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9 Fashion Tricks Every Short Gal Needs to Know

by Lauren Tharp
by Lauren Tharp

The average height for women in America is five-foot-four-inches tall. So why have petite sizes been so largely ignored?

Let’s not forget that “petite” refers to any size that fits someone 5’4” and under. You don’t have to be slim to be petite. In fact, I am both “petite” (5’3” tall) AND plus-sized (250lbs). “Petite” women come in all weight sizes.

The one thing we all have in common? We’re super short. And that can be problematic when trying to shop for fashionable clothing.

I’ve been there, Ladies. There have been countless times when I joyously find jeans that fit my booty only to discover the length extends several inches past where my feet end. Or I find a lovely dress that fits my bust and it’s not too long, but the armholes gap open to show my bra.

Yet, I manage. I usually look fairly decent, despite my size.

Here are my nine fashion tricks for short gals:

1. Find Retailers That Carry Petite Sizes

I do most of my shopping online; however, whenever I do venture out into the “real” world, I keep in mind which retailers actually carry my size. It takes a way a lot of the hassle and trial-and-error.

InStyle was kind enough to provide a list of 35 retailers that carry petite sizes. Check it out. It’s a pretty good list. And, if you find other retailers that aren’t listed while out on your clothes shopping adventures, take note of them for next time. (And maybe share them with your shortie sisters – we’d love to know!).

Oh, and, if you do shop online – keep your measurements on hand! Trust me on that one. Paying for return shipping on a garment that doesn’t fit is an additional cost no girl needs in her life.

2. Cuff Carefully

Cuffs get a bad rap. And it’s easy to understand why. Cuffing a piece “incorrectly” can leave you looking like a child trying on Daddy’s jeans.

Cuffing long-sleeved shirts at the elbow is almost always a safe fashion bet for petites. It’s flattering and fashionable and makes your arms look longer and slimmer.

Pants are a little trickier. Cuffing slim-fit pants can look immensely stylish! But cuffing a boot-cut jean? Not so much.

Be honest with yourself when you look in the mirror while cuffed. If your reaction is “Cute!” then you’re probably okay. If your reaction is “I look like a child” then it might be time to find a tailor.

For wider-legged pants that don’t work well with cuffs, you have two options: you can hem them up (by yourself or courtesy of a professional tailor), or you can try cuffing under instead of over.

3. Wear Heels

High heels are an instant fix for the “short” problem. Via your choice in shoes, you can quickly add extra inches to your height and “cheat” at being taller.

This doesn’t mean you have to invest in KISS-style platform boots! (Though I do have a pair of those just for fun…). Kitten heels still add height, even though they’re tiny. Don’t underestimate short heels!

By pairing heels with an outfit that’s “too long,” you can usually make it work. And don’t be shy about trying heels or heeled boots with jeans!

To add even more length to your legs, try to match your heels to your bottoms. Black stockings with a black skirt and black heels is a great combination that makes you look like you’ve got gams for miles! Or, if you’re bare-legged, try “nude” heels that match your flesh tone.

4. Go Retro

Vintage clothing options are fabulous for short gals. Those “baby doll” dresses from the sixties and seventies fit us perfectly as “normal” dresses!

Fitted dresses from the forties and fifties are also a Godsend – especially if you’re petite AND plus-sized. The styles are immensely flattering and feminine, and definitely not for children.

5. Look for Quick Adjustments

Many tank tops – especially spaghetti strap tanks – have adjustable straps. Even if the length is a little long for your body, you can usually find an easy work-around if the straps are adjustable.

Several other types of clothes have adjustable elements to them as well. One of my shorter friends scored a fabulous jumpsuit a while back that she was able to cinch up thanks to adjustable elements already built into the garment.

Side note: I generally stay away from overalls. Yes, they’re adjustable; but they also make me look like an overgrown toddler.

6. Get Creative with Layers

Layering can be tricky. The key is to play with lengths.

If you have an overly long top that’s overwhelming your torso, you can balance it out with a cropped jacket. Personally, I love wearing a long tank with a cropped denim jacket. Cropped denim is just awesome for shorties as “regular” denim jackets tend to make us look like we borrowed it from our boyfriend.

7. Kids Can Be Cool

If you’re on the slimmer side (like I used to be before I gained weight), you can sometimes find fun clothing options in the kids’ section. Or the juniors’ section.

Larger kids’ sizes often co-inside with women’s petite sizes – and they cost a lot less usually too!

This is a good tip for “basics.” Shirts and pants are usually a safe bet if they aren’t adorned with too many childlike accessories or patterns.

8. You CAN Wear Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses can be a real pain for short gals, but it’s an irresistible trend that’s impossible to ignore…

The trick is to get a maxi dress with a fitted top. Otherwise you’ll look like you walked out of the house draped in your living room curtains. It’s all about the silhouette.

Pair a fitted-top maxi dress with heels (yes, short heels count!), and you’ll be ready to rock this look alongside your taller peers.

9. Smile

Confidence is key, no matter what fashion trend you attempt to pull off.

When you’ve finally decided on a look to wear for the day: OWN IT!

Even if something is slightly “off” about your outfit, the majority of people you meet won’t notice if YOU act like you’re rocking your style.

No matter what you decide to wear today, remember that a smile is always the perfect accessory.

Have fun out there, Shorties!

This article was originally published on fashion