How to Look Taller: Heels & a Hem

The Banana Republic outlet dress is back from the tailors. I tried to save $20 and spent 2 hours painstakingly ironing and hemming it by hand (recently got rid of my sewing machine…smacks head), but gave up at the lining. I took it to my trusty Korean tailors and they were aghast at my crooked stitching. Shaking their heads and clucking their tongues, they tore apart my hard work, but thankfully charged me a pity price of just $10.

It’s no secret that heels are a petite gal’s best friend, but let’s revisit the importance of wearing the right skirt/dress length (old post here). For this, I pinned and re-pinned and finally settled on right above the knee:

Before (left) and After (right)


Sheath dress: Banana Republic outlet size 00P
Heels: Ann Taylor Perfect Pumps sz 5 (a work staple!)
Flats: Tory Burch  Flower: J.Crew outlet

Shorter is not always better when it comes to length. Higher-waisted dresses can get away with a shorter hem (see altered Theory dress here), but regular-waisted dresses such as this one need a sufficiently long skirt length to make it look balanced and proportional. The right skirt length makes the entire look more refined all-around.

Side view – before (left) and after (right)

Back view before (left) and after (right)


The belt was a smidge too big and long, but I couldn’t use my trusty hole puncher because it was fabric. I ended up just poking the prong where I wished there was a hole, and then pulling the belt through:


Mustard Cardigan: Martin & Osa sz XS
Belt: Banana Republic Outlet sz XS

A hem job is a simple but critical alteration for certain items, especially if you’re petite. Unfortunately it will cost you upwards of $20 at the tailor (more for lined items). I wish I had the time and patience to do my own alterations!

Readers – Do you always get your items altered to fit perfectly? If so, do you DIY or shell out for the alterations?

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

For Daily Posts

Leave a Comment


  1. Tabi Matta wrote:

    Hello. I came across your page and I love it! I'm 5 feet as well and wear size 5 in shoes. I was wondering what shoe stores you recommend. It's typically hard for me to find pumps in my size that won't have my heel pop out in the back. Your advice would be really helpful!

    Posted 7.31.13 Reply
  2. Nicole wrote:

    I live in the Boston area and was wondering where you get tailoring done

    Posted 3.17.13 Reply
  3. carla wrote:

    Hi-are you familiar with the fashion fit formula? Have you ever tried their services? I have been thinking about it and would love to see an independent review

    Posted 4.23.12 Reply
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    i wish i looked as good as you do in any of my clothes.

    Posted 2.11.12 Reply
  5. court. wrote:

    totally a believer on the shorter hem. you just inspired me to clean out my closet and schelp to the tailor.

    Posted 10.27.11 Reply
  6. This is such a good idea and importnat idea!

    Posted 10.15.11 Reply
  7. I love your style, I will definitely follow!
    I am remixing 30 for 30 challenge
    you can have a look at my blog;)

    Posted 2.2.11 Reply
  8. Oh! I was at the BR outlet two weeks ago looking for professional attire for a big company event. I actually bought that same dress (along with a similar one in gray). It looked fine on me without hemming (a tad longer than I'd like), but I am now considering getting alternations made.

    Posted 1.29.11 Reply
  9. @Emily Wow great eye…I had to think back. They are probably falsies because mascara doesn't make that big of a difference on me! I wear falsies on and off for blog posts : )

    @Frankincensy Good luck DIY hemming! This is probably a no brainer but be sure to get a box of pins and pin around to get a feel of what looks good. Each garment can vary a little based on the style.

    @SewPetiteGal Of course you do your alterations SPG. I love your craftiness and DIYs!

    @Indigo Sewing yourself DOES save a lot of money, but it's also time time time…sigh. I love the thought of you purchasing skirts in size 14 at dirt cheap in a fun fabric, and whittling it down to size. I did that recently…took a size 10 skirt to my tailors and they had a good chuckle, but fixed it up in no time.

    @PetiteXXS Did you end up getting this from the AN forum? And yes the belt stays in place (I wore it like that a few days already to work). I actually at first tried to ruthlessly push the prong through the fabric, but it wouldn't go through, and that's when I realized it stayed put just fine without poking through.

