Some Small Sense

Shopping experiences and store reviews by a very petite woman. Indeed, it sucks. 4'10", 87 pounds, and full grown - is it a surprise I have trouble finding clothes?

June 28, 2006

Brooks Brothers store review - FREE or cheap alterations!

Brooks Brothers
346 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Considering the number of times that I've dropped into this chain, you'd think I'd know all the in and outs by now. Known for it's uber old-school country club/corporate attire image, it's definitely as upscale as you can get before you get into designer labels.

I decided to try out the Madison flagship location, which is also their main corporate office. Although the bulk of their business is in menswear, they have a decent women's and even boy's section. I have always found their clothing to be expensive, but very well made. Some of my favorite slacks, with massive alterations, have come from Brooks Brothers. This is definitely not the place to pick up anything that even conjures up a whiff of sex appeal. It's perfect for a particular type of female corporate image, but a truly horrible place for date clothing.

The staff was extremely courteous - much more so than some of their other locations. Much to my surprise, the saleswoman stated flat out, "you're going to need alterations" and went to fetch the tailor without asking me. Armed with a tape measure, I entered the dressing room with a jacket and matching slacks, not realizing that I'd forget to do any sort of measurement at all in my later excitement.

I stepped out of the very swanky dressing room and braced myself for some major pinning. The waist, the seat, and the sides were taken in - a ton of altering was required. Since this was an exploratory, I wasn't going to be too fazed by the cost. Well, I was just not prepared to be totally knocked off my feet. Almost aplogetically, she explained that the waist and seat would be free, but they'd have to charge me an extra $15 to do the sides. Oh, and the hemming's free too. Hello?! The pants would have cost about $80 on sale, and had I gotten them altered elsewhere, the hems alone would have been at least $15 (they were lined). The only exception to this generous offer is that redlined clearance items will not get free alterations. Heck, with these prices, if you need alterations, you'd be better off NOT getting something on sale!

The suit jacket, alas, was not alterable because, as a matter of policy, she would not take in the shoulders. For you ladies and gents that only need to nip the waist a bit, the cost is $25. I also discovered, much to my dismay, that they flatly refuse to alter most of their shirts. Brooks Brothers shirts are usually non-iron, and the thread (plain old thread I guess) used to put in new seams might pucker the garment. I've definitely had a tailor elsewhere put in darts, and I can vouch that puckering wasn't really a problem.

If those pants weren't a perfectly pastel blue (I won't EVER wear dress slacks in that color....) I'd have gone the whole way with them. I kinda wonder how Brooks Brothers can afford all these alteration costs - after all, someone has to pay those experienced tailors. But hey, not my problem. I'm just gonna take advantage of it while I can! If anyone's looking for conservative corporate clothing, this is really the right mix of service, quality, and price. I very highly recommend it - especially at this location.

I feel a little stupid now for not previously taking advantage of the alterations, but I've come out armed with this extra tasty tidbit. Now, I finally have a source for dress pants that fit!!! Of course, I'm just wondering how many other clothing companies have the same alteration policies. Somehow, I don't think they'll be quite so generous. But for once, I'm really hoping that I'll feel dumb more often.

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June 26, 2006

Banana Republic Sale - Stock Up on Socks

I went on a bit of a shopping spree at Banana Republic this weekend since they have a sale running. As much as the store's stuff isn't quite right for me, it's the best I can find right now. BR offers free shipping for any petite stuff (coupon code 'PETITE').

Of course, even though all the clothing's on sale, the only things I wound up buying are...socks! Weird right? But I have bony and small sized 5 or 5 1/2 feet. Despite what every sock label says, one size does NOT fit all. I frequently find socks swim on me and that their heels often hang out with my ankles. Heck, this is sorta similar to the problem of baggy underwear! I know, I probably went a little overboard in getting 14 sets - then again, maybe not?

These anklet socks were smaller than the others that were offered. Is it a coincidence that they were made in Korea? At $4/pair, not 'cheap' but a mighty discount from a ridiculous $8! They're not cotton, which surprised me from their texture, but rayon/nylon. The seamless mini socks are 2 pairs for $4.

I picked up some other socks from Banana Republic today to compare...and the salesperson jokingly mentioned, "came in to pick up some more socks?" Well, yes, but I'm going to return them after I nip a picture. I couldn't believe he remembered me!

