Models who walk the runways for major fashion brands are typically not women who have trouble reaching the top shelf in a grocery store. Nor do they need to flag down assistance to stow their carry-on bags in the overhead compartment of a plane. In short: They’re tall. And while fashion is slowly adopting a more diverse and body-positive approach to casting, it can still be tricky to glean runway-inspired outfit ideas for the petite woman if you’re only looking to the 5’11” Karlie Klosses or 5'9" Ashley Grahams of the world.
The most useful advice for petite dressing comes from those who live the reality of having to tailor or tweak anything purchased off the rack. By necessity, they’ve mastered wearing oversized silhouettes in a way that feels cool and intentional — not like you're swimming in someone else's wardrobe. "I don't actually intend to wear oversized silhouettes — it's just the way clothes have always hung on my body," says Olivia Lopez, author and influencer. "Since I'm 5'0" everything tends to have a bit more of a boxy shape on my frame, which is something I don't really mind when it comes to coats and mid-length dresses."
Intentional or not, there's a certain power that dressing oversized can wield for petite women. “I have a penchant for oversized silhouettes because it makes me feel strong and powerful,” says Grece Ghanem, a 5'2" personal trainer, model, and fashion influencer whose Instagram is filled with chic looks that err on the roomy side. “When it comes to styling, I also like the contrast that an oversized piece can bring to a look such as an oversized trench coat over a tailored skirt and a pair of pumps," she adds. "It takes attitude and confidence to feel comfortable in oversized silhouettes so that you are wearing the piece and not the other way around.”
To pull off oversized clothing in a way that feels purposeful, the trick is to aim for head-to-toe balance — contrasting spacious silhouettes with more tailored separates and choosing when and if a cinch or cropped hemline is necessary. You can even use oversized sunglasses or bags to play off the look, suggest Ghanem. Contrasting proportions prevents it from seeming like you forgot to get your pants hemmed, but that they're flowy on purpose.
Scroll on for a breakdown of six easy-to-follow examples for how oversized silhouettes work for a petite frame.
Petite Outfit Idea: The Oversized Jacket
Play up your love for oversized proportions by exaggerating the statement piece. An oversized, boxy jacket looks even bolder when paired with a neutral, monochrome base in a no-fuss, slim fit. Sleek, leather trousers are optional, but recommended.
Petite Outfit Idea: The Oversized Shirt
Slip dresses take on a new life when styled with an oversized button-down underneath. Let the spacious sleeves scrunch up for a makeshift Victorian puff sleeve silhouette. It’s a sweet, but not saccharine, interpretation of a slinky dress ensemble.
Petite Outfit Idea: The Oversized Pant
Pants are one of the trickiest items that a petite woman shops for as the length is almost always way past where her feet end. Not only can you hack a proper hemline fit by tucking the bottoms in a boot, but an oversized pair of trousers is effortlessly balanced with a top that has an open neckline. The wide cut and slim fit of the top complements the unabashedly billowy shape of the pants.
Petite Outfit Idea: The Oversized Sweater
Who doesn’t love an extra chunky knit for the coldest days of the year? Take a cue from this color blocked look and pair a substantial sweater with a pencil skirt — something with a high slit that allows for a little movement. When finished with a pair of ankle boots, the relaxed combination feels elegant, effortless, yet not overly overwhelmed with fabric for a petite person to wear.
Petite Outfit Idea: The Oversized Dress
Full, maxi-length dresses tend to swallow up one’s shape, especially when paired with a low sneaker. However the look works especially well on a petite frame when the hemline hits just above the ankles, allowing a sliver of skin to peek between the flow-y dress and comfy footwear choice.
Petite Outfit Idea: Oversized Head-To-Toe
While a balanced oversized ensemble suggests that at least one item should be more fitted, that’s not always the case. An extra-long button-down pairs perfectly with wide, full-length trousers when worn slightly undone. Leave the buttons open up to the waistband of the high-waist pants, and opt for a peek of midriff if you’re up for it.