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Small Clothes – Big Problems? 10 Ideas for Petite Clothing for Women Over 60

By Doreen Dove January 21, 2024 Makeup and Fashion

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.

10 ideas for petite clothing for women over 60:

  1. Be Mindful of Your Proportions
  2. Monochromatic Outfits Elongate One’s Shape
  3. Move Your Waistline Up
  4. Vertical Lines – the Oldest Trick in the Book
  5. Play with the Hemlines
  6. Wear V-Necks
  7. Chop Your Hair
  8. The Point About Shoes
  9. Hit Delete on the Oversized Shoulder Bag
  10. Accessories, Accessories, Accessories

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 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

A navy blue tailored jacket, dark denim jeans, and navy ballerina flats are a great monochromatic casual chic look.

Le Suit Pant Suit at JCPenny

Le Suit Pant Suit at JCPenny

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.

Marilyn Straight Pants In Petite at NYDJ

Marilyn Straight Pants In Petite at NYDJ

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!
FLAP POCKET CARDIGAN - HONEYSUCKLE at Talbots

FLAP POCKET CARDIGAN – HONEYSUCKLE at Talbots

  • Try V-neck as opposed to round neck tops.
MERINO WOOL JOHNNY COLLAR PULLOVER - STRIPE at Talbots

MERINO WOOL JOHNNY COLLAR PULLOVER – STRIPE at Talbots

  • Wear long jacket lapels that sit low with a one-button stance.
DOUBLE-FACED WOOL BLEND BLAZER at Talbots

DOUBLE-FACED WOOL BLEND BLAZER at Talbots

  • Always dress with well-pressed pants – those front creases create two lines right there!
TALBOTS WESTON PANTS at Talbots

TALBOTS WESTON PANTS at Talbots

  • 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
Ribbed Henley Tee at LOFT

Ribbed Henley Tee at LOFT

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!

Read WHAT ARE THE BEST SHORT HAIRSTYLES FOR OLDER WOMEN? (VIDEO),

PIXIE HAIRCUTS FOR WOMEN OVER 60, and

8 LAYERED BOB HAIRSTYLES FOR WOMEN OVER 60

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.

Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Pumps at JCPenney

Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Pumps at JCPenney

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.

Read 10 MOST COMFORTABLE DRESSY SHOES FOR WOMEN OVER 50.

Hit Delete on the Oversized 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.

SHEARLING MICRO BAG at Talbots

SHEARLING MICRO BAG at Talbots

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.

Bijoux Bar 30 Inch Bar Strand Necklace at JCPenney

Bijoux Bar 30 Inch Bar Strand Necklace at JCPenney

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

Talbot’s

JCrew

LOFT

Neiman Marcus

Boden

Land’s End

Madewell

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!

Read BEST CLOTHING STORES FOR WOMEN OVER 50.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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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Curly

I loved this article and I felt you were spot on. I am a sales associate in a woman’s retailer and assist petite customers . I also would like an answer for what to do about aging legs for wearing skirts and dresses in the summer.

cherie

Thank you for the great article. I needed a refresh of items best suited to petites. I get in a store and forget all about them. I should only shop at stores with petite clothing. Unfortunately, that means shopping on line most of the time which means a lot of trips to post office for returns.

Roxie Thompson

I am petite and 73 years old. I would love to wear dresses in the summer, but my legs have vein issues and I usually wear support hose except in very hot weather. Any suggestions for wearing dresses with these issues?

Deb

Try calf length

Ann E

Interesting how so much is about being petite, but not tall. The options for tall women are horrid. My mom was 5’2″. While she had some clothing problems with being petite, I have many more issues with finding suitable clothing being tall. They assume tall people are fat or ugly since the clothing options are nill or just plain dumpy.

Kathryn Nelson

Thank you for this article! Being 5’2”and 72 yrs old, I was aware of several points but your supporting rationale drove the point home. I’ve always wondered why so many “petite” sections offered the same item in the SAME horizontal stripe or big print! What are they thinking?!!
Unfortunately, I have been violating several points (knowing better, too). In our South Texas heat, I gave up shorts years ago in favor of capris. Will rethink that decision. What do you suggest for at-home day-to-day to wear with jeans or in lieu of jeans? I rarely wear dresses or skirts and favor quick-dry type bottoms from Orvis – capris in summer – and jeans in winter. Maybe I should go back to comfy one-piece a-line dresses?
Looking forward to more ideas!

Kathleen

Dresses are the best! Very freeing..cooler in warm weather!!!! Just have to be careful of material and style. Lightweight material for blousy things…she’s right..v necks or less good! Be comfortable while pretty. There’s a reason mom wore mumus!
Look how Hawaiians dress..fir warm weather…
Oh..blousy safer with not overly heavy material. Don’t won’t attire to stick out! Make you rounder! Really skinny people..no matter….

The Author

Doreen Dove is an award-winning expert in the field of Image Consulting who coaches women to use style as a tool to take strategic control of their image and fully engage in the possibilities of their future. In addition to her one-on-one work with individual clients, Doreen conducts workshops and seminars for corporate groups and speaks at conferences across the country. Visit Doreen at http://doreendove.com. Her book, "Confidence is Always in Style", provides in depth expertise to help women identify and express their most authentic image with humor and clever insight. Get the book here: http://doreendove.com/confidence-always-style-purchasing-options/

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