Petite size in fashion and clothing is referring to the special size for women under 5’4” or 5’3”. The reason American designers make petite size is because regular size is tailored for women of 5’5” and above, thus they will not fit shorter women well. Let’s first a look at how women under 5’4” have different body features than taller girls.
First of all, many petite women have narrower shoulders. If the shoulders of a jacket or coat are too wide for you, the entire outfit will look lousy, which will downgrade the quality of your whole look. A well-made petite size outerwear takes this into consideration and tailor the shoulders to fit the needs of petite women. In fact, this applies to not just outerwear, but also halter dress. Have you ever had a halter dress that keeps sliding down your shoulders? Now you know why. Since the shoulder width is very difficult to alter by the tailors, you should definitely get it right in the first place, i.e. get it from the petite department.
Secondly, petite women tend to have shorter arms, thus sleeve length should adjust accordingly. The quality of great style is in the details, while sleeves might be one of the most overlooked details of our outfit. Modern fashion is more and more relaxed about the rules and codes on women’s wear compared with men’s. However, the wrong sleeve length could instantly sabotage the quality of your outfit and the impression people get from it about you, especially in work or formal social occasions. For petite women, if the sleeves are too long, it will look like the jacket or coat is not the right size for you, even if it fits perfectly elsewhere. That is why it is critical to get your outerwear from petite department of retails stores or petite designers. Alternatively, you could send it to the tailor and hem it to the right length, and it will make a whole world of difference.
Thirdly, most petite women have shorter torso. Most petite size designers have taken into account short torso in order to fit petite women better. Petite dresses should have shorter bodice to fit shorter torso. Since it is hard to alter the torso (body) of a piece of garment, we suggest you pick out the right one from the petite department. We mentioned earlier how the halter dress could fall off your shoulders if they are not tailored for petite size, in fact, the shorter torso could cause the same issue. Additionally, the torso length also affects where the waistline is. For instance, a regular size blouse may look like drop-waisted on a petite woman.
Fourthly, the most obvious one, petite women most likely have shorter legs. Therefore, petite size bottoms need to adjust the inseam in order to fit correctly. Inseam is the length of the inner leg, from the top of the thigh to the ankle. Additionally, the knee cap for petite size pants or jeans should also be different from regular size. It is easy for tailors to take in the hem of the pants, but difficult or impossible to change the knee cap. Therefore, it is wise to get the right petite size jeans and pants from petite department. It is worth mentioning even though most petite women need to wear shorter inseam, there are also petite girls blessed with longer legs, even though they are under 5’4’’.
So far we have talked about how height is the critical factor to determine whether you should wear petite size. However, that is not absolute and height alone cannot put you in the petite size or regular size category. Human body has so many different variations and there are so many different combinations of body features, just one parameter is not enough to tell what size you should wear. Chances are some women may be around 5’4” but their legs are short and they will find petite size pants with shorter inseam fit them better. It is also likely for a girl under 5’2” to have wide shoulders, long arms and long torso, thus a jacket from regular size department make them more comfortable. In fact, it is quite common for a woman to have a combination of body treats, i.e. someone could be petite for the bottom half of her body but not the top half, or vice versa. Therefore, the most important part you still need to look at is your body treats such as the length of limbs, the width of shoulders and the length of the torso.
If you are around 5’3”, it is advisable to try on both petite and regular size, and compare the fit and how they make you feel. That may sound like too much hassle, but that is the best way to find that perfect fit. You might be surprised about your findings and it is possible you might have been wearing the wrong size over the years.
Pay attention to the definition of petite sizing by each retailer/designer, as some of them define what is petite as under 5’4” while others define it as under 5’3”. It may sound like a slight difference, but that could affect their petite sizing. Most brands follow standard sizing chart, but each petite brand may have some differences in their tailoring. Here we have compared the most popular petite designers/stores and their definition of petite height.
Lastly, petite is a concept about height, and not about weight. If you are under 5’4” and you wear plus size, that could mean that you are a petite plus. Petite plus girls, like other petite size women, share the common body features mentioned earlier, and the best bet to find their clothing from designers who carry petite plus specifically tailored to suit the needs of curvier petite women. Petite plus could go up to 18P by some designers, and they have taken into consideration shoulder width, sleeve length and inseam needs of petite women just as other petite size clothing. Kim Kardashian is a good example of petite girls on the curvy side.
If you are indeed a petite size woman, you probably have experienced the difficulty and frustration looking for the right sizes in regular department stores or shopping malls, so many of us may have shopped in the junior department at some point. While that seems to be an easy solution, we do not recommend you to do so often. In fact, one of the important styling principals for short girls is to avoid too much “cuteness”. The complaints of many short girls is they are not taken seriously at work place, because of their height. In order to appear to be the equivalent of tall girls, our goal should be to add presence and authority through our styling. Shopping in junior department will only do the opposite. The designs for juniors are catered for teenagers, and they are not meant to be worn by professional adult women. Except for sweat pants and other causal clothing you will only wear at home or for workout, we suggest you to stop shopping at junior department and look for stores with petite sizes instead.
Chi is 5’2″ founder of Petite Dressing, an online petite clothing store dedicated to women under 5’4″. Petite Dressing blog is here to help you understand yourself, such as your petite body type, and look your best ever. If you are new, start here. Connect with me today by sending an email to email@example.com.