Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Finding clothing that fits properly is a huge challenge for petite women. Everything has to be shortened or requires tailoring. Sleeves are too long and pants drag on the ground. Often there is too much material in the back area. These issues can be a huge burden on the pocketbook. Another problem petite women struggle with is balance. A lot of clothing styles make the silhouette appear even shorter or broader and many trends don't do this figure any justice whatsoever. Shopping is often a very frustrating experience for people who are height challenged.
There are some tips and tricks, though, that can help you appear visually taller. Applying these may help you work with what you've already got in your closet and hopefully save as well on hefty tailoring costs.
One of the easiest ways to make you appear taller is to wear one solid color head-to-toe. It creates balance throughout the figure and uncomplicates things visually. If you are plump, choosing dark solid colors work well to slim the figure. For this look to work best, you will need to maintain the exact same shade of jewelry, footwear and accessories. The monochromatic look is back again for 2020, as was evidenced on the spring runways, however it's also a classic look that really never goes away.
Keep Detail Up Top
If you love patterned prints as I do, your best bet is to strategically place them on the upper portion of your body. You always want to draw the eyes upwards to appear taller. This means selecting patterned tops, shirts and sweaters and keeping solid colors on the lower portion of the body below the waist. Ideally, seek out tops with most of the detail sitting around the neck or decolletage. Or, you can wear solid colored tops but add large bright or blingy necklaces to direct the eyes upwards. Large earrings work great too. Adding detail to the upper portion of the body includes hats as well. Add a brooch or pretty scarf to kick it up a notch.
Create A Streamlined Appearance
A streamlined appearance works wonders to create vertical length. This is why monochromatic dressing works so well. Another way to create this visually is to wear clothing with structure. Well tailored, structured clothing includes fitted blazers that are not too long, fine-knit sweaters that fit snug, and slim-fitting pants that are well-pressed or creased. In other words, no bulk. Keep your bulky clothing for leisurely days inside the house.
Exposing more leg is always going to give you more length but if you are a little self-conscious about it keep your hems slightly above the knee. Hems that fall below the knee can make you appear short and frumpy when you are under 5'4". Midi skirts and dresses really aren't flattering for you. If you love to wear floor-length sundresses try to choose slim-fitting solid colored styles or dresses with highly dense, smaller-scale patterns. Long dresses that are too fluffy or flared will add bulk to the figure and make you appear shorter.
Pattern Choice Is Key
Horizontal stripes and patterns are not a good choice for you, unfortunately as they make you appear wider and visually draw you downwards. Choose vertical patterns instead that add length to the silhouette and slenderize you. Avoid overly wide vertical stripes as well. Pinstripes and mid-size vertical stripes are much better for you. If you love florals, avoid overly large-sized flowered patterns. They will only add bulk to your figure and effectively smother you. Choosing smaller, denser floral patterns will be much more flattering for you.
Be Careful With Block Patterns
Block-patterned dresses, in particular, can make you appear shorter if the colors are too contrasting. The placement of blocked colors can be especially troublesome. A dress with a solid black bodice and solid white skirt, for example, will effectively cut you in half. This tricks the eyes into believing you are shorter because a lighter skirt draws the eyes downwards. Having a light color on top is better, however particularly with black and white, you will still be cut in half from a stature perspective. If you love the look of block patterns, choose them in the same color tones; i.e. different shades of blue, rather than completely different colors as in a collage.
Because you want to appear taller when you are 5'4" or under, your choice of neckline can be another important factor. V-necklines are always more flattering than round as the "V" shape appears more vertical. Crew-necks don't do so well. Boat-necks can work for slim petite women as they expose more of the shoulder area and draw the eyes upwards. High collars are fine if they are structured. If you carry most of your weight on top and are 5'4" or under, V-necks will be more flattering for you. All petite women can wear turtlenecks as long as they are not too bulky. Cowl necks are flattering as well.
Select the Right Footwear
Even your choice of footwear can make a difference to your stature from a visual perspective. A pointed toe on a shoe or boot visually elongates the leg and when you choose a color or pattern that perfectly matches your pants, even better. Try to avoid round toes as these completely defeat the purpose. Mary-janes are not at all flattering for you. Also, sandals with straps around the ankles will cut you off. Choose sandals with slim straps rather than thick or wide.
Shop the Petite Boutiques
Of course if you can find a great petite boutique in your area, even better. The selection of clothing will be perfectly suited to your small frame or height and will save you a lot of money on tailoring, especially when you shop the sales racks. Most better department stores will have petite sections, i.e. Hudson's Bay and Macy's, but there are some specific retailers that have entire petite stores separate from the others. Some of these are Talbots, Laura's, and Petite Collection. There are also some great online shops that deal only in petite clothing, such as Petite Dressing at www.petitedressing.com; The Petite Alternative (TPA) at www.petitealternative.com; and a website especially for plus size petite women over 50 that tells you where to get clothing and accessories globally at www.plussizewomenfashion.com. Be sure to check out my Pinterest page as well for lots of examples of clothing that suits your petite frame; Bliss & Bling: Styling Petite Figures.