Achieving a perfectly stylish outfit can prove difficult for any body shape amidst changing trends, endless options, and seasonal add-ons. Tack on the extra pinning and primping needed to style a petite outfit, and suddenly getting dressed in the morning can feel like a chore—but it doesn’t have to.
Step into our smart wardrobe for petite style, where you’ll find a rainbow of petite style tips and tricks to look and feel your best. The journey begins right inside your very closet.
What Does “Petite” Mean?
In the fashion world, “petite” refers to styles that cater to those who measure below 5’ 5”.
Petite garments come in a wide range of sizing, allowing petite ladies of all sizes to find better fits with shortened measurements on hemlines, sleeves, and inseams.
But if you can’t find a petite-specific shop near you, don’t fret. There are ways to work with what you’ve already got. All it takes is some purposeful styling.
The magic word in petite fashion: “proportions.” Proportions are key to elevating the petite wardrobe because they create harmony. If something is proportional, it means all its pieces relate to one another in such a way that creates a sense of balance.
#1 Keep the Rule of Thirds in Mind
For petite style, it’s helpful to follow the rule of thirds. This is beneficial for all body shapes, but especially petite women. The rule of thirds helps you balance the proportions of an outfit to provide dimension, visual interest, and more length if and when you want it.
Pin this rule up on the closet door before getting dressed:
If one garment takes up ⅔ of your body from torso to feet, the other paired garment should only take up ⅓. The goal is to avoid even halves, which create a blocky and stunted appearance.
Don’t worry—it’s easy to master. Here are some examples to guide you:
- A cropped top and high-waisted pants – Raising the waistline above the natural waist lengthens the legs’ silhouette. Just add a tastefully cropped top (this is the ⅓ of your outfit) and—voilà!—enjoy a sleek, taller appearance.
- A mini skirt – While long skirts and dresses can leave petite girls swimming in fabric, the trusty mini skirt perfectly balances a petite frame. The short hemline sits at just the right place to give you a flattering sky-high effect.
- A belted dress – If you do opt for a longer dress, cinch it at your waistline. Accentuating your curves at a higher point on your torso defines and elongates your lower half, giving the illusion of more height.
As long as you’re following the rule of thirds in any outfit you put together, you’re golden.
Monochrome: The Modern Miracle
A monochromatic hue is another easy way to add length to a look. By dressing in only one color, there are no harsh lines of separation, so the cohesion along the body creates one fluid line of color and length.
This technique isn’t just one-note. Playing around with different hues of the same color scheme allows plenty of room for creativity, such as:
- A tone gradient from top to bottom – Pairing a similar color in any style of petite blouses with the same color tone in petite women's bottoms accentuates the verticality of the look. And don’t be afraid to include shoes. In this example, a navy shoe of any kind—even a ballet flat—elongates the figure even more.
- Mixing textures – Pairing varying textures can add depth and interest to a monochrome outfit. Fabrics like corduroy and ribbed knits add texture and provide vertical lines to further ascend a look skyward.
- Rompers and jumpsuits – What easier way to go monochrome than to sport a one-piece look? Jumpsuits provide the ultimate length in all their one-piece glory. Rompers are similar, uniting your top and bottoms seamlessly. Opt for a higher hem, like a mini skirt, for even more dimension.
- Bright = height – Monochrome isn’t just for neutrals. Welcoming color to the party emphasizes your vertical unity, making the lengthening effect (and head-turning effect) undeniable.
Stylist’s Tip: Use caution when choosing busy patterns and prints from top to bottom. Unlike a smooth wash of single color, a print or pattern that’s too busy can overwhelm a petite frame.
Layering For Length
Because petite ladies can often find themselves drowning in generic-sized threads, it’s natural to assume the solution is to reduce the number of garments on the body.
However, sometimes adding a layer can be advantageous.
The trick is to know how to layer clothes for winter and also which layers elongate and which don’t. You might have heard that the petite girl’s best friend is anything cropped (remember the rule of thirds?) and that anything that falls below the knee is a short-girl nightmare. While both can be true, there are still options for layers and lower hemlines in a petite wardrobe.
The key is to strike a balance.
#2 Try a Long Outer Layer
To emphasize height, a super long coat—like a trench coat, for example—works wonders. Like the monochromatic outfit, an outer layer that falls below the calf creates that special column-like effect that stretches the eyeline up and down.
