I am 5’2″. If you are short like me, styling can be a challenge. Not only it is generally harder for you to find clothing that fits you, but also you need to be more selective with what you wear. (BTW, that is exactly the reason I have a clothing line for petite women.)
Table of Contents
What it means to be petite
Here’s 30 best ways to dress if you are short like me-trust me, I figured these out after decades of my own trial and error- and they REALLY work!
Avoid Shapeless, Boxy Silhouettes
One common struggle for petite women is that clothing can overwhelm your frame which, in turn, causes you to appear shorter and much bulkier.
I have heard this over and over from thousands of my petite customers for my clothing line.
This is why it’s crucial to avoid clothing that’s boxy and shapeless in any way.
Always air on the side of wearing clothes that offer some flow and natural shape to them so your body can be seen!
This doesn’t mean you have to wear skin-tight clothing, just clothing that fits close enough to the body so you’re not getting lost or hidden beneath anything.
In addition to clothes with shapeless silhouettes, this rule also applies to ill-fitting clothes. Even if a garment has shape to it, if it doesn’t fit your body properly it will add bulk. Have a trusty tailor to lean on and don’t be afraid to get your clothes tailored. And YES, any type of garment can be tailored – just ask and make sure you have a skilled tailor.
Wear Flare Leg Jeans
The flare-leg jeans are well-fitted through the knee, and flare out under the knee. Such leg shape is extremely flattering for women with shorter legs. Not only they can make your legs look longer, but also they can make you look leaner.
The best way to wear flare leg jeans is to wear it with heels.
Since flare jeans are wider at the bottom, they are the perfect choice to wear with thicker heels (such as wedges) without looking bottom-heavy. Ideally, you want the flare jeans to be a bit longer, so that they can cover some of the heels, thus elongating your legs to the maximum.
Even though flare leg is one of the best jeans to make you look taller, you do want to be selective and go with a modest flare. If the flare is too exaggerated, it will on work the opposite way, i.e. make you look shorter.
Eliminate Horizontal Lines in Layering
If you are wearing a top or dress that does not cinch your waist, you can also use a belt to create one- more to come on how to use a belt if you are short!
If you are short, layering can be tricky.
The wrong way of layering can totally make your body cut off and make you look even shorter than you are. The right way of layering can serve the purpose of elongating your frame and making you appear longer and leaner.
The key to flattering a short girl with layering is to eliminate any unnecessary horizontal lines.
By doing so, your layers will form one vertical line that goes from top to bottom, therefore flattering your short frame.
The best way to dress a short woman is to create an unbroken vertical line with what you wear, thus elongating your petite frame and making your look taller.
Wear Full Length Pants
If you are short, the best pants for petite women should have a longer length. The reason is quite obvious. Your legs are only as long as the pants inseam. So, when you go with long pants, they will automatically make your legs look longer.
Since not all pants are created equal, you need to choose the best inseam for each type of pants and jeans. With wide leg pants or flare leg pants and jeans, you can go as long as possible and pair them with heels (of course you never want your pants to be too long as to be dragging on the floor).
On the other hand, with cigarettes’ pants or skinny jeans, since the legs are tapered, you cannot really go too long without them bunching up on your feet. Therefore, you will need to go with the length right below your ankle, without having any extra fabrics bunching on your shoes.
Monochromatic dressing, in case you aren’t familiar, is the concept of wearing one color scheme from head to toe. This can be adapted using any color and it happens to be one really incredible way to dress when you’re a short woman. Similar to the way dresses give the body a longer line, without any breaks, monochromatic outfits do the same thing. This is a great styling trick to utilize in the cold weather months when more layers and pieces are needed for warmth, but you still want to flatter a petite figure. It’s also ideal for the professional woman who has to (or wants to) wear suits.
It’s worth noting that monochromatic dressing doesn’t necessarily you can only wear the exact same color from head to toe. In fact, as long as the color of your top and the color of your bottom are from the same color scheme, it will still serve the purpose of elongating your short frame and flatter a petite woman. Examples include ivory, tan and camel, all from the same color family. Although they are not the same shade of skin color, wearing combinations of these colors can make a short girl appear taller and leaner.
Keep Your Accessories in Proportion
Statement accessories can definitely be fun and exciting, but they also have the tendency of overwhelming a petite body. Think about it this way – when accessories are BIG and over the top they take up a lot of space on the body and when you have a short frame as it is it can be too much. Instead, think of your accessories, in size, in relation to your body’s size. Petite women tend to wear smaller, more dainty accessories well because they enhance your body rather than overwhelm it.
