The Petites Girl’s Guide to Choosing the Best Dresses

Floral Petite Dress

Being petite comes with it’s pluses, but it also means that it can be a little harder to find the right clothes to fit your figure correctly, especially dresses. Unless you’re buying a the right kind of styles, dresses can often make us petite girls look boxy or look as if we are being smothered by cloth.

To combat this problem, it’s important for all shorter ladies to know the six best dresses for petite girls. They are:

  1. Fit and flare dresses
  2. Wrap dresses
  3. Strappy minis
  4. Empire waist dresses
  5. Sheath dresses
  6. Maxi dresses
  7. Midi dresses

Finding dresses to fit your petite body should not feel like a chore. Just as long as you keep in mind some different factors, you shouldn’t have to worry about needing to wear styles with stilts all of the time just so that your dress provides you with a flattering fit. Read on to find a petite girl’s guide to choosing the best dresses.

Choosing the Best Dresses

Most dresses in stores are made to fit women of the average height of 5’4″, so when you are looking for a dress for a petite figure, you will run into the problem of them being too long or having the waist look like a drop waist. Even the petite section of stores is made to fit women who are at the average petite height of 5’3″, so if you are under that, you may still run into issues.

When shopping for the best dresses for your frame, you want to find ones that will accentuate your assets without without appearing unflattering in any way. Luckily, there are a few things you can look out for when choosing a dress.

  • Fitted or semi-fitted dresses – Looser fitting dresses can drown you in clothe if you don’t employ tricks, like pairing them with a belt to cinch in the waist
  • Smaller prints – All-over large prints can overwhelm your frame, so when shopping for a dress with an all-over print, it’s probably best to opt for prints smaller than your fist
  • V-Necks – This neckline draws the eyes’ attention up towards the face
  • Vertical lines – These long lines help give the illusion of more length
  • Adjustable straps – This will allow you to adjust your dress to the right length
  • Add accessories – Adding necklaces, belts, jackets, etc. is another way to make your outfit pop

1. Fit and Flare Dresses

Also known as A-line or skater dresses, fit and flare dresses are very flattering for a petite frame. A fit and flare is a dress that is fitted through the waist and then flares out at the hips. This allows you to show off your shape without making you look boxy.

If you want to give the illusion that you have longer legs, find an A-line dress that hits just above the knee. Then, pair your skirt with an adorable pair of flats or even a cute pair of boots.

Another bonus of the fit and flare is that they are very forgiving to the lower body. The fit can draw attention to your face while the flare can cover up any stomach or thigh insecurities. This style of dress is also perfect for a pear-shaped petite girl.

2. Wrap Dresses

The wrap dress was invented by the fashion designer, Diane Fon Furstenburg in the ’70s and has been a popular staple in women’s wardrobes ever since. The good news is that they are especially flattering on a petite woman’s frame. When finding the best dresses, petite girls should look for ones that define the waist and wrap dresses do just that.

A wrap dress cinches on the smallest part of the waist to enhance the bust and slim the hips. This is an excellent option for women who are looking to either add curves or flatter their pear-shape frame. Even if you have an apple-shaped frame with no waist, the wrap dress will create the illusion of one.

In addition, finding a wrap dress with a plunging neckline will help a shorter torso look lengthened. Another plus about wrap dresses is that they can be worn for any occasion, making them the perfect option for petite girls.

3.  Strappy Mini Dress

Frequently, when a petite girl wears a dress that doesn’t properly fit, an issue they run into is the shoulders not fitting where they should which causes the armpits be too loose. If the shoulders are too loose, it can result in you looking bulky and shrunken.

Choosing a strappy dress allows you to avoid running into this problem. Also, if the straps are adjustable, that is an added bonus for torsos that are different lengths.

A mini dress is a perfect length for shorter girls. It will hit three to four inches above the knees and elongate the legs while being very flattering. A benefit of having shorter legs is that when you wear a shorter dress, it doesn’t look as risqué as if you had long legs. 

So, take advantage of that asset and rock a beautiful strappy mini dress that will be bound to flatter your shape.

