Skip to content

the stylist’s notebook | when you’re petite

26 April 2009

(image source: tfs)

Dearest La Couturier,
At first: I really do love your blog. It’s always a pleasure to read your wonderful posts, your ideas inspire me and the pictures always let me feel the adrenaline moving through my veins. When I read your perfect matched sentences, I really start to envy you – because at first you live in the U.S. (my biggest dream ever!), second on you have a wonderful sense of style and fashion and know how to combine and last but not least your perfect sense of fitting word choice. I’m so impressed & appreciate everything you do on this blog.
Well, I am actually writing this email because I have a big problem with my height. 5’3″ – that’s so petite, I really hate to be so small. Thus I am also very thin. But the problem is, that some clothes can’t fit with such an height. Then suddenly the cute longshirt one of your friends had worn yesterday looks kind of strange on you. And this really sucks.

My question now is: What to wear when you are as small as I am? What does suits the petite ones?

I hope you can give me some good advice. Thank you.
xo Anna-Katharina

Darling. I fully and completely understand you. I myself can barely reach the height of 5’3″, sometimes feeling quite jealous of my future-model-friends who stand at 5’10” and above. And you are not alone in the world; plenty of women fall under the petite category.

But there are positives to our lack in the vertical department. We can wear heels of whatever height we choose, never towering our male counterparts (which sometimes can be potentially awkward in date situations). From three inches to a whooping 5.5 inch heel – yes, we can wear them with conviction and still have to stand on our tip-toes to kiss our handsome dates like they do in the movies. And it’s also a lot easier to have clothes tailored to us; our taller girlfriends either have to skip on some fabulous pant or have to find some way to get it extended. We simply shorten the hemline!

so what to wear?

Heels. You knew it was coming. It is the only way to attempt at gain some height-age so we may seem somewhat average in that department. But there are rules (as there are with everything else in this world of ours) with ankle boots. They can make us, or break us; those that cut straight across right at the ankles can make our legs seem shorter and thicker. So do avoid those; choose booties that hit a little above the ankle or below it. Or if you really do love those that end exactly at the ankle, pick something fitted, like a shoe that follows the curvatures of your foot as an ankle sock does (use your ankle socks as a guideline!).

Natalie Portman. Perfect proportions with her top, jacket, jeans, and boots. And perfectly layered.

Natalie Portman. Perfect proportions with her top, jacket, jeans, and boots. And perfectly layered.

Tops that hit at the hipline or above. Longer tops lengthen your torso – and shorten your legs, thus making you seem even tinier. Tops that end at your hips are the most flattering on any body shape/size; anything shorter (like crop tops) are for the brave. If you do love the look of longer tops, save them for summer, when you can pair them with micro-miniskirts or shorts. Because tiny bottoms can make your legs longer. But long cardigans paired with a hip-length shirt and shorts/skirt/denim are the exception.

High-waisted bottoms. We love anything that makes our legs longer! Pourquoi? Because anything that lengthens our legs is synonymous to having the ability to make us seem taller. It’s all the power of the illusion. So high waisted pants, shorts, skirts are our best friends. But do make sure that they hit at your natural waistline; anything higher looks, well, unnatural.

Wide leg jeans or pants. Incredibly flattering on all women of every height, but moreso beneficial to us ladies. Brownie points for those who pair it with heels!

Light layers. Avoid bulk, or too much layering, as both can be quite overwhelming. But light layers, like a thin tee with a thicker cardigan or leather jacket are perfect for petite body frames.

Natalie Portman for Te Casan, portraying loose done right. (image source: tfs)

Natalie Portman for Te Casan, portraying loose done right. (image source: tfs)

Tops. They should be fitted or just slightly loose for the perfect fit. Very vague, I know, but it’s hard to put into words, I must admit. My rule of thumb for those ubiquitous “loose-fitted tops”: cling at the chest, then falls straight down from the from the fullest part of your bust. For sleeves?  Fitted at the shoulders and clings to the highest point of your arms, then gradually “loosens” – I find bell-sleeves or balloon sleeves most flattering.