In addition to the actual size of accessories, air on the side of less is more. Layering and stacking jewelry is great, as long as it’s not taking up too much space – just like statement accessories would.
Stay Away from Long Tops
Lengthening the body as a short woman primarily comes with a focus around making legs appear longer.
That is why long tops like tunics, for example, are best to be avoided.
While long tops elongate your torso, they also shorten your legs and as a short woman that’s going to make you appear much shorter than you already are.
Wear Skin Color Shoes
Whether you prefer flat shoes or high heels, if you’re ever in doubt as to the most flattering type of shoe to wear the answer will always be: neutral colors!
This doesn’t necessarily mean black and white, but instead, a color that’s close to your own skin tone. Wearing skin color shoes is a stylist’s trick to making legs look super long whether they’re flat sandals, stilettos, or something in between. Anytime you feel like you need a little extra boost to your outfit, add a pair of skin color shoes and you will notice an instant lengthening effect.
Always define your waist
There are many different ways to show your waist definition. The easiest is to wear tailored clothing that cinches your waist. By doing so, the eye will assume anything under that point (the waist”) is your legs, and therefore improve your body proportion.
That is exactly why for my petite clothing brand, we purposely make sure our styles always have a waist definition.
Avoid Ankle Straps
High heels are great for petite women however, high heels with ankle straps can be a bit tricky. The issue with ankle straps is it cuts the leg line off right at the ankle, instead of continuing the line down the foot (which helps to add length to your body). The best way to elongate your legs is to just stay away from ankle straps and go with pumps.
However, many petite women have smaller feet, thus they may find shoes without ankle straps harder to walk in. In that case, while you can certainly wear ankle straps , just make sure to wear them cautiously so that you’re able to flatter your body type as best as possible.
If you do have to wear ankle straps, the solution is to go for skinnier ankle straps as opposed to bigger ones. The reason is wider ankle straps make your legs cut-off even more obviously. Second, the best is to go with skin tone ankle straps, because they will blend with the color of your skin, making your legs look less cut-off.
Match color of pants and shoes
This is one of the most effective ways to flatter a short girl, as it instantly make your legs appear longer!
When your shoes and your pants (or jeans) are the same color, they form an unbroken vertical line that makes the eye believe your shoes are part of your legs. For someone with short legs, this not only elongate your legs, but also optimize your body proportion immediately.
Wear Dresses vs Separates
Dresses are a great option for short women because they are an easy way to elongate the body, something that is ideal when you’re petite. Because dresses are one-piece garments by default, they give the body one long, uninterrupted line, down the body. This is the factor that lengthens the body.
When wearing a lot of separates it breaks up the body’s line and can shorten an already short frame. Of course, this isn’t to say you should ONLY wear dresses, but it’s something to favor in your wardrobe.
Wear Boot Cut Jeans
Bootcut jeans is quite similar to the flare leg jeans, and they are quite the runner-up, as the best jeans for petite women. Bootcut, by definition, is narrow fitted through the knees and starts to widen at the knees, the jeans is wide enough to accommodate a boot under, thus the name.
With bootcut jeans, it’s quite easy to wear bootie under them, since that is what they are made for. But of course you can also wear them with any other shoes, including pumps, sandals or even flats.
Wear High Waisted Jeans
Believe it or not, the placement of the waist on the bottoms can completely change the way your body looks in clothing. This is particularly true for petite women, because you’re already short the wrong waist placement can make you look even shorter. High-waisted jeans are the best for short women for this reason. Not only do high waistlines further highlight your waist, giving you a slimming benefit, but it also creates the illusion that your legs are starting higher on the body which then makes them look much longer. Win-win benefit.
Now, if you don’t want to wear high waisted all the time (or at all) you can swap it out for mid-rise but steer clear of low rise bottoms. Anything low-rise commonly drags the waistline down which does the opposite of lengthening.
Jumpsuits can be intimidating to wear, for figure flattery purposes, but they’re your friend as a petite woman! Just like dresses and monochromatic dressing, jumpsuits create that ever-beloved long line down your body that instantly lengthens your shape.
When trying jumpsuits just make sure there’s some waist definition and the length is right. Otherwise – have fun with this one and enjoy the ease of it.
Wear Vertical Patterns
A guaranteed way to lengthen a short body type? Look no further than vertical patterns.
