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Dressing for Your Body, Which Happens to be Awesome: Petite Edition


Petite girl
Photo Credit

Welcome back to Dressing for Your Body, Which Happens to be Awesome (known in some circles as DFYBWHTBA — we’re working on a better acronym). You’ve learned how to dress your long legs, your boobs of any size, and your fantastic butt. You’ve laughed, you’ve cried, you’ve listened to India.Arie’s Video on repeat, and now you embrace your body type with all your heart, right?

Well, maybe not yet. But even if not, I am here to help, showing you ways to dress your bangin’ bod (and trust me, it is bangin’) while loving your body, not trying to trick people into thinking it’s different.

That said, this week we are going to talk a little bit about optical illusions. Dressing for your shape is mostly about managing your proportions — showing people where to visually divide your body. It turns out, though, that people associate certain proportions with children and certain proportions with adults. Assuming we’re all trying to look adult-aged here (isn’t that pretty much what college is anyway? A bunch of kids pretending to be adults?), there are certain styles to avoid as a shorter girl. Essentially, high-waisted jeans are your friend, and long flowy tees are probably not (and between you and me, they seem to be on their way out for exactly this reason. You could be six feet tall wearing one of these shirts and still look like a kid in her pajamas).

On the other hand, you also have the option to throw the proportion nonsense out the window and turn everything I just said on its head. More on that later.

Being short and small has its perks. If you want your boyfriend to be taller than you, you don’t have to search long for somebody you can wear heels around. And on that note, you can wear heels without towering over everybody. I have a friend who is very petite (probably 5’1″), and she just wears intensely high heels around campus every day. I have no idea how she does it, and it’s probably uncomfortable, so I’m not endorsing that specifically, but you have that option! You can probably also fit into small spaces, and that’s probably useful sometimes (especially if you join a hide and seek league).

Tips for Dressing Your Petite Self

Show off those legs

Sure, people typically lust after the legs of 10-foot-tall supermodels, but the best way to keep your proportions looking appropriately post-pubescent is to emphasize your legs. High waisted and colored jeans are an awesome way to make that happen.

You can wear heels every day if you want to

People seem to give shorter girls much less trouble about wearing heels for most situations – taller girls can get awkward stares, but no one will think twice when you do it. Rock it, if that’s what you’re into.

The monotone look will set you free

If you hate high-waisted jeans, if you love long shirts and sweaters, or if you just hate the word “proportion” because it reminds you of math class, you have another option. Try going way-neutral, and then adding accessories to your heart’s content.

Outfit 1: Summer Casual

short casual look
Jeans — Topshop, Top — Topshop, Heels —, Bag — WetSeal, Necklace — Harvey Nichols, Headband — Go Jane

This is a great outfit for the end-of-warm-weather hangouts that are happening on campus right now. It’s casual, but dressed up, with a studded headband and awesome chunky platforms. I love these. I wish that I were not 5’7″ so I could wear these every day of my life. I just might, regardless. The high waisted jeans with a cropped top give you more feminine proportions, which is always a plus.

Outfit 2: Way Neutral

short girls neutral look
Sunglasses — River Island, Scarf — Modcloth, Bag — Wallis, Jeans — Farfetch, Shirt — Topshop, Shoes — Lane Bryant, Bracelet — H&M

The base of this outfit is pretty much all black. You’ve got black jeans, a dark grey t shirt, and black studded smoking slippers (a trend which I am loving, by the way). Not the most interesting outfit, but the perfect blank slate – you can add pretty much anything to this. Because you’re wearing all one color, the long-ish shirt won’t make your legs look shorter — It’ll just blend in. Leave it to your accessories to make a (in this case, patriotic) statement.

What do you think?

How do you keep your petite frame looking adult? What’s your favorite short-girl fashion tip? What are your personal opinions on heels? What body type should I cover next? Answer these questions and more in the comments!