    @littlenashua Post! I love vintage finds (whether you found them decades ago or now, lol) and awesome DIY fixes.

    @Petite Mom Lovely suggestions! I can picture both ideas perfectly! Thank you : )

    Posted 1.23.11 Reply
  10. I am quite envious of those of you (and it seems that there are many!) who have lovely mom tailors or those who are talented enough to DIY!

    @kileen Hi Kileen! The purse is a little Chanel bag I got last year : )

    @prosephina Thats amazing! If that's what mine charged to begin with i wouldn't have wasted 2 hours trying to save a little dough lol.

    @April April you are such a sweetheart. We've already had an extensive twitter discussion about your nonexistent weight gain so I hope to lay that to rest : ) I hope you find your perfect jeans soon whether its at H&M;, Gap, or AE : )

    @Elle Now that we know they ship for just $5…it might not be too impossible to find it on super sale a few months down the road and have it sent from some random location : )

    @R.L. Hi RL – I don't think so. When buying this dress I really milked them for any possible discounts, specifically asking about a student one (shame on me) and they said they didn't have one.

    @milk tea polkadots Aw, really?? But I'm sure it wasn't really ruined right? I've definitely had regrets on getting something a little too short, but I hope your dress is still wearable, despite what hubby thinks.

    @AubreyOhDang! Aubrey, @Amy brings up a good idea. A tailor should easily be able to shorten a belt and stitch an extra hole in it. Silly me for not thinking of it while getting the hem done!

    @Lor Ah I know the misery of $200+ alterations all too well. I try to let it build up and then ask for a discount : )

    @Irene You mean they USED to sell size 5 rings? Hmm. Oh and they still do sell size 5 shoes in limited styles. You can search by size online (might be online only) but Kileen picked up a pair in size 5 I believe!

    Posted 1.23.11 Reply
  11. this is awesome. love your idea. i usually DIY my own clothes. i dont trust other ppl's hand hehe.

    btw, i'm having a contest/giveaway on my blog if you're interested.

    Posted 1.22.11 Reply
  12. Leena wrote:

    wow, that dress is perfect after alterations! during the recent jcrew sale, i picked up some size 0 skirts (00's were sold out), which i intend to have altered. a $40 skirt + $20 alterations is still not a bad price in my book!

    Posted 1.22.11 Reply
  13. Oh shucks…I missed out on the felted wool mini in my size!

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  14. Petite Mom wrote:

    This dress looks amazing shortened and with heels! Tweed is so neutral and versatile. You can pretty much style it with any color. This dress would be fun punked up with tall boots, a leather jacket, and a heavy necklace. Or how about sweetening it up for the weekend with a 3/4 sleeve ballet wrap sweater and flats?

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  15. Jackie wrote:

    That dress is gorgeous!!

    I usually get things professionally altered. A girl as small as me can't DIY everything.

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  16. I still have not photographed/blogged about it, but 10 years ago I bought a dress on clearance at Old Navy for $1.99 in size 1 (this was before Old Navy sizing went completely insane and a size 1 actually fit me). The length, however, was all wrong, falling at slightly below mid calf. I think I wore the dress once and realized it just was not working for me. I finally decided to play with it this past summer, and I chopped a good 6" of the hem, and suddenly it was a really cute, really stylish dress. Amazing what a difference a hem makes.

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  17. PetiteXXS wrote:

    Gosh, that last pic of you is stunning! Definitely one of my favorite outfits of yours (and there's lots of great ones to choose from)… you should add it to your lookbook! I love this dress on you, and good choice on the hem length. I actually had to think real hard about what you meant with the belt, but finally got it. Does it stay that way even if the prong isn't going through the fabric?

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  18. Indigo wrote:

    Being 4'11 I always HAVE to hem my pants, skirts and shorten the sleeves. The good news is that I can sew so I will do them myself. It is worth while to learn to sew, look at all the money you'll save. I will also buy skirts that are not my size at all but because I love the fabric and the skirt is rock bottom price because it is the only one left in size 14, for example. Skirts is the easiest thing to fix

    The dress after alteration looked great on you. I have to look into that dress. Wait, I have a self-imposed ban going on. Oops.:)

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  19. Heels and a hem makes such a difference! I love this dress on you and the pearls with it, so cute! A lot of petites have this dress and it looks great on everyone.

