The Petite Girl’s Guide To Scarves




Scarves are great for every season, but especially in the summer, they can add that perfect third layer to an outfit that, for heat comfort’s sake, can’t take much more fabric. They are also great for uniform dressers who have a wardrobe of similar items, and need a little something different to spice things up without completely deviating from your style story. Take me for example. As a uniform dresser, it’s not unusual for me to run out the door in a pair of skinny jeans, a button up, and my favorite loafers. But add a scarf and it instantly perks up the look as only an interesting third layer can.

Now, being 4’11” and with a small frame, it’s easy for scarves to look, well, dumb on me. It’s easy to look overwhelmed and swallowed in fabric, which distracts instead of enhances an outfit. I’ve discovered a formula for success when it comes to scarves that work for my height and frame, so I’ve rounded up my secrets for finding and wearing scarves as a petite without being overwhelmed. Enjoy, and please add your scarf secrets in the comments!

1) Pick fabrics that are thin, light, and fluid. Silks, and fabrics that mimic silk, are good choices. This one is a silk/viscose blend that is super thin and drapey, so it doesn’t add much bulk (I also liked how the fabric had a natural twist to it, which ties into point #4). When it comes to fall and winter scarves, I like wool/silk blends, or very thin and loosely woven wools.

2) Pick skinny scarves. The recent popularity of the 70’s style skinny scarf is great news for petites because the thin widths look great on us. I just picked up this super thin and drapey one, meant for not much else than just adding a little color or interest to an outfit, and am loving it. Think I’ll get the fringed black one too!

3) Cut thick or poofy scarves in half. As mentioned in point #1, I love thin-weaved wool scarves for fall and winter, but even in thinner fabrics, they can still look too thick and bulky on me. To remedy this, I simply snip them in half length-wise, and use fray check to prevent unraveling. Here’s a scarf that I simply snipped in half, and here’s more on how I cut down scarves that are too thick.

4) Twist it into submission. Before putting on a scarf, I take a few seconds to roll or twist it, which de-bulks the fabric. I usually grab both ends, one in each hand, and then swing it like a jump rope in one direction until it’s nice and twisted. Then just wrap it around your neck as you like.

If you’re looking for tips on how to wear a blanket scarf, Jean did a great job here. But I’ve found that depending on your body type, blanket scarves may not be in the cards, myself included. I know plenty of petites that look great in them, but I myself struggle, and I have a few theories as to why. As per my observations…

Petites can pull off a blanket scarf easier if:

  1. You have average to broad shoulders.
  2. Your face shape trends toward round or wide.
  3. Your hair is long and thick.

In my observations, the above traits help to balance an oversized or blanket scarf, while the opposites (narrow shoulder, smaller/thinner face, short and/or thin hair) can make the blanket scarf appear much more overwhelming. Having hit the lottery with all three in the latter category (whomp, whomp), I’ve yet to find a blanket scarf that didn’t look ridiculous on me.

Here are some more great summer scarves for petites or the small-framed:


— Details —

Scarf Ann Taylor (50% off with code SPECIAL50)
Shirt J.Crew
Jeans Rag & Bone (also here & here)
Shoes Via Spiga (also here)
Handbag Proenza Schouler (also love this color & this print)
Watch thanks to Nicole Vienna
Sunglasses Kate Spade (also here)
Rings Downtown LA (gold) & LittleFeathers Jewelry (turquoise)

— Altered —


Join the Conversation


  1. says: suz

    Thank you so much for these tips…I am 4.11 too, and tiny, and love love love scarfs….have a huge collection and couldn’t figure out why so many of them simply do not work. You are so wonderful, I read you every week, as I am a uniform gal as well, but add a scarf, some great jewels and you are rocking!

    Suz in Atlanta

  2. says: Deb

    Agree fully on the versatility of a scarf, one of my favourite accessories. Your shoes are a perfect flat to my eye. Thanks Kelly.

  3. says: JILL VOORHIS

    Asking Ms. Google… what do other petite girls do who love scarves and don’t want to look old and overwhelmed.
    Found your site – very helpful. Will be getting out the scissors to some of my favorite scarves that gather dust because they just look too damn big for my frame no matter what I try… For the better ones, yes, seal the edges… for the others… just cut them and see what happens!

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *