The petite population is often bombarded with advice and rules for dressing to our body type. But the truth is a lot of these rules and guidelines are just begging to be challenged and, with the right bit of insight, you can feel confident blazing your own fashion path and flaunting your stylishness.
The Top Ten Petite Fashion Rules That Are Begging To Be Broken:
- Avoid Oversized, Flowing Clothing
- Avoid Belts
- No Big Prints or Patterns
- No Midi-skirts
- Always Wear Heels
- No Wide Leg Trousers
- Don’t Wear Maxi Skirts or Maxi Dresses
- Don’t Try to Copy “It Girl” Fashion
- Don’t Carry Oversized Bags
- No Knee High Boots
Guidelines set for petite women are often bold, blanket statements that can’t possibly apply to all petite body types and usually emphasize one style of dressing. Not all petite women want to dress alike, so it’s important to realize it is absolutely okay to diverge from these standards in order to suit your tastes.
The trick to breaking these “rules” for petite style is knowing how to modify them to achieve on-trend outfits. Read on to find out just how to break the petite fashion mold and look great doing it.
1. Avoid Oversized, Flowing Garments
Big, oversized clothing goes in and out of style, but as a petite we are usually doing everything we can to find clothes that aren’t too big for our frames! So how do we still keep up with the latest fashion trends but dress to flatter?
It’s critical to balance the look so it doesn’t look like you’re playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes or like you just rolled out a bed in your pajamas. Little modifications can make all the difference.
Strategically paired articles or accessories can allow you to pull off an oversized garment with ease. For example, if you are wearing a billowy blouse, wear a jacket or blazer over the top. A voluminous top can make our shoulders look boxy and a particularly floaty fabric can make us look like we are swimming in our clothes if we don’t tame it with the addition of a more structured element.
If you are wanting to try a bulkier garment as a bottom, such as boyfriend jeans, there are simple tricks you can use to nail it as a petite. Cuff the hem of the jeans at your ankles in order to visually draw the appearance of the bulk inwards and upwards. Or, find a fit that isn’t too relaxed and pair it with a slim fitting shirt to balance the bulk.
The trick is truly to balance baggy items with a slim counterpart, like parachute pants with a slim tank top, or skinny jeans with a billowing blouse. When in doubt, you can always tailor an item so it is made for your proportions but still maintains that “boyfriend” look.
2. Avoid Belts
This rule was probably created with the best intentions, but it’s too wide-sweeping to be practical. Are we expected just to never ever wear a belt with an outfit? Why?
The idea behind this is that belts will create a horizontal line, which segments our petite body into sections. Usually, it isn’t ideal to have our outfit divided into sectional blocks, as this will make proportions look shorter. An unbroken line of color from head to toe will give an illusion of length, and so a belt will spoil this effect.
However, belts certainly have their place in the petite girl’s wardrobe. If you would like to wear anything that has volume, such as a flowy dress or a looser top, a belt at your waist will draw the fabric in and give the outfit a more fitted look. Belts can add the element of structure to an outfit to keep it from looking like you just rolled out of bed in your boyfriend’s shirt.
3. Big Prints Are a No-Go
Let’s be honest: even tall, svelte women can be overwhelmed by a bold, big print. So breaking this rule will take a bit more patience and some trial and error.
If you’re wanting to rock a big print, consider pairing it with a monochromatic jacket or cardigan to lessen the print’s impact. Also look to pair brightly patterned, bold prints with plain, monochromic elements.
For example, if you want to wear a loud pair of trousers, pair it with a solid-colored, neutral shirt so the pants are less overpowering but still add an element of fun to the outfit.
4. Petites Shouldn’t Wear Midi-Length Skirts
The trick to breaking this rule is to find the right length of midi-skirt to work with your proportions. It’s true that a hemline that falls at the wrong point can create a horizontal line that shortens our appearance, but this doesn’t mean all midi-skirts fall at the same point on every type of petite female.
If you have curvier hips, a form-fitting midi can give a voluptuous silhouette, while an A-line or full circle skirt is generally flattering on everyone. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the eye will be drawn to a hemline, so you don’t want the hem to fall on the widest part of your lower leg.
When searching for the perfect midi-skirt length, find a hem that rests either just above or just below the widest part of your calf. When the hem falls at the widest part of your calf, it will make your legs look wider and bulkier and bisect you at an unflattering point which will make your legs look shorter.
Another flattering addition to a midi-skirt, if you are petite, is to find one with a front or side slit. These slits will change the focal point of the skirt, making it so eyes don’t simply fixate on the hemline. Additionally, the slit creates a vertical line that will provide the illusion of height.
It may take a bit of searching to find the right midi-skirt for your figure, but they do exist!
5. Avoid Flats and Wear Heels as Much as Possible
This rule is ridiculous simply because there is no way you could convince most petites to wear heels every single day. This fashion rule, however, seems to suggest that petites are supposed to just give up on looking fashionable on days when they don’t wear heels. I don’t think so.
While flats may not offer as much help in producing the elongating look of a heel, that doesn’t mean that shorter girls can’t look amazing in shoes without heels. Choosing a flattering flat is easier than you may think.
Oxfords with crisp, distinct lines can add a polished element to skinny jeans or short skirts, while the cut of ballet flats can actually give an elongating effect to legs due to showing more continuation of skin.
