TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Fall

Petite White ShirtAnn Taylor Dress Shirt, size 00P :: Paige Blue Heights jeans, size 23 (hemmed) :: Christian Louboutin Simple 85 pumps, size 35 :: Chanel Lambskin East/West handbag :: Ann Taylor Perfect Patent Skinny belt, size xs :: Sterling Silver and Carnelian bracelets :: Lydell NYC ring

Summer always leaves me feeling “blah” about clothing, and especially this year, I’ve been really struggling to snap out of my funk. I feel best covered in layers, weighty fabrics, and deep hues, so summer is a struggle. I usually dress in the most clothing possible for the weather, and don’t quite get the appeal of running around half naked, like so many summer lovers do. So when the hottest days of the year hit, I lose my will to get dressed, and sneakily dart around town hoping I don’t run into anyone I know in my frumpy outfits.

This week, something woke up in me, and I needed to get chic…now! Fashion week has been making the rounds around the world’s fashion capitals, and I’ve been pouring over street style photos of the fashion glitterati fluttering around town dressed to the nines. What a great kick in the pants to get me sorting through my closet again!

In fact, such a huge change was needed in my attitude, that I even felt the nagging urge to paint my fingernails…for the first time in years! Whoa! I couldn’t decide which color though…I’m leaning towards the wine.

Petite White Shirt

I also feel the urge to pile on the bracelets, and have been strangely drawn to cocktail rings. Summer funk, over.

The white dress shirt…it’s said every woman needs one, but until now, I never owned one. Which is funny because the simple white dress shirt has been seared in my brain as a staple of my dream wardrobe.

At some point during my formative style-developing years (that awkward teen/young adult stage when I had no style what-so-ever, but for some reason, started paying attention to other people who did), I crossed paths with a woman wearing nothing more special than a crisp, tucked, white dress shirt, a perfectly fitting pair of jeans, high heels, and an amazing confidence. This woman looked so impeccable and sophisticated to my impressionable, young style-less self, that I still hold that look as a goal of mine. It’s weird how some stuff sticks with you like that.

Petite White Shirt

So I’ve been searching and searching, but my great dress shirt hunt has been more like a chapter from Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

This one’s too big! This one’s too sheer! This one’s fabric is too icky and cheap! This one’s too wrinkly! The alterations on this one’s too expensive!

Well, I finally found one I’m happy with. It still needs a little nip and tuck, but the shoulders, sleeves, fabric and details all came together (although I’d prefer the front seams didn’t end at prime nip area, but you can’t have it all). So here’s my first attempt at looking “sophisticated” in my white dress shirt.

The torso needs slimming, so the shirt poofed in back when I tried to tuck it into my jeans. My quick-fix is the ol’ front-tuck (or as everyone’s favorite petite non-blogger, Aubrey so eloquently put it…the mullet-tuck!) …it reins in the extra fabric, while looking cool in that aloof “oh, is my shirt half tucked? Oh well. I’m so cool, I’m even cool by accident.” way (even though I stood in the mirror for a good 20 minutes fiddling to get the perfect tuck…it’s still not quite right…maybe next time). I’ve also been loving a clean black and white palette lately,

And now, some dress shirt shopping tips I’m learning along the way:

  • The torso is easy to slim. Look for a good fit in other places like the shoulder and sleeve first. Here’s why:
    • Shoulder alterations can be tricky and expensive. Avoid them if you can.
    • Most dress shirt sleeves have some sort of detail, like a buttoned cuff or pleats, which can be difficult to alter or recreate.
  • Do you get a weird poofy bit of fabric at your back when you try on dress shirts? That’s usually because the shirt has a waist already cut into it. The shirt waistline may be lower than your natural waistline, so the waist creeps up to sit at your natural waist. This can result in a poof of fabric around the shoulder (and happens to me all the time). I’ve also heard something about the shirt having a “long back”, but I’m not sure what that means. Anyone know?
    • Remedy: Buy a dress shirt that isn’t snug around your torso, and have it slimmed to fit your curves properly.
  • Do you want an expensive, professional or sophisticated look? Shop for dress shirts in crisp, structured fabrics. Do you want a casual, bohemian, younger look? Shop for dress shirts in thin, soft fabrics.
  • Keep the collar in proportion to your frame. The modern collar shape is trim and menswear inspired. Longer, bigger collars just look dated.
  • If the shirt pulls across your bust and your girls peak through the button holes, it’s time to size up and get the waist whittled down.

Readers, any dress shirt shopping tips you’d like to share? How about tips for breaking out of a dressing funk? Or for you sewing types…what does a “long back” mean?


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Join the Conversation


  1. says: Carrie Higa

    Liking the half-tuck! Unexpected with this type of shirt, but it looks great. I’ve also learned that it’s harder than it looks … there are so many ways to do it that just look strange and messy!  :)

  2. says: Petite LG

    Kelly, I have the exact same shirt =) I really like it. It definitely runs smaller than some of the other shirts. I think mine was a 0P. I love your classic look! Oh and your Chanel flap is absolutely darling.

  3. says: Jasmin

    Oh, I can so feel with you! Even though I am at 5.2 taller than you (and almost a “tall petite” ) I still have this problem with PETITE size shirts and tops being poofy at my back. So, I can imagine how hard it most be for you to find shirts that fit. While I enjoy the fact that a short torso means that I have relatively long legs, I have to admit that being a  “taller petite” with a short torso is actually bad in two pays: Petite tops are still too long for me and create this poof of fabric at my back, BUT petite sized pants are too short (unless I wear flat shoes; I need at least an 31 inch inseam to be able to wear low/mid heels, while the typical inseam of petite pants is around 29 inches) So, I end up having to take even petite sized pants to the taylor to have the legs elongated by letting out fabric. :-( In any case, thanks for the post and tips on buying dress shirts. You look great!

