So you know you are petite and should wear petite sizes, because your height is under 5’4″.   Now, the next question is how petite are you?  Not all women under 5’4″ are created equally petite.  You probably have been wowed by some stunning pictures of your favorite petite bloggers, and you may have found it hard to believe that they are not over 5’4″.   Have you thought about why?

petite sizes

Nicole Richie (5’1″), Photo: People

The answer lies in their proportions.  The proportion of their legs to their overall height and the proportion of their legs to their torso.  Did you know there is no way someone can tell your height unless they are standing right next to you?  From a distance, or in a picture or video, how tall you look depends on how long your legs look relative to your torso.  Our eyes assume under our waist is all legs. The longer your legs look, the taller you look.

For petite women of the same height, say, 5’2″, they could have different torso and leg length.  The shorter your torso is and the longer your legs are, you probably look taller than your actual height without needing much help of styling to make your legs appear longer.  On the other hand, the longer your torso and shorter your legs, you may need to position the camera the right way in order to look taller than your actually height. Of all the famous petite celebrities, Nicole Richie is known for long legs. Can you tell she is only 5’1″?

Of course, there is a context-we are talking about leg length in the relative sense.  We cannot compare the absolute leg measurement in inches of a petite woman with someone who is 5’6″.  That is not fair, and it is apples to oranges.  When we say petite women can be born with long legs, we are talking of those of us blessed with long leg ratio.

So, how do you know if you are a long legged petite?

We mentioned earlier that petite women with longer legs tend to look taller in pictures. Have you been hearing people say that they couldn’t tell you are under 5’4″ from your pictures?  If yes, that is a sign.  Another sign is if you have constantly found petite pants or jeans are not long enough for you.  Still not sure?   The leg ratio tells all!  First, let’s make a deep dive and understand what the leg to body ratio is.  Before you start, you will need a friend or family member to help you with the measurement, and you will also need a chair as well as paper and pencil Now, follow the steps:

Step 1.  Remove your shoes and stand straight against a wall. Measure your height from the floor to the top of your head. Record the height.  Of course, if you already know the accurate height of yourself, you can simply skip this and move on to the next step.

Petite Sizes

Photo: bodyfatloss

Step 2.  Sit in a chair or on the floor. With the help of your friend of family, measure your torso, from the top of your head to the top of the chair seat on which you are sitting. This measurement is the torso length.  Note this definition of torso length includes your head and neck.

petite sizes

Step 3, Subtract your torso length from your total height. This measurement is your leg length.

petite sizes

Write your leg and torso measurements, and now you can calculate your torso ratio and your leg ratio.  If a petite girl is 5’2″ (62 inches) total height, and torso 30inches and leg length is 32inches, then her torso ratio is 0.48 or 48% (derived by dividing 30inches by 62 inches) and her leg ratio is 0.52 or 52% (divided by 32inches by 62 inches).

So, what does this ratio mean?  An average woman has legs that are at least  45% of her total height.  48% and up is considered aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and preferred by the fashion industry.  If you have a long leg ratio, that means longer inseam is more suitable for you.  Even though your overall height is under 5’4″, you could visually have a longer proportion of legs and you actually look taller in pictures than your actual height.  You have an easier to dress body proportion, and can try out a wide range of petite sizes.  Many petite women with longer leg ratio tend to have short torso.  If that is you, you goal of styling is to balance out your short torso.  Mid length tops are better for you than cropped tops, and mid rise pants and jeans are better for you than high rise pants and jeans.  Read our styling tips on How to Dress If You Are Petite and Have Short Torso.

What if you have short leg ratio?  Normally, that means your torso is relatively long for your height and your legs could be shorter than your other petite friends of same height who have a shorter torso.  This is quite common, and especially common with women of pear body shape.  The most typical example of long torso and short legs body type petite celebrity is Rachel Bilson, one of Hollywood’s popular and beautiful actresses.  As we have always stressed in our body type styling tip articles, each and every body type and body shape has their own beauty and we can all find the best way to balance it out through smart styling.  The key to style your body shape is to play with proportion and create the illusion of height.  Petite Dressing has numerous tips and tricks on how to achieve that, such as How to Dress If You Are Petite and Have Long Torso, Top 6 Wardrobe Staples for Stylish Petite Women, Dos and Don’ts If You Have Short Legs, Why Short Women Must Know Monochromatic Dressing, The 9 Best Petite Fashion Tricks of All Time.

The wardrobe essentials to make your legs look longer include cropped tops, high waisted jeans, mini skirts and high heels with pointy toes.