If there's one thing I've learned as a woman standing at 5'2", it's that, when it comes to fashion, petites often get the short end of the stick (pun intended). Not all stores carry petite sizes, and those that do tend to carry a limited selection. As a result, shopping and dressing for a below-average stature can be a challenge — which is why I decided to reach out Vanessa Youshaei, the founder of the styling service Petite Ave, for a few of her best petite fashion tips.
"Throughout my life, I struggled to find casual and professional clothing that fit," Youshaie tells InStyle. "Standing at 5'0, everything was always too long on me. As a result, I spent a lot of time and money finding and altering clothing."
Once she realized she wasn't alone in her search, Youshaie left her position at Google and launched Petite Ave, a personal shopping subscription box that caters to women 5'5" and under, exclusively.
Here's how the service works: Customers submit a style survey online, detailing their body measurements, clothing preferences, budget, and more. Through that data, extensive research, and partnerships with brands that deliver quality pieces that are both on-trend and fairly priced, Youshaie and her team of stylists help petites find their perfect fit.
"Our mission and long term vision at Petite Ave is to expand the fashion-forward options that are available to petite women," Youshaie says.
Since she's such a pro, I asked Youshaie to walk me through some basics, such as which styles look best on petites and the tricks she keeps in mind while getting dressed. Thankfully, she was happy to share.
Know Your Measurements
"There are a few measurements that are really important when trying to find your exact size: bust, waist, hip, and inseam measurements," Youshaie says. Knowing his information will help you make sure you're purchasing the correct size of a garment per the company's size chart and product description.
Identify Your Body Shape
Every body is shaped and proportioned differently, and petites are no exception. Before you start shopping, Youshaie suggests identifying what your body shape is first, this way you can research stores that carry clothing that are meant to compliment that specific shape.
"For example, for women who are 'triangle' shaped, researching stores that carry A-line dresses and skirts is a great place to start, since these pieces help balance out their lower half," Youshaie advises. "Once they've found the pieces they're looking for, they can check the product description to make sure the garment isn't too long."
Shop Petite and Non-Petite Sections with a Specific Purpose
Unfortunately, some petite sections are sorely lacking in fashion-forward pieces. However, this doesn't mean you're at a loss. Youshaie recommends that petite women purchase their basic staples from the petite section, then shop trendier items in the regular department.
That being said, when shopping in regular-size departments, it's important to keep in mind the ideal lengths for petites in tops, bottoms, dresses and jackets.
"Look for traditionally shorter pieces that will likely be full-length on petites," Youshaie says. "For example, crop tops, mini skirts, and cropped pants might be full length on petites."
Keep Regularly-Sized Blazers and Jackets Unbuttoned
According to Youshaie, doing so creates "a long, uninterrupted central column that runs from head to toe," while buttoning up "interrupts this vertical line and therefore has the opposite effect."
You Can Use Accessories to Appear Taller
Believe it or not, heels aren't the only accessory that create the illusion of height. Youshaie says that by belting a dress above your natural waistline, your torso will appear shorter and legs longer, making you appear taller overall. What's more, she tells us that going monochromatic with your footwear can also help you appear taller.
For example, wearing skin-toned, nude shoes with skirts should make you appear taller. But, "if you're wearing an outfit that calls for black tights, then it's best to pair that outfit with black shoes," says Youshaie.
Choose Delicate Over Chunky Accessories
If you choose to wear jewelry or carry a handbag, Youshaie says, choose delicate pieces like minimal chains and small purses that match your small stature.
Less Is More When Picking Out Maxi Dresses
"While maxis might seem overwhelming for a petite frame, petites can definitely pull them off by picking dresses that are monochromatic or have smaller prints," Youshaie tells us. These designs, in tandem with higher waistlines and v-necklines, all help petite women appear longer and leaner and don't take away from their small frame.
Balance Oversized Pieces with Form-Fitting Items
Oversized sweaters and jackets can 'swallow' up a petite frame, but petite women don't have to miss out on this cozy trend. According to Youshaie, the key to pulling off oversized pieces is to pair them with more form-fitting items, like skinny jeans or leggings. This creates balance within the outfit and will help show off your figure without getting lost in its loose form.
Over-the-Knee Boots Can Elongate Your Legs
"When styling these boots, tuck your top into a pair of high-waisted pants or jeans in the same color," says Youshaie. "Matching the color of the boots and pants. along with elevating your waistline, helps your legs appear much longer."
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