Dressing the petite hourglass?
July 8, 2011 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Help a petite hourglass play dress up: What are your guidelines, links, favorite pieces and prohibitions for making the most out of a small but curvy silhouette?

Over the last year and a half, I've lost a few pounds and (thanks to ukdanae's advice) gained some great bras. My frame is petite, and most S T-shirts fit, but the girls are not, which means that most other small-size clothing pulls hard at the bustline. Add a short waist and short legs to the mix.

I've been reading Trinny and Susannah's "What Not to Wear" and "What You Wear Can Change Your Life," and have eliminated unflattering pieces from my closet. That leaves me looking for casual going out clothing and cute-but-functional Ts and shorts (yes, yes, I know, but I can't do farm chores in pants in July); "going out" means can wear to do errands and go to the park with the kids, not formalwear). I like my curves, other than the one at my abdomen, and want to show them off a little.

Clothing stores don't get any more exciting than Kohl's in my neck of the woods, and I am pressed for time and often shopping with little kids in tow. My chic best friend is hours away. There are a few good thrift and consignment shops around, so I am looking for guidelines for which pieces to even consider trying on. Do you have rules of thumb, like "No high-neck shirts"? Which fabrics should I seek or avoid? Any labels that are curve-friendly? Do you keep a list of what to look for?

Do you have favorite websites for guidance on dressing this particular body shape?

Do you have favorite combinations that work for you?

Specific pieces--how short should shorts go? How can I manage low-rise pants so they don't feel like they're going to slide off my hips? Wrap dresses swamp me, and end up cut too low, because they seem built for a longer body frame; suggestions? I love the corset look, and could be persuaded to try it, but give me some examples of how it can fit in outside of a Ren faire. Belts over shirts--how? Specific wrap shirts that you like?

In short, as it were: Generous breasts, petite frame, hourglass curves, short but OK legs, great arms. Help me put it all together to dress to best advantage. My closet and I thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (5 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest that you look at the blog you look fab and the associated forum. The forum in particular has a number of stylish petite curvy women.
posted by medusa at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2011

This is me exactly. To start, high-waisted stuff is your best friend. I love pencil skirts because they elongate you and accentuate a small waist. I know you said wrap dresses haven't worked for you but I would suggest you look some more--those are good for people with our type of figure. The neckline often comes too low on me too (I have several for work, where obviously I can't have my goods hangin' out) but i usually just take a small safety pin to close the gap, or i wear a nice cami underneath.

As far as brands: Shop in the petite section!! It's made for you. For so long I tried to wear brands like Citizens for Humanity or Sevens and...no no no no. Never found a pair that fit me. I was prejudiced against the petite section because at first glance it looks like a bunch of stuffy clothes for middle-aged women (not sure of your age) but if you really look , it's easy to find cute shorts and jeans that fit you the way they're supposed to (not only do i not have to get the length altered, but they fit in the waist--with regular pants I always have that weird gap in the back--not a good look). Style and Co specifically is a brand I've always had luck with (affordable to boot!) Can't think of any fabrics to avoid...As far as corsets, seems a little ren-fair (or dominatrix!) to me but I think you have the right idea with something fitted--look for more tailored tops as opposed to t-shirts...I have several knit-fabric tops that are pretty casual but have a tie around the waist to accentuate things.

Unfortunately, there is a sad lack of fashion blogs geared towards our body type, but if you're looking for general fashion ideas I've actually found that Pinterest is pretty cool--it's stuff people pull from all over the web (not only fashion but there's a lot of that and you can set a filter anyway). Private message me if you want to check out what I have as far as outfit ideas on there--a picture is worth a thousand words and I'm already all over the place with my answer here! :S

To sum up (and add)--

Good: Wrap dresses, high-waisted skirts, petite section shorts/pants, v-neck tops, belted dresses, relaxed-fit shorts that hit about mid-thigh, halter-style tops/dresses, boot cut jeans, wide-legged jeans...my mom also insists that point-toe heels are very flattering for people with short legs (she watches "What Not to Wear" religiously) but i am not such a fan myself....but heels in general are good if you are willing to suffer a little.

Bad: Skinny jeans (sorry--they usually just don't work on short people unless you're a size 0), capris/cropped pants, strapless (not a huge no-no but I tend to avoid with my chest).
posted by lovableiago at 9:35 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a tall but curvy woman, and the thing I've learned about shorts recently is that if they're short, they need to also be a bit wider than your leg, not fitted through the thigh the way pants or longer shorts might be. Tight short shorts will emphasize the width of your hips without emphasizing the curviness of them, while looser ones will emphasize the difference between the width of your hips and the size of your thighs. Not sure I'm explaining this super well, but it should make sense once you have some on. I have been wearing these this summer (though wish they had an image in another color because that white is a terrible idea) and they are great. In general, the G1 paperboy shorts are the only ones I ever find flattering at all. I usually buy them on sale at anthropologie, but I don't see any in their online sale section right now.
posted by dizziest at 11:56 AM on July 8, 2011

My best solution for button shirts that gap over the bust is to wear camisoles under them. You get the tailoring of a nice shirt without worrying if your bra is showing through the buttons. Good under wrap dresses and wrap tops as well, as lovableiago says. I just bought an armful of white camis of t-shirt material with a little lace on top off the clearance rack at Old Navy. I'm also a fan of Eddie Bauer's curvy fit jeans in petite.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look for petite ranges - they exist because the proportions of regular ranges do not work for petite sizes.

All things wrap (petite?) will be good - use camis/safety pins to avoid overexposure.

Necklines should be away from the neck - layer a cami underneath if you think it's too low cut. You may also want to think in terms of emphasizing shoulders - think sleeveless v-neck stretch fabrique where the fabrique stops with your shoulders at the top of your arm as opposed to strappy top.

Use belts to emphasise the waist line. In fact always emphasise the waist line - this will automatically highlight your curves.

Tailoring should emphasise the waist - think blazer buttons under the chest, fabriques possibly on softer side. Pencil skirts. Shift dresses.

Bootcut trousers and jeans (stretch).

Summer dresses and skirts may be more flattering than shorts.

Short trench coats - belted.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2011

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