How to dress when you are petite?

by Sylvia

How to dress when you are short or petite - Learn how to dress for your shape and appear longer
404 Flares 404 Flares ×

In previous articles I discussed how to to determine body shape and dress for your vertical body type. But I have not yet gone into details on how to dress when you are short or petite, ie., below the average height of 1.65 m (5’4” ), so let’s do that today! In principle these guidelines will work for anyone who is short in height, or for those who want to appear longer or leaner in their appearance. These guidelines also work well for those whose upper body is almost the same length as their lower body. In that case the aim is to make the lower body appear longer.

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 boxyness

1. How to appear longer when you are 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 color 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 heel. 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 than 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.
  • 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 on 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.
  • High waisted pants with a short top will do the same.

3. Avoid boxyness

  • Don’t get (too many) accessories that are oversized and bold.
  • Fitted clothes are usually better for you and avoid oversized clothes (even i they are on trend).
  • The same goes for tops. Be care 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 with you face and the rest of your body.
  • Wedge heels will look too boxy and 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.

Famous short women looking gorgeous

If you ever felt that being shorter than average stands in your way of looking absolutely fabulous, think again! Here are some very famous and fabulous women under 1.65m (5’4”) looking stunning. I chose these women for their style and their choice of dressing that in many cases follow the guidelines above. These women tend to dress to appear longer. If you like to see great style by women that are even shorter, have a look at the list of celebrities under 1.60 listed below.

Madonna

madonna petite woman

Madonna is a spectacular woman (over 50 already) short on height. She is 5’3” (1.63  meters) high. She increasingly favors tight dresses just below the knee which she has no problem pulling off with her svelte figure. I also like her in a high waisted wide dresses, where she uses the trusted v-line to elongate the look.

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham measure 1.63 (5’3”) meters. Above are some perfect examples on how to dress for lengthening. High waisted, pants, tight fit, use of the v-line. She goes quite wide with the shoulder on the red dress, which can be risky, but gets away with it, as she combines it with a v-neck and a very lean silhouette for the bottom part. I love all these looks.

Sarah Jessica Parker

sarah jessica parker style

sarah jessica parker green yellow dressSarah Jessica Parker is 5’2.75” (1.59 meters) and has really embraced the high heel shoes as her weapon of choice to appear longer. Now46, she increasingly uses mid length dresses which I think suit her the best. In the first look she took a risk with the big flower on top and the big bag is certainly to be avoided. When wearing wider styles, she keeps the top tight, opts for an empress waist or uses a v-line.

Other celebrities below 1.60

For more inspiration on how to dress your short physique, check out other celebrities who measure under 1.60: Mary Kate Olsen who is 5’0″ (152 cm), Rachel Bilson who is 5’1.5″ (156 cm), Hayden Panettiere who is 5’0.25″ (153 cm), Nicole Richie who is 5’1″ (155 cm), Kristen Bell who is 5’1″ (155 cm), Shakira who is 5’2″ (155 cm), Eva Longoria who is about 5’2″ (153 cm), Fergie, who is 5’1.75″ (157 cm) and Alyssa Milano, who is about 5’1.5″ (156 cm).

How about when you are overweight and short / petite?

In principle all the above guidelines apply. However, you may want to prefer empress waist dresses instead of form fitting dresses. Make sure that you wear nicely fitted tops above and that you use all the vertical tricks described above that will make you look both taller and slimmer. You can also look at the guidelines for the apple shape body type and combine that with the guidelines above.

I hope these guidelines will be useful to you. Remember though that they are not written in stone. Every person is different and you will need to play with these guidelines and see what works for you. You can also try out our profesional stylist online program for tailored dressing advice.

If you are petite and have some tips that I did not cover here, please let me know!

 

 

P.S.: If you like to improve your style,  I created the 10 Steps to a More Stylish You course. In 10 days you will understand so much more about your own body, personality, style and will know what you need to do to take it to the next level. Find out more and get instant access!

For more great tips, weekly fashion inspiration as well as a FREE latest trends report, subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

Enjoy!


404 Flares Twitter 15 Facebook 29 Pin It Share 357 Google+ 1 StumbleUpon 2 404 Flares ×

Related posts:

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

BigLittleWolf

Scarves are wonderfully versatile, but petite women – especially those with less than petite chests – need to very careful about the proportions and patterns of scarves, and more importantly, the way they are draped or tied.

And keeping the heel heights something below monstrous? Couldn’t agree more! (http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2011/10/14/little-women/)

Reply

Sylvia

Thanks for visiting 40PlusStyle and giving your great tip!

Reply

anjali

sylvia i am very thankfull to you for writting this useful points on heel heights for the short girls like me

Reply

Sylvia

You are very welcome Anjali. Glad you found the article useful!

