Recently, I made the blunder of shopping for jeans online, thinking they would fit me quite like they do on the models. Dumb, expensive mistake.
I hover just above 5 feet tall and the models are 5 feet, 9 inches or taller, such that I ended up with several extra inches of fabric pooling around my ankles. What were shin-length and kick-flare styles on the models, were floor-grazing on me! The cropped styles, which fell midshin on the models, were ankle-length for this midget.
For petite women—meaning 5 feet, 3 inches or shorter—finding flattering trousers is just one of the trickier parts of shopping, online or otherwise, as most brands have longer inseams (the length of the inside leg of the pants) and hemlines that require tailoring. Knowing what style actually looks good on your frame and height is another matter.
Focus on positives
This is something Shauna Jay Popple already has down pat. Standing 5 feet, 2½ inches, the public relations (PR) and communications manager of such brands as Kenzo, Balmain, Self Portrait and soon Moschino for Noble House, has mastered style tricks that “rivet the eye to the uniqueness of the dresser rather than expose her vertical challenges,” she tells Lifestyle.
This half-Filipina goes for standout prints, patterns and hues that complement her eye and hair color, skin tone, and personality. Contrasting mismatched prints, if done well, can distract onlookers from your height deficit and focus on your positives, Popple adds.
“Another visual trick is cleverly piecing together monochromatic ensembles that visually create seamless, eye-catching distraction, such that fit and silhouette become second fiddle,” Popple says. “However, fit and silhouette are still everything. For starters, high, cinched-in waists help elongate, as do empire waists on dresses and gowns.”
Proportion is key
Cit Sioson, former fashion editor and cofounder of the clothing brand Ta LouLou (@taloulou__ on Instagram; taloulou.com), is another stylish woman who has perfected getting around her vertical limitations.
“Proportion is important regardless of your height. As I have a petite frame, I try to avoid pieces that would cut my legs at an awkward length or make me appear even shorter,” says Sioson, who’s 5 feet, 2 inches.
“When it comes to trousers, I gravitate toward a wide-leg silhouette that can be worn with heels or flats, as long as the pants fall past my ankle or over my heels—both of which elongate the legs. [For skirts and dresses], other than floor-length, I go for hemlines that are either way above the knee or 3 inches above my ankle.”
Raise your waistline for height, Sioson advises. “High-waist bottoms also do the trick when paired with a crop top or a blouse that falls right on the waistline of your bottoms. I prefer to tuck in my tops for a more seamless look.”
She adds, “When it comes to prints and fun details like ruffles and pleats, balance is key to ensure that they do not overpower your frame. If you prefer to go for a loud print, tame the look with a top or bottom in a solid hue or go for thin vertical stripes and pleats.”
Picking the right shoes for your look can also add visual inches to your height—or at least, they won’t make you appear shorter.
You’ll never catch Popple shod in the trendy chunky sneakers, as they, along with block heels, square-toe sandals and thick ankle straps “are my enemy,” she says. “I’m all about pointy toes (whether for flats and pumps), spindly heels and thin soles. These don’t cut off my leg and elongate my silhouette.”
She adds, “The only time I break that rule is when I’m wearing a long gown, bell bottoms, boot-cut trousers or palazzo pants that are a couple or more inches longer than my legs—in which case, I am a big fan of pairing them with platforms or wedge heels.”
Sioson also swears by the pointed-toe shoe trick, “especially in a color close to your skin tone.”
Popple recommends brands like Kenzo, Zara and Banana Republic for having a good selection of items that flatter petite Filipina frames. She favors Gap for jeans, Mango and Marks and Spencer for clam diggers, Banana Republic and Aigle for “professional PR gal trousers.”
For formal wear and dresses, she goes to Self Portrait and also swears by the Australian brand Ever New as a more affordable option. Brands that also cater to her boho style are Seek The Unique, Zimmermann and Charina Sarte.
Sioson, meanwhile, gets her jeans and cigarette pants from Topshop and Uniqlo because they offer petite sizes.
(Tip: Uniqlo offers hemming service for bottoms. Since Sioson and her Ta LouLou cofounder Denise Juan are both petite, part of their service for clients is also customizing hemlines. We also go to Alterations Plus for other alteration services, though they charge quite a good sum when it’s not straight-up hemming; meaning, when the hem has fancy details that need to be cut and reattached.)Ultimately, Sioson advises: “Know your shape. A petite frame comes in various shapes so consider what works for the shape of your body as well.” INQ