Can petites wear midi dresses and skirts?

Apr 10, 2024

What length is a midi dress?

Midi dresses and midi skirts are those which end anywhere between your knee and the top of your ankle. Whereas ‘mini’ means above the knee, and ‘maxi’ means it falls to your feet, the term ‘midi’ doesn’t specify an exact length. Instead, it’s a slightly ambiguous catch-all for dresses and skirts than fall somewhere in between the two.

What’s the difference between a mini and a midi dress or skirt?

A mini skirt or mini dress ends above the knee, although the exact length isn’t specified and some are shorter than others. The term ‘micro-mini’ is sometimes used to describe a mini that ends at the upper thigh. In contrast, a midi dress or midi skirt will fall anywhere below the knee, but above the ankle. A full-length dress or skirt that falls to your ankle or foot is called a maxi.

Are midi dresses and skirts flattering?

Don’t let anybody tell you that midi dresses are ageing. They’re a really flattering length for younger women, and extremely popular – with good reason.

Firstly, midi dresses are the most versatile length, straddling the divide between casual and occasion wear. For many events where a short length wouldn’t feel dressy enough, a midi length can add just the right level of formality, whilst still feeling relaxed.

Secondly, midi dresses and skirts are cool and comfortable in comparison to both longer and shorter lengths. Where a mini might make you feel uncomfortable about your legs, or need constant adjusting and hitching down, and a maxi can feel too formal (or a trip hazard in heels), the midi dress doesn’t miss. It’s covered, it’s easy to walk in, it’s flattering, and it’s lovely and cool in the warmer months.

Thirdly, a midi dress shows off your shoes. Which might seem a bit daft, but actually makes a considerable difference to your outfit. You know what an impact shoes can have on your outfit – just like a jacket or hat can. A midi skirt with a gorgeous pair of sandals, or a midi knit dress with some ankle boots in winter adds an extra level of dimension to your look that a maxi length doesn’t allow for. Whichever dress you go for, you’ll be wearing some nice shoes with it – why not show them off?

Can petites wear midi skirts and dresses?

There’s a common misconception that petite women shouldn’t wear midi dresses or skirts because they’ll make them appear even shorter.

The theory behind this makes sense – because midi lengths ‘cut you off’ mid-leg, it should create the illusion that you’re even shorter than you are.

But luckily, that’s not the case – in fact, there’s a reason we design and make so many midi dresses for petite women, and why our Millie midi skirt is our bestselling piece ever, and we bring her out in new prints every season.

That’s because the midi length is great if you’re petite. For one thing, it doesn’t overwhelm a short frame the way a maxi length can. And it also shows the lower, slimmest part of your leg, drawing the eye down and making you appear taller.

However, there are several things to look for in midi dresses and midi skirts to create the most flattering effect if you’re petite, and we’ve included all of our tips below.

Choose the right length midi

By far the most important thing when it comes to choosing a midi dress or skirt is where on your leg the piece falls. We mentioned that ‘midi’ is a pretty vague term that can mean anything from ‘just below the knee’ to ‘just above the ankle’, but the length is really going to make all the difference to how flattering it is.

What you want to look for is a longer midi length that ends towards your lower calf. A midi that ends below your knee is going to cut you in half (with neither enough fabric, nor enough leg on show to elongate you), and a midi that ends mid-calf is going to accentuate that widest part of your lower leg.

So instead, look for what we call an ‘elongating midi length’, used for all our midi pieces – that sweet spot that stops around your lower calf.

It works so well because it gives a fair bit of length to the dress or skirt, whilst also leaving enough leg and ankle on show to draw the eye down. Just make sure you pick some nice shoes to show off.

Define your waist

To double down on the flattering fit of a petite midi dress, make sure you emphasise your waist. By cinching your figure in at this point, you create definition and a sleek silhouette that adds to the illusion of height.

You can do this in a few ways: with a belted piece like our Jennet shirt dress, by adding your own belt, or by choosing a piece that’s already fitted on the waist. We use clever pattern cutting to define the waist in our dresses and skirts, for the most flattering fit on petite frames.

Make it high waisted

If, like many petite women, you have short legs, there are two ways you can extend the eyeline to make you appear taller in an outfit: down (with high heels) or up (with a high waist). So if you’re choosing a midi skirt, not only should you look for the right length, but the right waist height, too.

A high waist means the skirt starts higher up, with a waistband that sits on your true waist (the point at which you bend if you lean to one side), elongating your frame in comparison to a skirt that sits lower down, towards your hip.

We make all our skirts high waisted for this reason (they’re also much more comfy, particularly with our elasticated waistbands)

Choose the right shape midi skirt

When we design our midi dresses and skirts, we’re careful to consider the shape and silhouette of the piece, to make sure that it’s flattering on shorter figures, and you can use the same rules when choosing pieces to suit you.

Firstly, you want to avoid any midi style that’s very loose or boxy. Much as we love the relaxed, easy fit look on taller girls, we’ve made peace with the fact that it doesn’t suit us at 5’1” (157cm) tall. Instead, we need column styles that skim our figure and create a sleek and slightly fitted silhouette. Look for straight cuts, or bias cuts that have a light and floaty feel. Avoid voluminous, wide or boxy fits; anything wide is going to take away from you in height.

Secondly, pay attention to the fabrics. We choose light and drapey materials that hang beautifully, with a bit of movement. This is particularly flattering on shorter figures compared to anything stiff or heavy that will have the visual effect of weighing you down and making you look shorter.

Choose a flattering top

If you’re wearing a midi dress or midi skirt, the length of the piece is only half the story when it comes to flattering your frame; the top half is just as important. If you’re wearing a midi skirt, you want to pair it with a top that’s going to balance out your proportions. For midi dresses, it won’t just be the length of the dress, but also the style of the top half (including the fit and style of the neckline, shoulders, waist and sleeves) that will determine whether it flatters you.

We’ve written several articles about specific body shapes and how to dress, all linked below:

Read more:

Style advice: big boobs, small waist

Style advice: rectangle figure

Style advice: pear-shaped figure

Pick the right prints

This is another petite fashion myth we want to bust: prints aren’t a faux pas if you’re short. What you should avoid are very large or busy prints, which can overwhelm your frame and accentuate your short stature.

Conversely, a small-scale print, or a simple print on a single-colour base, will look beautiful if you’re short, and have the opposite effect, making you appear taller because of the amount of print visible on the garment. Believe us – it’s something we apply to print design for our styles, and our printed designs are some of our most popular sellers.

Wear a flattering shoe

If you really want to look taller, there are no two ways about it: heels are the thing. Not only do they actually make you taller, but an open sandal or court angles the top of your foot forwards, giving the illusion that it’s an extension of your leg and creating a longer silhouette. Whether you wear heels or not, our best advice is to avoid anything with a strap around your ankle, as this cuts you off at your narrowest point, and breaks the visual line of your leg. The same goes for ankle boots – great with jeans and trousers, but best avoided in your midi dress.

Why do midi dresses and skirts look bad on me?

If you’ve had a bad experience with midi lengths in the past, don’t let it put you off revisiting one of the most versatile and flattering lengths for petites.

Try our tips:

1. Make sure you choose midis made of a soft, light, drapey fabric – avoid anything stiff or heavy

2. Choose sleeker silhouettes and avoid wide or boxy shapes that will make you look wider and shorter

3. Make sure you choose midi dresses and skirts that fall to your lower calf. Anything that ends higher up will make you look shorter and draw attention to the widest point of your lower leg

4. Choose plain pieces or small prints – avoid large or busy prints