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  20. This is definitely evidence of how hem length and shoe height can drastically change the overall look of a dress / skirt. I liked this dress on you pre-alterations but love it now that it's been shortened. It looks much more balanced post-alterations. Pairing it with the yellow cardi and pearls really modernizes the look while maintaining its elegance. As you know, I DIY all of my alterations so don't have any experience with having it professionally altered. However, unless it's a pair of pants or a to-die-for item, I try not to purchase anything that would require extensive alterations. Sorry for the crazy long comment!

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  21. Ping wrote:

    jean– much much better after the alterations and i like it with heels!! lol i can't believe you spent all that time trying to alter it yourself!

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  22. Pri wrote:

    This dress looks great on you!The alterations make it look like a whole new dress! I agree about the heels..I used to be a flats girl, but recently I have started throwing on pumps and..what a difference! At 5'2 they make me feel normal height! haha Also, congrats on the InStyle your blog! You definitely deserve it! 🙂

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  23. Like everyone else has said, it's amazing the difference a few inches makes. Your other post about finding your ideal skirt length taught me a lot – I'm planning to hem some of my skirts now that I know what length works best with my proportions. The dress itself is lovely, too.

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  24. Emily wrote:

    Wow that made such a difference! In the side view (the before/first one) your lashes are crazy long.. Falsies or mascara?

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  25. Irene wrote:

    You always have a way of making things work – some projects are just too much, but something as simple as fixing a hem and adding some heels really makes such a HUGE difference! BAM! As always, sexy & classy (one of my fave combos)

    I think I might try to hunt down that polish at my local ULTA but I'm waiting for another $5 off $10 purchase that comes in the mail every now and then. 🙂 And I'm surprised that F21 doesn't sell size 5 rings anymore – ring size and feet, the everlasting quest to find fashion (meant for the masses) that fits continues…

    Thanks for sharing Jean!

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  26. Lor wrote:

    The dress looks great on you! 🙂

    I need to learn to do my own alterations and I have a sewing machine at home. Depending how complicated the item is, I get my mom to alter, otherwise I have to shell out for alterations! Sometimes I wait until it piles up before I go to get it altered, and once I paid $200 to alter a whole bunch of stuff!!! That hurt my wallet!

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  27. Amy wrote:

    Thanks for the helpful tips, as always! I love mini skirts, but you're right–they're not very professional. That BR dress looks much better hemmed! I still haven't convinced myself to alter any of my clothes–even though I have plenty of clothes that could use it… ah, if only it didn't cost extra money.

    Could you have asked your tailor to alter the belt too? I hate the extra floppy parts! Sometimes they wrap all the way to my back. Just have to settle with double-stick tape…

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  28. the belt is also a tad big on me. it really is too bad that we can't use our belt puncher to create more belt holes. haha.

    for hemming, I also ask mi madre. does that mean when I become a mother I better learn how to sew? actually I make all my halloween costumes but I leave the professional work to her b.c i'm afraid I'll ruin it & b.c I'm too lazy.

    dress looks great on you! pearls go well with tweed doesn't it?

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  29. MizzJ wrote:

    Hehe my tailor is Mom 🙂 I'm shocked how much a little hemming has improved that dress! Knee-length is a death note I guess for us petites.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  30. A.Li wrote:

    Ohhh love the dress. I usually don't go to the tailor unless it is a big project like jackets. Otherwise, I alter my own clothes.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  32. Wow it looks WAY better hemmed and of couse with the heels. I really like it with the mustard cardi. I have yet to go to a tailor yet! Been eyeing one but luckily I haven't had to alter anything too drasticly yet!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  33. The simple alteration made such a big difference!

