Denim Fit and Find Guide for Petites

Finding a pair of jeans that fits in the right places is hard enough as it is, so what to do if you're petite?
Finding a pair of jeans that fits in the right places is hard enough as it is, so what to do if you're petite?
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We like to rock Hudsons or Diesels as much as the next celeb, but when you barely hit 5'3" even in high heels, jeans are all about the fit. This means you've got to know what's best for your body (and what to avoid) before you hit the retail floor. No "pancake booty" for us, right?

Deal Breakers


Jeans too tight around the hips will flatten your backside. Too loose at the waistband, and everyone will know you shop at Victoria's Secret. Too long and you'll look like you're playing dress-up.

Besides an obviously bad fit, pay attention to pocket placement. If you have an ample bottom, don't draw attention to it with large pockets emblazoned with embroidery and bling. Instead, search for back pockets sewn just above the mid-cheek mark; the strategic placement makes the entire area a bit perkier on a petite frame. Or, if you're on the lean side, try using a buttoned pocket flap to build mass.

Cropped jeans with hems that hit between the knee and ankle were once a deal-breaker for petite women, but it looks like that's all starting to change. We especially like what "The Petite Handbook" has to say about cropped denim: Wear shoes the same hue as the pant to add length to your legs.

Shape Makers

Before you force your jeans to make a mass exodus based on our advice, salvage the shape-makers. These jeans will have a dark wash, which is slimming and lengthening.

And, consult your "What Not to Wear" bible: One of the best styles for petites is a straight cut. This means the jean falls straight down from the knee to the floor, and this strong vertical line creates a long, lean look. A trouser cut's another option, especially if you're shaped more like an apple than a pear; this cut fits from the widest part of the hip and goes straight to the floor, adding balance.

Don't slip into a skinny jean unless your legs are long (relative to your height) and you're built like a Jonas Brother. Skinny jeans call attention to the hip, thigh and bottom -- and could result in a "What Not To Wear" intervention.

When it comes to shorts, if you're petite, go cuff-less. Otherwise, the extra flap of fabric will add bulk and interrupt the visual line of your leg. And find a length that hits just above the knee. It's a universally flattering fit.

Fit Finders

We will, however, need to file a report if we find you shopping in the juniors' section. You are woman. You roar. And you certainly do not hit the juniors' racks to find jeans that'll perfectly complement your petite self.

Don't fret if you find jeans that meet your new criteria but are way too long. That's why you have friends who can sew. Or, it's a good reason to get chummy with the local tailor. Make sure the jeans fit through the hips (remember what we said about pancake booty?) and thighs. Ideally, they'll also fit at the waist. If not, you can alter that, too.

If your jean hems drag the floor, ask a tailor to trim the extra fabric and then reattach the the original hemline. Doing so will perfectly camouflage your revisions and remove the rarest of animals -- jeans that fit at the waist and hips with just the right cut and length -- from the clothing endangered species list.

Once you figure out which styles flatter your petite shape the best, you're sure to find your new "go to" jeans.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Dahlman, Kim Williams. "The Petite Handbook." Fashion Marketing Services. Aug. 12, 2004.
  • "Why Should I Ask to Have the Original Hem Re-attached?" (April 29, 2010).
  • Thomas, Louisa. "The Secret Language of Jeans." Slate magazine. Nov. 10, 2005. (April 29, 2010).
  • TLC. "How to Find the Perfect Jeans." April 29, 2010.
  • Wikiel, Yolanda. "The Right Jeans Pocket for Your Body Type." Real Simple magazine. (April 27, 2010).