Style and Styling

Lengthen Short Legs!

Short Leg Style Challenges

Happy day, reader dear!

You hear a lot of grumbling in dressing rooms. Not if I take you shopping, because my job is to remove the grumble factor! But I frequently overhear grumbling about how everyone else has it easier when it comes to shopping. Let’s dispel that grass-is-always-greener syndrome and share some style challenges of different body variations in a few posts. Today I’ll tackle some of the issues the woman (or man) with proportionally short legs struggles with…

Every body variation has particular fit issues! Body Variation is not the same as shape, if you want to learn more about body shape, here’s an overview article linking to my women’s body shape posts. By variations, I mean long- or short-waisted, large bust or small, square shoulders or sloping. It’s these variations that can make shopping and styling any body shape a challenge. So far I have tackled Petite Style Challenges, Tall Style Challenges will be coming next!

Too Long

If too-long was just trouser legs, too long would be easy! Hemming trousers is relatively simple. (Although the line may change. More on that below.) Too-long can play out in subtle ways. Knee highs become over-the-knee socks, and tights come up to the bust, or puddle in the shoes. (This is incredibly annoying and uncomfortable!) And boots? Talk about frustrating. Boots get their own section!


Often, designers create interesting detail in just the areas that need to be removed. Avoid clothing with details at or around the hem. Keep them simple and plain. Cargo pockets, moto padding and stitching, and embroidery all draw the eye down; we want to create a long interrupted line.

It may be easy to shorten a pair of trousers or jeans, but skirts and dresses can prove more of a challenge. Dresses and skirts with interesting border prints are often a lost cause. Your tailor or seamstress may be able to be shorten your skirt by removing the waistband and pulling the fabric up, but this is a much more expensive fix, and not every garment can be altered this way. Tiered and ruffled skirts create their own issues. Shortening each tier to keep the line and proportion of the skirt is a lot of work, and usually not worth the effort.

Tip: You may find shopping the petites department for bottoms helpful, even if you are of average height!


Often, the places we are shortest tend to be the places extra weight settles. (This blessing may have passed you by!) Those with a short waist may thicken around the middle when they put on a few pounds. The same goes for those with short legs. Your “extra” may settle on the thighs, around the knees, or at the ankles. Optically, your “extra” looks thicker than it does on your friend with the same width and a two inch longer inseam. Yes, it is unfair, but wearing a heeled shoe in the same color as your trousers creates a longer line.

Tip: Make sure that your trousers are properly hemmed: With no break or only one small break. You want to avoid fabric puddling around your ankles; puddling emphasizes how short your legs are and creates unflattering horizontals where you don’t need them!

Creating a Column of Color from the waist to the ankle is one of the best ways to create the illusion of longer legs, whether wearing trousers or skirts. Wearing a heel, and pairing it with a trouser that comes down over the foot gives the most length. A bootie can be great for this, too. When wearing a skirt or dress, tights in the same color as your will also create the illusion of more length. Avoid chopping the leg line with a dress, tights and boots of different colors or values. Colored tights may be all the rage this year; it is a great season to find tights to match almost any dress or skirt. I found bright red ones to wear with my red skirt and booties! But choose carefully…


Speaking of boots… For the short legged woman, buying boots can be a nightmare. Especially if your calves are short and your feet are average to large. Boot shafts come in varying widths, but finding different shaft heights is another challenge altogether. You may find mid-calf boots to be almost knee-length, and knee-length boots are over-the-knee. (But without the structure to make them bendable! And who wants to walk like a tin soldier all day long?)

Depending on the boot and your access to a cobbler, you may be able to have the shaft shortened. The easiest to shorten are faux suede fabric boots. (Less likely if the boots zip.) If you want to try this, check your store’s return policy, and take them to your cobbler right away to find out if they can be shortened. If not, make sure you return them immediately… It can be tempting to wear them long. Please don’t. The pain and damage isn’t worth it! Custom boots may be an option. Most of those I have found have a distinctly cowboy or rebellious vibe. I’m sure there are more custom options outside the US.

So how about you? Are your legs short in proportion to the rest of your frame? Or are you blessed (or you may feel cursed) with long legs? Every proportion issue has its benefits and drawbacks! Let me know yours and if you’d like me to write on it…

Stylishly yours,

PS: Many thanks to Nancy and Catherine for hosting lovely link-up parties… It’s nice to go to a holiday party that doesn’t require a drive! XOXO

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.