Nikki’s Inbox: Outgrowing “Cute and Girly”

Hi Nikki! I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year now; I’ve always found your advice to others super helpful and I finally wanted to ask you a question of my own.

I’m 5’0, and about 95 lbs., with kind of broad shoulders, a scrawny/petite frame and a short bob hairstyle. My style tends to be more girly and childlike (think overall dresses, skirts, embroidered tees, collared shirts) along with comfortable everyday clothing (big tee shirts, leggings). Although I really like dressing up in this fashion, sometimes it tends to make me look too childish due to my short stature and small body, as well as swallow me up if the fit is too large. Oftentimes I am mistaken for a freshman and I fear not being taken seriously by my peers due to the combination of my style and stature. Do you have any advice on dressing to look taller and a little more mature all while maintaining a soft, girly aesthetic? I appreciate you taking the time to read myriad emails and help so many people, thank you!

Lucinda, 17/USA


Dear Lucinda, you’re neither the first nor will you be the last girl to write to me about the struggle of outgrowing their “cute” phase. I find that those who are in a similar situation like yours like the same things— the girly, cute looks, plus plenty of loose/oversized clothing. I’m perfectly okay with that but unfortunately, we still do judge people by their looks first so how to remedy this?

Find Your Fit

This is the crucial first step. Regular readers might get tired of this already but I’ll keep emphasizing it: A great fit is essential to looking good in your clothes. This means all your clothes are neither too tight nor too loose, and you won’t look like you’re drowning in fabric or bursting out of it. Good foundation garments like the right-size bra and underwear help streamline your silhouette, adding curves where needed. Try all your existing clothes and separate the ones that are oversized, too tight, and those that feel or look just right. Enlist a friend’s help to do it so you can get a second opinion. Donate the wearables.

Balanced and Structured Tops

Make room for structured tops in your closet — stylish shirts and tops with darts, pointy collars, a wider variety of necklines and shaped waists. You may be lean and petite, but you still have a shape so why not show it or create one? These structured tops add visual interest to your upper half. A V-neck or off-shoulder blouse showcases more of your neck, making you look a little bit taller even with wide shoulders. Embroidered accents are pretty but opt for more elegant embellishments for your prints and patterns instead of cute animals or cheeky statements. Small patterns like florals or geometrics won’t overwhelm your frame.

Better Choices for Dresses, Skirts and Pants

Can you imagine defending your dissertation wearing a ratty sweatshirt and leggings? Not a good picture, right? Your new structured tops deserve equally good partners, which means flat-front pants, great jeans and the forever-reliable, universally-flattering A-line. To naysayers, I say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Pencil shapes like you, Lucinda, can pull off an hourglass shape, thanks to the A-line silhouette. Knee-length skirts and mini skirts should be part of your arsenal, darling, because even with just a simple white tee, your legs will look longer!

A little wear and tear on jeans is perfectly acceptable. But great big holes? I’d say sleep on it. These days, jeans are perfectly acceptable even as work wear, and are quite versatile especially when paired with a nice button-down, blazer and flats. Sometimes, you only need to switch shoes, your top or outerwear, and it’s a wholly different look!

Heels, Heights and Colors

The easiest way to look taller is to wear heels. No need to wear stilettos all the time, though. Go for more comfortable options like wedges, kitten heels and even platforms. Espadrille wedges with ankle ties are hot this summer, and they’re utterly perfect with a mini skirt and an off-shoulder top.

Color can also help in making you look taller. A monochromatic palette (shades from a single color family) can create the illusion of height. Don’t give up on your pastels just yet either. Teaming them with neutrals like gray, white and black can make them look more elegant and feminine, instead of just “girly.”

Another option is to emphasize a longer upper or lower body. If you have long legs despite being a petite, take advantage of it by wearing shorts, mini skirts and mini dresses, and wearing darker pants with light-colored tops. If you’re short-waisted, wearing peplum tops can emphasize your waist and balance your shoulders.

This journey won’t be easy — it’ll take a lot of mistakes, confusion, humiliation, and frustration. Plus, you really have to condition yourself to keep trying until you finally find the look that works for you. Change won’t happen overnight but you will reap the rewards if you persist!

P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!

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