    I don't often have to get my dresses/skirts hemmed. I never knew you had to consider the height of the waist to determine the hem length. I wish I knew about that before! During the summer, I had an old J.Crew Beach Embossed dress shortened to a couple inches above the knee. It used to be a couple inches below. My husband said I ruined the look of the dress by shortening it. *sigh* 🙁

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  34. Michelle wrote:

    The final ensemble looks incredible on you! I love the cardigan you chose! The pearl strands just top it all off. 🙂

    I have to admit, I have never sought out professional alterations…I am so lazy! I used to buy jeans at department stores, since they offer free alterations. Since then, I have discovered that LOFT and Banana jeans fit perfectly! 🙂 If I do need something simple fixed like a strap adjustment, I go to mom. 🙂 Even if I love an item in the fitting room of a non free alterations location, but there are major alterations needed, I will pass.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  35. Stylepint wrote:

    The alteration turned out great and you look more youthful in the second photo.

    For hems on trousers, pants, and some jacket sleeves I do the alterations myself. But if it's more involved and needs more precision, then I take it to the tailors. I try to minimize the need for alterations, but sometimes, it's necessary. =)

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  36. R.L. wrote:

    The hem job and extra belt hole did wonders! I would have never thought to pair the tweed with mustard but you really pulled it off, accessories and all! And thank you for the tip about AAA, I had no idea. I know that BR stores give 15% off for college students and teachers, do you know if this also applies to the outlets as well?

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  37. Elle wrote:

    Incredible what a hem job and some heels can do! The dress looks fantastic on you (then again I think you can pull off a potato sack if push comes to shove)!

    This dress is on my watch list – but I don't want to spend more than $30 (tough luck I know!). I occasionally get things altered – I just hate spending money on alterations, however necessary they are. $30 to shorten sleeves or hem pants or skirts seem extravagant to me. sigh. I need to learn to sew.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  38. I love the new length and cannot wait to get my taken up! What a huge difference a hem can make huh? I love it!!!!

    What settings are you using on your T2i? I can't seem to get my settings right- have no idea what I am doing:( LOL

    You look gorgeous as always!!!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  39. April wrote:

    Jean when I looked at your picture I gasped! OMG! The dress looks a million times better! I guess your legs were meant to be shown! You've got amazing legs! I am in love with the whole outfit from your cardigan, pearls, dress, heels and that belt is absolutely darling! I get my coat sleeves hemmed a lot. I should start posting more alterations pictures. I just get everything altered and never post. Annie told me about Gap's 40% off sale in store, but I honestly can't get the jeggings since I gained weight and I'm waiting to get back into my regular size to buy those jeans. Hehehe! I love all your posts! When I look at my blogger dashboard and your picture pops up you're always the first one I click to! You're our petite sized leader. Seriously! Everything you wear I want to buy because you're the perfect petite model, seriously! Again, congratulations for your success on blogger and making it in InStyle! I am so happy for you! If ever you're in CA again I'd love to take part in the meet up. 🙂

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  40. prosephina wrote:

    Love this on you! The shorter length looks much better and cleaner. Love the pearls too. Good thing my tailor charges less by comparison ($10 for skirt hems), because I have no idea how to use a sewing machine.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  41. What a huge difference a shorter hem makes! It looks and fits you perfectly now. $10.00 wasn't bad at all. You look like a million bucks in this dress. I love how you paired it with your mustard colored cardigan. Just simply perfect!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  42. Tara wrote:

    Looks lovely!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  43. Vicky wrote:

    Love it, Jean! Great fit, and great length now! lol on your 2-hour effort without a sewing machine, and a $10 pity price. :o)

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  44. I've been hemming and hawing about whether or not to pick up this dress…now I want it again! Darn you Jean!

    Perfect length on you! I also thought it needed a slimming on the bottom when I first saw it, but it looks like just taking the hem up solved that problem.

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  45. Justine wrote:

    Amazing what a few inches can do. My aunt can hem, so if I need something hemmed up I can ask her. So I lucked out. I also can't hem in a straight line. Mine is a straight slanted line.

    Just Better Together is having a giveaway!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply
  46. kileen wrote:

    wow, what a huge difference a shorter hem and heels make! i love this dress on you and so glad that your tailor was able to knock down the price a bit for you. i almost always will get my clothes hemmed (but i'm lucky and have a mom that tailors for free). in the past, I would've done my own hemming and often settle for a less than perfect job.

    this dress looks great styled with the mustard cardi and pearls. and i love the purse you're holding! where's it from?

    cute and little
    come join the Color Brigade!

    Posted 1.19.11 Reply

Get the newsletter!

What updates would you like?