Style Secrets: Le Petit Mademoiselle

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
Winston Churchill

I am convinced that I was aware of my expected short stature when I was barely knee-high; for at the age of three, I swiped a pair of my mother’s slingbacks from the hall closet while she was in the front-yard gardening, stuffed my much too small feet into the luscious nude leather, took two steps, and promptly tumbled down an entire flight of stairs, landing in a heap at the front door. It was at that precise moment, while many my age would have been shrieking in pain, that I vowed, no matter how short or tall I turned out to be in adulthood, I would embrace my height, and not rely on items such as painful pumps to boost my self-esteem and confidence, unless I truly felt the need – and I haven’t.

You see darlings, my thoughts were more synonymous with a prediction; for here I am today, not standing a smidgen over five-feet-one-and-a-half-inches sans shoes (please take note of the fact that we short girls will always tag that half-an-inch onto our height when asked “how tall are you?”), and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve heard the complaints of others, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Being petite is not a problem. First and foremost, tall boys adore tiny girls; second, when shopping for clothes, our task is slightly simpler. Sure, many styles may be too long for our frame, but they require just a few nips and tucks to fit perfectly; while our taller female counterparts must seek out styles that will click with their height as is, or forfeit the look. Still, not every design fits our figure; therefore it is our responsibility to do tiny girls the world over justice by finding styles that make even the petite prevail!

Monochromatic Maven “You look tall.” These three words spilled from my younger sister’s lips just a few weeks ago. My younger sister whom I have not only seen every day for the entirety of my life, but who, in comparison to myself, is a virtual giant (she stands five-foot-five in bare feet). The reason for such a decree? As opposed to wearing a white tee, topped with a black cropped vest, paired with light wash blue jeans and knee-high cognac riding boots; on that particular day I had channeled my inner Audrey by going all black – black skinny jeans, black over the knee boots, and a long-sleeved black top. The only pop of color spotting my ensemble was a taupe Bop Basics Thick Knit Eternity Scarf which I had acquired a few weeks prior. The moral of the story is that the l'un numéroter way to appear taller to others is by streamlining your style, and sticking to one family of colors. This is not to say that you have to be matchy-matchy in any respect, but ensembles put together in terms of tones lengthen you in every way possible. Wear a navy blue shirt with dark wash skinny jeans; couple an eggplant sweater with a skirt in a similar shade. This serves as your basic palette; which you can then embellish with accessories in contrasting colors. Not only will this serve to elongate your body; it also gives you the opportunity to get creative with your look and truly make it your own by accessorizing!

Extreme Measures Something I have learned over the years is that when it comes to fashion and the short girl, there is no middle ground; meaning that mid-length styles often cut us in half and make us look shorter than we truly are. When dressing, go to the extremes. Search for minis that make your legs go on for miles, or maxis that cover your form and give the illusion that you’re taller than you really are. Keep in mind that you are petite; therefore, the flowy maxi dresses that look unbelievable on taller girls will swallow you whole. Look for something like Gypsy 05’s Maxi Organic Long Dress or bebe’s Cap Sleeve Maxi Tee Dress. These accentuate your waist and keep from looking too billowy or over the top; hence, they are your new best friend. Things are easier with minis; however, like with maxis, there are points to remember. The most important being that embellished pieces, like those with ruffles or tiers will often add volume to your derriere – something most girls don’t want. Bandage-type minis like those crafted by Herve Leger are the best choice, as they fit your body like a glove making you look taller; plus they have the added bonus of being ultra sexy. I adore skirts from Pleasure Doing Business. They are the budget fashionista’s answer to Herve Leger, and absolutely gorgeous!

