I hope everyone’s well this very grey day (in the UK) – I kind of like grey days sometimes as they always feel like my blog reading days; I can browse around Bloglovin’ and not feel guilty that I’m wasting the sunshine. (As a Brit, I’m very conscious of ‘sun guilt’ – I think a lot of us evolve to feel like we should be throwing ourselves out into the sun the moment it chooses to make an appearance. Sometimes you just want to stay in!)
Anyway, another tips post from me today and I realise this one isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but it’s something I’ve struggled with so I hope it helps some of you out there! I wanted to expand on my suggestions in my interview with Jessica (Chronically Vintage). If you’re petite (or perhaps have proportionately short legs/torso) and you like vintage style, you’ve quite possibly also put on a pair of high-waisted jeans that restricted your ability to sit down, or a circle skirt only to find it makes your legs look about 3″ long (which wasn’t exactly the look you were after). The longer lengths of clothes from the 40s and 50s can pose the modern petite woman a bit of a problem to try to incorporate in a flattering way into their wardrobe. For the record, by the way, I’m 5’2″ (just!).
So what’s a girl to do? Well, I think there’s a few things that can really help to work with your height rather than against it, with minimal compromise. It’s probably worth noting that my own style is more vintage-inspired than authentic vintage, as most of you know, so if you disagree with anything I say I fully acknowledge I’m not trying to create a true vintage look most of the time 🙂
1. Find your midi swing skirt length
For years, I was convinced I couldn’t wear beautiful big midi length circle skirts – years! They were almost as long as me for the most part and they just made me feel short and stumpy and overwhelmed. Turns out I just wasn’t wearing them right – all I needed to do was find the length that worked for me and my height, which is ideally around 25-26″ long. Anything longer than that and there’s more skirt than there is me, which I don’t feel good in. So find the length that works for your height and alter anything that’s too long – simple! Although, of course, one thing to mention about this approach is that if you do want to buy something that is (or could be) longer than your ideal length, you should be very careful about this if it has a pattern that can’t be cut short without ruining it e.g. novelty print skirts.
2. Know how high is too high rise
This is something I’ve learned fairly recently and is one of the best tips I can give you! If you’re petite, you probably don’t have the same length torso as an average-sized woman. If you don’t have this, buying skirts/pants etc that are designed to be very high-waisted is going to be an interesting experience. They’re not made for your length! I tried a pair of Freddies of Pinewoods jeans several months ago and they finished on my ribcage and made it hard to move/breathe/live. Bending over in them? Forget about it! I soon realised I had a limit to how high I could go for it to be comfortable and look flattering and it’s approximately what you see in the above photo which is about an 11-11.5″ rise at the front (the back measurement will always be longer). I was reassured I wasn’t alone by Flashback Summer who took her Freddies to be altered for her height – that’s a very good idea indeed. Interesting piece of info for anyone who knows and loves Lady K Loves jeans – the owner mentioned to me back in January that she was looking into developing a style for petite women. Let’s hope that happens!
3. See the ‘full’ potential in ankle grazers
So… these perfect-length jeans are actually supposed to be ankle-length. But who cares? I’ve just ended up with some cute patterned jeans that look like they were made for me, even if that’s ironic. If ankle grazers are around the 28-29″ leg length, which I suspect most are, the petite girl wins if she wants a pair of trousers she doesn’t have to alter. And if I want to, I can still tuck these up on the inside to make them look like capris – something that will apply to most denim fabrics; they’re stiff enough to do this and stay put. So in fact, you’re getting two trousers for the price of one 😉 Money saving and good for your vintage wardrobe!