Sorry girls, you're gonna have to schlep to a store and buy out its sock stock like I did since they aren't available online. And be prepared to be considered the "sock lady" by the sales staff.

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Figleaves followup - nice try but no cigar

In a rant a few posts ago about underwear, I mentioned that I was trying out a few new sources for bras. Well, I ordered a few bras from Figleaves with high hopes that I'd find something suitable in my impossible 28AA/30AA sizing. The order came last week and I was impressed with the packaging and quality of the items. I was also impressed with its customer service when I called to inform them that my order was accidentally doubled. Not only was I greeted by a live British-accented voice (it's a UK company - no outsourcing quite yet), but she refunded me the extra shipping cost immediately without any hassles. Here's a review of what I got. Sorry, no pictures of me modeling them - there's no way I'm doing that myself!

This was my highest hopeful, as it came in 28AA. Ok, ok, it's incredibly girlie and candy pink (and even called Candy), but as everyone keeps telling me, if it fits, just buy it. The 30AA and the 28AA "fit", but they weren't particularly helpful in boosting my bust. I was also under the impression that they were underwire, but turned out to be just cotton and elastic. Well, not actually all that surprising as they really seem to be training bras.

The After Eden bra was a big disappointment - the cups actually gapped a bit from my chest, which may have something to do with the "maximizing" qualities. The material used for the elastic around the chestband is very very flimsy - it just stretches and stretches. Not something I'd want to keep for $37. Between this and the Wacoal ones I've tried in store in a 30AA, the Wacoal seems to be of better quality (and cheaper at $36).

Finally, the last piece was very nice - but too big in 32AA. I realized this when I bought it, but it was a black strapless underwire bra. As for most of the things I try to buy, I was hoping against hope that it'd be running too small. Ironically, the Panache Atlantis in 32AA fit better than the After Eden 30AA because the chestband wasn't flimsy - note the shiny elastic, as it's meant to be used as a strapless. Obviously, the cups were a little too big, but the quality was heads above the After Eden one. It's a real pity that they don't make it in 30AA. It's pricier at $46, but I can't find a black strapless anywhere close to my size.

Anyway, this all goes back today as soon as I fill in all the return info (free returns) and drop it at the post office. While I couldn't find anything appropriate for me at Figleaves, I do recommend them for anyone else who may not be quite so small. At least no one can say I didn't try....

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June 20, 2006

Saks Wakes Up and Expands its Petite Department

There is a somewhat happy ending to report from yesterday's NY Times, in reaction to the news last month regarding Petite section disappearance at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales. Michael Barbaro's follow up piece, Saks Restores Petite Sizes After Outcry, details that Saks will reinstate and even expand its petite department after receiving so many complaints from its former (and soon to be again) clients. Too bad that the other two giant department stores haven't decided to do the same.

It's not often that a high profile and high end department store admits fault and corrects itself. And even though I've never really stepped into Saks on a regular basis, I gotta give the managers at Saks my admiration for listening to its customers and doing right by them. I only feel sort of bad for not personally writing the company myself. Maybe it's time for me to start taking a look around Saks more regularly. With the added publicity from the whole debacle, perhaps Saks can start pulling its petite sales out of the red.

What's a little scary is how much the triple whammy of Saks, Neiman, and Bloomingdales can really influenced designers and suppliers. Designers send a lot of their mechandise to department stores, where they can benefit from the additional exposure, marketing, and volume sales. The shockwave of three major chains pulling the plug on petite sizing meant that staying in petites was a shaky proposition for any label. Ellen Tracy, in fact, announced that it would no longer carry petites - and also reversed its decision immediately after Saks did.

Can designers survive without department store support? Maybe, but it's sure harder without their help. Department stores like Saks have a huge influence on what gets made, what's in, and can try to force trends themselves.

And so its up to the department store to be more proactive with their designer relationships. I cannot help but heap blame again on the stores themselves for cultivating the 'dowdy' image that they hold of petites. As they have such a huge influence on designers on whether to even bother making a line, they surely can insist that the stuff better fit in (and fit better!) with the fashionable image they want to cultivate. Saks is taking a great lead and insists that when the petite section reimerges in the fall, it will inject more energy and variety into the section instead of just focusing on classic workwear. It realized it wasn't doing a good job addressing the lifestyle needs of its petite customer.

I wish Saks good luck - and I can't wait to check out the new section!

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June 18, 2006

It's All Above My Head!