Posted on on September 9, 2012 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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39 Responses to “Dressing for Your Body, Which Happens to be Awesome: Petite Edition”

  1. 1
    September 9th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Could you do broad shoulders please? I have really broad shoulders and I don’t know how to make them seem proportional or find good jackets that arent huge elsewhere

  2. 2
    September 9th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    the tips are pretty good
    but as a 5’1 petite girl, i was a little disappointed with this post
    i was hoping to see some skirt or dress combos
    plus both outfits have jeans t shirt combo
    however some of the items in the outfits are nice!!

  3. 3
    September 9th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    I loooovee the first outfit…like most mexicaNs, Im petite and Ive been wearing those kind of jeans fOr some years now, they not only make my legs seem lOnger but they give the impressiOn of me having a waiste line =)

  4. 4
    September 9th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    in response to the above, can you do small shoulders, too?and suggest brands where the tshirts aren’t falling off at the top, lol

  5. 5
    September 9th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Short dresses are my best friend. They can draw attention to my curves without overwhelming my frame.

  6. 6
    September 9th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    No offense because I LOVE that you are doing these posts about loving your body and I hope more people learn to appreciate how beautiful they are, but i find being a petite girl, there’s so much more to being petite than just being short, and while i’m on that topic you didn’t even mention the difficulty of finding jeans for someone who is 5’1″ versus someone being 5’7″. yes while high waisted jeans are a fantastic look to elongate legs i often find myself with the wrinkly elephant legs look if i can’t find specific “short” sizes. As well what about dress or skirt options? I’m just a little bit disappointed with the lack of choices shown here.
    As for being petite what about having a small waist and wanting to define it, or as the post above mentioned smaller shoulders?

  7. 7
    September 9th, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I love this series! And I’d also love to see an article on broad shoulders.

  8. 8
    September 9th, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    As a few others have already mentioned, an article on broad shoulders would be a very good idea. I’m sort of short (5’4) and this article helped a lot, but I also have broad shoulders and as you can imagine, being short with broad shoulders is not the easiest thing to dress for, lol. So if you could lend your expertise to this issue I would be very happy! =)

  9. 9
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I usually love this series precisely because it’s about embracing and even emphasizing a certain aspect of yourself instead of trying to mask it. However, I felt like this entry was like most other “dressing for your body” articles–I feel like it still treated petite as something to work around, not an asset.

    For example, a lot of people associate petite with being childlike, so maybe a super girly outfit would have played up being petite and embraced it.

    I feel like the talk about “optical illusions” and “proportionality” was just code for “looking taller.”

  10. 10
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I’m very petite and while I think you offered a few good tips, they weren’t my favorite tips. For me, a huge thing was embracing the petites section in the store. They actually make proportional clothing, though the selection isn’t always the best. Still, I find it is best to purchase jeans, jackets, cardigans, and structured tops from the petite section. If you wear any jeans that are not straight cut (i.e. flare, bootcut, skinny, cropped), you really need to shop int the petite section to get he cut right. Otherwise, I end up with the spot for the knee down near my ankle. For jackets its similar. If I don’t buy it in petite, the nipped-in waist ends up down near my belly button.

  11. 11
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    please do an article on rectangular body types, the ones without much waist.

  12. 12
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I am offended that you are saying wearing certain clothes gives us “more feminine proportions.” There are two things wrong with this. One is that saying your proportions are unfeminine because you are small is plain WRONG. I am a petite girl who also happens to have a booty. Are you telling me that my height makes me somehow less feminine?

    Also, in an age when we are trying to redefine words like “feminine” and “girly,” you are perpetuating stereotypes by putting labels on people’s bodies.

    I hope you follow my advice and proofread for sexist language.

  13. 13
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Can you do one for short legs? Or long torsos? It’s so hard for me to dress the lower half of my body without somehow calling attention to how stubby my legs look.

  14. 14
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I think you deserve a cookie and more for your efforts on this post because it had some amazing tips for dressing my body. However, I would have liked to see how to dress for more formal events(although as a petite person, I swear by clean cut shapes and some little details like ruching, draping, etc. in moderation that draw attention to the curves). However, I would also like to note that petite girls also are not always just petite all over, they can have curvy, boyish, or long figures just as much as the non-petite girl. Overall, great article!

