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Petite Figure Fashion Advice: Five Tips You Should Know

The word "petite" is a more complicated adjective than you'd think. Directly translated from French, the descriptor means "little" and people tend to associate it with both the very short and very thin. Which are hardly the same thing—especially when it comes to clothes.

For those equally diminutive in stature and girth, there are lots of smaller cut options out there (J.Crew, LOFT and Banana Republic all make great ones) but things are trickier for halfway tiny ladies. Since there are no special collections out there for those of average height with a slight build, or the under-5'2" curvy set, special measures must be taken. (Literally in some cases—see my first tip!) Click through the slideshow below to see what I advise.

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Use your tailor for more than just jeans.

If something you love has a slight fit issue, consider your tailor's abilities. Can this baggy skirt be taken in? These jacket sleeves be shortened?

Once you start to see clothes for what they could look like—instead of how they appear on the rack—shopping will get easier. (And a lot more fun!)

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Ignore labels.

You should be going off what fits, not what a tag says. So, wear tunic tops as dresses if you're under 5'4! Buy ankle jeans in lieu of regular length! Crop tops are really good for girls with short torsos and on some, midi skirts make great maxis.

Also, if you are in 0-2 size range, try shopping in the little boys department at places like Brooks Brothers or J.Crew. Not only is it the best place to find menswear inspired pieces you won't be swimming in, but everything costs less, too. True story: I found one of my favorite sweaters for $30 at Crewcuts, wore it with cropped black pants and stilettos and felt like a walking Celine ad all day long.

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Play with proportions.

This is especially important with skirts. You don't want to buy anything that hits right at the knee, which instantly frumpifies an outfit. When in doubt, go for the very short or very long—both will have a lengthening effect.

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Fake it with accessories.

Slightly too long pants and skirts can be saved in a pinch by the addition of high heels, so have a few good ones in your arsenal. Your closet should also be stocked with at least two belts—skinny and thick—for salvaging overly baggy dresses and tops.

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Shop vintage.

Brands cut clothing much smaller in the mid-twentieth century than they do today, which makes thrift stores a treasure trove for petite gals. Of course, you'll probably still have to get a few things altered, but, you have to do that anyways. So it might as well be for an amazing '50s tea dress that no one else will have, right?

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