Best Wedding Dress Styles for Petite Women

Create height and lengthen your torso by learning about the best wedding dress styles for short women.

By The Zola Team

petite woman in wedding dress
Photo by B. Jones Photography

The extravagance of wedding dresses requires the right fit to keep from being overwhelming, especially on shorter frames. The best wedding dresses for short women are those that help to elongate the torso and add a few inches of height. Other than those parameters, there really are no limits to what a bride can wear, regardless of height.

Favored dress cuts for women who are 5-foot-5-inches tall and under are the empire waist, simple sheath, and A-line wedding dresses. Each of these are classic styles that can be altered to fit like a dream with no extra fabric to add bulk or weigh the look down. An empire waist lengthens the torso and gives the illusion of a longer frame. A sheath wedding dress slims the figure and guides the eyes vertically with a column shape. Finally, an A-line cut is a go-to for every bride because you can play around with dress length.

For petite statures, a tea-length or a skirt that barely hits the knees is a good alternative to a full, floor-skimming hemline. In addition to these beautiful options, there’s also the ball gown style, mermaid wedding dress, and trumpet-shaped skirt to consider. When trying to add height, there are also a few style tips to keep in mind when looking for wedding dresses for short women.

Best Wedding Dress Styles for Short Women | Zola Photo Credit // The Elopement Co.

Embracing the Empire Waist

An empire waist wedding dress lengthens the frame, which means that it’s best to steer clear of any band or belt that will divide the torso. The skirt starts right below the bust at the narrowest part of the waist and draws the eyes down. With this style, there’s the option of having a slightly flared skirt, like with a trumpet gown, or one that hangs straight down and skims the body, like with a sheath. Both are equally elegant, but offer their own unique appeal.

When choosing an empire waist, choosing the same fabric throughout helps to streamline the look of this dream dress. Stick with the ethereal feel of this type of bridal gown and opt for floaty fabrics on the bottom, such as organza or another semi-sheer material—it provides texture without adding bulk. Furthermore, by keeping the skirt closer to the body, it limits width, which can often make a woman appear shorter than she really is.

Simplifying With a Sheath

The simplistic, sophisticated appeal of a sheath or column gown drapes down to create a slimming silhouette. To prevent a boxy appearance, it’s best to have the gown tailored to follow the body’s natural curves without hugging tightly or hanging loosely. Too tight and the fabric starts to bunch up instead of appearing seamless. Too loose and the dress adds volume rather than the illusion of a few extra inches of height.

Choosing a hemline that skims the floor further helps to extend the length versus a skirt that cuts off at the ankle. These design details all play a part in creating a statuesque appearance, even for those with shorter torsos or shorter legs. Pair with three to six inch heels and there’s no need to worry about having enough height when you select a sheath wedding dress.

A-Line Frames Are All-Inclusive

As one of the most versatile cuts, A-line wedding dresses are all-inclusive for all heights and sizes. It’s one of the best wedding dresses for short women because it’s easily adaptable to various heights. This silhouette starts with a fitted bodice and then flows out in the shape of an uppercase A. It adds just enough volume at the bottom to create a chic, classic shape.

To further extend the length of the body with an A-line wedding dress, a halter top or tank straps continue the streamlined look. A strapless sweetheart neckline also works well by drawing the eyes upward to the shoulders and collarbone. While a square neckline is pretty, it visually defines where the bodice begins and ends, versus highlighting one long line.

Other Wedding Dress Options That Support Short Women

The empire waist option, sheath, and A-line styles top the list for best dresses for short women. However, another choice to consider is the ball gown style. The balance of a full skirt and fitted bodice looks beautiful on every bride, regardless of height. Additionally, the mermaid wedding dress is meant for those who want an option that hugs the body. The important thing to keep in mind with this style is to ensure that the hemline is tailored perfectly to leave as much length as possible in the front without a chance of catching on the fabric.

Lastly, a trumpet-shaped skirt helps to lengthen the torso. The skirt, similar to the mermaid style, starts to flare at mid-hip, leaving a long, sleek look. In addition to the silhouette of each of these dress options, there must be a quality fit to create a seamless appearance. Keep in mind that brands differ on their sizing. If necessary, go up a dress size to ensure a comfortable fit for your wedding day. It’s easier to alter a dress to be smaller in it rather than the other way around.

Tips for Creating Height in Your Dream Dress

A dress that already creates the illusion of an elongated frame is a good place to start. Still want to add a few inches to your height? There are a few, easy ways to do it. The right shoes, neckline, and even hairstyle can elevate your look, so to speak.

Best Wedding Dress Styles for Short Women | Zola Photo Credit // On The Times Photography

Stilettos Deliver a Lift

You can literally add a few inches to your height with the help of sky-high stilettos. They also help to keep a dress from dragging on the ground and deliver a statuesque appearance. However, don’t be discouraged if stilettos don’t fit your comfort zone or the aesthetic you’re aiming to achieve. A solid block heel does the trick just as well, and offers sturdier support. Go as high or low on the heel as you’d like. Even gaining one or two extra inches can give you the boost you need to feel confident in your bridal dress.

Opt for an Open Neckline

An open neckline that accentuates the collarbone and shoulders doesn’t add inches, but also doesn’t create a defined line in the way a square or full neckline does. Leaving the top bare with a strapless neckline or a halter top brings the eyes up.

Also, keeping the top of the dress simplified, when compared to the bottom, delivers an uncluttered appeal. It doesn’t mean that you have to skip jewelry or embellishments on your dress, though. An open option simply helps to elongate the neck and accentuate the collarbone.

Receive a Boost from Your Hairstyle

An elegant updo or voluminous curls will give you the appearance of added height. Wedding hair stylists are well-versed in this and can give you extra inches without making it seem overdone. A hairstyle with height gives the illusion of being taller, but really it’s up to how you want to look on your wedding day. Between the shoes, neckline, and hairstyle, you can choose whatever works best to raise you up, if and when needed.

Styles to Skip When You Want to Add Inches

When you have the right wedding dress silhouette and style tricks to help add inches to your height, there are also a few styles to skip in order to maintain a seamless look. First, let your skirt flow. While a sheath is one of the most complimentary wedding dresses for short women, don’t let the skirt cut you off at the ankles. This shortens the look and isn’t as flattering as a skirt that leaves behind a small train or at least fully reaches the floor. Alternatively, if you want a tea-length dress to highlight the legs, opt for a heel versus flats to add height and prevent the look from appearing boxy.

Second, steer clear of extra fabric. Many times dresses are marked by size numbers but also by plus-size or petite. This will help you find a dress that works for your regular dress size, but also accounts for a shorter stature, as well. A pool of fabric at the feet or an ill-fitting cut can overwhelm a short frame and eliminate the long, sleek line that you’re going for.

Third, pick design details that work in your favor. Sheer vertical front panels or beadwork create the illusion of a longer shape. A slit in the front can also break up the fabric, which provides a lighter appearance so any heavier material doesn’t weigh it down. Skip any wide belts or built-in bands that shorten the torso. If you like the appearance of a defined waist, a smaller band does the trick without visually limiting length.

Above all, finding your perfect wedding dress comes down to how you feel when wearing it. Not all petite women are the same size or want to accentuate the same features. Use these ideas for inspiration as a guiding point when narrowing down your options, but always let your intuition and personal preference lead the way. You don’t have to follow any style rules in order to make your wedding dress dreams come true.