Last Edited: 17 Dec, 2023
Author: Cristina Holm

How best to dress if you’re petite or short

‘Petite and proud’ leading fashion stylist Cristina Holm, shares her top dressing tips for petite women

In a world where it seems height is ‘always in fashion’, dressing a smaller frame can prove a difficult task.  So here’s my new blog specifically for petite women.

Here’s the thing, most brands tailor their clothes to fit women of an average height (which is between 5ft 4″ and 5ft 7″ here in the UK).

So, those who are 5ft 3” and under all too often struggle to find trousers that don’t swamp their feet, or find blazers that don’t engulf their entire body.

Now, for many of us, feeling taller makes us feel more confident, which is why I believe all women of a shorter persuasion should have the power to create the illusion of height with the magic of clothes.

Below are my top tips to elongate a shorter figure and how best to dress if you’re petite.

However, the shorter you are, I have to say, the more important it is for you to know a seamstress who can alter garments to fit you best.  Especially when it comes to length.

I know (first hand!) the additional cost is frustrating, but the benefit (which is looking great and feeling good) far outweighs these alteration fees.  Neither should the cost be huge, as long as you purchase the right styles in the first place.

“Below are my top tips to elongate a shorter figure and how best to dress if you’re petite.”

Wear ‘high waisted’

The most common obstruction to height petite women face is short legs, and the best way to combat this is through full length and high-waisted trousers and jeans.

This is a simple way to stretch out the body and makes your legs appear longer.

“By wearing the same colour from top to bottom, you can visually elongate your frame”

My most important tip

Although your height plays an important role in styling, your main focus should be dressing to complement according to your body shape.

If you have the time, read my ‘How to dress for your body shape‘ blog to learn more.

That said, I must also mention that along with a smaller frame comes a reduced tolerance between what looks good and what doesn’t.  Which is why having a seamstress is so helpful.

Shop early in the season 

Size availability will often be an issue the later you shop each season.  That’s true for all sizes, however the number that are manufactured are less for petite women in the first place, so shop early to maximise your choice and to avoid disappointment.

Accentuate your waist

Whilst high waisted trousers go some way to achieving this, I like to go a step further.  Belts and fitted jackets that sinch in at your waist add shape to your frame.

Importantly, this avoids the swamped-look that comes with wearing shapeless and boxy clothing which only makes your body appear even shorter than it is.

Layered top, tight bottom

Speaking of swamped, colder months can be especially challenging for short women, when all you want to do is keep warm within a big winter coat.  Yet you can still achieve warmth without compromising looking your best.

Opt for a layered top half (e.g. fitted sleeve tops, jumpers/cardigans, jackets, scarves and all), balanced out with fitted jeans or leggings, which give the illusion of longer legs.

Wear the right length coat

There is an exception to this winter rule, however.  A long coat, including the sleeves need to be the right length to give you balance and avoid amplifying your petite frame.

Knee length is ideal but avoid mid calf, as this shortens you.  For best effect, always ensure your coat is fitted and doesn’t enshroud your entire body!

Smaller patterns, accessories and colour matching

By wearing the same colour from top to bottom, you can visually elongate your frame.

If you buy clothes with patterns, choose smaller prints as these complement and give you balance.  Avoid large patterns as these have the opposite effect.  It’s the same with a handbag or a necklace.  ‘Complement for a compliment’ as I like to say!

The 70s flare

A subtle flare is my go-to trouser style for petite women.

They are universally flattering, but flares are especially useful when creating an illusion of height.  Pair with heels if the leg is slightly too long, and hey, hiding heels with a longer leg is a sneaky way to trick people into believing your legs are actually that much longer!

Heels and Platforms

And last but not least, the trusty heel must not be overlooked.

Whilst this is an obvious solution, with current trends revolving around trainers, it seems a healthy reminder.  Which is why I am also a fan of platforms, as these are increasingly common as a staple style – even on slippers!

Also, kitten heels have come back in style, making it easier than ever to add a sneaky inch or two to any casual outfit.

My favourite UK shops for petite women

Best stores for petite women

Many brand now design and stock petite ranges.  Including New Look, Wallis and Karen Millen.

If you are familiar with my new online styling service, My Secret Stylist, you will find many of the brands on my site specifically carry Petite ranges, including Next, Lipsy, Whistles, nobody’s child and Boden.

Make sure to check out these stores and remember to shop early in the season when all the sizes are available.  Remember, the shorter you are, the more likely you may still need a seamstress to carry out minor alterations.

Just don’t fret if you’re still struggling or need guidance on creating outfits (especially regarding your body shape).

That’s why I’m here to help, so please never hesitate to get in touch.  I have many clients who benefit from my services, all undertaken online.  I’m just an email away:

Cristina Holm

Cristina Holm is one of the UK’s leading personal stylists. Cristina is based and operates from her studio in Warfield, Berkshire (United Kingdom).  She serves clients locally and internationally.

Cristina is also the founder of My Secret Stylist, the UK’s best kept clothes shopping secret.  For only £35.99 per year, you can find and ‘see in seconds’ clothes which complement your body shape across all the popular brands.  For more information, go to