4.  Empire Waist Dress

An empire waist dress is similar to the fit and flare, but instead of it flaring out at the waist and down, it flares underneath the bust. This dress creates a high-waisted appearance that is very flattering on a petite body.

As a petite girl, you don’t want to cut your figure in half. Instead, you want to choose dresses that have a higher waistline that helps elongate your legs. This is why the fit and flare and empire waist dresses are a perfect match for your body. 

If you are a petite girl that has an apple or pear shape, empire waist dresses are fantastic for:

  • Camouflaging the midsection, if that is a problem area
  • Adding shape
  • Elongating the legs

5. Sheath Dresses

A sheath dress is a fitted, straight dress that does not have a waist seam. This is a form-fitting dress that contours the body and complements those who have a pear shape body.  Although this style dress is not as forgiving of the midsection as the other dresses that we have mentioned, it is a great layering dress that can be paired with a jacket.

Because sheath dresses are an excellent option for layering, they are a very versatile dress for all seasons and occasions.

When layering a sheath dress, you do not want to:

  • Add bulky layers underneath
  • Add too many different colors
  • Mix prints

Some great options for layering are:

  • Adding a collared shirt underneath
  • Adding a turtleneck underneath
  • Adding a leather or denim jacket 
  • Adding a cardigan
  • Adding a blazer
  • Accessorizing with a silk scarf

6. Maxi Dress

Many petite women think they have to avoid maxi dresses because they’ll either be too long or make them look shorter. In truth, petites can absolutely include maxi dress in their wardrobe when done right. Maxis are a great staple to have because they can be worn for different occasions and seasons.

Petite girls are often told they should wear shorter dresses that can give the illusion of having longer legs, but long dresses can extend your figure and be flattering, too. A great way to lengthen your body is by adding a line of colors and patterns. In addition, maxi dresses also provide that continuous look.

When finding the perfect maxi dress, there are a couple of things you need to consider:

  • Length – Maxi dresses are made to be long, but you don’t want a length that drag.
  • Pattern – Opt for a solid color or prints that are smaller than your fist. This is to make it look like you are not drowning in fabric.  

To find the right length of maxi dress for your petite frame, you’ll have to shop in a department that is specifically designed for petite figures – ASOS, Nordstrom, and Macy’s are good choices. If you find a maxi dress that is still too long, consider taking it to a tailor so that they can work some magic.

Maxi dresses that have a side slit look great on petite girls because revealing some leg shows that you are not being drowned by the dress. Another great option is a hi-low maxi dress that allows you to show off some leg while having the feeling of a full-length dress.

Just like any other dress for petite girls, the waistline matters. You don’t want a waistline that cuts you in half. Instead, find a maxi dress that has a waistline that is below the bust or above the waist.

7. Midi Dresses

A midi dress is a dress that ends round mid-calf; this is a tricky dress for petite girls to wear because this length can often be shortening to the body. But, the midi can be a terrific choice for the petite figure if chosen correctly.

When choosing a midi dress, consider the following:

  • Pick fabrics that are light and airy that don’t completely cover the legs. Lace is a good example of the right type of fabric because you can see the leg through the lace. This is because it can distract people from the line formed around the calves.
  • Another good option for a midi dress is having a slit to show the leg. This is extra beneficial when you are walking or sitting.
  • Make a point to find a flattering hemline. In particular, look to for a hem that hits either just above or just below the widest part of your calf.
  • Lastly, a great way to rock a midi dress is by having one that has asymmetrical hems, which creates a new aspect of your proportions.  

Dos and Don’ts When Choosing Dresses

Unfortunately, not all styles flatter the petite frame, so when choosing dresses, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Go For High Waists over Dropped Waists

As we have mentioned, if you are shorter, you want to avoid cutting your frame in half. Instead, you’ll want to have your dresses with a waist that is below the bust or high-waisted.

Also, when it comes to waists, you want to avoid a dropped waist – this is a loosely-fitted dress that is loose from the shoulder to the hips. That’s because this drop waist can make you look more compact. However, if you do choose to go for a drop waist because they can be forgiving to the midsection, you can layer them with a jacket or cardigan to make the look more flattering.

