Ah, the fashion world. That frustrating, ridiculous culture where tall and thin bodies are perpetually in, and petite and curvy bodies are perpetually ignored. It seems like every season, I take a look at what the fashion world claims is trendy, and immediately rule out 90% of it as ugly, bad for my body type, or just plain ridiculous-looking. Seriously, I have a long-standing theory that fashion designers are just playing an elaborate prank on women. But anyway.
The good news is, having a body type that the fashion world has perpetually ignored has given me a lot of freedom. I’ve never been one to follow the trends, and I’ve never felt the pressure to buy a whole new wardrobe every season, or replace perfectly-good items with newer, uglier versions just because some fashion magazine said one style is out and another is in. I’ve always just worn what I liked and knew I looked good in, trends be damned. Some of the items in my closet, I’ve had for more than 20 years, and I’m still happily wearing. I do this by investing in stuff I love when it comes into style, wearing it forever, and ignoring the rest. It’s better for my budget, for the environment, and for my self-confidence.
With that in mind, here are some fashion trends that are seemingly everywhere this season but that don’t work well for petites in general, or specifically for pear-shaped petites like myself. If you’re also a petite pear, you should feel free to skip these, too:
1. Mom jeans
This one is baffling. High rise, baggy, light-wash, relaxed-fit jeans look awful on literally everyone. You know why they’re called mom jeans? Because we used to make fun of our moms for wearing them. Why anyone would voluntarily want to look schlumpy, rumpled, and like they’ve given up is beyond me. A 2019 article in The Atlantic, when this trend was just starting to show up, theorized that this was a result of a “semi-ironic normcore; clothes that were otherwise considered frumpy 10 years ago are now being picked up and championed as a sort of rebuke, but in a tongue-in-cheek way.”
Ironic or not, the mom jean somehow took off, and now it’s everywhere. In 2021, it feels like every retailer, brand and instagrammer is showing theirs off, trying hard to make them seem cool or stylish when really, they’re just terrible.
And for petite pears, they’re even worse. Light wash denim makes our bottom halves, already so prominent, look bigger. The high rise on a short-waisted petite makes us look like Urkel. Rolling the cuffs of baggy jeans shortens the leg. In other words, mom jeans are the opposite of every single fashion tip we petite pears should be aiming for.
Instead: Skinny mid-rise jeans in a uniform dark wash are always going to be a classic staple. They minimize curvier hips, lengthen the leg, and, paired with a brighter or lighter coloured top, keep the attention up at your face where it belongs. Invest in a good quality basic pair, and you can wear them with anything.
2. Midi skirts and dresses
This is one I’ve struggled with, and even given into once or twice. But really, midi anything is the most unflattering length possible on us pear-shaped petites. They cut the leg mid-calf, making us look shorter, frumpier, and basically just awful all around.
We petites can make midi length work in some circumstances. Slits, asymmetrical, or sheer midi with a shorter layer underneath are a few visual tricks you can use if you’re absolutely keen on giving this trend a try. But on the whole, opting for literally any other length will be more flattering.
Instead: Look for a-line skirts or dresses that hit just above or at the knee. They skim away from the hips, creating a little gentle volume, and show off the leg to make us look taller.
3. High rise pants
The super low-rise days of my teenage years are long gone. Nowadays, high rise is in. Jeans, trousers, shorts, skirts, everyone is selling them in high-waisted versions, or so it seems.
But if you’re a petite pear, but especially if you’re a short-torsoed petite pear like me, then high rise pants or skirts will just make you look even less in proportion. We already have such short waists and top halves to begin with, that high rise pants or skirts don’t really have any rise to climb up on! There’s no there, there. Instead, anything high rise will just come up so high on the body that they’ll literally be sitting under the boobs. Not only does this look like female Urkel, but it’s incredibly uncomfortable, too! And also, if you’re carrying even a few extra pounds at your midsection, high rise will cause those oh-so-fun rolls above your waistband to appear. Not chic.
Instead: Think like Goldilocks. High rise is too high, but low rise is too low. The sweet spot tends to be mid rise; look for options that sit right at your belly button. Petite skirts and pants will typically be cut to have shorter rises, too, so you won’t get that gaping that is so frustrating for curvier petites.
Added tip: Ignore the fashion magazines and wear your tops untucked to create the illusion of more balance between your top and bottom halves, and to avoid creating added bulk at the waistline. Make sure to pick tops that are short enough to hit at the high hip; tops that land lower on the hip will cutting your body and draw visual attention to your widest point.
4. Puffed sleeves
This trend, which started showing up on runways a few seasons ago, is everywhere lately. And in theory, it’s actually really great for petite pears, on the presumption that anything that adds visual interest and volume at the shoulder or upper arm can help draw the eye upwards and balance out wider hips.
In practice, however, this trend is much harder for us petite pears to pull off:
The issue, which should be immediately obvious, is that adding horizontal volume to our shorter bodies just makes us look wider overall. Widening the top half doesn’t “balance” our wider bottom half; it only makes our entire bodies look wider, and therefore, shorter. Not to say that some visual detailing at the shoulders is a bad idea. But we have to scale it down. Way, way down.
Instead:Look for visual detailing that doesn’t add volume, but instead, just adds visual interest to the neckline and shoulder area. Embroidery, patterns, eye-catching details, or — one of my favourite tricks — tops with flutter cap sleeves — are all great looks on a petite pear. These work especially well with v-neck tops and necklines, since they create a visual upside-down triangle from the shoulders down.
5. Oversized boyfriend blazers
Deliberately oversized, long, unstructured blazers have been trending for quite some time now. These jackets usually feature wide lapels, baggy sleeves, and big to make a statement.
Despite the challenges we petites face in pulling off the oversized trend in general, I do think that boyfriend blazers can look good on certain petites — especially those with wider, stronger shouldes and narrower hips and thighs. But on us pear-shaped petites, they just drown our upper halves and make us look like perpetual unkempt bag ladies. Not the look I’m going for at all!
Instead: Cropped blazers that nip in at the waist and finish at the high hip will look more visually harmonious on short-torsoed petites. This will draw attention to your upper half, draw the eye upwards, and avoid the problem of adding bulk to your hipline. Shop for them in the petites section so that the shoulders and waist hit at the right spot.
The bottom line
Not every trend will work for every body. This is especially true for those of us whose bodies tend to be the exact opposite of those fashion models for who most designers make their clothes. If you’re tall, thin, leggy, and have wide shoulders and few curves, you may be able to pull off most trends, even the most ridiculous-looking. But those of us who are short, petite, curvier, and have narrow shoulders and wider hips are going to struggle with a lot of these trends.
The good news is, once you learn how to spot trends that are just not going to work for your body, it’s easy to just opt out and give them a pass. It takes the pressure off, so to speak. I spend a lot less money on things that I never wear. I buy long-term pieces and wear them for ages. I save time, money, and reduce my consumption and footprint on the environment in the process. Win-win.
What are some of the trends you’re choosing to skip? Let me know in the comments.