Dresses are probably the single most flattering piece a stylish petite woman can wear. Because of its continuous patterns of fabrics, dresses have the ultimate lengthening effect and can create the illusion of height. We suggest petite women to wear dresses as much as they can, regardless of the season. What are the best dresses for short women? This is the question every petite woman should ask and know the answer, but it is often overlooked. Why? Many of us short girls think finding the best pants and jeans is the hardest, but dresses not so much. I hear you. With pants and jeans, regular sizes normally do not fit petites. With dresses, however, it might seem like we don’t have an issue with the inseam, so problem solved. (Related article: What does Inseam Mean). Is it, really?
The truth is, finding the best dresses for short women may not be easiest thing to do. If you go to the regular size department, you may find what is supposed to be a mini dress might be over your knee, and a regular waisted dress might become drop waisted on you. Because they are cut for women of average height (5’5″), the armpits might be too large for you, and the waistline may be too low for you. Even if you go to the petite department, it could still be difficult to find something that flatters you. Normally petite sizes are made according to stats of 5’3″ petite models, which means if you are 5 feet tall then they will not look good on you. (Related article: What is Petite and The Truth about Petite Sizing) Finding the right length is just the beginning of the challenge. Finding the right style is getting to the core of the issue. Sure, more and more brands realize petite sizes are an underserved market and have started to make petite sized clothing. However, most of them are really just a shorter version of their regular sizes. The problem of that is they do not address our needs for elongating our petite frame. Most petite women (I myself included) hope to look longer and taller through what we wear. It is fine if they should be shorter than regular sizes, but that is not all. (Related article: Do you Understand Petite Size Chart). So, what are the best petite dresses for short women?
Fit and flare dresses (also known as a line dresses or skater dresses) are some of the best dresses for petite women. If you are under 5’4″, the best length is 3-4 inches above your knees. The silhouette is commonly flattering because it is form fitting in your upper body (exactly what we need as short girls) but it is also more forgiving for your lower body. They do not hug the curve of your bottom, thus they will draw people’s attention away from your butt and thighs. They are especially recommended for women who do not want people to focus on your lower body, such as the petite pear body type.
Wrap dresses are one of our favorite dresses for short women of all time. Diane Von Fursternberg invented the legendary wrap dress in 1974, the design that made her a fashion icon at the age of 28. Today, it is hard for us to imagine the times before wrap dress was invented. Over 40 years have passed, we can still barely find another dress that is so versatile, convertible, workplace appropriate and great for day-to-night. Like Victoria Beckham (5’3) mentioned in her latest fashion book “That Extra Inch”, wrap dress is one of the things that once you have, it is hard to understand how you have lived all those years without. It hugs your body at all the right places and creates a continuous line of colors that elongates your body. Wrap dresses are universally flattering, whether you are 4’11” or 5’4″. They are the best choices for short girls who wish to emphasize their feminine curves (such as the petite hourglass shape) or those who wish to create the illusion of curves (such as petite rectangle shape). If you are the no waistline body type, such as the petite apple shape or petite rectangle shape, the wrap will define your waistline. For instance, Eva Longoria (5’2″, petite apple shape) wears wrap dresses a lot, and they make her waist look smaller. In terms of length, you cannot go wrong with any of them, whether they are above your knee, at your knee or even maxi length. For office meetings, a knee length wrap dress is always appropriate. For date nights or cocktail hours, above the knee will make your legs look longer. For vacation or resorts, a wrapped maxi dress looks classy and expensive.
If you want to take your petite fashion to the next level, look for details in petite dresses that will further flatter your particular body type. (If you do not know your petite body type yet, take our quiz to find out). Empire waist is a terrific design for us short girls. The empire waist is a dress where the waist line is high, and sometimes it is placed just below the bust line. Because it raises the waistline to above your natural waist, it effectively creates the illusion of shorter torso and longer legs. This high waist line followed by the skirt of the dress will create a perfect illusion of length and will help to camouflage your midsection or bottom if that is your concern (if you are a petite woman with apple or pear shape). For instance, petite apple shape women may be self conscious about their mid riff and do not want people to notice their stomach, the best dress for them is a petite skater dress with empire waist design. The Juliana dress is a perfect example. Because the waistline is elevated and the flare starts just a little under the bust line, it completely camouflages the stomach area. See Grace from Color and Grace Blog (5’2″) wearing it, which perfectly hides any mid riff concerns. Needless to say, since the elevated waistline is above your natural waist, it makes your bottom half looks longer and optimizes your body ratio to the maximum.
