Monday, January 28, 2013

Style for Petites & the 5'4" & Under Set, Part 1

(via The Sartorialist)
Let's start the week off right. How about kicking off a little styling series? Okay? Okay.

Brittany emailed asking for advice on how to wear a few specific things. She's 5'1", and has found it can be difficult to figure out how to translate popular styles for a shorter frame & petite build. I'm on the shorter side myself and have dealt with some of the same problems, but at 5'5", I'm not technically petite (my bone structure also outs me on that one). Luckily, my friends Jenevieve (who's 5' and who you met last week) and Mindy (who's 5'4") were wonderful enough to share some tips and tricks they've learned as they've navigated the world of petite styling and fashion. Below are my suggestions, followed by their comments.

Skinny Jeans/Leggings: As I'm sure I've mentioned before, my legs are not miles long (they're kind of on the shorter side). I've found that skinny jeans actually do me more favors than flare jeans, because they don't create a wide wedge of fabric on the bottom of my leg, making it look stumpy. (This is not to say all flares are bad! Just choose a slimmer, boot cut flare.)
  • The hem of your jeans should rest comfortably on top of your foot -- you don't want anything shorter or longer. If they're too short, they'll make your legs look shorter; if they're too long, you'll look like you're drowning in fabric, thanks to the bunches they'll create around the ankles. If you need to, use a simple tutorial like this to quick-hem your skinnies! I first read about this trick in the book Lauren Conrad Style and found it works well. There are many places that also sell petite sizes for jeans (maybe try Old Navy for a start).
  • Go for a dark wash jean -- they're more lengthening.
  • Wear skinny jeans with heels (or wedges). This is a great option, if you can swing it (I know it can be hard as a mom to want to wear heels when you're juggling a baby -- go for wedges for a little more support!). Heels will always make your legs look long and skinny, especially paired with skinny jeans.
  • In terms of leggings: Wear with a tunic or dress that hits mid-thigh, nothing longer. That'll make your legs look longer. If you wear them with boots, make sure the boots are ankle or mid-calf height to avoid the "I only have knees for legs" look.
From Jenevieve: In regards to skinny jeans, I think they are the most flattering style of jeans for petites, as long as they fit right and aren't skin-tight. I love the wide jean look with tucked in top, but I can only do it if I am wearing heels. Also, I think petites can pull off the colored jean look REALLY well. I think maybe it's because I feel like it says, "Hey, I'm small and bright and fun!" and that makes me smile.

Boots/Boots with Skinny Jeans: Look for something that hits you right above the fullest part of your calf / just below your knee.
  • Take a tape measure and measure from the bottom of your heel to just below your knee -- the number of inches you come up with is the "shaft height" you should look for when buying boots. My guess is you'll want something in the 12"-13" range. Most places provide information on the shaft height, as well as the calf circumference (another measurement you may want to take, to ensure that the boots won't be too loose or tight around your leg).
  • Look for boots categorized as mid-calf height boots, rather than full-length or knee-length.
  • Try heeled boots for extra height! A lot of boots these days have a built-in wedge.
A few suggestions for places to find reasonably priced boots with multiple shaft heights are Shop Reflection, Delia's, Target (their online selection is much better than in-store!). I also suggest using Google or ShopStyle to search for "13 inch shaft height boots" to find other options.

Ballet Flats:
  • Go for pointed toe flats rather than ones with rounded toes. A round toe will cut you off and make you look stubby, whereas a pointed toe will continue the elongation of the leg.
  • Try wearing flats with skinny jeans (WITHOUT SOCKS. People. Just don't wear ballet flats with socks, unless you're trying to make some kind of fashion statement on purpose.) -- a well-hemmed pair of skinny jeans with a pair of flats is a pretty universally flattering look.
From Jenevieve: As far as ballet flats, I wear them all the time. They are just too practical for a mother of a very busy toddler to NOT wear ballet flats, even though my husband is 6'1". I am however, trying to branch out into the world of wedges. I found a really comfortable pair at Target, of all places, and am much more inclined to wear them fairly often because they truly are super comfortable (not to mention make me feel slimmer and taller).

From Mindy: I also think shoes are a pretty big style consideration for a petite frame. Sometimes I've found an outfit or dress won't work unless you add the height of a heel. But other outfits are totally great with flats even if you are petite. I have some really petite friends who always wear heels. I'm more a flats girl myself, but it's true, sometimes you need a heel when you are petite.

Stay tuned for Part 2: we're going to be talking about patterns, layering, and structure!


  1. I've found that for me, the most flattering jean length is something that hits around the top of my ankle bone. This might work for other short girls who are smaller boned (I'm just under 5' 4"). I usually cuff my jeans under rather than over to achieve this look. (I was told this is what French girls do when they're too lazy to get their pants hemmed, which I totally am. ;-)

    1. Awesome tip, Michelle! And I agree... I've come to appreciate and accept the ease of just cuffing skinnies by folding them under. It makes your pants completely customizable, and unless someone's looking closely, it's hard to tell :) Plus if the French do it, then you know it's okay!

  2. i agree about the no-socks-with-flats rule. but what about TOM'S (just in the winter of course)? they're more casual than flats... do you think it could work?

    1. I personally don't think that socks with TOMS, loafers, flats, or boat shoes is a good look in general. (Caveat... if you're wearing flare-legged pants that will cover the fact you're wearing socks, that's cool... go for the covert warmth!) If your feet are going to be cold, I'd just plan to wear boots or a closed toed shoe that'll be warmer than flats :) But - it's a personal preference! I'm sure there are people out there who can wear TOMS with socks and look amazing while doing it.