So, you're short and want to wear a maxi dress? Here's how.
About a month ago in the mall, a woman ran up to me.
"Can I ask you something?" she said, sizing up my blue, floral-print maxi dress. "As a short girl, where do you find maxi dresses that fit?"
"I don't," I said. And then I released the fistful of fabric I was holding onto and let the dress pool on the floor.
Me at my most helpful, I know. But the truth is, it can be tough for shorties to engage in this trend that has been a "trend" for so many summers now it's almost safe to call it a classic. There's a lot to love about maxi dresses. They're comfortable, calling to mind a mellow bohemian queen with no clue what a clock is. They feel swishy against legs. They forgive a laundry list of sins, save on razors. And they can be flattering on all types, lending the illusion of length to a Bilbo Baggins body.
Maxis also have some not-hot elements, which Deal Diva Katie and I recently had a conversation about and I'm sure she'll expand on in the comments. The patterns can be kind of janky, the material can be thin. And chief among the problems for women who are not model height? The length. Many maxi-makers seem to think the average gal is situated somewhere between Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming.
I forgot about the incident in the mall until my cousin, Beth, sent me a message last night on Facebook saying she just bought her first maxi dress. Let's just say height is not a commodity in our family DNA, so she was up against the same issues. It got me thinking. How can a small person effectively pull this look off without falling on her face - literally? There are solutions aside from laughing at people's questions in the mall.
Wedge salad: The fastest medicine for a too-long frock is a pair of shoes. If you're heading out somewhere nice and can be bothered to wear a heel, opt for a high wedge that looks summery but boosts you up about four inches.
Tinker tailor: Every petite person should know the name of a good tailor, as a rule. A maxi dress, as long as the hem is not complicated with layers and ruffles, should be a fairly inexpensive, straightforward alteration for a professional seamstress. Please share your favorite local places in the comments!
Shortstop: If you're spinning through, say, a Forever 21, you're going to get what you're going to get. But check out some better department stores or places like LOFT that have petite sections. Not only are the items cut shorter, the bodices are fitted differently so us shorties can avoid the dreaded Long Weird Armpit of Doom.
Bottom feeder: See a line of dresses hanging up in, say, Ross? The hangers start at the same level on the rack, so start scanning from the bottom up for gems that happen to be cut shorter than the rest. I found a great Jones New York maxi in Burlington Coat Factory this way. It fits! With flip-flops! This technique also works with pants and jeans, BTW.
Black belt in style: If your dress is just a hair too long, consider throwing on a belt and blousing up the top until it behaves just as you want it to. If it gives you any lip, just remind it that you're in charge.
Skirt the issue: Wow, these sub-headline puns are really bad! Why stop now? A skirt gives the wearer a little more control. That is a fancy way of saying you can hike it up on your waist until it fits. Look for a maxi skirt with a banded waist you can fold down and adjust to your height.
Jump in the pool: Hanging out on the beach all day, barefoot and relaxed? Who cares! Let the dress pool around your feet like you're a mermaid. Just be sure to pick it up when you walk. Safety first, all summer long.