R29's Petite Gals Take On Dress Shopping

Like many petite women, we here at R29 HQ have our fair share of dressing woes. Ever stepped into a floor-length frock only to be swallowed in excess fabric? Or, tried on a mini and realized that, on you, it's actually a midi? This happens to us all the time. To further complicate matters, our short frames come in many shapes and sizes, and the term "petite" doesn't necessarily correspond to a size zero.
So, in an attempt to stop going broke with constant trips to the tailor, our on-staff shorties (a.k.a the 5-foot-3-and-under club) banded together to form R29's first ever Petite Task Force. We broke down the most common body types and selected 21 gorgeous dresses — featuring styles for work, weddings, and weekends — that'll complement every petite woman's shape. Whether you're a pear, a carrot, an hourglass, or something else, we've got plenty of choices (and clever styling advice) to help you nail each look. Click ahead to meet our lovely peh-tee-tees and steal their super-shopper tips — and bid a fond farewell to those height-related gripes.
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1 of 21
Everdeen Mason, SEO editor
Petite Shape: Athletic

"I'm small, but pretty athletic, with narrow hips and what I like to call 'formidable' thighs and legs. So, I look for dresses that accentuate my small waist and create a smooth curve from my waist through my thighs."

Wedding
"I've always been so envious of anyone who can pull off mid-calf or below-the-knee skirts and dresses, because, as a shorty, [they make] me look stumpy. However, I recently discovered that if it's a pencil skirt or form-fitting bottom, it'll actually emphasize my booty, and I won't be swimming in fabric, either! This patterned dress, in particular, really helps define my waist. Add a strappy heel and a cute clutch, and I'm good to go!"
2 of 21
Work
"I have a fondness for dresses with any kind of tulle, flare, or pleating, but unfortunately, coming in under 5'2" means that I normally look like a child or a strange cupcake when I wear them. While I tend to stay away from poofy frocks now, I've gravitated toward incorporating flared or pleated skirts into my work look by sticking to dark colors and structured tops. I love the zipper on this Theory dress, and the subtle ribbing pattern keeps it from being your typical boring, black dress. I'd probably wear it with a white blazer on top and sleek, black pumps."
3 of 21
Weekend
"I like the idea of a dress I can wear with flats or sneakers for lunch or shopping that can transform into something sexy with a great pair of heels for dinner. Jersey fabric dresses are simple, feel wonderful, and drape beautifully on my petite frame. Short, skintight dresses tend to emphasize how narrow my hips are compared to how formidable my thighs are, but an A-line frock skims my curves in the most flattering way."
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4 of 21
Marissa Rosenblum, market director
Petite Shape: Pear

"I'm petite, but not allover teeny-tiny. I've got curves — hips and a butt, to be exact. [I'm] a shrimp-pear, if I had to name foods to match my body type, like we often do. So, while it seems I could fit into anything (being a size 0 on top), my bottom half is not having it. And, I like it that way. I've grown into my curves and embrace them, learning what to look for in clothing depending on if I want to conceal or flaunt."

Weekend
"Last year, I bought this exact silhouette at a Thakoon sample sale, and it was a closet star all summer long — not the cheapest dress on the block, but definitely the dreamiest. Since I'm small on top, no bra is no problem for me, and I like having my back exposed while keeping my tush completely covered by gathered fabric and a pretty bow. The cool, graphic print keeps this girlish shape from veering too precious. I'm tempted to snag this one, too, knowing how much mileage I got from last year's blue, floral version."
5 of 21
Wedding
"The petite section of Topshop is the best. The Soho store has a whole department stocking shorter versions of their bestsellers, and I'm pretty sure the racks are lower than they are in the 'straight'-sized section downstairs."

"I love this fit-and-flare dress because of the construction. Princess seams are any pear-shaped girl's best friend... The lines and darts add a tailored shape that follows along the body without clinging to it, thus enhancing without exaggerating. The pretty, fluted bottom flares out where my thighs are bigger, once again concealing without hiding my curves completely."
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6 of 21
Work
"Normally, I don't like wrap dresses. They are exceptionally flattering, but not my style, which is why I am so in love with this linen 'crossover' dress from Steven Alan. The dress shows off my clavicle and tiny upper half without being too revealing for the office, and long sleeves nicely balance my fuller lower half."
7 of 21
Lauren Caruso, contributor network editor
Petite Shape: Short Torso

"My body type is hyper-petite, but I've been blessed with stupid-long legs, so my hips are higher than most. That means my torso is a bit shorter, so when shopping for dresses, I stay away from anything with a defined waistline. I'm not big on details — I'd rather invest in high-quality basics in neutral hues — and I always check to see if I can shorten the hemline without taking away from the piece. Gotta show them gams, ya know?"

