Who's Petite? The Answer is Surprising to Many Women

Contact: Mary Lou Andre
Phone: (781) 444-0140

Needham, Ma — The greatest fashion obstacle for the petite woman is realizing she is indeed petite.

Fashion consultant Mary Lou Andre discovered this while working with over 250 women, 5'4" and under.

"My average shorter client is a 12 petite, but most envisioned a petite as being a slender size 2 or 4," Andre says. "They would walk right by the petite department, then wonder why their clothing never seemed to fit properly."

Andre helped these women understand that the petite designation is less about size and body shape than it is about fit and proportion.

Once they overcame the hurdle of finding the proper sizing category, Andre says petite women face a host of fashion challenges. She surveyed her 5'4" and under clients about their shopping frustrations and learned:

  • Pants are the hardest piece of clothing to buy (the crotch is often too low).
  • The selection is often too dowdy for the sophisticated petite consumer.
  • Blouses, sweaters and skirts are the easiest pieces for petites to buy.

Andre notes that some women's figures span petite and regular sizes. For them she recommends mixing-and-matching petite and regular sizes.

"Many of my clients work in the business arena where a strong physical presence is a definite advantage. The shorter woman's image becomes diminished when she wears overpowering clothes. But she can maximize her height and give the illusion that she is taller (and more powerful), through strategic dressing tips that we have developed."

These, outlined in Andre's booklet, "Perfectly Petite, The Art of Dressing the 5'4" and Under Woman," include:

  • Wear one continuous color from shoulder to hem. This lengthens the silhouette. If you break that vertical block of color with a wide belt, for instance, the eye stops short, making you appear shorter and wider.
  • Accessories can be overwhelming on the petite frame. However, an appropriate size scarf or earrings will draw the eye up, focusing attention on the face.
  • Keep Prints in proportion to your figure. In general, prints should be no larger than your hand.

"Finding clothing that can compliment the petite frame can be a challenge," Andre says. "The trick is to achieve the proper fit and proportion and to maximize appearance by paying attention to the elements of line and balance in all outfits. My clients tell me that once they understand this, they feel more confident and self-assured."

Mary Lou Andre, owner of Needham, Massachusetts-based fashion consulting firm Organization By Design, offers petite seminars and consultations for national retail establishments and private clients. She is the publisher of the Dressing Well Fashion Series, which includes the booklet "Perfectly Petite! The Art of Dressing the 5'4" and Under Woman".