petite women

Petite Women Aren’t All Small And Dainty

Last night I was banging my head on the desk!

I was doing some research on clothes for petite women. This is because I have a client consultation coming up and I wanted to be prepared.

Normally I enjoy a good old ramble around the Internet when I’m vision boarding for clients. However, this was a major hiking expedition through a forest without a map!

petite women fashion problems

The good news is that tenacity pays dividends and my stock of tenacity is high! At the end of this post I’m going to offer you a round up of some of the key brands that design and manufacture for petite women.

 Petite Women Are Just One Shape Aren’t They?

The dictionary defines petite as ‘attractively small and dainty’.

But the definition for most petite women is that you can be any body shape.  The only common factor is that you are less than 5’ 4” (or 1.62M). Petite women are not necessarily just small and dainty!

Therefore the principles of dressing for your shape are still there. However there is an added dimension that height will affect the choice of clothing. Think of it in those terms and in theory it becomes easier!

My tips are focused on the petite women who would like to look taller. I’ve also added guidelines according to body shape.

 1. Necklines

V-neck for petite women

Banana Republic V-Neck

V-Neck is the best shape for petite women. A V-Neck creates more of a vertical line and the illusion of height. In comparison a square or wide rounded neckline adds width. If you have a small bust then a shallower V- neck or an open necked blouse is an option.

 2. Sleeves

A universal tip for anyone wanting to add height is to wear three quarter length sleeves. The sleeves end on the most slender part of the arm.

Just be aware that wherever the sleeve ends it will create width. So for example a curvy petite will not suit a short-sleeved top that ends in line with the bust.

 3. Handbags

An oversized handbag will overwhelm you, particularly if you also have a slender frame.

Smaller bags, although they don’t allow us to carry so much clutter (!) will be more in proportion to your height.

Curvy petite women can carry slightly bigger bags, but I’d avoid the big tote styles if you want to add height.

4.  Belts and Jewellerytassel leather belt

A bulky wide belt will create a line across your body that will make you look shorter.   As any horizontal pattern or shape will do.

But if you want to add shape and definition to your waist a narrow belt is a great idea.

Petite women will look better if their jewellery does not overwhelm them.

5. Shoes and Boots

Petite Women Pointed Toes

Sam Edelman on Nordstrom

The obvious choice for adding height is to wear heels. But not all petite women are comfortable in heels. These tips are not heel dependent:

  • Avoid ankle straps – another horizontal line
  • Nude is great for adding height
  • Pointed toes will look better than rounded
  • Boots just below the knee

 6. Prints and Patterns

Vertical lines and stripes will add height.

An open jacket over a top creates a simple vertical line.   Piping on a pair of trousers is another great way to make legs look longer.

Slender petite women will be overwhelmed with big prints and patterns. Curvy petite women can wear larger patterns and prints.

7. Hemlines

The general rules are that hemlines should not finish on the widest part of the thigh or the calf. Again this is because the eye will be drawn to a horizontal line that will reduce height.

Just below or above the knee is the best way to add height.

Minis for slender petite women will give the illusion of longer legs.

 8. Tailored And Structured

petite women tailored jacket

Jeetly – Chelsea Jacket

Tailored clothes will add structure for all petite women.

A crop jacket that ends at waist level will help legs to look longer for slender petite women.  Curvy petite women with a tummy should look for a hip length jacket.

If fitted isn’t your style then at least keep top or bottom half more structured.

9. Trousers

The basic principles for petite women are to wear high-waisted trousers. High waisted trousers will make legs look longer. True but not all shapes can wear them and may find some styles uncomfortable.

Straight or skinny Boot cut shapes again will add length.   Details on jeans and trousers check out my Skinny Jeans Are So Last Year.

 10. Monochrome

Keeping an outfit in one colour will help petite women to add height without the changes in colour creating horizontal lines.

But if you want to break up the colours, try a scarf simply draped round the back of your neck and leave to hang down your front, another great way to create vertical lines.

What Did I Learn On My Hike?

I promised you a summary of where to shop for petite women, some of which I’m sure will be very familiar but other brands and sites may be new to you. Feel fee to add to this list in the comments, as I’m sure other petite women would be really interested in your experiences.

petite women where to shop

Banana Republic – Plays by the rules!

