How to Wear a Maxi Dress If You’re Short

How to Wear a Maxi Dress if You're Short

Okay, maybe I’m not the shortest shorty out there… but at a debateable 5’5”, I have pondered more than once how to wear a maxi dress if you’re short.

And I say “debateable” because for some weird reason my height is actually under debate. According to the state of Texas, I am 5’4”. According to my doctor, I’m 5’5½”. And, according to my friend Kristina in Manhattan, I’m 5’9”.

Kristina is definitely wrong… but the other two are a coin flip at this point.

I’ve always had really tall friends. In high school, my group of friends had an average height of 5’10”. They could wear these long flowy dresses and look so statuesque. I, on the other hand, looked like a Frumpy McFrumpmeister in anything longer than knee-length. Mini-skirts and mini-dresses, sign me up. But between the curves and the minute stature, maxi things were not my friend.

But then I figured out how to wear a maxi dress if you’re short. My trick? The sleeves (amongst a few other things)!

How to Wear a Maxi Dress if You're Curvy How to Wear a Maxi Dress if You're 5'5

Ann Taylor Off the Shoulder Maxi Dress
Bp. Tonal Stripe Foldover Clutch

Tobi What the Pom Pom Faux Suede Hat Jack Rodgers with a Maxi Dress

What I’m Wearing:

Dress: Ann Taylor / Hat: Tobi, c/o / Clutch: BP. / Shoes: Jack Rogers
Earrings: similar / Ring: Ann Taylor, sold out (similar)

I’ve never met a long-sleeved maxi dress I could pull off (or that any of my short friends could wear as well as a tall friend). That’s just not in the cards for me. However, you can just go ahead and throw all of the sleeveless or short-sleeved maxi dresses my way. Thank you in advance.

But really, if you’re trying to figure out how to wear a maxi dress if you’re short, start with the sleeves.

Open, airy maxi dresses like this one look great on those with petite frames… and maxi dresses that accentuate your curves like this one look great on my fellow short and curvy ladies!

If you’re self-conscious about your arms or shoulders, (a) don’t be and (b) try a split-sleeved maxi dress like this one.

The reason behind showing skin on the sleeves is that wearing a longer-sleeved maxi dress covers you up more, thus creating the illusion that you are shorter. However, by showing some skin, you trick the eye of the beholder into elongating the body. It’s basically magic.

Additionally, make sure that the dress hits you at the right length. Your time spent finding a dress will all be for naught if you don’t either choose a dress that is of the proper length or get your chosen dress tailored. When figuring out how to wear a maxi dress if you’re short, you want the eye to travel upwards instead of downwards; the eye traveling down makes height appear stunted, while the eye traveling up will make you appear elongated. Overly long dresses will make the eye look down, so I opt for fun details like a stunning neckline or a cinched waist, both of which will make the eye travel upwards.

A proper maxi dress can be as short as ankle-length or as long as skimming the tops of your feet. If you require stilts to wear the dress without tripping over the fabric, it’s too long for you.

Finally – my last tip in figuring out how to wear a maxi dress if you’re short: choose your accessories wisely. Lighter-colored hats instead of darker hats (darker hats pull the eye down while lighter hats pull the eye up). I like this one I’m wearing above – it’s by Tobi and under $30! Also I recommend wearing heels or sandals instead of sneakers or flats that cover the foot entirely (again – more skin showing makes the eye think it’s seeing height).

So… to sum all of that up:

How to Wear a Maxi Dress if You’re Short
  1. Show more skin: opt for sleeveless or short sleeves instead of long sleeves, or balance the look with a plunging neckline/back or split sleeves
  2. Get it tailored: a maxi dress should hit somewhere between your ankle and the top of your foot – too long and you’ll find yourself tripping (and probably not in a dainty / damsel-in-distress way)
  3. Dress it up: fun details like a cinched waist or a deep-V make the eye travel upwards
  4. Accessorize: opt for accessories that make the eye travel upwards and elongate your legs

Did this help you? Do you have any other tips? Please let me know in the comments below!

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