When you’re petite with curves, it can be tough to decide what to wear! Shopping can feel like a real chore since most clothing labeled as “petite” is designed for women who are petite all over, not for those of us with a “curvy” petite body type. Luckily, there are a few brands that stand out for their ability to flatter petite women who happen to be blessed with above-average curves. Additionally, there are some tried-and-true styles that look great on petite curvy women.
How to Dress Petite Curves: General Style Tips
The best way to choose clothes for curvy petite figures is to take a look at the cut and decide if it’s going to elongate your body rather than make it appear shorter. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing like a short, sassy girl but you want to show off your assets in the best possible light.
Show Off Your Waist!
When assessing fit, look for styles that will accentuate your waist without adding volume to the top. V-shaped necklines and scoop necks are ideal. They’ll show off your curves even better if they have belts or empire waistlines, or if they have vertical lines that emphasize length.
Wrap-style tops are ideal as well, since they form an X shape that visually defines your waistline while allowing you to flaunt your curves.
Avoid Anything Boxy or Baggy
Sure, boxy, menswear-inspired styles can look amazing on some girls, but your figure calls for something a little more tailored. If you’re looking for a dress shirt, choose one with a darted waist, and double-check to make sure that the buttons at the chest won’t gape open.
The same wisdom applies to jackets and trousers. If the overall silhouette is boxy rather than tailored, you’re likely to look as if you are swimming in your clothing. You don’t want your outfit to overpower you!
Unfortunately, loose, baggy clothing is usually all wrong for curvy petites. The good news is that if you love a certain top but it doesn’t accentuate your waistline, there’s no need to despair. In many cases, you can add a belt to the top and tuck the fabric so that the fit looks and feels fantastic.
Be careful since the wrong belt can cut you in half visually. Wide belts are OK if they’re the same color as the top, but skinny belts are best if you’re looking for color contrast.
Go for Body-Skimming Styles
Dressing for petite body types doesn’t mean hiding yourself or avoiding the spotlight. Far from it! While you want to make sure that your clothing is appropriate for the occasion, choose styles that are just a little snug in the waist, and slightly flared out at the hips and bust. This accentuates your silhouette, particularly when you’re layering.
Notice that I said “body skimming” and not “skin tight” here. Anything that fits tightly is likely to bunch in all the wrong places, and it’s likely to feel uncomfortable as well. Think about clothing that gracefully caresses your curves without making you feel self-conscious. Of course, there are times when you’re going to want tighter options, i.e. a top that’s being layered underneath a jacket or sweater.
Shorter jackets that hit you just above or below the widest part of the hip are ideal. Speaking of jackets, it’s better to choose those with minimalistic collar designs. If you have a choice between single- and double-breasted styles, go for the single-breasted jacket since it’s got less fabric and will add less bulk to your body.
Avoid Mid-Body Details
With the exception of belts or small amounts of trim such as ribbon or lace, it’s best to avoid clothing that features mid-body focal points. Military-style jackets with lots of pockets tend to add bulk to the waistline, and so do vests with bulky outer pockets.
Pants with big, blingy pockets are definitely out for the most part, and so are most pants with big belts. Sometimes these features work out, but for the most part, they can make you look unbalanced and heavier around the middle.
Look for Flattering Features that Lengthen You
Just about every curvy petite woman knows the “vertical stripes” trick! In case you haven’t tried it, I suggest you go out and get a cool top with vertical stripes, stat! The stripe pattern doesn’t have to be bold – in fact, it can be quite subtle. Whatever your choice, you’ll find that vertical stripes do a great job of accentuating your height. Try to keep the rest of our tips in mind as you make your choice, i.e. go for something that emphasizes your waistline and bust, and consider adding a belt if you need to.
Dark, slim pants and skirts tend to add length to your legs and create a nice silhouette. The same goes for crop pants and capris: Choose darker colors instead of lighter ones, or go for something that features a vertical stripe pattern. It’s a good idea to stay far, far away from bottoms that feature horizontal stripe patterns, since they make everybody’s legs look shorter and wider!