Ok, the typical scenario. I'm out shopping and I see something I kinda like hanging on one of the mannequins. Doing a room scan, I see a rack of them across the room...hanging overhead way out of my reach. How annoying! Everyone that shops here is 5'4" or under - what were they thinking to put stuff so high up???

Well, in a word, wall space. As much complaining about it might be fun, the reality is, stores need to shelve or rack their inventory somewhere. Yeah, they know it's a hassle, but ceilings aren't going to be dropping in height anytime soon. Anyone else thinking of the 13 1/2 floor from Being John Malkovich?

At this point, several options are available to you:
  1. Forget about it. This usually involves justifying it to yourself with weak rationalizations. Oh, it's probably more than I want to pay. It's probably not as nice as I think it is. It's probably not gonna look good on me anyway.
  2. Ask a taller, and hopefully sympathetic, fellow shopper to reach up and help. This usually involves some chit chat about the garment, your height, or both.
  3. Ask a taller, and hopefully sympathetic, salesperson to help you. This usually involves hearing a few more suggestions for other items from a helpful staff member (along with 'can I set up a room for you?') or an almost rude interaction from a disgruntled worker.
  4. Strain mightily on tiptoe at first, and finish with a mighty leap. First, extend a few more inches to peer up and search through the rack for you size. Once the prize has been spotted, lower yourself, bend your knees and jump. Extra points for a successful landing. As items are usually arranged smallest in the front, advanced practitioners of this technique may also become quite adept at guesstimating sizes and skip the first step.
  5. Carry a foot stool or robo-arm around and use it. Learn to stop paying attention to funny looks and outright laughter.
Fine, I'm a big fan of #4 because I usually like to do things myself - and because it's kinda fun to do something sort of undignified once in a while.

However, I also think stores, particularly those that know they have a shorter clientele, should be a little more accomodating. After all, if customers choose #1 most of the time, stores will wind up selling a little less. Requests to the stores:
  1. Use more of the higher wall space for displaying apparel or accessories instead of hanging racks of clothes. This hopefully promotes greater sales for the merchandise up there, as it's easier for customers to notice it and like it.
  2. A few small steps (that match the decor) could also be set against walls so that customers can easily reach higher items. Steps would also be helpful for staff to put new items up, and can be moveable so that wall setups can be changed.
  3. Piles of clothing should have the smallest items shelved lower. This is most applicable for non-petite stores, where height and size are more closely coorelated. I like to help myself rather than be forced to ask staff for help, but even so, doesn't the salesperson get tired of constantly pulling down size 0 jeans for shorties like me?
I figure #3 is painless (after rearrangement) as floorspace is not sacrificed. For the first two, there's no reason that a small amount of space can't be given up. After all, mirrors are on the floor and they take away from the merchandise space - but they help push sales too. And if that doesn't help, think of the number of customers that won't be hurting themselves after attempting arial manuvers like me.

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June 15, 2006

Spontaneous commiseration at Talbots

"You know, someone really needs to do something about this. There's nothing available for petite women in their 40s - especially if this keeps up!"

Susan, a 40-something shopper, told me this while we were commiserating about our shopping woes in Talbots a few days ago. I had struck up a conversation with her after the salesperson had informed me that Talbots has never made size 0P clothing, and suggested that I check some of the department stores, as Ann Taylor had stopped selling petites - untrue! Susan chimed in at this point because she was worried about what she'd heard. I reassured Susan that no, it hadn't stopped selling petites, but filled her in with what the Times had mentioned about the disappearing petite sections in department stores.

Even though she was fuller than me (she told me she was about a size 8P), she has the same exact problems I do because she is also quite short - 4'11". Nothing fits her correctly - the armholes are too big, the rise too long, and jackets are made for someone longer in the torso. In short, the proportions were all wrong for our height. She mentioned that she often shopped in Lord & Taylor, as they also had a petites department. I replied that I don't really shop in department stores as they usually start at sizes too big for me - and I didn't like the styles. When I mentioned that the bulk of my clothing came from from Banana Republic, she was astonished - she never knew they had a petite line! She promised to check it out.

We wished each other luck with our shopping trips as I left. Well, I thought, the Talbots trip was a disaster for me, but at least I was able to point someone else in the right direction!

It really is hard for older short women to find appropriate clothing (well, I guess that's true for any sized older woman too). At least 20 or 30 somethings can still get away with shopping in teen stores! What do you do when you can't spend a fortune to look tasteful for your age? Have any thoughts? Susan and I would love to know.

