Who is Petite? Fashion brands categorize a woman to be petite if she is of a height of 5 feet 3 inches and below. In short, a petite is a short person. A Petite woman has a smaller bone structure than the majority of other women in their area.
There are clothing brands that cater to petite sizes and this is a relief to many small-statured women who have difficulty finding fitting clothes because of their short frame with narrow shoulders, short torso, legs and arms. If you have no access to these brands, you might have to look at clothes meant for taller women and select only the styles that suit this body type.
Dictionary says Petite is “having a small figure”. That is nice and being ‘Short’ is cute but most short people don’t fancy that word when it refers to themselves. They don’t want cute. They want a longer leaner look, which is percieved to be more sophisticated.
So, the idea of this post is to point out some tips to make a petite person look slender and taller.
There are many ways you can create this illusion of tallness and thinness in a short stature. You need clothes and accessories that will elongate your legs and torso. You also want clothes that do not overwhelm your smaller frame – usually they are all too large or too long.
The first and foremost dressing tip for a petite person is to wear clothes that fit well – There is no other body type that this rule fits so well. Tailored clothes are best in all forms. You need to reduce any and every bulk added to the body. No un-necessary ruffles, no big oversized collars, no exaggerated accessories. Alter your clothes to make them fit better.
Best Silhouette for Petite body shape
The best dress silhouettes for a petite bodyshape are Sheath and A-line silhouettes. A mermaid silhouette is also good. Choose simple and minimalist silhouettes and Say ‘No’ to all baggy clothing. You can checkout this post on basic dress silhouettes here.
Choose garments with vertical fashion design lines that are unbroken. This can include vertical stripes or princess lines, zippers and panel stitching, button down plackets etc. You can learn all about the design lines here.
Draped clothes with lots of fabric, lots of pleats etc are all bulky. All these excess fabric will overpower the small frame of the petite woman. The kind of ruffles and gathers on a big ball gown is the last thing your small shape needs. Simple fashion designs with a fitting design is preferred.
Best top wear for Petites
Oversized long tops are not good for this body type. No shapeless tops either. Or tops made of bulky, chunky knits or faux fur. Choose body skimming fitted or semi fitted tops with hems that fall to the top of the hip.
Choose tops and t-shirts with long straight sleeves.
If you think long jackets are going to make you look long, that is not right. The long loose type jackets and coats and cardigans can overwhelm your shape and make you look lost. Short fitted jackets can make you look slender.
No shoulder pads (They add extra width to the shoulders) or big exaggerated sleeves, puffy sleeves – these create a broadness which is counter productive to the look you want to achieve, that of leanness and length.
Related post : Different types of tops.
Best Colors for petite bodyshape
Colors in sharp contrast for top wear and bottom wear will cut the body across the middle and make a petite look even shorter.
Choose clothes with the same colour for top and bottom. You can use mono-chromatic tones – subtly varying shades of the same color. This will give a look of long length to the whole torso. A lighter tone for the top and a darker shade for the bottom.
Light colors like white, light blue, light yellow and pastel colors like baby pink, will shorten you. You can combine it with vertical lines to neutralize this effect.
Dark colors will give you an illusion of thinness and leanness. Choose navy, maroons, dark charcoal grey, dark brown, burgundy, dark emerald green, and ofcourse black for your pants/jeans. You can add vertical lines along the outer seam to make this effect doubled.
If you wear hosiery (stockings) that is the same colour as your shoe and dress, this will lengthen your appearance.
Best fabric choices for petite bodyshape
Soft and drapey fabrics are best for this body type. This includes chiffon, rayon, silk etc. Bulky and overly textured fabrics weigh down the body. So if you have an oversized chunky sweater and you have a small short body donate it to someone taller. You will look good in it only for a selfie head shot.
You can check out this post on the fabrics with texture if you are unsure of what to avoid.
Avoid very bold prints on clothes with vivid contrasts. Loud big prints can make the petite person look lost. Use scaled down embroidery and other embellishments.
Best type of Pants and Jeans for petite bodyshape
Low rise ankle length cigarette pants and skinny jeans are good for petite ladies – they are form fitting and make the legs slimmer and longer. You can buy stretch denim for that good fit.
Straight cut jeans, Boot cut jeans, kick flare jeans, bell bottom jeans – all these have varying wide hems. Boot cut is my preference – width of the hem is just what you want (not too fitting nor too wide) and it is fitting along the hips and waist. Cigarette jeans is also good- it has a straight leg from the knees – and fitting along the thighs. Look at the different types of pants and different types of jeans.
Get jeans with side stripes along the vertical outer seam. If you want to wear cropped jeans wear ones with a narrow hem cropped right at the ankle.
Generally hight waist skirts and pants and jeans can create the feeling that your legs are longer and leaner – but it also creates the feeling of a shorter torso. It can look awkward on the body if you have a short torso. I think low rise jeans is better – this will elongate the torso.
Too many embellishments and embroidered pockets, or pleats and too much sequin work can make the jeans look bulkier.
For long pants, the hem of pants should end right over the top of the shoe.
Best accessories for petite body shape
Medium-sized is the keyword in choosing fashion accessories. Choose everything that is medium-sized. No oversized bags. No over sized fashion accessories – whatever it is. Medium sized is the name of the game.
Avoid wearing too many jewellery especially chunky oversized jewellery.
A belt will draw the eye to the waist and make the area look shorter; But If you want to wear a belt, the best is to use thin narrow ( 1 1/2 inch wide) belts – not the wide belts which may be in fashion but do not suit you at all.
And if you want a wide belt, do not choose belts with big prints or big embellishments. If there are prints, choose vertical prints/ vertical lines.
As to the colour of the belt, do not choose a too contrasting belt. Choose a belt in a colour that is similar to the dress you are wearing.
Wear footwear in the same colour or similar colour as your dress to look taller. Even the socks should be of similar color.
High heels and knee high or thigh high boots are all good footwear choices. Anything but flats. You want to look tall, don’t forget.
Best necklines for a petite bodyshape
V neckline is always a great choice to give you a long look; U neckline is the next best choice. No turtle necks or similar high necklines. The neckline should draw the eye up to your decolletage – so a wide sweetheart neckline can look good on a petite bodyshape.
Best skirts for a petite bodyshape
The hem of your skirt should be falling across a thin portion of your leg – around the middle of the calf or slightly above the knee. A midi length pencil skirt or lightly flared a line skirt ticks all the boxes for a petite woman ; it is figure skimming and has the best hem length.
With the same logic, Short mini skirts that end at thigh level are not great on small women. Same with floor sweeping skirts – Avoid. They will overwhelm the figure. And Avoid skirts with a lot of volume.
A slightly flared hemline can look good with a tight fit along the thighs – a form fitting midi skirt with a small flounce along the hemline or a kick flare or cigarette pants can also give the same look.
Add side slits along the outerseam of skirts /maxi dresses – this exposes your legs and give the illusion of height.
You can check out this post on the different skirt lengths.
Being petite does not necessarily mean that you are skinny. A petite person can have any of the different body shapes as described in this post on “Female body shapes“. Which makes it all the more complex- finding the right type of clothes. Check out these posts on finding the dressing styles for Inverted Triangle bodyshapes, Traingular body shapes and rectangular bodyshapes and best ways to dress if you have a tummy.