First things first: “Petite” doesn’t just mean short and slim.
1. For bustier petites, balance is key.
2. Smaller frame? Depending on the brand, don’t overlook kids’ sizes.
This can also apply to standard sizes:
3. And the same goes for shoes.
4. Use layers to fake a perfect fit.
If an item is fine in some spots but too big in others, use layers to strategically cover the latter. More examples of faking fit here.
5. Get familiar with easy at-home alterations that you can do yourself.
Jean Wang / extrapetite.com
Things won’t always fit perfectly off the rack, but you can often still make them work with simple DIY alterations. Like this one for slimming sleeves and raising the neckline: two small changes that can make a big difference. Find three ways to do this — two of which are beginner-friendly — here.
6. At the same time, know when to invest in a professional tailor.
7. Cuff long shirts at the elbow.
David Bertozzi / BuzzFeed
Flowy long-sleeved shirts sometimes dwarf smaller frames. Cuffed sleeves (and a quick tuck) can break things up and emphasize shape. More tips here.
8. Or cuff long jeans for a quick makeshift hem.
Roll them up or tuck them under. More here.
9. With maxis, pay extra attention to silhouette.
10. The same goes for high-waisted bottoms and crop tops.
Again, balance is key. Pair a fitted crop top with high-waisted skirts or shorts, says Gordon. This can help balance both halves without sacrificing shape.
11. Invest in narrow, petite-friendly hangers.
Small-shouldered clothing doesn’t always mix well with wide, standard hangers — the hanger pokes into the fabric, leaving you with stretched material. Companies like Only Hangers make slimmer and bendable versions.
12. Streamline a silhouette by getting rid of distracting details.
On a longer torso, the ruched sleeves on this H&M blazer would end closer to the forearm — but here, they awkwardly stop mid-wrist. A quick fix? Snipping the elastics. How-to here.
13. Pair shoes and bottoms that are similar in color — like black heels with black tights — to elongate your legs.
The matched color scheme helps create the illusion of a longer line. “Look for shoes in shades of tan or brown similar to your own skin tone, and don’t be afraid to experiment with metallics which can surprisingly function as a neutral,” said Wang.
14. Lengthen your torso by wearing a longer fitted shirt underneath a cropped sweater:
The contrast breaks things up. (And a cropped top over a fitted or fit-and-flare dress works well too, says Gordon.) More looks here.
15. Clothing that’s stretched over time or doesn’t fit quite right? Depending on the fabric, you might be able to (carefully!) shrink it:
Kelly Tucker / alterationsneeded.com
Downsizing a garment in the dryer can be a no or low-cost alternative to a tailor — if you know what you’re doing. Tucker shared her best tips:
• Research! Some Google sleuthing can help you figure out if a garment will shrink or not, and by how much based on the fabric content. Natural fibers like wools, cottons and linens are usually shrinkable, while synthetics like polyester and rayon are usually not.
• Take it slow. Don’t toss a garment in the dryer on high heat and forget about it because might not like what you see when you pull it out. Instead, start slowly with lower heats for short bursts until you get an item down to where you’d like it.
• Know that the way the fabric looks or feels may change after shrinking. Loose knits may come out looking tight, and threads may not feel as soft. If changes such as these will bother you, skip it. More shrink-to-fit info here.
16. Know which brands are petite-friendly.
17. And finally — be confident in whatever you wear.
“Don’t believe that the goal of everything you wear is to make you look taller,” Tucker said. “Embracing your body and wearing what you love and feel confident in is always a better idea.”