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Let’s be real: Being short can suck. Height (or lack thereof) can feel like a serious style impediment—and, to be totally honest, it can be a bit of a fashion hurdle. But what if we told you you don’t have to wait for science to come up with some way for us short folks to add a few extra inches to our height? What if we told you there are clever fashion tips and tricks to make you look taller?
From flared jeans to top knots, we’ve outlined how to fake it using the clothes you already have in your closet.
Try Flared Jeans
Fitted jeans with a distinct flare at the bottom create the illusion of a longer leg—especially when the hem hits the top of your shoes (heels, of course!). The trick here is to keep the fit of the jean super-slim through the leg, and to make sure the waistband hits your natural waist—not any lower. For optimal height, be sure to pair your flares with a waist-length top, or a blouse you can tuck in.
Don’t Discount Maxi Skirts
It’s common fashion folklore that small women simply cannot wear floor-grazing skirts and dresses, but luckily that’s been proven entirely false. In fact, a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking taller, as evidenced by petite gals like Rachel Bilson, Rachel Zoe, and Mary-Kate Olsen.
Choose solid versions that skim the length of your body, which will create a long vertical line (forego anything with thick pleats or too many layers). Be sure to keep your top fitted—a tucked-in T-shirt and a cropped leather jacket, for example—so as to not drown in fabric. Also, make sure the skirt’s hemline is as long as you can go without tripping, and add a pair of wedges or heels underneath.
Choose Heels with a Low-Cut Vamp
Here’s small trick that can change the way you shoe shop: Shoes that have a low-cut vamp instantly elongate your legs (and make them look slimmer) when you’re wearing skirts, shorts, and dresses.
What’s a vamp? It’s the portion of a show that cuts across your foot at the front. So, a low vamp cuts across the base of the toes, while high vamp can come up the foot and possibly up to the ankle. If you’re able to find a pair that matches your skintone, that’s even better to give the illusion of mile-long legs.
If You’re Going Short, Go Short!
When you’re petite, it’s just a fact that—when it comes to skirts and dresses—you should either go super-long, or super-short (translation: avoid calf-length and knee-lengths). Mini-skirts show more skin, which creates the illusion of a longer leg.
While ankle straps typically aren’t ideal for short ladies (they cut off your leg), they can work with super-short skirts since more skin is being shown. Of course, if you’re wearing a mini, make sure it’s not offensively short—let’s keep it chic, ladies.
Rock a Top Knot
Obvious, yes, but piling your hair on top of your head really does gives a taller impression, again creating a more vertical line. Same goes for hair that’s simply voluminous—it adds inches! Time to put away that flatiron, friends.
Wear All One Color
Using color to enhance the illusion of height is a highly effective strategy, as it helps create a vertical line. While wearing head-to-toe black is the simplest—and eternally chicest—option, saturated hues work well, too. The trick to monochrome dressing: Keep each silhouette crisp and tailored.
Say ‘Yes’ to High-Waist Bottoms
High-waist bottoms get a bad rap, but when worn correctly, they can trick the eye into thinking you’re taller by elongating your lower body. Whether you choose skirts, shorts or skinny jeans, be sure to make the elevated waist visible by tucking in a tailored blouse, or opting for a slightly cropped top.
Wear Pointy Flats
Nobody can be expected to wear sky-high heels every day, so petite gals should invest in a pair of pointy flats. Why? Because it’s a known fact that shoes with pointed toes lengthen your leg line.
Rock out with Vertical Stripes
It’s the oldest trick in the book for a reason: Vertical stripes create long lines, thus making you look, well, longer. Bonus: Stripes are one of spring’s biggest trends, so you’ll have absolutely no problem locating some cute striped options.
Ditch the Gigantic Shoulder Bag
Keeping your accessories appropriately scaled to your body size is a smart move for petite girls, starting with that oversized bag. Here’s why: Every time you cause the eye to take in width, you reduce the amount of height it takes in. That means smaller cross-body bags, clutches, and small top-handle totes are your best bet.
Chop Your Hair
Long hair drags petite girls down, while shorter hair does the opposite. For the wary: A wavy lob (long bob) is the best option—it shows off your shoulders and your neckline, which makes you look taller (plus, it’s so chic!).
Daring gals should go even shorter: a super-sleek chin-length bob or an elegant gamine-esque pixie.
Stick with Skinny Belts
When it comes to belts, short girls should always opt for a skinny version. It’ll define your natural waist in the most flattering way possible, but won’t cut you in half the way a super-thick belt can, which causes you to look shorter.
Be Mindful of Proportion
When you’re petite, it’s imperative to be sure all your clothes fit properly (a good tailor is key!). Wearing cropped skinny jeans? Make sure they’re not too cropped and that the hem hits the ankle area—small gals should avoid anything resembling capri pants, as they cut your leg awkwardly. With blazers and jackets, always make sure the seams sit perfectly at the bony tops of your shoulders and that the sleeves hit exactly at your wrist.
Tops with plunging “V” necklines give the illusion of a longer, leaner torso, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping for new tops this season.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2013.