Getting the Right Fit for Petites

I’m pretty short and most size charts label me a petite, but I seldom shop there. Petite garments don’t fit me very well. Although brands like to think there is generic sizing for petite women, there isn’t because our torso can be long or short, our rise can be high or low, our legs and arms can be long or short and we have a wide range of body silhouettes. Shopping in a petite department is a great start but it doesn’t guarantee a good fit.

Here are some things to consider:

Beware of scale

  • Petite women are easily overwhelmed by large patterns. A narrow stripe looks more balanced than a rugby stripe on a small person.


  • The same is true of prints. Small prints will show more complete patterns which is a better balance on short women.


  • Full skirts and billowing sleeves may swamp you but can easily be altered to a better proportion.


  • Oversized collars make your head appear small and extra deep or contrasting color cuffs make your arms appear short.

Lengths Matter

  • Pant and sleeve length is important for petites but armhole depth matters too. The petite woman needs a higher armhole to prevent gaping.
  • Wearing 3/4 length sleeves or simply pushing them up your forearm will help you appear taller.
  • Pants that puddle or drape onto your shoe makes your legs look shorter, as do cuffs. High rise pants make your legs appear longer.
  • Tunic tops are flattering at the right length. Look for side slits, curved and asymmetrical hemlines. If a tunic top is longer than your fingertip length, consider hemming it or wearing pants the same color to elongate your look.



Let’s take me for example.

I’m 5’4” with a long torso and short legs. The waist shaping of petite jackets and fitted tops are too high for me. I need to buy regulars and shorten the sleeves. Petite pants have a shorter rise which usually makes them too low on my long torso.

If you’re not petite you may still prefer the fit of some petite garments. If you have a short torso, petite jackets and tops may fit you better than regular. Petite skirts may be a better length for you if you are short from the knee to the waist.

Women have varied proportions so shouldn’t disregard any clothing department when shopping for garments that fit their body.

What fit issues do you struggle with?

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Affiliate links within this post may generate income for AWSL.


  1. I am 5’2″ and weigh about 100lbs. (I’m always trying to gain weight.) I am having difficuty finding a winter down coat that wil fit. I have narrow shoulders and am small busted. Looking at a size chart, I would fit into three sizes. XS for the bust, S for the waist and I need an M for the hips…although my hips are 38″. The petite coats are all cut too high and too wide(?) in the armholes. The regular are too long everywhere. If the style is shaped at all, the smallest part of the coat (the waist) hits me at stomach/hip level where I am largest. I have now tried petite small at LandsEnd, LLBean and Eddie Bauer. Each company insists their SP will fit me, but none do. Any ideas?

    1. Down is difficult to alter so I would keep trying other brands until you find the best alternative. You’ll need to buy for your widest part so things are too snug.

  2. I am 5ft 1 and have scolosis> I have rods and wires in my back but now I have a drop hip when I walk. So looking for a tunic or something to hide my hip problem. Can you help me?

    1. I’m so sorry you’re struggling. Try Chico’s for a tunic. They have many and are even in petite which would be great at your height.

  3. 3/4 sleeves look awful on petite women! I want long sleeve or elbow sleeve.

    I have the same issues that you do with ls being too long on a regular jacket.

    I have hefty calves…not real hefty, but what would you recommend? I don’t think cropped pants look at all good on me.
    5′ 3, 165 lbs, large busted

    love your stuff!

    1. I’m not a fan of cropped pants on most women, especially if you have larger calves

  4. I’m 5’0″ with short arms and legs. My main difficulty is tops. Pretty much all petite shirts are too long for me. (I prefer my shirts be about hip-length, but most shirts hang down to the crotch area or thighs.) Of all the many shirts I have in my closet, only about four of them are the right length. I almost never buy shirts anymore because I can’t find any that are the right length. I keep telling myself to buy what I like and get it tailored, but I’ve yet to do that.

