How to Wear a Pencil Skirt If You're Petite

This Versatile Garment Is a Go-To for Every Woman

Petite Taraji P. Henson in black pencil skirt. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a versatile wardrobe basic, look to the pencil skirt, a straight, fitted skirt. Although it might seem as though only slim women would be able to wear a pencil skirt successfully, women who have one of the four major figure shapes, triangle, rectangle, inverted triangle, and hourglass, can all wear a pencil skirt and look good in one. Styling details depend on the shape of the figure as well as the occasion.

Pencil skirts can be had across a wide price range, so you are sure to find one that fits your budget as well as your body.

It’s easy to adjust the length of a pencil skirt, so petites may want to shop in the misses’ department as well as the petites’ department for a wider variety of choices. Never buy a pencil skirt that is uncomfortably short for you since, given modern clothing construction techniques, it’s unlikely that the hem can be successfully let down. On the other hand, it’s an easy alteration to shorten a pencil skirt.

Fit Basics

Decide on the best length of the pencil skirt and have it shortened to that length if necessary. Usually, the most flattering length is somewhere around the knee -- a bit above, at the knee or a bit below. If knee-length seems too conservative for you, then a mini-skirt might be your cup of tea. Caution is in order, however, because petite women have short legs and unless they’re quite slim, a very short skirt can make a short woman look wider and also emphasize her shortness. A pencil skirt that is midi length doesn’t look right on a short woman either, and that leaves knee-length as the most flattering length.

For a pencil skirt to really look right, the skirt should be fitted at the waist and hips but not be too tight. If the waistband of your pencil skirt feels as though it’s digging into you, it’s too tight in the waist. If horizontal wrinkles form in the skirt across the hips when you’re standing up, it’s too tight. The fit should be close but not clinging. You should be able to sit in the skirt, too.

Styling the Pencil Skirt According to Figure Type

Hourglass-Shaped Figure: Buy a pencil skirt that fits through the hips. To emphasize your hourglass figure, wear a V-neck top tucked in at the waist. To disguise a tummy, wear an empire-waist top over the skirt or wear a jacket.

Rectangle-Shaped Figure: The look of a more-defined waist can be achieved by belting the pencil skirt with a narrow belt or wearing a wrap top or a top with surplice styling.

Triangle-Shaped Figure: When wearing a pencil skirt, petites who have triangle-shaped figures can balance hips by wearing a top that has features that make the figure appear closer to an hourglass shape, such as a shallow V-neckline or a ruffled bodice that adds bulk.

Inverted-Triangle-Shaped Figure: Women who have this figure type can make the hips look more in proportion by having their pencil skirts pegged, which emphasizes the hips. 

Styling the Pencil Skirt Based on Occasion

There are so many ways that a petite woman can wear a pencil skirt, depending on the occasion. A pencil skirt can work for anything from date-night dinner and movie to work or special occasions.

Casual or Play Wear: A denim pencil skirt hits the right casual note with flats and a simple tank or tee. Or chose a black leather pencil skirt for nightclubbing.

Date Night Attire: How about a sexy secretary look, as stylist Clinton Kelly likes to call the look of a pencil skirt with high heels and a cardigan? A twinset and some cat-eye glasses can work for those who like this vintage look.

Wear to Work: Wear a tweedy pencil skirt with an elbow-length blouse and pumps for a simple outfit or step up to business formal in a suit with a pencil skirt and matching jacket.

Special Occasion Wear: Either the pencil skirt or top or both can star at a special occasion. For example, choose all-over lace for both the pencil skirt and top. Or wear a sequined or charmeuse top with a plain black pencil skirt and killer stilettos.