Reader AJM dropped this one in the suggestion box:
How about styling tips for those of us who are “height challenged!” For instance there were recent posts about how everyone loves wearing scarves. I, however, feel overwhelmed by scarves because I am petite. I keep trying to look good in a scarf, but have not yet succeeded. What am I doing wrong? HELP!
First off, I MUST point you to what I consider to be the web’s best resource for fashion-minded petites: Alterations Needed. Here’s how Kelly, the mastermind behind this marvelous site, describes her mission:
“Alterations Needed is petite-sized adventures dressing well in a standard-sized world. Starting as a blog, and evolving into a community with the introduction of the Alterations Needed Forum, AN serves as a resource for petite women looking to build a wardrobe, discover the meaning of good fit, or just find style inspiration. Alterations Needed proves that petite women can dress just as well as the big girls.”
Kelly is 4’11”, a consummate shopper, and one of the most stylish women I know. OK, e-know, but still. Her site opens up topics, explores styling options, and recommends products specific to petite women. It’s a marvelous resource.
In terms of my OWN views on dressing for petites, I’m going to take a tactic that might not be what AJM was envisioning, but that I hope will still prove helpful.
DON’T feel obliged to wear heels
I adore heels. They make me feel taller and walk prouder while showcasing my lovely gams. They’re marvelous. But worn constantly, they can wear away at your bone, joint, muscle, and back health. They are not suited to all daily tasks. And, above all, they should never be considered mandatory. Especially by women who have been made to feel somehow inferior because they aren’t tall. Wear heels and wedges and platforms to your heart’s delight, my petite friends, but never feel like they are an obligation.
DON’T shy away from maxis, capris, or boots
The list of forbidden items for petite women is long and daunting. And, in my opinion, should be written down, studied for approximately 10 seconds, and then set on fire. Yes, maxi skirts and capris may make a short woman appear shorter. Yes, boots are tough to fit on a very petite frame and can make the wearer look disproportionate. My question: So the hell what? There are many ways to make yourself look taller, proportionate, and balanced and you can and should employ them when they make you feel confident, lovely, and like your best self. But you should also wear clothing that may be considered “unflattering” if it makes you feel confident, lovely, and like your best self.
DON’T discount everything from non-petite sections
Clothing cut for petite women isn’t just shorter in the hem, it’s designed with smaller frames in mind. Petite clothing generally fits petite women better. But some lines don’t make petites. Some styles don’t get manufactured in petite. And that’s frustrating and limiting. It won’t always bear fruit, but I encourage my petite clients to roam the non-petite sections, too. Many garments can be tailored to fit, others can be styled to work on a smaller frame, and still more may be cut small enough to fit right off the rack. You’ll never know until you try.
DO look for alternatives
AJM mentioned that scarves swamp her figure. I can imagine long, thick, or fluffy scarves overwhelming just about any petite frame. But similarly chic results can be achieved using long but thin silk scarves, or experimenting with different ties. Many knee-high boots look like over-the-knee boots on petite women, especially petites with shorter legs. But online shoe retailers generally list shaft measurements so a little digging could lead to a pair that may hit mid-calf on a woman who is 5’9″, but hit much higher on a woman who is 5’1″. I know this is incredibly vague, but the underlying sentiment is an important one: If you love the look, you can find a way.
DO learn about your own proportions
Although clothing designed for petite women generally fits petite women, not all petite figures are the same. You may be petite and hourglassy, petite with a short torso, petite with a big bust, or any number of other “petite ands” that will influence your style and clothing choices. When/if you’re hoping to create a tall, slim silhouette – which, as I’ve said, needn’t be every day – you may need to utilize a mash-up of figure flattery tips for petites and figure flattery tips for any of your other defining physical traits. (Check out Kelly’s thoughts on petite proportion here.)
For shopping tips and more traditional figure flattery advice, check out these related posts:
- Reader Request: How Does Petite Sizing Work?
- Accessorization and Figure Flattery 101
- Specialty Size Resource Bonanza
- How to Make Your Legs Look a Mile Long
Image courtesy Boden
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