The 7 Rules of Wearing Pants When You’re 5’4’’ and Under

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Perhaps you already have your outfits down, from this summer’s trends to the perfect wedding-guest dress. But women who fall under the petite category—defined as 5’4” and under—can benefit from a few fit guidelines. We’ve cherry-picked the most useful for today’s fashion here.

rules for pants if youre short green
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1. You Can Change The Hem But Not The Knee

While hems can always be brought up, any pants with a designated knee (we’re talking skinnies or flares) need to fit right, or the knee will bulge out in a weird place well below your actual joint. Look for petite sizing for tighter fits where this is extra important; it’s less important on wider crops where the knee doesn’t need to hit in a particular spot.

Shop similar styles: Balleay Art Faux Leather Pants ($39); ZW The Sailor Cropped Flare Jeans ($49); J. Crew Petite Midrise Vintage Slim-Straight Jean ($128; $90); Spanx Faux-Leather Skinny Pants ($128)

rules for pants if youre short pajamas
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2. Consider a French rather than full tuck

Unless you have long torso in comparison to your legs, high-waist pants can end up hitting just below your boobs. If you still want to rock the look, consider a casual French tuck which will give that nipped at the waist vibe, while drawing the eye down on the sides.

Shop similar styles: Rip Curl Button-Up Shirt ($50); Madewell Lightspun Shirt ($72; $60); Banana Republic Petite Resort Shirt ($70; $59); Pilcro Voile Shirt ($98)

rules for wearing pants if youre short pjs
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3. The matching pajama set is your friend

We shorties know that wearing matching tops and pants tends to flatteringly elongate our figure, without a lot of fuss over the fit (the elastic waist of the bottoms are a gift from the fashion gods).

Shop similar styles: H&M Linen Joggers ($35); Moxy Collective Floral Pajama Pants ($58); Zara Printed Pajama-Style Pants ($70); Rebecca Taylor Wide-Leg Mesh Pants ($295)

rules for pants if youre short flare
Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

4. Don’t just roll up your jeans and call it a look

Unless you have a pair of ultra-lightweight jeans that won’t bulk up when you roll them up, and that will look intentional with a couple folds, don’t wear your jeans until you’ve properly hemmed them to about an inch above the ground while wearing the shoes you'll wear with them. Yes, this means you'll need to designate some pants for heels and others for sneakers...but it will be worth it when you have a crisp, figure-flattering trouser line.

Shop similar styles: Banana Republic Factory Rigid Straight Jean ($70; $35); J. Crew Wide-Leg Jean ($148; $74); NYDJ Relaxed Ankle Straight Leg Jeans ($109); Paige Anessa High-Rise Destructed Jeans ($239)

rules for pants if youre short high waist
Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

5. Pay attention to the rise of your pants

Find out if you are long- or short-waisted to determine if you will be more comfortable in high-, medium or low-rise pants. As a long-waisted person, I depend on high-waist trousers to lengthen the look of my shorter-inseam legs. Alternatively, if you have a medium or short waist, shop your high-waist pants in the petites department for the best fit.

Shop similar styles: Democracy Petite Straight Leg Jean ($37); Topshop Raw Hem Crop Straight Leg Petite Jeans ($75); Madewell Petite Perfect Vintage Flare Jean ($138; $103); Grlfrnd Karolina Petite High Rise Straight Crop ($195)

rules for pants if youre short cropped
Christian Vierig / Getty Images

6. Cropped pants need to look proportionally cropped

Sure it’s easy to rejoice in putting on a pair of trousers that don’t “need” to be hemmed. (In other words, aren’t puddling around your ankles.) But just because cropped pants aren’t dragging on the ground doesn’t mean they don’t require hemming to hit at the right length. Ideally, the hem should fall midway between your knee and the floor, with a little more leeway up and down for fuller pants.

Shop similar styles: Everlane The Straight-Leg Crop ($98); Liverpool Los Angeles Kelsey Tie-Waist Culottes ($98); Maeve The Colette Cropped Linen Wide-Legged Pants ($130); Corey Lynn Calter Cropped Pants ($160)

rules for pants if youre short cat
Streetstyleshooters / Getty Images

7. Don’t assume that ultra-wide pants will overpower you

Ultra-wide-leg trousers are everywhere these days, and they're not just for the long-legged among us. While a lot of heavy fabric won’t flatter shorter women, the flow of long draped pants can actually look great on petites, especially when worn with platforms or heels, and with the hem grazing the floor.

Shop similar styles: Caslon Wide-Leg Pants ($59); Everlane The Tourist Pant ($98); Pilcro The Jane Ultra-High Waist Eide-Leg Jeans ($140); Amadi Pleated Wide-Legged Pants ($160)

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...