Updated: Apr 13, 2019
For all the petite ladies who need a little bit of guidance on how to expertly style your outfits, read my highlights from the two articles from the industry's fashion gurus. Recently, my dear friend asked me to help her get a few new items for her closet. She is petite at 5'2 feet. I had no prior experience styling a small figure, so I decided to do some research.
I had to start with the fundamental question - what is petite? I typed my keyword search, and the results surprised me, a lot! According to Wikipedia, one is petite if she/he at or below 5'3 feet. I am petite?! Being at exactly 5'3, I am, by definition, petite. Wow.
"In fashion and clothing, a petite size is a standard clothing size designed to fit women of shorter height than the average, typically 160 cm (5 ft 3 in)." Wikipedia.
Suddenly, this topic became more interesting than I originally anticipated. Before, I never thought to shop in petite's section or read articles on how to style if one is small. This discovery added new motivation and energy to my research.
I rushed to my laptop in hopes to read as much as I can on this topic. Right away I noticed many similarities across various articles and posts. Most of them stressed the importance of garments' length (which makes a lot of sense). Skirts and dresses have to stop at or above knees; pants and jeans should be high-waisted and must be cropped revealing ankles.
There is an essential point that comes up a lot and I think is crucial for petite styling. There is 1/3 -- 2/3 rule. I have never heard of it, but the rule makes sense and is easy to implement. Pants, skirts, or any bottoms should cover the 2/3 of your lower body. A top, sweater or blazer should cover the top 1/3 of your body. The main idea is to avoid dividing your body into halves as that highlights the short figure.
I quickly scanned my mind identifying whether or not I follow any of these basic rules. Right away, skinny cropped jeans came to my mind. I love the look of cropped pants with high heels. It is my go-to easy to pull off look. Also, very often I tuck in my tops or blouses which helps to satisfy 2/3 -- 1/3 rule. Perfect!
Let's now focus on the two articles that stood out to me the most.
The first article is Simple styling tips for petite girls by Jess Edwards, Cosmopolitan. The article is full of suggestions and tips on what NOT to do. The author does not belabor the points and uses a few quick sentences to describe each issue and follow up with examples.
The article stresses the point of garments' length. No matter what it is, petite ladies must keep in mind the length of pants, skirts, and dresses. The skirt length should stop at knees or above. If you love long dresses, get a dress with a side slit. If a dress has long sleeves, the article suggests rolling the sleeves up.
When it comes to pants, the length is not the only concern. The fit and width of pants is critical. For petite sizes, pants must be fitted and not wide-leg. We want to create a slimming lengthening look. Ideal pants should be cropped revealing your ankles, again elongating your legs.
Jackets, blazers, and sweaters are great layering pieces and can improve any outfit. These items need to be short, structured and tailored. I suggest investing in a slightly more expensive item that is of good quality and has some edge.
The second articles that caught my eye is 12 Things Short Girls Can Wear Instead of These Trends by Michelle Scanga, WhoWhatWear. This article is fantastic because it describes what does NOT work for petite sizes while also offering alternatives. I loved it!
The article puts a lot of emphasis on length whether that is pants, skirts, dresses or jackets. The shorter, the better. For skirts and dresses, petite ladies should go for mini skirts or skirts that stop above knees. When it comes to jackets, they need to be short too.
The author also suggests structured tops, blazers, and sweaters - nothing boxy looking with no shape. Clothing items that are structured allow us to create the look we desire: accent higher waistline elongating the hips and legs. High-rise pants and jeans should be your best friends.
Vertical stripes on a blouse or jacket is a great tool that creates an illusion of length. Another trick is V-neck tops as they also create an illusion of slimmer figure drawing attention to the top part of your body.
These two articles and the rest of my research, points to these three critical rules for petite ladies:
Short is good: It seems that the shorter the skirt, the better you will look -- do not overdo it though. Cropped skinny pants are perfect at creating an illusion of length.
The tighter, the better: Do not wear bulky or boxy items as they will make you look shorter. Buy things that are more tailored to your body to accent the waistline. Do not buy wide-leg pants or jump-suits instead opt-out for slimmer cuts.
Accent higher waistline: High-rise jeans or pants should be staple items in your wardrobe. They help create length and emphasize the waistline.
So here we have it — a few easy tips to follow if you are petite. I would suggest going through your closet identifying items that do not work for your body type. A careful review will help you get rid of old things, items that do not work nor fit.
After you are done with the closet cleaning, critically examine your wardrobe to notice any gaps you have (meaning wardrobe staple items). Maybe you need a stylish jacket or a new pair of jeans. Take a note and next time you shop look for these specific items to fill up the wardrobe's gaps.
I suggest you go for neutral colors when you create your basics wardrobe as it is easier to mix and match. Brown, navy, tan, grey, and olive are versatile colors that work well together. Check out my post on wardrobe basics if you need more guidance identifying the must-have items.
Once you have all the basic, you can start adding a few bright and exciting pieces like a blue or coral blouse or patterned cropped pants. I suggest you go easy on the colors and add one item at a time. If you need help identifying colors that work together, check out my post How to Pair Colors.
Good luck! I am off to shop for my friend!
P.S. if you need more examples, just check out Reese Witherspoon's looks - she is the best (in my opinion) when it comes to petite styling.