Elaboration of size and shape in multicellular organisms involves coordinated cell division and cell growth. In higher plants, continuity of cell layer structures exists from the shoot apical meristem (SAM), where organ primordia arise, to mature aboveground organs. To unravel the extent of inter-cell layer coordination during SAM and aboveground organ development, cell division in the epidermis was selectively restricted by expressing two cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor genes, KRP1/ICK1 and KRP4, driven by the L1 layer-specific AtML1 promoter. The transgenes conferred reduced plant size with striking, distorted lateral organ shape. While epidermal cell division was severely inhibited with compensatory cell size enlargement, the underlying mesophyll/cortex layer kept normal cell numbers and resulted in small, packed cells with disrupted cell files. Our results demonstrate the autonomy of cell number checkpoint in the underlying tissues when epidermal cell division is restricted. Finally, the L1 layer-specific expression of both KRP1/ICK1 and KRP4 showed no effects on the structure and function of the SAM, suggesting that the effects of these cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors are context dependent.