Between my junior year of high school and college graduation, I was always self-conscious about my petit frame. I firmly believed that heels were the only way to add height. Sky-high heels took up most of my closet space, and running shoes and Vans Lo Pros were the only pairs of "flats" I owned.
I'm not sure why it took so long, but it wasn't until two years ago that it dawned on me that certain clothing can create an illusion of height. Since then I've figured out how to play with proportion and cut to feel comfortable wearing my sneakers in public.
I enlisted the help of Heather Breen, a freelance fashion stylist whose clients include Katie Gallagher and Creem magazine, and other stylists for the following tips on how to add height to a petite frame:
Wear Well-tailored garments
If your trousers bag at the hem, your blazer sleeves exceed your wrist, or the long straps on your dress do a disservice to your bust, you should consider taking your clothes to a good tailor. Well-tailored garments can straighten your silhouette, making you appear taller. "Pulled in waistline, shorter hemline, and tighter sleeves are all visual tricks for dressing" taller, says Breen. Tall ladies like Cara Delevigne and Rihanna may be able to pull off oversize blazers and trousers, but the head-to-toe baggy look doesn't translate well if you're below 5'5". "Any piece with too much fabric and material is a major no because it will swallow and wear you."
Play with Proportions
If you want to look, according to Breen, "really fashion," play up your height by mastering the art of proportion. It may be tricky at first, but the key is to balance oversize and lean. "Usually I recommend oversize or long in one place and fitted in the other." For instance, wearing a cropped jacket with a long skirt will have a lengthening effect. An oversized sweater or jacket, with just enough bagginess — but not enough to not swallow you — will pair well with a fitted mini skirt to lengthen out your torso.
Wear Long Skirts with Slits
Slit skirts are a great way to pretend you have mile-long legs. "The slit gives an amazing long leg illusion, creating shape and height." Breen recommends pairing this style with platform wedge shoes to "create an awesome optical illusion for tall, long legs." Stephanie Sasso, a New York-based stylist whose recent work includes Free People and Macy's, recommends mid- to high-waist rise to add length to the torso. To complete the look, Sasso recommends pairing "with a heeled sandal for an elongated look."
Platform Wedge Shoes Are Your Friends
To literally add height, choose shoes with a platform wedge heel. "They're great because they are sexy, give major height, and are easy to walk in," tips Breen. The platform part makes the wedges easier on your feet by evening out the height of your foot arch. There are lots of styles to choose from, but these Jeffrey Campbell wedge sandals are versatile enough to wear from your office to a night out with friends.
Do Not Fear Cropped Tops
Now that crop tops have evolved to a more classy cut, which gets even more classy with this co-ords trend, there are many ways to work a midriff-baring shirt. This is great news for short women. "Crop tops give you a cutoff line showing some of your stomach and automatically make you appear longer in the torso," says Breen. Pair a crop top like this ASOS floral print top with a bottom that sits high at the waist, showing a hint of skin. Ta-da! You've given the illusion of a longer torso without exposing the belly button.
Look for Jeans with a straight leg or high waist
For Bustle's denim guide, Samantha Brown, a New-York based personal stylist, recommended a straight leg with a medium or dark wash for adding height. Brown loves AG jeans like the Harper straight cut for petite frames. You can work with proportions by pairing them with a baggy sweater or a crop top. Sasso loves jeans with a high waist. Not only do they help elongate the legs on skinny styles, but they also help balance proportion when you want to play with flares, like these J Brand Maria Jeans, she says. "Flared jeans usually look better on taller girls, but the high waist makes it work on my petite frame."