As someone who is 5’2″, I totally understand how hard it is to find any long dress for petite women. It gets even harder, if you are looking for a long dress for a formal occasion!
Based on my own experience, and feedback from my customers, I have put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the perfect formal long dress for your upcoming occasion.
Table of Contents
Silhouette is the shape of the dress and it sets the foundation of how it looks on you overall.
In terms of formal dresses, there are many different silhouettes, to name a few,
- A line
- Princess, etc.
Each silhouette creates a different shape and suits different body types, but there are several that generally look better on short women than others.
The universally flattering silhouettes in formal dresses for petites are these:
Here is why the mermaid dresses work perfectly for shorter women:
- This is the most feminine style of petite formal long dresses that flatters many different body shapes
- Mermaid/Trumpet style emphasizes bust and hip, so they are the best formal dresses for petite women who want to show off their feminine curves.
- The flared skirt has moderate volume and will not overwhelm the petite frame of short girls.
If you want to take your formal look at new heights.
This style of petite formal long dresses is designed in such a way that the seam runs vertically from the shoulders down to the hips.
- They are meant to be one of the best formal dresses for petite ladies who love simple and minimalist design.
- Sheath dresses made from chiffon material are especially flattering because the drape of the fabrics really accentuate your figure.
Fit and flare
Since you have a shorter frame and less to work with, the most flattering formal petite long dresses are those with simple and sleek silhouette to complement your natural figure.
That is why a fit and flare dress will never disappoint you.
It fits snug on your upper body and flare out under your waist, emphasizing a slim waist that is flattering to petites of all body shapes.
If you go with something overly complicated, you will easily get overwhelmed and it may look like the dress is wearing you.
Stay away from loads of stiff fabrics and tons of beading.
A line formal petite long dresses are ideal for short women because they hug at your hips to accentuate your waist line of your body.
Like the letter A, this style has the look of a tightened hip line that gradually broadens all through the ankle.
Don’t underestimate the power of the neckline. They can totally change the shape of your face and even the look of the whole dress.
When it comes to petite formal long dresses, V-necks are your best friends.
Most petite women have shorter necks. A deep V neck elongate your neck and make you appear longer.
V neck also draws eyes up and down, creating the most flattering shape for shorter ladies.
Sweetheart necklines are one of the most feminine necklines that look flattering on most petite women.
It creates ample space around your face, and what that does is to make your face appear more slender, even without the help of make up.
Off the shoulder
In general, off-the-shoulder is a universally flattering neckline.
If you are a petite pear shape, off-the-shoulder formal dresses will be most flattering on you.
Why? Off the shoulder neckline creates a horizontal line across to balance out with your heavier bottom half.
Even though this post is about formal petite long dresses, whether a petite woman should wear short dresses or formal petite long dresses is the never-ending debate.
In my view, the most flattering could be either short or long, but not in between.
- First, choose your fabrics wisely. Satin or lace dresses always look formal, no matter what length they are.
- Second, details like embellishments make the short dress more formal.
- Additionally, using statement jewelry will also make the outfit look more formal.
- Last but not the least, If you opt for a mini dress, in order to make your dress look tasteful, you should refrain from other assets (like cleavage) at the same time.
When we talk about styling formal petite long dresses, jewelry is a must.
For petite women, the key to style your jewelry is to draw attention above, not down. That means wearing anything higher up such as hair accessories, earrings and necklaces will draw attention to your face, thus is more flattering.
Many women of petite height have shorter necks. A necklace with a long pendant is a great choice to elongate your short neck.
The reason is long pendant draws the eye up and down, thus making your neck look longer than they are.
Avoid too long
- If you are petite, you also do not want the necklace to be too long as to be hanging below your chest and look unsuitable for a short person.
- A universally flattering length is a necklace that hits 2 to 3 inches above the chest, which will draw more attention to your face and can be worn with any neckline.