Long boots. Those that hit right below the knee have this strange ability to lengthen our legs.

Extreme hemlines. Either mini, or maxi are the most beneficial. Of course modest ones work too, but the extremities do more for our legs and height!

Nicole Richie exemplifies the benefits of black, opaque tights on black heels. Gorgeous legs. (images from tfs)

Nicole Richie exemplifies the benefits of black, opaque tights on black heels. Gorgeous legs. (images from tfs)

Proportions! Are ridiculously important. The best combinations for petite women? Loose top + high waisted short/mini skirt + heels = a killer look and killer legs. Or any top + high waisted / normal waisted (low-cut pants can shorten the legs) + heels are also incredibly flattering. Skirt lengths should either be right at the fingertips (when your arms are at your sides) or just under the knee – those are the two lengths that elongate the legs. Black opaque tights + black heels/booties also do great wonders for our legs. Minidresses or loose (long) tops paired with tights give a great slimming effect or fit tiny frames well.

For inspiration? Look to the fashionable snapshots of Natalie Portman, Rachel Zoe, Nicole Richie, and (occasionally) the Olsens for hints on what to wear. Because these ladies, despite their shared lacking in the height department, make it work.


La C.

65 Comments leave one →
  1. Hannah permalink
    26 April 2009 6:15 pm

    Great post! I love Natalie Portman’s style – she always looks beautiful. Could you do a post for tall girls, too? I’m 5’8” and it can be challenging to find clothes that fit well!

    • 26 April 2009 6:29 pm

      Hannah: Isn’t Natalie always so impeccably dressed? =] And of course I can! I hope you don’t mind waiting, though! I have a bunch of other questions lined up that I have to answer still!

      La C.

  2. didi permalink
    26 April 2009 6:23 pm

    oooh fabulous. I love Natalie Portman’s style too & am *almost* 5’4″ so little too. Thanks for this advice – so useful & you’ve encouraged me to dare to try miniskirts without leggings, just black opaques !

  3. Airam permalink
    26 April 2009 6:34 pm

    You always write the greatest posts. I love how you used Natalie Portman as an example, as I find her simply… exquisite. Proportions are one of the hardest things for me to work out, so I really liked your very practical rules, such as the one about a skirt reaching to your fingertips. Oh, and by the way, darling – how was your prom?

  4. 26 April 2009 6:34 pm

    You’re so helpful to your readers. I love your choices of inspiration, Nicole and Natalie are always so effortless.

  5. Hannah permalink
    26 April 2009 6:45 pm

    La C – Of course I don’t mind waiting! I love reading your blog, so I’m happy to wait to read through all the other marvelous posts you’ll put up before my question. 🙂 Thank you for accepting my request!

  6. 26 April 2009 6:53 pm

    Love, love, love this post. I am only 5’1 1/2 (on a good day, that is), so I can relate so much to Anna Katharina. Personally, I see Nicole Richie as the epitome of petite fashion perfection. Her look is always undeniably amazing. 🙂

  7. 26 April 2009 7:10 pm

    This is the best post! I’m a shorty as well, except I have a shorty man so heels are not always an option, and this has been the best eye opening post. Thanks so much.

  8. 26 April 2009 7:22 pm


    What an absolutely brilliant post! Spot-on advice! 🙂

    I am always giving advice to my 5’2″ mother on how to dress for her petite shape, and often ignore everything I say for myself (I’m only 2″ taller than her), as I sometimes am so in love with an item that I ignore the fact that I’m not 6″ and built like a reed.

    Re: your comment on my blog *lol* I’m afraid I’m a shoe size 8…sorry! 🙂

  9. 26 April 2009 7:47 pm

    Great tips! I’m 5’4″ so they’re helpful to me too! And Natalie Portman is my style idol! xx

  10. 26 April 2009 7:49 pm

    Ha! LaC, I was at that Holt Renfrew event! And, on the topic of height, 5 3 is very normal. That’s my height and no one thinks I”m short – at work they often mistake me for a tall person (maybe because I have a “tall personality”!) I think it’s perfect.