Choose the Right Prints and Stripes

When choosing prints, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing it wisely. That doesn’t mean avoiding big prints altogether, but it does mean that you you need to think about how to make those big prints work with your petite size.

In addition, it’s probably best if you opt for vertical strips when choosing dresses, since they will work to give the illusion of added height where horizontal stripes will create an illusion that you are wider rather than taller.

Wear Belts Wisely

We have already established that petites can wear belts, but the trick is to do it the right way. Belts are a great accessory to add to your dress, but there are certain things that you have to consider in order to wear them fashionably. If you want to pair your dress with a belt, you should be mindful of the width, and one great trick it to place it above your waist to allow you to appear longer. Also keep in mind, when you wear a thick belt, it’s best to choosing one that’s monochromatic, and blends into your outfit so that it doesn’t overwhelm your look and make you seem shorter.

Make Oversized Styles Work for Your Petite Height

Oversized dresses, like t-shirt dresses or tunic dresses, can make you look like you’re swimming in the fabric as well make you look boxy because there isn’t much shape to them. But, jsut because you’re petite, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make oversized dresses work.

If you do find an oversized dress that you love, you can make it more flattering by adding a belt below the bust or above the waist to add some shape. You can also layer it with a denim, leather, or motto jacket.

Skirts for Petite Girls

Skirts are an excellent alternative to dresses for petite girls; they can be flattering and moved up to any part of the torso so that you can control how much or how little leg you want to show. There are an endless amount of combinations you can do with a skirt.

A suitable skirt for a petite girl should:

  • Draw attention to the upper body
  • Accentuate your assets
  • Camouflage the areas you don’t want to accentuate
  • Create an illusion of height 

High-Waisted Skirts

High-waisted skirts are the best way to elevate your waistline and make your body proportionate. The great thing about high-waisted skirts is that you can tuck in your top, which will create the illusion of having long legs.

These are also beneficial because the high waistband can create a slimming effect to your midsection and can be very forgiving. For a bonus, you can layer cardigans or jackets over your outfit to add more dimension.

A-Line Skirts

Just like A-line dresses, A-line skirts are great for the petite frame and are universally flattering to all body types. The slight flare in these skirts can make your legs look leaner, which will be a plus for those who find their legs to be a problem area. Here are some other added benefits of A-line skirts:

  • If you are petite with a reversed-triangle frame, then the shape of the A-line can balance out the shape of your broader shoulders.
  • If you have a rectangle shape, an A-line skirt with ruffles is a great way to add some curves.
  • Apple-shaped frames are suitable for the A-line flare because they camouflage the midsection. 

Maxi Skirts

Just like you don’t need to avoid maxi dresses as a petite girl, you also don’t need to avoid maxi skirts. Maxi skirts can create length with their long columns of colors and can create even more length by being pulled up and paired with heels.  

A great way to avoid having the fabric of a maxi smother you is by pairing it with a crop top since the long skirt added with a crop top can help draw attention upwards.

Asymmetrical-Hemmed Skirts

An asymmetrical-hemmed skirt has multiple lengths to it. It can be shorter in the front while being longer in the back. The uneven hemline prevents the attention from being drawn to areas that make the legs appear shorter.

Skirts that have a straight horizontal line across the calves can shorten the legs. So when you have an asymmetrical skirt that is calf length, it won’t be as noticeable. 


If you’re still struggling to find a great fitting dress even after following all of these tips then it might be time to consider working with a tailor.

Finding a tailor is very beneficial for petite girls because they can make a dress fit your figure beautifully. If a dress is too long or too big, it can completely throw off the way it is supposed to look and can result in the dress making you look boxy and smothered.

A tailor can do many things including:

  • Shorten a maxi dress
  • Bring the hem above the knee
  • Shorten sleeves
  • Narrow shoulders and reduce neck opening width
  • Lift the neckline
  • Resize armholes
  • Raise the waistline


There is no reason for a petite woman to shy away from dresses because there are plenty of gorgeous options available. With these tips, you can have a varied wardrobe with many dresses that look fantastic on you.

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