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The Petite Woman’s Guide to Classic Fashion

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In a fashion world that’s full of statuesque 5’10″+ models, it can sometimes feel like women on the more petite side of the spectrum get the short end of the stick (no pun intended!) Even when it comes to finding classic basic pieces, shopping can sometimes feel like a gamble of what will work and what won’t. However, that doesn’t mean that petite woman can’t pull off those chic and timelessly stylish looks. In fact, there are even a few advantages when it comes to dressing for a shorter frame! In this petite woman’s guide to classic fashion, I’ll be showing tips and tricks for dressing and embracing your petite frame – no sky-high stilettos necessary.

The Rule of Thirds

Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” Nothing illustrates this better than the rule of thirds. Also called the Golden Ratio, the rule of thirds has been used in math, art, and (of course) fashion to determine what is aesthetically-pleasing to us. So how does this apply to fashion?

When styling your look according to the Golden Ratio, you’ll want to think of your outfit in terms of thirds. This means 1/3 of your look should be one “block” while the other 2/3 should be another. The most flattering way to achieve this with a petite figure is to make your top the 1/3 and your bottoms the 2/3.

For example, this look follows this rule by having the top take up roughly 1/3 of the look, while the trousers take up the other 2/3. This gives the legs a lengthened appearance that is both figure-flattering and pleasing to the eye in terms of silhouette and style. Generally, splitting your body in half horizontally (which would be a 1/2 to 1/2 ratio) is unflattering on most body types.

It’s All About Balance

With styles like oversized blazers and slouchy sweaters being en vogue, you may be wondering how to rock these styles without looking like you’re drowning in a pool of fabric. The key is to focus on balancing proportions, which is a common theme throughout this guide.

When wearing an oversized blazer or other pieces of outerwear, try to keep the rest of your look more fitted or apply that rule of thirds by choosing a shorter dress or skirt, a fitted top

Alternatively, if you’re going for a maxi skirt or wide-leg pants, you may want to go for a more fitted top and tailored jacket. This is going to create a less overwhelming, more flattering silhouette that will avoid that “drowning in fabric” look.

Go for Long Garments

One of the common misconceptions when it comes to dressing petite bodies is that longer styles are a no-go. This isn’t always the case! In fact, a great jumpsuit, long coat, or maxi dress can lengthen and elongate your proportions when styled properly.

These items create long lines that span from the top to the bottom of body, which can give you the illusion of height. When choosing these pieces, however, try to steer clear of anything too shapeless and consider proportions when styling your look (i.e layering a long coat over more fitted pieces.)

Cropped Silhouettes

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have cropped silhouettes, which are also ideal for shorter frames. Items like cropped tops, sweaters, jackets, jeans, and even miniskirts are going to a have a more flattering fit than their regular-length counterparts – no tailoring required!

Cropped tops and jackets are especially great for short torsos, as they will hit right at your waist, visually extending your legs.

Go High-Waisted

As you’ve seen, shorter tops and longer bottoms are going to give that flattering, aesthetically-pleasing silhouette. One easy way to accomplish this is by going for a pair of high-waisted bottoms.

These pants, jeans, skirts, and shorts hit right at your natural waistline, which makes your legs appear longer and gives the illusion of an hourglass figure to boot.

Tuck In Your Tops

If you find yourself with boxier or shapeless garments, simply tucking them into your bottoms is an easy and effective way to add definition, balance your look, and (you guessed it) apply the rule of thirds.

This technique is especially great for the high-waisted bottoms suggested above. For tops that are just a bit too long, you can also use the beloved French tuck technique to break things up a bit.

When in Doubt, Go For a Dress

For the petite ladies who love a gorgeous dress, you’re in luck! Whether you prefer a flirty mini dress, elegant maxi dress, or somewhere in between, almost every dress style is going to be perfect for lengthening your figure and creating a flattering silhouette.

Details, Details, Details

As with all body shapes and sizes, a lot of what makes a figure-flattering outfit comes down to the finer details. For petite fashionistas, there are a few of these extra details you may want to consider adding to your wardrobe:

Pointed-Toe Shoes – This shoe silhouette is an absolute staple for all, but especially for petite figures. The pointed toe creates the illusion of longer legs and a nude pair can be worn with just about every outfit.

Side-Slits – Yet another leg-lengthening option! This can come in the way of a dress or skirt and adds an incredibly chic detail to an otherwise plain outfit.

Small or Mini Bags – Just as you don’t a coat or dress to swallow you whole, a large bag can also overwhelm your look and make you look smaller than you really are. A more manageable bag, or even a mini bag, will create a more proportional look.

Outfit Formulas

High-waisted trousers/jeans + tucked in tee – This is the perfect casual, everyday outfit for a petite frame. It’s easy to layer and accessorize and can be dressed up by switching jeans for trousers and adding a blazer.

Fitted mini dress + blazer/oversized jacket – For a different spin on the rule of thirds, this outfit uses the smaller “block” on the bottom in a way that still looks fabulous on petite figures.

Long coat + fitted top+ straight-leg jeans – The look of a longline jacket or coat over a sleek top and jeans combo makes for a great elevated and modern take on casual style.

Tailored cropped jacket + fitted top + wide-leg pants – The perfect formula for a stylish workwear ensemble. Add a belt for an even more polished and streamlined look.

As you can see in this petite woman’s guide to classic fashion, dressing a petite figure doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fashion fun! By knowing your proportions and keeping the Golden Ratio in mind, you can create countless timeless outfits that work for every occasion.

No matter your body type, everyone can benefit from classic style. Check out the next post for ideas on how you can use basic items and turn them into endless outfit ideas!
Capsule Outfits That Build a Timeless Wardrobe

petite woman's guide to classic fashion


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.