Special Dress Styles for Shorter Women

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Petite women -- defined as 5 feet and 4 inches or shorter -- often have difficulty finding dresses that fit properly and enhance their smaller frames. But just because you lack supermodel stature doesn’t mean you can’t rock a frock with the best of them. By paying attention to dress styles, proportions and color, petite women can achieve both a perfect fit and a look that wows.

Hem Length & Proportions

As a general rule, your dress hem should fall just above the knee. Knee-length dresses show enough skin to give you the correct proportions without swallowing up your petite frame. This may mean you need to see a tailor to alter the dress to the appropriate length. Keep in mind that it’s not just your height that needs to be accommodated -- your proportions are also different than women of average or tall height. In addition to changing the hemline on your garment, you likely will require a higher waistline, smaller armholes, a shorter rise and tinier sleeves. As a result, it’s best to look for labels that cater to petites. You can also take your frock to a tailor to get the proper fit.

Color & Prints

When selecting a dress to flatter your petite stature, consider dresses in solid colors as opposed to busy prints. Choosing a singular color -- think a bold red, bright blue or classic black -- helps elongate your frame to add the illusion of height. Additionally, vertical stripes as opposed to the horizontal variety lengthen your look and make you appear taller. If you must choose a print, keep it in proportion to your figure. A small floral print or tiny graphic elements will not overwhelm your frame the way an oversized pattern will.


Since elongation is your goal as a petite woman, choose a dress with an empire waist that is gathered just below the bustline. Not only does this style draw the eye upward, but it also visually lengthens the torso and legs. Wrap dresses are also a flattering style on a petite because the deep-V neck and vertical line created by the wrap helps to elongate. Be sure that the waistline on whatever frock you choose stops above your hipline to prevent your legs from appearing shorter.

General Tips

When selecting and styling your dress, keep a few general tips in mind. Instead of styling a dress with colorful jewelry or a contrasting belt, try a solid-colored shift dress with minimal accessories and nude or matching shoes to provide a longer look. Also be sure your dress fits close to the body as to avoid looking engulfed. Once you select your frock, remember to grab a pair of heels for extra inches and instant glam.