What to Wear to Work: Business Formal for Petites

July 10th, 2008

The key to finding flattering business formal clothes for petites is to choose pieces that elongate your silhouette.  You want to look as tall as you can, especially in a business setting, and you can do this by making your legs look as long as possible.  

Jackets with a Low Stance
Ann Taylor Wool Pinstripe Suit
Petite Wool Pinstripe Jacket ($99.99) and Petite Audrey Wool Pinstripe Pants ($79.99) at Ann Taylor

The notch lapel is classic, and the low stance (the point where the two sides of the jacket cross in front) creates a nice vertical line that makes you look taller.  Single button closures are best for creating this vertical line.

Simple Fitted Tops
Cotton Ruffle Front Top
Cotton Ruffle Front Top | $58 at Ann Taylor

When you’re petite, fitted garments tend to look better than oversized ones.  We’re loving this cotton voile ruffle top.  The delicate cotton voile fabric is lightweight (great for summer), and it complements the decidedly feminine ruffle and pintuck details.

Fluid, Drapey Fabrics

Petite Silk Sleeveless Shell
Petite Silk Sleeveless Shell | $29.99 (sale) at Ann Taylor

Add some shine to your wardrobe with a silk shell.  Fluid, drapey fabrics look great on petites, and in small doses, they complement business formal outfits.  Add a scarf for extra sophistication.

Wide Leg Trousers

Petite Martin Cuffed Wide Leg Pant
Petite Martin Cuffed Wide Leg Pant | $89 at Banana Republic

This wide leg pant is a great counterbalance to a fitted top, and the fact that it sits just below the natural waist helps to visually elongate your legs.

High Waisted Skirts
High Waisted Pencil Skirt
High Waisted Pencil Skirt | $89 at Banana Republic

High waisted skirts and pants make your legs look as long as possible–and in turn make you look as tall as possible.  If you don’t like thin, tailored skirts, you can also try (nearly universally flattering) a-line skirts.  How long should your skirt be?  Knee length skirts are not only the most flattering, but they’re also safe for work.

Shift Dresses
Belted Textured Dress
Belted Textured Dress | $150 at Banana Republic

Shift dresses are as slimming as they are work appropriate.  They’re
fitted without being too revealing, and they elongate your figure, especially when they feature a knee-length skirt.

Finish off your business formal outfit with medium height shoes (you’re petite, and you’re not fooling anyone with sky high heels, so just be comfortable), a reasonably sized work bag (no gigantic bags for you, since they’ll overwhelm you), and minimal accessories (since you don’t want to clutter your clean outfit).

Have a great tip about business formal for petites?  Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Shopping Guide,Women

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. anon  |  July 10th, 2008 at 5:47 am

    What’s the definition of petite? Petite is not just small!

  • 2. Trisha  |  July 10th, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Petite is about height – I would define it as under 5’4″. Note that there’s petites and plus size petites as well since it’s about height, not size.

  • 3. ShopLittleGifts  |  July 10th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    cute – love the ann taylor white ruffle top. very comfortable and chic. i’m petite and they make some of the best fitting petite clothes. i always buy their summer dresses.

  • 4. Mimi  |  July 10th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Great picks. Love the blouses and slacks.
    One hint for petites: tailoring! Hemming slacks, shortening sleeves, tapering jackets, making the dress/skirt hemline hit exactly the right spot… makes a huge difference and takes you from looking nice to looking absolutely polished. Well worth the investment if you’re buying business suits or building a wardrobe of classic styles.

  • 5. jennifer in sf  |  July 10th, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Good tips! I would just add that it pays to be careful with wide-leg pants. Just how wide they are varies, and if they are too wide it can be overwhelming on the shorties. Or maybe just on me!

  • 6. Kathleen  |  July 10th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I’m 5’2.5″ and like buying ankle-length trousers and pants from Gap and short-length pants from Banana Republic. It also helps that the legs of their pants tend to be cut generously as I am not one who looks good in skinny pants.

  • 7. Trisha  |  July 10th, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Great tips, all!

    Mimi – thanks for adding your bit about tailoring. This is so key, and not just for petites. If your clothes fit you *exactly*, you do look polished–and it is indeed worth the investment.

    Jennifer – Great point. Too wide is no good…I like a medium wide pant (and I’m 5’0″).

    Kathleen – Ankle length trousers do work wonders on petites, myself included. Though sometimes the ankle length is more than full length on me :)

  • 8. Paola Almeida Fuentes  |  February 9th, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Modelos de uniformes para oficina

  • 9. Vinita Jayant  |  May 20th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    thanks for the tips

    im really petite – 5 feet under


  • 10. Sakshi Garg  |  October 23rd, 2012 at 10:41 am

    hi i am 5’5″. i have normal health not too fat not too slim. but i have some belly fat. some is quite some amount. and i need to wear business formals for the first time. i am very confused about what type of trousers should i buy . please help me

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