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June 14, 2006

Short Discrimination is Alive and Well

While it is commonly acknowledged that short people often get the short end of the stick in regards to jobs, respect, dating, and other parts of life, it is not generally acknowledged that this type of discrimination constitutes a real problem that needs to be addressed. It is most definitely acknowledged as an inconvience, but it somehow falls into a zone of inattention and apathy amongst the population at large.

It is discriminatory to use a handicap, age, or marital status against individuals with regard to employment or opportunities. These categories are protected by law because it is generally acknowledged and understood that a negative bias is used against them. Even discrimination against overweight individuals has been acknowledged (most notably against several airlines for firing heavier flight attendants), as these lawsuits illustrate. These traits have nothing to do with a person's qualifications for most jobs - and neither does height. While discrimination against height is allowed in most locations, a few jurisdictions officially have anti-heightism laws - Ontario, Michigan, San Francisco, Victoria (Australia), and Santa Cruz.

The glass ceiling is real, and not just for women and minorities. Is it a coincidence that most corporate executives and public officials are taller than average? A full 30% of men are 5'7" or under but only represent 3% of the executives at Fortune 500 companies. Short people also earn about $800/inch less per year than taller workers and fare poorer for job interviews. (sources here)

The media outlets contribute to the problem of heightism with nary a thought. For example, as I was reading through The New Yorker this week (June 19, 2006), Hilton Als offers both a generous tribute to Gregg Toland and a non sequitur shout-out to Toland's height in The Cameraman. "A wispy, laconic man of five feet one, Toland was born in...." There is no other mention of this anywhere else, no any explanation offered for what relevance it has to the topic at all. Was it difficult being shorter as a cameraman? How does this relate to Toland's work or life? We are left in the dark, with only a budding suspicion that the author was surprised to find that a short person could actually contribute something of worth to the evolution of filmcraft.

There are definitely practical and understandable difficulties that crop up from being short, just like for lefties (Yes, I am that too), that does not constitute discrimination. To reach some of my cabinets that are above my head, I often climb onto my kitchen counter (think nothing of the terror of almost falling sometimes). Chairs are often too deep and are too tall for me to comfortably sit in. Clothes are obviously a pain. Luggage and shopping bags are too big or long and drag or bang painfully into my legs. I am at armpit level on the subway or large crowds, and have even once seriously feared suffication at a crowded college party. At a parade, gathering, or meeting, I often can't see anything because anyone in front of me is in my line of vision. These are understandable and somewhat immutable problems that aren't a product of discrimination so much as a regression towards the average (taller) height.

As a female, I've been shielded from some of the indignities that short men must suffer through. I've never been stuffed in a locker or mocked by potential dates. For men, height is much more the measure of his worth and success, and the degree of respect he is given is most definitely dependant on it.

Still don't buy it? Ask women whether their gender contributed to being passed up for raises or promotions. Ask minorities if they're looked at funny or queried if they know English. When I balk at the derogatory short comments, I'm ridiculed for being "overly sensitive" or "ridiculous." Let's stop pretending heightism doesn't exist and realize that it is a problem that should be discussed with sincerity instead of snickering.


June 13, 2006

Talbots Store Review: A Short Disappointment

525 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

I have to admit that I very reluctantly entered the store today - mostly to give it a fair shake with a fresh look. As soon as I entered the door, I was already confused. The store was several floors, and as usual, the petite's section was not on ground level. I consulted the floor directory and my eye immediately latched onto "Talbots Woman" on the 3rd floor. Maybe it was from walking into several department stores recently, but somehow "petite" became instantly knocked out of my brain. I'm a woman, I thought (duh). This must be my section.

Entering the elevator, I was soon confronted with the truth. Indeed, the phrase "Talbots Woman" wasn't really an indication of brand loyalty and gender, but a euphamism for "large Tablots Woman." Not only was I wrong about my section for sizing, but it wasn't even for petites! Another woman in the elevator confided that she had gotten confused too.

When I stepped out on the 4th floor, I kicked into browse mode. Ok, some of the stuff was definitely wearable. I started leafing through a rack of skirts (hung woefully high, I might add!), looking for a 0P. I could have sworn that they carried this stuff. Well, after going through several different styles, I confronted the sales staff. Excuse me, I asked, what is the smallest size here?

