Yay, my first email from a reader expressing her frustration in clothing options for petites. I feel your pain, L. There are tons of articles on how larger women are having a hard time dressing but I’ve seen many stylish options for women who wear bigger than size 10 whereas I am always shaking my head going through Nordstrom or Bloomingdales petite section. Even brands that normally have attractive clothes somehow end up designing what can only be described as sad sad clothes for women shorter than 5’4″. Considering that average height for women in the States is just that, it remains a mystery to me why such a large section of populace is underserved.
Rule number one: come to terms with the face that you’ll need to use tailor often. I’ve found that even petite clothing still needs to be altered to have that perfect fit, depending on the body.
Jackets should hit you at the hip (feel the top of your hipbone). Stay away from boxy fits and go for fitted at waist or empire cut jackets. I really like J Crew petite blazers, Ann Taylor petite options as well as White House Black Market petite options.
Tailored pants should cover 2/3 of your heel and the pointy toe flats and heels are your friends as they will make the legs look longer. Color coordinated pants-shoes will also visually lengthen your legs. I see this done wrong all the time. You cannot have the same trousers for both flats and heels. If you wear both, buy 2 pairs of pants and have each tailored accordingly. The picture of the left automatically makes you look shorter and too long pants draped around your ankles is not a great look either.
Jeans should be hemmed to be at an ankle length. Play around to see which length is most flattering by cuffing them first before altering. Skinny or straight leg jeans are most flattering. You can do maxi dresses but stay away from anything too billowing.
Skirts (other than mini) and shorter dresses should end right at the top of your knees.
Shoes: as I said, aim for anything pointy toe. Boots need to end right under the knee and wedge heel is your best friend. In my experience it’s really hard to find well fitting boots for petites as the calf area is inevitable too large. European designers cut narrower than American designers. I’ve had luck with Johnston&Murphy, Aquatalia and Nordstrom’s BP brand which is meant for juniors and is therefore cut narrower.
Do not wear light skinny jeans with dark short booties, it shortens your leg and makes it look bigger. Likewise don’t wear booties with skirts. Ever. Do heels, flats, or tall boots. Case and point.
Last but not least: be mindful of volume. If you are a flowy top do not do flowy wide skirt as well. Pair a-line skirt with a fitted top. If possible accentuate your waist, this tip works whether you are plus size or regular petite.
Here’s my inspiration board for Petites on Pinterest.