All the essential style rules for petite fashionistas
On the catwalks of the big four fashion weeks, willowy models with impossibly long limbs show off the latest high-end collections and somehow manage to make even the weirdest designs look good.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the average height of a woman in the UK is 5ft 3, which falls into what is generally defined as the petite category, according to retailers.
Yet the majority of clothing is produced in standard sizes, and as anyone who’s found themselves drowning in a maxi dress or pair of way-too-long trousers knows, there’s a big difference when it comes to shopping for shorties.
Still, there are lots of amazing options to choose from if you know what you’re looking for, and what suits a smaller frame. Here, fashion experts share the petite styling rules they live by…
Opt for cropped
“One of the most important rules petites must remember when dressing, is to accentuate their waist to help create shape in their look,” says Megan Watkins, head stylist at SilkFred.
“So, making sure you have a good choice of cropped tops, cropped T-shirts and cropped blouses is key. This especially helps those with shorter torsos.”
That doesn’t mean you have to expose your midriff – teaming a cropped top with a high-waisted skirt or trousers (more on those later) is just as effective.
Fashion blogger Joanne Christina Lewis aka Petite Side of Style is a big fan of cropped bottoms, too: “Think straight jeans and ballet pumps with a fitted top. Showing off the ankle gives the illusion of longer legs.”
Boost your height with heels
Not everyone wants to be tottering around on stilettos all the time, but a chunky heel is more manageable if you want to add some height.
“Flares and platforms are the perfect combo for lengthening those legs,” says Lewis. “It’s a real Seventies vibe, and platform heels are so comfortable.”
Watkins recommends: “Dresses are hugely flattering for petite frames. When wearing dresses which are shorter than maxi length, nude heels which are close to your skin tone, are recommended to help elongate your legs.”
High waisted helps
“Bella Hadid might be making low-rise jeans her new go-to, but this cut of jean or trouser is a big no-no for petite frames, as this will shorten the legs,” says Watkins.
“High-waisted trousers and skirts will help to elongate your bottom half, and give the illusion of longer legs.”
She also advises against dropped waist jumpsuits and dresses: “Whilst they are in fashion and give that cool but casual look, this silhouette should be avoided by petites, as it will drown your figure instead of elongating it.”
Create a column of colour
Watkins is a big fan of frocks for shorter ladies, whether mini, midi or maxi: “Dresses are hugely flattering for petites, because they apply many of the ‘rules’ for petite styling, such as creating a column of colour to give the illusion of a vertical line.”
On the other hand, she doesn’t recommend wearing several contrasting colours from head to toe.
“Whilst we all suit different colours depending upon our complexions and personalities, petites should avoid colour blocking their outfits, as this can make you appear shorter,” she says. “Instead choose to wear an outfit consisting of one colour in different shades or tones.”
Tailor your trousers
If you haven’t got a sewing machine, you can get trousers hemmed by a tailor fairly cheaply, or use Bondaweb, an adhesive tape that’s activated by the heat from an iron.
Lewis says: “Bondaweb is a great alternative for doing it yourself if you’ve not had time to go to the tailors, or you’ve ordered an item last minute. I use this all the time, as I find it hard to find stylish petite trousers.”
Be careful with oversized styles
You don’t have to avoid oversized clothing entirely – it’s bang on trend after all – but be careful not to go overboard.
“Don’t layer excessively and only size up once, to avoid looking like the clothes are drowning you,” Lewis says.
Watkins agrees: “Petites can still rock an oversized look by creating depth and figure-hugging points, such as tucking one half of an oversized top into high-waisted jeans with a belt.”
The same goes for accessories, in particular bags, she adds: “Large accessories can drown you out. Absolute bonus that a mini bag is the accessory of the season.”
Break the rules
While our experts agree on ways to make the most of a petite figure, if there’s an outfit or item you want to wear that doesn’t entirely adhere to their advice, don’t worry about it.
“Don’t feel like you have to stick to the rules,” says Lewis. “I have learnt how to wear items based on my own proportions and understanding what works well for me. Confidence is key, if you feel great in something – wear it.”
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