Petite professional outfits are one of the most challenging area for styling short women. I am 5’2″ and I certainly had my share of frustration when I was in business school and then working in the finance industry. I also know a lot of other professional women under 5’4″, who are struggling with what to wear to work everyday as well as what to wear to important client meeting or presentation. Here is some of the most common challenges. How many of them apply to you?
It is so hard to find the petite jacket for work. Most of them look like it is something you had borrowed from your Mom’s closet when you were playing dress up as a teen girl.
Don’t even mention the pant suits for short women. Why do they have to make the pants this long? They are literally dragging on the floor.
You thought you ordered a jacket in petite size, but how come it still doesn’t fit? The sleeves are way too long!
You are concerned about not being authoritative at work, because of your height.
Have you gone through these? I bet you have, at least some of them.
It is a sad truth that the society is biased towards taller people. New York Times best seller author Malcolm Gladwell writes in “Blink”, “No one ever says, dismissively, of a potential candidate that “he’s too short””.
How many times have you heard of this study and that study which is trying to convince the public that taller people make more and achieve more? They quote the statistics that the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are taller than the average man.
Now, I presume most of the studies are done by studying shorter men vs. shorter women. Still, as a petite woman, don’t you feel the same kind of bias at work?
I certain did. Even though I have always been proud of how much younger I look than my age (most of us short ladies do), I do not like that if someone questions my leadership capability because of that.
So, as a petite woman, what should you wear at work to help you look better and more confident in professional settings? I have outlined 10 tips that had helped me big time and I am sharing them to hope to help you as well.
Wear shorter jackets
Usually, a suit jacket should just cover the buttocks. However, a slightly shorter jacket exposes more of the legs, and slightly shorter pants exposes more of the shoe; both of which creates a continuous, unbroken body line with more of the body showing…which, in turn, makes you appear taller.
Wearing colors within the same color spectrum avoids breaking the body line (with the distraction of different colors), and lengthens the silhouette from head to toe.
Wear accessories positioned high up on the body
The idea is to draw other peoples’ eyes to your upper body, thus creating the illusion of more height. Accessories are fun to wear, and can include hats, glasses, lapel pins, tie pins and pocket squares. Tons of accessories, however, can create an eccentric look. Somewhere around three classic accessories should do the job.
Know when to invest in a professional tailor
Tailoring is the secret of well dressed petite women, as subtle nips and tucks can transform a look.
Pick the right color
Bolder blues / lighter colors will look better on petite girls than very dark colors that “shrink” the total appearance.
Wear Fitted Clothes made for Petites
This is number one tip above anything else. If there is only one thing you take away from this post, you have to remember this.
It is critical that you should only wear well fitted clothes in profession settings. Petite women have short statues and small frames, so anything that is not well fitted could easily swamp your figure.
Without question, baggy clothes will stretch the silhouette horizontally, causing a person to look wider, instead of taller. Think about lengthening (instead of widening) yourself from head-to-toe whenever you dress.
I have heard protests from the other side- girls who told me how much they love their baggy sweaters and slouch pants. I get it. Everybody has their own way of dressing and some of us prefer casual style. That is totally fine when you are playing with kids at home, out grocery shopping or going to a braunch with your friends. I do that too. I mean, we all love the comfort of loose T-shirts and sweat pants.
But, here is the thing- if you want to look put together and polished in your professional space, whether that is your office, your client meetings or business travel, you need well-fitted clothing.
It’s sobering to notice the transformation that a shorter girl experiences when she forgoes her baggy clothing for clothes that reveal a streamlined silhouette. Nothing looks better on a petite girl than a well-tailored and perfectly sized professional outfit.
Build a Wardrobe of High Quality Investment Pieces
Buying high quality shirts, suits or other professional attire for petites is not cheap. Most brands on the market could cost anywhere from 200 dollars to up to 500 dollars, depending on the designer and type of coat you are looking to buy.
Since workwear could be a high ticketed item, buying professional clothing should be treated like an investment decision. Even if you are not ready to throw 500 dollars on the petite suit, you should still have the mindset of investment vs expense. What is the difference? The mindset of investment in a petite workwear means you buy what is the best value from the long term perspective, whereas the mindset of expense will lead you to jump on the lowest price for what is trendy this season.
If you are getting a well tailored wool suit or a cashmere blend coat in a classy silhouette, they will last you a minimum of 5 years. Suppose they cost $300, then that means it cost you only $60 every year to own it. The reality is most of us keep a good quality suit for well over 5 years, and sometimes up to 10 years ( I still wear my petite wool dress from Theory I purchased over 10 years ago and still get compliments every winter!). I am not advocating that we should all head to Saks Fifth Avenue and get a $300 dollar suit, but you get what I am getting at.
Pay Attention to Details of your Outfit
Details says everything about your taste and class, especially during profession encounters. You might be a very organized person at work, but if you are wearing shoes with a lot of dirt, then your client or your colleagues may get the wrong impression that you are messy.
Details like if your shoes are shiny or if there’s any stain on your clothes can greatly someone’s first impression about you. So, pay attention to the details not only in what you do, but also in what you wear!
Accessories adds your personality to the outfit. That is especially important when you wear “plain” work outfit such as a pant suit. If you want to look better than wearing a work “uniform”, then add your favorite accessories to let your personality shine!
You don’t have to add too much, but just something like a pearl necklace or gemstone earrings can totally change the impression of a boring outfit.
So, use accessories sparingly but smartly is my advice to you.