Believe it or not, there’s a simple answer when it comes to defining petite size. Petite size is all about proportion for a perfect fit and tailored for women 5’4” and under. Petite sizes address this issue with an extra stitch here or there, or a pleat or dart for the most flattering fit. We know these distinctive characteristics can make finding the right fit a challenge. Not to worry, we’ve got you. But before we get started, tuck away our number one rule: celebrate the unique shape and size of your body.
We have little-known fashion designer Hannah Troy from New York City to thank for coining the term “Petites” in the 1940s. Troy noticed many women were swimming in garments that didn’t fit properly. As a designer, she knew that the key to finding your style and building a good wardrobe began with a proper fit. We couldn’t agree more.
Hannah Troy leaned into her findings to create appropriately fitting clothing for women. She used measurements collected for uniforms when women volunteered for military service during World War II and discovered that over half of the women were short-waisted. With this data in hand, she created a line of clothing with this shorter woman in mind. Her innovation brought better-fitting couture to the masses and introduced petite sizes to closets everywhere.
When deciding what to name her collection featuring shorter inseams and shoulders, Troy borrowed from the French. Meaning small, she called her new line “Petites.” This was the beginning of the journey to empowering women everywhere to find their style and the precise, petite size fit.
What Height Is Considered Petite?
Petite sizes are designed for women 5’4” and under, regardless of their size. In the petite category, sizes range from extra-small to plus-size. They also have a “P” label to illustrate a smaller and proportioned fit. What makes petite different? It’s all in the details. Petite size items have shorter sleeves, hemlines, inseams and rises. Many designers also make fit considerations like knee and armhole placement to accommodate smaller frames.
While height may be the primary defining factor for petite sizes, it’s just the start. Your body shape and measurements help determine the right size and silhouette to ensure you look and feel your best. Knowing your inseam, preferred sleeve length and distinguishing details are essential for finding a flawless fit.
How Is Petite Size Different From Regular Size?
Petite sizes differ from regular sizes, mainly when it comes to height. Regular sizes are designed for women 5’4” to 5’8”. While traditional size hemlines and inseams might be too long on a 5’4” or smaller frame, petite sizes offer a shorter, tailored fit. Height continues to reign supreme when distinguishing between petite and regular sizes.
Retailers often provide size guides to help establish what best fits your frame. If finding the optimal size and fit is a challenge, consider getting your measurements taken by a professional tailor. Or, pass a friend the measuring tape to help you take individual measurements to find your true size. Your measurements will come in handy when identifying what petite sizes work best for you.
Stylist Tip: Have you found a style you love, but it doesn’t come in a petite size? When opting for alterations, remember to buy items that fit the most prominent part of your body. It’s easier to remove fabric than to add it.
When Should You Wear Petite Sizes?
Whenever and wherever you see fit. Wear petite sizes when you have fit challenges, as smaller crafted clothing will assure a better fit. While discovering your preferred size combination, it’s essential to be in tune with your body’s proportions. Petite sizes may not work for all women who are under 5’4”. For example, a petite woman with a long torso or a full chest may prefer the fit of regular sized tops. Conversely, do you have long legs and a short torso? Petite tops and regular size bottoms might be the magic blend for you.
Women of average heights—5’4”–5’9”—who typically go for regular sizes may also benefit from petite sizes. A woman who’s 5’7” with a small frame may prefer the fit of a petite top. The unique cuts and silhouettes for petite sizes can help women of all sizes uncover items tailored to their frames.
When determining if petite sizes are suitable for you, take all factors into account from head to toe. It’s just the beginning of exploring if petite sizes are a natural fit. Our body shapes don’t fit into one category, nor should they. Celebrate what makes you stand out in a crowd.
What to Wear for Petite Sizes
The first step in building a wardrobe where you feel comfortable and confident is finding your optimal fit. Once you’ve found the ideal petite size, start experimenting with the parts of yourself you want to highlight. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite styles and silhouettes that look amazing on petite frames.
The Best Jeans
Denim is always a good idea, and an essential part of any wardrobe. Dressed up or down with ease, the hardest part is deciding which pair to wear. The good news for petite frames is all denim silhouettes look great on you with the proper fit. Our style experts have a few tips to keep in mind when selecting a pair of jeans.
First things first: consider the rise and silhouette. High-rise denim is a dream. It highlights your waist and provides definition and balance to your ensemble. Choose from skinny, straight or bootcut silhouettes in an array of blue washes. Best part? This rise and silhouette combination is an easy trick for petite women that want to lengthen their legs.