  11. sunshowersandthunderstorms permalink
    26 April 2009 7:53 pm

    great post!
    I actually do not have the height issue (being 5’9″) but think your advice was spot on!

  12. 26 April 2009 7:53 pm

    What a wonderful advice for petites! I envy them for the ability to wear any heels, my boyfriend usually pushes me down into the soil so that my heels shorten up a bit…not that he’s smaller than me 😛
    I so agree that proportions are important…

  13. thebaglady permalink
    26 April 2009 8:05 pm

    It was like this article was written for me!! Perfect bits of advice, as per usual. I really think you should go for the role of stylist in the future!!


  14. 26 April 2009 9:09 pm

    Awesome advice, I’m about 5’10, so I don’t have this problem, but it’s nice to know where to go if i did. 🙂

  15. 26 April 2009 9:30 pm

    Great post! I needed it. You hear so much of the same advice over and over, but yours was so current and helpful!

    I beat you all. I am only 4′ 10″ and am definitely not growing anymore.

    I love wearing heels, but they slow me down during my commute and I am a fast walker. People always mistake me for being anywhere from 12 -16 and it is SOOOO annoying ( I am in my 20s.)

    Any advice on that? XO

    • Kare permalink
      24 June 2010 2:17 pm

      to look more grown up, keep your clothes very conservative/serious like dark gray, pinstripes…I am 5 foot 1/2 inch and I have one pin stripe jacket that whenever I put it on I feel totally dressed up! You will enjoy that young look when you get old like me! 🙂 My biggest fashion problem as a petite is finding tees and sweaters that hit at the right spot, as even the petite sizes are way too long…I hem EVERYTHING!!!

    • 14 June 2013 12:29 pm

      Hi Jamie!

      I’m 4’11″… so I’m right there with you! I love heels, but they can be hard to walk in!! I would definitely avoid platforms, especially ones without any form of grip on the bottom. The shoes that look the most flattering on me and are the easiest to walk in are one and a half inch pumps. Of course, tans are great, but you can wear them in any color and play it up with fashionable shapes and designs… the pointed toe is known to be the most flattering on a petite frame. Small metallic details dress them up without overpowering the look.

  16. 26 April 2009 9:58 pm

    ure good at this advice thing! anything for busty women with curves? just in case ive missed anything 😉

  17. 26 April 2009 10:10 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this post, this article helped me out a lot! I am maybe 5’4″ and sometimes have moments of struggle with me being petite. Luckily, my mother has helped; I have also learned what elongates and what shortens, but there’s so much information out there. So, thank you for making it easier! =))
    I just love how Natilie Portman looks in these photos, she doesn’t look petite at all! Neither does Rachel Zoe, I actually didn’t know she was petite till I found out her height.

  18. 26 April 2009 10:19 pm

    Such a sweet post… and the tips are very insightful 🙂

  19. 26 April 2009 10:41 pm

    I’m short too, but I just realized the beauty of heels a couple months ago!

  20. 26 April 2009 11:47 pm

    Hello La C. Great post full of useful advice. I’m a guy, but I’m short. I’m only 5’4”. I love the pics of Natalie Portman. She’s beautiful and stylish.

  21. 27 April 2009 12:41 am

    Very good tips here. My mother was 5ft 4in, but I never really thought of her as being short. She had enough confidence for an army.

  22. 27 April 2009 3:03 am

    This is just what I need!
    I am beyond petite!!
    thanks darling xxx

  23. 27 April 2009 3:58 am

    Thank-you so very much for that post as I’m only 5’3, although I never really thought of myself being at a disadvantage like the writer of the letter – Oh well – your tips are fantastique La Couturier 🙂

  24. 27 April 2009 4:23 am

    Hi there-a fabulous post my dear with some very useful and inspirational tips!

  25. 27 April 2009 4:25 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m also 5″3 And it’s to know some tricks to make you look longer. (:

  26. 27 April 2009 4:40 am

    this is great advise!! i’m only 5ft2!