Caution with a statement necklace
Despite the current trend of wearing a bold and chunky statement necklace, women of petite height should use caution. Petite women can look overwhelmed by a giant necklace unless they are petite and plus size.
- If you are petite and curvy, then a delicate chain may look lost on you and you are better off with a medium-sized necklace (still, it should not overwhelm your petite height).
- If you love the bib-shaped statement necklaces, which is trending right now, opt for one designed to hit lower on your frame which has a medium to small airy design.
- Always avoid enormous statement necklaces that sit high on your clavicle.
Skinny color shoes
Matching your heels with formal petite long dresses will make you appear taller.
- Typically, nude pumps are the most flattering shoes to petite ladies, because they look like extensions of your legs.
- If you are a petite woman of color, any shoes that are closest to you skin color are most flattering to you.
- The best pumps are those with a pointy toe, low vamp and no straps.
Pointy toe pumps
Pointy toe pumps are the most flattering to short women, period. It may be just half an inch of the difference compared with round toe or square toe, but that slight change makes a whole world of difference in how your legs will look in them.
The lower the vamp, the longer your legs will look. If you don’t know what vamp is, think about those pumps that show a little bit of your toe cleavage.
No ankle strap
Straps make your legs look cut-off, so avoid them if you can. For more tips, read my post on “The Best and Worst Shoes if you have Petite Feet“.
Now, if you know you might be standing or walking quite a bit. Make sure your heels are comfortable enough. I am sharing with you my tips of standing and walking all day in heels on my wedding day on post on “7 Tips on How to Wear Comfortable Heels All Day”.
Picking out the right bag to match formal petite long dresses is an important step to complete the outfit.
- When it comes to picking the best handbags for petite women, size plays a big role in whether or not they are suitable for a shorter person.
- The key idea here is that a petite woman should carry bags proportional to their sizes, i.e. small to medium size bags.
- Big bags can dwarf the person that carries them.
- If a petite woman is carrying a gigantic tote bag, it may look as though she is struggling.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean smaller is always better, since short girls are not all tiny and skinny.
If you are a curvy petite woman, carrying a tiny clutch may actually make you even bigger and out of proportion. So, the key is the size of the bag should be in balance with the overall body size of a petite woman.
Given the formal occasion, crossbody bags on a chain are very popular.
Now let’s talk about the chain. It is critical for you to choose the right length for your height.
Why is the chain so important?
- If the chain is too long and the shoulder bag hits below your hip, it will drag people’s attention down and make you look shorter than you are.
- Majority of designers make 22″ full length chains for their shoulder bags or cross-body bags, which is likely too long for a girl under 5’4″.
- Petite women look the best with 17-19″ inches
- Opt for bags with adjustable straps, or take them to a shoe repair store that can adjust the chain for you (if you are really in love with the bag).
Buying formal petite long dresses is not cheap.
A good quality brand on the market could cost anywhere from 200 dollars to up to 500 dollars, depending on the designer, fabrics, and details. Since formal dress can be such a high-ticketed item, buying it should be treated like an investment decision.
Even if you are not ready to throw 500 dollars into a formal dress, you should still have the mindset of investment vs expense.
What is the difference?
The mindset of investment means you buy what is the best value from the long-term perspective, whereas the mindset of the expense will lead you to jump on the lowest price for what is trendy this season.
Ask yourself these questions before you decide on your budget:
- Can I wear this again in two years for a different occasion?
- Is this going to be out of style next year?
You will need more than one formal dress in your wardrobe for different events. Most of us have our preference for certain colors, styles, and even lengths, and we tend to be shopping for a similar style in our closet.
For formal dresses, the smart way to shop is to get different style and color so that you can wear to multiple events without always looking the same.
Of course if you are shopping for mother of the bride dress, that is the special day of your daughter and you might be ok to just wear the dress once and then put it in your closet as a memory.
Otherwise, if you are shopping for a wedding guest dress or a dress for a black-tie gala, you are better off looking for something you can wear more than once.