Once you’ve found your ideal pair of petite jeans, style them with a top that pops. Not ready to ditch your skinnies and embrace the wide-leg trend? Meet in the middle and opt for a pair of straight-leg denim (otherwise known as this season’s “it” style). How should you style your straight-leg jeans? Romantic puff sleeves are a summer trend making waves. It’s time to dress up again—a top with embellished details does wonders when paired with straight-fit denim.
Stylist Tip: Skip the tailor and cuff your jeans for a simple petite style hack to get your desired inseam. It’s easier than it sounds, and you get extra fashion points for keeping the cuff relaxed and effortlessly elegant.
The Best Tops
Our favorite tops for petites are anything but basic. Petite-size tops fit a smaller build in a multitude of ways, offering a more tailored fit. V-neck and scoop-neck tops show a little skin while highlighting your collarbone. These necklines also happen to be a fabulous frame for a trending coin pendant necklace. Looking for more coverage? Petites can rock a mock or turtleneck too. We recommend sticking to one color head to toe, which will add the illusion of length to your look.
Looking for a silhouette that will make you swoon? A cropped top flatters your petite figure and elongates your ensemble, adding a modern flair. Add polish to wide-leg pants with structured tailoring and a fitted crop top. This pairing will highlight your waist and give proportion and definition to your outfit. A wrap silhouette, and similarly structured tops, draw attention to your top half to ensure you’re not swimming in your blouse with an oversized style.
Ready to reimagine a classic? Stripes are a stylish essential in every closet. Vertical stripes extend your frame and are a go-to for petite women. For a timeless look perfect for any occasion, wear a vertical striped button-down with slim-fit trousers. Tuck in your shirt and add a belt to show off your figure. Opt for a thin belt in a color similar to your top to balance out your outfit. Take note: a belt can be the petite woman’s best accessory and secret weapon.
The Best Layers
Looking for layers? We’ve got you covered. From keeping you warm to providing structure to adding the finishing touch to an outfit on the town, they truly do it all. Not to mention, layers work wonders when styling petite-size outfits.
Don’t let your layers swallow up your petite frame. Highlight your waist with a belted trench—an iconic layer that works in all seasons for any occasion. This is a layer you’ll reach for repeatedly. The universally flattering wrap style and a cinched waist create a figure-defining shape you’ll love.
Cropped jackets are a petite gal’s best friend. The shorter length accentuates the waist while balancing proportions. Keep the overall shape in mind when choosing layers. Layers with a tapered fit that hit just below the hip show off your shape in style. Have we inspired you to start shopping for new layers to add to your closet?
Style Tip: Keep blazers and jackets unbuttoned for a long, uninterrupted line that runs from head to toe. Even better, opt for a tonal or monochromatic color palette to lengthen your look. This tip always works like a charm for curvy, petite girls’ style.
The Best Dresses
Hubert de Givenchy once said, “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.” This is especially true for petite women. Thankfully, petite cuts make selecting a dress silhouette easier than ever. With petite lengths, you can embrace a midi dress. The key to wearing this trend is choosing the right length. Look for a hem that hits just above or below the widest part of your calf. Or, take a twirl in a high-low hem midi dress. It will show off some leg and ensure that you’re not awash in fabric.
The Best Jumpsuits and Rompers
Jumpsuits and rompers in petite sizes are a one-and-done outfit that allows you to use all of your petite styling knowledge. There’s no need for a tailor with a cropped jumpsuit. When deciding what shoes to wear with your jumpsuit, your options are endless. A cropped jumpsuit allows you to highlight your shoes, so pick a pair that makes a statement. Choose from colorful casual sneakers to strappy heels that show off your pedicure. Rompers, our shortened version of a jumpsuit, bring style and versatility to the petite women’s closet. No need to worry about length with rompers; instead, focus on accessories that shine.
The Best Accessories for Petites
Some say that accessories are the exclamation point of any outfit. We couldn’t agree more. A stylish tip for petite women is to incorporate heels into any ensemble. Think of it as your own little magic trick that provides the illusion of height. For those looking to embrace their natural height, add pointy-toe flats and mules to your rotation. Your feet will appreciate the lower heel height without sacrificing style points. Dare we say shoes are the finishing touch that makes any outfit pop?
For accessories, focus on stylish finds that don’t overpower your frame. Proportion is not to be overlooked. Reach for a handbag that suits your petite physique versus an oversized tote that may distract from your outfit. Understated is perfectly stated in our opinion. Delicate jewelry or layered necklaces are all you need to stand out from the crowd. Play around with simple accessories while incorporating color in candied hues that dazzle.