Dressing for Your Short Stature: Why Proper Fit is Essential for Petites

As a shorter woman, you may have struggled to find clothes that fit well and flatter your figure, especially if you are seeking more sustainable and ethical options. It can be frustrating to shop for clothes that are designed for women who are taller than you, leaving you feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable in your own skin. 

However, the key to dressing well is to prioritize proper fit. We’ve all gotten too used to lower standards. After all, how many times did you love a garment and bought it even though it didn’t come in petite sizing? Stop accepting made-for-someone-else options. After all, 50% of American women are 5’4” or less. Start expecting your clothes to be designed and tailored to you. When your clothes fit properly, you'll feel confident, stylish, and comfortable, no matter your height or shape. 

Here are some reasons why proper fit is essential:

  • Ill-fitting clothes can negatively impact your self-image and make you feel frumpy or unattractive. When you feel uncomfortable in your clothes, it shows in your body language and can affect how you present yourself to the world.

  • Clothes that don't fit well can also be uncomfortable and restrict movement, making it difficult to move through your day effectively. Put thought into your outfit in the morning, and then free your mind and body up for your life goals

  • When clothes fit properly, they can create a more polished and professional appearance, and help you command respect.

  • The most gorgeous garment will never look good on you if it doesn’t fit. Too many times, we end up feeling like our bodies are wrong. But it is the clothes that are wrong! See your best self and stop compromising.

  • Properly fitting clothes create a balanced and proportional look, enhancing your natural features and flattering your body type.

    So what should you look for?

    • Look for where the seam hits at your shoulder. It should actually sit on your shoulder. Most short women have narrow shoulders, no matter what their weight is. Even if you need a larger size to fit your bust, the shoulder should still be at the shoulder: that is probably the single biggest reason that I recommend wearing petite tops. That fit problem alone is automatically steering into a frumpy zone.

    • Alternatively, look for styles that don’t have a seam at the shoulder, such as raglan seams (where the seam points inward from the armpit to the neck).

    • The armhole (the amount of space where the sleeve attaches to the body) should be proportional. An armhole that sits closer up to the armpit looks more flattering on the body, lengthening to the torso and also gives you greater freedom of movement. A top can have a small armhole no matter what the rest of the sleeve shape is. The armholes on tank tops should be small enough to cover your undergarments and sit close to the body. Even an oversized body shape can have a smaller armhole or sit relatively close to the shoulder. You know those mens’ T-shirts in which the seam is several inches below your shoulder (so it will have enough room for your bust) and the sleeves practically hit at your elbow? Avoid those.

    • Check the lengths: Make sure your tops hit at a flattering length. Check the inseams on pants. While hems are the easiest to alter, also pay attention to:

    • Where does the waist of a dress fit on your body? The so-called “standard” sizes usually narrow for the waist too low on you and end up feeling tight in the wrong spot. On most women, the smallest part of the torso is at an empire waist, above your belly button. So having a narrowed waist on the clothing where your body is already curving out will not show off your feminine shape- and will look “off”.

    • The waist on pants should also hit at the right spot. Pants have a hip curve cut into it, so regardless of where the top of the pants are designed to fit on your torso, if it isn’t designed for a shorter person, it will sit badly on you. What will happen is that the crotch will be too low or it will sag around your butt. If you don’t have full roundness in the back, this will not be flattering. Or if you do have the round butt and thigh package, like I do, the lower crotch will look dumpy.

    • Working with a tailor is another great option for making sure your clothes fit properly. A tailor can adjust the fit of clothes that don't fit right off the rack, so they look great on you.

    Ultimately, prioritizing proper fit can make all the difference for us shorter women in achieving a confident and put-together look. By being mindful of key aspects such as seam placement, armhole size, and length of clothing, we petites can find clothes that fit well and make us feel our best. Let’s go look and feel amazing!

    Want more? How about the fit of your bra? Read blog post about bra fitting for petites here.