  15. 15
    September 10th, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Hi great article very helpful tips. I’m a small girl and I’ve heard mixed opinions about wearin maxi skirts. I love them but I don’t know how to wear them or even if there is a way I could wear them! And I love this series! Keep up the good work!

  16. 16
    September 10th, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Seconding the request for something on long torsos! It’s hard to find pieces that compliment my upper body especially with the crop top trend that’s going around.

  17. 17
    September 10th, 2012 at 1:58 am

    As someone who is 5’1 with a petite build, I adamantly disagree that high wasted jeans are our friend. I feel they shorten your torso and make it look like you’re all boobs. Crop tops do the same thing. I stick to lots of above the knee dresses, V necks, and smaller proportions in jewelery.

  18. 18
    September 10th, 2012 at 2:39 am

    To be honest, I am not a fan of this article. As a nearly 20 year old woman at only 5’1, I am always looking for a way to dress for my height that won’t make me look unnecessarily bulky or too child-like. However, I didn’t find this article as helpful as I did…insulting? I agree with a previous comment in that I felt like the writer is giving us tips to appear taller – they are continuing to strictly associate tallness with attractiveness, which, although the modeling world might say so, is simply not the case. These “tips” still somehow manage to make me feel inadequate, like being short is a disability or something to work around, instead of something to embrace – something that is more than “ok” but fabulous! I love the fact about being able to wear heals pretty much whenever, but seriously – you can hide in small spaces and join a hide and seek league? Basically what I get from this is that there really AREN’T that many benefits to being short and that we will always seem inherently childish because of it. I’ve been trying to rid myself of the “cute never sexy” stigma with being short, and this article almost seems to reinforce it. I’m sorry to sound so negative and I don’t mean any disrespect to the author. I’ve enjoyed all the other posts and do find that high waisted pants are a lifesaver for me personally! I also don’t expect the author to totally understand that the words might come off the wrong way as a fairly tall girl herself, but I don’t know. This just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. :/ I still look forward to future postings, though!

  19. 19
    September 10th, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Thank you sooo much for doing this!! I am going to be 19 in a few months, and I’m only 4’11” – yes i’m practically a midget! hhaha This post really helped me! :) Thanks again, CF! xxx

  20. 20
    September 10th, 2012 at 7:54 am

    ‘I wish that I were not 5’7? so I could wear these every day of my life. I just might, regardless.’

    Psh, height is just a measurement! I’m 5’10’ and I frequently wear heels. If they make you feel awesome, wear them– the only thing stopping you should be the fact that wearing them for long periods of time can screw up your joints =)

  21. 21
    September 10th, 2012 at 10:18 am

    How about a tall edition? That would be awesome!

  22. 22
    September 10th, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Interesting article! I think sky scraper heels, and mini’s are perfect for making petite girls look all grown up!

  23. 23
    September 10th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Oh, I just thought of something else I’ve said before that i’d still like to see- embracing a boyish figure and going for androgyny with the cuts of the clothing while using details like lace and ruffles to add some “femininity” and “prettiness”

  24. 24
    September 10th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I’m petite and I didn’t really find this article helpful because it wasn’t written by someone who is actually petite. I don’t care to wear heels every day because I LIKE being short! I understand that the article is saying you can get away with heels more often, but it seems like a really obvious thing to say to petite girls – “oh you’re short? You can wear heels!”

    I don’t think high waisted pants are that good for petites since many of us are short torso’d. I think mid rise (just below the belly button) is a much better cut because you get the trendy look of high waisted jeans without overwhelming your frame.

    One tip I have for petite girls is to go for thinner accessories – skinny belts, delicate jewelry, not ridiculously oversized bags, etc. I think that more delicate accessories look best because they don’t overwhelm your body. It isn’t about trying to look taller or anything – it’s just about not letting your accessories overwhelm you, so that YOU stand out!

    To the person who asked about maxi lengths – go for it. I get so many compliments when I wear my black maxi dress. I would say a solid color is better so that you don’t become overwhelmed by a large area of printed fabric.

