A Short Girl’s Guide to Wearing Whatever You Want

Rules are meant to be broken


Height, to me, has never been about limbs and genetics. Growing up, I was taught that with enough gumption and balance, even I – at five foot three inches – could attain mythic proportions. With the right heel, of course.

My mother claims to have married my father for his height. At four foot eleven, she saw in my father dreams of…what, exactly? Spawned athletes? Supermodels? Alas, the genetics of my mother, and my mother’s mother, and my mother’s mother’s mother before her, ensured certain vertical limitations.

After years of fighting my fate, one day I said, Fuck it. Gone were the Steve Madden pumps I was told would elongate my legs and the waist-pinching flares I hoped would do the same for my torso. Instead, I wore strappy shoes that cut my ankles in half and peasant skirts that “did nothing for my figauh.”

The Internet is replete with styles and trends that short women are advised to avoid. Chief among them: knee-highs, midi and maxi skirts, ankle-strap shoes and even the tunic. But what are fashion rules if not meant to be broken, right? Here, proof in photo form that being short doesn’t have to limit your style.

Photos by Edith Young.

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  • Lanatria Brackett Ellis

    lol This piece was just what I needed to hear! I am 5’3” as well and I am learning to wear what ever I want regardless if how stubby my legs look.My legs are that stubby but my calves are thick so it doesn’t help lol

  • Laure-Helene

    At 5’3″ also this makes me so happy. Love all of these looks.
    In the summer I wear maxi skirts allll the time because they are perfect for the transition of the humid swamp heat outdoors to the glacial AC in the office.

  • As 5’1 this post made me sososo happy.
    Wearing maxi skirt, dresses is difficult and finding the perfect pants is mission impossible!
    I totally agree that rules are meant to be broken – even in fashion!
    Embrace it girls! <3

  • Short girls unite! You’re totally right. I mean, you don’t see the Olsens worrying about this kind of thing…

    • gwendomouse

      Yes! On the contrary, they emphasize it. Huge jumpers, hems dragging on floors, handbags they could (and probs do) sleep in, all serve to show off their tinyness, not to disguise it. Instead of falling into the boring optical illusion trap, they celebrate what makes them unique. And that’s why they are so stylish.

  • mapillski

    That corset <3<3<3

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    Being short (5’1″) has never bothered me. As I sew for myself, being short means I can get by with less fabric, so that awesome remnant is often enough for a skirt. I do have to hem my jeans and slacks, and I’ve never been a big fan of really high heels.

  • Ellie

    Was just considering whether or not to wear boots with a dress I just ordered for an event due to the ‘they’ll cut off your legs’ tripe. PERFECT TIMING AS EVER, MR. These outfits are beautiful, as are you, Esther.

    • Meg S

      Do it. My 5’1″ mom lives in boots with dresses. “They’ll cut off your legs” is just as you said – tripe.

  • Kay Nguyen

    I love the first look! I’m a short girl as well (5’3) but maxi skirt makes me look like a potato 🙁


    • gwendomouse

      I love potatoes.

  • The Short Girl’s Guide to Wearing What You Want = wear heels. Maybe I’m mistaken but I don’t see a single flat in any of the pictures…

    For now, I’ll continue wearing my shorts and skirts reallll mini to keep things in proportion. With flats.

    • autillicautnullibi

      The first outfit is worn with flats!

      • And that’s why I need new contact lenses. Ooooops.

        • Username

          They’re 👠

      • Username

        They’re heels

        • autillicautnullibi

          Are you sure? If they are, they’ve gotta be less than an inch, which I don’t think really counts.

          • Meg

            Slippers with lift. This line (taken from her link on the shoes): https://www.jacqueslevine.com/collections/all

          • Username

            Are you for real? The the product page is linked they’re wedge heels

          • autillicautnullibi

            Wow, I can tell you feel really strongly about this, but no need to be rude.

            They’re barely a heel, but sure..call them whatever you want.

          • Username

            yeah, it’s stupefying dealing with idiots

  • Mikaela

    The Short Girl’s Guide to Wearing What You Want = wear whatever the f*ck you want? What’s the problem with looking short if you’re short? 🤷‍♀️ I’m 1,60 (meters!!!) and I’ve never cared about those “rules” yet I somehow often come across as tall. I love my height and don’t see the point in trying to make myself look taller. However, I do see all these articles on my feed telling me I should?

    • gwendomouse

      Absolutely! What’s thye big deal about looking like what you are? Short, tall, fat, thin black, white can all look amazing. I alter clothes when they are inconvenient, like skirt hems dragging on the floor, but otherwise I wear what I like. The concept of ‘flattering’, i.e. ‘makes you look tall and thin’ only exists to make people insecure.

  • Dale Chong

    love love love.

  • Rheanonn Perez

    you look great in all of your outfits, can’t even tell your 5″3 in the pictures!! i am also 5″3 & & i’ll wear anything as long as it’s not dragging on the floor!


  • Sylvia

    How many times do I have to tell you I’m 5 feet!!!! So daddy didnt fulfill his end and you didnt grow to be a 6ft model but your confidence and beauty is of epic proportions!

  • As a 4’10” gal, I appreciate this!

  • Ash

    Really needed to hear this today! Also! Where did you get those earrings in photo 5? They’re so cool…

    • Esther Levy

      Assembly NY!

  • Yes! I am 5’1″ and I have given up on dressing how I’m supposed to/struggling to find things that fit me in the way that they fit taller gals. I love a cropped trouser, I know they’re meant to make you look smaller but meh! Love those white trousers, I would totally want to rock that look too if I wasn’t afraid I’d trip over my own feet

    – Natalie

  • Yay for short girls! I gave up on wearing heels for height (I still wear them just because I like the shoe itself) years ago and I’m loving the mostly-flat life. And I’m obsessed with the duster coat I bought this winter – it’s the first winter item I actually miss now that it’s warmer, and my maxi dresses. Honestly now I like being short, it comes in handy.

  • Angeliki

    THE EARRINGS!! ALL OF THEM! Tell us more please!!!

    • JK

      The gold bonbon earrings with the last outfit look like Rebecca de Ravenel.

    • Esther Levy

      Assembly NY and Rebecca de Ravenel =)

  • Meg S

    I feel the same way about this as I do about having a bikini body. Take a bikini, put it on your body. Instant bikini body. As a short person the same height as the author, I love that I’ve traded my 5 inch heels for flats, and if I want to wear it, I will. That’s my guide for “how to dress if you are short”.

  • Merrynell

    All your earrings–where are they from??

    • Esther Levy

      first look are from Assembly NY! Second look are Rebecca de Ravenel =)

  • Missed you Esther!!! You put together outfits oh so effortlessly! Loving that Rachel Comey on you!

  • Ich bin vom Post begeistert! Bravo zum Sinn für Humor – das wichtigste ist sich gut in der eigenen Kleidung zu fühlen und sich nicht dafür zu interessieren was man nicht ändern kann. Kleinere Mädels müssen nicht von Lieblingskombinationen resignieren.

  • Diane Southwell

    Is that you in the photo? If so, amazing. Not a worry in the world about looking good!

  • Hannah T.

    Proportion is what really matters.