Dresses for Petite Women

petite woman in aqua dress
Petite Summer Dresses

When shopping for the most flattering dresses for petite women, those ladies in the 5'4" and under market should keep some pointers in mind to present an unforgettable image. If you're shorter than average, you know how frustrating it is to find the perfect dress and then see that it's too long or boxy for you. Shopping in the petite department of stores and at specialty petite boutiques will eliminate much of your sizing problems, but there are still some key areas you'll want to pay attention to in order to look your best.

Best Dresses for Petite Women

Here are some important aspects to look for when shopping for dresses:

  • V-neck: V-necklines are naturally flattering to many different body types and petites are no exception. The reason this is such a good neckline for shorter women is because of the vertical interest the V-shape creates; it draws the eye up and down. It also shows off your neck, so whether you have a swanlike neck or not, this particular neckline gives the illusion of a long, lean neck. Halter styles tend to accomplish this with ease.
  • Vertical details: Stripes that travel the length of your dress or other interesting details that run the center of your garment create a taller appearance. Like the V-neck, this draws the viewer's eye up and down.
v neck wrap dress
  • Wrap style: The main reason wrap dresses are so universally flattering to many body types is the built-in V-neck as well as the diagonal direction that creates a waistline for women who don't have small waists. For petite women, a wrap creates a figure-flattering look, but since the dress isn't broken up in a sharp or severe way, it can still create a smooth silhouette.
  • Knee length or shorter: You want your legs to look long and lean; the more leg that shows, the taller you'll appear. Dresses that hit at your knee or slightly above are the most flattering for petite types. You don't want to go too short, however. If you wear a micro mini in an inappropriate environment, you run the risk of looking like a little girl playing dress up.
  • Ankle length: If you prefer longer hems, you should go very long, all the way to the floor. In the summer, breezy cotton sundresses that fall to the ankles can be paired with espadrille sandals or other heeled, casual footwear.

What to Avoid

  • Calf length: Dresses that hit the middle of your lower leg cut off the long look you're trying to attain.
  • Wide belt: Wide belts can work, but only when their color is harmonious with your dress. If you sport a black dress and want to accessorize with a wide belt, make sure the belt is black as well; a wide white or red belt will cut you in half, essentially taking away from the taller illusion you're trying to convey.
  • Different colors: A dress should be monochromatic or have a monochromatic pattern to best flatter the petite frame. Petite women should avoid dresses that are one dramatic color on top and a completely different color on the bottom. Like the wide belt, this tends to cut the body in half.
  • Horizontal stripes: Very few women can pull this look off, and petite women should avoid any variety of horizontal stripes. These side-to-side stripes draw the eye horizontally rather than vertically, which is not what you want.

Where to Shop

pin striped black dress

Consider these retailers for the latest looks in dresses for petite women for professional, dressy and casual occasions:

  • JCPenney: Find the newest trends in casual, work, and holiday dresses for petites.
  • Nordstrom: You can always find a huge selection of dresses, from casual to formal at this department store.
  • e dress me: If you scroll down on the Dresses page, you'll see a link to the petite sizes. Most of the dresses found here are fun, flirty, and casual, but there are a few dressier options as well.
  • Talbots: You'll get a variety of evening and casual dresses to choose from when you shop this site.
  • Ann Taylor: Here, you'll see a wide selection of dresses meant to give an elongated look to the body.
  • Donna Ricco: You'll find a variety of dresses that flatter several different body shapes. Find dresses for special occasions or work.
  • Kohl's: You can find a wide variety of clothing for petites at Kohl's including jeans, athletic wear, dresses and casual and work clothes.
petite handbook

Stand Tall

By accessorizing your dresses the right way, you can further the tall illusion. Complementary shoes, necklaces that have vertical pendants and hanging earrings are great ways to complete your ensemble. By shopping in the petite departments and considering how the details of the dress effect the overall look, you can select the most flattering dress. Choose the dresses that both complement your look and appeal to your personality, and you'll project a beautiful image no matter what your height is.

Dresses for Petite Women