Dressing for a Petite Frame

The signature jean cuff.

The signature jean cuff.

As I have mentioned before, I am a rather petite person. It was often said that unless I was standing next to someone or you saw me in person, there is no sense of exactly how short I am. So I am just going to come out and say it, I am four foot ten…AND a half. I am under five feet tall, I will never reach that coveted height. When I was about 12 or 13 years old I was this height, and my mom told me that when I reached five feet she would throw me a party. Yes, I am still waiting for this five foot tall party but I am pretty sure that will never happen. So why am I telling you this? Petite sizing is meant for women that are 5’ 4” and under. If you are looking at that number in relation to my height you will notice that is still five and a half inches taller than me!

This has posed a problem for me in the form of finding clothing that fits. I think that people like to assume that because I am a small and fit person finding items that look good on me is a walk in the park. I am here to tell you that every shopping experience is an adventure, and most of the items I try do not work. I have learned that hemming is inevitable for anything that I want to look remotely professional. Beyond hemming, many of my items have to be taken in and completely remade to fit me proportionally. I consider it a huge win if an item I am interested in only needs to be hemmed, to me that means that it fits! I have to be careful with alterations because sometimes the item is just too big to retain the integrity of the garment, so that is something to keep in mind for petite women like me.

So how do I find the right pieces for my closet? Here are some tips and tricks for building a wardrobe that fits and will be worn. These tips are good for everyone, not just those who fall out of the normal size ranges.

I would LOVE for this coat to come in petite sizing!

I would LOVE for this coat to come in petite sizing!

Ordered online AND altered extensively.

Ordered online AND altered extensively.

  1. Try on: I try EVERYTHING on. I know so many people who can just pick up their size in a standard item and know that it is going to fit. I envy you guys. Trying an item on might be a pain but it saves me the hassle of buying an item that doesn’t work.

  2. Know your stores: I have my favorite stores to shop at. They carry brands that traditionally fit me, have petite sizes, or some combination of the two. I end up adding occasional new stores to my lists, but very often I stick to the same basic websites to streamline my approach.

  3. Order online: Recently, I have taken to ordering online from stores that fit the aforementioned criteria. I have noticed that so many brick and mortar stores do not carry the items that I am looking for in store. Much less in my specific sizing requests. Most people end up doing a lot of shopping online these days, and I am no different. I have no problem ordering online and deciding if the things ordered should be kept or not, which brings me to my next point.

  4. Return when necessary: I make sure that the stores I pick have a flexible return policy, which is why Nordstrom has been my go-to for so long. There is no point in keeping items in my closet that do not fit, will never fit, or do not flatter my figure.

  5. Ask for second opinions: Whenever I get a new item that I am not sure about, I have my people that I ask for a second opinion. These happen to be the same people that I consult when packing for a trip. Even though I tend to know what I think looks good on my body, it never hurts to have a second eye help you out, especially if they are familiar with your specific body concerns.

  6. Edit your closet: This is a new concept for me. While it has been known to me that my body goes through fluctuations (news flash, all of ours do) I never used to take the time to try on the clothes that I wasn’t wearing and figure out why I wasn’t. Now, I keep tags on all of my clothing until I decide to wear them. That way, if I don’t wear them for a substantial amount of time I can return them. If it is something that I have previously loved but no longer fits my lifestyle or personal aesthetic, it’s time to let someone else love the item.

  7. Trust your gut: I know this sounds silly when speaking about something as simple as a piece of clothing, but if it doesn’t feel right the first time you probably won’t wear it. I have tried to stretch my style time and time again by picking pieces that are out of my comfort zone. More often than not, the item that looked great but didn’t feel right still had the tags on a year later.

  8. Find a good seamstress: This one is mostly for my petite individuals, or those who rarely fit clothing off the rack. Whether you just need the occasional hemming of a pant or dress, or you need your clothing to be entirely reworked to fit proportionally (ME) it is important to find someone you trust to make your clothing fit. Admittedly, I still need to find someone here in Atlanta.

While I believe that these tips are helpful for anyone, they are doubly important for those of us who don’t fall into the traditional size ranges. Happy shopping, or closet editing as the case may be!

A few similar items to those picture in this posted are linked below:

Ellie Gottstein