If you’re smaller than the average person, you might find buying clothes a bit of a nightmare. Many things will swamp you and do nothing for your figure. Shopping on the High Street can be difficult, rather than the fun activity many women make it out to be! The important thing to remember is that you’re not trying to disguise yourself as a tall person.
As a petite woman myself, I know that we use styling tips to make us look taller, but in general we're proud of our height and don't need to attempt to make ourselves look any taller than we are. We simply try to find outfits that naturally work with our frame. The points in this guide should help you to buy petite dresses and outfits more effectively. If you are confused and don't know if you are petite, we answer this question in 'Am I Petite'. Since our customers always ask for style advice on how to look leaner and taller, we refer to tips on elongating your petite frame, so here's how we can find a dress to flatter our petite size!
The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is all about proportion. Getting your proportions spot on is even more important when you’re a petite person. Many people don’t pay attention to the proportions of their outfit much. In fact, taller people can get away with defying the rules altogether at times. If you’re petite and you want to make sure your outfit flatters your figure, the rule of thirds is a must. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to get this rule to work for you either. It’s simply about breaking your outfit up into thirds rather than halves. For example, you would choose a monochromatic sheath dress with a hemline that cuts off at the knee, or if you're colour blocking, go for an empire waistline where the block colour cuts off at the top third of the outfit rather than at the waistline. Another example is to go for a long jacket with a shorter skirt, rather than a long jacket and long skirt.
The latter outfit would swamp your figure and even look boring in comparison. You would never cut your body off at the middle point either. You can find examples of outfits that are ½ to ½ and ⅓ to ⅔ online so you get an idea of what to do yourself.
Whenever you’re undecided which jacket to wear or what skirt/trousers to wear with a top, bear the rule of thirds in mind.
If you flout the rule of thirds you can cut your body off at unflattering points and make yourself look smaller. You could even make yourself look stumpy and frumpy!
For petite women, the best necklines are usually V or U shapes that create the illusion of height. They elongate the neck and make you look taller and leaner! Just make sure that the neckline looks right with the rule that we just discussed. For evening dresses, petites look best in halter neck, deep V necklines, strapless gowns and one-shoulder dresses.
One great myth about having a petite figure is that you can get away with the majority of fabrics. This is not the case. You should be careful of any fabric that billows, such as organza or chiffon as it can swamp you. You can still pull off nice, floaty items, but you need to be sure that there isn’t too much material there. Heavy jacquard fabric is most unflattering in fit-and-flare dress styles as it makes you look wider, however you can wear the fabric in a form-fitting dress that shows off your figure to make you look taller and flatter you.
Play around with your fabrics and have fun. See what works for you. That’s what fashion is all about!
The accessories you choose to pair your outfits with can make all of the difference. Without some awesome accessories, you’re doing your outfit an injustice! You just need to make sure you choose the right accessories for your frame.
When it comes to hats, make sure you don’t pick anything with a brim too wide. If you can’t look up from it, it’s too much for you!
This means extra floppy hats should be avoided for petite girls. When it comes to earrings, the longer the better. Drop earrings can look particularly feminine and will add height to your appearance. Mini bags are perfect, as they won’t overpower you. Avoid oversized bags as they will look out of proportion!
When it comes to necklaces, you can get away with wearing bold necklaces. You just have to be sure that you haven’t got too much going on! You can add things like scarves too, which can make your figure look longer. Chunky belts are a no-go for petite girls - sorry loves! You can however, wear thin belts to help accentuate your figure.
The Colour and Prints
You can have lots of fun when it comes to colour and prints, so don’t be afraid to express your personality! That being said, there are a few small rules you should adhere to if you want to make sure your outfits are as flattering as possible. When it comes to colour, a single block colour will always make you appear taller.
That isn’t to say you can’t mix things up; it’s just something you might want to remember. Prints are slightly more complicated. Prints that are too large or bold may not look good on you, as they can distract and make you look smaller.
If you’re going to wear prints, the best way to go about it is to wear mini prints. If a print on a dress is bigger than the size of your fist, it's too big to wear, so don't add it to your shopping basket. Do this quick test against printed fabric when you're shopping in stores.You can always get away with wearing vertical prints such as stripes though. Bear in mind that trends like monochrome work really well for you too. You can use coloured accessories to add a splash of colour if you like too. Darker colours will slim your silhouette if you feel you’d like to knock a few pounds off your figure in the process! These rules can always vary depending on your body type - read Jeetly's guide to petite body types for more inspiration.
The Length of the Dress
The length of your dress should be carefully considered if you’re a petite woman. Depending on your age, you may be able to get away with fairly short dresses for a while. However, you may not feel comfortable doing this. If this is the case, a dress that falls just below the knee is a safe bet especially when trying to look work appropriate- take a look at our business dress code article for elaboration.
The same goes for skirts providing you avoid anything that falls mid-calf, also known as midi skirts. A high-waisted skirt will be in keeping with the rule of thirds too, so every petite girl should have one of those in her wardrobe. Simply tuck a blouse into it or wear a crop top with a longer skirt. Alterations are not needed when it comes to purchasing petite clothing however occasional amendments will be required in some circumstances, as there is no one-size that fits all. Read DIY alterations every petite woman should know part 1 & Part 2 to get more information. You will find that petite jersey dresses never require alterations due to the stretch in the fabric that molds to any frame.
The Sleeve Length
You might think that the sleeve length of your outfit doesn't matter much, but you’d be wrong! The sleeve length you choose can make a big difference to your outfit. It all depends on how comfortable you are with your arms, and the way you’ve split your outfit (this is where you’d use the rule of thirds). If you’re concerned about your upper arms, wearing short sleeves that cut you off at the widest part of the arm should be avoided.. Three quarter length sleeves are universally flattering as they expose the slimmest part of our arms. Of course you can choose to wear sleeveless dresses with a light cardigan sleeve that finishes at the wrist.
The Shoes You Wear
As you finish off your outfit, you’ll want to pay close attention to the shoes that you choose. There are a wide range of styles petite ladies can get away with, but also some styles they should avoid too. As a general rule, you can never have too many pairs of heels or wedges when you’re petite. You should avoid shoes with straps that cut you off around the ankle. They’ll make your legs look shorter! Having shoes in the same colour as your bottoms will elongate your legs further, read our blog on petite women mastering great heights with heels. If you’re wearing a dress with bare legs, nude heeled shoes are a must! Petite girls should avoid any shoes that are deemed chunky, and mid calf boots. Go for an ankle boot with a low shaft or something that reaches the knee.
If you’d rather not totter around in heels all of the time, simply choose a pair of peep toe flats or flats with a point. They’ll elongate you. Don’t spend lots of time on your outfit and then neglect to pick the best pair of shoes!