Friday, March 22, 2013

A short blog post containing a short rant

Dear retail clothing stores of America:

Approximately 40%, give or take, of the women in America are under five feet four inches tall.  Yet most clothing for women is offered for those who are about five feet eight or nine inches tall.  This can lead to deep frustration when a five foot two inch tall woman must purchase an actual grown-up outfit instead of making do with clothes that are clearly not her size.

Compounding the problem is the sad fact that many clothing manufacturers think that petite women have exactly three body styles: skinny, elfin, and emaciated.  I strongly suspect that in the third-world clothing factories where petite clothes are made, a 12-year-old boy is standing in for the petite female model in each factory; so long as the outfit fits him (in all offered sizes), the manufacturer shouts "Perfect!" and sends the clothing out the door.  While I fully support giving economically disadvantaged young boys jobs, this way of doing things doesn't help actual women who have done things like given birth and nursed babies, and who could only fit into your garments after serious amounts of plastic surgery.

Manufacturers consistently say that no one actually buys petite garments, and they assume that short women prefer to buy "real" clothes and have them altered.  If by "prefer" you mean "are left desperate and with no other choice," you might be right.  Apart from the "perfect fit for a 12-year-old boy from an economically disadvantaged part of the world" problem, there is the little problem of style.  Short women apparently want skirts that hit them at mid-thigh no matter how old they are; short women also apparently have no fashion sense, no taste, no ideas about color or line, no concerns about huge prints and large buttons, and no particular care about what they put on--that is, if we judge from the usual offerings in the petite department.  There are two choices in the petite department: dressing like a slightly colorblind toddler, or dressing like a woman in her late nineties (but only after age-related vision problems have cropped up too much for her to be able to tell what she's wearing).

The other solution is online ordering, but even that's not much of a solution, because many online retailers seem to think that petite women are happiest when wearing Capri pants or jeans and brightly colored tunics; we never, apparently, conduct business, attend weddings or funerals, teach or give lectures, appear on camera, or do anything else that requires that we look like actual adults with actual lives.  "You are short," the manufacturers seem to say to us all, "and therefore no one will take you seriously anyway.  Why not attend a wedding in turquoise Capri pants and a scarlet and turquoise paisley tunic?  It's not like anyone will actually look down far enough to see you."

We get it, clothing manufacturers.  Offering attractive, stylish clothing to the 40% of women who are too short to wear your usual stuff is not economically sensible, and besides, petite women don't really care, do they?

But we do.  Oh, we do.


Chloe Austyn said...

this is such a shame! I am 5'9", and constantly lamenting how clothing is always made for women shorter than I, especially skirts! If I drop something, I have to ask my husband to pick it up half the time to avoid any skin flashing. back before I gave up finding jeans and pants that were flattering on me, however, I did notice how they were all long on me, even though I was taller than average. it's pretty perplexing.

if it makes you feel any better, I think the clothing industry has failed us all!

bearing said...

No luck at Ann Taylor Loft, maybe?

I'm 4'11" myself. It definitely takes longer to shop while short, but I don't think it's quite insurmountable. You just never go into those OTHER stores. And you have to be always ready to take garments in to be hemmed or the sleeves shortened (unless you're woman enough to do that sort of thing yourself, which I'm not.)

I learned the other day that the Giant Mall In My Town has an alterations shop tucked away in a corner that will alter clothes you've just bought in an hour or two. This may be a life-changing discovery for me.

MommaLlama said...

Lol! Love it Erin. As someone an inch shorter than you, I nearly ALWAYS frustrated when even the thought of buying clothes enters into the 'to do' list! I end up wasting more time driving from one store to the next trying to find a simple garment. And those of us who may be a little more busty... FORGET IT! You might as well wear a garbage bag.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Agreed! I'm 5'2 as well. Also, to use Beyonce parlance, I am bootlicious. I have hips and thighs. And I find it aggravating that I MUST alter dress clothes. Nice for the cleaners. Bad for my wallet.

freddy said...

There's a website called "My Style Rules" that helps you create a virtual model and then shows you styles that should be flattering to you. It also links to stores where you can find the recommended styles. Not comprehensive, of course, but maybe worth a look.

Barbara C. said...

Chloe is right.

I went shopping last week for some much needed new clothes. I'm about 5' 8" and 125 pounds (I know, hate me) and couldn't find decent clothes, either.

I needed a "cocktail" dress, and everything I found that fit me was made for immodest teenagers. Although I might have found something that fit in the "mother-of-the-bride" section, but I hopefully have another 10 or 20 years before that.

I tried on 5000 pairs of black dress pants and they were all too long on me, apparently made to wear with high heels. I don't do high heels anymore because I value being able to live without excruciating pain in my calves and back.


eulogos said...

In my youth I was a hair under 5-6, but with the shrinkage that goes with age, the doctor's nurse measured me at 5-3. I also have very narrow shoulders and short arms. I am used to having sleeves come down to my fingers. I discovered that Land's End Petites actually fit my arms and shoulders correctly. And they have sizes like 18P and XL P.

I thought I finally understood how to buy clothes, but then I bought an XL P jacket from Eddie Bauer and it was made for someone truly "petite" in the actual meaning of the word, and I had to return it.

But I do suggest Land's End.
Susan Peterson

KC said...

I will lament with you. I am 5'4". Not quite tall enough for regular length pants, but too tall for petite pants. I have to buy in more expensive places like J.Jill to get clothes that fit right and are a bit stylish.

JMB said...

I'm 5'5" but long waisted so if I don't feel like getting a pair of jeans or pants hemmed, I will shop at Ann Taylor Petite or AT Loft. I will go up a size for the pants. Banana Republic has a nice petite line as well.