Last Updated on February 21, 2023
When it comes to finding clothes that fit, petite-sized women can often feel overwhelmed by the limited selection available. Fortunately, with a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can create an amazing wardrobe for yourself regardless of size.
The Problem with Being Petite
If you are also classified in clothing and footwear terms as petite, I am sure you share my frustration with the issue of finding the right range of clothes and footwear when shopping.
With a height of 163 cm (5 ft 4 inch) and in my 50s, it is always a challenge to find suitable clothing that looks stylish and suitable for my age.
Clothing and fashion brands always seem to target taller women and although many stores now have a ‘Petite’ section, the range of clothing is often very limited.
Here are 25 tips for dressing and shopping as a petite woman.
1. Stick to vertical lines
Vertical stripes, seams, and pleats can create the illusion of a longer silhouette for petite women.
Colors that also contrast such as black and white with stripes, can really give a feeling of length.
2. Try belting your waists
Belts help to define a waistline and give an overall more flattering shape to petite figures.
If you are wearing a one-piece dress or outfit, the belt adds a bit of style and with the right color belt, it compliments the overall look.
Generally speaking though, it is better to wear a belt that is the same color as your outfit or your top.
3. Longer hemlines are key
Hemlines that are too short can make petite women look out of proportion. Likewise, ankle-length dresses or skirts tend to make you look shorter.
Aim for hemlines that hit just above the knee or a bit longer.
4. Look for clothes with added details
Opt for items with well-placed details like ruffles, buttons, and bows to draw attention away from height.
In other words, look for items that add a bit of life to the clothing and make it even more interesting.
5. Shop for petite-specific clothing
Many stores now offer their own line of petite sizes specifically designed to fit smaller frames.
Likewise, there are now some online retailers who specifically target the petite market (it’s about time!).
One company that specialize in petite clothing is:
Well-known retail outlets that also have a petite section online include:
6. Consider wearing one-piece outfits
Wearing a one-piece outfit can have the effect of making you appear a little taller because of the length of the one-piece.
Jumpsuits particularly work well as they give the impression of a long vertical line and they can look quite classy and sexy.
Likewise, wearing the same color shoes as your bottoms (or the whole outfit) also gives a sense of vertical length.
7. Unbutton your jacket or blazer and think length
When a jacket or blazer is buttoned up you will have more of a clumped-up effect, reducing the clear vertical line.
The jacket or blazer will make you appear slightly taller if undone.
I’ve drawn a white line in the photo below on the right section to provide an example of the vertical line you create by wearing an unbuttoned top.
A jacket or blazer that is long and straight will further help to create this illusion of a long vertical line.
Also, try to avoid double-breasted jackets, as they create width rather than length.
8. Wear the right shoes
Petite women should choose shoes with a lower heel that won’t overpower their frame.
Also, it is better to avoid shoes with ankle straps, which make the legs look shorter.
9. Wearing a jumpsuit can work well
Jumpsuits can work very well for us petite-sized ladies as they further help this idea of a long vertical line.
10. Wear trousers of the right length
Avoid trousers that are too short and steer away from capris!
Longer trousers create the illusion of an uninterrupted vertical line, which makes the legs look longer. On the contrary, short trousers have the opposite effect as they interrupt the vertical line of your legs.
11. Embrace cropped styles
Cropped tops and jackets are perfect for showing off your figure while adding length to the body.
12. Layer for a longer look
Layering clothes can add length to your frame and create the illusion of more height.
13. Choose structured fabrics
Structured fabrics like tweed, brocade, and wool help to create a sharper silhouette that flatters petite women.
14. Look for accentuated waists
Waistlines that are slightly higher or lower than the natural waist can create a flattering shape for petite women.
15. Fitted is your friend
Opt for well-fitted items that skim rather than cling to the body, as this will help to create an overall more polished look.
You might want to consider using a tailor and getting your clothing altered to fit perfectly, this will help you look more polished and put together.
Wearing oversized clothing will do you no favors as a petite woman.
16. Accentuate with accessories
Use jewelry and scarves to draw attention away from height and towards your face or other features.
17. Avoid heavy fabrics
Heavy fabrics such as corduroy or velvet will add weight to a petite frame and should be avoided if possible.
18. 1/3rd and 2/3rds Rule
The rule of thirds can look good on petite women also, so rather than wearing clothing that meets halfway up your body, consider 1/3 and another 2/3rds.
The third can be on the top part or bottom, as long as you avoid a 50%/50% look.
19. Look for A-line skirts
A-line skirts can give petite women a longer silhouette while adding volume to their frame.
20. Use small rather than large prints
Opt for vertical stripes or print with vertical patterns as these can draw the eye upwards and give the illusion of more height.
Avoid prints that are too big overall as for a petite body, the prints can overwhelm your frame. So, go for smaller prints, such as small dots or flowers.
21. Highlight your waist with v-necks
V-neck tops draw attention to the waist and are perfect for adding length to petite frames.
22. Balance your proportions with wide-leg trousers
Wide-leg trousers can balance out petite women’s proportions and create a more balanced look.
23. Watch out for shoulder pads
Shoulder pads can add width, which may make petite women appear wider than they actually are.
24. Try Wrap dresses
Wrap dresses or skirts help to create definition at the waistline and can help draw the eye up and down.
25. Have fun with color!
Do not be afraid in your 50s to be adventurous with bright colors.
As a petite woman, you should embrace bold colors and patterns to show off your figure, so do not be afraid to try something new that you love!
There you have it. 25 tips for petite-sized women’s clothing and dressing!
With these tips in mind, petite women can create looks that are both stylish and flattering.
If you are a petite woman reading this post, I am sure you have your own tips that can benefit us short women.
I’d love to hear your own ideas and it’d be great to help other petite-sized women! Please leave your ideas below in the comments 🙂
Hi. I’m Dr Valeria Lo Iacono, a lady in her 50s living in the UK. I write about the over-50s and 60s lifestyle including on travel, health, food, and fashion.