Shopping for petite clothing can be a daily struggle. From finding the perfect pair of jeans only to realise you need to take a trip to the tailors, to dodging longer dresses to avoid hems trailing along the floor (trust me, I’ve been there).
Luckily, there are plenty of petite ranges to choose from these days, from high street options such as ASOS, New Look, Marks & Spencer and Next. While this is definitely helpful for those of us lacking in the height department, most petite ranges offer limited choice, which can be frustrating if you’re among the more fashion-forward.
I’m 5’2” and have lost count of the times I have gone into the fitting rooms with optimism, only to look in the mirror and find I look like I have raided my Dad’s wardrobe. However, I am determined to embrace my height without compromising my style or my confidence. Here are some of the best style tips for petite women I have learned along the way.
Know your body type
‘Petite’ is often considered with height alone, but we all know that bodies can be a range of different shapes and sizes. It is worth getting to know your body type and dressing in a way that compliments this.
I am short and curvy, with the widest part of my body being my hips and thighs. Although there definitely have been times where I have thought to myself “if I do more exercise, I can fit into this”, I have found that accepting what I have and working with that is much easier than wishing my body was a different shape or size to suit a certain style – trends come and go anyway!
Reve The Label Nell Dress, £85 here
That said, there are certain brands that take into account the true beauty and diversity of the female figure, such as Reve The Label, which offers a ‘petite-curve’ range alongside their main collection of luxe-looking dresses. I’ve particularly got my eye on this paisley maxi number. With it’s delicate spaghetti straps and flattering bias cut it’s a must for the warmer months.
Opt for high waisted bottoms
This one may be obvious but it’s an important tip nonetheless. Higher waisted styles will give the illusion of longer legs. Making sure that the waistband is visible accentuates length and draws the eye upwards. I often lean more towards cropped tops or styles I can tuck in for this reason.
Abercrombie & Fitch Ultra High Rise 90s Relaxed Jeans, £25.99 here
With UK weather being as unpredictable as it is, it’s wise to have a go-to pair of denims within reach. Thankfully Abercrombie & Fitch have got it covered with these ultra high waisted 90s style jeans. With their high rise cut and wider fit, they’ll surely allude to longer legs – and they range in lengths from extra short to long.
Marks & Spencer Utility Tencel Blend Straight Leg Jeans, £29.50 here
What was once considered scandalous in Victorian times turns out is a pretty helpful tip for petite dressing. Showing some ankle is another way to give the impression that you’re taller than you are. Choose straight or fitted jeans that graze the ankle, but avoid tapered styles like Mom jeans as this can shorten your legs. I love this pair from M&S – the utility-style pockets and belt loops make them look way more expensive than £29.50!
Nasty Gal Petite Linen Seam Front Wide Leg Pants, £39.20 here
Linen trousers are a summer wardrobe staple. Where lots of trousers in this slouchy and oversized style have hems that extend normally way longer than my actual legs, this pair from Nasty Gal’s petite range means you don’t have to miss out on this summer trend.
New Look Linen Blend Tailored Shorts, £19.99 here
High waisted Bermuda style shorts are one of the ways to make tailoring work for petite women. Be sure to avoid longer styles that approach the knee, as this can look awkward and shorten the legs. This pretty pink pair from New Look that sits at the middle of the thigh are perfect for petite frames and would compliment any body type.
A top tip with short shorts and skirts is that for petite people, they work well with blazers and more oversized jackets. I have often found that longline (or even standard length!) blazers seem to drown me in fabric when worn with jeans or trousers. Pairing a blazer with a skirt or pair of tailored shorts looks much more put together and draws the eye upwards from the legs.
Focus on your waistline
Although this might not be something all of us want to hear, it is a great way of appearing taller. There are a number of hacks that accentuate the waistline, from changing where you wear your belt to investing in figure hugging textures – you’ll be sure to find a way that suits you.
H&M Braided Waist Belt, £14.99 here
Something as simple as positioning your belt in a different way can have a big impact on your overall look. Placing a belt above your natural waistline both shortens the torso and elongates the legs, giving the illusion of added height. This braided belt from H&M will do the trick perfectly – the deep waistband is perfect for cinching in if you want to wear more oversized styles without being swamped.
River Island Black Striped Smock Midi Dress, £42 here
Shirred fabric is a great hack for drawing in the waistline without adding any accessories. The ruching on this River Island dress sits high on the torso to give the impression of longer legs, while the cut outs create the illusion of a narrower waist.
Zara Shirred Linen Top, £29.99 here
While cropped tops shorten the upper body and lengthen the bottom, contrasting ruched details with voluminous sleeves are a great wait to focus on the waist line and draw attention upwards from the legs. This shirred top from Zara would work well with high waisted trousers or jeans – the white linen fabric and milkmaid neckline makes it the perfect summer staple!
Nasty Gal Multi Wrap Faux Leather Waist Belt, £5 here
Putting a belt over a blazer and sitting it higher than the waistline is a good trick to use if oversized tailoring isn’t for you. This multi-wrap belt from Nasty Gal gives a more relaxed appearance with its extended strap.
Shop the main collection, but make it work for you.
Being petite doesn’t have to mean you can’t shop stores’ main collections – you just have to be savvy about it. It’s true that most maxi dresses sold under regular sizing will most likely drag along the floor for me, but that’s where midi dresses come in. Thankfully, midis are still a trend and are widely available, so why not reframe the word ‘midi’ and instead wear dresses of this length with the intention of wearing a maxi?
& Other Stories Puff Sleeve Linen Midi Dress, £95 here
I’d been searching for a long linen dress that works for my height for years, so I was really glad I held out until buying this one! For me, it sits somewhere between midi and maxi and is fitted to the body which makes it super flattering. The ruched bust, puff sleeves and side slit make it an elevated basic for the summer season.
Pull & Bear Long Dress in Rustic Fabric, £29.99 here
This dress from Pull & Bear sits at midi length on the model in the image, but would make the perfect maxi dress for those of us in the petite gang with its floral pattern and cute tie back detail. I can imagine wearing this for picnics in the park!
Don’t overlook your footwear
When shopping for outfits to compliment a petite figure, a lot of focus is naturally directed towards the clothes. However, footwear plays just as much of an important role and can make or break an outfit, depending on what you pair certain shoes with. It’s always worth looking in a full length mirror to check that the shoes work with the rest of the outfit – I learned this the hard way as until very recently, I did not have my own full length mirror!
Pretty Little Thing Woven Plaited Chunky Sandals, £25 here
Shoes in a similar color to your skin tone can help to elongate when going bare legged. There are loads of great options out there, like these braided sliders from Pretty Little Thing.
Espirit Formal Shoes, £29 here
You can never go wrong mules. From desk to dinner, they’re the perfect footwear option. The minimal design and twist detail on these mules from Espirit makes them look really expensive.
Charles & Keith Strappy Padded Flatforms, £55 here
When it comes to adding height, platforms are your friend. There are many styles to choose from to suit every outfit, but I particularly love these strappy sandals from Charles & Keith. The flatform sole will add a whole 4cm to your height while the chic and minimalistic design makes them a pretty good replica of The Row’s wedge leather platform sandals!
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