The fashion world deems you petite if you’re 5’4” or under. Keep in mind, “petite” only refers to length or height. Petite clothes come in all sizes! And petite women come in all shapes! But to get your clothes to fit, flatter and make you feel amazing, there’s another aspect to consider, your vertical balance.
Vertical balance! What’s that? (You may be asking…) Vertical balance refers to whether you’re short waisted (or you have a short torso,) long waisted (your torso is long,) or your torso and legs are balanced. If you’re not sure, check out this post to determine your vertical balance.
After being a wardrobe consultant for over 15 years, I’ve had far more clients (both missy and petite,) who are short waisted than long waisted. In this post, we’ll talk about the best ways for you to dress if you’re petite and short waisted.
One thing to know—and celebrate—is that having a short waist and long legs makes you look TALLER than you really are!! That’s right…I said taller, so I urge you to love your long legs even if you wish they were longer.
Also… You’ll look taller and slimmer by balancing your vertical proportions. If your legs are long and your torso is short, you can appear top heavy and potentially thick looking through your middle. By elongating the appearance of your torso, you look less bulky, evenly proportioned, and much slimmer.
Since your upper body is considerably shorter than your lower half, your goal is to create the illusion of having a longer torso. At the same time, since you’re petite, you probably don’t want to make your legs look any shorter in the process.
Here are some easy style tips to help you reach the balance you’re looking for. Some you may know, but hopefully you’ll find some new tricks as well!
9 Petite Dressing Tips if You’re Short Waisted
1.) Look for V-neck tops. V-necks create a long line (that points downward like an arrow,) giving you the illusion of having a much longer torso. I find medium width V’s the very most flattering, but all V’s are fab!
If you’re not a fan of deep V’s, feel free to wear a shallow V and add a long pendant necklace that will act as a V. I especially like layering a shorter necklace with a long one to keep some interest near your face in addition to lengthening your torso.
And if you’re someone who gets cold and would prefer to cover up, or you simply don’t like V-necks, that long pendant necklace will still help lengthen your torso. The optical illusion isn’t quite as strong, but it still works!
2.) Try for mid-rise pants and jeans. Low-rises will definitely lengthen your torso the most, but you run the risk of making your legs look short in exchange.
Mid-rise pants and jeans ideally hit just around your belly button or a little below. (Being short waisted myself, I also find mid-rise pants to be the most comfortable style.)
Now what if you have trouble finding mid-rise bottoms? Or you want the tummy control of a higher rise? Or you prefer the trendy look of high waisted pants and jeans?
I have a trick for you! It’s called the semi-tuck! This is where you tuck your top into the high rise either on just one side or all the way across the in the front, but not in the back. This styling technique is super stylish and gives you the best of both worlds…the look you want and the balancing you need.
Since the semi-tuck has come into style, I do it all of the time! (I actually think I did it before it was the trend, but I doubt I can claim myself as the trendsetter, lol!) Semi-tucking has worked for a lot of my petite short waisted clients.
3.) Alterations are your best friend! You’re probably used to having things hemmed, but did you know you can have a tailor shorten the rise of a pair of pants?
I’m not a tailor, so I can’t tell you the exact steps (and it might not work for all pants,) but essentially they take the waistband off, shorten the zipper and put the waistband back on. Voila! Mid-rise!
I had this done a few years ago. Okay, it was forever ago, but…I had a little suit that had a black and white polka dot jacket and waist high, black pants that had a cute, little black and white polka dot tie closure. Naturally, I didn’t want to cover up the tie by wearing my top on the outside, so I had this alteration done, and it worked like magic.
4.) Avoid tucking tops in. Here’s why:
First, the horizontal line created by the contrast between your top and pants/skirt chops you up. The effect emphasizes your short torso in comparison to your leg length.
Next, it creates added bulk around your middle. Even if you’ve got a really flat stomach, (lucky you,) because you don’t have a lot of extra real estate length-wise, all but the shortest of tops are going to create bulk on your tum and bum area.
When you need a formal appearance, like for a job interview or presentation, you can tuck your blouse in, but then blouse it out a bit. Adding a jacket that hits at your hip area should counteract the tucking and lengthen your torso.
5.) Instead of tucking, let your tops float past the waistband of your pants or skirts. Ideally, you want blouses, tops and sweaters to hit somewhere around the top or middle of your hipbone. This gives you a classic proportion that’s sleek and sophisticated.
6.) Wearing the same color top and bottom creates a long lean line, making you appear long and lean in turn. If the idea of wearing this column of color bores you to tears, feel free to vary the shades a bit, but keep it in the same or similar color family.
For example, wear a navy sweater and pants OR wear the navy pants with a steel blue sweater.
Prefer light colors? A column of winter white makes a gorgeous, elegant look for work. Or for weekend, pair a light blue V-neck sweater with light wash jeans for the same effect.
7.) Try a low-slung belt. Having a short torso, you just don’t have a lot of room for belts through your mid section. Instead of feeling like you’re limited by fashion’s “rules” just adjust them to work for you. By wearing a belt that dips toward your hips, you’re fooling everyone’s eyes into thinking your waist is that much lower.
8.) Be picky about your perfect pant length. Making sure your pants are long enough will help you look nice and tall…long and lean.
Since you’re a petite with long legs, you may need to buy your pants in the missy section to get the perfect length. True, they may turn out to be a little long in which you can have them hemmed.
Another option is to look for petite pants that have generous hems you can let down if you need. A last idea is to look for missy pants in a “short” length. (They’re not common, but you can find them occasionally.)
9.) Choose dropped waist dresses or dresses that flow past your waist. By avoiding dresses with a set in waist, you can fool the eye! No one can see just how high your waist is! It’ll also be easier to find a perfect fit, too.
Please don’t think I’m telling you to wear baggy sacks, especially if we’re talking about work dresses. There are tons of dress styles that will work for you. No matter what your size, height or body shape, hiding in your clothes is never the answer!