Speaking of best dresses for short women, we must mention dresses with a belt is high on our list. Why? A belt can totally change the perceived ratio of your body. The reason we call it “perceived” ratio is because we are all born with natural leg ratio and torso ratio (read about How to Understand your Vertical Body Type), but we can change that through what we wear. Ever heard of rule of thirds and the golden mean ratio? Our body ratio looks the best when it is divided by the thirds instead of halves or quarters. That is a universal law applicable to all height, and it is especially critical to us short women. We can totally use this rule to improve our body proportion and elongate our legs. That is when a belt can come into play. The key is to make sure the belt is positioned high enough to make your torso look shorter and your legs look longer. Ideally, your torso should look like 1/3 of your body and your legs 2/3. The best color of the belt is one to blend with your dress. That way will avoid making your body look like cut in half while still adding subtle texture and interesting dimension to your outfit. Dresses with a belt also help those of us lacking a defined waistline to have more waist definition, such as the petite rectangle shape or petite apple body type.
Don’t be surprised if we tell you maxi dresses are on our list of best dresses for short women. Sure, most stylists advise us to go with short skirts, because that is the most logical way to make our legs to look longer. That is true to some degree. Wearing a skirt above or at the knee is one of the most obvious ways to lengthen our legs and look taller than we are. However, wearing a long dress is another way of effectively extending our frame and thus could be very flattering to petite girls. According to wiki, maxi dresses refer to informal dresses at ankle length. So why would it look good on short girls? The reason is creating length in our outfit is one of the key factors in styling short girls, which can be achieved through creating a column of colors. Because of its continuous color and pattern, maxi dress can effectively elongate your body frame to the maximum. Therefore, wearing maxi dress the right way will actually make a short girl look taller. In fact, maxi dress is one of the Top 6 Wardrobe Staples for Stylish Petite Women. When it comes to petite celebrities, Nicole Richie (5’1″) is the queen of rocking maxi dresses.
Picking out the best maxi dresses for short women involves choosing the right length (as a starter), the right fabric and the right style. Because how much it covers your body, it is critical to find the right pattern that will not make you look drowning in fabrics. In general, smaller prints or solid colors are great for women under 5’4″ to avoid the look that the dress is wearing you. Of course, there is no cut and dry answer to what is considered smaller print and what is not. It is all relative, and the important thing is to keep them in scale to your body. If you are petite and skinny, go with tiny prints. On the other hand, if you are short and curvy, prints too small might make you look bulkier than you are. Read our detail guide how to wear petite maxi dresses if you are short.
Dresses with vertical patterns or vertical designs are tried and true best dresses for short women as well. Short women need to create length in what they wear in order to look longer and taller, and the most obvious way is to go with vertical patterns and designs. Stripes are the easiest choice of vertical prints. If you have a small body frame, going with something subtle is better than something loud and busy.
Since we are on the topic of best dresses for short women, we should also talk about what doesn’t work for petites. The key is to create a continuously long and unbroken line of your outfit, and avoid horizontal lines. In general, petite women should look for form fitting silhouette and stay away form bulky, busy and complicated designs. Anything that is too loose or too puffy will probably make you look overwhelmed by the dress and that is what you should avoid wearing. One topic that is often debated is if petite women can wear midi dresses. The reason midi dresses hardly make it to our list of best dresses for short women is because the hem ends at your calves, which may make your legs look like cut in half. While we have to say the length of midi dresses is the most challenging to pull off to short girls (a lot harder than either mini dresses or maxi dresses), it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay away from them altogether. Midi dresses have been on trend in recent years and we have constantly seen them on petite celebrities and petite bloggers. So, there is a way to make them work for short girls. The trick is to pick out the right style for the midi dresses. What works is midi dresses made from airy fabrics such as laces or those with side slits. Lacey midi dresses will not make your legs look short because the fabrics are light and airy. The slide slits are flattering to petite women because they show some skin of your legs, especially when you are walking or sitting down, which compromises the drawbacks of the midi dresses. Read our guide on 5 Petite Style Rules and How to Break Them.
Finding the best dresses for petite women is not easy, and a lot of times it depends on your personal preferences. Petite women come in all different shapes and sizes, and there is hardly any set rules on something that absolutely will look good or bad on you. Fashion is what each of us use to express our own individuality.
Chi is 5’2″ founder of Petite Dressing, an online petite clothing store dedicated to women under 5’4″. Petite Dressing blog is here to help you understand yourself, such as your petite body type, and look your best ever. If you are new, start here. Comment below and share your thoughts about this post!