Body Shape Style Guide - The Petite Figure

Today I am going to talk about the Petite figure.  Petite means that your height is 5'4"(162.5 cm)  or under.  If you are a petite you figure is subtly different from that of a taller lady - you have broadish shoulders and have a compact shape.  You may also have characteristics of the 5 body shapes already mentioned - in which case use the appropriate body shape style suggestions  in addition to the guidelines I am about to give you here.

The main goal for the Petite is to create the illusion of height while at the same time not overwhelming the figure with too much fullness or fabric.

Petites often have problems being taken seriously, so these guidelines are also useful in situations where you want to create more authority in your persona.


  • One colour from head to feet will create length and proportion and give you a better silhouette.
  • Dark neutrals head to toe will make you look taller and thinner.
  • You will need slightly shorter tops and jackets. Make sure that jackets do not go below the hips.  Items with detail under the bust will create a better proportion.  
  • Transparent fabric (chiffon, mesh and so on) is good for layering without adding bulk - thus keeping the lines of the body.
  • Patterns with vertical lines, or garments with vertical seams will add the illusion of height.
  • Legs are not very long, so hemlines must take this into consideration.  Shorter lengths look good.  If floor length, add a slit  to allow the eye to move up - this gives the legs some length.
  • Wear slim leg pants (trousers) as this adds length to the legs.  
  • Pants and jeans look better sitting slightly higher on the waist as this lengthens legs.
  • No hipster pants and no cuffs at the hem - legs look shorter.
  • Make sure your trousers are not too long - hems that taper into and cut of at the ankle add length.  If wearing longer pants, make sure that the pants are at least half an inch of the floor.
  • To look taller, wear neutral coloured shoes with heels, or peep-toe heeled shoes in the same colour as your outfit.
  • Allow the neck to show as this elongates the figure.  Don't wear bulky scarves around the neck.
  • Look taller and slimmer by maintaining a good posture.
Some of you have had trouble working out what shape you are - it could be because you are a Petite, and often many image books do not cover this shape - although some sewing books do!

Until tomorrow,

Sarah Liz :)



  1. This is my body shape:)) Thank you for sharing this Sarah. I enjoyed reading your post about the body shape style guide.

    1. Thank you Hana, I'm glad you have enjoyed them and found them useful.

  2. people tell me all the time to wear shorter dress's but I'm just not feeling it lol!it is funny though how an inch here & an inch there can make a difference in how one looks

    1. Hi Nanna, whatever people tell you, you have to be wearing what you like first and foremost or you won't be happy. Tweak things and adopt new ideas when you are ready.

  3. Petites are also either proportionate or not. Some petites have long legs in proportion to their torso, while others have "regular" leg length. Same applies to arms, torso length etc. If you have a proportionate body type, while being petite, your work in alterations is a bit easier.

    I remove length above my bust, sometimes below my bust, and above and below the knee. I also do a narrow shoulder adjustment, and change the length of sleeves. Fitting the back is something I am now working on...I get lots of extra fabric in the small of my back.

    1. Hi Mary, what you say is so true and relevant, and I have taken the liberty of using your comment for discussion.


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