Fashion Tips for Petite Women Over 50

Fashion for petite women over 50 isn’t a slam dunk just because you shop in the petite department. I’m short but can’t wear most petite garments. I’m 5’4″ tall, with a long torso and short legs. I have long arms and short thighs. Saying it like this makes me sound pretty disproportionate. What it really means is I have to pay very close attention to the proportion in my fashion.

Having your dress or skirt hemmed to where your leg narrows, makes you look taller and slims your shape.

The two tank dresses below illustrate why petite fashion over 50 isn’t the same for every woman.

Armholes should be snug enough to your underarm to hide sleevage but not so tight as to bunch up.

The armhole on the left is too long for me. Too much “sleevage” shows and it’s not flattering. The one on the right fits snugly up to my underarm without binding.

Style Tip- Look for an armhole depth that hides enough but also doesn’t pull across the front. If the front top or dress fabric pulls or pleats, it’s too short an armhole for you.

Beware if skirts are too full. The petite woman looks taller in a slimmer skirt.

The larger dress on the right is too long for me. I can get away with some extra length when wearing a slight heel, but I prefer flats, so this overwhelms me.

I’m an inverted triangle (shoulders wider than my hips) with a straight midsection with very little waist definition. I like to tie things at my waist to give the illusion I have a waist and to help my legs look longer.

Ensure your dress or skirts are not hemmed to stop at the widest part of your calf. That makes you look heavier.

In flat shoes, this larger/longer dress feels dowdy on me. Dowdy and frumpy are never a look I aspire to. The longer-length dress stops at the widest part of my calf. Very unflattering and makes my legs look thicker than they are. My calves are one of the shapeliest parts of my body, so I try to show them when I can. A knee-length hemline helps the petite woman look taller.

Fashion Tips for the Petite Woman Over 50

Style Tip- wearing texture near your face reduces the appearance of wrinkles.

Proper proportion is critical for the Petite Woman Over 50. A smaller sized handbag is in proportion to my body.


These tips won’t make me look taller, but they will make my clothes look like they fit me properly.

Do you fit the petite category?





  1. Love your comments on proportion. I am far from a petite and have similar proportions, but in plus size! Keep it up and include some things for those of us who are larger sizes. To me it seemed easy for small people to find appropriate clothes. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for reading Marlyn. I will include some plus sizes in my future posts.

  2. Petite proportions definitely make clothes shopping hard, but it’s entirely possible to find well-fitting clothes. And in any situation, if you find something you love that has an odd fit, you can always get it altered. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m a huge fan of alterations Heather!! You’re exactly right!

  3. Nancy Wilson says:

    I dont know if it’s my imagination but it seems like the armholes on sleeveless blouses are getting larger. I wondered if anyone else had noticed this as I’ve heard all sizes of woman complaining about this.

  4. Linda Vens says:

    Wow! We have almost the exact body type, except I am one inch taller! I also have to wear flats, so your comment about length of skirts/dresses is so right on! Dress is great!

    1. Thanks for visiting and reading, Linda!

    2. I am 5’1″ (proud of that inch!) and I always struggle with finding clothes that fit just right that I also LIKE (especially when petite offerings can be limited). Great advice on skirt length! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve altered my skirts to achieve “longer” calves. 😉

  5. Gloria Blankenship says:

    Great post and ideas! I am under 5″ and with longer legs I can sometimes wear “regular” sizes in pants such as ankle or crop and they hit me just right! Sometimes, however, I just take different sizes in the dressing room and see what fits best. I’ve learned not to be too hung up on sizes and whether always petite or not. Wanted to let you know I found a slightly long black lightweight open vest that I can wear as my third piece. Since I had seen you wear one on a previous blog, I was on the lookout for one! So excited!

    1. That sounds like a magic piece for you, Gloria! Being under 5′ means you have to be on the look out for those key items that polish of your look. Bravo!!

  6. Fantastic fashion tips for women who have turned up over 50 years. Loved the dressing styles to follow which builds confidence at same time.

    1. Thanks so much Leigh!

  7. Thanks for this post! I’m also short, but not necessarily petite at 5’3.5″ (that extra .5″ means a lot! 🙂 ). One question I have -how did you figure out your proportions (i.e., long torso, short legs. long arms, etc.)? Are there standard measurements out there somewhere that I can compare mine to in order to figure out my own proportions and therefore what styles might look best on me or what styling tricks I could take advantage of? I am very aware that I’m pear shaped! But I’m curious to know how my arms, legs and torso measure up!