A pair of chunky boots are also a great style staple that can add an undeniable edge to a variety of outfits. Feel free to play around and find what suits your personal tastes best.
6. Don’t Wear Wide Leg Trousers
Again, the risk of a wide-leg trouser is that it can make a petite woman look like she’s swimming in fabric. However, it’s boring to think of only wearing skinny pants forever, so learning how to pull off a wide leg pant is useful.
A major consideration if you want to wear wide-leg trousers is to give careful thought to your shoes. While we threw the book at the earlier rule of only wearing heels, a wide leg trouser is one instance where a heel is truly advantageous when it comes to executing this style fashionably. That’s because it gives additional length and height which balances the width of the pant leg.
A higher waist is also ideal, as it creates a long, unified column of color which visually gives the appearance of legs for days. If you already have long legs and a shorter torso, you can still look great in wide-leg trousers, but opt for a cut that sits at your waist to balance your proportions better.
7. Petite Girls Shouldn’t Wear Maxi Skirts or Maxi Dresses
Many will have you think that the most flattering skirt length for a petite woman is any skirt sitting above the knee. This does check out on some levels, considering it can make legs look longer and make us look taller. But you can get this same effect by flipping this idea on its head.
The reason a shorter skirt makes legs look longer is that the eye is trained to follow long expanses of uniform color, such as your skin, and it will have the visual effect of elongation. So if you replace the skin with a solid colored fabric, such as a floor-length maxi skirt, you will get the same elongating effect.
It is crucial, when choosing a flattering style of maxi skirt or dress to opt for one that reaches just above your ankles. Anything shorter will spoil our desired elongation effect. We want to create as long of an uninterrupted column as possible in order to achieve the greatest lengthening effect.
If you feel like you are being swallowed by the amount of fabric of a maxi skirt, look for options that have a slit. The slit will reduce the bulk of fabric and provide a vertical line that will help move the eyes along in the same way the solid column of color does. Plus, a slit makes walking in a maxi skirt much easier.
When wearing a maxi skirt, try balancing the amount of fabric on the bottom by wearing minimal amounts of fabric on top. So if you have a long, flowing maxi skirt, pair it with a crop top or a slim racerback tank top.
8. Don’t Copy “It Girl” Fashion
While this rule generally comes from a good place, it also carries a certain negativity with it. It implies that a petite girl can’t be an “It Girl” or that we aren’t meant to be able to wear what is fashionable in these times. That simply isn’t true.
What is true is that an “it girl” fashion outfit designed for a 5’ 10” model is not going to translate perfectly to a petite frame, but it doesn’t mean that the overall vibe of the outfit or elements of it can’t be adapted to a shorter woman.
Want to wear flared jeans? Do it. But opt for slightly flared style, like a boot cut, to achieve a similar look but without getting buried by excessive fabric.
Want to wear a billowing bohemian top? Pair it with a structured element like a blazer, or cinch it at the waist with a belt to define your shape. Most top fashion trends can be modified and compromised to suit a petite frame without sacrificing the overall statement.
9. Don’t Carry Oversized Bags
Let’s face it: large bags can be super helpful. Big totes can hold almost everything we need for the day, including our laptop for work, our favorite makeup for mid-day touchups, and a healthy supply of snacks. But a big bag can also make a petite woman look dramatically misproportioned.
The problem with this rule is that it is painted in too broad of strokes. Yes, petite women should generally avoid bags that are already considered oversized for a taller woman, because they are only going to look comically oversized or like we are struggling to carry it. But you can achieve the look of a big bag without looking burdened by it.
So if you would like to carry a bag that can handle it all and gives the same general appearance of a large tote, consider opting for a medium-sized tote, a satchel, or even a medium-sized backpack. It’s key to find the size that works best with your proportions.
In general, the larger the bag, the smaller the holder will appear. But it’s impractical to think a petite woman will only use a small clutch or evening bag. A medium bag, however, can be perfectly acceptable.
The biggest takeaway is to consider your own personal tastes and personality. Personality will always overrule any firm fashion guideline. If you want to carry a big tote because it suits you and makes you happy, then do it! Just because you have a shorter stature, it doesn’t mean your personality is small too.
10. No Knee High Boots
It might seem like knee-high boots are restricted to the realm of lengthy legged models, but this simply isn’t the case. Petite women can still rock knee-high boots with a few simple tips.
One simple trick is to pair knee-high boots with a short skirt or shorts because showing a bit of skin will make your legs look longer. Conversely, if you bury the top of the boots with a sea of fabric, your legs will end up looking shorter.
If you are especially concerned about your legs looking shorter than your torso, choose a short skirt or pair of shorts that are high-waisted. This will effectively shorten your torso and elongate your legs.
If the knee-high boot has a heel, this is a slam dunk. The heel will function the same as a regular heel in regards to giving more sculpted legs and giving the look of an extra-long leg.
When in doubt, pair your boot with a pant in a matching color. This will create an uninterrupted column of color from your feet to your waist, giving the illusion of longer legs.
As you can see, while fashion experts would have you believe that some styles out out-of-bounds for petites, it’s really just about finding fashionable work-arounds. And, with the help of the tips and tricks provided above, all of you petites ladies out there will be able to smash these supposedly unbreakable rules and look like a million bucks doing it.