Can Petite Women Wear Maxi Dresses?

Actress Sarah Hyland flatters her petite frame in an empire-waist maxi dress at Disneyland's Cars Land opening in 2012.
... Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

A maxi dress is a tricky thing for petites -- too much fabric can overwhelm your small frame, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear altogether. Strategically selected fabrics and silhouettes make pulling off this summer-friendly look possible, so consider a maxi a definite style “do.”

1 Color and Fabric

Choose a maxi dress in a single solid shade for a continuous line; avoid tops and bottoms in different colors and patterns. While solid looks are preferable, a small print is less likely to swallow you up than a large-scale pattern. Stick to fabrics that are flowy and softly draped -- think jersey or lightweight cotton -- but avoid overly structured, stiff material to keep the look delicately streamlined.

2 Style and Length

While the skirt on a maxi dress is typically flowy, take care to avoid billowy, tiered or flared styles that may engulf your frame. Up top, keep the look fitted; halter and V-necklines help to elongate, and an empire waist extends your natural waistline to give the illusion of a bit more height. Allow your maxi dress to hit all the way to the top of your toes -- ankle-grazing styles will cut you off. Add additional height with a pair of wedge sandals for the ultimate lengthening effect.

Stacey Kole holds a Master's Degree in Education and has written for a variety of education publications. She also was managing editor of the International fashion and beauty publication Savvy, penning cover stories on such celebrities as Vanessa Hudgens and Julianne Hough.