Short girl, short waist, hips. Teach me to dress like an adult.
December 3, 2013 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I have a hard-to-fit body. What clothes flatter a short girl who is not actually petite?

I know everyone has a fantastically unique body, but I'm a 5'1" girl with rather unusual proportions (31D-30-37, short waist) and I don't actually know what types of clothes I'm supposed to be wearing. I feel like the flattering-wardrobe advice generally given to short women and for women with bellies and hips is mutually exclusive. But I'm both! (Do I wear fitted tops that hit at the waist or long tunics over leggings to skim delicately over the hips? Do I wear wider pants to balance out the hips or will they overwhelm my shortness?)

There is also a general issue of finding things that fit. Regular tops are too long and therefore too tight. Petite tops are shorter, which fits better in some ways, but are even tighter. A top in a size 4 would probably fit okay if only I could take it up by 3 inches at the shoulders, which is not really a thing that is done, especially in something like a sweater.

Usually I end up in A-line skirts or a long top/leggings/boots combo. I'm uncomfortable wearing shorter tops, because I feel dumpy wearing fitted pants over my wide hips, especially jeans, which are generally uncomfortably tight across the hipbones in order to fit everywhere else. And I know as a short girl I should probably wear more fitted clothing, but the belly is big and the effect is not good.

I'm at a loss here and winter is coming soon. I am willing to throw money at this problem. Help me before I go to work in sweatshirts!
posted by catesbie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Can you go to Nordstrom and let them dress you?
posted by k8t at 8:50 PM on December 3, 2013

How about some cute vintage-styled a-line dresses? Modcloth has a lot that are on the short side and they would probably hit you right at the knee, which would be perfect.

Also, a good way to make your waist smaller AND flatter your nice curvy hips is to incorporate stylish wide belts (not, like, ones you would wear to hold up your pants) into your wardrobe. Because you're short waisted they may hit right under your chest, but that's okay! It will create some visual separation and definition, which I personally think makes curvy hips look even better.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:20 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fitted tops that hit at the waist. Long tunics are flattering on nobody with hips.

Look for some 1940s and 1950s silhouettes; they're very forgiving for women with small waists and large hips (and bellies), and can suit a variety of top halves either through separates or tailoring of dresses. They're also flattering on shortwaisted women.

Don't worry about being short. Don't wear things that make you look dumpy (you'll know), but don't worry about trying to dress to look taller. It's a very limited illusion; it'll mostly work itself out because pants will always be too long on you anyway, giving you the elongated leg magazines say you need as a short woman; and it's much more important for your clothes to fit well than to follow tallness rules.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2013

Also, Talbots has more structured, tailored looks for hippy women with larger and smaller chests. Their styles trend more middle-aged, but also classic, so you can find good basics there that will suit you, and also you can get an idea of what sorts of cuts and styles look right, and then scout for similar but younger and trendier things at other stores if that is your style. As they dress a lot of 40-something moms with 3 kids, they are VERY GOOD at dressing hips and bellies in flattering ways.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2013

I am 5'2" and I have a 31 inch waist and 41 inch hips. I have a lot less going on in the chest and stomach departments, though, so ymmv.

I look better in fitted shirts and sweaters that hit at the waist and come from the petite department. I avoid long tops and sweaters. When I was still wearing jeans and pants, I either wore boot cut pants or said, "screw you, fashion police" and went with skinny jeans. I always felt dumpy and uncomfortable in them, though, so I switched to dresses. My mom is also 5'2", but has more of a belly and more going on in the chest area than I do, and both she and I find stuff that fits in the petite department at Lands' End. I also occasionally find things at H&M, in Target's juniors department, and in Old Navy and the Gap's petite sections.

Right now, I wear dresses 24/7. My daily uniform consists of a dress, cardigan, flat knit sweater tights from Hue, and either tall boots or a pair of flats. I wear dresses that emphasize my waist and have A-line, gathered, or pleated skirts. I used to hate Modcloth (the styling is too twee), but I've grown to like it a lot because they sell a lot of dresses that fit that profile. People also post pictures of themselves wearing things - it gives me a better idea of what a dress will look like on me, rather than a mannequin or a model with a radically different body shape.

Fashion blogs can also help; I read a lot of fashion blogs when I'm bored. I like Idle Fancy, Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks, 29 Skirts, Of Corgis and Cocktails, Smitten, Petite Panoply, Dolly Clackett, and Room 334 right now.
posted by topoisomerase at 9:59 PM on December 3, 2013 [12 favorites]

Hello fellow short-n-curvy! I find that to look good with our unusual proportions, it's all about fit. It's the difference between looking snappy, or looking like a potato with legs. The trick is to have stuff that accommodates the chest and hips without binding, but also tapers in to show off the waist. Happily, dresses that do this are really in right now, so you have a lot to choose from. Look for skater dresses, or fit and flare. the smoother the fit between bust and hips, the more lean and polished you will look. Keep an eye out for the way clothing is constructed - the more seams and darts there are, the better the garment is able to fit to a curvy body. If you look at this dress you can see how there are seams running up the front, sides, and back, and that the distance between the seams changes according to where they are on the body, making it really flattering. Learning to sew, or getting a good tailor can also make a big difference, then you can get clothes that fit in the chest and/or hips, and take them in to get the waist to fit.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:50 PM on December 3, 2013

I'm about 5'4'' and 32F-33-45, and I have wee little legs that put me in "petite" pants.