Straight from the Hip Tunics may be fun and flirty, but they can also be quite hazardous for the petite in the sense that they immediately lengthen one’s torso which, in turn, creates a domino effect by making your legs look shorter; and when legs look shorter, you look shorter. The type of top that looks universally flattering on any body type – though especially on those of us who are quite tiny – are those that hit right at the hipline. The Harrie Top by Calvin Klein Collection, and Lucca Couture’s Mia Pocket Tee are ideal representations of this look for their hemlines hover around the top of your waistband, which ultimately makes your legs look longer. An exception to the rule is cardigans. Long cardigans plus a top that hits at the hip equal style perfection. Splendid is a good place to start. Their collection of cardigans is one of the best I’ve ever seen because they feature so many different cuts, colors, and materials, making it simple for the petite to play around and see which works best on their body.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Delicate Layers I see layering as one of the most entertaining ways to highlight your individuality. The key is not to go overboard. When you’re petite, it’s easy to overwhelm your frame with pieces that add too much bulk to your body. Fashion editorials may make ten scarves, four sweaters, and two jackets look chic, but in the real world, these will only overpower your style – if you’re even capable of walking out the door after being weighed down by so many different designs. The tiny girl looks best in delicate layers; meaning just a few pieces will take your look a long way.

It is best to start with a thin tee. Kimberly Ovitz is the master of paper-thin tees. Her Maxwell Tunic is one of the best for layering, for it is virtually weightless and cascades over your skin in a fashion more synonymous with a cool breeze than a piece of clothing. A cardigan is the second layer you should consider. Since I have a tendency to layer bomber jackets over my sweaters for optimal warmth, I prefer sheer items like the Pointelle Cardigan by Missoni, as they are extremely lightweight, and won’t make you look bigger if you decide to toss on an extra bit of outerwear. If you don’t plan on wearing anything over your cardigan, a thicker piece is the best choice. I like the LC Lauren Conrad Cocoon Sweater myself – it has an extremely unique shape which provides a sophisticated silhouette; plus the braided detailing in the knit is a gorgeous touch. If you feel compelled to layer anything else, try a brightly colored Love Quotes scarf. A scarf about the throat adds character to your look and allows you to let your perky personality shine through!

Skyscraping Boots There was a time when I was of the impression that knee-high boots were the absolute worst choice of footwear for the short girl. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is something about tall boots that gives the illusion that one’s legs are longer when donned by the petite. Those which stop right below the knee are a matchless selection, as they lengthen one’s legs without overwhelming them. While you may find leather’s in ravishing reds, suede’s in bright blues, or snakeskin in punchy purples to be eye-catching choices; they are just that…eye-catching. When seeking to appear taller, you want to avoid cutting your body in half – perusing these shades, while a chic choice, will make you appear shorter. Stick with blacks, grays, and browns – dark colors that will make like a chameleon and take on the hue of their surroundings. A neutral color is universally classic and will forever work in your wardrobe. Two of my favorite knee-highs at the moment include Diane von Furstenberg’s Weekend Suede Flat Boots with Ankle Wrap in Black, which are ideal for someone searching for un petit peu of bohemian whimsy as they have the same type of construction as a moccasin without the distracting bead or fringe embellishments; and Steve Madden’s Brio in Grey Leather, as the folded cuff at the collar adds the slightest dash of volume and dimension for that extra oomph!

The Alphabetical Tee It’s quite simple to get caught up in thinking that any type of neckline found on a top is flattering; unfortunately, quite the opposite is true. I’ll admit it myself; years ago I wore crew and turtlenecks all the time. It was only when I really looked at myself in the mirror that I realized that such a cut was unflattering for my shape. Crew and turtlenecks manage to stump one’s neckline, which instantly makes you look shorter from head to toe. When you’re tiny, it’s best to embrace tops which proffer a v-neckline – such a style elongates the throat and neck, which, in turn, serves to elongate your entire body. It also gives you the chance to allow a subtle amount of décolletage to peek through seductively. Splendid’s Very Light Jersey V Neck Tee and Bop Basics’ Long Sleeve V Neck Tee are perfect examples of the ideal v-neck, for they are form-fitting, semi-sheer, and dip just low enough to give the illusion that you’re taller than you really are. If you don’t have a v-neck handy, don’t panic. Use vests, shawls, cardigans, and halter tops to mimic a v-neck. For instance, top LnA’s Crew-Neck Tee with a cardigan that you’ve buttoned up to about the chest area. This plays a trick on the eyes by making it appear that you’re wearing a v-neck, even when you’re not.

