Five Petite-Plus Tips for Shopping Maxi Dresses

According to my doctor I’m 5ft 2in and a half which I typically round up to 5ft 3in since I know I tend to slouch…a lot. Either way its very clear that I’m a “fun-sized package,” a petite plus babe. (I have a younger brother that is just  an inch shy of 6 ft so at least one of us lucked out genetically.) The reason why I mention this is because while some brands like ELOQUII, Torrid and most recently Universal Standard,  have finally made steps towards including petite plus options for their customers, the truth is shopping while being petite-plus is still a major challenge.And then we have the spring/summer staple – the maxi dress. I admit that I once used to eye these pieces in the store with such disdain. For one thing many of these dresses are longer than some of the tall women I even know,  so I figured that those kinds of dresses would do nothing for me other than drown and/or trip me in fabric. This changed once  I requested a maxi to be included in one of my Dia style boxes.  I’ve since become a fan of maxi dresses mostly because I don’t have to worry about the dress flying up à la Marilyn Monroe especially when commuting on the subway. There is such an elegant ease to this piece that I feel many petite plus babes, including myself, sometimes miss out on because of our height, yet not all is lost!

Here are my tips for shopping maxi dresses and skirts, beyond the typical “wear heels/wedges” advice.

1.) Belt it!

I’ve mentioned before that my friend Jonquel likes to call me “the belt queen”  and it doesn’t have to do with just the number of belts that I own but the number of outfits I style that include them. Contrary to popular belief, my use of belts isn’t so much meant to define my waist  for  some outfits but rather to hide some intricate folds that I do when I get dressed. Allow me to explain.

Gilli Navy&coral floral Maxi (1X) – this was in my latest Dia&Co Style box but it is also available here

I have a short torso which leads me to having to fold dresses, skirts and even some tops either in or out for a better fit. I then accessorize with the appropriate belt to hide as well as hold the folds in place.  In the process the length of the dress or top does get shorter and this is a godsend when it comes to maxi dresses since the overall process gets the hem to stop dragging on the floor on my petite frame. Of course if you don’t have a short torso  you can always just pull some of the fabric up until the hem is the length you can work with and belt it there.

2.) Tie the hem of the dress

London Times Stefania Maxi Dress (Size 18) – similar here

This is a trick that is used even by people that are not vertically-challenged  as it creates a stylish draping effect that adds an interesting detail. Depending on the fabric and structure of the dress you can do multiple knot styles that can change the length. I tend to just tie a simple knot to the side, but you can definitely find some more inspiration for other kinds of knots on Pinterest and YouTube.


3.) Go for the hi-lo dress option

Ashley Stewart Mosaic Print Off-the-Shoulder Duster – Similar here (Not a dress but still a great example of the hi-lo effect)

Granted hi-lo dresses could be considered a bit of a “cop-out” considering the fact that its an entirely different cut/style of dress, however it is still very much in the same vein as a maxi given the length of the back train. If anything the hi-lo dress gives you all the drama of your typical maxi without the headache of trying to figure out how to walk and not tripping or stepping on the excess fabric. Well, at least in theory since I have worn some hi-lo dress and have still managed to trip going down some stairs when someone stepped on the back of my dress….not my proudest fashion moment.

4.) Whenever possible size down

City Chic Bloomsbury Printed Maxi Dress (Size 14/XS) – similar here

When it comes to plus size clothing (or really women’s clothing in general if we want to be really honest) there are size inconsistencies everywhere. The lengths of certain items tends to change when you size up or down.  For example, I am typically either a size 16 or 18 in City Chic however, for this maxi I was able to size down to a size 14 which made the hem actually hover off the floor without the use of heels or wedges instead of drag or pool around my feet. Most summer maxis dresses and skirts are made of jersey knit fabric that allows for some stretch and this allows for a more relaxed fit yet this also allows for a good fit even if you go down a size.

5.) Get the dress custom-made or altered

eShatki Floral embellished chambray maxi dress customized to be knee-length – similar here

Brands like Eshakti  allow you to shop for items that you can customize according to your exact measurements so you can make sure that the length of the dress is just right for you. Admittedly it can be a bit of a wait but that is with reason since the items are being custom made so its definitely worth it.  Of course you always have the choice to take that maxi you love to a tailor in order to have the hem cut to your specific length.** You can even do something like Margot Meanie of #alternativecurves who took a maxi she loved and altered it into a cute midi- length swim suit coverup. The possibilities are endless!

What are some of your own maxi dress/skirt wearing tips for petite-plus ladies?

** Style note: Alternations are seen as a basic necessity when it comes to shopping plus size, however, to be completely honest, I have yet to make any actual alterations to items that I own. Part of this is due to the cost related to getting things like this done, I am on a very strict budget after all, but for the most part, I make a point not to alter any of my clothes. I prefer temporary solutions like safety pins, belts and fashion tape because of my fluctuating weight. I’ve found that it just easier to belt something that may be too big instead of having it taken-in only to find that 6 months down the line it may need to be taken out again or vice-versa. My point in mentioning this is for you to keep in mind before putting down that extra cash. 

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