How To Rock the Sartorial World as a Petite: Petite Tips, Tricks & Shopping

In the eyes of a petite gal, most assume their clothes will never fit well.  Petites have limited in-store shopping which leads to the purchase of clothing that does not fit well.

So what is petite, anyway?

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
“Average” sized female clothing is designed for a woman at least 165 cm (5 ft 5 in) tall (without shoes) and will not fit a woman of significantly shorter height well. Even if the bust, waist and hip circumferences are appropriate, the sleeve lengths, leg inseam lengths and vertical torso measurements (such as the back length and bust-waist length) must be altered significantly to fit well. 
Non-petite size dresses cannot be easily altered to produce the equivalent petite size, since, in general, these lengths (particularly the critical torso measurements) cannot be altered without introducing an unsightly seam. Significant errors in the torso measurements will make a well-fitted look impossible (e.g., if the bust-point darts are off by three inches).

So to boil it down…


Knowing this, how does a petite gal shop?

Here’s a guide to not only find the sizes made for you, but the shapes, silhouettes & styles that will make you look and feel like a million bucks.

Silhouettes To Fit & Flatter:


  1. A straight leg trouser will create legs for days.
  2. Denim is best when worn: skinny, slim, boot cut or flare (hemmed to the floor & matched with platforms).
  3. An a-line skirt that hits above the knee.


  1. A halter will show off and broaden the shoulders.
  2. Keep the bodice fitted as to avoid any extra volume (which can create the illusion of being larger then you are and getting swallowed up by your clothing).
  3. The wrap dress is a very good friend of yours.


  1. Shoes and boots with height (aka: wedges, platforms, flatforms, stilettos…).
  2. Skin-tone colored shoes to lengthen the leg.
  3. Peep toes and pumps open through the ankle and top of foot up the top are perfect for lengthening the leg.


  1. Vertical Stripes, dark contrast paneling or tuxedo stripes will only elongate your silhouette.
  2. Flattering prints are small to medium in size, are proportion appropriate and work wonders on distracting from any not so perfect features.
  3. Stay away from bold horizontal stripes and color blocking as the striping can visually cut your silhouette.


  1. You may be petite in the bustline but that does NOT mean  you must sacrifice feminine lingerie with the perfect fit.  The Little Bra Company covers a full range of sizes from 28-34 A-C
  2. On the other hand, you may be petite in height but big in personalty with your décolletage.  Soma covers sizes from A-G.
  3. Shapewear is key for any shape or size so not to be forgotten for the petite gal.  Shapewear camis tucked into denim under a tee hide muffin top.  Shapewear bikeshorts smooth the hip and thigh – perfect when wearing a fitted dress or pencil skirt.  Invest in shapewear.  It should be a mainstay in your wardrobe.


  1. Long pendant necklaces will create the illusion of height.  Although, be careful they do not hit your waist point, as this can overwhelm and shorten you instead.  Most can be easily adjusted to shorter or longer with extenders.
  2. Try a statement necklace, earring or cuff.  Choose one piece not 3.  The key with petites is to not overwhelm the body.
  3. Delicate layering of bracelets or necklaces is so flattering to the petite silhouette.


  1. No knee-length boots as they can actually make you look shorter.
  2. No cuffs- they take inches off your height!
  3. No bulky pockets- we want clean slim lines!
  4. No capris with wide leg openings- cuts the leg and FRUMPY!
  5. No shin-length a-line skirts- Yikes!!!!
  6. No oversized or super-long scarves-  too much fabric drowns out the petite frame.
  7. No ankle strap, lace-up shoes or ankle boots in high contract colors as they will cut off your foot making your leg appear shorter.

Tricks & Tailoring: 

First rule of thumb when you are a petite is to find a fabulous yet reasonably priced tailor…this is an ASAP!

1.  Take a trip to the girls and teen departments.  The clothing lines are cut for a pre-teens and the jr. silhouette.  Perfect for a petite and most times at a fraction of the cost!  Fun for trendy pieces that you do not want to invest alot of money.
2.  Sleeves hemmed to right above the wrist bone is the perfect length for a petite jacket, dress or top.
3.  Skirt lengths should be hemmed to above the knee.  Seeing the indentation of knee to thigh is the most flattering part of the leg AND slims calves!
4.  Don’t forget to accessorize.  Although you may be small in stature there are so many beautiful scarves, jewelry, bags and hats.  Most important is to watch that the size of the accessory does not overwhelm your frame making you appear smaller than you are.

Where to Shop for Petites:

Ann Taylor
J Crew
Banana Republic
Many European Designers (especially French and Italian cut small)
Most of the denim lines carry petites online (J Brand, Paige, Joe’s, NYD’s)


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