Reformation Petites Hilton Dress (Reformation )
Reformation Petites Hilton Dress (Reformation )

I’ve written this piece for all the girls out there like me who’ve spent a lifetime turning-up sleeves, cuffing trousers and getting skirts and dresses rehemmed. Or in my case, bribing my long-suffering mum to do it for me.

Our mates and family might call us “short” (or worse), but the fashion world has a more elegant name: we’re “petite”. That’s women 5ft 3in and under (or 5ft 4in for some brands). We’re in stylish company. The likes of Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen (5ft 1in and 5ft respectively), Natalie Portman (5ft 3in), Judi Dench (5ft 1in) and Emilia Clarke (5ft 2in) are all of diminutive stature, but unlike them, we don’t have designers queuing up to make us perfectly proportioned pieces.

Instead we have to rely on what’s out there on the high street and online.

For me at 5ft 1in and with a 28-inch inside leg, it’s not even worth looking at trousers or jumpsuits in a lot of stores. Full length ones trail on the floor, as in most shops, 32-34-inches is standard for the inside leg. Then the culottes, cropped trousers and midi skirts that look so chic on my taller friends, hit my short legs in all the wrong places. Or they just become full-length or maxi and don’t hang as they should. Tops too can be problematic, not least those pretty fluted sleeves that are everywhere at the moment. On me they end up looking more clown-like than chic. A standard-length top will hit my hips at the widest point, and jackets and coats with an average shoulder width can make me look like I’ve been over-doing it at the gym.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

What does petite mean?

Petite girls come in all shapes and sizes, weight doesn’t come into it, it’s about height – and getting proportions just right. So, generally that means shorter torsos and legs, and narrower shoulders, with boobs, bums and hips to factor-in too.

“I remember working on my collection back when I was a design student and the pieces I created myself never fit me,” says designer Jenny Liu from Bomb Petite, a British brand designed exclusively for shorter girls.

“That’s because fashion students are taught to design on a ‘standard’ size mannequin and even many experienced designers don’t realise that petite clothing is not just about shortening garments. There are over 20 measurements – such as distance from shoulder to bust and shoulder width – that affect petite fit.”

It makes sense then, that girls like me should look for collections specifically designed for shorter women, something that is now a no-brainer for 25-year-old petite fashion blogger Holly Deryn Court, who measures in at 5ft nothing.

“My advice? Don’t even bother with mainstream lines,” she says. “Sure, sometimes you can get lucky and find a pair of jeans or a coat that fits you from non-petite ranges, but this happens once in a blue moon. Our legs are too short and our arms just aren’t long enough.

“More and more brands are considering us little ladies and bringing out petite sections. It is worth just going straight to those for, well, everything really.”

I asked Holly for her go-to brands for petite girls, as well as adding my own favourites and consulting shorter girls from sizes 2-20 on where they get both their wardrobe staples and more trend-led pieces. All the brands on this list have dedicated petite ranges with those all-important altered proportions, as opposed to just shorter leg lengths and hems on select pieces. There are shops from the UK and US, but only those from the States that won’t sting you on hefty duties and taxes at the checkout. We’ve made an exception for cult LA brand Reformation but have given examples of the sort of add-on to expect.

Here I’ve given an overview of each brand’s range, as well as picking a favourite piece from its latest collection. The selection is divided into three to suit different budgets. A few of the stores here disappointingly only go up to a size 14 (when is the fashion world going to realise that women of all heights need a range of sizes?), but there are plenty of other options to choose from.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Fast-fashion (under £50)


“I’ve relied on Asos’ petite section for years,” says Holly. “Designs are creative and edgy, with perfectly proportioned hems and sleeves. I always head straight here if I need a ‘going out’ dress or one for an occasion.” Asos has a large own-brand range that covers all the bases from its catwalk and street style-inspired main collection, as well as offering plenty of petite exclusives alongside collaborations with brands that don’t usually offer petite-specific styles. Sizes run from 2-16 on the own-brand collection and there is also a decent maternity range so petite mums-to-be don’t have to miss out.

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Dorothy Perkins

Dotty Ps is another brand known for its catwalk-inspired pieces at purse-friendly prices. Its large petite offering has styles from Dorothy Perkins’ main range, as well as some petite exclusives, going up to a size 18. The collection is particularly strong on dresses, jumpsuits and tops, both for casual and more formal looks, there are also lots of denim styles to choose from and for spring-summer 2018, there is an impressive range of patterned joggers for anyone looking for well-priced loungewear.

