Short Girl’s Guide to Wearing Long Dresses

Being 5 foot and 3/4 inches, can we just agree to call it 5’1?, and ultra petite, I used to think that long dresses were made only for taller girls and that I wouldn’t be able to pull them off.  But, over the years, I’ve learned to accept my smaller stature and play up my shape by dressing in ways that are the most flattering on a petite frame.  I’ve heard from many of you lately who are also short (hey, there’s a lot of us!) and can relate to the dressing dilemmas – pants and jeans off the rack a mile too long, waists that bag open in the back, and tops that might as well be worn as dresses.

But, there’s hope for us and today, espeically since wedding season and Spring are upon us, I’m showing you how to rock those gorgeous long Spring dresses like nobody’s business! This post is geared toward my fellow shorties, but my taller friends might also find it beneficial. 


This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many of us often don’t wear things perfectly fitted.  If something is too loose and baggy, it can make you look bigger than you intend or sloppy and unkempt.  On the flip side, don’t try to fit into something too tight just because of the size number on the tag.  Different brands size their clothing differently (for example, at Loft, I’m always 00 or 0P, and have to size down to their smallest size, but in other brands like Topshop, I have to size up to a 4.  Think of yourself like Goldilocks, going for the fit that is “just right” for you. Not too loose, not too tight.
For us short girls, there are petite sizing options that are usually meant for women under 5’4 or 5’3. You can be petite on top, or bottom or both, depending on the length of your arms and legs, the width of your shoulders, size of your chest, and how short waisted you are.  Even taller women can be considered petite due to their smaller proportions. Keep in mind too, that even if you’re short, but weigh more, petite sizes also go up to XL or 16-18. 
I’m short with short legs, but have a bigger chest (34D), so I normally buy petite pants/dresses, but XS or XXS tops (not petite).  With dresses, usually a 0P or 2P (because of my chest) fits me best. 
Check out the size guide or chart and get familiar with your measuring tape for the most accurate gauge of what size you might be in a particular brand.  
I’ve come to know what size I am in the brands I wear most, and since I shop mostly online, I’m not shy about ordering two sizes and returning the one that doesn’t fit.  A few brands I’ve had success with that have gorgeous Spring dresses in petite sizes are: 

Dress (0P) | Similar Heels (20% off) | Necklace | Sunglasses | Similar Bag (Under $20) | Ring
Even if you order your perfect fit, sometimes it’s still just a little off.  For example, the dress I wore to my brother’s wedding fit fine in size 2P, but I still felt like it could come up a little at the hem and also a pinch in the waist, but the chest fit great.  A 0P would’ve been too small.  The first picture shows it when I first tried it on, and the second shows it altered. 

Much more flattering and comfortable with the alterations.  

Nordstrom offers in-house alterations so I use them for things I buy there.  Your local dry-cleaners can also be a good resource for alterations, and surprisingly cheap.  There’s another local tailor that I use that’s really good and fast, but they are expensive.  You may need to consider the cost of the dress + the cost of potential alterations when buying something to make sure it’s worth it.  
The dress I’m wearing in these pics didn’t need to be altered at all.  The length would be too long with flats, but with heels (more on that below), it’s just right. 

A dress with an empire waist that emphasises the smallest part of your waist will help balance your body and give it proportion.  The long skirt skims over the rest of your body making it seem like you have legs for days. Anytime your dress cinches in at the smallest part of you, it makes that part seem smaller in proportion to the rest of your body.  Go ahead and try belting it too. Because empire waists sit just below your bustline, they are espeically attractive on smaller bust frames, but you can deemphasis your larger chest with a large necklace.

I first tried this dress on quickly without a bra (or makeup and wet hair).  The girls down to my waist isn’t a good look. 
But, oh what a bra (and some hair and makeup!) can do for you! 

Strapless Bra

A good fitting, comfortable!, bra will make you stand taller, feel more confident and look better than an ill-fitting one.  Especially in fitted dresses.

This dress has a keyhole back, and the shoulders are slightly tapered, so I wore my favorite and only strapless bra.  I think a regular bra wouldn’t be exposed in the back if the back strap was lower, but I thought it might be exposed on the shoulders and I hate having to keep pulling those in. 

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You can avoid the whole bra-might-be-showing dilemma with a jacket.  I’m wearing an old fitted (key!) white jean jacket here with casually rolled sleeves.  I found an almost identical one here.

Similar White Jean Jacket


Even if you like to wear flats, heels a few inches high or wedges boost you up, create a longer leg line and flatter your silhouette.  With a long dress like this or another maxi style, I like the length to just skim the floor.  You may feel like you’re going to trip, but keep your head up and walk with confidence and you’ll be fine!
If your maxi is too short, it will cut you off visually and if it’s too long, it’ll puddle and look sloppy (and then definitely be a trip hazard)!

Nude wedges or colorful heels look especially good with Spring dresses.
I hope this was helpful ladies!  I love hearing from you and about your fashion dilemmas, so feel free to leave a comment and I’ll look into it for future blog post ideas!
You can join me on Instagram too, where I post everyday outfits and inspiration to wake up your wardrobe. 

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  1. March 22, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    Love the blue and orange dress with the beaded necklace! I'm 5'1" and definitely have a hard time finding long dresses at an affordable price.

    • March 24, 2017 / 3:26 pm

      Blue and orange is one of my favorite, happy color combos. 😉

  2. March 22, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    Love this! I am a whole inch shorter than you (but also round up) so the maxi dresses have always been elusive to me. I've helped it some with high-low dresses, but a good alteration would definitely do the trick!

    • March 24, 2017 / 3:27 pm

      My fave high-low dress got ruined when I ran into a pole that had just been painted white when I was getting gas! It was this one:

  3. March 22, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    GIRL! This post has been a game changer for me…I always knew that you were petite, but I thought you were 5'4"! I am 5' even and am going to go back and reread your fashion posts. Do you normally shop for jeans at Nordstrom also?

    • March 24, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Yes! I do have to get most of my jeans altered at the length unless I buy petite or crop (and then the crop isn't actually crop on me:)

  4. March 22, 2017 / 8:38 pm

    Love this post. Speaking of the girls hanging to the waist,unless you can tuck them in your panties,your fine.

  5. March 22, 2017 / 9:45 pm

    Bless your heart. I looked at the pretty pictures but skipped reading the content. I'm 6', long waist-ed and long legged 🙂

    • March 24, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      No faiiiirrrrr!!!!!

  6. August 18, 2017 / 8:29 am

    I’m a girl who loves fashion- I love to put on a great dress and heels. It’s fun!

  7. January 21, 2021 / 3:20 am

    Amazing tips, I love them.

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