Thursday, 16 July 2015

Doesn't petite mean short?

I'm short. At 5' and a bit, there's no denying it. That's why I always head for the Petite sections when shopping, whether I'm in a store or shopping on-line, but guess what? Many of these "petite" clothes seem to have been designed for taller women than me. A quick search on-line reveals that the average woman in the UK is 5'3" tall, so those of us who are a few inches less than this count as short, in my humble opinion. It's supposed to be the same average here in Spain but, trust me, I'm far from being the shortest woman in the Spanish town where we live, which is why I find it strange that most of the clothes in the local shops are far too long. My research has also shown that American and Canadian women are a little bit taller, so when looking for petite clothes I usually stick to UK websites and/or brands.

I checked out the Wallis website recently - as I've had some success there in the past - to see if there were any petite summer dresses that might suit me. "What about this one?" I thought.

I looked for more details about the dress and spotted that the model was wearing a UK size 8 and she was 5'3".  She's not petite, she's average!  Bearing in mind that I would need a UK size 12, which might be even longer, it was obvious this dress would be too long on me. I also felt that the pattern might be a bit overwhelming for petite women. Browsing the website, I was struck by how many of their petite dresses had large or high contrast prints, which don't necessarily flatter real petite women - though average sized models might look great in them.

Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style has written a very helpful post for Petites, taking into account the fact that some petites might have an H-shape rectangular body like me and others might be O-shaped or have other types of body shape. To be honest, as a petite, I'm just grateful if I can find a dress that doesn't overwhelm me and doesn't trip me up!

Yes, I know that I can shorten a dress, but that isn't really the point. Petite clothes should be the right length for short women, or am I missing something? I've now reached the stage where I usually select short or mini dresses when doing on-line searches and carefully check the dress length as well. That dress that is a mini length on a tall, slender model may still hit me mid calf.

My original midi-length dress
The picture above illustrates the importance of choosing the right length for a dress. I wore this dress to my 60th birthday party, the theme of which was "bring on the bling". I liked the colour of the dress and the style, however looking at it more critically (with the help of my friends in the 7 Steps to Style facebook group), the length wasn't very flattering. Petites generally don't look good in midi dresses. Knee length dresses, or even just above the knees, suit them better.

New version - knee length
Nearly eight years later the dress has taken on a new lease of life, after I had it shortened at my local dry-cleaners. Nowadays I am far more demanding when it comes to buying new clothes, especially if I'm choosing an item that is being marketed as "petite", and don't think I'm being too pernickety in expecting petite dresses, skirts and trousers to actually fit me. Is it really too much to expect a petite dress to be designed for petite rather than average women? Short ones, that is!

11 comments:

  1. I also find that some "petite" lines can be on the longer side (I'm 5'1"). And don't get me started about those giant prints or details like wide lapels or collars that haven't been sized down and overwhelm us!

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    1. Absolutely! Do they assume that petite women are exactly the same size as other women - but with 1 or 2 inches chopped off their legs?! They need a petite woman on their design teams.

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  2. Also meant to say the dress looks fabulous on you in the knee length version!

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  3. Very good points! I recently bought a regular sized dress that hits me at the knee (I'm 5'3") so I imagine it was mid-thigh for the height it was designed for which must be why it was on sale LOL. The issue of scale of patterns and design features is one of my major complaints too. At least now we know what to avoid.

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    1. One of the articles I read when researching this post stated the obvious point that we do tend to shrink a bit when we get older. What we need are clothes designed for "women of a certain age", who also happen to be petite. Occasionally we may find a dress or skirt that is intended for younger women and is mini length so hits us at the knee, but the chances of it also being in a colour and style that we like are very slim.

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  4. I agree petites do have issues buying clothes that fit. Thanks for your post. I am an plus size petite so I have to buy plus sized clothes. Plus sizes seem to be fashioned for tall women. I feel a little bit swamped in them. Wide shoulders and everything long. I have learnt to go for 3/4 length sleeves and pants. Carol S

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    1. Me too! I search the internet for 3/4 length sleeves as well as cropped trousers in the hope that they will be normal length on me. I wish I was talented enough to make my own clothes as life would be a lot easier.

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  5. Hi Sue, I'm 5'3" and find that over the past ten years or so the petite and regular clothes have grown. I can now wear Talbots and Laura petites, whereas before they were to short. I still buy regular pants as I need a 29" leg length and prefer a higher rise.

    Sharon Canada

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    1. Hi Sharon If there are any brands that are still too short for you, please let me know! I prefer a higher rise too, however sadly my legs are shorter than yours!

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  6. I'm 5' 2 1/2", and believe me every half inch counts. I understand what you mean, because there is such confusion in the design of clothing for petite women. It's like they take the same clothes designed for tall, stick-thin young girls, and just make the hemlines shorter. So I gave up on dresses long ago. I look for skirts and tops in styles that fit my proportions. Even tucking in a blouse is a frumpy look on me and I'm fairly slender. So I go for form fitting skinny jeans, cropped tops that actually end up fitting at the waist perfectly, and unstructured jackets or fine wool cardigans to complete my look. I love your blog, and noticed that cool clear colors look best on you, especially when paired with a neutral. Something about the combination of colors, rather than just one color. The warm colors, not so much, unless they are paired with a cool, clear color.

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