  27. 27 April 2009 4:55 am

    Intresting tips!=D Thanks!=)

  28. 27 April 2009 5:50 am

    I really hate being ‘petite’. But these dressing tips are helpful, thank you.

  29. Giselle permalink
    27 April 2009 9:01 am

    Thanks for the awesome tips for us lacking in the height department! Do you happen to have extra tips as to what those of us with short torsos should wear? I, for example, hardly have a waist due to my long legs and short torso (and I’m short, 5’2″) so it really limits my wardrobe. Anything high-waisted makes me look big. Helppp!

  30. 27 April 2009 10:02 am

    Gorgeous post and those illustration are great work!

    Thanks Honey!


  31. 27 April 2009 10:42 am

    Wonderful post, sometime I actually wish I were small…because just as some things don’t work on petite girls, in the same way, some things don’t work on us tall girls either. Too bad we can’t just adjust our height to go with whatever we want to wear! 😉

    Thanks for your sweet comment! ❤


  32. 27 April 2009 11:55 am

    As we say in my country: “The best, finest and most expensive perfumes come in tiny bottles”
    brilliant post!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  33. 27 April 2009 12:01 pm

    Get tips. At 5’6″ I’m not exactly petite but these suggestions will work for me too. I mean who doesn’t want longer legs.

  34. 27 April 2009 12:42 pm

    I agree with the majority of these helpful hints – however, I also think there is nothing wrong with embracing your petiteness either. There is nothing worse than a short girl who is only wearing heels in order to appear to be someone else. Heels are great but they are just illusions in the end – sometimes I wish girls would embrace who they are instead of trying to look like everyone else.

    I’m 5’5″ and pretty happy at this height 🙂

  35. 27 April 2009 12:43 pm

    I like this post. I’m tall and sometimes I wish I were small…

  36. 27 April 2009 2:05 pm

    your advice is always right on! lovely post

  37. 27 April 2009 2:14 pm

    Fabulous post! I especially love the style inspirations. I wish I were petite so that I could wear 5″ platforms!


  38. rossovelvet permalink
    27 April 2009 2:19 pm

    This is great dear !
    I’m like 5’85” (wow, prefer the centimetres !) and I know, it’s a shame, totally want/need to be 5’1o” !
    We’re never happy with what we have…
    I agree with princess liberty, I LOOOOOVE being tall, and I even want to being taller but something you know, it’s a little bit tiring !
    I know this will sound strange but when every dress you put on looks so distingueshed / classy / whatever, you’re kinda bored !
    Not so easy to be ‘casual’ when you’re tall… but it is really cool though.
    I think every height has his charm / potentiality.
    And I totally envy friend of mine who can wear 12cm shoes (hmm, what’s that in feet?^^)…. but I don’t really want to look like some basketballplayer !
    So, mix feelings !

    But I love love love your article, you rock !

  39. Tamara permalink
    27 April 2009 3:11 pm

    Ok… So there’s no way of avoiding heels? 😉 Thanks for the tips!

  40. 27 April 2009 4:25 pm

    great post LC. lots of gals have issues about what to wear when we don’t have super model height…

  41. 27 April 2009 4:32 pm

    I love Natalie Portman’s boots!

  42. 27 April 2009 4:54 pm

    such an great entry. thanks for sharing im a shortie too 🙂
    how tall are you?

  43. 27 April 2009 5:56 pm

    such a wonderful post! you really are a clever and stylish person

  44. 27 April 2009 6:15 pm

    I am 5’3″…great post!

