The fact is that as the size of the average American has increased, clothing sizes have decreased (read my entry that talks in greater detail about this issue). Furthermore, manufacturers use fit models to “represent” the largest number of consumers possible and if you fall outside of the size range of the fit models, like 90% of the people in the world, you’re not going to be able to wear things straight off the rack.
But all is not lost — find a good tailor and you’ll be well on your way to proper fitting fashion. In fact, prior to the 1970s, getting a piece tailored to fit you was a pretty common clothing care procedure. Most department stores offered free tailoring.
You could also try wearing Parisian and Japanese designers, who tend to cut their clothing a bit smaller. Try designers like Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld, TSE, Issey Miyake, Marini, Louis Vuitton, or the UK budget site Asos. With the exception of Asos, these designers don’t come cheap, so you’ll have to practically live at the local outlet mall or on Bluefly.com. But the clothing will fit you.
You could also try a store like Ann Taylor and/or Ann Taylor Loft, which sometimes can be as pricey as buying designer clothing at an outlet mall and not nearly as fashionable and the Gap, which sells petite (and tall) sizes online. Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Lord & Taylor all have petite departments with a better selection online rather than in store.
You might also want to save your money and head up to Canada. Ste. Catherine in Montreal and the Eaton center in Toronto have several great petite fashion shops.
Petite Fashion Advice and Tips
Things to Embrace if You’re Petite
Wearing at least a 2-inch heel will help to elongate your body (both torso and legs).
A great tailor
A great tailor is an importance asset for your wardrobe as he or she can alter garments to fit your shape. I’ll talk more about how to find a great tailor later in this section.
Lower waist pants will make your torso look longer. Make sure the hem of the pants covers your shoe to give the illusion that your legs are longer.
If you’re looking to appear taller, wearing your in a high bun or ponytail will increase height as well.
The stripes give the effect of looking taller and slimmer.
Things to Avoid If You’re Petite
Cropped pants, tops, and jackets will shorten your torso.
They will not give you the additional height you need.
Long unstructured skirts
They will drown your shape and make you look shorter. Hem the skirt to either three inches above your knee, at your knee, or three inches below your knee.
Off the rack mini skirts will fall at an awkward length. Make sure your skirts fall either 3 inches above your knee, at your knee, or 3 inches below.
Check Out This Video of Basic Petite Fashion Tips
Designers & Stores for Petite Budget Fashionistas
Trendy, bright, and affordable (make sure to ALWAYS buy on sale). Found at Macys and Bloomingdales
Fluid fashions good for plus size petites.
Hip, younger, urban wear.
Not a petite store per see, but clothes are cut smaller and very on trend.
Great for older petite fashionistas — very classic style.
The classic American designer’s preppy petite line.
Suits and tops perfect for work.
Online store stocks a large number of petite sized pants.
Ann Taylor Loft
Good for basics!
Many of the rules and myths governing petite dressing are as outdated as a pair of spandex stirrup pants. Don’t believe me?
Just take a look at petite celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Eva Longoria,and Reese Witherspoon, petite fashionistas who demonstrate that rules are made to broken. Using these fabulous stylistas are inspiration, we put together a short list on how to break these rules.
4 Petite Fashion Rules to Break
Short women shouldn’t wear color.
Wearing the same color on both top and bottom elongates your body. Choose a color that’s flattering to your natural tones, and add accessories, like jewelry and a purse, with splashes of color to spice it up.
Match your shoe color to your outfit as well. If you wear black pants or tights, wearing black shoes can create the illusion of more length to your body.
Heels are the best way to appear taller.
While heels do add height to your legs, choose a shorter height (1”-2”) that will make you appear taller, but not off balance. Too-tall heels can make you look like you’re walking on stilts!
You can wear straight leg or wide leg pants, just keep them long enough to cover most of your shoes, to keep up the visual of longer legs.
Don’t wear long skirts.
Avoid skirts that fall at mid-calf, as they will make your legs appear short and possibly stocky. However, ankle-length skirts can be flattering for petites. Pair it with a shorter jacket to create the illusion of length.
Dresses can be a petite girl’s best friend! If you pick the right length and style, the focus will be on the overall look and not your height. A wrap dress is a sure bet, because it highlights your figure and keeps the focus away from your height.
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Thanks for stopping by! I'm Catherine, your Budget Fashionista style editor. I'm a bargain shopper at heart, as I love nice things but hate paying for them! I'm also a personal finance writer who's been featured on USA Today and MSN Money.