Say Hello to Heels! Let’s face it; one tried and true trick all of us petite pretties know about is perusing heels for instant gratification in terms of height. Don’t feel the need to don such footwear styles if you’re uncomfortable doing so; but if you’re doing it for yourself, and it makes you feel more confident, then go right ahead. The one thing to take into consideration is that, even with heels, there are limitations. Heels such as those crafted by the hands of Georgina Goodman Shoes are perfectly fine for damsels of any height. It is ankle boots which are the true problem for the pint-sized. Now, I adore ankle boots just as much as the next girl, but even with such an amazing source of shoe, there are rules that one must adhere to – if only to make oneself look better. Ankle boots with a blunt, straight cut across the ankles have the ability to make legs look both thicker and shorter; therefore, it is best to search for ankle boots that feature somewhat of a slant, which creep slightly higher above the leg, such as Dolce Vita’s Viva Draped Suede Booties with Open Toe; or go in the opposite direction, by choosing a style that hovers slightly below the ankle, like Stuart Weitzman’s Cover Up High Heel Booties. The key is finding something that will keep you looking sleek and stylish, without compromising your quest for that extra bit of height!

“The little things are infinitely most important.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Waist Management Short girls the world over should worship Brigitte Bardot for the sheer fact that, not only did she make high-waisted bottoms hip, she also donned them in such a fashion that made them appear glamorous, whether you’re short or tall. Of course, for the petite, such a style is monstrously beneficial as they create a fool’s paradise by making our legs look much longer than they truly are. The main thing to keep in mind is to purchase pieces that hit at your natural waistline, such as Joe’s Jeans’ Visionaire Skinny Jeans with High Waist or Pleasure Doing Business’ High Waisted Skirt. Going higher than your natural waistline will ruin the effect and make the entire look unnatural. And darlings, there’s nothing that looks worse than being unnatural. Unleash your true, natural beauty for the world to see!

Perfect Portions Dolls, I know how difficult it can be to get ready in the morning when you’re petite. So many different thoughts flit through your thoughts regarding whether or not you’ve chosen a look that will make you appear lean, lengthened, and lovely. Cast those worries aside; here are a few ensemble recommendations made with you itty-bitty ladies in mind:

A fitted v-neck top (long or short-sleeve, whichever you prefer), classic tailored wide leg pants (I favor those crafted by the hands of Lela Rose), a stacked heel – perhaps one with a hidden platform like Dolce Vita’s Trinity Studded Pumps.
A mini dress (I recommend a neutral toned frock, but if you insist on wearing a print, please adhere to the “fist rule,” which states that a print should always be smaller than the size of your fist), paired with black tights, and tucked into black pumps, booties, or ballerinas.
A thin tee layered with a bomber jacket (both of which hit at the hip), black or dark wash skinny jeans, and knee-high boots (I myself am currently incapable of resisting Belle by Sigerson Morrison’s Knee High Cuff Flat Boots in Cannella).

“Good things come in small packages.”

Fashionably yours!

Thanks to Couture in the City, Fashion Under $100, I Am Style-ish, Le Perla, Celebrity Bag Styles, La Vie Boston, Purse Page, OMG I Love Her Style, Livejournal, Pop Sugar, InStyle, Bauer Griffin, and Inside the Fashion for the pictures.

Don't forget to enter the Shawl Talk Giveaway for your chance to win a Charlotte Scarf from The Shawl Shop.


Keith said...

Hey there. I'm back from my blogging vacation. I hope you had a great week and weekend. I enjoyed myself this Thanksgiving holiday. I did miss your blog. Take care. Have a fantastic week ahead. Cheers!

Leah said...

