It’s on my to-do list today to update a lot of our older posts with advice for where to buy petite-friendly clothes for work, and I thought I’d ask the readers: what are your best work fashion tips for petite women? Do you think certain styles work better than other — or is it all about knowing your body shape and tailoring it? I’m 5’4″, so I’m right on the cusp of petite sizes… these are some of my best tips for petite women, but I’d love to hear yours…
Psst: Check out our new resource, Where to Find Stylish Petite Suits for Women!
1. Don’t feel like you have to wear 5″ heels to look professional.
It’s ok to be short! (We’ve actually even discussed whether 4″ heels are appropriate for interview heels or other work situations — know your office before you buy a ton!)
2. Know where to shop.
We’ve rounded up the best workwear for petites in the past — but it’s also worth noting that depending on your exact dimensions, sometimes regular sizes may work best for you (for example, as a 5’4″ woman, I often buy petite pants but regular-length skirts) — and many brands offer “short” lengths that are cut slightly differently than petite lengths. Keep an eye to quality and style, but it’s worth noting that if you’re very petite you may be able to shop in juniors’ or children’s size ranges as well. (If you’re on the hunt for the unicorn that is plus-sized petites, check out our roundup of the best workwear for size 16 and beyond.)
3. Tailor it up.
We’ve rounded up the best suiting alterations for women and common tailoring alterations for women — but you can also learn to do some things yourself, such as hemming pants. YouTube is a great source for free tutorials, and you can find affordable online courses at places like Craftsy or Skillshare, as well as in-person lessons at local fabric stores like Joann. It’s also worth noting that some stores provide free alterations on your purchases, at least up to a certain point — for example, Nordstrom offers many free alterations on full-price clothing — “basic alterations are free for many full-price items purchased at Nordstrom and Trunk Club (online or in stores)” — and depending which level Nordstrom rewards cardmember you are, you may be entitled to $100 or more of reimbursement for alteration expenses.
4. Know YOUR body.
It’s hard to say “petite women always look great in this” because petite bodies come in all sizes, with all sorts of leg/waist/hip/bust ratios. A structured, shrunken one-button blazer may look great on one petite woman — while a dolman-sleeved sweater may look great on another.
5. Don’t expect every look to work on you.
Learn which styles work well on you and which don’t. For example, a large print may overwhelm your frame — the current trend of “stick a ruffle on it” may really, really not work for you. Start with clean, minimalist clothing in neutral colors, and build from there. Our four-week work outfit challenge may be just what you need to try different work outfit ideas.
6. A note on looking young (and trying to use fashion to look older)
A lot of young professionals who are petite worry about looking like high-schoolers, but we’ve noted in the past, “looking young” has every bit to do with how you hold yourself, speak, and otherwise present yourself — in other words, it often comes down to “acting young” more than looking young. Before you buy designer clothes, get expensive highlights, or buy a slew of uncomfortable heels, you may want to check out this post on executive presence, or this post on how to be taken seriously when you look young, where we advised a 30-something college professor on some beyond-the-basic tips.
How about you, readers? What are your best work fashion tips for petites? Which are your favorite petite stores for workwear — and suits?
Looking for some great shoes to go with your petite workwear? These are some of the Hall of Famers styles and brands offering narrow widths and smaller sizes…
Comfortable Heels in Narrow Widths & Small Sizes
In our last roundup of classic black heels for business attire, we rounded up some pumps that came in extended widths, including:
- Extended widths (AA, C, W): Target (M/W), Vionic (MW), Rockport (NMW), Ferragamo (2A, B, C), Trotters (M,W, WW), Sam Edelman (NMW), Bella Vita (AA-EE), LifeStride (AA-E), Naturalizer (N-WW),
- Extended sizes (4-13): Target (5-12), Calvin Klein (4-13), Ferragamo (4-11),
Some Comfortable Flats in Narrow Widths & Small Sizes
In our last roundup of comfortable flats for work, we rounded up some flats that came in extended width sizes…
- Extended widths (AA, C, W): Børn (M-D), Sam Edelman (NMW), Ferragamo (N M W 2A B C D),
- Extended sizes (4-13): Børn (5-12), Sam Edelman (4-13), Ferragamo (4-11), Sarah Flint (4-13), Rothys (5-12)
Pictured: Deposit Photos / envivo.