Wedding
"My entire wardrobe is full of neutrals, but I've been making a concerted effort to buy (and then actually wear!) some pieces with color, even if they're a bit more muted. So far, I've been unsuccessful, but this not-blindingly-bright number from Rebecca Taylor could be the piece that breaks me."
8 of 21
Weekend
"Even though I'm small, I'm not big on wearing anything that hugs my body so much that I can't breathe (sorry, Hervé Léger). But, this romper (okay, it isn't exactly a dress) is tiny enough to qualify as sexy — hello, completely open back! — without feeling too revealing. Now, if only there were a definitive maneuver to negate the peeing-in-a-romper conundrum that doesn't involve completely stripping in the ladies room."
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9 of 21
Work
"At R29, an important meeting is less suit-skirt-and-pumps and more about commanding a room — even if that means we're doing it in sneakers. And, sure, this pick may fall as a midi-dress on my small frame, but it's the perfect throw-and-go option for a lunch meeting with potential contributors. I could see pairing this with Alexander Wang's Masha Mule or a pair of custom Air Maxes."
10 of 21
Rebecca Smith, SEO editor
Petite Shape: Curvy

"At 5'2" and somewhere between a size 8-14, depending on the day, I fall firmly into the petite-curvy category. Dresses are a staple for me, but finding the perfect dress that both flatters my curves and lengthens my body can seem almost impossible at times."

Work
"When you are short and curvy, a flared dress can sometimes make you appear younger...and doll-like. But, this dress avoids that pitfall. The skirt gradually flares out in order to not add bulk to your widest areas, and the high-set, double-banded waist is perfect for drawing attention to your smallest area. Plus, sometimes a touch of color is exactly what you need to wear to work."
11 of 21
Wedding
"The waist is the most important thing I take into consideration when I pick out a dress. And, this waistline is beautiful. It starts up high, hitting the skinniest part of the body, and is thick enough to truly create a defined waist. I love that the bottom half of the dress skims over the body without adding extra bulk, and there is enough room for my chest at the top. But, the purple lace and elegant structure is ultimately why I would reach to this dress for my next wedding."
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12 of 21
Weekend
"I have one true love in life — a dress that works from brunch to last call. A striped maxi-dress does. I never thought I could wear stripes or maxi-dresses. Learning that I could wear a dress that includes BOTH of these things was pretty life-changing. The key is finding a dress with mixed stripes to help emphasize the waist. Plus, diagonal stripes from feet to waist (especially with heels on) make you appear taller and skinner. I accept I will have to hem this, so a simple bottom is important because a couple inches will definitely have to go."
13 of 21
Samantha Yu, editorial assistant
Petite Shape: Ballerina

"My coworkers call me 'petite, petite, petite.' I tend to reach for the smallest size available and still hope that it's going to be small enough. My longer torso, shorter legs, and dancer thighs have me reaching for high-waisted everything."

Weekend
"For a night out in the summer, I'll opt for something slightly more airy that still allows for comfort, movement, and style."
14 of 21
Work
"For an important meeting, I will tend toward a simple — but not uninteresting — piece. This dress feels sleek and timeless, but the bight red shade gives it a powerful pop."
15 of 21
Wedding
"This dress screams warm-weather wedding/party/pretty-much-any-fun-event to me. The print is eye-catching without being overwhelming, and did I mention it has pockets? I also love a good fit-and-flare dress. The cut makes me feel comfortable and confident... Plus, it's great for all that twirling on the dance floor."
16 of 21
Ellen Hoffman, editorial assistant
Petite Shape: Hourglass

"As your typical hourglass, I've got plenty of chest and hips and naturally tiny waist... Dressing for my figure is all about A-lines, flares, and fluted hems — basically, anything boasting a defined waistline is generally super flattering. But, being on the short side (just over 5'3"), I tend to steer clear of midis and maxis that stump my frame. Although, nothing is completely out of the question if a decent tailor is involved."

Wedding
"My coworkers have listened to me obsess over this Tibi dress for literally months. There's something about the fluted hem that I'm inexplicably drawn to. That, paired with the black-and-white colorblocking, is just about all my fashion-loving heart can handle. It's more of a relaxed fit, but the delineation of colors at the waist is just right."
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17 of 21
Work
"For my 9-to-5 wares, I'm all about flirty, little minis. In fact, I've got an entire closet stuffed with flared skirts and dresses. Thankfully, I work at Refinery29 and not a more corporate office. But, nevertheless, my preferred looks are still plenty conservative. Remember, hourglasses: DEFINED waists. Everything else will fall into place."
18 of 21
Weekend
"While I'm no cutout pro (actually, they usually freak me out), this sexy, triangle-cutout dress is screaming "vacation" to me. I'm heading down to St. Maarten in a few weeks and can easily see myself donning it on more than one occasion — and as a beach coverup, too!"
19 of 21
Diana Nguyen, senior editor
Petite Shape: Carrot

"I don't have the typical, petite, stick-straight, Asian body: I've got curves for days! I'm proud of 'em, but sometimes I can feel too top-heavy. With that in mind, I completely abide by our executive editor Neha's style mantra: I love clothes that don't touch me. What does that mean for a lazy girl like me? Shifts are my best friends."

Weekend
"For a night out, keeping it sexy means buttoning up the girls and relying on very high heels and my legs — short as they are — to do the work."
20 of 21
Work
"I'm lucky to work in an environment where my daily jeans-and-sneaks combo doesn't alert HR, but in an important meeting, this prim-and-polished dress will definitely step up my professional status."
21 of 21
Wedding
"The shift's lace overlay gives it a luxe factor fit for a wedding, and the structured silhouette is perfect for whatever food baby I'll be hiding by the buffet. Plus, with the right accessories and shoes, this frock can take me anywhere."
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