How To Wear a Maxi Dress If You’re Petite

May 28, 2013 | By | Comments (14)

Maxi dresses can easily overwhelm a smaller stature. If you’re petite, keep these pointers in mind to pull off the summery style.

Maxi Dresses for Petites (Banana Republic Black Tie-Front Patio Dress; French Connection Miribelle Maxi Dress; Ann Taylor Petite Jersey Draped Maxi Dress)

To buy (left to right): $130,; $188,; $118,   

– Keep an eye on the hem. It should just brush the top of your feet–you don’t want it to drag or pool on the ground or the dress will just look too big. Comfortable wedges are a great way to add a little height.

– Stick with solids in a shade that flatter your skin tone; they help create a streamlined, slim, and elongating look –prints do just the opposite.

– Look for cuts that are fitted around the waist, or try adding a belt. Tent styles and empire waists swallow the silhouette of your body, rather than showing it off.

See more smart fashion tips.


  1. Jenny Schermerhorn

    Thank you for this. I was enviously eying some maxi-wearing women just last weekend, and wondering if I could pull it off at just 5 ‘ 3 ”. Sounds like I can, with a few small considerations as I shop.

    May 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm
  2. dftweditor

    Great tips – especially the belt – it can make all the difference! I feature a lot of maxi dresses in the summer on my site, and I get a lot of questions about how they’ll work for petites. I’ll send them here for details!

    May 30, 2013 at 9:54 pm
  3. Carrie

    You’ve read my mind! I’ve been looking for the perfect petite maxi dress to wear for a family beach picture- I’m 5’2″ so, it has not been a joy to look so far. This was very helpful!

    June 5, 2013 at 11:54 am
  4. Perfectly Placed For You, LLCiz

    I’m much more tempted to try one on!

    June 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm
  5. cheryll r

    Adding a belt really helps bring up the hem. You can pull a little up on the top, and get the fabric off the floor! (It’s a major tripping hazard with a klutz like me, and high heels are only going to make it worse!)

    June 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm
  6. Leigh Anne Crowell

    The trick is actually to find something that is more streamlined and less voluminous–and I’m having a hard time with that. Even with heels (which I really can’t wear), everything is still too long and looks like a king-sized bedsheet wrapped around my 5’1″ frame. Any shopping suggestions for those of us on a budget?

    June 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  7. rebeccadaly

    Cheryll R – that’s a great idea! You can use a belt to create a blouson waistline, which will take inches off the hem.

    June 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm
  8. rebeccadaly

    Leigh Anne – Streamlining definitely helps. Try fabrics like jersey, which won’t be too voluminous and will lay close to your skin. Check out your favorite stores with petite sizes – many of them make petite-proportioned maxis. And don’t forget your tailor! If you find a maxi you love that’s just too long, a tailor should be able to shorten the hem for you relatively inexpensively.

    June 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm
  9. Cathy

    I would love tips on Maxi dresses that are most flattering for a size 10/12 figure?

    June 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm
  10. L

    Leigh Anne,
    I’m not “as” petite (am 5’4″), but have fallen in love with maxis the past few years. To answer your question regarding budget, as a frugal shopper myself, I have found numerous places to buy maxis (I’m into maxi skirts as well — love to pair them with tanks during the summer).

    First, it’s best to start early in the season because they tend to go quickly. I have found great deals at Kohls (both in-store and online — online esp. early. AND don’t rule out the juniors dept. — but just know, their sizes run small). Also, even though I’m not comfortable shopping in these stores, the “younger” mall shops are great as well: Wet Seal has a TON of maxi dresses, as well as skirts, and none are over $25! [I got nice pink maxi skirt there about a month ago, for under $20 (reg. price). Was SO happy as I was looking for a pink maxi!] Check out their website online — free shipping if you spend $50, but only $5 shipping otherwise.

    Charlotte Russe doesn’t have as big a selection, but I got a couple skirts there the past few years. And try Forever 21 as well.

    If you’re lucky enough to have a TJ Maxx or Marshalls in your area, those are great places to get great deals as well. I got a great black and white striped Calvin Klein maxi dress there for only $40 (and that’s a little high for me, but it fit great so I had to get it). Last year I got 3 diff. dresses there by the same brand, each only $25. And I love all of them! (one is even leop. print, which I had been looking for!)

    Although I’m not a huge fan of this store, Gordmans has a big selection of dresses. The quality might not be as good, but for the prices, you can’t go wrong.

    Both Gap and Old Navy have some cute dresses, and if you’re a cardholder of either store, Tuesdays are 10%, plus watch for their sales and clearance, as things move pretty fast in those stores. (orig. prices might be close to $100! but then the sales kick in and next thing you know, you got it for less than $25); again, you might find a bigger selection online.

    Can you tell I shop all over???

    Finally, check out good ‘ole Target online — TONS of maxi dresses and great prices (around $25), plus they run free shipping deals as well.

    Hope this helps! good luck! (p.s. if you’re into skirts, as I am, check out pinterest for outfit ideas, or just search online images. Black and Grey maxi skirts have infinite possibilities!) :)

    June 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm
  11. L

    Wanted to add another point: Regarding length and tailoring of dresses, you may want to wash the item first before getting it hemmed, as it may shrink. Some of my dresses and skirts do, some don’t.

    I had a dress hemmed last year, wore it, then washed and after washing, it shrunk up weird. Wish I had waited, as it would have shrunk to the right length.

    You just never know with materials/brands, etc. A really “nice” name-brand dress could shrink, no matter how careful you are washing it, yet an off-brand dress bought cheap may not shrink at all!

    June 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm
  12. L

    ok, one more tip (whoops!) — if you order online, a lot of times you can choose “Tall”, “Regular”, or “petite”! SO, you just have to do a little searching, as some stores have these options. (I think Gap is one of them.)

    June 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm
  13. L

    hey Cathy, could you be more specific? (My sizes vary depending on brand, etc., so it helps to know your own body type. I could have a size 10 in one dress, and a size small in another.) For ex/ Even though I’m at a good weight and lean, I’m also broad shouldered, so I can’t wear strapless, spaghetti straps or halters, as they make my shoulders look even more broad. Plus, I’m fairly well-endowed on top, so I need support.

    I’m 5’4″, around 120 lbs., and carry my weight in my tummy (and yeah, my chest too!) I have slim hips & legs, no rear and even though I’m lean right now, and they’re toned, my upper arms look big. SO, empire waists are out for me too, as they just broaden me on top even more. (which, is so irritating b/c a lot of the cute maxi dress styles are empire waists, spag. straps or halters!)

    So, I wear tank-cut styles, and I belt a lot of my dresses b/c when they hang on me, they show my tummy (no matter how many crunches I do!) and I don’t like to wear spanx. Belts do wonders though! :)

    June 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm
  14. Marvin Paul

    Very nice dress and thanx for the tips now I can gift something good to my sister. There are some very good websites from where we can shop online.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:30 am

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