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“Missguided is a brand with plenty of sass and my go-to for finding affordable, on-trend pieces,” says Holly. “I could spend hours browsing the section.” If you’re after a last-minute outfit for a glam night out and are on a budget, there are loads of dresses and tops to choose from that translate catwalk looks into wearable pieces. Sizes run from 4-14, shipping is free on orders over £30 and students should look out for bigger-than-average discounts.

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Wallis has petite pieces across its affordable range, with new styles coming in each week in sizes 8-18. While it has a smaller offering than some rivals, the brand is particularly good on occasionwear and smart tops with flattering sleeve lengths, as well as stocking a decent selection of jeans.​

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River Island

“My dreams came true last year when River Island launched its petite section, ending my short-girl problems in this store,” says Holly. The range, which is available in sizes 4-16, is full of playful pieces for girls who like to follow the latest trends. The collection is strong on denim and fashion-forward separates, both for dress-down days and those occasions where you need to bring your A-game. “The petite tailoring is spot-on,” says Holly. “The trouser and sleeve lengths are just right for me, and I’ve yet to go wrong with a piece from the range.”

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New Look

Another one for affordable, trend-led pieces, the fast-fashion retailer has a selection of catwalk-inspired pieces, as well as casual staples like jeans, leggings and nightwear in petite sizes from 4 to 16. Very little (one coat on our last visit) in the collection will set you back more than forty quid.

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​Mid-range (under £100)


Topshop is one of my go-to brands for both wardrobe staples and more trend-led pieces. It covers all the bases, with new styles coming in all the time. Its shorter-leg trousers are particularly good (finally, culottes that actually fit!) and there is a regularly restocked selection of jeans in its popular styles like Jamie (high-waisted skinnies) and “mom” jeans in different washes, alongside seasonal arrivals like spring-summer 2018’s favourite: the cropped kick flare. Topshop also gets points for having a regular roster of jumpsuits and playsuits, as well as plenty of dresses. Most styles go up to size 16 but some come up on the small side, particularly tops.

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Do you struggle to find office-appropriate pieces that flatter? Then try Jeetly’s collection, designed for women 5ft 3in and under, with a focus on competitively priced workwear. There is a selection of suits, dresses, shirts and blouses in both neutral hues and bold brights. Bust, waist and hip measurements are the same but it’s all-change everywhere else to fit at those points where we usually have to rely on alterations, which can be particularly costly when it comes to suiting. Jeetly also has a collection of cotton slogan tees in collaboration with Care International. 30 per cent from each sale goes to the charity, which works to support girls and women in need worldwide. There are eight inspirational quotes and phrases to chose from. In these days of #MeToo and #TimesUp, my pick is the “Feminist” design.

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Next has a bigger selection than most high street stores, with hundreds of pieces across its petite offering, ranging from workwear to occasion dresses, with pretty much everything in between. Its trump card is choice: some dresses, for example, come in over 10 designs and there are best sellers like its Soft Touch skinny jeans in more than a dozen shades. Pieces come in sizes 6-18 as standard, with some styles going up to a 24. The brand gets bonus points for offering free next-day delivery.

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This British brand offers lots of its hero styles in petite sizes, in plenty of pattern and colour options, and in sizes 6-14. More classic looks than trend-led, these are hard-working pieces made from quality fabrics that will stay in your wardrobe for seasons to come. Boden is particularly good on off-duty style; think relaxed-fit chinos in pastel hues and easy-to-wear patterned jersey dresses that will keep you looking put-together however frazzled you’re feeling.​ Offers free delivery.

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Precis Petite

Precis is another rare, all-petite brand, and has a good range of smarter pieces for work, as well as being a safe bet for occasionwear. You’ll find dresses in plain and floral patterns as well as super-useful cropped jackets in a range of colours. Cuts are classic and flattering, and the sizes run from 6-18.

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Marks & Spencer

While it doesn’t have as extensive a petite range as some of the high street stores, M&S has a decent selection of dresses, smart separates and outerwear in sizes 6-16. It gets brownie points for trousers that come in an extra-short length, and like M&S’s main range, these are well-made pieces that will last for seasons to come. ​

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Bomb Petite

Bomb Petite makes me feel like I’m in on a brilliant fashion secret: the website started as a destination for petite girls looking for style advice and shopping inspiration. Now, founder Jenny Liu (5ft 4in) works in collaboration with independent designers to offer exclusive petite ranges, as well as offerings from its in-house brand. A personal favourite is Estonian brand Relax Baby Be Cool, a mother-daughter duo creating striking tailored separates in more-is-more prints.