  25. 25
    September 10th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’m borderline petite (barely 5’4”), and high waisted pants make me look like a set of boobs on legs! Could you do an article on being short waisted v. long waisted? A lot of people seem to think if you are short you have short legs/long torso. I find that I need to buy petite sized shirts and regular pants.

  26. 26
    September 10th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    While I was happy to see my body type being catered to, I feel you gave us two of the exact same outfit, but with different accessories. What I really need are tips on where to get short length jeans, how to dress when I wear a small but have a 32D bra size (smalls give me cleavage until Sunday, mediums look like a cape), and how to embrace my body, not make myself look taller. I like being petite, I just wish we were catered to more often. But thank you for bringing attention to us! Love the site ;)


  27. 27
    September 10th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    While I do love your posts, I have to say that being petite myself (5’2) I wasn’t very impressed with this one because I didn’t really learn anything new from it. Neutrals? Doesn’t work all the time. Heels? impossible for someone like me to walk in them around campus! Anyway, my advice to petite girls would just be to embrace your height and wear whatever you want! I rock maxi dresses, longer shirts with tights, chunky sweaters – just wear it with confidence :) Also, American Eagle jeggings in the short sizes are my best friend. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for petite sized jeans.

  28. 28
    September 10th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Well, I certainly can’t answer all these questions asked in the previous comments, I can say that it really does make a difference if you wear clothing that is appropriate for your body type. You don’t need expensive clothes, it can even come from the Goodwill store. If it looks good on you, it’s far better than something that cost a lot of money but doesn’t look right on you. ecently I happened to see a bride to be trying on a wedding dress. It was a gorgeous dress, but it wasn’t right for her body. It was like the dress was wearing her. I think you can tell when you look in the mirror if you focus on you and not on the clothes.

    Love those brown platform shoes by the way!

  29. 29
    September 10th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I agree with those saying that this article wasn’t very helpful, and I really wish it was written by a petite person! I’m 5′ 0″ and I rarely feel comfortable with fashion. The biggest problem for me is finding things that will fit. As a teenager I would wear the short inseam jeans from PacSun, but even those were too long for my baby legs. I’ve run into the same problem with Old Navy jeans, although they do sell petite sizes. However, they’re only online. Why don’t they sell them in stores? Why do many stores have petite sections full of “granny” clothes? Shopping in the Junior’s department doesn’t work for me anymore now that I have the curves of a woman. If anyone knows of any big retail chain that sells cute petite sized jeans in the store, PLEASE let me know. I’m still wearing those short inseam jeans and they’re getting all cut up from dragging on the floor. Same thing goes with finding other clothes. All of the cute petite stuff is online where I can’t try it on. =(

    So yeah. Finding clothes that actually fit is a big problem that you need to start with. Then you can work on the proportions and stuff.

    I’m so sick of wearing jeans and t-shirts all the time and getting mistaken for a kid.

  30. 30
    September 10th, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I’m petite (5’0″) , plus size (I usually wear 14 if pants are high waisted), but have a small chest but I’m larger in my hips and butt. I have no idea to dress myself besides what colors look good on me! D:

  31. 31
    September 10th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I usually love all of CF’s articles and can always find something cute to look at or a tip to try, (I really like those topshop high-waisted jeans) but this one missed the mark for me.
    As a petite college girl (5′) with “appropriately post-pubescent” proportions, I appreciate the intentions of this article, but I think there was some confusion with the meaning of petite. Petite as a regular adjective of course means small and diminutive in stature, which if applied to a body type, (albeit inappropriately) would mean a short, slender woman with little definition or shape, very trim, and all-over tiny.

    However, that is not what petite means in the context of women’s clothing.

    You can be a petite and be slender and have little definition or you can be petite and be plus-sized and curvaceous, and neither is implied just in the word petite, because in this context petite just means of less then average height. Petite clothing has a shorter inseam (the seam that runs from the bottom of the crotch to the ankle on a pair of pants,) but not necessarily a smaller waist or hip size (some petite brands do go down to smaller waist and hip measurements, but petite plus-sized brands certainly exist).