The answer shocked me because I swear that they used to carry 0P. Maybe it's a function of wishful thinking or turbo-advanced old age (yeah I know, I'm only 20-something), but I was wrong. NO 0P stuff at all!!!! The smallest size in the store was a 2P. And yes, I tried stuff on that totally didn't fit me (what a surprise). With that, I became fully despaired. Some of the stuff shows promise, even if it is a little, eh, old. The website even helpfully gives inseams for pants! (A cause for some confusion as a pair of pants I brought up had the unfathomable measurements of 32" for misses, 29 1/2" for petites, 31" for woman, and 28" for petite woman. I guess heavier older women are pressumed to not wear heels?)

Talbots has completely abandoned all attempts at capturing the young (maybe fashionable) audience! Ok, sure, you have to admit they're not strong on the fashionable side of the equation, but there are certainly enough young, not too picky women that'd like a fair selection too, at a reasonable price. Overall, their prices weren't that much lower than for the lower end stuff at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor (though my complaint about crappy fiber content is still valid - check out the amout of polyester being used!). Heck, label us as unfashionable, but don't cut us short and skinny people out completely!

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June 12, 2006

Short Male Clothing Tips - Live from the Today Show

In a previous post, I had mentioned that Jimmy Au's Menswear was doing a feature on NBC's Today Show to advise shorter guys how to look taller. Alan Au (he's 5'6"), Client Relations Manager, was there live in Rockefeller Plaza this morning to give tips and oversee a mini-fashion show. The full list of tips and the video of the show are here.

I had spoken with Alan on the phone last week, and he was encouraged me to come to see the live taping. So this morning, I hiked down to the plaza and watched the feature live and got a chance to meet Alan. I've included a few of the shots I got from my side angle. Definitely watch the clip to get a better images - plus the other 3 models.

They started with a few video clips of some short men bashing footage, including the notorious Sex and the City short guy episode. Moving on, Alan mentions that there is a proliferation of stores catering to the big and tall segment, but only about 10 stores for short males.

The main theme brought up is to always keep things proportional - you're already short, so don't look stubby! This is true for both men and women. And realize that sportswear such as sweaters, which are incredibly difficult and expensive to alter, can be hard to find for shorter people.

  • For suits, 3-button, single-breasted jackets (only 1 row of buttons) elongate and slim your frame.
  • Pinstripes are great for lengthening.
  • Short people should avoid horizontal patterned shirts.
  • Slim cut shirts are best, as they cut down on fabric. (I find that slim cut shirts are particularly necessary for thin people; not just short ones. Some people may need the regular fit if they're stouter.)
  • Pants should be low rise, meaning shorter distance between waist and crotch, to avoid bagginess.
  • Lighter colors tend to make you look bigger, darker ones for a slimmer look.
  • Avoid contrasting colors for the top and bottom, as they break your line.
  • A shorter (lower) collar can help elongate your neck.
  • If the tie is too long, shorten it from the longer end.
I was particularly impressed by the fit of the casual beach-type clothes on a 5'2" model. The shirt doesn't hang too low, the short sleeves aren't too long, and the shorts are the right length. Typically, when you see a shorter guy walking down the street, everything tends to look too long, or too baggy.

The ideal presentation would have had an extra model of roughly the same proportions for each of the guys he did bring - to model standard clothing that's currently available in menswear (with only hemming so that pants don't drag). It's the subtle, or even drastic, direct contrast that makes people realize what a difference an alteration can make.

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June 11, 2006

Uncovering Underwear!

I have trouble finding underwear. No, I'm not joking! It sounds weird right? But for both panties and bras, it's a pain in the butt to find stuff in stores. Ok, I admit, I have a rather boyish (read: flat and straight) body type, so it is harder to find *grownup* underwear that fits well and looks, well, sexy. Most panties I find are too baggy in the back and aren't exactly the sort of things you want to wear when you have tight pants on. And as for bras, I know I don't need one for the support the same way fuller women do - it's more for the shape and, eh, extra volume.

The easy and *painful* thing for me to do is to shop in teen stores. But then the problem becomes a selection limitation. I'd have my choice of training bras or sports bras that aren't really doing the job that I want them to - mainly to maximize what nature didn't give me (and no, I'm not going for elective breast implants). And the panties are still to baggy (or other implants for that matter either). My goodness, where are all those skinny 10-12 year olds girls shopping??? Besides, I'm almost afraid to find the perfect underwear at these places. I'm sure you'd be as equally disturbed by the idea of 10-12 year old girls wearing naughty little things for their...boyfriends? I'll stick to the adult stores, thanks.