Seriously BR has a great selection of petite clothing, which follows the style guidelines for petite women.  Focusing on smart casual daywear that works for many modern office environments.

Gap – which incidentally owns BR.  Gap has always been a go to place for great casual basics. Slightly less formal than BR but caters well for the petite market.

NYDJ – Designed specifically for women of all shapes and sizes.

Jeetly – semi formal smart stylish clothing. Founded by a former optometrist who got fed up of being told by her patients ‘you don’t look old enough to be doing this job!’

Wallis – offering smart clothes and occasion wear with some more casual styles.

Free People – bohemian styles that are great and go down to size 2-4 but are not specifically styled for petite women.

Asos – has a great range aimed at mainly younger petite women

These general tips are helpful as a framework but there is still an important aspect to consider. You need to define your personal style. Decide what personal values you want the world to see and think about how best to reflect these in your clothes.

If you are petite I would love to learn about your style journey and where you shop for clothes.  Please post your comments below.

 

 

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Statement Pieces

How To Use Statement Pieces To Create A UFI

What are UFIs?   They are Unique Fashion Identifiers, statement pieces that are eye-catching and say a lot about your personality.  You can have as many statement pieces as you like.

Your UFIs can be clothing or accessories, let’s look at accessories first, as these can be the most versatile and often eye-catching statement pieces.

  1. Jewellery
  2. Scarves
  3. Handbags
  4. Shoes
  5. Glasses

If you are not sure if you have any statement pieces then start with your jewellery box. Try on various items and find out which ones really light you up when you try them on.   It maybe that these pieces:

  1. Make you feel happy
  2. You feel loved when you’re wearing them
  3. Gives you confidence
  4. Reminds you of special moments when you wore them
  5. Have been endorsed by others complements

If you are not really a jewellery person try this exercise with other accessories.   Or if this doesn’t work think about your clothes.

When you are marketing yourself or your business, your statement pieces can also be a great way for others to remember you. Particularly if you starting out in business and are doing a lot of networking.    You may find that because others are keen to build their own business, they find it difficult to remember your name, but will remember something visual.

If you wear something eye-catching this association may act as a trigger! To give you an example, a couple of years ago I started carrying a very distinctive furry handbag. My rationale was that they may not remember my name, but they were unlikely to forget the handbag!

Your UFIs can also be the way you style your hair or the make up you choose. Perhaps you always have your hair in a blonde bob? Maybe you always wear red lipstick.

Audrey Hepburn used her hair and distinctive make up style to create her signature look. Her clothing styles were extremely varied, but she did maintain a gamin chic look throughout her wardrobe.

Your statement pieces all have one important thing in common. They make you feel fantastic and confident every time you wear them.

Style Tips

If you enjoyed this Style Tip about Statement Pieces, why don’t you take a look at Does Your Style Reflect You

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Image by Paul Cummings Photography

Gemma Flanagan an Inspiring Model

Gemma Flanagan lived a life that many would envy.   Travelling all over the world, partying in some exciting cities and getting paid it!

Gemma was a member of BA’s cabin crew until 2011 when her life changed forever.

Within a week of starting to notice slight tingling, Gemma ended up in hospital completely paralysed, where she stayed for almost a year. Gemma had been struck down by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)*1, a condition that affects only 1 in 100,000 people.

I met Gemma last year when Angel Sinclair invited me to provide clothes for her Models of Diversity Catwalk Show in Shepherds Bush Market.

In this 2-part interview you can learn about Gemma her amazing courage and positive attitude.  In this part we talk about her illness and recovery.  In part 2 we will discuss the amazing work that Models of Diversity Does and how you can help.

Gemma Flanagan

 CH Hi Gemma can you please introduce yourself and your current role, plus your really exciting news!

GF: Hi I’m Gemma Flanagan I’m the Assistant Director of Disability for Models of Diversity. When I’m not campaigning for Models of Diversity (MOD) I am a fashion model, but this is also an extension of my role for MOD.

I’m so excited that I got engaged at Christmas!! We went to look at our first wedding venue last night and it made me realize just how real it is now!!  We are just celebrating our fourth anniversary.

 

CH: Your life changed forever in 2011 – what happened?

GF: I was on a stopover in Vegas and realized that I wasn’t feeling quite right.

My feet started to feel strange.  I had pins and needles and my legs felt heavy – Sounds daft but I put it down to the 6” heels I’d been partying in!