  45. 27 April 2009 6:56 pm

    Wow, I just loved that post ! You’re great !Bisous

  46. 27 April 2009 7:58 pm

    Great tips! I’m very short, so I’m always wearing clothes(and shoes) to make me look taller~

  47. 27 April 2009 8:34 pm

    What a great post. Now do one for tall people like me! 🙂

  48. 27 April 2009 8:39 pm

    *raises hand* I’m 5ft2. 😦 And it’s very hard not to resent it. Apparently this upcoming round of ANTM is going to feature models who aren’t of supermodel height. Which I think is great. Everyone talks about the curvy/waify debate on the runway, what about the short/tall? It’s terribly frustrating to see so many really beautiful faces (at least in the modelling industry in my country) get rejected on the sheer fact that they are “too short”. And then there are tall girls who are scouted simply for their height., with no care or concern if they possess other qualities of finesses and flair, but are plonked, cookie-cutter fashion, into the industry. I really resent that. -_- But I digress…

    Thank you for this post. Long live les petites filles! (: I cite the mk+a Olsen as another example of really fantastic and radical girls who have no qualms about dressing strongly and confidently – despite being real tiny.

    Sorry for the rant in the first paragraph. Must be my morning office rage. -_-

    Blogtwin love,
    SEAH!ui (:

  49. 27 April 2009 9:40 pm

    i wear the 6 inch heels 😉 xo

  50. 27 April 2009 10:54 pm

    I’m a short 5’3 as well, so thank you so much!

  51. Truffle permalink
    28 April 2009 12:28 pm

    That was so helpful, as I am only 5’1″!

  52. Alize Morand permalink
    29 April 2009 10:34 am

    Great advice, very true and good pics to illustrate! Carine is not the only one to do perfection! 🙂
    Bisous ma chère! xxxx

  53. becs permalink
    1 May 2009 10:00 am

    Ok. Wow. You are awesome, and this is probably one of the best posts I’ve read on a fashion blog. I love your advice since I’m barely 5’3 and wasn’t aware of half the stuff you said. Just fab. Thanks!

    xo, Becs

  54. 1 May 2009 10:07 am

    ok, Me = 5′ 1″
    what I have learned?
    * hem skirts to hit just below the knee. I hate my knees but have killer calves.
    * shoes with ankle straps can give the illusion of a shorter leg.
    * nude shoes with skirts or even pants can lengthen legs
    * shirts that are too long can be belted and such to shorten
    * jackets and cardigans need to hit at right place, cropped is good too
    * monochromatic and all one color can slim and lengthen
    * the right fit in jeans makes a huge difference, if hips are wide = flare/wide leg to balance and pocket placement can make or break your rearview!

  55. eveange66 permalink
    1 October 2009 11:49 am

    Oh I am sp glad to see this post and know your blog !
    As a 4’11 myself I often find it very difficult to find suitable clothes and shoes, even here in France.
    So I really enjoy your piece of advice and feel a bit less alone…..
    especially as there are still a lot of petites around the world.
    True young are getting more and more taller but we are still there.
    And being petite (I would not ever be considered as short, never) and elegant is quite a challenge.

  56. dnz permalink
    29 January 2010 7:56 pm

    Thank you for the tips. I’m very short (barely 5′)and I hate looking smaller because of the way I dress. I often wear black tops and skinny jeans and I usually don’t wear heels, but I don’t wear sneakers either. It’s also important to stay thin because when I gain a little weight I can easily look plump. My legs have become a little thicker and I’m sometimes insecure with skinny jeans, but black tights make me look great. I think although taller women are usually attractive, petite women are very cute and many guys like petite women.

  57. 5 July 2011 11:12 am

    I’m 5’1″ !!! Have loved being petite all my life AND have been practicing the same set of rules. Glad to know that I’ve been dressing properly :p

  58. fifi permalink
    4 September 2012 4:42 am

    Amazing post! I’m 5’2″ and don’t really feel small which is funny because all my friends are 5’8″ or taller ahaha. I feel like I try to where the same clothes as them but this has shown me I can have my own petite style. I’m 15 (no longer growing) and people say I’m 12/13 -_- xxxxxxx

  59. 14 June 2013 12:30 pm

    I absolutely love your post! Great job with all of the petite celebrity styles!

  60. 14 September 2014 9:52 pm

    What’s up friends, good paragraph and nice urging commented at this place, I am
    really enjoying by these.


  1. what to wear: when you’re tall « la couturier
  2. Euzoia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: