Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Petite Girl's Shopping Guide

As I've written before, my fashion sense is severely lacking not only because I'm clueless when it comes to style, but also because as a 4'9" woman who barely weighs 85 lbs. it's tough to find shops with clothes and shoes that actually fit my small frame. Things need to be either taken in, hemmed, cut, or whatnot so it doesn't look like I'm swimming in my clothes. I know there are stores with "petite" sections, but I swear those are just there to make average-sized women feel skinnier.

So I asked the petite ladies in Reddit's TwoXChromosomes and FemaleFashionAdvice sections for their favorite places to shop and they were awesome enough to offer up their suggestions. Several commenters made an interesting point: in the fashion industry, "petite" refers to stature (5'4" and under) and not size, which makes my problem two-fold. Garments are tailored for a shorter frame (in regards to pants and sleeve lengths), but might still need to be taken in if you're also really thin. Buy jeans that fit around the waist and then have the legs hemmed to the proper length. Make it a point to find a good tailor so when you find a piece you simply must have, he can make those adjustments that will make it fit just right.

"I'm 5'2" and petite sections of any store I go to are hit and miss," Redditor Turtleshellmagic writes on one thread. "It's a nightmare so I just try everything on and hope it fits. If I buy a particularly pricey piece, I don't mind having it fitted."

Below, you'll find a round up of tips, shops, brands, and websites that either cater specifically to petite women or have a great selection of items in smaller sizes.

H&M: Here, a size 2 usually fits, it just depends on the item and cut (typically tops and dresses). Plus, the prices are really low. Just remember that sometimes you pay for what you get and some items turn out to be a bit cheaply made.

Old Navy: It's not exactly fancy or anything, but I lucked out with jeans in the Old Navy children's section. They had size 10's and 12's that weren't decked in glitter and lace so I was finally able to score skinny jeans that actually fit me tightly.

Aéropostale: The fact that they plaster their name and year of establishment on everything they make has been a huge turn off for me the last several years, but I can't completely knock it. Their sweaters and tops have always fit me really nicely.

 "They sell pants in "short petite" sizes, which are extra small and extra short. I'm 5'0" so regular petite is too long for me," I-have-feet says.

Ardubuque agrees saying, "It takes me forever to find anything that fits my small but curvy frame set, but Kohl's usually has good jean selections in the juniors sections that aren't all frills and glitter."

Head to the mall: "For inexpensive casual clothes, any mall store that caters to both older teens/adults AND younger teens/preteens is a great bet as long as you're careful about what you buy," Leezza says before listing her go-to options like H&M, Forever 21American Eagle OutfittersDelia*s, and Hollister. ("They carry some very, very small jeans.")

Banana Republic: Another store that I've yet to really give a chance, but a couple Redditors swear by them. "Five feet, 103 pounds here," Jaleann11 writes. "I love Banana Republic. They have a petites section that actually means short AND skinny, and you can find their clothes cheaply at their outlet stores."

Ann Taylor Loft: Although others seem to luck out here, I've gone into Ann Taylor Loft only to find the petite section filled with sizes that could just as well fit in other racks in the store. "I used to work at Ann Taylor Loft," Michelement comments. "Their petite section is for women ranging from 5'3" to 5'6", as compared to their regular line which is designed for women 5'6" to 5'9". Five-foot-three is not petite by my standards, and their 00P dresses are loose on me. Basically, just because it says it's petite doesn't mean it fits."

And though you run the risk of needing to return your purchase if it doesn't fit just right, RedWiggler says, "The selection is sometimes better online."

J. Crew: The store is said to have slimmer measurements, but I haven't checked them out myself. I do like their coats and dresses though.

American Apparel: The company is a bit over the top with some of its products (you won't find me in neon orange lycra tights, but hey, that might be your thing). That said, they have plenty of items that fit tightly and their jersey dresses are actually simple, cute, and comfortable. I have a few from there including a certain fuchsia-colored number that can easily be dressed up or down and supposedly worn in 15 different ways.

Go international: Some suggested heading to Asia for smaller sizes and I can remember what a thrill it was to finally find tight jeans and tops at Pimkie and Promod during my first trip to France years ago. ECupcakes offered up, which distributes fashion items from Asian designers, while Rikkirachel recommended Japanese shopping site Rakuten. "Since the median body type is usually shorter and smaller, their 'XS' will actually be quite small," Rikkirachel says. "Rakuten is a Japanese site with lots of stores that ship overseas (although some do not) and I've been able to get smaller-sized clothing and lingerie from there."

ASOS: My old coworker loved this U.K. retailer and would constantly browse and buy the cutest pieces from them - even though she had to pay for shipping from the U.K. But hey, now the company has a U.S. site and offers free standard shipping to the U.S. within six days.

Uniqlo: A couple commenters have mentioned Uniqlo's impressive selection, smaller sizes when compared to American stores, good prices, and free tailoring for pants. That final point is enough to make me want to check it out and with the Japanese store expanding throughout New York City, it'll be easier to pop into one.

Soïa & Kyo: Finding outerwear that's warm, sophisticated, and doesn't look two sizes too big on me has been tough. I managed to find an acceptable one at H&M a few years ago, but a couple years later the pockets were in tatters, the lining was starting to fall apart, and it just proved to be too light for NYC winters. Last year, and after months of no luck, A. surprised me with one he saw on a store window as an early Christmas gift. It's an XS long wool coat and wouldn't you know it fit perfectly. It's pricy, but it's so warm and cozy and the company even offers items a size smaller than mine.

And going back to stylish Asians and fashion, Extra Petite is an awesome blog created by a fellow petite who stands just under five feet all and is on a "quest for fashion that fits." She documents and shares her challenges and finds as she builds a wardrobe that actually flatters her figure. Expect lots of photos, reviews, resources, and tips about current sales.

Along with outerwear, finding lingerie in small sizes is a frustrating affair. This is why I've given up on browsing through major brands like GapBody and Victoria's Secret in the hopes of finding bras and nightwear that fits. Because they cater to the masses and average sizes, you'll have a harder time finding your right size in store if you fall above or below the average figure. Smaller lingerie retailers will have a broader inventory from different brands, more tailored pieces, and help fit you into the right size. Some will also adjust bra straps right in the store. (But P.S. An XS in panties from most stores fit just fine so this is mainly about bras and other lingerie.)

The Little Bra Company: I discovered this company during my last bra fitting at Town Shop and then immediately browsed their site to check out their collection and find other retailers that carried them in the city. They have a good selection of bras in really small sizes and sexy styles so no more bras that bunch up or make you look flat or obviously padded. You can order from their site or from a local lingerie retailer.

Aerie: I'm adding American Eagle Outfitter's underwear line even though I haven't been able to find a bra that fits me perfectly just yet. But I know other slim women who've lucked out in this department - and by that I mean both on the boob front and the bra section of the store. Their underwear collection is so cute, it always hurts that I can't buy them.

Agent Provocateur: If you think there's no hope in ever finding a well-made piece of lingerie that hugs your body and makes you feel like a little sexpot, visit Agent Provocateur. It's very high-end so quite the splurge, but their items are just so beautiful it's hard not to imagine yourself in them. Corsets are meant to practically merge with your skin so you might find that a size 1 tied in tightly will leave you gasping for air.

Another lesson I'm slowly learning is this: always take the time and money to do it right. I've wasted so many years, money, and bandages in buying cheap products that either needed to be thrown out and replaced too soon or were never worn at all because they were so uncomfortable. This especially pertains to shoes.

"If you have a large budget, I would suggest you try more designer items," Cashsieh says. "Shop at a nice department store and they'll help you find your size...the higher end stuff tends to fit much much smaller. This is especially true for shoes. The higher end the brand, the smaller shoe sizes they have."

The Brooklyn-based stylist then shared her favorite stores and boutiques around the city with some lavish choices thrown into the mix.

Levi's: "As obvious as that sounds, they make solid all-American jeans in just about all the sizes imaginable," Cashsieh says. "Check them out online if you're hesitant to traipse through the city to find your size. Free People's cut and sizes tend to run small as well."