  4. I love this crisp look on you. White blouse, denim, black Chanel flap & CL simples- can it get more classic than that? And oh, I like both nail colors … the red is a bit more fiery, the plum is mature and elegant. I know exactly what you mean about feeling like Goldilocks with your shirt hunt. I’ve typed out that reference so many times while writing blog posts because something is always off, too much to alter, or just plain ill-fitting. But isn’t the feeling great when you find success?

  5. The perfect white dress shirt has proven an elusive basic for me as well. I’ve actually considered going custom (or semi-custom) but not yet taken the plunge. Here’s a custom shirt maker I found: A basic shirt made to measure is only $53 plus $5 shipping to US. It seems like they are somewhat more geared to men’s shirts, but they say they do blouses as well. I have to admit, I am intrigued!

    1. Hi Tamara! I’ve never heard of micamsa, so thank you for pointing them out to me. Other options that are a little more woman friendly are 9Tailors ( and Moi-Meme ( If you are in Boston or NYC, you can visit their studio and get yourself fitted, which is a much better option than measuring yourself & hoping you got it right. Moi-Meme suiting has had me intrigued for a while now. :)

  6. says: Cee

    Thumbs up to this classy outfit with timeless pieces! Perfect accessorizing and the nails — love both red on you but prefer the brighter shade with this outfit. This mullet tuck is a bit tricky, isn’t it? It bugs me that I can never get it to look “just right,” and when I do, it doesn’t last throughout the day, haha.

  7. says: JJ

    Ugh, the cursed poof-back! Happens to me EVERY time. I’m still in the market for a perfectly crisp white collared shirt, but I may just have to go the tailoring route instead of continuing to try to find one that fits off-the-rack.

  8. says: Anonymous

    LOOOVE this post! And I too have seen that impeccable dressed lady in perfect fitting jeans making her legs look so long and that perfect crisp white shirt that makes me think she just stepped out of a magazine.  That lady must travel the world! ;) 

    Kelly I love that nail polish on you by the way!  How do I get out of a dressing funk?  Honestly, not sure.  The weather DOES affect my mood to dress up/down.  I do actually love summer b/c I love dresses and skirts.  I don’t particularly enjoy the rain.  When it rains I don’t want to wear cute shoes for fear of ruining them while running to shelter, I don’t want to wear my good jeans since I don’t want the bottoms to be wet.  I don’t want to carry my favorite purses since they will get water droplets on them and I don’t want to bother doing my hair since it will frizz up anyway! LOL!

  9. says: R.L.

    I actually really like the blouse on you the way it is!  It’s fresh and quite different from your other more fitted tops.  I would actually encourage you to not get this one altered.  From the pictures, it looks like your 20 minutes was well spent because the “mullet-tuck” definitely looks effortlessly cool on you.  Love the row of bangles/bracelets on you too!

  10. says: MoneyMaus

    Kelly! I LOVE this outfit! It’s so chic, classy and just screams fall :) The slightly-untucked-look rocks and you can totally pull it off. 

    And definitely go with the wine polish color!

  11. says: Couturecoco5

    I LOVE this look! Elegant and chic and youthful at the same time. I think the long back means you have a longer torso in proprotion to the rest of you?
    I have to cheat with dress shirts because of my broad shoulders, I can’t have the fabric being too crisp as they stick out even more :-( End up being more blouse than shirt, sadly.

  12. says: yvonne

    i agree that white shirt is a must have for your wardrobe! also a lil white dress which i am still searching high and low for! you look so chic with your loubies and chanel purse lady!

  13. says: Anonymous

    I’ve stocked up on cocktail rings for fall as well! I never felt quite right in them with  my small hands but luckily this season I’ve found some that don’t look like I’m carrying samples from a geological expedition on my hand. Btw, I LOVE your nails! That color is perfect for fall.

  14. says: Natalie

    So classy. I love a great look with jeans all classied up. So sharp, so prim. 

    I totally have images imprinted in my style brain — people that I have seen that just look so amazing, you want to look like them someday. Usually it is their amazing attitude of confidence. 

  15. says: Wendy Diel

    Great tips Kelly! I’ve always wondered why my shirts “poofed”; now I know!

    I’m  flat chested, and “full-waisted” – AKA cut like a little boy/girl. I’m guessing I should find something which fits my waist and have the bust withered down to fit?

    1. Only fit your waist and whittle down the bust if the shirt doesn’t poof in back. Since you’ll probably end up getting the shirt taken in a little bit anyways, just find one that fits your shoulder and sleeve requirements. Then you can get the whole torso whittled down to your perfect fit without having to worry. Getting the whole torso slimmed shouldn’t cost more than getting the bust taken in.

  16. says: Guest

    Speaking of breaking out of dressing funk… in staring at my closet few weeks ago, I discovered that all my outfits were either black or grey, with the exception of my clothes purchased in India.  (BTW, Indian tops and tunics make great summer wear clothing – lot of color and lighter cotton fabrics)

    Anyway…so I found your blogs – big fan of extrapetite as well – and went on a shopping spree for clothing with color – ann taylor golden harvest and colorful BR cardigans and lace tops were my faves this season.  So thanks for the great tips.

    And what’s with us California women – why the resistance to coloring our fingertips.

  17. :-O I can’t believe I haven’t been following you already! :( –Now I’m playing catch up on your posts :)

    Anyway, I LOVE white blouses… I think I’ve incorporated them in most my my posts ::blushes:: but to me a white blouse is so versatile and it gives me a little pick me up when I stumble across one to add to the collection.

    As for the effortless tuck-in, lol you’re so right. I stand in front of the mirror far too long getting that perfect “I don’t care” look. G*d forbid I need to bend or reach for something!

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