Breaking the Petite Style Rules


How to break petite style rules

Just because you’re petite doesn’t mean you can break your style rules.  You just have to do it in a knowledgeable way.  You can read up lots of rules (which are of course just guidelines) here on the blog.  Some of the petite style rules that I find matter the most are:

  1. Scale – don’t overwhelm your small frame with swathes of fabric, large scale patterns or collars
  2. Fit – wear clothes that are fairly fitted (not tight), as clothes that are too large will make you look smaller and like you’ve borrowed your clothes from someone else (like a big sister or your mother)
  3. Proportions – keep your proportions in check.  Ensure that you work with the principle of volume – that is – not two voluminous garments at the same time.
  4. Colour – a column of colour can really help to elongate your frame

Now this is not an exhaustive list of rules. But it’s a good set of guidelines to work with.  But you’re bored with wearing a column of colour or you want to wear a more baggy garment (there is a current trend to ‘oversize’) so how to do it without looking ridiculous?

Breaking the Petite Style Rules

breaking the petite style rules

  1. Show some skin – particularly on your upper body (but even your legs).  Wearing an open neckline, a 3/4 sleeve or a knee length skirt will help to reduce the appearance of lots of fabric.  Often we associate petite with sleeves that are too long and hems that drag on the ground (if they are not tailored to fit).  So showing skin says your clothes fit you.
  2. Draw attention up to your face – add a detail or accessory near your face – dress your portrait area to make a great focal point there.
  3. Wear a structured garment over something more oversized or floaty to tame it
  4. Add a heel – if you are happy to wear heels, a heel will add back some of the height you weren’t born with.  A longer toe box in your shoe (unless you have large feet) can also make you look taller.  Wedges and flatforms are another way to add height with relative comfort.
  5. Low vamp shoes will make your legs look longer
  6. Belt anything that’s voluminous as it will draw the fabric in and make the whole garment look more fitted to your frame.

Tell me petite readers – how do you break your “rules”?


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  • Ankle length regular pants not petites as longer waisted.
    Looser items are fine, if worn with something more fitted, but I don’t wear large patterns.

    Does not have to be one solid color block, but colors should repeat or harmonize together. I do wear flats, but personally cannot wear a sudden pop of color on my feet without looking a bit chopped off.

    The shoes and outfits you show are excellent examples. Dressing the portrait is especially important for us shorties as it draws the eye upward as well. Thank you for addressing this topic.

  • I wear lots of color instead of a column; flats and high vamp shoes that don’t always blend with my bottoms; and every once in a while I experiment with a belt even knowing it looks bad. Oh and a big no-no – trial and error with balamcing volume

  • I love volume! I am petite and I also understand that the volume must be controlled. On me, that usually involves choosing options…volume on top…not so much on the bottom or the opposite volume on bottom…something more controlled on the bottom. I love my E.F. harem pants because the volume is controlled by the fitted ankle. Cropped volume on top also helps as does the famous Kim-tuck or use of obi belts up high. I love a loose caftan, but is must be gathered at some point to define my shape. As a result, the up/down silhouette gives me a unified and lengthening look while not being overwhelming. I love platform sandals and shoes…heels no less than 3 1/2 inches…I can run in heels even at 60…well developed ankles from dancing hours in stilettos during the disco years.

  • These are great guidelines! I’m a petite 8 shape and have found that proportions are the most important thing for me. I do sometimes wear waterfall type cardigans but they have to be shaped. I wear them with t-shirts, skinny jeans and heels, plus a statement necklace to draw attention up to my face.
    I know when I’ve ‘over-volumised’ because the local teenagers look puzzled when they see me – as if I’m a teenager dressed in my mother’s clothes – even though I’m in my 40s and don’t look young for my age!

  • I wear skirts below the knee and mid or lower calf length. The ‘only wear skirts to the knee’ rule is annoying. I find most of all though, that if I stay at a slim weight, then my body IS in proportion, and I can wear what I want. I sew a lot of my clothes for a perfect fit.

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