A long outer layer also adds contrast to whatever shows underneath it. A coat that sits open to show high-waisted pants or a slightly cropped top serves as a flattering backdrop to their leg-lengthening look, as well as a balancing contrast that puts a spotlight on verticality.
#3 Polish Off with a Structured Jacket
Dressing for wintertime warmth can pose a special fashion conundrum for petite ladies since thick coats tend to expand horizontally rather than flattering vertically.
To combat this, you might spring for a more structured outer layer. For that tall, sleek look that smooths and compliments a bulky sweater with ease, try out the following in your winter wardrobe:
- Leather moto jacket – Durable seams and exposed zippers add shape to your form—and the classic leather appeal is guaranteed to up your cool factor tenfold.
- Tailored blazer – Knowing how to wear a blazer, can really elevate your look. The embodiment of classy, a blazer balances a flowy blouse or sweater and polishes winter looks while keeping you snug.
- Wool peacoat – Neat lines of buttons and thick fabric emphasize an up-down line. You can dress this coat up to dinner or pair it with sneakers and a hoodie for a cute-casual daytime look. It is also perfect if you don’t know what to wear over a dress when it’s cold.
Stylist’s Tip: Make this tip work for you through every season. In the summer, look for garments with a structured top, like a dress with a pronounced collar or a trendy tank that spotlights your shoulders.
Show Some Skin
If you like to keep things modest, this tip might not land at the top of your list. But for warm weather baskers and moonlight twirlers, this petite style tip is yours to flaunt.
While showing skin may have a risqué reputation, it can actually be a highly strategic and tasteful fashion choice for petite women. All it takes is determining the right areas to expose for the best and most natural elongation.
#4 Rock a Plunging Neckline
It’s up to you how deep the water goes—but the general idea is to show off the clavicle.
Donning a lower neckline instantly gives a taller appearance. This is because it creates length by extending the appearance of the neckline down to the body.
#5 Show Off Your Ankles
Let’s not forget one of the most powerful tools in your petite fashion closet: the shoes.
When a petite woman wears a pair of shoes that show off her feet and ankles, her legs are extended even further down, as the skin isn’t cut off by the harsh lines of a boot or sneaker. A strappy heel is a perfect choice, especially for skirts and petite dresses.
Stylist’s Tip: If you can, steer away from higher rising or over-the-knee boots, as they tend to make legs appear shorter. Instead, opt for a short bootie to let your legs do the talking.
Do’s and Don'ts for Petite Styling
With something as artfully subjective as fashion, there are, of course, no hard and fast rules to constructing your ideal outfit. At the end of the day, wear whatever you feel fantastic in.
But if you’re looking for quick styling tips to turn to when you’re feeling stuck, here are a few that won’t go out of style.
It’s time for a petite fashion tips round-up, fashionistas. Keep these styling tips in the back pocket of your high-waisted jeans:
- Emphasize your waistline
- Opt for high-waisted pants
- Cohere your colors
- Follow the rule of thirds
- Show off your skin if you feel comfortable
An easy fix to any wardrobe is simply letting go of what doesn’t serve you. In this case, if you are a petite lady, you may want to declutter your closet of:
- Long skirts or boots
- Wide-leg trousers
- Oversized garments
- Busy patterns
- Chunky coats
Curate the Perfect Petite Wardrobe with Karen Kane
Every body type deserves to feel incredible in their skin and their wardrobe. And there sure are plenty of fashionable roads for petite women to strut upon.
At Karen Kane, we’re dedicated to paving those roads for you.
Our petite selection houses dozens of styles so petite women can enjoy chic California fashion to the fullest. From flowy bohemian dresses to expertly tailored trousers, every Karen Kane petite garment is made with comfort, confidence, and proportional harmony at the heart.
If you want to look and feel your best, look no further than our petite clothing shop. We can’t wait to see what you put on.
- Petite Dressing. Should you Wear Petite Size? https://blog.petitedressing.com/petite-size/
- Karen Tarver. Dress Using the Rule of Thirds. https://www.karentarver.com/dress-the-rule-of-thirds/
- Art in Context. Proportion in Art. https://artincontext.org/proportion-in-art/