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Petite Means SHORT, Not Skinny!

Updated on August 30, 2009
A 5'11 Brooke Hogan standing next to a petite 5'2 Fergie.
A 5'11 Brooke Hogan standing next to a petite 5'2 Fergie.

Ok, I’m sorry for yelling that title at you, but it’s super duper important.

Unless you’re a fashion maven (and possibly, even if you are), you probably think “skinny” when you see the petite section. This is such a common misconception, I just have to set it right.

Let’s start by saying Isabella is just shy of 5’4. Not that anyone I know realizes this, as I’m always wearing 4-inch heels. Nevertheless, I’m short - which makes me petite.

Yes, that means I should be wearing clothes with a little P marked on the tag.

And no, I’m not skinny – I’m built like a female, not a prepubescent boy/runway model. If I weren’t, however, it wouldn’t matter. Petite sized clothing covers the whole spectrum of body sizes. Remember, it’s about height, not girth!

That said, let me explain something else which is very, very important.

It’s possible to petite both above and below the waist – but it’s also to possible to be petite in only one area.

This is sooooo important!! Even though I’m only 5.399999999’, my legs are still average length. And even if they weren’t, I still wear high heels, and a 29” inseam would look silly on me. That said, if I’m wearing flats, a 32” inseam makes me look like I’m playing dress-up. So realize that petite women may still very well want regular length jeans.

Also, keep in mind, petite isn’t just length.

For jeans it also affects the rise – the part that goes from crotch to navel. What might be super-low-rise on some women could be all the way to petite girl’s navel. I totally have this problem. Which means I purposely buy super-low rise.

It also affects the knee - if you're 5'2, the knee should not at the same place you'd see it on a 5'11 model!

Many women are petite just in the torso!

How can you tell? Put a shirt on and see where the shoulder seams line up. If you’re petite and wearing a regular shirt, the shoulder seams will probably be too wide for your build. The main problem this creates is constantly having to shove your sleeves back up, because the armpit is always sliding down toward your wrists.

That should not be happening, the armpit and shoulders should line up and shouldn’t move – if they don’t, you are either wearing clothing way too big for you, or, you’re petite!

Ok, fine, I'm petite – but can I find clothes I like in this size?

Take heart, clothing manufacturers are finally starting to admit that most of the country is actually 5’4 (you didn’t really think most women were built like Giselle, did you?) and does not fit into 34” pants or regular tops made for 6’2 women. Which means you now have options you didn’t have in the past.

So what are these options?

The Gap has petites for both tops and bottoms. Victoria’s Secret does as well. So do Banana Republic, Liz Clairborne, J. Crew, J. Jill, Chadwicks and Ann Taylor. There are plenty of others, all you have to do is Google it.

I’ll be honest here and say I don’t go out of my way to buy petite clothing, but that’s only because I like the way the super-low-rise fits my waist, so I don’t feel I need to. If low rise weren’t available, however, I certainly would. I do pay careful attention to inches when buying a skirt, however – they are often much longer on me due to my being petite in the torso.

Note: If you’re petite in the torso and have large breasts, you should try all tops on, regardless, because sometimes the regular sizes are just better suited in the chest.

Extra Tip: If you’re petite in the legs and buying boots online, always be conscious of the boot shaft (length).

Measure yourself from knee to instep to be sure the boots will sit where you want them to.


Right, there you are. If you're one of the millions who hates having to "put up with" clothing sizes that dont' make the most of your figure, it's time to try petite!

xx Isabella


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