Should Short People Wear Long Dresses?

Famous petites like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen can rock the long dress look.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

With the maxi dress back on the shelves again, glamor gals of all shapes may be scrambling to pick up the latest long look. Not all fashions fit everybody with ease, however, and long dresses are no exception, no matter how free-flowing they may be. Sizing dilemmas, proportion problems and style crises can plague even the savviest fashion maven. When a girl's on the shorter side, finding a flattering long-skirted look that's still chic can be challenging -- but it can be done.

Lost in Layers

Since most regularly sized dresses are made to fit a variety of heights, they often come longer and wider in the skirt than is always necessary. Those trendy tiered maxi dresses, in particular, have a lot of extra fabric at the hem. This can often overwhelm a petite woman, leaving her looking at best like she's drowning in fabric, at worst matronly. To counteract the effect, shorter ladies can get any extra length hemmed right off.

Pay Attention to Proportion

Due to the sizing, the waist of many long dresses will cut a short woman at the wrong point. To add insult to injury, some dresses are even color blocked so that the waist becomes the center of attention. A low waist on a dress emphasizes short legs, while a high waist can elongate the legs. Other proportion problems come in the shape of detailing like bows and ruffles that are sized proportionately to tall girls, but look enormous on anyone else.

Fix It With Fit

Still willing to go for those lovely long dresses? In addition to choosing plain, high-waisted styles over those made to flatter the long-legged, petites can pick dresses with structured skirts that won't overwhelm their frames. A-line and column skirts fit close enough to the leg to avoid adding bulk and can create the illusion of length if they extend just past the ankle. Choosing a dress that is all one color, too, can make a body look longer and leaner.

Don't Skimp on the Details

Although the skirt of a long dress covers much more of the body than a petite may be used to, skin exposure at the top can help balance out proportions. The style savvy among us will opt to go without sleeves or roll them up halfway and choose dresses with deep V-neck fronts. When it comes to accessories, tall heels can also add length to the skirt, or even allow a girl to choose a much longer skirt than she would with flats.

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"Dressing the Petite Woman"; Ellen York; 2006 "Petite Style"; Susan Ludwig and Janice Steinberg; 1989

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