    I usually buy misses in skirts because petite skirts tend to be shorter than I prefer. (I like my knees covered. 23″-25″ is perfect.) Dresses are also better in misses for the same reason. Plus, there’s never a big selection of petite dresses where I shop. I do most of my shopping at Dillard’s, Macy’s, Talbots, Belk (though their dresses and petites have been a disappointment for a few years now), JC Penney, and Stein Mart (now going out of business). Though it seems most of these stores have a smaller selection of petites than they used to.

    Besides my difficulty finding tops and most stores not having much of a selection, most petites are not very stylish. It’s so frustrating to see something cute or stylish in misses and then go to the petite section and they don’t have the same colors or patterns as misses or they don’t have the brand you’re looking for at all.

  5. Haley Patillo says:

    Thanks for your helpful tips! I’m 5’0″. Many brands of petites are not petite enough for me (shoulders too long, armholes too big, baggy under bust, waist pulls down over belly, hips sag around thighs). I have recently discovered eShakti.com, a company that cuts all their orders to custom measurements. It’s really nice to have dresses that fit just right. I still have to ask them to make the armholes smaller, which led me to your article. I hope more clothiers will transition to custom sizing!

    1. That’s awesome, Haley! Custom is the best way to go for many women.

  6. I’m small all the around and I have a diffult time finding the right size pants, a 2 fits my legs just fine but my waist is strangled to death. A 3 fits my waist perfectly but I’m uncomfortable with my legs and butt area, they seem too loose..what’s a person to do?..where’s the fine medium between the two?

    1. You must buy to fit your largest measurements and take in where necessary for good fit. Never be uncomfortable and don’t settle for “off the rack” fit!

  7. At 5’1″ I am short but not petite! I have long arms, big hands and there has yet to be a collar made that is big enough to make my head look small. Wear size 9 shoe. I am long waisted with super short legs so pants are my bête noir. I found that I measure my inseam as some petites are 28″ and some regular are 27″!! I can’t stand high waisted pants and read some where they have a tendency to make your bottom look bigger. I think many women confuse regular rise with a true mom jean which is much higher than the navel or natural waist.
    Petite women are not necessarily small busted either. If your bra wires dig into you the bra is meant for a longer torso woman or the cups are too small. Measure the length of the side boning or the side rise of the cup. You’ll see there are big differences in various manufacturer’s. This was something I never realized until I read it on a bra blog. I always keep a measuring tape in my purse!

  8. I’m 5’8” with long legs, so pant lengths can be a problem. If there is a defined waist,as in belts or elastic, they are most often too high on me, as I’m long waisted. I like to go into stores and try on clothes because I am hard to fit.
    It seems like your man cold is just shifted, instead of getting better.

    1. True. This cough has taken on a life of its own! We all do better to try on but some people don’t live close enough and need other options. Thank goodness for shipping!

  9. I used to be 5’0 on a good day! About 4’11 now. Petites have been my friends even though some seem to fit better than other. My local Macy’s quit carrying Petites and I get frustrated trying to rummage through racks when they are mixed in with standard size. Talbots fit well and always loved Coldwater Creek and Ann Taylor.

    1. Why on earth would they stop carrying petites? I’d write to the store manager

      1. Some Macy’s just stopped carrying petites. At least that’s what I found when visiting a store in Maryland. The Florida Macy’s carries them but seems to have reduced the inventory. I have found myself back in Talbots with a pretty good selection. Chicos sometimes works for me. It seems no matter our height, there are so many variables for finding the right fit, and a good tailor is so valuable.

  10. I’m almost 5’ 3” with narrow shoulders, short arms, and a short (and expanding) waist. Sometimes even petite sleeves are too long for me. Since what length I have is in my legs, petite pants are often too short! My biggest challenge is finding tops with sleeves that camouflage my muffin top. I don’t usually like tunics on me; I will try some that are shorter with asymmetric bottoms. I’ve been having good luck with Talbots petites lately.

