8 Tips to Creating Flattering Outfits for Petites

Beauty & Style

As someone who is 5'1, I often find myself having trouble picking out outfits that are visually appealing, comfortable, and most important of all, physically suitable. With the average height of females in the US being 5'4, most shelves in retail stores and boutiques are stocked with clothing that is perfect for those with elongated limbs; unfortunately, I and a lot of other people, however, do not fall into said category.

After years of taking fashion inspiration from Pinterest, bestdressed Ashley, ur mom Ashley, and magazines, I realized that what they wear doesn't necessarily translate well onto my body shape and size. One day, while checking my inbox, I noticed an email from someone named Chi from Petite Dressing, an online blog/shop dedicated to providing fashion tips and options for petite women; this opened my eyes. Following that day, I explored more on Pinterest and YouTube, searching for users that gave clear, concise advice on how to dress according to my height; as a result of my research, I discovered Dearly Bethany, Naomi Boyer, and Jessica Neistadt. With their help, I have compiled a list of tips below to aid my fellow petites on their journey to finding styles that both actually fit and look good.

1. Always Tuck In Your Shirt

As petites, we tend to lack a lot of height, so in order to appear taller, tucking your shirt into your pants is the way to go. Not only does this accentuate your waistline, but it also helps to define your overall physique. Depending on the bottoms, half-tucks are also a great option — if you are doing it, make sure the top is larger and looser-sized to make it easier and more comfortable-looking. No matter the event, day, body shape, or size, this tip is always applicable.

I often wear blouses, so one of the major tips that I do to add some spice into the outfit is "half" tucking one of the flaps into my pants while leaving the other untucked and hanging. By doing this, not only do you add some texture, but it also creates a different dimension to your entire ensemble of clothing items. Below is a picture of what I mean:

I also enjoy tying my shirt up to create a "crop top" look; this tip works especially well when paired with high-waisted skirts or pants. One way of doing this is by taking the ends of your shirt, looping them around, and tying them with a hair tie or rubber band. Below is an exceptional video that better explains how to brighten up an outfit involving a shirt.

2. Stick to High-Waisted Bottoms

Since the majority of petites have shorter legs and longer torsos, it's very important to create the illusion that that's not the case. High-waisted bottoms — skirts, pants, and shorts — are a great option to appear both taller and fashionable. Although skinny jeans look nice and are trendy, they aren't necessarily flattering, so opting for a bell-bottom, a boyfriend jean, or even a culotte is a wonderful alternative. Substituting skinny jeans for another pant also helps you create a more unique and intriguing silhouette.

3. Only Wear Certain Length Skirts

For skirt people, there are two possible options: either midi or mini skirts. For those that are unaware, midi skirts' lengths fall between the mini skirt and the maxi skirt (floor-length). They're great for petites because they hide the majority of the leg — making it seem like there's more to the leg's length than there actually is — while still exposing an appropriate amount of skin at the bottom. Maxi skirts with slits on the sides are also a fantastic option for the same purpose.

If you're more of a mini skirt person, high-waist is the best option. From personal experience, having a mid-rise or low-rise skirt depreciates your leg length, and, in turn, your overall height, so, once again, opting for a high-rise skirt to avoid that situation is optimal.

4. Always Mix and Match Size

What do I mean by mixing and matching sizes? When I say size, I am referring to the tightness or the elasticity of your tops and bottoms. One of the biggest tips that I've seen on various sites was to always pair a looser top with tighter bottoms and vice-versa. By doing so, you produce a comfortable, balanced, and put-together look.

On the right-hand side of the thumbnail image above, you can see that she duplicated the sizes of both her tops and bottoms; both her top and bottom are looser fitted. As a result of this decision, her outfit looks messy, and like she just got out of bed. Her outfit on the left, on the other hand, although it's not the best example as she matched a tight top with a tight bottom, it looks much neater and thought-through than the prior look.

5. Wear A Shoe With Some Height

This may seem like an obvious tip if you're trying to add some height to your outfit, but many people forget to do this; if you notice, a lot of the models in the attached images are wearing some type of heel. "A shoe with some height" doesn't always necessarily mean a high-heel. If you don't think you're mature enough to wear heels yet or you're just not a fan of ankle strap heels, platform boots and sneakers are a perfect alternative. Converse and Dr. Martens, amongst many brands, offer a wide selection of platform shoes that are ideal for any situation. Personally, I don't really enjoy wearing high, high heels, so whenever I can, I try to incorporate a shoe similar to the Lolita Japanese Oxford Shoe to really contribute that simple, yet loud exclamation mark to my outfit.

Along with being a confidence booster, a heeled shoe can really help to complete any outfit that you may be wearing. As the great basketball player Russell Westbrook once quoted, "Shoes make an outfit. You can throw on a crazy shirt and crazy pants but you add those shoes - done."

6. Show Some Skin When You Can

This sounds weird, I know, but it's a truly helpful tip. A lot of the times, outfits get clunky and congested if there are too many layers of fabric piled on top of each other. A solution to fixing that stuffy appearance would be to show some skin, either by wearing a crop top, some shorts, or even a pair of open-toed sandals. Revealing some skin is the best way to balance an outfit out, especially if the ensemble is monochrome.

Another way of showing off some skin would be to play around with the necklines of your top. If you were originally wearing a turtleneck or a mock neck shirt, switching that out for a v-line or off-the-shoulder top is a wonderful move. This tip works especially well if you're trying to wear a suit that has a lot of layers and individual pieces.

7. Play Around With Sock Lengths and Fabrics

This tip may seem simple... and it is. The general consensus, when it comes to socks, is that crew, ankle, and no-show lengths are our only options, but that is not the case. In the case of petites, sock lengths (other than the ones I just mentioned) are to our advantage. To many that have experienced the uniform, knee-length socks may seem overhyped and disgusting, but they actually contribute a lot to the outfit. Not only do they add flavor to the look, but they also produce the illusion of being a bit taller, and slimmer — same goes for the thigh-high socks.

Different fabrics of socks also assist in the illusions and general appearances. Long, black stockings, fishnets, and patterned crew socks are great alternatives to a normal legging, skinny jean, or Nike sock. They also help slim down and vertically stretch out your overall physique.

8. Accentuate Your Waistline

This was briefly mentioned in the "Always Tuck In Your Shirt" section, but this tip is extremely important when you're vertically challenged. When you're shorter, your figure oftentimes gets lost in loads of fabric and clothing, so it's important to establish where your waistline is to help out your stature a bit.

This can be achieved in several ways:

1) You could wear a high-waisted bottom (as previously mentioned)

2) You could tie up your top to help cinch in your waist (as previously mentioned)

3) You could wear clothes that automatically hug your body (i.e. body-con dresses, cinched shirts, etc.)

4) You could tie a belt, corset, or sweater around your waist to indicate and draw attention to where your waist hits

5) You could wear a crop top to help highlight where your waist is

9. Experiment!

The biggest tip that I can give regarding this topic is to experiment. These tips will not work if you don't experiment with them, so try them out when you can!

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Gwun Yi Wong

Editor · 93 edited articles · 13 pitched topics · 50 writers helped

Gwun Yi Wong is a high school Senior at the Boston Latin School. She loves dancing, immersing herself in music, and obsessing about fashion. She has a strong passion to spread the thoughts and voices of teenagers. When she's not at school studying environmental science and economics, she is often seen catching up with her friends, playing instruments, and pondering about life.


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