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Can Petite Women Wear Maxi Dresses?

by Bonny Brown Jones

Billowy, feminine and often oozing with bohemian flair, maxi dresses have been a trend so long they're practically a classic, says "Tampa Bay Times." You don't have to be a leggy supermodel to be casually captivating in a maxi -- short ladies look lovely in long gowns, too.

Safety First

An obvious problem for petites taking dresses to the max is that they're often too long. You don't want to trip -- especially if you're going up stairs or somewhere else you're likely to fall -- and you don't want to rip your dress. Instead, look for a maxi that brushes your ankle rather than sweeping the floor. Ankle-grazing is also a better look, proportionately -- it won't look too big for you, says "Real Simple." If necessary, have the dress hemmed to the right length.

Figure Flattery

If you like, accentuate that ankle-grazing dress with strappy heeled sandals or wedges for more height. An empire waist also helps you look taller, says "Lucky" magazine. Solid colors and vertical stripes also convey length, as do dresses fitted at the waist. To keep from looking swallowed up by a too-billowy maxi, add a waist-defining belt.

An Eye for Design

Colorblocking and watercolor prints also work well when done in proportion to your frame. For example, a tribal-print dress in white, red and blue could overwhelm a petite woman, but add colorblocked black panels down the sides and a nipped-in waist, and your small stature can carry it off quite nicely. Just don't go too big with the print -- select a maxi that features a small-scale pattern to prevent being engulfed by your dress.

Shopping Tips

It can be hard to find maxi dresses that fit petites, even in upscale stores that offer petite sizes. Scout the stores when the styles first come in -- they tend to go quickly -- and consider high-low or multiple-length hemlines, too. "Tampa Bay Times" writer Stephanie Hayes has this tip for bargain shoppers: View the sales racks from the bottom up rather than top down to get a comparative look at the hemlines. This can tip you off to petite garments, even if they're not labeled as such.

About the Author

Bonny Brown Jones has been a writer, columnist, copy editor and senior copy editor for newspapers that have included the "Orlando Sentinel," "Miami Herald" and "Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch." Jones has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ohio State University.

Photo Credits

  • Carlo Allegri/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images