  11. I’m 5’5” , narrow shoulders, small bust, short arms, long torso, petite sizes fit better in tops, jackets, coats. If the web sites measured the clothing items, I would save a lot of money and time. The size charts are not as helpful as measurements, which Etsy uses on vintage items. P.S. my Nordstrom intermingled the petites into the regular sized area before the holidays.

    1. I totally agree! I know it’s more time intensive to measure the garments but I’m sure it would cut down on returns and it would make it so much easier for the shopper.

  12. I’m 4’10” making me short all over. Yet I am built like a women. I find the smallest size petites do not fit my figure but the small or medium have too large shoulders and necklines. These are areas that are difficult or just not worth tailoring. My best bets are Talbots and Jjill but their styles are getting boring. Any ideas for other places to shop?

    1. I am in a hunt and will update. Ann Taylor, Loft and Banana Repuluc also carry petite which are more fashion forward.

  13. I’m 5’8 with short legs and a long torso, so sometimes even my pants need to be hemmed. Why is it that men’s clothing shops always assume the men need alterations (men’s slacks come unhemmed!), but nothing for the ladies?!?

    1. Excellent point! Nordstrom will hem for free but you have to be in the store!!

  14. Buff Harvey says:

    My problem is that except for ankle pants, petite pants are too short for me. I too am 5’4’’ but have different proportion than you. Petite pants fit me well in waist, hips and stride. If someone makes a “Tall Petite”, I will be happy!

  15. I’m 5’ 2”. I’ve got long legs, a short torso and long arms (who knew?). In addition to the challenges you’ve mentioned, the neckline of tank tops are always too low for me. If I reduce the wide shoulder straps to raise the neckline, the garment often becomes too short for my comfort. It’s a pain.

    I’ve taken to wearing Clara Sunwoo’s mid-length tank top which remains long enough even after altered. I stick to black.

    1. That’s a problem I hadn’t considered! I’m glad you found a basic that will work for you Irene. Our bodies are all so unique.

    2. Me too! Ugh. I agree with all above statements. Everyone assumes I wear petites because I am 5’1. With long legs, I find petites fit well in dresses or skirts. Other than that, I scour till I find any size that fits. I no longer shy away from a “larger” size. Fit is key, not what size you wear.

  16. Lori McClintick says:

    I am 5 teet 11 inches tall . and have very long legs. I used to struggle finding pants long enough, but now am able to buy talls at Chicos, Macys, Old Navy, Target, Kohls, and jCP. In my teen years it was very difficult, but there is a much wider selection available today. My struggle today is finding clothing which skims over my tummy rather than drawing attention to it. I enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Eddie Bauer has a nice selection of sporty tall styles.

      1. JJill offers all of their clothing line in tall also.

    2. I like things to skim too! There’s a fine line between skimming and baggy. I’ll keep my eye open.

    3. JJill is another brand that makes ALL their clothes in tall lengths. Unfortunately, it’s all online and not in the stores to try on. But that’s true of most all brands. I’ll have to check Chicos again. Several years ago they cut back on the styles I liked in talls.
      Long Tall Sally is another site I’ve been told about, but I’ve never bought anything from them. It’s so hard to buy jeans especially, when you can’t try them on. I think that goes for everyone no matter their size.

      1. It does Susan. Jeans are some of the toughest.

      2. Adriano Goldschmied (AG) are fantastic jeans!!!!

  17. Hello Petite People!! I am 5’1″ so petite sizing has been a blessing for me. Thankfully more and more specialty shops are offering petite sizing such as Chico’s and Soft Surroundings. JJill and Talbot’s are still the places I shop the most for a good fit especially in a dress or jacket. Nordstrom was always a good place to shop for petites, but suddenly they did away with the petite department and made the petites hard to find by mixing them in with the regular sizes. That makes no sense!!! One more thought. I am thrilled with the fit of the Talbot’s high waist jegging. I know high-waist pants are thought to be “mom” jeans, but truthfully at my age of 68, that is what I need. With a long tunic top the high-waist is my secret and I am so much more comfortable than a mid-rise jean that puts pressure on my abdomen. I hope I will continue to see the return of more stylish high-waist pants in the future.

