July 10, 2009

Family Reunion: Dresses for Petites Over 40

Q: My family is having another reunion, and I don't know what to wear. I've lost 30 lbs. since the last one, so I would like to show off my new look, but I'm a petite woman, and it's hard to find flattering dresses. What can I wear to an outdoor family get-together? By the way, I'm over 40, so this is a challenge.

A: Congratulations on your weight loss! You're right, this is a challenge, but not something we can't handle. As a petite, you should look for dresses that hit at or right above the knee; anything lower than that will "cut your legs in half" and make you look even shorter. Tapered/straight skirts or A-line skirts will flatter you most, and be sure they are high-waisted or have an empire waist, because they will elongate your legs. Wrap dresses would also work well. Another tip? It's best to wear a dress with a higher neckline for a taller look (no plunging tops for you). As for your age, you should stay away from strapless dresses, and ones that are way too short (think 5 inches above your knee).

Remember to pay attention to details. Vertical buttons, seam lines, pleats, etc. will definitely flatter your body. Also, when it comes to patterns, keep them simple or small-- don't wear loud, oversized prints, because they'll overwhelm your petite frame. Stay away from big horizontal lines, too-loose or stiff pieces, and too many embellishments and details. Another thing to remember when choosing your dress: make sure the bottom hem isn't too busy and the skirt isn't extremely full. And when belting a dress, make it a neutral color (brown, black, cream) and wear it above your natural waistline for a more flattering style.

If it gets a little chilly outside, pick a jacket/coat that's simple and above the knee, just like the dress. Try to get one that's cropped or has an empire waist. Any lapels should be narrow and short (ending above your natural waistline). Same with belts on the jacket-- they should be above the waistline. This keeps you looking taller. So just remember: keep things simple and short. Here are 7 of our favorite age-appropriate dresses for petites, whatever your budget (and you don't have to wear these just once):

Our Under $50 Choices:

Ruffle Woven Wrap Dress $27.80 at Forever 21

Women's Tie-Waist Shirtdress $29.50 at Old Navy

Sleeveless Pocket Front Dress $42.75 at ASOS

Our Over $50 Choices:
Petite Silk/Cotton Floral Dress SALE $84.99 at Banana Republic

Suzi Chin Maggy Boutique Stretch Satin Dress $118.00 at Nordstrom

Suzi Chin Maggy Boutique Sleeveless Ruffle Wrap Dress $148.00 at Nordstrom

Donna Ricco Ruffle Neck Silk Dress $158.00 at Nordstrom

Tory Burch Patricia Silk Twill Dress $475.00 at Nordstrom


  1. Thank you so much!! These tips are very useful! I love all of these dresses, and the reunion is six days away--just enough time to go shopping for an outfit. Thank you again, for helping me out!

  2. You are very welcome, Liz! We had a lot of fun choosing dresses for you. We're sorry for taking so long on the post, but we hope you enjoy your reunion in style!

  3. Wonderful choices! I am in my 30s and my friend's wedding is coming up. It's casual, so I'm going to wear the pink floral dress from Banana Republic. It is gorgeous! Great tips, too :)

  4. AnonymousJuly 16, 2009

    i think the asos dress is a little young, and the blue floral satin one might be too formal, but otherwise, beautiful picks and useful tips. keep up the good work


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