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:
- Appear longer
- Create a flattering silhouette (using the rule of thirds, so you don’t split your body in half)
- 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 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 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 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).
Featured petites at 40+Style
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.
Where to shop when you are petite?
Many shops now have special sections for petites. Here are just a few.
- Nordstrom: one of the best online shops with multiple brands has a special section for petites
- Eileen Fisher: high quality fabrics and great design
- Loft: comfortable and affordable clothing
- Banana Republic: good quality clothing that covers all basics
- Eddie Bauer: offers great outdoor wear
I hope these guidelines will be useful to you. Remember though that they are not written in stone.
I feel that petites can wear almost anything so long as you create the right balance within your outfit and create a great silhoutte. My style course can help find you perfect silhouette as well as your unique style so you may like to check that out.
If you are petite and have some tips that I did not cover here, please let me know!
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