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style guide: dressing for petites!

Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!

Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!

We're back with our second post in our fashion series by members of the Oh Joy! team. A couple years ago, we started the Dressing the Team series because I wanted to highlight the variety of women (and our unique body types) that work here. We wanted to get even more in depth into everyone's style story and really highlight how they dress for various needs, have evolved in their own styles, and tips they can offer to you as well. Today, Jess, our Creative Content Creator, is sharing her tips! -Joy

I looked it up, and 5'5" is the "official" marker of what's petite. I'm 4'11". Soooo, while petite sizings definitely fit me better…it's still not always perfect. Not to mention, petite selections are limited, and I feel like they rarely go on sale. The majority of my closet is not from the petites section, so when I try anything on I rarely expect it to fit properly. I know I'll need to take it to a tailor for a hem or some other alteration (that's why I love the raw edge denim trend and hope it never goes away – I can do that myself!). But it can definitely get costly as I've gotten used to mentally calculating the price of alterations on top of the price tag. This extra cost has also started to transform my thinking when purchasing clothes to more investment pieces—fewer, but higher quality staples. Plus, less clothes is better for the environment. 

Speaking of do-good fashion, go vintage! I have found way more vintage pieces that fit me well enough to wear right off the rack compared to contemporary brands. Sizing has changed over the years (and it feels like they're constantly changing it still…frustrating!), so just know that even if it says a size that isn't yours, but looks like it might be – just try it on. Of course, you're also getting a completely unique piece that no one else will have!

Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!

Here are the general guidelines that I've finally figured out for dressing my petite build:

What works…

– High-waisted bottoms elongates your legs!
– Nude/neutral shoes also help to lengthen your legs.
– More fitted tops work well to balance out wide-leg bottoms.
– Likewise, help balance out a flowy top with more fitted bottoms.
– To also elongate the lower half of my body, I often tuck in my shirt.
– Midi-length dresses tend to be the most flattering! I'll often add a belt if it's a looser dress so that it doesn't overwhelm my body and gives some shape.
What doesn't work…
– Oversized piece can work sometimes, but they are tricky because it can easily swallow up a petite frame.
– Shoes with ankle straps (although I love them) don't work well on me because they visually divide the ankles and legs, making me look even shorter.
**Keep in mind, these are also tips I've learned for my specific proportions (longer torso, shorter legs).
Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Mister Zimi set (past season), Nomah Project purse, Madewell shoes (past season) Special thanks to Courtney + Kurt for letting us use your space!
Matching sets that can be worn separate as well. This outfit set is great for multiple reasons. I like the midi-length of the skirt so that you can still see a bit of ankle. And even though the top is boxier, it's balanced out by being a cropped fit with a high waist of the skirt. It's usually easiest to go monochromatic to get that head-to-toe cohesiveness which helps elongate your frame. Patterned separates like this can be a fun twist on the head-to-toe look. Of course, you also get two great pieces that you can wear together as well as mix into your closet individually. As for the shoes, I would consider these a nude neutral which also helps to elongate your legs!
Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Anthropologie top (past season), Reformation pants, Dolce Vita shoes (past season). Mural by Jessalyn Brooks.
It's All. About. Balance. I've had a rough time with the "over-sized" trend and have made some horrible choices…what I've learned is that balance is the key. If I have a blousier top I'll pair it with fitted bottoms (and vice versa). I also tuck my shirt in to create a bit more structure to it so that I'm not swallowed up. Sadly, while I can get away with not needing to buy petite in other things (but will often need to go to a tailor), with tops like this it's necessary. It can be frustrating because it's hard to find a good selection of petite options, but it makes all the difference!
Style Guide: Dressing Petite / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Urban Outfitters sweater (similar), vintage purse, Reformation pants, Loeffler Randall shoes (past season). Botanica mural. 
A crop top! I do love a good crop top (always paired with high-waisted bottoms!!) as they can transition nicely into fall with layers. Paired with a cardigan, it's a good break from all those oversized sweaters & sweatshirts and gives a bit more definition to your silhouette. Finally, adding a "nude shoe" doesn't mean boring and flat – metallics like this work, too!
{Photos by Lily Glass. Written by Jess Hong}


  1. Shout out from another 4’11” gal! The oversize trend has been rough but I can fit into some cute cat & jack rompers and sweaters???‍♀️

  2. Awesome post!! I love your advice about thinking more purposefully about price and about the environment. I’m by no means petite 🙂 but am taking lots of these lessons with me on my next shopping trip.

  3. Love your outfits! I love vintage but haven’t thought about mixing pieces since I do r think I can pull off a whole outfit

  4. I still have the same problem of trying to not look dumpy in the drapey clothes that I’d like to wear (that look good on taller frames)…these tips are great!
    That mister zimi set is SO CUTE.

  5. Ahhh yay another 4’11”!! The kid’s section is for sure another good trick – one of my favorite jackets is actually Cat & Jack!

  6. Thanks Marian! And vintage is definitely a great way to mix in a little flair – which can even be an accessory if it’s hard to find a clothing piece!


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