One of my favorite mantras is, “Life is challenging but you have to get dressed.” When you factor in vertical challenges, that makes it even more difficult. While you may not be able to change the cards you were dealt, the right petite clothing and accessories can actually help you appear taller than you are.

First, ditch the 6-inch platform shoes. Seriously, who wears those! Let’s talk about a few other ways to fake those extra inches without breaking the bank. Between us girlfriends, let me tell you that you just might have the right items already living in your closet.

Let’s begin with opening your wardrobe, mixing things up, visiting your tailor, and maybe perusing for a few accessories to create the illusion. Here are 10 handy tips for petite clothing.

Be Mindful of Your Proportions

As a petite person, it’s crucial that your clothing fits properly. All of your clothing and accessories must be kept in proportion with your figure, not allowing any one thing to overpower you.

Be sure not to defer to draping as that can sometimes accentuate the liability. Blazer shoulder seams need to fit perfectly so you don’t look like you have hand-me-downs. Your sleeve length has to hit exactly at your wrist bone.

Try not to wear capris, they cut your calves midway, shortening the legs. Wear cropped slacks instead, with the hemline at the ankle. Wearing different colors top and bottom divides a person’s frame into separate segments.

Monochromatic Outfits Elongate One’s Shape

Try one color from head to toe – just pull items out of your closet by color and see what starts to shape up. The monochromatic look creates an uninterrupted visual vertical line.

Don’t just limit this look to black, ladies! Try your other neutrals as well – navy, brown, tan, red – if you dare! The trick to monochromatic dressing is to keep each silhouette crisp and tailored.

Crop pants from JCPenny Petite

Move Your Waistline Up

Want longer looking legs? Choose high-waist skirts or pants to create the illusion you’re taller by elongating your lower body. Always be sure to make the elevated waist visible by tucking in a well-fitting blouse, or opting for a slightly shorter top.

Vertical Lines – the Oldest Trick in the Book

Vertical lines orient the eye to look up and down, which has a lengthening effect. How to create multiple vertical lines in one outfit? Let me count the ways.

  • Wear buttons down the front of a blouse, sweater, jacket, or coat. Opt for buttons of interest!
  • Try V-neck as opposed to round neck tops.
  • Wear long jacket lapels that sit low with a one-button stance.
  • Always dress with well-pressed pants – those front creases create two lines right there!
  • Don’t’ forget that long necklaces with a heavier pendant are the ultimate V!
Shirt and jeans from Talbots Petite

Play with the Hemlines

Go either long or short – avoid calf- and knee-lengths. If you have great legs, a higher hemline will make your lovely legs look even longer. Asymmetrical hems will work in your favor, as your legs will look as long as the shortest point on a skirt or a dress.

Wear V-Necks

Embrace the décolletage (within reason). Tops with deeper V-necklines give the illusion of a longer, leaner torso and a longer neck! A deep V-neck creates a vertical line while crew necks and scoop necks create a horizontal line.

V-neck blouse from LOFT Petite

Chop Your Hair

Long hair drags petite women down, while shorter hair does the opposite. Showing off your shoulders and neckline will make your frame look tall and proud. Pump up your hair volume – I am not talking a beehive here, but a bit of a topknot or flirty layers will do wonders!

The Point About Shoes

Wear nude shoes that match your skin tone, as they will visually extend the leg. Opt for a low cut vamp – the front area where it cuts across the top of your foot – the closer to the toes, the longer the leg looks.

Shoes with ankle straps are the enemy because they visually bisect the legs. Round-toe shoes can have a shortening effect, while pointed flats and pumps lengthen your leg line.

Keeping your shoes and hosiery in the same color range makes it more difficult for the eye to distinguish where the leg ends and the foot begins, resulting in longer looking legs.

Hit Delete on the Over-Sized Shoulder Bag

Keeping your accessories appropriately scaled to your body size is a must. You don’t want the bag to be wearing you. Shop for smaller cross-body bags, clutches, and small top-handle totes.

Accessories, Accessories, Accessories

Opt for long, draping accessories. Use long scarves that you can knot many times so they lay vertically centered on your torso. Shop for longer necklaces that drape down your front. Use accessories that draw the eye up and down as opposed to congregating widely around your neckline.

When it comes to belts, vertically challenged women should always opt for a skinny version so it can define your natural waist in the most flattering way. A thick belt will cut you in half causing you to look shorter because of the heavy horizontal line.

Bonus Tips

Don’t assume you are a petite in every store! No two stores abide by the same size scale. Always try on both petite and regular sizes in the same garment when you are on the edge.

Don’t assume that you are a petite on the top and the bottom! You might be a petite top and a regular bottom or vice versa. This can be extra challenging because in many department stores the petite and regular departments might be miles from one another, even on different floors!

List of Petite Clothing Stores

Some retailers are specialized in petite clothing, while others offer petite selections.

Petite Studio

JC Penny




Lord & Taylors

Neiman Marcus


Note to Self

You CAN and SHOULD drag the items from both departments so you can try them on at the same time, in one dressing room! This is perfectly legal. There are no department policies that are going to tell you to back off! Only salespeople who don’t want to put the items back in stock.

When I shop for my clients I am often spotted going up and down the escalators with armloads of clothing! After all, hunting and gathering makes for a well-dressed woman!

Remember, ladies, stop thinking there is something wrong with your body and instead embrace the thought that there is something wrong with your clothing! And remember, confidence is always in style!

If you are a petite woman, what are some of the wardrobe choices you make? Are there special shops where you always find great petite clothing? Do you have any special items that make you feel a little taller? Please share your fashion tips and tricks!

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