then I’m talking about the height of a person – I’m referring to the shorter woman who is 5’4″ (163cm) or under, as well as clothes made for this height range.
Many short women (like myself) feel like their height is an issue because they don’t feel good in their clothes – the sleeves and legs are too long and make your limbs look shorter; and not to mention how much time and money you have to spend on shortening hemlines to fit your frame – but you still end up with the wrong proportions.
If you’re a Petite and feel that most regular clothing doesn’t sit quite right on you, then this guide will provide you with all the vital fashion advice and styling strategies to help you look better in your clothes!

Style Tips for Petite

Petite women are faced with a couple of fashion challenges because of their lack of height. Less “canvas” means less clothing layers and details to avoid overwhelming your body stature.

Petite Jeans

Petite jeans are designed to complement your short legs and petite proportions and may be the only solution if you’re tired of shelling out £’s every time you buy a new pair of jeans just to hem them.

Petite Skirt

The best skirt length for you ranges between your knees and thigh-area. However, if you have a fuller tummy and a large bust, you may need to go longer, about below the knee.

Petite Dress

The waist and hip shape has to hit you at the right spot on your shorter silhouette. That’s what women’s petite dresses are for!

When you are short in height you will usually have the following objectives with your dressing:

  1. Appear longer
  2. Create a flattering silhouette (using the rule of thirds, so you don’t split your body in half)
  3. Avoid boxiness

1. How to appear longer when you’re short

Most short women will want to appear taller and leaner. This is relatively easy to achieve if you stick to the following guidelines:

  • Stick to monochrome outfits or outfits with few colour variations. You would look perfect in simple shift dresses, with little colour accents here and there.
  • Dresses will look great on many short women, as they automatically created the much desired 2/3 – 1/3 look. If you opt for a tight, slim silhouette then this will make you look even taller
  • Getting clothes with the right fit and size is even more important for short women. Ill-fitting clothes will add extra bulk.
  • An obvious way to gain height is to wear heels. However, don’t go overboard with these. Getting heels that are too high (say above 5 cm (..) will make you look out of proportion
  • Go easy on the oversized accessories as these may overwhelm you.
  • Often with petites, your legs will be relatively short. To make those appear longer you can wear the same colour belt as your pants or skirt.
  • Vertical patterns will always elongate and would be especially good for your pants or skirt. Horizontal stripes are best avoided.
  • Although a short dress can be very effective for short people when they are young, I would advise against them over 40. Instead, opt for styles that fall just below or on top of the knee. A high waisted skirt or pants would make your legs appear longer.
  • Wear shoes that keep your heels free. Avoid straps around the ankle and instead opt for shoes that elongate.
  • Create nice vertical lines with open straight jacket and cardigans. A great look is to have a cardigan or jacket the same length as your dress.
  • Buttoned shirt dresses that stop just above or on top of the knee will create a nice vertical line as well.
  • Wear v-line tops to further elongate your look.

Petite v-neck top

  • Avoid short trousers and pants that stop at the ankle. Best to wear pants with straight pipes or wide legged ones with heels, preferably high waisted.
  • Make sure that your tops stop at the hipline or above. Longer tops will make your legs appear even shorter.
  • Choose boots that stop just below the knee and avoid boots that end in the mid part of your shins.

2. Creating a flattering Silhouette

  • Avoid wearing very contrasting tops. This will draw more attention to the fact that your upper body is almost the same length as your lower body.
  • A well-fitted dress will give you a great silhouette.

Petite Fitted Dress

  • High waisted pants with a short top will do the same.

3. Avoid boxiness

  • Don’t get (too many) accessories that are oversized and bold.
  • Fitted clothes are usually better for you and avoid oversized clothes (even if they are on trend).
  • The same goes for tops. Be careful with very wide tops and make sure not to have both wide on top and below.
  • Go easy on the layering!
  • Best not to tuck in your pants into your boots.
  • Belts are best kept narrow unless you belt it very high up your waist.

Some more general guidelines

  • Choose glasses and sunglasses that are in proportion to your face and the rest of your body.
  • Wedge heels will look too boxy on you, so best to avoid them and opt for more elegant styles.
  • Your size is not necessarily ‘petite’ top and bottom, so you may need a bigger size on top or vice versa.
  • If you can’t find clothes that fit properly, find a good tailor.
  • Choose a handbag that fits your physique. In many cases, oversized handbags are not your best choice.

Pink large grab bag by Jasper Conran

  • Keep garments simple and uncluttered and small to medium in scale.  Large patterns will swamp your frame, big collars will make you look smaller.  Keep the scale of your garments in proportion to your height and weight.
  • Avoid too much fabric. Lots of extra fabric such as in waterfall cardigans or jackets will overwhelm you.  You are best in a more slim, formfitting line rather than lots of gathers, pleats and volume.
  • Shoes matter.  You are best in a low vamp shoe, and in a shoe colour that either blend with your trousers, tights or legs.  Knee high boots are a fabulous option for you.

Cocorose London Royal Ballet Covent Garden

  • A column of colour is your best friend.  Keeping the line of colour unbroken will really elongate your frame.  Dresses are fabulous for you as they do that in one garment.  Keep your dresses to either knee length, or go maxi, but remember if you go maxi, not too much fabric, a lean fluid line is what you require.
  • Only one focal point.  Tall women can carry off multiple focal points.  You are a smaller canvas, so one focal point at a time, but make sure you have one to direct the eye to where you want the focus of your outfit to be.

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