Finding Petite Stores - Where Can I Go?
Finding a good petite selection can be a difficult task - especially when you don't live near dense metropolitan areas. Certainly, online selections are much better at giving a broader range of goods - but nothing beats the positive aspects of in-store shopping. Although many department stores carry petite clothing, the selection is highly variable depending on location, and sizing usually begins at 4P for most items. I'll also admit that eBay has been a source that I look to more often than not.
Here's a compiled list, along with short descriptions, of the more accessible stand alones, sans department stores. I'll be adding to this as I find (or remember) more:
Ann Taylor - The tried and true for corporate and casual wear. Think classic rather than trendy. For the dressy stuff, it's sophisticated and safe, not sexy. The casual stuff is definitely geared towards a more matronly audience, but when you need a suit, you can't go wrong here. I have tended to stop shopping here as everything needs to be taken in for me - but if you're slightly bigger than me, you're all set. (link is for expanded petite selection)
Banana Republic - Mainstream trendy and fashionable, their petite selection is pretty good, but certainly not as wide as the regular sizes. It definitely caters to a younger audience - the non-corporate stuff would be appropriate from late teens to thirties up. I am annoyed that their 00P selection is only available online, but they offer free shipping for petites to make up for it. I tend to think their pricing has raced ahead of their quality and/or style.
Brooks Brothers - Definitely corporate and old school classic. Quality is definitely a high point here - and the price reflects it. If you fuss over fabric quality/feel, BB doesn't disappoint. If you don't mind the country club-like image, it's a great place to pick up really nice stuff. It's more pretentious than AT, but hey, you're just looking for stuff to wear. I find that the price point to quality ratio is better than most of the other petite stores. The shirts seem more billowy than fitted - even the ones that claim to be fitted. For online, you have to pay for shipping unless there's a promotion.
J.Crew **- Ok, I have to admit that this is not one of my favorites, as it screams "Prep" to me. Color choices are also a little more outrageous - but a bold color might work well for you. They seem to have fewer petite carrying stores, which makes it a little more difficult. I find that their suiting is of much better quality (relatively speaking) than you'd expect from some of their casual wear - it's comparable or even better than BR. You have to pay for shipping for online orders.
Talbots - The best I can say about this place is that you get a decent value. This is definitely geared toward a matronly set. It caters to the audience that upscale department stores don't like, as noted here. The store is actually cheaper than the others, and when they have sales, prices drop down very, very far. Fit and cut are generous, and the style is frumpy (if you're being very nice about it, conservative). Fashionable, it is not, but it's great when you just need something to fill an essential in your wardroble gap. The thing that turns me off most is that most of the stuff is made from synthetic mixes that are obviously geared towards slashing costs, instead of blending for particular qualities (like stretch or wrinkle-resistance).