The Petite Dress Edit with Eleanor Barkes

Eleanor Barkes is a petite style and beauty blogger with a passion to help the everyday woman own her look with confidence and grace. She shares her picks and tips on the 3 best dress styles for petite women.

One of the easiest ways to feel feminine and care-free is to wear a dress, especially during the hot Summer months. However when you’re shorter than the average height (5’5 / 1.56 metres), which most clothes are designed for, you’ll often find that the dresses don’t quite fit the same way on your short frame as they do on someone considered average height. For example, a maxi-dress which is supposed to sit on your ankles, ends up falling in a heap on the floor around your feet. In the same way, what is meant to be a mini-dress may end up way below your knee and resemble an ill-fitting midi-dress. Not the look you were aiming for!

Of course shopping in the petite section of the store will help, as clothes are designed with the shorter frame in mind, however there are still some specific dress styles that serve the petite frame the best, in that they elongate your frame to make you look a little taller, and in some cases, slimmer. So if you’re looking for a little help in that department, here are my 3 best dress styles for petite women.

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved wrap dresses. I didn’t realise it initially, but the reason it works so well on short girls is because it creates a continuous line of colour that elongates the body. It doesn’t matter what version of petite you are – 5’3 or below – a wrap dress works and is a great way to define your natural waistline, or if you don’t really have one to speak of, it’s a great way to create the illusion of one. Wrap dresses were reinvented by Diane von Furstenberg in 1974 and is universally flattering, versatile, and easy to wear, pack and style.

I can attest that this animal print fixed wrap style dress I’m wearing fulfils all the criteria above.

Telling a short girl to wear a maxi dress may seem like an odd piece of advice, as I think the most obvious thought is that it would completely drown us in all that fabric. However, professional stylists will tell petite girls that it’s imperative to create length in our outfits to make us look taller and that the easiest way to achieve it is to create a column of length through colours.

So if what you’re wearing forms a vertical line, it will create an illusion of length that will ultimately lengthen your frame. Therefore, if you’re wearing a solid pattern or colour, the maxi dress can actually make us short girls look taller by elongating the body frame. This maxi dress creates the illusion of me being taller just by being a solid column of colour.

The belted shirt dress may come as another surprise, however, wearing a belt high on the waistline means you’re creating an illusion that the torso is shorter and the legs longer. Further to this, it plays up to the rule of thirds ratio, meaning that our body ratio looks the best when it is divided by thirds instead of halves or quarters. This universal law is applicable to people of all height, and it is especially critical to us short women. So we can use this rule to improve our body proportion and elongate our legs.

In essence, your torso should look like 1/3 of your body and your legs 2/3. The ideal way to achieve this is through wearing a belt that blends in with your dress. This will avoid making your body look like it’s been cut in half, while still adding subtle texture and interesting dimension to your outfit. Dresses with belts also help those of us lacking a defined waistline to have more waist definition.

This beautiful rust coloured shirt dress ticks all the boxes as the belt is made to sit quite high, and it’s in the same colour as the dress. In the end we should all wear what we feel most comfortable in, and you should never feel that you have to wear something just because someone else says so as our personal style is very subjective, however it’s important to keep in mind that certain guidance will help us make the most of our existing features.

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