Can Short Women Wear Maxi Skirts?


Sarah Jessica Parker: 5’3″, Mary Kate Olsen, 5’0″, Lauren Conrad, 5’6″

Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of long skirts. This is partially because I find them pretty, but also because I get sick to my stomach a lot and long, loose skirts take so much pressure off of it. On separate occasions, Amanda and Joanna individually remarked that they liked the look, but didn’t feel they could wear long skirts or maxi dresses themselves because they are on the petite side (Amanda is 5’0″, I believe, and Joanna is 5’3″). I’m 5’7″, and because clothes are often designed for women between 5’5″ and 5’9″ or so, I have admittedly not thought too much about how height can be a frustrating factor when purchasing clothes.

That said, I do understand the annoyance of feeling like your body doesn’t quite “fit” into specific looks. For example, I think any skirt or pant that falls between the knee and ankle on me looks ridiculous, so I never wear them even though I think they look fantastic on other people for work or special occasions, and it really makes me wish I wasn’t so self-conscious.

With maxi dresses and skirts, I think the main appeal is how comfortable they are. They’re not gowns or particularly fancy skirts most of the time; they’re just simple, easy and can go with just about anything. Plus, they look casual without being too…well, casual. Wear one with a long-sleeve shirt or pretty blouse and you look ready for work; pair it with a tank top or t-shirt and you’re ready for a party or a night of bar hopping; put on a maxi skirt and crop top and ridiculously ugly flower hat, and voila! Coachella.

Because of their ease, and because I firmly believe any body type can rock any look provided the garment fits well (and is possibly tailored, if necessary) and is accessorized properly, I think shorter women should feel free to wear long skirts and dresses whenever they please. Unfortunately, the majority of women on runways, editorials and even in film are on the taller (sometimes much, much taller) side of things — despite the average American woman being nearly 5’4″, most models are between 5’9″ and 5’11″, so we have internalized this idea that women who are taller are somehow more able to wear certain garments.

This height discrepancy is yet another reason the body ideal needs to be eliminated. We don’t need to change it to make it shorter or heavier or differently-shaped; we just need to remove it altogether so that women of all figures and sizes are able to feel comfortable wearing whatever they want (and also so Cosmo will stop running “9 Bathing Suits For YOUR Body Type!”).

This would also hopefully encourage clothing companies to stop designing for specific heights. Yes, there are petite lines for women and ones for those with longer legs, but they often do not have all the same garments that the “normal” sized clothing lines do. I have no idea whether it’s an issue for all shorter- or taller-than-average women, but in a brief, informal survey of my friends, this lack of sizing diversity was called “extremely frustrating,” “inconvenient” and “fucking annoying.”

So, if you’re short and are looking at maxi skirts or dresses, wondering if they will look stupid on you, just remember that honestly, people who harshly judge what you’re wearing based on your body are, well, total douchebags. Changing your mindset, particularly with preconceived notions on what women of your body type “should” be wearing, is very difficult — seriously, someday I’ll go through all the things I’ve finally started wearing since I stopped caring about what hourglass-shaped women are “supposed” to avoid. But it will affect your wardrobe positively because you will start buying more clothes you actually like, then wear them regardless of what you’ve been told by stupid magazines or shallow stylists. The freedom to wear what you want without inhibition? That’s truly beautiful.

Photo: Getty Images

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    • Tania

      I can’t wear them because the hems drag a couple of inches on the ground and I can’t afford tailoring.

    • sabrina

      no way the average woman is 5’3!! no way. i’m almost 5’2 and i’m considered tiny. 5’5 maybe is average.
      but maxi skirts are a problem, i generally wear skirts that are knee length for tall people as maxi skirts. if not i just cut them off.

      • sabrina

        and when i say cut off, i mean at least 5 inches

      • Samantha Escobar

        According to the sources I went to, yes! Although I also remember TIME a few years back saying the average American woman is 5’4″ and 135 lbs., but that’s likely changed.

      • Tania

        I checked your source, it said average height was 5’3.8 inches, so closer to 5’4″ than 5’3″. :)

      • Samantha Escobar

        Eee, thanks! I misread that, then!

      • Tusconian

        The average woman is about 5’4″. The average clothing manufacturer doesn’t tend to recognize that fact, though.

    • APS

      They can, but should they?

    • JennyWren

      I’m 5’2″ and wear maxi skirts and dresses a lot and seem to get quite a few compliments on them. I think if you’re worried about it it’s generally advisable to stick with a straighter, tube shape such as MK Olsen is wearing; a full-on, multi-tiered prairie skirt can swamp a shorter frame. But then I’ve worn those too in the past and have gotten good feedback, so who knows? Possibly it’s best just to try on as many styles as possible and see what works for you. Wrap styles are good as well.
      Though the best thing you can do as a short woman generally is learn how to hem. You can get a mini sewing machine online for $25 and it’s really not too difficult to adjust the hem on basic things like jeans and cotton skirts. I really can’t stand dragging hems, and it’s not like SJP and Lauren Conrad couldn’t afford to get that done by a professional.

