I tend to get a lot of questions about how I know whether things are going to fit or not, especially when it comes to shopping online. Unless you already know the brand really well shopping online can be tricky at the best of times and nearly impossible at the worst. Especially if you are petite, ordering online can be more hassle than its worth. However, with a few easy tips and tricks, you’ll be able to buy confidently online or in the store knowing your new clothes are going to fit like a dream.
I wish I could tell you that you can trust online sizing. My opinion changed however after stumbling upon a pair of jeans that were supposedly for petite women, but it said the model was 5’8. I am sorry but petite doesn’t mean skinny, that girl might be able to squeeze into a 2 petite because she has a 24-inch waist but petite is suppose to be direct towards those of us who require different proportions in terms of lengths, waistlines, and sleeves compared to those who are of average, or in this case above average height. After that somewhat startling discovery, I learned that I need to be more careful about trusting the tag size.
The reality is that if something like a pair of jeans fits someone who is 5’8 there is no way it can be for petite women, they are going to be way too long! So how to avoid falling prey to mistakes like this? By using the following tips and tricks of course! I have honed these over years and years of experience trying to buy clothing to fit an exceptionally petite frame.
First things first, it is important to understand, what is considered petite. By definition, anyone under 5’5 can be considered petite though most fashion brands consider the ideal women for petite sizing to start at 5’4 or 5’3 depending on the brand. Now, I don’t consider myself to petite in terms of my measurements other than my height. For reference, I am 4’10 and weigh about 109lbs. I wear jeans that have a 26-27 inch waist and can wear bras with a 32-inch band.
More than anything petite sizing has to do with proportions of the clothes looking off on such a short frame. Things like sleeve lengths, leg inseam lengths and vertical torso measurements (such as the back length and bust-waist length) must be proportioned differently to fit well.
Specified petite clothing is designed to not only fit better but be more flattering. With seams and design elements placed to help lengthen the appearance of the person wearing them, these pieces are built to be better for those who are on the shorter side.
So with that in mind, now its time to delve into how you can shuffle through the masses of clothing to find things that are going to fit just right. In an ideal world, you would be able to walk into any store and find great, modern, chic styles for petite women, however, that is not the case. But if you know what to look for you can find hidden gems in the juniors section or even the women’s section that while they might not be made for petites, will be great for someone who is 5’4 and under.
Pants have always been the hardest things for me shop for. The challenge of finding the perfect balance between length and fit everywhere else has been a nearly impossible task. Let’s start with length, while most women’s brands have short lengths it can be challenging to find information on exactly what the inseam length is. What is an inseam? Exactly like it sounds, it is the length of the seam that runs along the inside of a pant leg and is how they lab how long the pants are.
Measuring an inseam is incredibly easy, though you might need a friend to help, or find a pair of jeans you know fits just the way you like. Using a tape measure start at the crotch of your pants and measure down to the hemline, or where you would like the hemline to be. That number is the length you should look for when buying pants
The easiest way to find pants that are the right length is shopping brands that size by waist and inseam. Levi’s has various lengths that are clearly labeled on their tags making it easy to find the perfect size. With inseams that go down to 28 inches, and waist sizes ranging from 24-34, they continue to rank as favorites. If you can’t find a brand you like that fits their jeans this way, most websites will have information on how long their inseams are to make sure you are buying the right length. My perfect inseam for pants is somewhere between 26-28 inches.
Dresses and Skirts
Dresses and skirts are hardly any easier than pants. Lengths that are too long, or fall somewhere in the awkward range of not short enough but not long enough to be fashionable. While it can be tricky, knowing your length measurements will help you determine exactly which skirts and dress will fit you best. For those of you 5’2 and under, If you are looking for a dress that hits you about mid-thigh, great for wearing with boots, and heels for a modern look, a total length of 32 inches should be perfect. If you are closer to 5’3-5’4 looking for something with a length around 34 inches will be hit right where it should giving you the confidence to rock that dress or skirt
Oh, and total dress length means from the very top of the back of the dress all the way to the hemline, not just the length of the bottom of the dress. Keep in mind these are just lengths to give you a starting point for helping you decide whether a dress might work for you.
For a more knee-length dress or skirt, those under 5’2 should look for dresses at or around 35 inches long while those 5’3-5’4 are looking for dresses at around 37 inches. For knee length dresses it’s important to make sure that they are hitting your right at the knees, as it is way to easy for them to hit in the awkward between range where they aren’t quite knee length but they aren’t a midi dress either and so instead they just end of looking a bit crazy.
Maxi dress has always been the most difficult for me in terms of shopping for dresses. But I found the perfect one from ASOS, and now I use that as measuring stick for how long all of my maxi dresses are. Maxi dresses measuring between 53-57 inches depending on how tall you are, will be perfect for those of us on the shorter side of things. To be honest with you I have only ever found a couple of them that I haven’t had to alter, but ASOS and JcPenny’s petite section have both been gold mines.
Tops are usually knot as much of a struggle. I’ve come to the realization that I will always have sleeves that are way too long. It runs in the family, or least that’s the running joke but then again most of my family is more on the petite side. Other than sleeves I can usually, for the most part, fit into a standard x-small or small depending on the brand, cut, and material of the top. This is where the petite section fails us shorter women. I’ve found that most stores that offer shirts in petite sizes, they are fairly boxy and more made for older women.
Nordstrom Rack has saved the day for me when it comes to finding great fitting petite tops that are specifically cut for a shorter torso and are modern. Whether its t-shirts or more structured blouses for work I’ve found some great pieces. When shopping for tops my biggest worry, especially when shopping online as with most things is the length. Of course, it’s usually pretty easy to hem a top, but for blouses and things that might be a little harder to alter, measuring from the center of the back of your neck down to where you want the hemline to fit will give you an idea of how long a shit will be. I don’t mind my shirts being a little longer as I tuck them in 90% of the time anyway so it’s not a big deal, but for nicer ones I tend to try and get them as close to an ideal length as I can.
Whats more important for a top than length is making sure it fits everywhere else. Using your bust and waist measurements you can make sure that your tops will fit everywhere it counts.
Jackets and Vests
Jackets and vest can be tricky. I had the hardest time finding the best fitting leather jacket because it was hard to find when that was small enough through the waist and hit right at the hips where I wanted it to. This can be tricky depending on your bust and waist sizes you might find yourself in between sizes.I didn’t have much luck with the actually petite section but there are several brands out there that cut their jackets smaller making them ideal for petite women. Keep an eye out for those with shorter torso lengths around 24 inches and be sure to use your bust measurement to make sure it will fit when its zipped up.
For vests, I have found the petite section to be great for finding longer more draped styles that many standard sizes will be too long for petite women. For longer fitting vest great for wearing with leggings and skinny jeans those who are 5’2 or shorter should look for lengths of about 26 inches, for a great look that will be longer and more relaxed. For those vests that you want to fit more traditionally like puggy or down vests, a length of 24 inches will make sure that it’s not too long and is a flattering fit.
These are some great starting points on how to find the perfect fit for petite clothes. It would be great if we could just take the tag size for its word, however that can’t always be the case. So know your numbers, find some pants that make your butt look amazing, a dress that makes you feel like a princess or the top that helps you land the job interview of your dreams.
I hope you guys find these tips helpful for your next shopping adventure, and that your week is off to a great start.
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