10 Style Don'ts for Petite Women

Up Your Look by Knowing What to Avoid

The very same clothes that look fantastic on the runway at designer fashion shows frequently don't look good on petite women. Runway models tend to be very slender and quite tall (usually 5 feet 10 inches or taller), and they're considered almost like a hanger from which to drape clothing. They can easily wear clothes that are big and long and have lots of fabric in them, but a short woman wearing the same garments will look even shorter and perhaps a bit overwhelmed. If you remember just one key idea, that would be that less is more -- less fabric for more appeal.

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Tea-Length Skirt

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Because a tea-length skirt, like this light blue tea-length dress from Oscar de la Renta, falls around the middle of the calf and breaks up the leg line, it can actually make a short woman look even shorter. A better choice for petites is a skirt, such as a pencil skirt, that falls somewhere around the knee.

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Garments With Turtlenecks

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A short woman can look as though she has no neck at all if she wears a garment with a turtleneck, like this gray turtleneck dress by Donna Karan. A better choice for petites is a V-neckline, which visually elongates the figure.

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Double-Breasted Jacket

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Double-breasted jackets are bulkier than single-breasted jacket styles, which work better for petites since they do not swallow up a short woman, as this canary yellow double-breasted jacket by Michael Kors would certainly do.

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Below-Hip Sweater or Jacket

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Short women will look better proportionally if they wear sweaters and jackets that fall to the top of the hip rather than below the hip, as this blue sweater from Stella McCartney does. 

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Furry or Puffy Vests

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Any garment that adds bulk is a garment that petites should avoid, and a furry or puffy vest certainly fits into the bulky garment category.This black fur vest by Diane von Furstenberg is out of proportion for a petite. 

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Big Sleeves

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Big sleeves, like the ones on this fuchsia dress from Marchesa, add bulk and detract from the sleek appearance that's desirable for short women. A better sleeve choice for petites is a fitted sleeve.

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Fluffy Fur Coat

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There's nothing bulkier than a big, fluffy fur coat, and a petite woman could actually end up looking more like a bear than a woman in a huge, furry coat like this one from Michael Kors.

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Generally speaking, petites look taller and thinner in simple and minimalist silhouettes rather than oversize ones. This black-and-white buffalo plaid Michael Kors poncho is tres chic but not on a petite woman. Short women should avoid  big, shapeless garments like ponchos and go for a more sleek look. 

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Garments With Excess Fabric

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Garments with lots of excess fabric, like this complicated garnet dress by Marchesa, overwhelm a petite woman's frame. The fabric might be folded, pleated, draped or given some other designer treatment, but all dresses in this style are unflattering to short women. 

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Baroque Ballgown

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Although most women probably aren't in the market for a ballgown unless we're going to be attended a costume party, a few petites might consider wearing a ballgown as a wedding dress, like this one from Elie Saab. Because the ballgown's silhouette is so exaggerated, short women should avoid it when selecting a bridal gown and opt for a more flattering and simpler style with less fabric.