Hi Erika! A good Sunday morning to you.

You look so tall in your pics, I guess you really know what looks great on you. (Sorry guys, I have seen Erika's actual pics already. Hahaha!)

I have to get that eternity scarf, it's perfect for my all-black outfits. And thanks for sharing the link to Splendid. The items are splendid indeed.

Leah said...

One more thing, I have a kid who can drive already... saves me tons of money hiring a driver during weekends.

Chicago Chic said...

I love the sound of your outfit in your paragraph "Monochromatic Maven!" It sounds chic and amazing. Also I think your statement about tall boots is very true for women who want to appear taller. I am 5'6" and I feel that even for my average-to-tall height that my legs look even longer with boots.

Great post, Hun! I hope you had a great weekend :)


You are right! Good things do come in small packages. I like the monochromatic idea, wearing minis, and the tall boot suggestion. Great post. Did you get hurt from the fall down the stairs? ouch.



Unknown said...

I love what your saying about being small, and I totally would steal your closet anyday.
I don't know how i'm going to end up to be honest, I'm not small, I'm not tall, and I'm not average, I'm inbetween average and small. But then my mom comments saying I am going to be tall. but Kay Sera, what ever will be.

I love the post.

come follow: www.tinominosquaredblogspot.com

Mimi said...

I love you so much for this post!! I'm am always reminded of how short I am by friends, family, and even myself at times but I have learned to get over my 5'2'' stature and love my body just the way it is. Thank you so much for putting up these very helpful tips for girls just like us!!

Luinae said...

Those are some great tips!

P.S. Love the J.R.R. Tolkein quote

Chelsea Finn said...

im 5'6 so this doesnt really go towards me but i wanted to let you know that i love your blog! :)

S.Elisabeth said...

ADORE! I too am a petite girl, 5'2" and a three quarters (ha). My brother is somewhere in the high 5 foot area and my sister, younger than me by three years, is 5'8". I also have a very disproportionate, athletic build so it can make for some awkward outfits.I love every tip here!

Audrey Allure said...

haha i love this post! <3 i'm short too - about your height actually. my boyfriend is 6' but he loves how short i am. haha

Rachel @ The Haute Notes said...

Fantastic post! These are all great tips. I'm 5'2 and used to hate being short, but I've definitely embraced it in recent years.
And you've pretty much convinced me I need to get a pair of knee-high boots. Must start looking for some!

Melissa Blake said...

Good post! But what about me...I'm barely 4 feet, lol! xoxo

Ana Frost said...

I absolutely agree with the "phrases" you wrote :-)
Nice post!

Couture Carrie said...

Darling, you should write a book! This post is so well-researched and informative! Love the layering section especially!


Sherin said...

Fabulous post! I loved the tips. I'm fairly short and have to add 'and a half' when asked my height as well!! I definitely embace my shortness: you're right, clothes are much easier to buy and I have found knee high boots to be great.

The Anthology said...

Proportions are so finicky. But you're right -- they're the secret to a perfect look.

Love that Winston Churchill quote. So brilliant.


Luana said...

Excellent post! I wish a friend of mine had this attitude, she's quite short and practically lives in heels. I'll point her in this direction for some inspiration :) Also I love the Tolkien quote you included.

Fashion Court said...

ohhh, i love this post! i'm only a smidgen over 5'1 myself (5'1 and 3/4 of an inch to be exact :P)

when i was younger, i dreamed of being 5'7 but honestly i've learned to love my height. we can pull off so many things that just don't look right on tall girls.. and plus, i like taller guys so we have a bigger variety :P

Jen said...

Damn, now I wish I was 5 inches shorter! :)

At 5'7, I could never be described as petite but your advice works just as well for us giants as it does for the short stuffs! One thing I'm always wary of it cutting myself in half - I have pretty long legs and should make the most of them!

Will definitely be following your tips on layering, too. I'll be keeping an eye out for sheer, lightweight t-shirts for the perfect line!


