Why don't more brands do petite-size clothing?

Last updated 09:49 21/07/2014
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VERTICALLY CHALLENGED: Petite stars Ashley Olsen, 160cm (5'3"), and Mary-Kate Olsen, 157cm (5'2"), understand short girl problems.

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Along with being called insufferable things like "feisty", "fun size" and "tough little cookie" your entire life, another by-product of petiteness is the difficulty to find clothes that don't make you look like you're drowning in them.

While it's become abundantly clear to retailers that introducing plus-size clothing makes for lucrative business, this other niche size category remains relatively under served.

Petite-sized clothing is typically made for a maximum height of 5'3", sometimes 5'4". Meanwhile, straight-sized clothing is typically designed for women who are at least 5'5". Given the average woman is a few pencil widths shorter than 5'4", it's downright befuddling why only a handful of retailers are catering to the petite-sized market.

You'd be mistaken to think that buying 'petite' simply means buying size zero. Our short-statured builds come in a variety of shapes and sizes - from stretched-length torsos to perfectly proportionate, from top-heavy to having boobs that'd almost pass for an A, and everything in between.

Sure, there are ways to navigate this clothing conundrum. I've hauled my 5'3" lady frame to the children's department on many an occasion (oh yes, half-price Barbour jackets!) and have learned to buy 'cropped' jeans to avoid the inevitable ankle scrunch and to save hours at the sewing machine. The thing is, not everything in the kid's clothing section works. You can't feasibly be rocking a T-shirt with emojis or Harry Styles's face on it past the age of 11, for example. I mean, you could, but no, don't do it.

There's also a distinct lack of trend-driven options out there for us short-boned. Seventies-chic jumpsuits stop at all the wrong places, we've deep-seated hang-ups with anything classed 'maxi', mini dresses don't live up to their namesake, Missoni zig-zags are better in theory than in practice, and this culottes comeback they speak of is enough to send chills. Culottes are forbidden fruit, sartorially speaking.

Some designers are catching onto the moneymaking petite market, but who can afford designer clothes? Thankfully, things are changing.

High-fives must go out to the high-street retailers (and most visited bookmarks on our browser) who are expanding their offerings, including Topshop, Asos, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and J.Crew.

As Fashionista points out, Anthropologie, who launched their petite category in 2012 with around 70 styles, now boast over 500. They carry a range of options that are cut small, but stylish, with more flattering armholes, proportional necklines and higher knees. Think well-constructed garments with a directional and modern-professional aesthetic, not just a bunch of cutesy, flower-print rompers like we're used to.

A few denim brands, like Paige and Citizens of Humanity, have also begun stocking options for individuals like myself who will never be called "leggy" in their lifetime. Why do they bother while others don't?

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Jessica Fioriti, a retail analyst at Verdict Research, recently told The Guardian that the decision to stock niche sizes gives retailers new ways to compete and goes toward building customer loyalty. Customers who come to Topshop or Asos for the petites might then also buy bags, shoes and jewellery while they're there, for example.

There are a growing number of options - from boxy coats that won't make us look like we're playing dress-ups with our mother's clothes, to cigarette pants Audrey Hepburn would approve of, ASOS maybe even convincing us shorties to give culottes a go. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my height that I haven't felt since I managed to snag a kid's day pass at Tokyo Disneyland, aged 23. There's no denying that in stylish wares such as these, even the shortest statured people can feel ten-feet tall on the inside.

- Daily Life


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