Everyone knows horizontal stripes are to be worn cautiously as they have the ability to widen a body, the opposite happens when patterns are vertical though.
Because of the vertical shape of these types of patterns it gives the illusion of a longer line down the body. Getting the key to success in dressing a short body? It’s all about long lines down the body. Fortunately, there are a lot of different ways you can achieve this, vertical patterns included.
Wear Maxi Dresses
Traditionally, short women have often been told maxi is to be avoided at all costs. The truth is, this just isn’t factual. In fact, these lengths can be incredibly flattering on short women. The key when wearing these longer length styles is to make sure they’re laying in the right place on the body.
Maxi dresses have the same pattern or solid colors in a long vertical line, and that is exactly why they are probably one of the best ways to make a short girl look longer and taller.
A few things to keep in mind here.
First, maxi lengths will likely need to be altered to be the right length for your body. Be sure anything maxi isn’t TOO long and drags on the ground. Second, always make sure longer styles like these aren’t too overwhelming or flowy on your body. It’s quite easy for a petite body to become hidden under a lot of fabric, particularly longer silhouettes, so figure-forming options are best.
Wear Maxi Skirts
Similar to maxi dresses, maxi skirts work wonderfully on a short woman because it can lengthen your legs and make you appear taller overall. Since maxi skirts have a lot of length and volume, it is best to wear them with a shorter top.
The rule of thumb is to only wear one voluminous piece of clothing at a time. This is the best way to dress for anyone regardless of their height. If you happen to be short, then this rule is critical.
If you do not like to wear cropped-length tops, you can go with a regular-length shirt or top but just tuck it under your maxi skirt. This will make sure your overall silhouette looks sleek, without overwhelming your short frame.
Wear Midi Dresses with Caution
Can short women wear midi dresses? Yes, but with caution. The reason is midi length runs the risk of making your legs look cut-off since the dress ends somewhere between your knees and your ankles,
First, when it comes to midi lengths it’s best that they lay just under the widest part of your calves. Anytime midi length rests at the widest part of the calves it shortens and adds bulk to your body, just below or above that area will elongate your legs and you’ll be able to make the most of this silhouette.
Second, I highly suggest you wear midi dresses with heels. Not only will this give you a height boost, but also this will help improve the proportion, because of the length of the midi dresses.
Wear V neck
Lengthening your body doesn’t always have to mean creating a long line down your entire body, although it’s a great trick to use! Another more subtle way to achieve this is with specific necklines. V-necklines are one of the best for petite women to wear because it opens up the area around the face, drawing attention there, and the v shape creates a line at the chest that gives this gorgeous elongation.
High necklines can be worn when you are petite, but wear them cautiously. The closed-off effect of high necklines, like crew necks and turtlenecks, tend to create harsh lines on the body and shorten your overall shape.
Wear Petite Sizes
This may sound basic, but you REALLY need to get your sizes right. This may sound obvious to some, but not every short woman realizes how important it is for women under 5’4″ to wear petite size clothing.
If you are wondering what is petite, it is defined by height, not by weight. The common misconception is that petite refers to women who are thin, but that is not the definition of petite in the clothing industry. Someone can be petite and wear XL or plus size because petite has nothing to do with one’s weight.
Even though different petite brands may have a slight variation of their defined height for petite, most brands refer to under 5’4″ as petite. Therefore, if you are 5’3″ or shorter, then your best options are petite sizes.
Since regular-size clothing are made for women above 5’4″, they are most likely going to be too long for short girls. More importantly, the proportion is not going to be right for someone under 5’4″. In comparison, petite-size clothing are adjusted proportionally to fit shorter women, including shorter sleeve length, pants length, as well as waist placement. All of those are critical factors that can make or break your outfit.
Therefore, short women should first look for their sizes in the petite section. You CAN, of course, still look in the regular size department, because you may still be able to find some styles that can actually fit you. This is not to say you should only look in petite sizes, but for garments such as blazers, long sleeve blouses, coats, cardigans, jeans and pants, you will most definitely find petite sizes fitting you way better than regular sizes, saving you trips and bills to the tailors.
Wear above the Knee Dresses
Perhaps a more obvious way to add length to your body is by simply showing some leg. Wearing dresses, skirts and shorts that visually expose your legs is a pretty simple way to make them look longer. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to wear mini skirts and short shorts. Even wearing clothes that are just above the knee is going to give you the figure-flattering benefits from this styling trick.