Nubiasnonsense said...

Good things come in small packages, take me for example lol I'm kidding but you always have the best tips.. I love Nicole Richies style shes so petite and little and always looks amazing to me

Diane said...

even though i'm not short (then again, at 5'7" i don't really consider myself all that tall either) i really enjoyed reading this post! and i love that you showed a bunch of pictures of my favorite petite celebrity: rachel bilson. :)

Emily said...

I love all this advice! I am always looking for ways to make me look taller, even though I'm not very short being 5'4".

All these tricks will help a lot :)

jess said...

Great post.

Dina's Days said...

So true, the half an inch means so much. I am very short-4 9" and a half to be exact. I struggle sometimes with jeans, flats, high boots. These are all great tips. I almost want to print this out for future reference!

michelle_ said...

yay for petite sized !
for an asian like me (165 cm .. about 5 ft 5") im considered sort off in the average-tall range . but if im compared to the others at my international school, im going into the petite range . haha .

i guess being a 'middle person' is the best . i can still do the tall and petite rules of dressing :D

and rachel bilson is definately the BEST petite style icon ! second with Nicole Richie . and last but not least , Mary Kate and Ashley ! (even though u didnt put them in here..bt i think u sud) :D

hope u've had a nice weekend .

Valencia Lia said...

Love love this post and all the style tips as well!

Anonymous said...

I'm only 5'2" (yes I'm lying, really 5'1.5" haha)so I totally understand. If anything Rachel Bilson proves you can be extra chic while petite

Anonymous said...

this post is so great :)

Viva La Fashion said...

that is so right! :D small things do come in small packages. :)

la petite fashionista said...

yay, this has to be one of my favorite posts from you yet! i'm 5'0 and i have all the same style idols you mentioned (rachel zoe & rachel bilson)-- i live in heels and mastering proportions!

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Omg you just have no idea how much these tips are going to help me. Lol. I am five feet tall with no shoes. Sigh. I am definitely going to favorite this post b/c I will be needing it!! :)

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

I love Rachel Zoe's closet! :)

~ http://hellomisschic.blogspot.com

Lisa said...

Great comprehensive post full of useful advice! I'm 5'3" and I've gotten pretty used to my petite stature, so it's not first and foremost in my mind when I put together outfits.

P.S. You're right about tall boys liking shorter girls. My boyfriend is 5'11".

Unknown said...

This is such a great post, I am a shortie at 5'2 1/2" (the extra half inch is important, naturally!) and it took me a while to grow into my height, but now I wouldn't have it any other way!

It's so true about tall boys liking shorter girls too, a lot of my taller friends get cross because they say we can date short boys, so why do we steal all the tall ones as well!

Closet Cravings said...

I think this post with definitely help petite girls feel and dress better. No more 5'8" and above model envy. =)

Nina said...


Thank you for explaining the lay of the land. I'm a shortie as well standing 5'1.5". Through the years, I've learned to play with proportions as well to exude a somewhat taller allure. I succeed from a 10 mile radius ... Ho hum!

Great post, as always!



Anonymous said...

I love these tips! You do such a good job with them! though Im not short, the advice is great for any woman wanting to look a lil taller

love this post!

Politics of Pretty said...

Great tips! I love the super tall boots. They are my absolute favorite this season!

All Women Stalker said...

I'm only 5" and 90lbs. This post made my day. :D


Kim Jackson said...

I KNEW there was a reason that I just couldn't get with crew neck shirts. I see some girls in the cutest tees but I just don't like the look on me. I'm v-necks all the way and looky!--it elongates my neck and makes me look taller!! Love this post, fellow short girl :-)

Andrea said...

I officially adore you. I'm petite at 5' .5 inch :P Everyone seemingly likes to comment on my height but that also motivated me to improve my posture and voila! Height!. Your types are wonderful and like another commenter, I feel the need to print this out! Thank you so much for your tips. (side note my boyfriend is almost 6' and he loves my height!)

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