Remember the X-shaped profile that a wrap top or wrap dress creates? You can get a similar lengthening effect by choosing anything with an angled hemline or an asymmetrical neckline. There are lots of awesome styles out there that feature asymmetrical lines, and even if they’re a touch too long, you can have the hemline adjusted for an ideal fit.
For work and cooler weather, long sweaters or jackets can create a nice vertical line – just be sure that they aren’t too baggy around the middle. You can create a similar effect with a scarf, but be careful about how you style it since too much fabric bunched near your face can cause you to look off-balance.
Think Separates Most of the Time
We’ll talk dresses in a second, but it’s likely that you’ll have an easier time dressing in separates since you can achieve a better fit for your hips, waist, and bust this way. The curvier you are, the more likely this piece of advice is likely to apply, since ready-to-wear fashions are designed with “average” in mind. It’s often easier to find a top that fits well and pair it with a skirt or pants that also fit well!
Choosing Petite Curvy Dresses
It can be tough to find the perfect dress, but knowing what to avoid can make the process a lot easier. For example, you’ll probably want to avoid anything with big ruffles that might make you look unbalanced on the top or bottom. Puffy sleeves tend to have too much of a “little girl” feel, and high necklines can really weigh you down.
Now that we’ve gotten the “don’ts” out of the way, here’s a list of “do’s” for dressing petite curves for a special occasion or a fun night out on the town:
Show off your legs if the occasion is right, but make sure that your hemline isn’t so high that it stops at a wide spot on your thighs.
Pick a great neckline that accentuates your shape. V-necks, scoop necks, wraps, and asymmetrical or off-the-shoulder necklines are often great choices.
Choose a dress that shows your waistline. As with blouses, dresses with empire waists can be fantastic for curvy petite body types.
If the dress has a longer, more flowing skirt, make sure the top is somewhat fitted. You don’t want to look like you’re lost in a lot of fabric.
Single colors are often better than patterns, although angled stripes, chevrons, and vertical stripe patterns can work.
Pick a fabric that’s not too stiff and heavy. Jersey knits, lightweight, silky fabrics, and slightly stretchy blends are often perfect, depending on the look you’re going for.
Wear Shoes and Boots with Heels
Great news if you’re a fan of heels: Wearing a heel adds length to your legs, no matter what you’re wearing. Not just any heeled shoe or boot will work though. Look for styles that feature clean lines and either show off your ankles as well as the top portion of your feet, or go for tall boots that hit you higher than mid-calf.
Short boots are OK under pants that conceal the ankles, and they might be OK in a color that’s the same as your skin tone, too. What you want to avoid though, is a boot that cuts you off anywhere between ankle and mid-calf. Cute as they look on tall models, they tend to visually shorten the legs, so you look wider overall.
How to Dress Petite: Easy Outfits to Try
Now that you know which styles are most likely to highlight your curves, here are a few easy outfits to try. Keep in mind, these are simply suggestions. Get a full-length mirror and spend some time mixing and matching to see what works best for you!
Dark Bottoms and a Wrap Top
Pick a wrap top in a color that looks great on you. See if you can find one with a slightly angled bottom, or with a tie at the bottom. This adds more visual length to your look and it helps add balance overall.
For the bottom, dark jeans or pants will work beautifully, as will a simple A-line skirt. This is an effortless look that’s easy to adjust based on the occasion.
If you don’t have a wrap top, no worries! This look works wonderfully with just about any top – so long as the neckline is flattering and the length is right, you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
V-Neck Sweater and Knee-High Boots
Again, mix and match your bottoms here. Your V-neck sweater will accentuate your bust nicely, plus it will give you the opportunity to show off your favorite necklace! Your boots will look fantastic with a knee-length A-line skirt, particularly if you choose the same color for both items. Add similarly-colored tights to help everything blend together perfectly.