Reply

Suzanne

I love this post! I think you did an excellent job of explaining what to wear and how and why to wear it. And you used my favorite role models – SJP and Nicole Richie. The only thing I have not tried is the high waisted pants but they look so amazing on Victoria Beckham I am going to look for a pair. :) I really appreciate all of this good advice. Thanks!

Reply

Sylvia

Great you liked the post Suzanne as I know you are petite yourself and have a lot of experience of dressing this body type. Yes, you should definitely give high waisted pants a try. I love the look of those. Definitely on my wishlist as well.

Reply

megan, the frugalista diaries

I’m 5’3ish and I’m like SJP I embrace a good heel for length everyday ;)

Reply

Sylvia

I have really embraced heels lately, but still find them uncomfortable when I have to do any amount of walking or standing. Still there is no denying that almost every outfit will look better with heels, especially with petites!

Reply

style-delights (Jyoti)

I just love your blog!! So chic and USEFUL!
BTW, I adore Oscar de la renta dress here! He can do no wrong!

Style-Delights Blog
Let’s Twitter Together

Reply

Sylvia

Thanks for visiting and your kind words!

Reply

Kim,USA

I am petite and over 45. I am very conscious of what I wear. I do not wear flats though I love it but I can’t, I look like a third grader lol! And yes though many good stuff are in trend today but I can’t wear them not unless it look good on me like the stripes. Thanks for the tips again it helps a lot to me. ^_^

Reply

Sylvia

Great to read that they were useful to you Kim!

Reply

Sia

Yes it is difficult to dress nicely when you are petite. Everything is soooo long or just doesn’t sit right as the muse is usually 5’7 whereas I am 5’2. It’s a matter of search and you will find. Nice to see a few petite lines coming through though.

Reply

Sylvia

Hi Sia, as you say. It’s a matter of being patient and finding that perfect outfit to suit your body. Or.. find a really good tailor who can adjust some of the things that you buy in a shop…

Reply

Cath

Thank you

Reply

Sylvia

Very welcome :)

Reply

Flora Bassler

Thanks for sharing. You did an excellent job of explaining what to wear and how and why to wear it.

Reply

Sylvia

Thanks Flora!

Reply

Mong

I love this post. Very informative. =)

Reply

Sylvia

Thank you Mong!

Reply

Sophie Davis

Hi Sylvia

I’m just over 5ft so this article was very interesting for me. I do agree with what you say, but I have to say that I also very occasionally “buck the trend”. In the summer, I wear maxi-dresses, often with quite bold prints on them as I love colour. I nearly always wear heels, to the extent that I don’t even own a flat pair of shoes, although I do have some flat boots for practical, work reasons.

My problem is that I find it increasingly difficult to get clothes to fit well. I am “petite”, but God graced me with ample thighs and calves! I have little chest, but a wide back. In the UK, there tends to be a tendency to assume that because you are petite, you must be like a stick. I am a healthy size 8-10, but often can’t fit my ankles into jeans! If a dress fits on the hip, it tends to swamp me on the waist. If a boot fits on the foot (I’m a size 2 or 35), I can guarantee it won’t fit anywhere else.

I find shopping totally demoralising most of the time. My solution – I’ve just bought a new sewing machine, so plan to custom-make my own!

Reply

Sylvia

All these are just guidelines Sophie and you will always have to play with clothes and see what works for you! I can understand your frustration with shopping. All clothes are made for standard proportions which only a few of us have. Taking up sewing seems like a perfect idea! Good luck.

Reply

Alisa

What about boots? Are there any boots that are flattering on almost all body types?

Reply

Sylvia

Yes, I believe that calve hugging long boots (fitted snugly) look great on almost everyone. Petites should wear them over skinnies in the same colour or underneath skirts and dresses.

Reply

Mark

Great article. It’s definitely all about “dressing longer” and letting others focus on the face and personality. Get them past the size for a few hours and it will usually never matter after that.

Reply

Mariana

Hi Sylvia
I enjoyed reading all your advise. I’m 4′ 11″ and weigh 100 lbs. my daughter is getting married in November in Cancun. I don’t know if I should be looking for a long or a short dress. Which would be better for me?
Thanks
Mariana

Reply

Sylvia

Congratulations Mariana! It depends on how formal the wedding is. I think I would prefer a shorter (knee high) dress which I often find the most flattering and very chic. You may want to have a look at this article which gives some ideas as to how to dress as the mother of the bride: http://40plusstyle.com/how-to-dress-mother-of-the-bride/

Reply

Bhakti

I’m just 4’9″….. I realized that confidence and comfort level in what you wear matters… I don’t get my size, so I have to get my clothes tailored. Shopping is depressing for me sometimes !! I liked the maxi skirt trend… Is it ok to wear it if I’m that short?

Reply

Sylvia

Definitely Bhakti. I think that petites can look great in maxis. It’s all about the fit and silhouette though so get one that fits you well and suits your horizontal body type. http://40plusstyle.com/how-to-determine-body-shape/

Reply

Adrie

All though this article is helpful, it still is difficult to find clothing that fit the right way… Especially when you’re 4’10.5″ like me. Where would you recommend finding clothes for our height?

