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The Maxi Dress for Petite Ladies: 5 Simple Rules

Maxi dress for petite ladies? Short ladies have certain fashion challenges, and one of those is pulling off the maxi dress effectively.

You may have heard a so-called rule that you just shouldn’t wear the maxi dress at all — but I’m here to tell you the opposite. You can look fabulous in a maxi dress and I’ll show you your celebrity style twins to prove it.

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Nicole Richie at 5’1” and Kerry Washington at 5’4″ are the inspiration as I cover the basics for how to wear a maxi dress when you’re petite. Follow these rules and you’ll pull off the maxi dress like a true fashionista.

Pulling off the maxi dress for petite ladies

 1. Watch your length

One question I hear is this: How long should a maxi dress be? 

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On a petite woman, the ideal length for a maxi dress is somewhere between the ankle and the top of the foot. Go longer and you end up having to carry your dress all day. Go shorter and you look too boxy.

If you’re not shopping in the petite section, you have two options:

  1. Look for a dress that is calf length for an average height woman OR
  2. Buy a dress you love and have it tailored.

To be clear, this is a guideline on length. Use it if you’re having trouble finding a maxi that flatters on your petite frame. Feel free to ignore it if you want. Our inspiring celeb Nicole Richie regularly wears floor-length dresses despite her small stature.

2. Look for a great neckline

Strapless or spaghetti strap necklines can often create a boxy feel, thus making the wearer look shorter. Instead opt for a deep v-neck which elongates your upper body and creates the illusion of height.

3. Choose a maxi dress with structure

The more structured the dress is, the better it will look on. Avoid too much volume on the bottom and instead stick to dresses that brush against your natural curves to accentuate your figure. Opt for empire waists that will make you look like your legs are longer. And if your dress doesn’t have one, then add a belt and create one.

4. Take care with bold patterns

Avoid large prints that will dominate the outfit. Washington’s striped number above looks odd and unflattering. No matter that the stripes are horizontal — they’re simply too thick for her tiny frame.

If you want to look as tall as possible then go with solid colors. Monochromatic looks create a solid, continuous line, which elongates your body.

5. Accessorize!

Maxi dresses are amazing because you can add anything you want to them.

  • For shoes, think sandals or espadrilles.
  • Wear bangles and beads to create a hippy feel.
  • Add a sleek silver or gold chain to show your sophisticated side.
  • Try a cropped denim jackets for rainy days or light blazer for more formal settings.

Maxi dresses can work on your petite frame! Make sure you find one that you love and you will always have that go-to outfit ready.

Petite readers, share your experience wearing maxi dresses in the comments!

Lee Jessica

Sunday 12th of March 2017

very very nice tips! I was afraid of wearing maxis before. After reading this blog, I am feeling confident to wear a maxi. thanks a lot for haring these tips with us.

Isabel (

Thursday 12th of November 2015

These are great tips, I agree with the statement that when choosing dresses one should look for options that draw your eye to your neckline. I also think that choosing monochromatic ( solid colors) dresses over skirts is also a smart way to elongate one's silhouette because the lines stay long as compared to a 2 pieces combo in different colors. I would add that if you have to go with a top and maxi skirt, then keep them in solid and similar colors and chose a top that elongates your neck - that will visually elongate as it will draw your eye to the upper part of your body.


Thursday 25th of April 2013

This is really great! But I bought a Maxi dress years ago and its over my ankles. Wish I knew where the cut off for petite woman and Maxi dresses were before, but these are great tips! I love the dress...I think haha. I don't wanna get rid of it, so I think I'll have to get it hemmed.

Lauren (BestTrendz)

Tuesday 8th of November 2011

I love these tips! I found the tip on wearing solid colors instead of large patterns particularly useful. So short people like us can wear maxi dresses, too!

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