4. Embrace the crop top
I’m sure everyone’s noticed there’s this big trend in modern fashions for cropped tops, because apparently we liked it so much in the 90s we couldn’t wait to get our bellies out again (who decided this?!). When I first realised crops were a ‘thing’ again, I couldn’t help but groan. But then I bought one and it was life-changing! Crop tops are usually fitted and on the petite lady they often finish at a respectable length on the waist, meaning you can wear your usual vintage style high-waisted bottoms with them with minimum risk of exposure. Take the top in the above picture – it probably doesn’t even look like a crop, but in fact if you look here you’ll see it very much is. In this case, I covered the join with my skirt with a wide waist belt. No bulgy fabric underneath the skirt or to work its way out of the waistband. And like in the other post, sometimes I don’t mind getting my waist out, as long as it’s little enough to stay classy – 50s women did it too, after all.
5. Go strapless – on your shoes
I struggle with this piece of advice, not because I like to strap my feet into shoes, but because inevitably I have to because they’re incredibly narrow and fall out of most shoes. Wherever I can, though, I always prefer to wear shoes with no straps – particularly ankle straps – as they create a visual ‘line’ that chops into the length of your leg, making it look shorter.
6. Match your tights to your shoes
Now, admittedly, I don’t always follow my own advice on this one as I often have different coloured shoes to my tights in the winter. But if I’m wearing flats or low heels (as above) I am a bit more conscious of it as I’m that bit closer to the ground! It’s just about creating an illusion of leg length and matching your shoes to your tights helps with that. Especially if, like above, I’ve got a shoe with ankle straps on (which I’ve just said to try to avoid!). Opaque tights might not be seen as ‘authentic’ vintage style, but we do know ladies liked to match back then, so I think they would approve! And as you can see, I’ve worked it into a vintage look here anyway. A girl’s got to be warm as well as stylish, sometimes!
7. Choose nude shoes in the summer
This isn’t groundbreaking – if wearing shoes and tights in the same colour will visually trick the eye into seeing the leg as a longer, unbroken line, it follows that wearing nude coloured shoes with bare legs will have a similar effect. Maybe this is more of a modern day trick, but I think it worked just fine with my 50s-style dress here.
8. Go for long over mid-calf or ankle boots
Again, I’m not sure this is strictly ‘vintage style’ either – but I think it’s a good option for the colder months when even tights make your legs feel too exposed to the elements. The likes of BAIT have some super cute knee-high boots available, so why not snap up a pair like I did and wear them with your skirts and dresses? Choosing boots that finish at the knee elongates the leg by not awkwardly breaking it up visually at the ankle or calf. Word of warning for the short-legged among us: learn your cut-off length for knee boots if you’re ordering online. Mine is about 13″ and anything longer ends up in the crease of my knee and I can’t walk!
9. Make your comfy shoes low/mid heel
Along with always trying to buy shoes without straps where possible, the other thing I tend to do is choose low/mid heel shoes over flats as my comfy, walk-about-in shoes. The ones in the above photo I genuinely walked round a big nature park in and because they’re well-made and the heel’s only a couple of inches, my feet were perfectly happy about it. Heels, even low ones, are a good idea to wear with a long midi skirt if you’re petite – the extra height will elongate your legs to offset the skirt and add a touch of elegance. Plus, any extra height is always going to make you taller, literally!
10. Have a staple denim jacket
Well, maybe they’re not everyone’s idea of vintage style but Marilyn wore one, therefore they are cool (actually, some sources think that it was a photo-shoot of her in one that gave them a boost in popularity in the 50s/60s). And in fact, they’re the petite girl’s best friend because a lot of them are designed to be cropped in length. One woman’s crop, is another woman’s perfect waist-length jacket. Which is great for wearing with flared skirts in particular, so the full flare is on display and not awkwardly trapped (which I haven’t got photos of yet, but now have ideas to!). Wearing them with smart skirts might not have been how the vintage lady would have worn them, but I generally love them as a throw-on jacket in the summer that goes with mostly everything… I wish there were more fitted, cropped length jackets out there, but for now I get by with my little denim jacket.
My fellow petite ladies, any other tips I’ve missed that work for you? I’m all ears…