    This was an article about petite, boyish shaped women, which is fine. I have a few friends that I guess I could forward it to, but for me, I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere for an article that actually encompasses my body.

    (Side note- Being short is good because I can fit into smaller places? You didn’t mention in the long leg edition that one may succeed at kickboxing or in the large breast edition that one could potentially smash watermelons with our chests, so I’m not sure as to why this article warranted a backhanded compliment).

  32. 32
    September 10th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    A little tip for the petite girls out there: Midrise jeans ankle jeans look really great as an alternative to high waist jeans and don’t, I quote, make you look all boobs, no torso. I suggest Urban Outfitters BDG because the sizing goes like waist by length. :)

  33. 33
    September 11th, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Hi, I’m 4ft11 and I’m somewhat confused by this article. It seemed like it’s directed at girls who aren’t yet developed (as in short AND child looking). The tips aren’t very helpful for other short girls with womanly proportions.
    Being petite has many advantages not covered in this article. I suggest that next time you don’t know advantages to something, poll your readers, I’m sure other short girls have plenty of ideas. For one, you can allways hem pants and tailor things to make them smaller. Super tall girls often find regular pants looking cropped. You can also tailor things from the kid’s section, which are often cheaper (but waist-less)
    About the tips, medium rise straight cut jeans are best for any figure, making you look elegant no matter height or weight. Wearing long shirts is a terrible tip. Petite women should avoid any top hitting below the waist of their pants. Ideal is to build a big wardrobe of dresses for any occasion and make them your “thing”. Unless it’s a midi dress, it’ll look good (I’m not a fan of the petite in a maxi dress) Knee-lenghth or slightly above is best.
    For last, embracing your petite-ness has nothing to do with looking “girly”. If it’s your thing, go for it, but embracing it means dressing for your cute body with the right clothes :)

  34. 34
    September 11th, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Tips for tall girls would be nice too :) I’m 6′ and would like to wear dresses more often but sometimes it makes me feel like a man in a dress because I can’t wear heels :P

  35. 35
    September 11th, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    While I feel that this was a well written article with some decent advice, I really would have appreciated it more had it been written by a fellow petite girl. There are several different issues that almost all petite girls struggle with when it comes to shopping for clothes: First and foremost is finding pants/jeans that are tailored for petite legs. Hemming only goes so far; there’s almost no way to fix the cut of the pants without taking out the seams (and that’s a pain) so I usually end up with the knee of the pants halfway down my shin.
    Additionally, it’s important to take into account how a petite girl wants to be perceived via her wardrobe. Not all of us strive to look “girly” or “feminine.” Some days I feel more boyish or I’m just not in the mood to piece together something delicate and cute. Personally, I go back and forth between liking being called ‘cute’ or ‘adorable'; it’s inevitable, being a short girl, but at times I feel more and more like a little kid than a young woman.
    As for my own style suggestions, veritcal lines tend to elongate the figure, so wearing veritcally-striped patterns is a helpful trick. Also, good posture goes a long way! Heels are a good suggestion but it’s not practical for me because I walk everywhere (to class, grocery shopping, to friends’ places…) and it gets super uncomfortable. Perhaps eventually I’ll get used to them and expand my shoe wardrobe.

  36. 36
    September 11th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Finally! Something for my race, short people unite! Lovely outfits, glad to know I’m doing the right thing by stocking up on high-waisted bottoms!

  37. 37
    September 11th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a short girl and sometimes I look even shorter in some outfits. Now, I see some of hte benefits of being a petite! Nice post!

  38. 38
    September 11th, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Tailoring. For any petite, curvy, tiny, straight – it doesn’t matter. Find good clothes that are close to right, and then tailor them to your smallness. That said, midrise is my best friend, and I avoid low waists like the plague. My second best friend, however, is actually wide legs, albeit with wedges or heels. As a petite with slender legs, this gives a pleasantly elongated vertical sweep.

  39. 39
    December 7th, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Could you add more outfits?
    Is it ok to wear shorts and tights?

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