In our Repost Series, we re-publish classic posts from our archives. This is one of our favorite posts from 2006.
I need your help. I’m a 5″1”, 110 lbs, 23-year-old female and I find it very difficult to shop for office clothes. It seems like there are very few fashion options for petite women. Any petite fashion advice?
A: I’ve been getting quite a few questions from petite readers in regards to the sad state of petite fashion. I agree that there’s little, to no, options for truly petite women.
Petite Fashion Advice
The fact is that as the size of the average American has increased, clothing sizes have decreased (read my entry that talks in greater detail about this issue). Furthermore, manufacturers use fit models to “represent” the largest number of consumers possible and if you fall outside of the size range of the fit models, like 90% of the people in the world, you’re not going to be able to wear things straight off the rack. However, all is not lost—find a good tailor and you’ll be well on your way to proper fitting fashion. In fact, prior to the 1970s, getting a piece tailored to fit you was a pretty common clothing care procedure. Most department stores offered free tailoring.
You could also try wearing Parisian and Japanese designers, who tend to cut their clothing a bit smaller. Try designers like Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld, TSE, Issey Miyake, Marini, Louis Vuitton, or the UK budget site Asos. With the exception of Asos, these designers don’t come cheap, so you’ll have to practically live at the local outlet mall or on the bargain site—Bluefly.com. But the clothing will fit you. You could also try a store like Ann Taylor, which sometimes can be as pricey as buying designer clothing at an outlet mall and not nearly as fashionable and the Gap, which sells petite (and tall) sizes online. Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Lord & Taylor all have petite departments with a better selection online rather than in store. You might also want to save your money and head up to Canada—Ste. Catherine in Montreal and the Eaton center in Toronto have several great petite fashion shops.
Here’s some general petite fashion tips:
Things to Embrace:
High Heels—Wearing at least a 2-inch heel will help to elongate your body (both torso and legs).
A Great Tailor—A great tailor is an importance asset for your wardrobe as he or she can alter garments to fit your shape. I’ll talk more about how to find a great tailor later in this section.
Low-rise Pants—Lower waist pants will make your torso look longer. Make sure the hem of the pants covers your shoe to give the illusion that your legs are longer.
Big Hair—If you’re looking to appear taller, wearing your in a high bun or ponytail will increase height as well.
Vertical Stripes—The stripes give the effect of looking taller and slimmer.
Things to Avoid:
Cropped Anything—Cropped pants, tops, and jackets will shorten your torso.
Flats—They will not give you the additional height you need.
Long unstructured skirts—They will drown your shape and make you look shorter. Hem the skirt to either three inches above your knee, at your knee, or three inches below your knee.
Mini skirts—Off the rack mini skirts will fall at an awkward length. Make sure your skirts fall either 3 inches above your knee, at your knee, or 3 inches below.
Great Designers for Petite Budget Fashionistas
INC—Trendy, bright, and affordable.
Eileen Fisher—Fluid fashions good for plus size petites.
DKNY—Hip, younger, urban wear.
Ellen Tracy—A classic line, great for suits
Forever 21—Not a petite store per see, but clothes are cut smaller
Dana Buchman—Another classic line, great for work clothes
Lily Pulitzer—Sportswear for the ladies who lunch set.
Lauren by Ralph Lauren—The classic American designer’s preppy petite line.
Anne Klein—Suits and tops perfect for work.
Gap—Online store stocks a large number of petite sized pants.
Banana Republic—Online store carries fashionable designs in petite styles.