Can you wear petite clothing if you're not petite?

Apr 10, 2024

Am I petite?

The word ‘petite’ in reference to fashion means any woman who’s below 5’4” (163cm) or 5’3” (160cm) in height – the cut-off will be different depending on the store.

Since the term ‘petite’ comes from the French word for ‘little’, there’s understandable confusion around the meaning of the term. Although you may hear it used to mean small or slim, this isn’t its meaning in fashion; petite clothing is specifically designed to be shorter.

So if you’re a woman who is less than 5’4” tall you’ll be considered petite in most places, and certainly if you’re 5’3” or shorter, you will be everywhere.

Most petite brands have a rough lower height limit of 4’11” (150cm), simply because it’s impossible to guarantee a good length fit on a broader height range than this.

Can I wear petite clothing?

What if you’re not petite – can you get away with wearing petite clothing?

Well first of all, no petite brand is gatekeeping their clothing. There’s not a height declaration to complete at checkout. Nobody’s going to stop you buying what you like.

But we don’t think that’s what you mean – you want to know if petite clothing will work on your frame, even if you’re not technically in the petite height range.

There are several scenarios in which you could wear petite clothing, even if you’re not within the official petite height range:


  • You may find petite clothing a better fit if your torso or legs are proportionately short for your height

Let’s say you’re 5’5” tall but you’re short in the leg. You may find that petite trousers and skirts fit you better, since they’ve a shorter inseam or hemline. Conversely, if you’re short in the body, petite tops, with their shorter neckline drop, higher waists, and shorter sleeves, may fit you better.

  • You may find petite clothing a better fit if you have short arms

It’s not just hemlines that are shorter with petite clothing; it’s all the proportions, and that includes sleeves too (shorter women = shorter arms). If you have proportionately short arms for your height, you might do better with petite tops.

  • You may find petite clothing a better fit if you have narrow shoulders

If you have particularly narrow shoulders, petite tops and dresses might be a better fit for you too, as they’ll be designed and made with narrower shoulders.

  • If you’re not tall, you can probably get away with petite midi lengths

Since midi length isn’t an absolute, if you’re not a tall woman you can probably get away with it. By absolute, we mean there’s not an obvious length it should be – midi can be anything from ‘below the knee’ to ‘grazing the ankles’. So we find that we have 5’6” women messaging us to say how much they love our midi skirts and dresses. They’re shorter on them than on our petite customers, but they’re still a midi length and they look great.

But is petite clothing  smaller, too?

Petite is about bone structure, not about size.

Clothes come in different sizes for different sized bodies, and these are classified with numbers (6, 8, 10 etc) or letters (S, M, L etc).

Petite is an additional classification that’s purely to do with your height. But since shorter women tend to also have smaller frames (skeletons), the sleeves will also be shorter, the shoulders narrower, and so forth.

So regardless of whether you’re petite or not, the clothes sizing system is the same. Always check the brand’s size guide though, as women’s clothes sizing isn’t standardised like men’s is, and a size 12 in one store may be different to the size 12 at another store.

Petite clothing vs. kids’ clothing

A last point worth making is about children’s clothes, which many short women resort to sometimes.

It’s a personal preference but may only be suitable for women with less curve in their figure. Petite women’s clothing is still designed to accommodate curves – boobs, bums, hips, waists. Since children don’t have curve, you’ll find that items in the kids’ section is cut to straighter patterns, and likely won’t work on your figure if you have a fuller bust or curvy hips and bum.