    1. Half an inch makes a huge difference to me too!

  8. Grat tips Jennifer! I am not petite, but some of these tips are great for any size.

    1. You’re right Rena. They do apply for all height women!

  9. Awesome. Here I am sitting in my bathrobe and thinking–wow, Jennifer. always knows what to do. Beth

    1. Thanks Beth. I’m sitting in my robe right now too xx

  10. Hi Jennifer—I love this dress on you and especially the fabric. I am not personally familiar with this company. Do they offer free shipping? I am a petite also–5’1″, short-waisted and long legs and usually wear a 6 petite in clothes. Can you tell me what size you ended up keeping in this dress and do you feel this dress runs larger than normal. On the whole, would you say the clothes from this company would fit a shorter petite person or overwhelm them? Thanks

    1. Many of their clothes are oversized so I always order the smallest size. Even then, I am careful to order the more fitted styles. This dress is an XS and I had it shortened. Their a great company to work with and very, very helpful.

  11. Brilliant ideas! I think it’s terribly important that women figure out their own proportions and work with them; there are no bad bodies, just women uninitiated into the art and science of strategic dressing.

    1. Perfect way to put it Janice!! You do such a fabulous job of initiating them on your blog! Talk soon.

  12. Amazing the difference the length of the dress makes. I too have broad shoulders and not much shape going on in the middle. I love your tip for tying a shirt to create a waistline.

    I had no idea about sleevage, I hate when that happens! Your tips are so useful!

    1. Anything I can do to make it look like I have a waistline is fair game in my rule book 🙂

  13. Excellent tips. I love that you chose the shorter, more fitted dress. It’s so much more flattering and looks super with both the knotted shirt and the denim jacket.

  14. It’s amazing the difference a few centimetres makes! I’m a big fan of tailoring. I have a long torso but if I wear I cropped cardigan, It makes me look like my legs are about a foot longer. I love tricks like this! Well done. You look gorgeous as always!

    1. Thanks Jen! “Tricking the eye” with proportion is our friend.

  15. Great illustrations of how small differences – just a little less or more fabric here and there – can make a HUGE difference in your overall appearance. Properly fitting clothes are so important. It took me a long time to not settle for “good enough” when it comes to fit…

    The dress looks great on you! I love it both with the tied shirt & the denim jacket!

    1. Thanks Andrea! We all deserve better than “good enough”!

  16. What any women don’t realize is that the definition of “petite” by stores and clothing manufacturers has changed over the years. If you think it’s 5’2″ or less, think again. Some stores don’t even list height at all. I am 5’7″ tall, but get away with petite sizing in certain items. Sleeveless swing dresses: check. Longer sleeveless tops: check, because the bottom hem hits at my high hip. Even some jackets work, but I size up. I thought there was no way petites would work for me, but one day they didn’t have an item I liked in regular sizes.

    I have small bones, so this is why the fit is better for me in petite sizing for certain items. There is no way petite pants fit me, though. 🙂

    1. You’re so right. What manufacturers call petite means very little.

  17. Just found you on Instagram, and also signed up to receive your newsletter. I love it already. I’m 5’6 and a Grandmother of 2 and will be 60 on April 23rd. I’m loving all your styles tips, looking forward to learning more. Great blog!

    1. I’m so glad you’re here Patricia! I turn 60 in August! These are the best years!!

  18. Ann Griffin says:

    Could you post info about the handbags you show in the Fiore tunic and dress outfits, please?

  19. I also have little definition at the waist. I think you’re right about tying at the waist. Also right about the flats.

  20. Great tips, altough I am not small. I love that little bag on the last picture. What kind of material is it made of?

  21. That is a great outfit Jennifer! At a strapping 5 foot 6, I find petite women right in the GSL sweetspot especially if they are clever.

    1. You’re a rascal GSL!

  22. Jennifer, I agree, proportion is SO important for we petite women. And great point about the armholes…it makes SUCH a difference in how a garment looks.

    1. Armhole length can make or break a garment for all of us 🙂

  23. This post is right up my alley!

  24. I am so glad you are here to help petite women, Jennifer. As I worked retail this past year, I learned how there are so many petites and how frustrating the shopping can be. There is such a need for these conversations.

  25. I love this dress. I am short also and I go through this with every purchase!

  26. Perfect visual! I try to remember to take several sizes into the dressing room when shopping, and your post illustrates why this is a good idea. I am 5’4″ also, and have to try both petite and regular sizes to find a good fit. That’s a great dress, very versatile!

    1. It’s a fabulous dress. I’ll wear it a lot. Do you may see it here a lot 🙂

  27. These are great tips and reinforces the reason that I can’t shop online for clothes – you really have to try on clothes for the right fit.

    1. Online shopping is tough unless you know the brand. Free shipping helps!

  28. Fantastic style tips here. Showing the difference in photos, you can really see how It works.

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