In the United States, the average height for adult women is 63.8 inches, or 5 feet and 4 inches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are shorter than average height, you might meet several challenges when shopping for clothes. Some fashion styles can make you look shorter and more plump. However, petite women can achieve a flattering, elegant style of dress by following some simple fashion clothing tips.
Trousers and Jeans
If you are petite, "width is your worst enemy," says Gok Wan, author of "How To Look Good Naked." Tailored, straight-legged and flat-fronted trousers make your legs look longer. Trouser hemlines should reach the bottom of your heels and waistbands should sit just underneath your navel. Choose soft fabrics that drape well, such as fine wool, and avoid pleats and pockets to create a smooth silhouette. Avoid baggy trousers, tracksuit trousers, low-slung waistbands and cropped trousers, which add width to your body and make you look "dumpy." Wan recommends straight-cut jeans in dark denim, with a crease to make your legs look slimmer and longer.
Dresses and Skirts
Dresses are ideal for petite women because wearing one colour from shoulder to knee makes the body appear more streamlined and taller, Wan says. Choose styles that emphasise your legs rather than your torso. Avoid drop-waisted styles, and choose shift dresses with hemlines that end just above your knees, or empire-line dresses that have a horizontal seam under your bust. Halter-neck dresses, and strapless, one-shoulder or strappy styles are flattering for petite women. Avoid bows, ruffles and puff sleeves, which might appear too "girly." Avoid big prints; instead, choose tiny prints or a bright, block colour. For skirts, choose pencil skirts, and avoid A-line skirts and 1950s-style gathered skirts.
Shirts, Tops, Jackets and Coats
Choose slim-fit, V-neck shirts and tops in block colours to elongate your body. You should avoid tops in colours that clash with your bottom half, according to the So Feminine website. Avoid crop tops and sloppy tops, such as sweatshirts. Choose structured jackets with slim sleeves, and waistlines that are slightly higher than your natural waist. Hemlines of jackets should sit at hip height. Avoid bulky jackets, boxy styles and double-breasted styles because they will make you look broader and shorter, Wan says. Petite women should choose single-breasted, slim-fitting, knee-length coats. They should avoid long coats, and fashion styles such as funnel necks, rounded collars and big buttons.
Shoes and Accessories
You can achieve the appearance of longer legs by choosing a shoe colour that tones with your natural skin colour. Or, choose shoes that match the colour of your tights. Wan recommends round-toed ballet pumps, and closed-toe, pointy shoes with mid-height kitten heels. Petite women should avoid ankle straps, wedge heels and boots, which crop the legs and make them appear shorter. Choose good quality, sophisticated accessories, such as small leather clutch bags, delicate jewellery and narrow belts. Long, skinny scarves, and an updo hairstyle can make petite women appear taller, according to the So Feminine website.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Body Measurements
- "How To Look Good Naked"; Gok Wan; 2007
- So Feminine: How To Dress If You're Petite
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images