Clothing Alterations


Petite Fashion is No Petite Matter

Petite in fashion supposed to mean proportionately scaled down clothing. Often it is pinned down only by one quality – beeing short. The truth is besides the height – 5’4 and under – there is also weight and proportions to consider.  5′ 4 and shorter in height also means smaller frame, narrower shoulders, shorter back and arm length. With that said, women still come with certain shapes and sizes: bigger bust or wider waist or curvy hips. This is where problem is for the petites, they are often perceived skinny and childlike in the fashion industry.

In reality there are all sorts of petites: full figure petites, short slender petites, taller slender petites. Often most neglected petite type is the first – feminen curvy shape and short . These are sometimes called plus petites.  However they are ignored in plus fashion, where wider women must be very much taller, broader and have enormously long arms.  Other two types might have some more advantage of finding better fits in young or regular fashion. But then, of course, have to be clever about fabrication and accessories. Choose stretch and get those heels on.

One common factor is that petites always have a much more delicate quality to their physique than the average woman. Invariably the few important things all petite women have in common is smaller shoulders and shorter back length.

In my 10 years experience in custom dressmaking and alterations, I have come across this struggle for well fitting clothes and right sizing very often. Next to standardized sizing, petit fashion is a niche market, as was plus size fashion some decades ago. However plus size is now well catered for. When petiets, I feel, are only helped by the latest oversized clothing trends.

Potentially one of the reasons why there is this isse, it requires a different scaling of the patterns and therefore adjusting design processes at its’ roots. Rather than scaling for a petite figure in all sizes, it is simply less costly to shrink down a regular size into an  extra, extra, extra small. This doesn’t solve the problem of the dress torso being too long, the sleeves drooping over fingertips, the darts placed in wrong locations, the waistline not hitting the actual waist, the shoulders sitting too wide and isses go on and on. I’ve seen some petite ladies drowning in they dresses. There’s excess fabric everywhere where othere places are not shapley enough. At fittings like this, I have often needed to take steps back in bewiderment where to even start the alterations.

But it looks like having garments altered and individually tailored is the best solution.

Some of the problems petites face:

  • Everything is too long.
  • Shoulders are too wide.
  • Sleeves are too long.
  • Darts and seams are not in a right place.
  • Bust is not accounted for.
  • Neckline is over exposed.
  • Waistline does not sit in a right place.
  • Pockets are not easily reached.

Additional advice:

  • Check fabric colours against your skin and see which naturally lifts up your skin tone and which drains it. Up-lifting is always a good way to go.
  • Small pair of shoulder pads might help with tailored clothing. It is worth to try and see how much better or worse that jacket or dress sits. If it doesn’t make you look like extra out of Dynasty, then your look is saved.
  • Put on heels for those long hems.
  • Fabrication with some stretch might iron out some fit problems.
  • Easier cuts with less seams and darts, where exact waistline and bust is not defined, might do a better job on you.

As a dressmaker and alterations specialist, my best advice is…consider individual tailoring and alterations.

The photo below is of tailored sift dress that was made to fit and look better on petite body. Shoulders were taken-up which also then moved the waistline to a better place as well as fixed the neckline depth. Armholes were re-shaped too. Then we tapped into revamping the design and added a draw-string to the waist. Sinched in waist always lessens the changes of looking too drowned in a dress. So does shortening, if this is what you like. All this of course depends on what features you want to emphasize or what is your style. This formal dress got a bit more sporty style now.