Opening Ceremony: "Really funky, really hipster," she says of the high-fashion yet playful boutique. "Check out their website as I find the store slightly overwhelming. Pick out what you want to try on, then go to store and find it."

Cotélac: "A French brand with really feminine airy pieces that should run rather small. But their clothes are usually loose fitting and you can get away with something slightly larger."

Chuckies New York: "I probably hate that place only because I worked there, but they do carry smaller sizes. The thing with shoes is you really have to just go try them on. Certain brands tend to run smaller, like Chloé, and others run big, like Stuart Weitzman. You have to have the patience to try on shoes, that's why I would suggest you go to a department store. They'll have a larger range of brands, hence a larger range of sizes."

Topshop: "They have a whole section of petites so you won't have to sift through everything," Cashsieh adds. "Their sizes also generally run quite small."

Aldo: I just bought my first pair of nice brown leather boots from them when I saw that a certain location carried size 5. They have a nice sturdy heel and I can comfortably walk around in them for hours without wanting to chop off my feet at the end of the day. Being comfortable makes a big difference when it comes to feeling confident and beautiful in what you're wearing and in turn motivates you to keep improving your style.

Zappos: I've only bought two pairs of Tretorn rain boots from them (it was my first shoe purchase from a website so I got two sizes) and I loved that I could return the extra pair without any shipping & handling charges.

 When I had to find a dress for a wedding last year, I knew the search was going to be a frustrating blow to my self-esteem. And it was. But it flew right up when I slipped into this dress at BCBG and saw that it was possible for me to find a dress that made me feel stunning. I only had to have the size 0 taken in a little bit and it was so worth it.

So petite girls tell me: where do you love to shop?

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  1. More power to us petite girls. I have always been teany tiny, it wasn't until I had my 2 boys that I gained wait. I just had a woman in the street tell me I looked 16 and asked if my 6 year old and 1 year old were mine because I looked so young {small frame, short & baby face}. Plus I have weight loss spurts due to my crohns disease and recently lost 13 pounds in 3 weeks.
    It's incredibly hard finding jeans so I don't spend lots of money on them because I loose weight there the fastest: So I usually shop at old navy, forever 21 and H&M! try LULU'S online they have good sizes.

  2. Thanks, girl! I'd never even heard of Lulu's before. Will definitely check it out. And yeah, jeans have always been a pain in the butt. Even though I'm skinny, I'd never owned a pair of skinny jeans until two years ago when I hit the jackpot in Old Navy's children's section. Bought several pairs and I haven't bought any new ones since.

    I complain about it, but sometimes it's to my benefit that these girls are dressing too old for their age.

    I haven't bought anything from Forever 21 in a long while. The one down on 34th Street is always a madhouse, but I heard the one on Times Square is pretty good. I'm just a bit overwhelmed by how big it is!

  3. Speaking for the guys (or to ditto what A. probably said) you look fabulous in what you are wearing!!


  4. My problem is a bit different. I'm only 5' tall, but I'm much heavier than you. I've found that the petites sections at both JC Penney and Kohl's fit me really well.

  5. intense guy, thanks for the compliment!

    janet, man, I haven't stepped inside a JC Penny in so long. I'd probably have to drive out to the malls of Jersey for that.

  6. What a great post! Thanks for including my advice into it, I hope it helped with your shopping adventures!


  7. Thanks for this post! I'm also very petite myself. I'm 19 and an inch under you/4'8". I weigh a bit more than you though, like 96 pounds. I usually shop for my jeans at hollister(mostly jeggings/skinnys), and for tops from express(because they carry xs and sometimes xxs)and I also got some leggings from express( in espresso, heather gray, black, and charcoal gray). But those are the only places I really shop. I want to try forever 21 though, and maybe free people...It feels so good to know there's someone out there close to my height. I felt like I was alone, and abnormal lol.

  8. Awesome! I'm the exact same height, and I've always feared of looking like a little kid to everyone no matter what I wear because of my shortness. But, you definitely don't look like a little girl in those pictures, only a beautiful woman. You've boosted my confidence in clothes shopping :) <3


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