The Best Denim Styles for Petites - Styled By Sally

The Best Denim Styles for Petites

I would say my clients’ average height is around 165cm or 5’4″. Over the years I’ve thought to myself many, many times, “gee, the average woman is shorter than I thought!”

Now please don’t take offence to that! Being a tall woman growing up in a tall family, around tall relatives and (mostly) tall sporting team mates, I guess it hadn’t really occurred to me that I wasn’t the ‘norm’.

But when I say petite, what does this actually mean? Petite refers to stature not weight. Most people still think petite means skinny when in fact petite has nothing to do with weight. Petite is the term used in the fashion industry to describe a woman who is 5’3 tall or under (but I consider 5”4″ and under) Petite women come in all shapes and sizes, whether they’re a size 8 or 18.

When I put the call out on Instagram for blog topics, I had quite a lot of requests for tips how how to dress for a shorter women. One of the most frustrating items of clothing my petite clients have trouble shopping for is jeans, so I thought this would be a great place to start.

And it’s great news for petites! Since the introduction of cropped denim, jean lengths have never been better for you! Shame I can’t say the same for myself :(

Here is a range of denim to suit petites of all shapes and sizes. Let me know if you see something you like!


For most petites, as little fabric as possible is preferred. It’s easy for petite women to feel overwhelmed by clothing, so keeping things fitting ‘close to the body’ is a style tip I’ve discussed many times. The classic skinny jean either cropped to above the ankle, or cuffed to create the same look, is a very flattering style on a petite frame.

Some people might think that wearing a cropped jean will shorten their legs. Well, yes this CAN happen if you don’t get the proportions right. The key to wearing any jean (or pant) is to create the illusion of length. So if you have shorter legs, ensure you wear a higher rise. You can essentially make your legs look 1, 2, 3 inches longer just by wearing a waistband higher on your waist (i.e. not your hips) Petites should rejoice in the rise (literally) of high waists and the demise of hipsters!

But why a crop jean and not full length? Cropped trousers are also very modern, it’s an easy style update to make by simply shortening (yes you can cut them yourself) or cuffing your fave skinnies to reveal your ankles. The ankle bone is for most of us, the narrowest point of your lower leg, so it’s a flattering point to draw the eye to.

But don’t worry, if you don’t have tiny ankles, you can still pull off this look with another style of jean, the slim taper, discussed later on in this post.


Nobody Denim Frankie Jean

Frankie Jean

Country Road Soft Touch Jegging

Country Road Soft Touch Jegging

Harlow Ankle Grazer

Harlow Ankle Grazer

Nobody Siren Skinny Ankle Jean

Nobody Siren Skinny Ankle Jean


The boyfriend jean has been around for some time now, and it’s great alternative to the classic skinny and certainly an update to the bootcut. The boyfriend jean is a more relaxed cut, more generous through the hips and more room in the bum. Many boyfriend styles also are defined by a slight drop crotch (hence the reference to being boyfriend jeans, room for you know what)

The boyfriend ‘rules’ for petites are pretty much the same as the cropped skinny – wear higher on the waist and expose the ankles. When wearing this style, always tuck your top in, even just the front tuck will do. This will ensure we lengthen rather than shorten the legs.

Don’t be afraid of some distressing (i.e. rips at the knees) with your boyfriend jean, and if length permits, wear cuffed for an additional focus point. If you have a wider thigh, just be careful of obvious whiskering across the thighs as this will only draw attention width ways which is want we want to avoid. I also love to wear a boyfriend jean with more classic/tailored pieces from my wardrobe like a white shirt, blazer or pumps. A boyfriend style will instantly update your wardrobe.


Trenery Boyfriend Jean

Boyfriend Jean

Sussan Repreve Relaxed Jean

sass and bide New Freedom Jean

Elk Vayla Jean


This is not an overly common style you’ll see around your local stores, but it is worth considering. The kick flare fits just like a skinny through the hips and thighs, but ‘kicks‘ out from the knee down. Want you want to avoid with this style, is too much flare.

The reason we want to avoid a wide flare is because of the crop. If this was a full length jean, the wide flare would be fine as long as you wore the jean to the floor over a heel. But because this style is cropped, too much flare would make the legs appear shorter. So think of it as a subtle flare, like the suggestions I’ve provided for you below.

And remember, keep the rise high and the length cropped to expose the ankles. The length we definitely want to avoid is 3/4 or at your calf. As a general rule, this length in a jean or pant is now considered DAGGY… and thank god because it’s also super unflattering! If you’re 5’4″ or under, AVOID 3/4 LENGTH AT ALL TIMES. 


Country Road Kick Flare

Kick Flare Jean

Nobody Belle Kick Flare

Uniqlo Skinny Flare Ankle Jean


This is probably the most modern style of jean going around at the moment (for any height, not just petites) and my absolute fave. And here’s why.

It has a high waist that resembles an 80’s jean (think mum jean) it’s a little more relaxed around the hips and thighs than your skinnies because it’s a slim fit, but not so relaxed that it resembles a boyfriend. In fact, some brands name this style a ‘girlfriend’ jean, defined as, “the girlfriend jean is a more feminine version of the boyfriend jean. It’s a more classic fit – tighter and higher on the hip, with a tapered slim straight leg”.

Pockets are nice and big on the bum (bigger pockets = smaller bum, smaller pockets = bigger bum) Unlike the kick flare, this style gently tapers from the knee down, creating a nice lengthening effect. This is also a great style for those who have heavier legs, who feel a skinny jean creates a bit of a ‘sausage’ effect. And as I hinted at earlier, this is a great style for those who don’t have slim ankles as the cuff doesn’t grab you at this point.

Again, the length is cropped (are you seeing a pattern here?) bringing the eye to the narrowest point, perfect to throw on with your ankle boots, sneakers or pointed pumps.


Outland Denim Abigail Jean

Sportscraft Jill Taper Jean


Now this style is different to your classic flare, because it widens from the hip down, not from the knee. I love to style my petite clients in a wide leg jean, but only if they can wear heels. Why? Remember what I said earlier about petites not wanting to be overwhelmed by too much fabric?

Well this is why a wide leg jean (including a flare) will work better when balanced out with some additional height. So when you wear a wide leg jean (or pant) over a heel (doesn’t have to be high) finishing towards the floor… ta-da LONG LEGS! Make sure you get that additional length via a high waist.


Arnsdorf Calder Jean

Mika Muse Wide Leg Jeans

Mika Muse - Winnie High-Waisted Wide Leg Jeans

Zara Wide Leg Jeans

Image 3 of Z1975 WIDE-LEG JEANS from Zara

I hope you found something you like?

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