Getting an invitation to a formal event, wedding or otherwise, is exciting but comes with a little ping of stress when you realize you have to find something to wear. Dressing for a special occasion can be stressful for any woman, even more so for the petite woman. I know this as I am 5’2″ myself.
Besides, I also have a petite clothing line for women 5’4″ and under, so I get questions all the time from my petite customers about what kind of gowns they should wear for formal occasions.
I know the length of evening gowns can sound daunting to you at first. That is why I’ve put together this complete guide to help you with the whole process of picking out the best evening gown for your event.
Table of Contents
Before we get into choosing the best evening gowns for petite women, let’s chat about when you should be wearing this type of dress.
I don’t have to tell you that not all dresses are created equally which also means that not every dress can be worn to any occasion.
You will need to wear an evening gown anytime you get an invite to a formal occasion.
More specifically, if any event’s dress code calls for white tie or black tie, then wearing an evening gown is an obvious choice. There’s a lot of grey area around dress codes, but compared with others, those are still the two dress codes that are the strictest.
White tie is the most formal dress code of all, so wearing an evening gown is the norm. With black tie, there could be more choices when it comes to what the women should wear, but still, when in doubt, you cannot go wrong with a formal long dress.
This is the very foundation of any dress, as it determines how your entire body look in the gown.
Based on the feedback of many of my petite customers, below is the universally flattering silhouettes for shorter women.
This is also known as “sheath”. In other words, the shape of the gown is straight up and down.
The reason why you will look good in this type of dress is it draws the eye up and down, which is always one of the best ways to make a shorter woman appear longer and leaner.
Since the gown does not have a cinched waist, it is critical you choose one that fits snug.
Fit and flare
This is also known as the “A line”. This is always one of the most popular silhouettes in our petite dress collection!
The reason is quite simple. Since the dress fits snug on your upper body and then flares out under your waist, it can give the illusion of a more slender waist.
Besides, it can also camouflage any weight you may carry, whether it’s on your stomach or hips/thighs.
This is one of the best shape of dresses for anyone who wants to emphasize her curves.
Since the mermaid dresses fit close to your body on both your torso and hips, and then flare out under your knees, it gives you the most feminine shape and make you stand out in your formal occasion.
If you choose this shape of dress, you do want to go with a longer length! Since the skirt carries extra volume, a longer gown will balance it out and make sure it won’t overwhelm your short frame.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Not all gowns are created equally. If you pay attention, you will notice certain details of formal long dresses make petite women look taller and proportion look better. Go with those design and you will not have to worry about being overwhelmed by the length of the long dresses.
Some of the most flattering details include:
I cannot stress this enough. It is important for petite women to pay attention to where the waist is on your dress, and this applies to not just formal gowns, but also any dresses.
The reason is because if the waist of the dress sits higher than your natural waist, then the eye is going to assume that is where your legs start.
That is why gowns with an elevated waist position can look so much more flattering on someone who is short!
If you always want your legs to look longer, you must try the gowns with side slit.
Since evening gowns are long, they can potentially make a short woman look like ‘drowning” in too much fabric.
But, when your gown has a side slit, this asymmetrical dress design breaks the full coverage of the dress, and that is why it is incredibly flattering to short women.
Necklines play a critical role for any evening gowns, and they are especially critical if you are short.
Deep V neck
In terms of neck designs, deep V neck is the universally flattering for petite women.
The reason is most petite girls have shorter neck, which is perfectly balanced out by the deep V shape.
A deeper v neck can also effectively balance out petite women’s shorter torso, because it takes eye’s focus away from the length of the torso.
If you haven’t tried yet, you should definitely give it a chance!
There are two main reasons.
First, any asymmetrical neckline, such as one shoulder, creates a diagonal line on your upper body, which can effectively elongate your frame and therefore is very flattering for a short girl.
Besides, it can also make a statement, which is exactly what you need for a special occasion.
Off- the shoulder
Meanwhile, off the shoulder is the most complimentary to most face shapes. BTW, if you happen to be petite pear shape, then off the shoulder is heaven-sent.
The horizontal line totally balances out the wider hips and thigh areas of pear shape women and make them less noticeable.
Wearing a petite evening dress calls for paying a little extra attention to the shoes that you wear to compliment the gown. You won’t want to wear your average heels or shoes for this kind of occasion.
Keep in mind the fact that anytime you are going to need to wear a formal petite evening dress it’s because you are attending a formal event. And you know how the saying goes…shoes can make OR break an outfit.
Since you are a petite woman, you will want to opt for a high heel to compliment your petite evening gown.
Even when you wear a gown that compliments your petite frame, the bit of added height we get from high heels gives us an elongated affect to further enhance our shape in the dress.
It is up to you how high you like your heels, but do make sure it looks slender in order to flatter someone who is petite.
Avoid bulky shoes
Because you’re going to be wearing high heels with your formal dress, you want to avoid choosing any shoes that weigh you down.
Shoes that can give you that ‘weighed down’ type of effect is shoes that look heavy. In other words, if a shoe has a very chunky heel or looks like a larger shoe.
Avoid dark shoe with light gown
Another attribute that can give you that weighed down look is if you wear a high heel that’s in a very dark color with a dress in a light color.
The reason this weighs you down, as a petite woman, is because it brings a lot of the focus to your shoes which then draws the attention down. Makes sense, right? Instead, choose shoes that flow with your long petite evening dress – complimenting the color is key!
In addition to the overall silhouette of the evening gown, I suggest shopping from the petite brands. Even though the length of dresses can easily be adjusted, when it comes to evening gowns it’s best to stick to a petite size evening dress. The sleeves, torso, etc. will fit you much better when you shop petite specific fits. Not to mention, when you get a evening gown made for short women, you may end up being able to avoid the need for alterations. Let’s face it – that’s a HUGE bonus!
The best designers that specialize in formal gowns are Tadashi Shoji and Adrianna Papell, and it is absolutely wonderful news that they both have petite sizes! Besides, our recommended shops are Nordstrom, Macy’s. If you are looking for something that won’t break your bank account, then consider ASOS as well.
The way your gown actually fits your petite body frame plays a huge role in helping you to look expensive. Fit is key and as a petite woman you may need to get a few alterations done to ensure your dress fits you the way it needs to. Look at the length, sleeves and armholes of your dress – these are areas that are very telling on the fit of an evening dress.
Accessories are essential to completing the formal dress look for short girls. Much like shoes, they can make or break your outfit.
Choosing the right accessories can help you elevate your gown to look expensive.
The mistake many women make is over accessorizing their outfits.
To give you a bit more clarification try to avoid wearing too many statement accessories together. I suggest choosing one statement piece and keep the rest of your accessories on the minimal side.
For example, if you are wearing a petite evening gown with a high neckline a statement earring is a great compliment to the neck. Now here’s the key…skip a necklace with a bold statement earring and just stick to a bracelet and/or cocktail ring. This will complement the dress beautifully so your outfit is complete but not over styled.
Similar to the dress itself, avoid any accessories that LOOK cheap. This isn’t to say you have to spend a lot of money on your accessories, just avoid anything that looks like it was inexpensive.
Of course, don’t forget to consider the bag you use with your formal evening dress. The truth of the matter is you can’t wear an everyday bag with an evening gown. Stick to a clutch or something specific for evening wear. This is important!