Having a small frame is awesome, but shopping for clothes that fit perfectly can be a major struggle. You always seem to be cuffing up your jeans, rolling up your sleeves, belting literally every pair of pants and swimming in your riding boots. Luckily, we’re here to save you. We’ve compiled 12 of the best style tips for our gorgeous petite collegiettes so you can walk through campus with confidence.
1. Avoid pieces that hit below the knee—embrace minis
While this tip isn’t a “must-follow,” it’s encouraged that petites avoid longer pieces, or choose them wisely. “The fabric pretty much swallows you right up,” says Kayla, a sophomore at Kennesaw State. As cute as they are, midi skirts, tea-length dresses and Bermuda shorts seem to be made specifically for those women that are blessed with long legs. Instead, opt for cute A-line mini skirts or dresses that hit a few inches above the knee. Your legs will look a mile long.
2. Make vertical stripes your best friend
Patterns can be a blessing or a curse for petites. When picking patterns, Mara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, stays away from horizontal stripes. “It’s not that shorter people can’t wear that pattern, but it typically makes you look wider and doesn’t do anything to lengthen your body as opposed to vertical stripes,” she says. Flip those stripes around, ladies. Vertical stripes elongate your figure making you look taller and slimmer.
3. Find petite-friendly stores
All hail the stores that recognize there’s more than just “short” and “tall” women! Sarah, a junior at the University of Iowa, loves stores that cater to her small frame. “I run into dresses and jeans that are too long or just don’t fit right! Places that offer petite sizes, like Old Navy and Topshop, are lifesavers! Otherwise, I end up rolling my jeans, which isn’t always the look I want to go for,” she says. Some of our favorite brands that offer petite lines are Old Navy, Loft, Topshop, ASOS, J.Crew and Anthropologie.
4. Choose “boyfriend” pieces wisely
Sorry ladies, but boyfriend jeans, men’s flannels and oversized sweaters just don’t always do your figure justice. “I think petite women should steer clear of anything that is abnormally baggy or boxy,” says Isabel, a junior at NYU. “It is very easy to look like an outfit is eating you up, so things that show off your figure even in the slightest bit are really helpful.” If you do wear boyfriend jeans or oversized sweaters, pair them with more structured pieces to add balance.
5. Use mini purses
Don’t be swallowed up by your purse; instead, find a cute bag that’s proportional to your body size. “I have a stockpile of little clutches and cross-body purses,” Amy, a sophomore at Temple University, says. “They’re more fun than giant purses because they usually have more flair, and the designs don’t overwhelm the rest of my outfit.” Oversized bags are too heavy, anyway.
6. Sick of heels? Try pointed-toe flats
It’s a total myth that petite girls have to wear heels all the time. “It’s weird but the lower the heel, the longer the legs look sometimes. If you try and wear huge heels, it will look super weird and disproportionate,” says Isabel. “Overall, petite women can wear whatever they want but knowing what works for your body is a must.” Pointed-toe flats are stylish, sophisticated and can take you from class to your internship to your dinner date. They create the illusion of a longer leg, and they’re on-trend this fall, too.
7. For those that ~love~ heels, say yes to patterns and no to ankle straps
Ankle straps just make your legs appear shorter. “My rule of thumb is to NEVER wear heels that visibly divide my leg, meaning that they have a strap on/around the ankle,” says Alani, a junior at Northwestern. “They make your legs look even shorter than they are. Pumps or any heel that don’t have ankle straps make your legs look longer.” However, wearing a pair of statement heels draws attention to your legs and actually makes them look longer. Plus, they’re so fun.
8. Find a good tailor
Having a tailor probably hasn’t crossed your mind as a broke college student, but it should. Wearing clothes that fit you properly is key when it comes to walking around with confidence. If you can’t afford an actual tailor or don’t have one near your university, teach yourself or find a friend that can help tweak hemlines, adjust your sleeves or take waistlines in. Some stores, like Banana Republic and J. Crew, offer tailoring service if you have a store card. Department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales offer tailoring service for any clothes you buy at their store. It makes all the difference; we promise!
9. Bring your waistline up
We are so glad high-waisted skirts, pants and shorts are trending again. These pieces give the illusion that your legs start at a higher point than they actually do. “If I wear anything high-waisted, I either wear a tighter crop top or a tucked-in shirt to accentuate my small waist,” says Bridget, a junior at UMass Amherst. “Plus, it looks weird with anything else.” Pairing high-waisted bottoms with a cropped or fitted top also emphasizes your gorgeous petite frame.
10. Structured pieces are a must
Clothes with clean lines will always do wonders for your shape. Pick monochromatic pieces to streamline the rest of your outfit. Just watch out for long, structured coats — you don’t want to be swimming in your outerwear. Cropped blazers and jackets elongate your torso, while skinny jeans and fitted dress pants emphasize your shape.
11. Boot season? Aim for ankles
Unfortunately, most riding boots just swallow you up. Like heels with ankle straps, mid-calf and knee-length boots just divide your legs and make them look shorter. A pair of trendy, dainty ankle boots elongates your legs. Plus, velvet, suede and embroidered styles are seriously trending this season.
12. Don’t be afraid to try something that’s usually a “don’t”
If you’re one of those girls that defies the norm, then we say go for it. Some midi skirts actually look super cute on petites. If you choose an A-line shape with a high waist, it will actually elongate your waist. Midi skirts with slits and draped fabric are sexy and won’t swallow you up. Heels with ankle straps aren’t always a bad idea, and they’re just so trendy right now. Wearing boyfriend jeans doesn’t always have to be a catastrophe; pair them with a fitted tee to flatter your figure and finish off your look with pointed heels to lengthen your legs. Nailed it.
The bottom line? If you embrace your small frame with confidence, you can rock ~anything~. Don’t let the body you were born with be a hindrance when finding cute outfits. Use these tips and struggle no more.