As someone who is petite (under 5’4”), I swear by mini skirts and shorter dresses that don’t swamp me (and make my legs look longer). But after recently becoming a bridesmaid, I realized sticking to my tried-and-true look would be challenging. While there’s no rule saying bridesmaids can’t wear short dresses, they can be a lot harder to find. Some brides may also want everyone to wear floor length dresses for a coherent look.
I know I’m not the only petite bridesmaid out there, and picking out a dress from all the options online is no easy feat. So I consulted Chi Li, author of The Petite Style Bible on how to find the perfect petite bridesmaid dress. My goal is to find a dress that doesn’t need to be hemmed, but also isn’t too big in other areas like the chest or waist. With the right silhouettes and necklines, maxi bridesmaid dresses can be quite flattering on petites, according to Li. Whether you prefer a strapless style like Reformation Barrow Silk Dress or something a bit more conservative like Anaya With Love Petite Bridesmaid Tulle One Shoulder Maxi Dress, I’ve rounded up the best styles and pointers on how to find a bridesmaid dress you’ll love, not loathe.
Meet the Expert
Chi Li is the founder of Petite Dressing, a site that sells clothes made specifically for petite women. Being 5’2” herself, Li’s site also offers a range of style tips that she’s tried herself. She’s also the author of the book, The Petite Style Bible.
Buy it: $94, Lulus
If you prefer a style with sleeves, this one from Lulus checks all the right boxes. The high, fitted empire waist creates a longer leg look, while cinching in the waist to make the dress feel custom tailored. A deep V neckline creates space and balances out a short torso, according to Li. She recommends a maxi, A-line skirt to elongate your figure and this one meets the bill—plus the high slit shows off some leg.
Size Range: XXX-3X | Colors: 5 | Materials: Polyester
Buy it: $398, Reformation
One of the advantages to being petite with small chest is that you can wear strapless dresses without worrying about if you have enough support. This simple silk style is so chic, we would buy it even if we didn’t have a wedding to go to. It features a fitted bodice with back smocking so you have enough stretch to breathe. The ruching creates some volume on top, playing up your chest and neckline. With a high slit, your legs get a moment to shine—plus it’s much easier to walk. No tripping down the aisle here.
Size Range: 0-12 | Colors: 5 | Materials: Silk
Buy it: $69, ASOS
Not only are one-shoulder dresses always an elegant choice, but they’re ideal for those with broad shoulders, as the design breaks up your body while showing off your arms. Designed for petite figures, this dress is made with the right proportions so it won’t be too long, nor will the shoulder straps be loose. Again, the high, fitted waist creates one long line that is super-flattering. Although tulle can often make a dress extra poufy, this design has just the right amount of pleated fabric to remain sleek. You’ll look—and feel—like a Greek goddess.
Size Range: 0-10 | Colors: Blush, Sage, Red Plum | Materials: Tulle
Fame & Partners
Buy it: $329, Fame & Partners
For the absolute best fit, a custom-made dress is always a great option. Fame & Partners offers a variety of styles that are custom-made based on your measurements, including the height of the heels you’ll be wearing. Choose from more than 10 colors and order swatches in advance to see the fabric in person before you make your purchase. While there are a ton of amazing styles to choose from, we love the asymmetrical hemline on the Zephyra Dress. You get the maxi length and high-fitted waist without drowning in fabric. Dance floor, anyone?
Size Range: Custom | Colors: 10+ | Materials: Matte Satin
What to Look for in Petite Bridesmaid Dresses
It’s ideal to keep hemlines above the knee, because this shows the most amount of leg, making them look longer. However, if you can’t rock a mini at a wedding, it’s better to go with a floor-length hemline, rather than anything that hits your calf. “Maxi length can also make a shorter girl appear taller and leaner, as they form a continuous vertical line which tricks the eye into thinking you are taller, especially in photos,” says Li.
To ensure the maxi skirt just hits the floor and doesn’t drag, you can order a custom dress like Fame & Partners Zephyra Dress, which will be designed based on your measurements, including the height of the shoes you’ll be wearing.
In addition to the length, it’s important to pay attention to the silhouette of the dress. “A-line dresses and maxi dresses with empire waists are the best silhouettes to elongate your body and make you appear taller,” says Chi. Anaya With Love Petite Bridesmaid Tulle One Shoulder Maxi Dress creates one long line with its empire waist and pleated, A-line skirt.
Fashion is all about creating balance and besides the length of your dress, you want to think about the top too. “Any open necklines (off the shoulder, strapless), or lower neckline (deep v, square, sweetheart) look quite flattering on petites because they create space in front of the chest and balance out a short torso,” says Li.
While midi dresses may seem like a better fit if you are shorter, they actually can have the opposite effect by cutting off your legs and hitting your calves at the widest point. That’s why Li recommends dresses that are above the knee or floor length. She also says to stay away from ball gowns, as the extra volume on the bottom can make you look wider and shorter.
“Whatever dress style you choose, do make sure the waist sits higher than the natural waist,” says Li. “Also, wearing nude shoes (ideally heels) is the easiest way to make you appear taller instantly.”
Why Trust Brides
Emily Cieslak is an Assistant Commerce Editor, writing about all things beauty and fashion. As someone who is 5’3,” she knows all the challenges and hacks for shopping when you are petite. In addition to Brides, she has written about petite fashion for Byrdie and InStyle. She interviewed Chi Li, author of The Petite Style Bible and founder of the site Petite Dressing.