Reply

Sylvia

More and more retailers like Asos and Nordstrom have special sections for petites, but otherwise you will just need to shop around and look for the right cut… Good luck and if you find stores that are especially good, let us know!

Reply

PT

My 4′ 11 &3/4″adult daughter asked me to help her shop for clothes for future job interviews and reading this article really helped prepare me…thanks to you I am going to be the “best mom ever” tomorrow ;-)

Reply

Sylvia

Great to hear it PT. Glad I could help. I hope your daughter finds a great job soon!

Reply

Lia

My height is only 4′ 12, so I scare to wear pants as I think by wearing this I will look even shorter than earlier, but I always want to wear. so can I wear pants. Please help!!

Reply

Sylvia

I think pants can be very helpful in making you appear longer, certainly when you buy ones which allow you to hide you (heeled) shoes underneath. Wear them with a shorter or tucked in top. Above image of Victoria Beckum is a good example. Always wear pants at full length that skimp the ground. Good luck Lia

Reply

Esther Olsen

I am just at 5′ and planning for my daughters wedding. Therefore, I am trying to make the decision to wear a long or short dress. I am a pear shape and really like the ruched style, I am also concerned about the sleeve length for my age of 60.

Reply

Sylvia

Both could work well. I would stick as closely to your usual preferences. As for covering up the arms, that also depends on how comfortable you are with them. You may just want to cover the upper part only. Good luck with finding a great dress!

Reply

Neha

Hi there!! m very glad to know about you and always eager to ask you a question and um a 5 feet.. I love to wear choose pant, ankle length boots so wat u prefer me to wear with it … I mean tops or I should go with high waisted pants . Thankyou

Reply

Andria

This is a pretty good article, most is common sense, but good to read in a condensed area. Some things I don’t agree with is keeping heel height no higher than 2 inches(5cm)? I definitely do NOT agree with this for dressier or formal attire. When I am dressed up I feel best in a 4 inch heel. I also do not agree with skirt or dress length. I have always been told a couple inches above knee. Just below the knee, unless a super form fitting pencil skirt looks dumpy. I honestly don’t know how a petite could pull off mid-length dresses.

I love your petite celebrity choices; they all have great style. However, you should have shown them in some casual wear or more dressed down styles. How many of your readers and how often are they wearing similar clothes to the ones depicted??

Reply

Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback. I think you’re right that high heels can look good for dressy outfits. I think it’s key though that the shoes are not that bulky. I think lengths both above the knee, on top and just below can all work. If I look at the pictures above many of the dresses and skirts cover the knee and I think the women look fabulous. But of course, just do what looks best on you!
You are right that I could have shown more casual styles. But photos from celebrities in more casual style are harder to come by and I just had to work with what I could find.

Reply

Andria

Thank you for replying! Yes, I would agree they do look great in the dresses/skirts that cover the knee. I will have to experiment with that as I think it is a sophisticated look. I agree about finding celebrities in casual wear! I am always searching for photos to get ideas. Unfortunately, when they are own their own (ie, not dressed up by a stylist) sometimes their outfits don’t look to great(SJP , as one example)

Reply

Lee

I am 5’2″, and I am high-waisted, as well. I need to add length to my torso, rather than to my legs. Do you have any particular tips (or exceptions to your ‘standard’ tips for petite a) for me? Thank you for any help!

Reply

Sylvia

I offer some tips here: http://40plusstyle.com/how-to-determine-your-vertical-body-shape/ I will try and write more on this topic over the coming months.

Reply

Stef

Hello, Sylvia! I’m quite petite – 4’8 and 85 pounds. Very healthy and fit. However, my calves are a bit larger than I’d like. Any advice to slim these down while wearing skirts/dresses?

Reply

Sylvia

Hi Stef. Pumps can slim your calves especially those that show a lot of your foot. Wearing dark tights can also help.

Reply

Tara

I’m 5’2″. Do all of these guidelines apply? Thanks

Reply

Sylvia

Yes they would.

Reply

Lesley Cryer

Hi Sylvia
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your interesting article regarding what short people should wear.
I am only 4foot 10 inches and 67kg’s. I am trying so hard to lose some weight as I am attending a wedding in May 2014. I just want to look elegant for this wedding but due to me not being able to wear high heels as I have a very bad right hip.
Sylvia can you help to suggest something for me.
I have been through menopause and now I have quite big boobs for a little person.
I look so so forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards
Lesley Cryer

Reply

Sylvia

Hi Lesley. I wrote an article about how to downplay your bust.http://40plusstyle.com/how-to-dress-when-you-have-a-large-bust/ You can use those tips in combination with the ones on this article. I would say not to focus too much on losing weight. Try and dress for the body you have now and go shopping now to find that perfect dress! Have fun.

Reply

Leave a Comment

*

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: