You’re in good company! Famous petites include Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Bo Derek, Raquel Welch, Cher, Winona Ryder, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kristin Chenoweth, Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek, Victoria Beckham, Madonna, and the list goes on.
The fashion world considers women 5’ 3” and under to be petite. If you’re petite, you probably already know this, but it bears repeating, because I very often hear women referring to “petite” in the context of slimness. That simply isn’t the case. Petites comes in all sizes! Below, I’ve outlined just a few tips that will help you dress for your height and body. Even if you’re not in the petite height range, I encourage you to read on, as you may find ideas that will work for you no matter what your stature.
1. You may or may not need to shop solely for petite clothing. It’s possible to be petite both above and below the waist – but it’s also to possible to be petite in only one area. I have plenty of clients who need petite tops and jackets, but petite pants are far too short for them. Then there are others who need only the shorter rise and length of petite pants. But don’t be fooled, just like average and tall statured women, you’ll still likely need alterations whether you’re shopping in the petite department or not.
2. Sleeve length is a common offender. Because sleeves are often too long, many petites consider the length acceptable. Or a salesperson desperate to make a sale led you to believe all sleeves can be rolled up, which really only works for casual jackets with cute linings. Click here to find out exactly how long your sleeves should be.
3. As a petite, you may be easily overwhelmed by clothing. An advantage of petite clothing, besides being shorter in length is that details such as pockets and lapels are also scaled down to your size. When you’re trying on clothes, be aware of these details and also where the design details are hitting you. For example, if you’re trying a 2 button blazer, does the top button hit mid torso or is it closer to your navel. Does the wrap dress tie at your waist or is it closer to your hip?
4. One of the easiest ways to look taller and slimmer is to employ monochromatic dressing-or dressing in one (dark) hue from head to toe. To amplify the effect of this strategy, use just one tone. For example, with fall coming upon us imagine a wool jacket, a silk blouse, a chiffon skirt, tights and suede boots all in the same shade of burgundy. It’s not only a stylish, rich look, but you might just “grow” a couple of inches.
5. “I can’t wear that; I’m too short!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, but it’s not true. As a petite, you can wear virtually anything a taller woman can wear if it hits you in the same place it would hit the taller woman. For example, if you want to wear a boyfriend cardigan, find one that hits you just below your seat to mid thigh, steering clear of any sweaters that veer into knee length territory. And for the very best look, avoid high color contrasts.
6. Scale is very important for the petite woman, not only in clothing, but accessories, too. While it’s not completely necessary to stick to tiny, delicate jewelry, be aware of the scale. A good guide is to look at the size of your facial features. For example, local jewelry designer Rhoda Johnson is a gorgeous, small boned, petite woman, but she has medium sized features allowing her to wear somewhat chunky jewelry.
7. As much as I dislike limiting women, I would advise you to avoid extremely low waisted pants and capris. While I’m not suggesting high waisted, “mom jeans,” finding a good full length, mid-rise pant, will elongate your legs.
8. If you’ve been reading my blog or e-Style Tip for a while, you know that I’m all about wearing your pants fairly long, again elongating you. Pants should only be 1/4 inch off the floor while wearing shoes. Yes, this means choosing a heel height for each pair of pants! If you find a pair of pants that fit you like a glove, buy two pairs-one for flats and one for heels.
9. Of course wearing heels will always give you height, but there are other shoe design features to be aware of. Lower vamps, meaning the shoe only covers a little more than your toes (think toe cleavage,) elongate legs as do pointed toes. If possible, avoid ankle straps and t-straps, both of which cut your legs off.
10. Finally, where to find petite clothing? Dillards, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, J. Jill, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbot’s, Gap, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, and countless online retailers.
While finding petite clothing can be a challenge, following these tips and tricks can help you look taller, slimmer, sleek, and chic! And really, isn’t that what we all want? These guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg. The chapter Short and Chic in Image Power, written by Kimberly Law, AICI CIP, is absolutely packed with strategies for “Using the Magic of Illusion to Look Taller and More Stylish.” I also encourage you explore this blog and to subscribe to the e-Style Tip of the Month* to learn more about how to dress for your body type and professional image.
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