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What Happened to Petite Sophisticate?

The name alone is like something out of the fashion dark ages: “Petite Sophisticate.” Was there really a time that we—us girls of diminutive stature—said, “that’s what I need, a store that understands my need to be elevated from just petite to petite AND sophisticated”? Apparently so. Because at the time, Petite Sophisticate was the shiz-nit.

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But alas, Petite Sophisticate is no longer. Which you may have noticed; then again, maybe not. But for a brand that was a formidable force in mainstream retail game through much of the 1980s and ’90s, the question is—what happened?

Petite Sophisticate: Where Art Thou?

One Word: The Internet (well that’s two, but only the second one is important). With the advent of simplified and secure e-commerce, fashion retailers were forced to take their wares to where their customers wanted to shop – online. For some (read: Target) the leap was almost seamless, for others, it was the beginning of the end. There are legions of then-hip brick-and-mortar retailers (remember Fashion Bug*, Contempo Casuals, and Petite Sophisticate sister company, Casual Corner?) that didn’t change effectively with the times to the hip, streamlined, and budget demands of savvy at-home shoppers. Nor did they update their image to keep up with the ever-changing, super-fickle generations of the 2000s. Between those factors and the intense increased competition brought about by world-wide shopping opportunities, the once-mighty Petite Sophisticate can be counted as collateral damage.

The store’s background is deep—part of the company Charming Shoppes, Inc. founded in the 1940s or 1950s (reports vary), Petite Sophisticate served a real need not addressed by many other fashion retailers at the time: specially proportioned garments that gave short girls access to true ready-to-wear clothing (rather than having to alter garments made for “average” proportions). Later acquired by Retail Brand Alliance, the chain once boasted hundreds of stores nationwide. In the wake of the aforementioned challenges, the brand limped along longer than many of it’s contemporaries, shutting down it’s online retail platform (the death knell) in 2009 followed by it’s brick and mortar locations as recently as 2010. It was just a few short years ago, in fact, that I wrote glowingly on TBF of Petite Sophisticate as a go-to source for great petite jackets. Ah, the memories.

Petite Sophisticate Tag

The legacy? Well, sadly, a lack of brands catering specifically to the petite shopper in any sort of meaningful and style-savvy way. But that’s a topic for another post. For now, we’ll just say we don’t exactly miss you Petite Sophisticate – but we do wish there was a chic and modern petite-centric retailer poised to take your place. (Interestingly, there are tons of links to “gently used” Petite Sophisticate garments online—if it’s any comfort to the now defunct brand, your followers are still out there!).

*Note: We’re aware that Fashion Bug still exists—but we’re also aware that with a name like “Fashion Bug” and the big hair, prairie dress associations that we still attach to it, we might argue that it could be the Radio Shack of fashion retailers.

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Kathy R

Friday 6th of October 2017

I, too, loved the Petite Sophisticate stores and still miss them terribly! I, too, still have some clothes in my closet from there, and wore a blue blouse (with the Petite Sophisticate label) just tonight for a special memorial prayer service at our church. The styles still look good all these years later, and I really feel good wearing them! And to Dani's post from 1 year ago (if she is still reading these posts) I also watch reruns of "Room 222" and LOVE the styles from Petite Sophisticate on the women in that show! Cutest clothes ever!!! Sad day when that store closed it's doors. And ditto with Fashion Bug stores, I also loved those stores. Very sad to see these wonderful retail stores go. Thank you to all for your many comments here, enjoyed reading them all!!!!! From - Kathy R

Diane Gacina Plutino

Sunday 1st of October 2017

I loved working or petite Sophisticate.I had such a wonderful staff and clients. The cloths were great and easy to sell. miss buying suits and dress as well as jeans and tees

ALightOnAHill

Sunday 5th of November 2017

I met my now-daughter-in-law in Petite Sophisticate when she was working there in the Phoenix area. I asked her if she'd go to an event with my son who needed a partner for the event. They wound up getting married many years ago and have two teen-age daughters. I still have solid jeans from there that I am literally wearing today. They have never worn out!! Just a little ragged at the hem but overall they are terrific! I do miss them since I'm so short!!!!! My daughter-in-law was a bit shorter than I but I've shrunk in height so we're about the same now. It would be nice to have a "come back!"

Catherine Brock

Monday 2nd of October 2017

Diane, Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Catherine

Beth

Saturday 22nd of July 2017

Has anyone found any stores or brands that fit similar to the petite sophisticates clothing? I have a particularly hard time finding dress pants that fit well. I have a couple of pair of petite sophisticate pants that fit perfectly at the time I bought them but aren't my current size. I'm 5'-2", 130 pounds, and generally wear a size 4 or 6 in dress pants but I'm curvy (narrow waist, wide hips) and I just can't seem to find any petite pants that fit. For dresses, I've had some luck at dress barn and JC Penney which usually has a very large selection of petite dresses at really good prices. For tops, I can generally get away with regular sizing I just can't wear certain styles. Petite tops tend to run a little shorter than I like but regular tops can be too wide in the shoulders or if neck-line will drop too low.

Mary E Cote

Monday 5th of June 2017

Best quality ever. I am still wearing my PS clothing and they all still look wonderful. Sad that they left us.

ALightOnAHill

Sunday 5th of November 2017

Ditto!

Lorelai Gilmore

Monday 11th of July 2016

I adored Petite Sophisticate!! My local store was 15 minutes away and I never had to try on anything. Just pick out the size 2 clothing that I loved and the sales people were thrilled to see me walk in the store. They knew that I'd leave with many purchases. I'm 5 ft. tall exactly. Sadly the store is gone and also I'm not a size 2 anymore!! LOL

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