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The Short Girl’s Guide to Maxi Dresses

by Kate Franco on April 22, 2013 · 13 comments

guide to petite maxi dressesI’m somewhere around 5’3″ and have been known to make some maxi magic. A great-fitting petite maxi dress can be an elusive thing, so use this guide and you’ll be on your way to boho chic in no time.

Tips for finding the perfect petite maxi dress:

  1. Choose either an all-over print or a solid color. Color blocking is okay, too!
  2. Check your length. I find that I like my maxis to graze my toes because I think it’s the most elongating. I use this rule whether I’m going for flats or heels.
  3. A maxi with a slim silhouette and fitted bodice is a MUST. The shape and structure will give you a long column/statuesque shape, instead of going to frump-town.
  4. Semi-sheer is always a good option for petite ladies, because the fabric will be less overwhelming than a bulky knit or busy print.
  5. Look for petite sizes! Brands are making these in abundance, and it reduces the likelihood you’ll have to have the dress hemmed. See Tip #2.
  6. I ALWAYS wear heels because of the extra length, but it’s not totally necessary. If heels aren’t your thing, don’t stress yourself out!
  7. If you’re afraid of a maxi dress overwhelming your tiny frame, try a high-low dress as a test. Mullets are not generally a trend I’m sure I fully endorse, but it’s a good way to get your toes wet.


Some things to avoid:

Note: The average commercial model is 5’6″. And, maybe it’s me, but I think these ladies look shorter than that — their maxis aren’t doing them justice!

  1. Mixing prints and solids — it breaks up the lines of your body, calling attention to each individual section, instead of the garment (and your body!) in its entirety.
  2. Full skirts — the wider you get on the bottom, the shorter you’ll look overall.
  3. Ankle lengths — along the same lines as #1, an ankle length dress will cut you off. I think a better look is to go for toe-grazing…preferably with heels!

things to avoid in petite maxi dresses

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Annette April 22, 2013 at 8:25 am

This is a great post! As a petite woman, it is always important to find the right type of clothing (that fits) and a good tailor. I really like the GAP maxi dress!
xx Annette
Enter my $100 Lulu*s Giveaway!


Kelly Ly April 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Kate you KNOW I LOVE A GOOD MAXI! Let’s grab dinner/drinks soon??

Off Kelly’s Hanger


Kate Franco April 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

Would love that! will email you. xox.


Dianna April 24, 2013 at 9:29 am

I’m 4’11” so this is super helpful!


Kate Franco April 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

Yay! Glad it was useful. xox.


shelley franco April 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm

This is a great post and I love the Maxi look. You have figured out how to wear them for a petite girl. Now I challenge you to find one for a full figure gal. ME.


Kate Franco April 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

You should try ASOS curve! Love you!


Elizabeth, Five-Foot Founder April 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Great advice! I LOVE maxi dresses – we just released our first petite maxi dresses, custom designed for women 5′ 3″ and under:


Kate Franco April 29, 2013 at 9:36 am

Hi Elizabeth! I’m always on the hunt, so I’ll have to check out your shop! xox.


Alex April 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

Hey there,

Great post! Where is the dress that you are wearing in the post picture from? It’s lovely@!


duncan faber October 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

These are absolutely adorable and your styling tips about shorter women are spot on. And when it comes to getting a maxi dress for a girl, instead of a woman, I recommend this site.


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