Petite Clothing Tips When You Can’t Buy Petite Sizing

petite clothing tips when brands don't sell petite sizing

Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to find “the dress” or “the pair of trousers” that you are looking for in petite sizes? I’m sure that I am not the only person that has those issues. It is something that I have dealt with my entire adult life. I think that I reached my full height of 5’1/2″ by the age of 15. Now I make sure I maintain that height with lots of stretching and yoga. If I am lucky I come in at a whopping 5’1″ when they measure me at the doctor’s office. So over the years I have come up with some of my own petite clothing tips.

The good news is that today more stores/brands are selling petite sizing. However, they don’t always offer all color/pattern options for those of us under 5’4″. Also, if you are like me 9 times out of 10 the items or brands that I really like don’t even make petite sizing. My petite clothing tips come in handy when I am on the search for something in particular. Hope that some of these will help you as well.

Before I share my shopping tips with you here are some other petite related posts that you might enjoy reading.

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link or picture and make a purchase I may receive a commission. Thank you for shopping thru my links.  Beth

woman wearing a turquoise missy size

I am wearing a dress by Milly from my closet. This dress did not need one alteration. Their patterns fit my petite body.

Petite Clothing Tips That Will Help You Buy Regular Sizing That Works for Your Body

Each of us has a unique petite body, just like women that are taller than 5’4″ come in all shapes and sizes. What I have come to learn is that as a petite we just have to keep trying season after season to find brands that fit our unique bodies. Sadly most retailers don’t cater to our demographic. So once we find a brand we just have to pray that they don’t change their patterns and fit models drastically or it is back to the drawing board.

Over the years, I have come up with several ways that I shop so that I have more options for my wardrobe. So I am sharing my petite clothing tips that work.

Petite Sizing

So what is petite sizing?

It can differ from brand to brand just like regular sizing. However, true petite sizing should be cut proportionately to fit a woman who is 5’4″ and under. Where you usually see the differences in petite garments is

  • leg inseam length
  • the length of the torso
  • sleeve length

Other areas that may cause issues for fit are

  • the size of the armholes
  • shoulder width
  • pant rise measurement

Just like regular sized women, petite women come in all shapes and sizes. Good news is that petite sizing is usually size inclusive these days. Meaning that brands start at size 00 and go up to size 16 or 18. As a petite woman, you need to know your body and which areas that you really need petite sizing. For example, you may not need slimmer cuts through the shoulders and armholes and just need to adjust the length of the sleeves. That is what I usually end up doing because my body isn’t petite in those areas. Or it could be that you have longer legs and waist even though your are 5’4″ or under so you can wear regular sized pants.

What you also have to realize is that not all brands address all of the issues that petite women have. A good example is some brands adjust the length of the inseam on pants to fit our shorter frames. What they may not address is the length of the rise. So from the waist to the crotch is too long. If the rise doesn’t work, the length of the pant doesn’t matter. It all comes down to knowing your body and what fits you the best.

Do You Have To Buy Petite Sizing if You are Under 5’4″?

Of course not. Yes, it is easier if you can buy things off the rack and go. What is most important is knowing what looks good on your body. The clothing needs to fit you and feel good. Because if we look good in our clothes, we are going to feel good.

None of the garments in the photos below are petite sizing. (Just for reference I am 5’1/2″ and a size 0 or 2.) They are from a brand that I have worn for years and I know what patterns and cuts to look for. Yes, I have to have the pants shortened (that also happens with petite pants for me). The skirt was a mid length skirt for regular sizing. If you look, then you can see that I am wearing it as more of a midi length skirt. The other thing is that I know 98% of the time that I am going to have to have the waist on garments adjusted. That is just my body type and it is a separate line item in my clothing budget.

My Petite Clothing Tips When Shopping

My Golden Rules for Shopping for Clothing

When I am shopping for anything there are 2 rules that I swear by and they help not only me, but all of my friends and clients that I have worked with over the years.

Know Your Measurements

Yes, I have even written a separate post about how the tape measure is my shopping BFF. Keep your measurements in your Notes section of your phone or on a piece of paper in your wallet. Trust me, you will refer to them so often. If you like to shop in stores, then keep a small tape measure with you. It’s an easy way to measure rise, inseam, and torso before trying things on.

Know Your Seamstress

I have had the same seamstress for years. She knows how garments look best on my body. When I take things in to her, she makes them look like they were made for my body with just simple tweaks. One of our favorite tweaks to make dresses work for me is to take them up at the shoulders, not the hem.

Things I Look For in a Garment When They Aren’t Petite Sizing

These petite clothing tips will help guide you when you are looking at regular sizing. It will help with the alteration adjustments and expenses.

  • How high is the rise on the pants/jeans
  • Are the pants “cropped”, then they are regular length for me
  • Make sure there is no trim or detail at the bottom of the pant leg. Hemming would ruin design.
  • Draw string waists. So good if you are a curvy girl.
  • The length of jackets. Cropped and shorter length jackets look great on us. My favorite length is 21″.
  • Can I turn back the cuff of the jacket and have it tacked versus hemming it? Much less expensive adjustment.
  • How is the waistline of the dress made? Can it easily be adjusted if the torso is too long or can I toss on a belt to give it that illusion?

I hope these tidbits along with knowing your measurements will make shopping a little more fun and less time consuming for you.

Where I Shop for Petite Clothing

Yes, more stores and brands are carrying petite sizing. I thought I would share some of the places that I have the best luck finding selections that are fun and stylish.

  • Nordstrom (good selection of dresses)
  • Boden (lots of petite options, including outerwear)
  • Ann Taylor (great for casual and business casual looks)
  • Anthropologie (lots of on trend option and even midi dresses)
  • Athleta (my favorite place for workout pants and athleisure wear)
  • Ann Taylor Loft (great for casual pieces and loungewear)
  • Banana Republic (great casual and work options)
  • Paige (YES for petite jeans, their back pockets look great on us too)
  • Reformation (they always have cute dresses)
  • Ralph Lauren (for my preppy, All American looks)

Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read this post. I hope that you found some of my petite clothing tips for easier shopping helpful. To all you you petite ladies out there, let me know if I am missing out on some good resources for petite clothing that you love.

Updated May 2023.

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  1. Great information! Although I am tall, I found ideas/suggestions that I could also apply to my shopping experience.

  2. jodie filogomo says:

    I have learned so much from my mom as a seamstress about what can and can’t be altered easily. It’s definitely a learning process but then at least we aren’t limited by what “fits” off the rack.

    1. Exactly. You have to know what you CAN alter easily so that it works and doesn’t cost as much to alter as the actual garment.

  3. I have found that raglan sleeves or low shoulder on regular size tops can work for petites

    1. Totally agree Joyce. I love a good raglan sleeve. They are comfortable to wear too.

    1. Hi Margaret, we are never to late for the petite party show. That is a fun skirt. It is not petite sizing. It is a few years old now from a brand Carlisle Collection. I used to be a rep for the brand and had trunk shows out of my home for them. They don’t do petite sizing, but I got really good at figuring out what styles would work for petites.

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