Wear Paper Bag pants
Paper bag pants have been quite on trend in the last few seasons, and they have quickly become the favorite of many short women, regardless of their age group. Similar to the concept of high waisted jeans, paper bag pants are a short girl’s best friend. This is because paper bag pants extends well beyond your natural waist line, which creates the illusion of a shorter torso and longer legs.
The best way to wear a paper bag pants is to wear it with a top tucked in. Since the paper bag design does create additional volume around the waistline, you should be careful with this style if you happen to have a bigger tummy.
Avoid Anything Low Rise
Low rise is a big no no for petite girls, especially if you already have short legs.
Whether we are talking about jeans, pants, shorts or skirts, anything low rise is going to make your legs look even shorter.
The only caveat is if you have a short rise, then low-rise jeans on someone else might fit you like a mid-rise, in which case you may actually feel more comfortable in a lower rise. (But that is the exception, not the rule, and that really just means the jeans is mid-rise instead of low-rise on you!)
Wear High Heels
This may be (somewhat) obvious but one of the easiest tricks in the book when dressing a short body type is by throwing on a pair of heels.
Not only do high heels add height (literally) to your body, but they also have a way of giving your overall body type a lengthening effect that’s incredibly flattering. Anytime you’re in doubt when dressing as a petite woman, just add some high heels!
Avoid Cropped Wide Leg pants
Wide-leg pants can be tricky for short women. The reason is they carry so much volume in the leg shape, it is very easy for them to make your legs look even shorter than they are. That is not to say short girls should never wear wide-leg shapes. You can totally wear jeans or pants with wider legs, but you want to be very selective.
Of all the wide-leg pant styles, the least flattering for petite women are the cropped-length culottes. Because they are both wide and short, they expand you horizontally instead of vertically. Therefore, you should stay away from cropped wide-leg pants since they can indeed make you look even shorter!
If you do love the comfort of wide-leg pants, you should go with a pair of full-length pants that covers your legs completely, which I will talk about in great detail later in the article.
Choose Belts Strategically
Belts aren’t just for function, they’re a great accessory to add a fun detail to an outfit. When you’re petite, though, belts need to be chosen strategically.
For starters, it’s best to avoid belts that are really wide. Because the goal is to lengthen the appearance of your body, wearing a wide belt around your waist is going to do the opposite. In fact, wide belts are a quick way to shorten your frame. Stick with belts that are on the thinner side, no wider than 2-3” is a good rule to have for yourself.
Aside from the width of the belt, color(s) also play a role in how flattering a belt can be when you’re a short woman. Wearing a belt that’s the same color as the dress, pants, whatever it is you’re wearing is a really subtle way to emphasize your waistline while also giving your body an elongated effect. Great stylist trick!
Create Vertical Lines
There have been a few different ways to elongate the look of your entire body on this list, a good thought to have in the back of your mind anytime you’re dressing a petite body is striving for ways to create these vertical lines.
As you’ve noticed this can be done various ways to do this, at the core, it’s the idea of giving your body a column-line effect.
In other words, a long line.
A few other, perhaps more subtle, ways to achieve this include wearing a longer cardigan that’s open in the front or leaving a structured blazer unbuttoned – just to name a few.
Avoid Bubble Sleeves
Sleeves tend to be a forgotten element when dressing to enhance a body type, especially in petite women. The truth is, sleeves make a difference!
When dressing a short body big, bubble-type sleeves are easy to overwhelm a short body.
Because voluminous sleeve styles like this require a lot of fabric and take up a lot of space they’re quick to shorten your arms and torso area in the process.
Wearing sleeves that fit a bit closer to your body, with less volume, are going to enhance your body in a much more effective manner.
If you are short, it is critical that you have clothing altered in order to fit you perfectly. Chances are, most clothes you bought off the rack will not fit you exactly the best way, therefore, taking them to the tailor is quite necessary most of the time. The reason is even the petite brands are made according to the measurements of petite models who are typically 5’4″ or 5’3″. That means if you are 5’2″ or even 5 fee under, then even the petite sizes are likely not going to fit you too well, either.
Taking your clothing to the tailor may sound costly, but it is totally worth it, especially when it comes to the investment pieces such as wool coats, blazers or suits, let alone pants or jeans. No matter how much you have spent on the clothes, if they do not fit you right, they will never look good on you. So, make sure you have at least of a couple of local tailors you can trust and make sure they are familiar with your request and are able to make alterations to make the clothing perfect fit on you.