Dressing stylishly for my petite frame has always been something of an endurance sport. You have to hunt for the labels that suit you, fit well and still have fashion relevance.
At 5ft 3in tall, I’ve spent a lifetime missing out on trends, feeling deflated in changing rooms and spending a small fortune on alterations to clothes designed for far taller women.
But — better late than never — it seems the fashion industry is finally embracing the fact that the average UK woman is only 5ft 4in, or at least five inches shorter than most of the models used in photoshoots, on catwalks or as fit models for pattern cutting.
Big brands are launching size-specific collections that aren’t simply shorter versions of key styles, but considered, well-made ranges in smaller sizes.
As a former glossy fashion magazine editor, I know that one of the foundations of great style is a tailored fit on the shoulders, sleeve, waist and hemline. So I’m delighted that I can finally wear a maxi dress that won’t swamp me — like this tiered, floral one from Phase Eight. Or find a midi skirt that hits my calf rather than the floor — thank you, Reiss, for the linen lilac jacket and dress combo.
Blazer, £298, and dress, £158, both reiss.com, shoes, £95, dunelondon.com, earrings, £12, accessorize. com
Big brands are launching size-specific collections that aren’t simply shorter versions of key styles, but considered, well-made ranges in smaller sizes
Blazer, £139, vest, £12, and skirt, £99, all whistles.com, trainers, £145, Iris & Ink at theoutnet. com, earrings as before
It seems the fashion industry is finally embracing the fact that the average UK woman is only 5ft 4in, or at least five inches shorter than most of the models used in photoshoots, on catwalks or as fit models for pattern cutting
Floral print midi dress, £55, nobodyschild.com, shoes, £95, dune london.com, earrings as before
Print mini dress, £275, meandem.com, shoes, £195, camillaelphick.com, earrings as before
Whistles, meanwhile, will save me a fortune on sleeve alterations with its range of linen and boyfriend blazers, like this bright blue one, available in both petite and regular fit.
Boden’s Highbury striped linen trousers achieve the summer fashion Holy Grail, offering a tailored but relaxed fit.
Boden has long been at the forefront of petite style with more than 200 dresses and 60 trousers on offer. It also has a handy online ‘fit tool’ to find the right size.
Another bonus to the new collections is the glorious array of patterns on offer (tricky, since making alterations on a bold pattern is a challenge — ask any tailor).
Nobody’s Child has this sunflower-print dress with shirring at the back, to accentuate the waist, and pretty tie sleeves.
At the more expensive end, Me+Em is investment dressing at its best. While the brand doesn’t offer a bespoke petite collection, it has a summer edit that promises to complement smaller statures. Try the satin mini-shift in striking tulip print.