On the return flight I felt really tired and thought I’d been overdoing things.   I was due to report for my next flight to Nairobi 2 days later.

I made it out of the door and on to the street (in full uniform!) only to collapse in the street. I struggled to get up. The weird thing was that I was in no pain. I just couldn’t walk.

Gemma Flanagan Before & After GBS

 CH: Presumably you didn’t make the flight to Kenya?

GF: Hardly! My flatmate took me to a WalkIn Clinic – not surprisingly they were really unsure what to do with me!  So I ended up in A&E and was admitted to hospital for tests.

It was then that things started to get a bit scary as they mentioned stroke, meningitis and tropical diseases as possible causes for my symptoms.

The doctors confirmed the diagnosis as GBS* after a lumbar puncture.

From that point things deteriorated really quickly – within a week of being admitted to hospital I’d lost my swallowing reflex and was totally paralyzed. I was literally trapped within my own body.

 

 CH: How frightening it must have been to go from being an able bodied person to being completely paralyzed?

GF: The doctors kept telling me that it was a mild case and I was really calm.

However, I did get a bit hysterical when I’d been in hospital for 4 days and a friend who was visiting asked what was wrong with my face.

My face had totally dropped on one side. It sounds so vain but that was the point I got a bit upset!

I was moved to Intensive Care (ICU) for two weeks, when the paralysis kicked in.  This was despite the fact that I still didn’t think I was ill enough to warrant being there!!

After 2 months it stopped deteriorating and I was transferred to Liverpool. In January 2012 I entered rehabilitation.

Image by Matt Jamie

Image by Matt Jamie

 CH: What did the rehabilitation involve?

GF: It was tough with 6 hours per day of therapy.

As the nerves start to recover they become hypersensitive. This involves a burning sensation so intense it’s like an electric shock you can’t move away from.  I was in a lot of pain and trying to cope with this and 6 hours of therapy per day was not easy.

I had to learn to swallow, talk, write and partly walk again.   Not exactly what I’d planned to be doing aged 27!   I was in rehabilitation for 7 months.

I left the amazing Walton Neuro Centre on crutches and was told that it was highly likely I’d make a full recovery.   I missed the bit where they said it would take time!

CH: At what point did you realise that life was never going back to the way it had been and how did that make you feel?

GF: For 18 months after leaving hospital I refused to use a wheelchair. I believed that I would get better if I kept pushing myself.

Unfortunately I was my own worst enemy and have irreparably damaged my spine and skeletal system. It means that I now need to use a wheelchair full time.

Over the last 2 years the doctors have been telling me that I’m not going to get better.   It took me another year to accept the fact, so it’s been a long time.

Last summer I went through a grieving process as I came to terms with the changes in my body.

But I’m one of the lucky ones! Not everyone survives GBS!

Image by Andy Green

CH: You are now diverting your energy into an incredibly worthwhile cause can you tell us a bit about that and how you became involved?

GF: I needed a purpose in life and have been lucky that I’ve found that with Models of Diversity (MOD)

Since meeting Angel Sinclair in 2012 I have been an ambassador for MOD and recently been promoted to Assistant Director of Disability.

I have so much to thank Angel for as she helped me realize I could be glamorous and get back in front of the camera. It had an amazing effect on my self-confidence and self-esteem.

As a model Angel realized that in order for changes to be instigated someone needed to start raising awareness.   Angel founded MOD in 2008 and has been campaigning for change ever since.

In Part 2 of my interview with Gemma we explore  Models of Diversity and their tireless efforts to campaign for change in the fashion, beauty and media industries.  We will look at the Petition they launched at the Houses of Parliament in September and the race to get as many signatures as possible before March 23rd.

 

*1 Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

GBS is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.  The peripheral nervous system is found in the feet and other extremities of the body.

GBS can affect anybody. It can strike at any age and both sexes are equally prone to the disorder. The syndrome is rare, and only about 1 in 100,000 people are affected.

No one yet knows what causes GBS or sets it in motion. What scientists do know is that the body’s immune system begins to attack the body itself, causing what is known as an autoimmune disease.  It can spread to the body’s organs and that’s when fatalities can occur.

The disorder mutates differently in each case which makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.  Some sufferers make a full recovery, others like Gemma are left managing pain and suffering mobility issues for the rest of their lives.

 

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