Dress up tips for petite women

Checking the children's department when shopping for clothes and shoes is part of the routine for women smaller than 160 centimetres in height, but the wares do not always please, especially if kids' clothing is covered in colourful patches.

"Small women sometimes have a hard time finding clothes that fit" from the adult racks, says personal shopper Stephanie Zarnic. "But as long as they follow a few rules, they can wear almost anything they like."

The important thing is to keep proportions in mind when buying clothes.

  • "Never combine different colours or wear a top that's too short or too long," says Zarnic. A two-thirds, one-third guideline applies for short women. "Combine a long, wide top and a pair of tight trousers or a short, tight top with wide pants or a skirt."

Shopping scout Anette Helbig has more advice for small women.

  • "The tone-in-tone look goes well on short women. Skirts that end a hand-span below the knee or a high waistband also look good."
  • She also warns against wearing wide belts. "Pick a narrow belt instead, as it won't look so bulky."
  • When it comes to trousers, Zarnic advises keeping things simple. "Don't turn your trousers up at the bottom," she warns. If you don't want to get a pair of pants altered by a seamstress, then turn the bottom cuffs in and then use an iron to keep them in place. "That works really well with stretch jeans."

  • There are differences of opinion over what the best cut of trousers is. Helbig thinks boot-cut jeans look best on short women.
  • "You don't always have to follow a trend. Just wear what looks best on you," she says. However Zarnic thinks you should pay attention to self-esteem. "Designs that are no longer in fashion can affect your self-consciousness and make you feel small on the inside," she cautions.

  • The experts do agree when it comes to tight drainpipe or skinny jeans, which they think suit short women well. "The main thing is that the jeans cuffs don't cover your shoe," says Helbig. "If that happens, you are wasting precious centimetres of optical height."

  • Frills, very short skirts and pink are three things that a small woman should never be seen in. "They make a small woman look little-girlish," says Helbig.

Katharina Starlay is a fashion designer and image consultant.

  • She says the small woman needs to tread especially carefully when dressing for a meeting or to project authority in the office.
  • Small, strong women in particular tend to wear shoes with high, tapered heels that don't suit their proportions, according to Starlay. Wider and slightly lower heels not only give the wearer a feeling she can stand up to the world, but also project her confidence: "After all, a woman may be physically small, but in corporate terms she is the big shot."

  • Rules that apply to working life do not necessarily have to be observed in private. During summer months in particular, small women should try high heels, in Helbig's opinion. "Flat sandals with a strap at the ankle don't look good and make you appear smaller." High heels, conversely, make legs look long and slender.

  • Zarnic advises getting some inspiration from short women like Selma Hayek, Sarah Jessica Parker or Madonna."They make great use of their size and are good examples of women who look confident in public."