      • Samantha Escobar

        Agreed: trying on a bunch of different styles is a great idea to figure out which you like best on you. I feel horrible uncomfortable in the dresses with like criss-cross top portions or the strapless ones because I hate how they look with my boobs, but ones with more “support” always feel snazzy.

        Also, everyone should know how to sew, yesss. It’s so easy (sew easy?) and it saves tons of money on alterations, and eliminates the need to get rid of clothes when you change body shapes/sizes or get bored of garments.

    • Cara

      I’m 5’0″ with a pretty small frame and don’t wear maxi dress/skirts. Part of it is because even when they’re a petite size I still end up getting about five inches cut off the bottom and part of it is because they look like A Production on me. I have a friend who’s 5’5″ or 5’6″ and they look breezy and effortless on her, but they look sort of overwhelming and formal on me.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Correction: I’m 4’11 3/4″ (That 1/4 inch means everything!)
      And no, I can’t wear them. I tried one on at J.Crew this morning, and it looked like I was melting into the floor. Granted, it was too long and needed to be hemmed by like 6 inches, but still… it’s not a doable look for me at all. So, I went mini-skirt in my purchase… yet again.

    • LaLa

      I’m 5’2″ and I wear maxi skirts and dresses all the time. And I’m not stick thin either, which is another thing girls say you have to be to wear them. The trick is to get them hemmed correctly. If you’re really worried about it, just go monochromatic and/or wear heals. Not huge, towering heals but a small wedge will give you an extra boost. That’s what works for me at least.

    • Cee

      Im 5′ AND A HALF! I bought a maxi dress with elastic at the waist. I just hike the extra cloth there. I think I look okay in it? Either way I will continue to wear them anytime Im too lazy to shave my legs

    • Jo Ayche

      I’m 5’4 and I own 7 maxi dress. Luckily I never had to hem any of them. Most of them hang just above the ground for me. If not, I can easily hand-stitch it shorter. However, I don’t think that they purposely make maxi dresses longer to fit models; they are long to allow room for adjustment, so that they will fit everyone of all heights. No one piece of clothing will fit women of every shape. So stop complaining that designers are not considerate of diverse body types because you are asking for the impossible.

    • Eileen

      I don’t see why not, as long as they can get them hemmed, because while a train might be quirky, tripping over your clothes is bad. I’m not crazy about maxi skirts or dresses in general, but I certainly have never thought they looked any worse on short women than on tall ones.

    • Joanna Rafael

      Please help me find one that looks good!

    • Magda Nunez

      Im pretty short, and would also describe myself as a bit rotund, but I still love maxi dresses/skirts. Usually, i wear them at the smallest part of my waist, which is just below my ribs and that usually saves me from having to hem them, or have my mom tailor them (I can do basic sewing but sewing machines kind of scare me).

      But people usually compliment me on them, and I’ve found that they typically make me look longer and taller, which I love!

    • Clementine

      For all other fellow short ladies, do what I do…grab your maxi dresses from Asian sellers on Ebay. All of their dresses are tailored for smaller woman, so they fit PERFECTLY. I’m 5’3″ and their clothing fits exactly the way it’s supposed to.

    • Lo

      If it makes you feel any better, I’m 5’11″ and as much as I like wearing maxi dresses and skirts, it’s next to impossible to find ones that are long enough on me. I wind up having to special-order online. (There are a few stores like Old Navy that do tall sizes, but I wind up with a small selection) Worth it in the long run though, I love having that extra tummy space to eat.

    • PetiteClothingLine

      I’m short too and I don’t see why can’t a short woman wear maxis. You just need to be carefull choosing the right dress style and color, so that it makes you look taller. Like vertical elements, less fabric etc. Cut down on accessories and wear lighter shoes. Most importantly if you are comfortable in it, go for it.

    • Kathleen Shimp

      For those who don’t believe the average woman is only 5’4″, it might depend on where in the country you are, or even where in a certain state you are.

    • Lauren Esmon

      4’11″ here. I love long skirts because they make me feel like a princess. I can’t really wear dresses because my boobs are too big for the rest of my body. Things look funny.

    • Phone Source

      I think
      Short Women can Wear Maxi Skirts and look sexy.

    • The Petite Shop

      I love your brief, informal survey :).
      I absolutely think that being able to wear a certain style is as simple as *wearing* it – thank you for this post! No more “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” for anyone…this is exactly what we’re trying to change @thepetiteshop!