I’m also a fan of ethical label Bo Carter, a brand that masters understated cool with minimal environmental impact. Liu has curated an impressively varied selection.

A recent addition is British activewear brand Boudavida, which gives five per cent of purchases to women’s sports projects. There is also US lingerie specialist Elma, making delicate lace bralettes for smaller cup sizes. Orders are sent out from designers, which means delivery and returns can occasionally take longer than usual, but for me the wait is worth it for a piece from an under-the-radar brand. Be sure to double-check sizing and any duties and taxes specific to your country.

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Anthropologie has a small selection of petite styles from its in-house brands and collaborations with labels that share its ethos, such as Brazilian brand Farm Rio. All the dresses, trousers and jumpsuits channel Anthro’s distinct grown-up boho vibe. They are the sort of relaxed pieces in natural, breathable fabrics that you could pull on to lounge around the grounds of your Ibizan villa of an evening, say (we can but dream). Sizes run from 6-16.

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Eileen Fisher

US import Eileen Fisher nails a luxe-casual look. You get chic separates in relaxed shapes and neutral shades, made from premium sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, linen, silk and Tencel. The result is clothing that is super-comfortable to wear, but very elegant and its available in a decent range of sizes (up to a UK 20 in some styles). The soft, organic cotton denim range is a highlight and for spring-summer 2018, I’ll be snapping up a pair of its wide-leg cropped trousers. Shipping is from the US but is a flat £5 rate and there are no hidden duties and taxes. Delivery takes 5-18 days so factor that in when you order.

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J. Crew

The US brand aces easy-to-wear separates in premium fabrics. These are pieces that channel trends but are not so “fashion” that they won’t work from season-to-season. Stars of its petite offering include blazers (with not-too-long sleeves – hurrah), shirts in breathable cotton and silk, classically styled cropped trousers, versatile dresses and a great selection of jeans that seem to pull you in and lift in the right places while still being super-comfy. J. Crew also does nightwear in petite, so no more turning up your PJ bottoms. Don’t go into the London stores hoping to find the petite range like I did though, the collection is online only.

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Jennifer Anne

5ft 1in lawyer Jennifer Ison couldn’t find the sort of classic, elegant petite clothing she was after, so she set up her own brand. Jennifer Anne is the result; a collection of British-made clothes, designed with professional women in mind. Cuts are classic – think lined shift dresses in work-friendly colours that sit just above the knee, smart tops that will see you from day-to-night, and hard-working cropped jackets that could double-up for office and occasions – all with flattering sleeve lengths.

There are are few casual options that will work for the weekend and dress-down Friday too. The more tailored pieces are fully lined and the prices reflect that this is positioning itself as a premium brand. The silk crepe de chine shirts and chic, high-neck Carter top are winners for us.

Sizes run from 6-12 across the whole range and after customer feedback, up to a size 16 on the latest styles and future collections. All come up quite small so you may want to size up. If you live or work in London or Surrey, the brand offers a “try before you buy” service.

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The bad news is that you can’t currently buy the cult LA brand over here – though check out its recent collaboration with House of Hackney – but the good news is that it has a dedicated petite section. The “Don’t Call Me Cute” range was made a permanent fixture last year and like the main line, the USP is sustainable fashion that shows off our best bits. That translates to form-fitting dresses, plunging necklines, skirts split to the thigh and jumpsuits in covetable prints.

The likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Sienna Miller and Rihanna are fans of its cool-girl aesthetic and eco credentials. Materials are plant-based, such as viscose and rayon, or use fabric that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Sizes run from 2-14 but come up small so you may want to size up. International shipping is free on orders over $250 but duties and taxes are added. We were charged £83 on a £244 order so it may be better to get someone visiting the US to do some shopping for you.

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The Verdict: Best petite clothing brands

For trend-led styles and pieces that make you feel like you’re keeping up with the fashion pack, without the designer price tag, I’d say head to Topshop (though please, Sir Philip Green, remember to cater for girls of all sizes).

For its huge range and collaborations with designers who don’t usually design for petites, Asos is always worth a look.

For those with a bigger budget for their petite wardrobe, and anyone looking for more classic pieces that will look as good in five years as now, try Eileen Fisher. If you want to feel in-the-know and get your hands on an up-and-coming brand you won’t see everywhere, check out Bomb Petite.

This piece was first published on 17 March 2017 and is regularly updated

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