How to dress if you're petite and curvy

Apr 10, 2024

If you’re petite and curvy, this is a detailed article about the best way to dress to flatter your figure. It’s important to remember that the purpose of all this advice is to elongate, balance, and define your shape, not to cover up your figure. You may be curvy all over, or disproportionately curvier top, bottom, or middle, so you can pick and choose the advice that best relates to the area you’re interested in.

What to wear if you’re short and curvy

There isn’t a firm set of rules for what you should or shouldn’t wear based on your body shape. If you’re short and curvy, these tips will help you to make decisions about your wardrobe and experiment with pieces that will give you a well-defined silhouette. More importantly, you should dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable, confident, and true to your own personal sense of style.

The petite curvy body type

The word petite is often misused to mean size, whereas in women’s fashion – and this article – it only refers to height. Petite women are typically 5’3” and shorter. If you’re curvy, this may be in one area – for example, having a large bust, hips, bum, or stomach, or a combination. Depending on your body type, you can pick and choose between the tips, which is why we’ve divided them by garment.


Before any other clothing, consider your underwear when dressing for your shape. And why shouldn’t you? The purpose of this guide is to use clothing to flatter and balance your figure, and underwear is no different.

A good bra and/or shapewear creates the perfect basis for flattering your figure with the rest of your outfit. You want something that lifts, shapes and defines. And for women with large busts, not only will investing in a good bra support your posture, but it will make it much easier to find tops that suit you, too.

Just as the rest of your outfit does, shape wear doesn’t change your size but it does define your silhouette. So don’t be afraid to make pull-in underwear and a good quality, supportive bra a part of your wardrobe ammo.


If you have a curvy bust, the tops that are most flattering will be those that sculpt and define this area. Many women with big boobs opt for looser tops to cover up, but this has the affect of making you look even bigger. Instead, we want to define the bust and also create definition between bust and waist, which will not only make you look smaller, but create a beautiful feminine and curvaceous silhouette. This doesn’t mean showing cleavage or wearing anything tight – you can still dress conservatively while benefitting from his wardrobe change.

Neckline is the first most important thing to define your bust if you’re curvy. Anything that covers your chest (for example, a crew neck style) increases the appearance of the size of the area of your bust, and makes it look larger. Instead, you want to show a little décolleté.  Not only does it draw attention to your collarbones, but it breaks up what is otherwise a large expanse of chest. The v-neckline, square neckline and scoop neckline are all great for this, breaking up your bust area and drawing the eye down.

The other thing you want to try and do with tops is to sculpt your bust. Whereas loose, baggy tops can hang straight down from a large bust and create a ‘shelf’ that makes you look larger, choosing more fitted tops (not to be confused with tight) will show off your shape. Wrap tops are great for this; they define your waist and shape your bust.

Tops with ruching around the bust are great for definition, creating an attractive shape and mimicking your curves.

Avoid boxy shapes for obvious reasons: they’ll make you look wider.

Avoid high neck and turtleneck tops – these simple increase the size of the entire bust area, and with no definition, with neck or chest on show, they’ll make your bust look larger and frumpier.

Once final thing to consider with tops is where they fall to. If you’re curvy in the hip, avoid tops (or sleeves) that end at the hip, as they’ll simply draw the eye down to your widest part. Instead, tuck tops in, or choose ones that are fitted at the waist, to create definition and a more hourglass shape. Remember: curves are great, it’s definition and shape we are trying to emphasise.


With skirts, we want to define your waist and elongate your frame. An amazing way to do this is with a wrap skirt. The way these skirts fit and sculpt your frame is unbelievably flattering, and they define your waist too.

A great length if you’re petite and curvy is the midi skirt. Here you particularly want to look for a longer midi length – one which ends at your lower calf. Contrary to what you might expect, there is something about showing a little leg – and the slimmest bit of your leg – that makes you look taller and slimmer than a maxi skirt does. Try it and see for yourself.

If you want to wear mini skirts, choose an A-line shape, which flares out slightly, as this will cinch your waist and make your legs look slimmer.


Like with skirts, you want trousers to elongate and define the shape of your legs. If you’re petite and curvy, the best fit for you will be something slim – not skinny – or a slightly tapered fit, which narrows towards the ankle. That’s not to say you can’t wear a wide leg or a mom jean, but they’re going to make you look shorter and wider than a slimmer fit would.

Conversely, a very skinny fit can overemphasise curves and be unflattering in a different way, which is why the slim or straight fit is the most flattering middle ground.

Pockets on the back of trousers are most flattering when they sit a bit higher up on your bum as it has a very shapely ‘lifting’ affect on the eye. This is down to the style of the trouser or jean, but worth keeping a look out for when you’re shopping.

Make sure your trousers are the right length, too. If they’re too long – common if you’re short! – the natural bunching you get at the bottom is really unflattering. They want to just hit the top of your foot, or be slightly ankle grazing. A hint of ankle has a slimming effect on the leg overall.

Finally, the height of the trouser makes a difference. Your best friend will generally be the high waisted trouser, which makes your legs look longer – and you taller. The only exception to this rule is if you are already proportionately long in the leg compared to your torso, in which case, a mid rise will be better.

As a finishing touch, try a belt – it really makes the difference when cinching and defining your waist.


Just a couple of points about shoes that can make a difference if you want your outfit to be as flattering and lengthening as possible.

Firstly, if you’re wearing a black trouser or black tights, match your shoe colour. It gives the simple illusion of longer legs simply because there is no ’break’ between leg and foot.

Heels are your friend. Even a modest heel raises and shows the top of your foot from the front, creating the illusion of a longer leg – particularly when combined with the tip above. Think a black heeled boot with a black jean.

Finally, if you’re wearing a dress or skirt and showing your legs, don’t choose a shoe with an ankle strap. It’s amazing how much shorter and wider your legs look when you ‘cut’ across the ankle with a strap. Choose a court or even a strappy tie shoe – just not one that has a hard strap right across the ankle – the slimmest part of your leg.


A final word about coats and jackets for petite, curvy frames.

The longline length is your friend. Choose outerwear that falls to mid-thigh or lower, particularly if you have curvy hips. Not only does it skim over your curves, but it draws the eye down and creates length in your frame. Conversely, a short jacket that ends at the hip is only going to emphasise this area.

What you can also do with outerwear is contrast the curves in your body with sharp tailoring. Blazers and jackets with clean, straight lines will give this illusion to your figure, making you look taller and slimmer.