We’re all about embracing your body for what it is—and loving every inch of your curves (or lack thereof). But we’re also staunch believers in dressing in a way that makes you feel your best and giving zero f*cks about what anyone else thinks. So, with ourselves and our short friends in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of 11 styling tips that will only emphasize your petite frame and help you take up the space that you deserve. For help, we asked a fashion expert at Anthropologie—a brand we love, especially because there are currently more than 800 petite items in inventory—for help. Don’t worry, no one here will tell you to try six-inch heels, but we will help you figure out a way to dress that can help you make the most of what you're working with.
11 Styling Tips All Short Women Should Live By
V-Necks and Jumpsuits are your Friend
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Meet the Expert
Heather Mineau is Anthropologie Divisional Merchandise Manager for Women’s Apparel. As a leader in growing the sales volume and profit for the women's fashion category, her job is to interpret customer and competitive information. Then her mission is to not only use this information to impact product development, but also to collaborate with internal talent and external partnerships.
1. Show Some Ankle
If you think this is our clever way of hinting that you should avoid wearing pants that are too long for you, you’re right. Aside from steering you clear of messy, dragging hems and bunched skinny jeans, showing just a sliver of ankle between the end of your pants and the beginning of your boots or sneakers will trick others into thinking you’re at least 5’6”...even if you’re just shy of 4’8”.
2. Stray from Your Straight-Leg Jeans
That said, you don’t only have to stick to super-slim denim—so long as it can easily be altered. We’re huge fans of the current split-hem trend, since it’s not quite a bell bottom but can be worn with a few different styles of shoes, from pointy flats to round-toe booties. Not a fan of a slim-leg silhouette? Mineau recommends a strategically chosen pair to "highlight your most flattering areas with high-waist, wide-leg denim." And, if you opt for a pair that's too long, any tailor should be able to shorten this style and extend the split-hem detail, without altering the impact of the silhouette. Which, as you might know, isn’t always the case with flares.
3. Go for a Crop Top
Before you roll your eyes and keep scrolling—hear us out! We’re not saying you need to bare your belly button at all times. Instead, try out tops that hit no lower than your hip bones. This will even out the proportion between your torso and your legs, which is something a tunic cannot do. Pair yours with high-waist jeans or even a skirt that’s cut a little higher on the hip to really nail this look.
4. Vertical Stripes Are Your BFF
We all love a classic Breton stripe top (mostly because it makes us feel like we’re on vacay in Paris), but your petite frame will benefit more from stripes that extend from head to toe, rather than shoulder to shoulder. "Vertical stripes create the perfect illusion and add height," says Mineau. Not into an all-over stripe? Test out a pair of trousers with a tuxedo stripe down the side, which will offer the same benefit in a much simpler effect.
5. Skip Shapeless Dresses (and Tops)
To risk sounding like your mother, sack dresses don't do much in the way of flattering a more petite figure. It’s important to know which trends and pieces work for your stature and unfortunately, these roomy dresses will work against you by absolutely swallowing you in fabric. You’re actually better off with wrap details, slim sheaths or fit-and-flare numbers that won’t totally engulf you.
6. Roll Up Your Sleeves
If shirtsleeves tend to extend a few inches below your wrist, you risk looking sloppy the second your step out the door. The easy fix here is just to roll those sleeves up to your mid-arm or elbow. Whether you go for neat folds or a haphazard push, roll, scrunch method, you’ll no longer be living in the shadows of the generous sleeves of your button-down shirt. Similar to our tip on showing some ankle, this hint of skin will make your arms appear longer than they are—and thus add a few visual inches to your overall appearance.
7. Cinch Your Waist
Similar to tip #3 above, drawing attention to the slimmest part of your body will make almost any item look like it was tailor-made for you. Whether you opt for a blazer with a smart built-in cincher, you add a leather belt to the waist of your go-to fit-and-flare dress or simply opt for a blouse that’s slightly more fitted through the mid-section, there are a plethora of ways to test out this flattering trick.
8. Embrace Jumpsuits
OK, this one isn’t as much of a tip as it is a suggestion: Put on a jumpsuit and never look back. As our styling expert Mineau says, "Not only are jumpsuits an easy outfit but they create one long vertical line." Surprisingly easy to wear—even if you’re petite—they do a splendid job of offering the appearance of a perfectly proportionate frame. (Yup, even if you feel that you might have super short legs. Trust us, you don’t.) They’re easy to be tailored and there’s something so inherently cool about a jumpsuit.
9. Skip Square Necklines & Opt for V-Necks
As you’ve probably picked up on by now, an item of clothing that allows the eye to move along your figure vertically is bound to be the most flattering. But harsh lines, like the right angles that compose a square-neck, often do the opposite. In layman's terms, it could make your torso look shorter. So choose a V-neck or even a scoop neck instead. "V-necks are flattering on all body types and create height," Mineau says. "This is a total winner." Here’s to adding a few extra inches where they matter most.
10. Make Minis Your Signature
You don’t have to ditch your favorite midis and maxis, but just know that anything that hits three or more inches above your knee will do wonders for lengthening your legs. (Mineau recommends buying specifically petite pieces, so that the skirt length hits at the right place on your leg.) And just like the gorgeous gal above, you can rock your dress with knee-high boots to still reap those benefits—just stay away from anything that cuts off your leg near the ankle. For now, consider booties and ankle-wrap sandals to be off-limits with your flirtiest frocks.
11. Delight in the Wedge Heel
Wedge heels are a walkable alternative to wearing ballet flats with arch support all summer; in both neutrals and hot colors, these will be your favorite shoes to slip on when you want to look a little dressy without going full-on evening glam. For petites, a little platform in the front makes a heel height of up to three inches seem like NBD.
Why You Should Trust Us
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. Suitcases to sex toys, she's got an opinion on what's best. Dana is based in Los Angeles; her work has also appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue and The New York Times. Check her out on Instagram and LinkedIn.
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