and Under 5’ Tall
By Ellen York
The definition of a petite woman
is 5’4” and under, from ideal weight
through plus sizes. But if you’re under 5
feet and weigh somewhere between 89 to 100 lbs.,
you are tiny by most people’s standards. You
may wonder at times why people don’t notice
you. Some groups may not hear or pay much attention
to what you have to say! The truth may be how you
are dressing your tiny little frame.
Reach in your closet and put on the business suit,
jacket, skirt or pants and top you plan to wear
to work. Look in the mirror and ask yourself the
• How is the jacket styled?
• Is it cut to fit very closely to your body,
• Are there darts and seamlines that hug to
your already tiny body?
• Does your jacket end right at your waist
or slightly above?
• Are the arms of the jacket clinging to your
very slender arms?
If the answer is “yes” to three of the
above questions, you are ready to make some changes
in how you dress and look to other people. You may
need to make some changes to display your image
and intelligence a more positive way.
No one wants to get lost in the crowd and everyone
wants to be listened to in business environments
and at social events. Tips on jackets for a better
• Look for jackets that are less tailored.
• Check each jacket you shop for to make sure
the sides are not curved in and very fitted.
• Try on jackets with a medium to narrow collar
• Look for tweed jackets: a jacket with fringe
on the collar, lapel, hem or sleeve edge—a
The above jacket style suggestions will give you
the appearance of being bigger, more assertive,
more confident, and having more power! The demure
little lady is starting to fade away and the beautiful,
talented woman you are starts to emerge. Your stature
begins to look taller—more confident.
When shopping for pants and skirts to enhance your
appearance in the business world, the following
tips will help achieve that look to blend with the
new jacket styles suggested:
• You may be looking in the Junior or Petite
departments. Macys, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Nordstrom,
Sears and JC Penney are stores making the effort
to stock appropriate clothing in their Junior and
• Look for pant fabrics that are career-oriented
• Look for pants that are not cut below the
bellybutton. They look too young and are not appealing
in the business environment.
• A pinstripe or tweed fabric will add bulk
to your tiny body.
• Skirts are easier to fit because you’re
not dealing with the crotch seam.
Count on it—you’ll still need to shorten
most pants and skirt hems.
Don’t hem skirts more than 1½ inches
above your knees. Sometimes you get a net clothing
image going, then you sink back to old habits of
too short and too tight. Remember, you want to become
successful. What you will be looking for as your
new look starts to emerge is:
• You’ll appear taller wearing a looser
• You’ll be wearing pants that aren’t
skin tight but have a fuller leg cut and look more
• You’ll be choosing better quality
fabrics for your suits, jackets, pants and skirts.
When purchasing tops, you may choose knit tops just
because they’re easy and often washable. A
slight V-neck or an open, rounded neck will help
to make you appear taller. Keep the side seams straight.
Don’t revert back to a snug-fitting knit top.
Remember, the rest of the world already can see
you’re small and short—you don’t
want to accentuate that!
Blouses are abundant in retail so pick carefully.
Some ideas to keep in mind are:
• A collar and button front are good, but
leave the top one or two buttons undone so a little
skin shows. You look more open and confident!
• A ¾ sleeve is good because long-sleeved
blouses often end mid-way down your hand!
• With a long-sleeved blouse you can move
the button over to fit your tiny wrist. Problem
• Look for fabrics that are a step above your
current professional position — silk, silk/rayon,
and polyester are good choices.
If you feel like you’re out of step, too little
to be noticed, and not big enough to be at the top
in your company, consider revamping your wardrobe.
Look at your hairstyle and color. Perhaps it’s
time for an update. Staying current in your appearance
is important. Avoid cute, trendy clothes. You’ll
only look smaller and too young, and probably won’t
be taken seriously. Remember that self-confidence
(Ellen York is the president and CEO of the Seattle-based
Image Institute and author of the new book, Dressing
the Petite Woman, Ellen York Image