Embrace Being Short: How to Shop for Your Height

Don’t be afraid of taking chances. Your body isn’t like everyone else’s, so stop thinking that way.
Publish date:
October 27, 2014

According to natural selection, being 4’9” puts me at a disadvantage generally in life. Besides not being able to reach top shelves, I’m far from the average body type and model size. This results in countless fitting-room hours and purchasing lots of ill-fitting clothes. Fortunately when it comes to shopping -- except on Black Friday -- it’s rare that I have to fight for an extra-short pair of pants at a Forever 21. I have learned to enjoy being petite, but it wasn’t always this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love buying clothes, but hunting down a perfectly tailored outfit just made me want to wear sweatpants (which likely didn’t even fit properly) and never go out!

As cliché as it sounds, I realized that perfection was overrated. I started experimenting with proportions and simply bought clothes that made me feel confident.

Love your feet.

I hate the way feet naturally look, so the fact that they are my favorite body part actually sounds kind of gross to me. However, your shoes are the only way to gain two, three, or five inches, so embrace them! Forget flats and buy more pumps, even open-toe ones.

They are your secret weapon to empowerment as a petite woman. It may be my Napoleon complex speaking, but I feel like I can take over the world in a pair of sexy stilettos. I’m not saying do anything for height like wear sneaker wedges to the gym, but there are benefits to elevation. It changes your posture and elongates your figure, setting you up to have a more powerful presence.

Oversize and online shopping is OK.

I used to be terrified of buying anything online. Not only because of credit card fraud and having to pay for shipping, but because it’s hard to gauge the item's fit.

Don’t be afraid of taking chances. Your body isn’t like everyone else’s, so stop thinking that way. Create your own body image. For example, I bought a body-con knee-length snakeskin skirt at Joe Fresh last week. (I’d share it with you, but it’s been discontinued.) It was amazing, except that it looked shorter online and the waist was too loose. Just before giving up and returning it, I decided to pull it all the way up to my chest and, suddenly it was a miniskirt! The way you style clothing doesn’t have to mimic models online.

Repeat after me: My pants are never going to magically be the right length.

Instead of complaining that stores should accommodate all heights, ask for help. Many shops and department stores offer tailoring services. Become friends with the tailor. Sometimes I even base pant shopping on whether a store offers it. For example, Uniqlo adjusts hems at a reasonable price, so I'm always there.

If this is not in your budget and you want to keep all the fabric you pay for, learn the art of cuffing. Cuffs should be thin and not hide your ankles. If you’re going to do it, cuff until you can’t cuff anymore. This is usually a couple inches above your ankle. If done right, this look is easy and flattering. But, ONLY cuff with skinny pants. Boot-cut, boyfriend, and flared styles will make you look frumpy; the loose style and wider bottom will look oddly proportioned.

Browse the kid’s section.

I’m not exactly telling you to shop at Zara for kids or teen stores like Delia’s. All I’m saying is don’t be ashamed if you happen to find a fabulous jumpsuit designed for a 12-year-old. No need to question where it came from.

Know what stores offer.

H&M and Forever 21 are amazing affordable petite destinations. Their sizing is fitted and small.

Foreign Exchange, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Topshop, Nasty Gal and ASOS are where all the 00’s are at! And then Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Gap, Anthropologie, Francesca’s, Madewell, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Eileen Fisher, BCBG, and Burberry carry petite sizes, when it comes to higher-end shopping.

So what are your tricks?