The Best Petite Fashion Advice Ever!

Carrie Underwood wearing nude sequined dress
Carrie Underwood at 5’3″ is on the tall side of petite.

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

High heels

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.

Low-rise pants

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.

Big Hair

If you’re looking to appear taller, wearing your in a high bun or ponytail will increase height as well.

Vertical stripes

The stripes give the effect of looking taller and slimmer.

Things to Avoid If You’re Petite

Cropped anything

Cropped pants, tops, and jackets will shorten your torso.

Flats

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.

Mini skirts

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

INC

Trendy, bright, and affordable (make sure to ALWAYS buy on sale). Found at Macys and Bloomingdales

Eileen Fisher

Fluid fashions good for plus size petites.

DKNY

Hip, younger, urban wear.

Forever 21

Not a petite store per see, but clothes are cut smaller and very on trend.

Kay Unger

Great for older petite fashionistas — very classic style.

Lily Pulitzer

Sportswear for the ladies who lunch set.

Lauren by Ralph Lauren

The classic American designer’s preppy petite line.

Anne Klein

Suits and tops perfect for work.

Gap

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.

Sarah Jessica Parker

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.

Catherine Brock

Owner and Editor at The Budget Fashionista
As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.
Catherine Brock