    1. I love high waist jeans!!! They are so much more comfortable. Why would Nordstrom fo that?? Crazy. I don’t think my store has unless it was very recent.

    2. Margaret new Morris says:

      Hi, I agree that high waist jeans are more comfortable. I am 5’2″ and buy regular jeans in short or ankle as well! I like the fit of NYDJ in Alina for me.

      1. Nordstrom in Nashville has a very small petite selection. I had lost some weight and got tired of my husband calling me “baggy pants” so took a day to go shopping. I’m petite, but wore plus sizes (that was a challenge) and was surprised how many stores now carry a good selection of petite sizes. I still try on the ladies size of the same style and compare the fit. Thank you so much for your recommendations for a short person.

  18. I am 5 ft 5 inches tall (or short if you want to look at it that way) I always wear regular size because my torso is long but my legs are short. I always have to have my pants shortened 2 or 3 inches at least unless the pant is a “crop” then I can wear them as an ankle pant. This is annoying because sometimes the shape of the leg is changed when they are cut off. But after all these years of shortening, I have learned to live with it.

    1. You can slim the leg down when you shorten them. It can ruin a boot cut though so I agree. What I need are petites in long :)!!

  19. I am 5’3″ with short arms and legs and a long torso also. I have the same problem with petites. I can sometimes find short length in pants instead of petite, but it’s not very common. I have started to buy ankle pants and jeans which fit me like regular pants. My other problem is that I have a small waist in proportion to my thighs so I always have a weird gap at the back of the waist and need to get the waist altered on most pants. I have a lot of 3/4 sleeve tops. I didn’t realize that they would make you appear taller. Also, the point you make about oversized collars, would that apply to scarves also? Sometimes I feel overwhelmed in scarves, is there a better way to tie them for a smaller person?

    1. I feel that way with blanket scarves, yet I love them and keep trying. I would suggest folding the triangle smaller from the fold side to make it shorter on you. Does that make sense? I’ll try to do a video.

  20. Kathy Wilhelm says:

    I am 5′ and found the best tailor to address ALL of my fit issues, Specifically the waist band in jeans. I always seem to have a gap in the waist in the back of my jeans so I have them taken in a couple inches. My tailor does the best job, you’d never suspect they were altered.

  21. Julie,Melbourne,Australia says:

    I’m 5ft 4ins too and some Australian petites brands fit me.I find tops tricky as I have narrow shoulders and a small bust.Pants/trousers/jeans/bottoms/skirts are also problematic as I have a waist and high hips :I need clothes with shape.I know what I look best in but it can be hard to find the right fit.I’m really considering sewing again to get the right fit.
    I found your points about patterns not quite right for me.I look bad in small patterns and some bold prints really enhance my fair skin and hair.We’re all different.
    How’s the ear?

    1. That’s why these are suggestions:) we are all unique. The ear is getting better thanks. The cough however has taken on epic proportions!

      1. Julie,Melbourne,Australia says:

        Thanks for your suggestions.I hope you get to manage that cough soon.

  22. I work retail in women’s clothing. This is true for a lot of women, even those that are not petite. I have put taller women in petite clothing when there is gaping at the armpit and shorter women in misses. It really does depend on the persons proportions, and the cut of the clothing. Most of the time it takes some work to find the right outfit. This is where it gets tough for some people. They don’t want to take the time and effort it takes to find the right clothes. Some clothing looks great on the hanger but not when they’re on the body. Conversely, some things you would never try on because you think won’t look good on you, turn out to look fantastic. You really have to try things on.

    1. It does take time. Many women do g realize they’re not limited to the section of store designated for their measurements. Some of my best pieces looked awful on the hanger!

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