Styling for Petite Women

They say that good things come in small packages. Even so, it’s not easy being tiny. Vertically-challenged Maryam Yusof shares her take on the vertical challenge.

Being petite-sized, I tend to run into difficulties when shopping for clothes. They’re often either too big or too long for me. I’ve had to send clothes to the tailor for alterations for as long as I can remember. Finally, one day, I decided to just pull out my mother’s old sewing machine and alter my clothes myself!

Sure, I do sometimes wish I was just that bit taller, but it’s okay – an advantage of being petite-sized is that one can easily appear taller by creating the illusion of height.

For example, look at Reese Witherspoon. She is all of 156cm – petite by Hollywood standards – and yet in the movie Legally Blonde, she appeared much taller (and more formidable) than she really is, because of the cute (power) outfits she wears.

There are plenty of clothing tips for petite girls out there, but they typically suggest that we show more skin – a piece of advice that most Muslim women wouldn’t find entirely appropriate.

Furthermore, fashion magazines and websites typically group all petite girls into one category, but what I’ve noticed among my similarly petite friends is that those rules don’t exactly apply to us all.

I’ve observed that there are generally three ‘figures’ or shapes amongst petite girls: the ‘long-waisted’, the ‘short-waisted’, and the ‘evenly-proportioned’.

The key to creating an illusion of height is to flatter these body proportions accordingly.

Evenly-Proportioned or Long-Waisted (Long torso, short legs)
To appear taller, you should draw focus to your waist. This can be achieved by wearing a high-waisted bottom with a shirt tucked in to create the illusion of longer legs. However, this often draws attention to the shape of your hips, so to keep it hijab-appropriate, you could layer with a cardigan or a blazer for a modest cover.

Styling for Petite Women_Aquila Style

Short-Waisted (Short torso, long legs)
The idea here is to elongate your torso. This basically means that you should avoid wearing high-waisted bottoms; instead, wear long tops to create the illusion of a longer torso. A good length would be one that falls around your hips. However, your top should not be too long because this will make you appear shorter.

Styling for Petite Women_Aquila Style

Finally, petite women of all types can give these tips a try:

Monochromatic Colours
Wearing a single colour in alignment creates an illusion of length, so try to match the colours of your top, bottom and shoes.

Good Fits
Clothes with the right fit and size are extremely important for petite women; poor-fitting clothes can either add extra bulk if too small, or make you appear ‘shrunken’ in contrast if too large. When trying on tops, you should absolutely ensure that they fit you nicely at the shoulders; don’t let the shoulder seams ‘droop’.

Maxi Dresses
A general perception exists that petite girls tend to look like they’re ‘drowning’ when they wear a maxi dress. I, for one, completely disagree! In fact, a good maxi dress can make you appear taller, especially when worn with a great pair of heels. Look for a solid-coloured structured maxi dress that won’t overwhelm your frame. Those that are empire-cut or waist-clinching can create the illusion of longer legs and therefore, height.

Styling for Petite Women_Aquila Style

Petite Pants
While I always purchase my tops from the regular range, I’ve come to realise that although it’s tempting to buy regular-sized pants and have them altered later, pants from the petite range are really far better fits for petite girls (thus the existence of this range – don’t you feel special?!). Retailers like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridges and ASOS each have a petite range that includes jeans and pants that fit incredibly well. Getting petite pants saves you from the trouble of getting them altered for length!

Here’s another tip: avoid wearing wide-leg pants as this can make you look shorter and wider. Straight-legged pants, on the other hand, can make you appear taller!

High Heels
You should in no way feel obliged to wear heels all the time, since there are well documented dangers associated with wearing them too often. Nevertheless, they obviously do make you appear taller. So, if towering in high heels makes you feel confident, then go ahead and rock those stilettos!

Instead of sending your clothes to the tailor so they can fit better, make the time, get creative and DIY (do it yourself)! It can be a fun activity and you can proudly tell anyone who compliments you on your outfit that you did it yourself. (Well, sort of – you altered it yourself, so that counts!)

PS: Personal Pride
Finally, let’s not forget the petite girls out there who are absolutely comfortable with their miniature stature and take pride in their flat shoes. I think that’s great too!