Dear Kathi,

I am petite sized and like to wear long skirts. I’ve been reading that this might not be the best idea, but I really love long lengths. I am hoping that you will give me some solid guidelines for a size 12 petite.

Carole, Encinitas


You have been reading advice that is fairly accurate. As a petite, you want to elongate your image by showing legs and torso. Long skirts run the hazard of making you appear as if you don’t have any legs, especially if the hemline falls below the ankle. It might appear that you only have feet at the bottom of your torso!

With the re-emergence of the “hippie chick” look, you might be tempted to buy the really full cut layered skirts. If you insist on wearing long skirts, a good rule of thumb is to buy them with narrow hemlines.

Never wear a skirt that is wider than you are tall! If in doubt, take it by the bottom hem, and hold it up against your body from one end of the hem to the other. If it is wider than you are tall, or even hits close to your shoulder line, it is too full. You will be enveloped by this skirt and appear wide and short. The same holds true for short skirts. If they are as wide as they are long, they are not appropriate.

The classic and timeless skirt length is knee length. This length works for every body shape. There will be variations from just above, or slightly below, to hitting exactly at the knee, but this general length is the best for everyone. When determining where to hem your skirts, choose a hemline that falls at the smallest part of your knee, where the curve indents. This is the ‘sexy’ spot on your knee and the most flattering. Show your curves whenever possible.

Combine your skirts with shaped separates in the same color family to create a taller profile. Never wear a floppy top with a flowing skirt. Never wear large floral patterns from head to toe. In fact, as a petite, avoid large patterns of any variety. Solids should be the staples of your wardrobe, with a few small prints added for variety.

Take the time to find clothes that show your waistline. As a small petite woman, you probably have a short torso. Your waistline will easily disappear if you wear unfitted jackets and tops. Pay close attention to the lines. Buy clothes that have seams that run vertically and cut in at the waistline. Empire seams will also accent your waistline.

Many women believe that if they wear oversized clothing, they will look smaller. By wearing clothes that are too large, they actually appear much larger than their true size. Please avoid buying oversize ‘comfortable’ clothes and instead invest your energy in finding the clothes that skim your body shape without clinging. If I had a dollar for every client who says she wears something simply because it is “comfortable,” I would be a rich woman.

Comfort is not only oversized clothing. If clothes are of good quality, in the perfect size so they skim the body without pulling or tugging, then they will be more comfortable than you could ever imagine. Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to write with any other specific questions.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]

San Diego Professional Organizer