High-Waist Pants and Fitted Shirt
High-waisted pants are back in style and that’s great news for petite curvy women! Tuck your shirt into your top or choose a shorter blouse that allows the top of the jeans to show. This elongates the lower half of your body, particularly if you wear heels. If you choose high-waisted pants with straight or flared legs and you choose a size that’s a touch too long, you can really add visual height and accentuate your curves at the same time. If you’re not wearing heels, watch out for length; pick bottoms that touch the tops of your feet so you look balanced and reduce the risk of tripping on excess fabric.
Maxi Skirt and Fitted Top
A long, flowing skirt feels comfortable and elongates the lower half of your body. Be sure to wear a fitted top with your maxi skirt, so you don’t have too much fabric up top. Depending on the occasion, you might want a tank top for the feel and look of a simple beachy sundress, or you might want a nicely fitted blouse for a dressier feel.
Best Clothing Brands for Curvy Petites
Even though shopping can feel like an unwelcome chore, there are some companies that do a fantastic job of helping curvy petite women look and feel their best.
You’ll find a few petite sizes at Ann Taylor retail locations, but the real treasure trove can be found online. Ann Taylor offers a full line of petite clothing, with tons of separates for work and casual occasions alike.
Don’t miss Boden, particularly if you’re looking for flattering jersey wrap dresses. This site offers tons of outfit inspiration, too! Every time you choose an option, you’ll see some suggestions for creating a complete outfit.
If you like shopping online, you’re in luck. Asos offers more than 1,500 styles for curvy women, and many of these are suitable for petites either as-is or with a little bit of tailoring.
Another online-only option, Gap Petite offers a full line of clothing for women 5’4” and under, including curvy jeans with 360-degree stretch in a variety of styles and washes.
This brand is easy to find at Nordstrom retail locations and online. The focus is on basics that fit comfortably and look fantastic for everyday wear and special occasions alike. Halogen offers shoes, too: They even have platform sneakers!
Another brand you’ll find at Nordstrom, Caslon focuses mostly on comfortable casuals that are easy to mix and match. Favorite styles include rounded V necks, tie-front tops, and jersey wrap tops. This brand offers lots of comfy skirts and pants, too.
If you’re not afraid to shop for jeans online, you’re going to want to give Madewell a try. This company pulls out all the stops to satisfy their clients, and they offer free hemming, so you get a fit that’s just right. This company offers more than just denim – they’re also a great source for bathing suits and dresses including some fantastic wrap styles.
If you’re between size 10 and 30, then Torrid probably has something great for you, either in store or online. Their jeans are impressive as they’re not just catered to size, but available in different lengths as well. There are short options as well as extra-short sizes, so it’s easy to find your perfect fit.
The Last Word: My Number One Tip for Dressing Petite, Curvy Bodies
My biggest piece of advice for everyday dressing is to find brands you love, that tend to fit your body well. It might take some trial and error to find “your” brand, but once you do, you’ll be glad that you invested the effort.
Jeans are a great example: Pick up several pairs in your favorite style, maybe in different washes and colors so that it’s easy to change things up. It’s fine to choose jeans that are a little bit too long if you’re planning to wear heels, since this will elongate you even more – and since jeans have a tendency to get shorter with repeated laundering.
When it comes to tops, you probably have a favorite neckline or two, and if you experiment, you’re likely to find more styles that look fab on you. Just like jeans, once you find “the one” go ahead and pick it up in a few different colors. I often purchase extras to keep on hand in case something happens to my favorite top, or to replace that favorite when it wears out. Of course, this works best for classics such as V-neck tees, tank tops, and blouses, and not so great for passing trends.
Last but not least, don’t overlook the tailoring option. I learned how to sew simply so that I can adjust hemlines and make darts a little deeper when needed. It’s not difficult to pick up basic sewing skills, and unless you’re having a piece of clothing completely done over, tailoring is usually fairly affordable. A couple of simple, custom touches can transform the way your clothing fits so that you feel and look even more amazing.
Do you have a favorite brand or a style tip for dressing curvy petite? If so, be sure to let us know in the comments!