As a fan of androgeny and menswear influences in fashion, I’ve also become a fan of oversized “boyfriend” styles. Boyfriend shirts, boyfriend jeans, and boyfriend coats have filled up my Pinterest inspiration boards, but I personally find them hard to pull off due to my short stature. Instead of feeling easy, intentional and nonchalant like they do on taller girls, oversized items feel more like a sizing mistake on my 4’11” frame (“Aww…can’t that poor short girl find clothes that fit her?”).
I think the key word for petites to pull off oversized styles is “intentional”. Actually, that’s also a key word for pulling off most tricky styles. For example, consider the old fashion “rule” about abstaining from pairing navy with black. Unintentionally pairing these two colors together can look as if you pulled two items out of a dark closet that you thought matched, only to discover in the harsh truth of daylight that your navy suit is in reality a mismatched navy and black suit (hence the insult, “Did you get dressed in the dark?”). However, if your outfit is very clearly an intentional pairing of navy and black (the navy is light enough so it is clearly not being mistaken for black, the colors are referenced in multiple parts of the outfit, etc.), the look is no longer a mistake, but an intentional personal style choice.
I feel this same principle applies when it comes to petites wearing oversized clothing. It has to look as if you’re wearing it intentionally. There are 4 ways I’ve navigated this concept, and I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!
Limit your outfit to one oversized “zone”, keeping the rest of the look fitted and sleek. For example, if you want to wear oversized clothing on top, balance them with slim fitting bottoms. This piece of advice is doled out often when it comes to wearing oversized styles and works fine for most people. However, being so short, I usually limit this concept a little more for myself by keeping it to one oversized item per outfit. For example, wearing an oversized shirt under an oversized coat would count as a “zone”, but for myself, I would opt to wear just the oversized coat while keeping the shirt underneath more fitted.
Give yourself presence. Showing some arm, ankle, or neckline when wearing an oversized item will help keep you from looking swallowed up in a sea of fabric. If it’s too cold outside to show bare arms, try wearing a fitted sweater underneath an oversized coat and pushing up your coat sleeves. Showing off that bit of fitted sweater at your wrist should help. It’s those little styling hacks that can make an oversized item look chic and intentional.
Get the proportions right. An oversized style where the seams, curves, darts, and distressing are placed well for your height will look intentional, whereas an oversized style where all those details are misplaced on your frame can more easily look as if you’ve just mistakenly shopped the wrong size. This means just shopping regular sizes for an oversized fit when you usually wear petites may not work as well. On tops, things like bust darts and waist seaming can make the item just look off, even if it is meant to look oversized. Similarly, boyfriend jeans where the knee holes are at your shins don’t have the same intentional feeling as a pair where the distressing better aligns with your proportions. I navigate this in a few ways: 1) by shopping petites, which is not the most fun option due to the sheer lack of styles offered in that sizing 2) by shopping items that don’t have details such as bust darts or knee holes so I don’t even have to deal with them, and 3) digging a little deeper to search out those items that happen to run short in regular sizes, such as my favorite Rag & Bone jeans for distressed denim with petite-friendly knee placements.
Go big or go home. The easiest way to look as if your oversized styling has been done intentionally…make it super obvious by going big. It may not be the most flattering on a short frame, but I like to forego those antiquated “flatter your figure” rules in lieu of just embracing and wearing items you enjoy. Coming from a wardrobe of tailored looks, this one is hard for me, so for now I’m keeping to the first 3 guidelines when it comes to my oversized items.
An example of the first 3 guidelines is illustrated in this outfit. Oversized coats kept looking wrong on me, until I tried this one with the proper petite proportions already tailored in. Petite-friendly lengths, collar size, button placement, seaming, and fabric thickness keeps this coat looking intentionally oversized on my frame. I’ve also kept the rest of the look fitted by wearing skinny jeans and a low profile t-shirt, and since it’s not too cold out yet, pushing up the sleeves and showing some neckline with a scoop neck t-shirt gives me presence.
I’ll leave you now with a personal anecdote from my days working in biotech labs. Upon seeing I got stuck with a super sized XXL lab coat (it was stiff competition in the lab for the XS coats, and if you found yourself in need of a clean one too close to laundry delivery day, the sizes left were akin to small tents on me. I’d have sleeves falling into my lab work, would get hooked onto table edges, and would literally fall backward from squatting, unwittingly stepping on the back of my coat, and then getting pulled backwards when I tried to stand up. I was the lab’s comedic relief!), a coworker told me about a petite woman he worked with at a previous lab. He described how she would choose the largest lab coats, messily roll the sleeves to her elbows, and would wear the coat off her shoulders, so it would drape down her back. He described how elegant and poised she always looked, and yet she was this teeny tiny little person in a huge tent of a coat. I never met this woman, but I still have a perfect mental image of her in my mind. =)
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Coat White House | Black Market (on sale!) (fit review)
Jeans Banana Republic (also love this cropped version)
Shoes Gianvito Rossi (super similar & way cheaper)
Handbag Sophie Hulme partially thanks to Shopbop (also here & here)
Belt Linea Pelle
Necklaces vintage & Downtown L.A.
Watch Larsson and Jennings
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