First things first: “Petite” doesn’t just mean short and slim.
It refers to women who are 5’4 and under.
Clothing labeled as petite is cut with that proportion in mind. Compared to standard items, you’ll often find narrower shoulders and shorter inseams. So whether you’re a size 00 or a size 16, if you’re shorter, the petite section is worth a look.
With that in mind, BuzzFeed Life turned to bloggers Jean Wang of Extra Petite, Kelly Tucker of Alterations Needed, and New York City-based stylist Cindy Gordon, for their best tips and tricks on nailing shorter style.
1. For bustier petites, balance is key.
“Fuller petite body types can vary, but overall, celebrating shape is important,” Gordon told BuzzFeed Life. “For big-busted petites, empire waists are great since they nip you in beneath the bustline.” Or, try a fitted top paired with a high-low skirt. This way you’ve got a fitted base with an outer layer to balance — all without sacrificing shape.
2. Smaller frame? Depending on the brand, don’t overlook kids’ sizes.
Sizing doesn’t always make sense, even with retailers that have specific lines for petites. So when shopping, don’t look at sizing tags, look at measurements. With some brands, the larger kids sizes are interchangeable with the smaller petite sizes — and they often cost less too. More here.
This can also apply to standard sizes:
Think about functionality, too. “I love cropped tops in regular sizing which work perfectly as not-too-long tops on petites,” Wang said. “I also look for items that look like higher empire-style waists on the models, since those tend to fit like regular dresses on petites.”
3. And the same goes for shoes.
In this case, both pairs have the exact same measurements around the top — the kids’ size just isn’t as tall. But if you’re shorter, this actually means a more proportionate fit. The boots will hit your calves, rather than right below (or at) your knee. More comparison info here.
4. Use layers to fake a perfect fit.
If an item is fine in some spots but too big in others, use layers to strategically cover the latter. More examples of faking fit here.
5. Get familiar with easy at-home alterations that you can do yourself.
Things won’t always fit perfectly off the rack, but you can often still make them work with simple DIY alterations. Like this one for slimming sleeves and raising the neckline: two small changes that can make a big difference. Find three ways to do this — two of which are beginner-friendly — here.
6. At the same time, know when to invest in a professional tailor.
Yes, it’s an added cost, but if you’re careful about sticking to classic pieces that you can wear year after year — like winter coats, for example — you’ll find that the investment is worth it. More here.
8. Or cuff long jeans for a quick makeshift hem.
Roll them up or tuck them under. More here.
11. Invest in narrow, petite-friendly hangers.
Small-shouldered clothing doesn’t always mix well with wide, standard hangers — the hanger pokes into the fabric, leaving you with stretched material. Companies like Only Hangers make slimmer and bendable versions.
12. Streamline a silhouette by getting rid of distracting details.
On a longer torso, the ruched sleeves on this H&M blazer would end closer to the forearm — but here, they awkwardly stop mid-wrist. A quick fix? Snipping the elastics. How-to here.
13. Pair shoes and bottoms that are similar in color — like black heels with black tights — to elongate your legs.
The matched color scheme helps create the illusion of a longer line. “Look for shoes in shades of tan or brown similar to your own skin tone, and don’t be afraid to experiment with metallics which can surprisingly function as a neutral,” said Wang.
14. Lengthen your torso by wearing a longer fitted shirt underneath a cropped sweater:
The contrast breaks things up. (And a cropped top over a fitted or fit-and-flare dress works well too, says Gordon.) More looks here.
15. Clothing that’s stretched over time or doesn’t fit quite right? Depending on the fabric, you might be able to (carefully!) shrink it:
Downsizing a garment in the dryer can be a no or low-cost alternative to a tailor — if you know what you’re doing. Tucker shared her best tips:
• Research! Some Google sleuthing can help you figure out if a garment will shrink or not, and by how much based on the fabric content. Natural fibers like wools, cottons and linens are usually shrinkable, while synthetics like polyester and rayon are usually not.
• Take it slow. Don’t toss a garment in the dryer on high heat and forget about it because might not like what you see when you pull it out. Instead, start slowly with lower heats for short bursts until you get an item down to where you’d like it.
• Know that the way the fabric looks or feels may change after shrinking. Loose knits may come out looking tight, and threads may not feel as soft. If changes such as these will bother you, skip it. More shrink-to-fit info here.