I try to keep the focus of my outfits kind of up near my face: lots of hats, necklaces, scarves etc. Accessories make outfits look a bit more polished and I figure that they distract from my ginormous hips. I'm also a fan of fairly open necklines, like a v-neck or a scoop - no polo shirts or turtlenecks, never ever ever. I have utterly given up on all pants, but I've had some luck with high-waisted black skinny jeans paired with a more voluminous top.

I am a wrap dress evangelist, because you don't get the simultaneously-too-tight-in-the-hips-and-too-loose-in-the-waist issue I find in other dresses. I sometimes find that there's not enough fabric to cover my chest, but that's nothing a camisole can't fix. For some reason, I've had terrific luck finding wrap dresses in thrift stores, and I will literally drop what I'm doing and run to Leona Edmiston if they email me about a sale.

It's summer here at the moment, so I'm just wearing dresses with ballet flats, heels if I'm in an office or short boots if I'm working in a lab. When the weather gets colder you can just add tights, tall boots, thermal underwear, cardigans, coats, hats, whatever. I find dresses much simpler than trying to find tops and bottoms that work together.

Finally, when you're reading conflicting advice about dressing short bodies vs curvy bodies, err on the side of flattering your curves. You're always going to be on the short side, but it's better to be a short lady in an outfit that makes the most of your shape.
posted by jaynewould at 3:22 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm about 5'1", 34DD-34-49. I've found a few things that seem to work for me:

- V-necks. They draw the eye downwards and balance the proportions.

- Wrap dresses. They create a v-neck, they flatter the hips.

- Dresses that flow over the hips with a fun belt that, yes, generally comes right under my chest.

- As for shirts, I look best in anything that is fitted at the chest and waist but wide enough over the hips (obvs).

I've found that I can buy custom-made shirts on Etsy for no more than I'd pay for a shirt in a store, but which actually fit my proportions. Most recently, I bought two shirts that look *fantastic* on me from this Etsy shop. (No connection except as a recent satisfied customer.)

- As for jeans, I look best in pants that some flare at the hem. They don't have to be bell-bottom, but they need at least a bit of shape. Again, it balances out my proportions really nicely, with the shortness and the curvy hips. I can really only wear skinny jeans if I'm wearing big boots over them to add bulk at the bottom to balance out my hips.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by 168 at 5:32 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are the height and body type of a few women I shop for regularly. I find that the best type of dresses are stretch material (so that you are comfortable) with jackets that end at the waist. Accentuate your amazing hourglass shape! Choose something that is a sheath dress to right above the knee. I also like short sleeves or three quarter sleeves of a different color than the body of the dress. Here is a dress (I am meaning cut, not exactly this particular dress) that is great for any body type and would be great with a waist length jacket. This scalloped design is also fabulous for hiding things you may not like but accentuating your awesome figure. Here is a nice example of a scallop design and a jacket. I promise you will look better than this model.

As for pants or jeans, I would find something that has some stretch to it. Fit the pants or jeans from the waist to your thigh to your hips. Have a strip of elastic sewn into the waistband if the fitting causes a waist that is too big. Have the waist sit just above your hip bone. Fit the legs of the pants to your thighs and have the leg of the pants or jeans straight or slightly tapered. Boot cut or bell bottoms will make your legs seem short. Wear a slight heel if you can and have the pant leg end at just above the end of the heel. This will lengthen your legs but won't have your pant legs drag on the ground. Something like this from the Gap There are slacks like these that you may like as well. When you wear pants, wear tops that are this length. You won't feel dumpy and it won't ride up making you feel like you are exposing yourself.

Enjoy your holiday and happy shopping!!
posted by Yellow at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer is that I haven't tried this, but I know some people who have, and they were pleased with the results.

StitchFix is a service where you enter your measurements, your style preferences and other profile stuff (price range, types of pieces you are looking for, etc). I think it takes a little bit, maybe a few weeks, but they send you a box of stuff picked out for you. You pay $20 for the service, but if you decide to keep anything from the box, the fee goes towards the purchase of the items. And there's a 25% discount if you keep all 5 things (and free returns for items you don't want). You can also schedule to keep getting boxes.
posted by wintrymix at 6:43 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, y'all are amazing. So much fabulous advice in one place! I am totally trying every service you've recommended.

The discomfort with tops that hit at the waist is I feel like it makes the fact that my top and bottom halves are such totally different sizes really obvious and makes my hips feel just huge. Hence my uniform of leggings or skinny jeans with long tops or tunics (something like this, which I actually own in less obnoxious colors). In dresses I generally feel like I can get it together more. Mid-century-looking dresses, as suggested, are often winners, though sometimes they expect a much smaller waist than I have. In wider pants or jeans I generally feel really sloppy. So there may come a day when I give up on pants entirely and become a connoisseur of fine tights under dresses.

Until then, I try your suggestions. That, and Pilates.
posted by catesbie at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2013

I hated jeans too, which never fit my waist and hips and butt--but now I will go several hours (literally) out of my way to go buy Levi's Curve ID jeans (in Demi or Bold Curve). They have changed my whole relationship to pants. Also, my black ones don't look much like jeans, so as long as they are unfaded, I can wear them in dressier or more professional situations. They are a godsend to curvy bodies: other than them I have "give[n] up on pants entirely and become a connoisseur of fine tights under dresses!"
posted by Edna Million at 8:34 PM on December 5, 2013

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