4 Tips for Dressing Dapper When You’re Petite

Being tiny is sometimes tough. Reaching for the top shelves can be a challenge, people don’t often see you eye to eye (pun completely intended), and it’s almost certain that the average store won’t have clothes that fit you. As a #bankerboi, I’m supposed to be all suited up for work, but almost all dapper possibilities come from the men’s section, and are double my size.

For the people who ask where I find clothes that fit, here are my secrets in black and white:

Try the Kids’ Section

All photos via the author

Everyone thinks I’m a little Asian boy anyway, so naturally I shop where little Asian boys’ mothers would go: the kids’ section! I’ve had luck at GAP, H&M, Ralph Lauren, The Children’s Place, Uniqlo, and Zara (which, of them all, tends to have the best selection). Good things about kids’ clothes include that the sizing is pretty standard — I’m a 10/12 in boys tops and 3 in shoes, if anyone is curious — and that they’re so much cheaper than regular adult clothes.

Unfortunately, since I have hips, kids’ pants never fit perfectly. Which brings me to my next tip…

Make Friends with Your Tailor

All photos via the author

If you absolutely need that too-big button up, or if you’re trying to work with what you already have, altering clothes will be your new favorite Saturday errand. As a short boi, I try to look for adults’ ankle-length pants; everything else that fits my hips/waist is too long. As long as it fits the hips, it’s all good — everything else can be fixed. For tops, make sure the shoulder fits, since it’s the most expensive part to alter.

Accessories are (Mostly) Ageless

All photos via the author

If the tip of your tie reaches the end of your shirt, all is well. If its tail is too long, tuck it away inside your shirt, and if it’s too short, no one’s gonna see it anyway. If you’re worried about your tie dangling all over, use a tie clip!

Bow ties are the perfect accessory; even if they’re all anyone can see of your outfit, you’ll still come off as incredibly dapper! I tend to go for smaller, slimmer bow ties since the bigger, wider ones make me feel like a well-wrapped Christmas present. The kids’ section is a good place to look in this case too — just know, depending on your preferences, that their ties often come pre-tied.

I have a lot of accessories from Harrison Blake Apparel and Sprezzabox. I like to think it’s the tiny details, like wood bowties and lapel pins, that differentiate me from every other #bankerwanker on Wall Street, and add some actual style to the “professionalism” I’m required to have.

Choose the Best, Then Plan the Rest

All photos via the author

I like to assemble outfits by focusing first on one or two pieces of clothing, and then adding complementary pieces. Jackets are great for this; once you have a few good, well-fitting ones, it’s easy to switch your look up with different shirts and. Dapper AF on a budget!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Teri is a tiny Singaporean queer living in New York City. Majority of her time is spent being a #bankerboi, but she loves modeling and watching diy videos. One day, she dreams of being a Zara kids model.

Teri has written 1 article for us.


  1. What if I’m petite and have huge boobs? I just want all the cute “menswear”, but no button up fits both my chest and the rest of my torso, and I can’t afford a tailor. :(

    • Fully agreed. One of the main things that’s stopped me from dressing more masculine is that even women’s button ups don’t come anywhere close to fitting me, so I can’t imagine anything in the kid’s section would (even if I’m 4’11” and have to order specially short pants anyways).

    • Buying something that fits over your chest and then getting the waist altered can be much cheaper: some dry-cleaners do alterations at reasonable prices, or some places just do alterations. It’s worth checking out to get a more tailored look on a budget!

      • Anything that fits in the chest is going to have a gigantic collar, and you *still* end up looking like a kid playing dress-up.

    • i agree with snaelle: it’s all about the alterations! if the shoulder fits and the rest has room, altering is a good option. good luck with the shoulders fitting though! for me, it’s hard to find something where the shoulder fits and it’s long enough. the kids’ section is wayyy too short and the fabric is not as nice.

  2. This was super helpful, and your photos are awesome – especially the second one, I love that whole outfit!

  3. So cute! I used to shop in the men’s department before I got a little curvy. It was tough, though, because I was just a little too big for boy’s clothes, but on the very small end of men’s clothes. I really would like to find a happy medium – women’s clothing that fits, but gender neutral enough that I don’t feel uncomfortable. Also affordable… Do those three things even exist?

    • Have you ever checked out Uniqlo? I’m in the same boat (a little too big for the boy’s section, way too small for the men’s section) but I really like their stuff. It feels very gender neutral while still like, fitting, you know?

    • One of life’s great mysteries for me is where are the clothes for teenage boys that are too big to fit into kid’s clothes but too small to fit men’s sizes (so like, my size)???? What do they wear? Do boys all have crazy growth spurts and skip ahead 3 sizes? And what about shoes? What are these boys wearing on their feet?
      I spend a lot of time thinking about this.

        • My confusion is girls’ trainers. I have the same size feet as a preteen but all the female trainers I can find have barbie on or sequins or are baby pink. And a lot of boy ones have lights.
          When my femme female cousins were eleven they wouldn’t have worn barbie trainers. Those are what kids wore in infant school.
          And aren’t tomboys meant to exist anymore or something?

  4. The part that is really annoying me atm is sleeve length. I only wear short sleeved shirts nowadays but i wanna branch out.
    If i buy a shirt with sleeves that are 3 inches too long is that something that can easily be fixed? I know some alterations are harder than others.

    • Cuff the sleeves! I have the same problem but rolling short sleeves up 2-3 times totally helps and still looks dapper.

      • Oops. I totally misread your problem haha. You could maybe still cuff long sleeves and have it look good? I feel like it works really well on short sleeves and sometimes on long sleeves?

  5. I’m lucky in a way being quite this short/skinny. My choices are boys or girls or rare women’s stuff that’s aimed at grannies (who presumably shrunk) so I don’t feel odder getting boys stuff than anything else that fits.

  6. this article is exactly what i needed in my life today. whenever i need something particularly niche like this, autostraddle publishes a witty article about it. it’s like y’all can read my mind.

Comments are closed.