Petites and Talls=Not As Different As You Might Think

Hello, leggy lovelies,

Excuse my long hiatus—fall has brought with it a ramp-up at work, and styling and moving to a new neighborhood have left me with nary a free moment! That said, I’m ready to be back in full blogging swing with a fun series kicking off next week on vintage and vintage-inspired fashion for talls! I’ll take you through the decades, and serve up a little fashion history, a dash of good visuals, and heaping spoonfuls of great tips for dressing with timeless panache.

But first, a little update on my styling work. I have been working with lots of new clients this fall, and am becoming very comfortable working with…petites! Most of my new assignments are petite (5’4”ish and under), and I’ve started to embrace the other side of the height spectrum—recognizing that style-related challenges on both sides of the bell curve can be quite similar (shoes in a size 5 are about as rare as 12s!) When I think about the handy-dandy little tips that I keep dispensing among my petite clientele, I think it’s high time I shared them with my tall readers as well!

Cleo Glyde, 6'1", and Bobbi Brown, 5'0" by Henry Leutwyler

  1.  Pants or denim should break over the back of your heel: Petite pants and jeans can be more economical in saving hemming costs, but some of my leggier petite clients even find petite pants to be too short. There are lots of dependencies when determining the correct length for a pant (Is it a trouser? A skinny leg? Are you wearing it with flats or heels?), but I generally use this rule of thumb: if you’re purchasing a work pant or non-skinny denim, the trouser/pant should  AT LEAST extend to the sole on the back of your heeled shoe. It can be any height of heel, but if the back of your shoe isn’t covered, the pant is too short.
  2.  Buy denim a bit small, but make sure the rise is flattering on you:  As tempting as it is to opt for jeans that are comfy and have “some give” from the first try, you should err on the tighter side—not restrictive or circulation-cutting, but snug. Most jeans have anywhere from 2%-15% spandex content, and will stretch with wear. But most important, make sure the rise is flattering for you. If you are bottom-heavy, opt for a lower rise to eliminate gapping (5” or so for talls) and a higher rise if you have a thicker waistline (8”+). The most flattering rise for all body types is mid-rise—somewhere in the 6”-7” range.
  3.  Apply the rule of 3: When my petite clients are transitioning into more colorful and experimental wardrobes, they sometimes express intimidation in going overboard with color. Based on some general design principles (and 60-30-10 proportions), I recommend the “Rule of 3”—if you’re a bit colorshocked, wear no more than 3 colors at once. This could be three neutrals; two brights and a neutral; two neutrals and a bright; et cetera. A good example of this rule enacted is a yellow shirt paired with a green skirt and black cardigan, tights, and shoes.
  4.  For instant polish when wearing dresses/skirts, match your shoes to your hose: Although this is relatively self-explanatory, it is worth noting that having tights in some basic solids including black, navy, brown, and gray and shoes to match help to instantly tie any skirt-centric outfit together. An added bonus is the leg-lengthening effect of matching your shoes and hose.
  5.  The “must have” item for fall and winter is…: ALWAYS a great coat. Save your pennies and invest in one (or several) winter coats that make you feel absolutely fab. Coats are all most people see on you in the coldest months, so if you love color, patterns, or a particular shape (whether pea or trapeze), invest in the details that will lift your heart and brighten your outlook on a cold, gray day.

Be sure to check out Stilista Boston and the Stilista Boston blog for more great tips from our talented team of stylists!


'Petites and Talls=Not As Different As You Might Think' have 11 comments

  1. October 13, 2011 @ 9:46 pm Bethany M.

    Great tips! I am 6’2 but I have my fair share of friends who are about a foot shorter than me and they do indeed seem to have difficulty finding clothes and shoes that fit properly. As you are working with these petite ladies, do you find that it is much easier to find clothes in stores or do petites still do a fair amount of online shopping? It seems that many stores have a petite section, but I have yet to see a tall section at any department store or Banana Republic etc. Sigh!

