Can Petites Wear Maxi Dresses?

8 Jun

Some say yes and others say no.

While doing a brief scan though the net, I found a couple of DON’Ts when it comes to choosing maxi dresses for petites. Here’s MK Olsen and Rachel Zoe showing how NOT to wear a maxi dress or a kaftan for that matter.

More fabric + Larger prints + Shorter stature = Overwhelmed Frame

Still, there are several maxi dress styles that DO work for petites.

Since “petites” have a different body types even though we’re short, we need proper proportions that will help elongate our frame. Most maxi dresses are made extra long so it can be worn for people of different heights. As long as there is no changing print at the bottom, shortening the length isn’t a big deal.

The standard advice:

  • Look for a V-neck or open decollete so the dress feels lighter and gives you presence
  • The mid-section of the dress should skim close to the body and rest at the natural waist or have an empire waist
  • A column or A-line skirt provides length and structure to the dress. The longer the skirt, the longer your legs will seem.
  • Stick to a monochrome dress as other colors can divide up the body line. If you must do a print, choose to a smaller pattern so it doesn’t look too busy and distract from the body line

It seems like Rachel Bilson and Hayden Panettiere know what works for their body type to make them look taller, longer and leaner.

I found a few inspirational pieces have elements of what I’d like in a maxi dress. Since I can’t find these dresses in stores or in my size, I can’t try them on to see how they would look on me. Plus, they are out of my price range.


Though there are plenty of dress choices online, nothing beats going to the store and trying things on. I had my eye on a one-shoulder maxi dress at Arden B in XS, but it was way bigger than I imagined. I also tried the ruffled maxi dress in XS hoping that jersey would be a smaller fit but it was also too big.

Then, I stumbled upon BCBG. They had plenty of long dresses in stock and the SA was really friendly without being overbearing. I hadn’t had much luck with BCBG in the past since some XXS sizes are still too big. Still, I tried on two dresses in size 0 (the smallest numerical dress size).

The first one was low-cut and though it makes my torso look longer, as it starts to hit the darker fabric, I lost some height. If could redesign this dress for petites, I would shorten the shoulder straps, shrink the hip pockets, and cut off the black part to make it more flattering.

The second dress reminded me of an Impressionist painting with its abstract print. The fabric and the print itself is so beautiful, it was like a printed watercolor with gold “scales.” It’s a bit loose in the bust, but if I were to wear a tank underneath, it would be fine. It doesn’t look too long in the photo, but that’s because I was wearing 4 inch heels in the dressing room. I love how the SA provides shoes when you’re trying on clothes. Without the shoes, the dress still provides a lengthening effect even if the bottom is cut.

I think petites can pull of maxi dresses as long as the fit and proportion match your stature and you’re not overwhelmed with large print, excessive details/fabric, and an unflattering cut. I’ve seen so many people of different shapes, heights, and sizes wear maxi dresses to their heart’s content and most look pretty good. As long as you’re confident in what you’re wearing, it’s all gravy.

Though I can’t afford BCBG dresses, I took the advice of an SA on Rodeo Drive who once said, “If you can’t buy the magic, you can at least feel the magic!

What do you think…can petites wear maxi dresses? What stores do you suggest?


11 Responses to “Can Petites Wear Maxi Dresses?”

  1. PetiteLittleGirl June 8, 2010 at 8:23 AM #

    I was wondering about how maxi dress fit on a petite frame. I have been looking for one recently but haven’t found one that I like. I like the 2nd dress on you. Seems like it fits you better than the low-cut one. Thanks for the post

  2. Kerry June 8, 2010 at 11:17 AM #

    I don’t like maxi dresses on anyone, because as a friend of mine put so eloquently, “it reminds me of Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company”. I am probably dating myself as that show was popular nearly two decades before you were born, but I think you can probably google image search to see what I mean.

    I am not a fan of them as I feel they are dangerous (I once got a floor length broomstick skirt caught on my combat boot and I took a rather long tumble down a flight of stairs, many years ago). I also like to show off my legs as they are a better feature of mine, so I tend to avoid skirts that are longer than knee length.

    But that is just my opinion – I certainly won’t fault someone else for trying it.

  3. MizzJ June 8, 2010 at 8:09 PM #

    This is some great advice! I agree that the 2nd dress is much more flattering and in such a pretty color! Maybe I’ll put out my maxi from last year and which I never had the guts to wear out haha

  4. Really Petite June 8, 2010 at 8:26 PM #

    I could never pull off a Maxi dress but it looks like you can!

    I agree- if the proportions are right- it can look really cute but if something is off by a bit- it looks disasterous:-)

  5. fashion June 8, 2010 at 10:00 PM #

    I’m also petit. I’ve tried and decided that maxi dresses are not my style. It’s different case, though, if the maxi part is only the part below waist. Big skirts are still okay like Hayden’s picture above.

  6. jc June 9, 2010 at 9:28 AM #

    the 2nd dress is pretty~

    but i have a question: what’s an appropriate occasion to wear a maxi? it looks more dressy than regular dresses so i’m hesitating when it comes to getting one…

    • Stylepint June 9, 2010 at 1:02 PM #

      Stereotypically, maxi dresses are relegated to spring/summer wear at the beach, especially bohemian print. But I’ve seen many casual styles appropriate for everyday/weekend situations like shopping, picnicking, going to museums, etc. I think a maxi can do well in most occasions, but it depends on the style of the dress.

      Since the second dress is more dressy, I would wear it to fancier occasions like going to the theatre, fancy parties, cruise dinners, resort vacations, and other special occasions. But I can dress it down with a white denim jacket or a motorcycle jacket to tone down the look. If I got that dress, I would probably where it everywhere for a lower “cost per wear” and getting the most out of it. I don’t like wearing dresses only once…it kind of defeats the purpose of buying one.

  7. PetiteAsianGirl June 9, 2010 at 5:34 PM #

    I suggest F21 and target’s juniors department for maxis. If you have a sewing machine (or it probably just costs $10 at the tailor) all you need is a hem on their maxis in sz XS. If they are big at first, try a wash&dry. I think those places are great for maxis because they are so cheap – if you’re not sure that you like the style, you’ll only lose out on $20 or less!

  8. Ping June 29, 2010 at 3:21 PM #

    i just ordered a maxi dress by guess through hautelook…hopefully it works out. i’ve been wanting one too for so long. 🙂

    • Stylepint June 29, 2010 at 4:17 PM #

      How exciting! I hope it works for you too! =)

  9. Retro Petite July 16, 2010 at 5:18 AM #

    Another great post, i re-tweeted it. I don’t think i could get away with a maxi dress but it depends on the style of the maxi dress i think some petites look great in them.

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