If you’re short, the last thing you want is to live up to the unfortunate ‘all fat and wide’ bride of the popular playground rhyme, and when an outfit is as wide as you are tall, that’s a very real concern, however skinny you may or may not be under all that taffeta! But fear not, you won’t have to give up your fantasy dress for a straight and featureless number: there are lots of styles that can look dramatic and fantastic on us shortcakes.
When I say ‘petite’, of course I mean 5″3 and below – not (necessarily) twiglet thin as well. So assuming most of us are of an average build, these tips should apply to most shorter women who want a style that won’t ‘drag down’ or swamp their figure, or create the illusion of too much width.
• Pay attention to your waist. If you’ve got short legs, some drop-waist styles are a big no-no. They foreshorten the legs even further, which could result in you looking stumpy.
• High waists are a good choice for some but not all petite brides. If you’ve got a large bust, this cut can create too much width, making you look wide all the way down. But for a small-busted petite figure, empire lines and other high waisted styles can be very flattering. Check out our high waists gallery for some good, contemporary examples.
• Skirts can cause problems for brides below 5″4, so if you’re buying off the peg you’ll almost certainly have to make space for a professional alteration in your budget. The last thing you want is to spend the day worrying that it’s dragging on the ground. Some bridal designers will agree a fee for this service when you purchase your dress, but if not, you may need to look for a tailor specialising in bridalwear.
• Don’t go for a ballgown skirt unless you can get the entire dress made bespoke – this style will swamp most smaller brides. If you’re set on a full skirt, A-line or princess works much better, and fishtails can also work well as some styles give the appearence of longer legs, but be warned: much as it can look amazing, this style is probably only an option if you can afford to go bespoke, as the flare needs to start in exactly the right place to have the desired effect.
• Alternatively, you might want to go for a style that’s intended to be short. Tea-length dresses are in fashion at the moment, and work well for shorter brides, not only because they’re more practical, but because they don’t overwhelm the smaller frame. My favourite is Suzanne Neville’s Antoinette.
• Some designers specialise in petite sizes, and make ready-to-wear dresses in shorter lengths. However, if like me you’re already fed up with the puny selection of shorter-length trousers and skirts in general fashion, you may also be unimpressed by the limited choice on offer. Designers that do have a petite range include Mark Lesley, Alfred Angelo and Veromia.
• Don’t under-estimate the power of shoes! If you’re only an inch or two below average height, a good pair of (comfortable!) platforms can make all the difference. Go for a style that’s as flat as possible at the base (without going overly ’70s!) for maximum comfort: this pair from ASOS have a concealed platform and are a good style to look for.