    P.S. Can’t wait for your upcoming post on vintage finds!


    • October 14, 2011 @ 2:09 am Kacy K

      Hi Bethany,

      It IS easier to find clothes for petites, certainly…as petite women are far more common than exceptionally tall women. That said, it does seem more than a tad unjust that tall women are mostly relegated to the online shopping game (and duly having to play the game of mail order back-and-forth). I am sure you do well, though! (Mall stores like BR, J. Crew, Zara, and H&M to run long…so we tall ladies can often get away with non-tall skirts and tops…)

      The vintage posts should be fun…there will be a bit of history, a bit of personality typing by decade and a lot of ideas as to what to look for! Thanks for reading! :)



      • October 14, 2011 @ 2:58 am Bethany M.

        Thanks for weighing in. Funny you should mention the whole online shopping game. I just posted a little rant on my blog about that a few minutes ago. Sigh.


      • October 15, 2011 @ 1:01 pm Jheri

        I’m really looking forward to your vintage posts too! I have found bits and pieces, but still have much to learn.


  2. October 13, 2011 @ 10:29 pm Kristen

    Great tips – I always struggle with pant length at 5’2″ – where should it hit – what is the most flattering – some petite leg lengths are weiiird.


    • October 14, 2011 @ 2:14 am Kacy K

      Hi Kristen!

      I love it when you stop by, as The Boston Fashionista is one of my daily stops! :) I know what you mean about petite pants…it’s amazing how the same petite size in either two different cuts or two brands can differ so drastically…we might as well do away with sizes altogether as they seem so arbitrary across the board! Ann Taylor is a bit better about petite sizing consistency, but Banana….jeez.

      Hope to run into you soon! I’d love an occasion to get together with you and the other lovely Boston blogging ladies….especially if I’m not working!



  3. October 13, 2011 @ 11:03 pm Jheri

    This makes me think of my sister-in-law. She is 5’1 and I’m a full foot taller. She has a lot of curves and I’m very thin. But we’re great friends and love to figure out how to dress each other. She knows quite a bit about what works for me and I know about her. Both of us pretty much need a tailor to get a good final fit.

    It is funny when we trade some of our accessories and it really makes the point that what works for petites, average woman and talls are all different.


    • October 14, 2011 @ 2:19 am Kacy K

      Hi Jheri!

      Hope you’re well! I am sure you and your sister-in-law are uniquely suited to helping each other dress snazzily (especially given how stunning and put-together you are!) Having a good tailor is absolutely crucial for petites and talls indeed…

      You’re right—accessories are a spot where proportion can make all the difference…if you transfer an exceedingly delicate necklace to a very tall woman or huge, heavy earrings to a petite woman, it can be very jarring (or very edgy, if you like juxtaposition)…



  4. October 14, 2011 @ 4:45 pm Alterations Needed

    Great tips! As a 4’11” lady who loves to shop, I can attest to the difficulties of dressing petites. A very good friend of mine is rather tall, and when we go shopping together, it’s pretty amusing. I walk out of the fitting room swamped in clothing that’s too long/big, and her ankles and wrists are always saying “hello”. :)

    Just as I’m sure it gets harder to shop the taller you are, the same goes for the shorter you are. Many of the shortest/smallest sizes are resigned to “online only” (oh, do I ever know about the mail order back-and-forth!) and taking items to a tailor can be a costly crap-shoot.


  5. October 14, 2011 @ 11:34 pm holleigh

    I love this! At barely over 5 feet tall, I have practically given up on finding pants that fit properly – especially jeans!


  6. November 7, 2011 @ 12:28 am JT

    Petites are definitely not that far off. I believe that the traditional retailers typically don’t cater to the upper and lower 10% of sizes, due to the cost to stock products and connect with these people. However, tall people have a much harder time buying clothing. Petites can at least shop for adolescent clothing that fits (styles may be another issue though). Thanks for the post, we’re enjoying your blog!


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