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As defined by the fashion industry, "petite" woman are less than five feet four inches tall and "full figured" women generally wear a size fourteen or above (though some argue size eighteen or above.) When not dressed properly for their body types, they may appear boxy or round, depending on how they carry their weight. A few changes in wardrobe and style can significantly improve the appearance of any petite, full figured woman.


Some petite, full figured women wear baggy clothes in an attempt to hide their bodies but end up looking bigger than they actually are. Purchase clothing that fits you well. Take the time to try on every item before purchasing it, and be sure it's not too baggy or too tight. If you're not sure, ask a trusted friend to come along and offer constructive opinions. If you're shopping online and aren't sure of your size, check the sizing chart (most reputable clothing sites offer them). Take your measurements and order accordingly. Remember that sizes vary from one brand or designer to the next. You may not wear the same size with one designer that you do with another. Clothing that fits well gives you a more slender appearance.


Petite plus-size women should avoid tops that go below the hip, including jackets and sweaters. Short ladies look even shorter when wearing long tops. Instead, look for jackets and sweaters that fall no lower than your hipbones. This will accentuate the length of your legs and help you appear slimmer. Also, avoid tapered pants and skinny jeans. They make your legs look thicker. Instead, opt for straight leg or slightly flared pants. Dark wash jeans can be flattering for most full figured ladies as they provide the illusion of a longer leg.


Many petite, full figured women fall into the trap of always wearing dark colors in an attempt to appear slimmer. While black and other dark colors can have a slimming effect, there is such a thing as too much. In fact, adding some color to your wardrobe can dramatically improve your appearance (and style). Consider wearing a monochromatic outfit in a neutral color for a slimming effect. You could also add a pop of color near your face with a bright scarf. This draws attention to your face, away from any problem areas.


Avoid large prints. While bigger prints work for tall women, petite ladies should stick to smaller patterns and try to pair a pattern with a solid for the most flattering look. Ideally, choose no more than one patterned piece per outfit to avoid overwhelming your frame. The right bra makes a significant difference in your appearance. Even if it costs more, consider going to a bra shop to be properly fitted, at least once. Many women are surprised to learn that they've been wearing the wrong bra size for years. If you cannot afford to go to a bra shop, measure yourself (without a bra) around your ribcage, just where your bra strap sits. Then, measure yourself around your breasts. Determine the difference between the two measurements to determine the corresponding letter cup size. (Example: a woman who is 38 inches around the ribcage and 42 inches around the breast might wear a size 38D bra.)


Accessories can also improve your look, but don't overdo it. Instead, pick no more than one bold piece per outfit. For example, wear a bold necklace OR a bold bracelet, but not both. This way, your figure isn't overwhelmed by special touches.
The bottom line is that ultimately your best accessory is self-confidence. In a poll of over 800 men done by, 30 percent said the first thing they look for in a woman is a pretty (confident) smile, while 41 percent said they liked "average" (read: NOT skinny) bodies. Thirty one percent said they preferred a curvy girl. Above all, remember that pretty is as pretty does. When you feel attractive, your true beauty shines through to the rest of the world.

About the Author

Angela Atkinson

Angela Atkinson is a freelance writer, editor and researcher, who has been writing professionally since 1995. Atkinson is the St. Louis Family & Parenting Examiner for and authors "In Pursuit of Fulfillment," a popular self-improvement blog. She co-founded The WM Freelance Connection, a resource blog and community for freelance writers offering writing tips, job listings and more. Atkinson studied journalism at Eastern Illinois University.