This side of the equation is only moderately annoying. From a purely practical standpoint, I look for durability (will my washing machine eat these in one wash?), comfort, and fit for plain "I'll wear this everyday" kind of underwear. And that's only because I'm generally cheap and don't want to buy the more upscale "sexy" silk/satin/super fancy expensive stuff. I can definitely find items, but it's only in a few select places. Flat out, I'm unwilling to spend more than $20 (more like, under $10) per piece. And I've stuck to the usual "I hate the department store experience because nothing fits" attitude (I admit, I am biased). So I've only really sampled stand alone stores. Basically, it's just an annoying affair to shop for this item, as you can't just say "hey, I like that style", and then grab and go.

What Works -
  • Victoria's Secret PINK collection: It's obviously for the younger, pre-baby crowd. Colors are more fun and flirty, but it fits. My personal favorites are the string types, as there's less fabric to (not) stretch on me for less bag in the back. I find the place funny and infuriating to shop in as VS seems to sexualize women more than the pages of nuddie magazines (Ok, not quite true, but it's women shopping here for the most part!)...and because they don't carry a bra in my size. Their signature panty collection tends to have more issues in the wash, and is too full cut/baggy for me.
  • Banana Republic: Intimate apparel seems to be an on again/off again affair, but when I find something I like (that's on sale usually), it works well for me.
  • Thongs and G-Strings: For some reason, these fit better, I guess since no matter how much you weigh or where the weight is distributed, it's not gonna affect the fit all that much. Fit is merely a matter of your rise and waist size, not hip. But who wants to wear these around all the time??
What Baggified my Bottom - (obviously not a complete list)
Express, Delia's, Gap, Brooks Brothers, most other Victoria's Secret lines, etc. If you've got a bony butt like me, don't go for more coverage, as there's not much to cover here. It'll just wind up being extra fabric you don't want.


Now comes the unbearable part. I wear a 30AA but probably should be a 28AA. I can't find bras in stores. At all. Except for...Limited Too (and just remember, the catch phrase is "Fun fashion for tweens!"), which, as I check, seems to no longer carry anything I remotely want to wear. Great for me! Two years ago, I bought two styles of strapless bras from them. I snatched them up as they were actually functional - I was tired of having only crappy unlined training bra type stuff that did nothing. They only came in 30A, so I stuffed them with half shoulder pads I got from a crafts store. Ok, there, I admit it - I stuff. Just to acknowledge a general enlarging trend, I came across a rare find when Victoria's Secret was dumping their entire 30AA stock about 4 or 5 years ago. They've never had them since. I bought probably 2 dozen then - you can still find some floating around on eBay.

Most American stores don't carry anything less than a 32A, and if they do, it's a 32/34/36AA. I've even looked in department stores with mammoth intimate selections. The amusingly labeled "petite" sections - where it's clear that this is the only body area that women are wanting more rather than less, seemed to stock 32AA as the lowest they go. What gives? I guess there are a ton of very small chested but broader women out there. Searching online for 'adult style' bras proved enlightening. Since I'm only familiar with American sizing, I am perhaps hampered a bit, but what I've discovered is that most companies that carry 28 or 30 sized bras are across the ocean! Marks & Spencer manufacturers smaller sizes, but currently doesn't deliver to the US. AA Lingerie does deliver across the ocean, but charges about 6 pounds to do it. I've obviously not delved into other parts of Europe or the gigantic Asia continent. More on that when I figure out their sizing system, or go for a visit!

Rooting around for something closer, I've discovered, which does stock items as low as 28AA! I rooted around online for coupons, and found one for $10 off. Since they offer free returns, I figured it'd be ok to spend a little on shipping ($4.50). I'll be waiting to see what turns up. Lula Lu also seems to stock a few items in smaller sizes and has an actual store in San Mateo, CA.

If anyone knows of anywhere else, definitely keep me posted!

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June 09, 2006

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).

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June 08, 2006

Togs Soho store review - typical random, pricey boutique

Togs Soho
68 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Inside, looking at just the clothes offered, Togs seems no different than the hundreds of tiny clothing boutiques scattered across the city. You can usually find them in swank areas like SoHo, Midtown, and the Upper East Side. It always surprises me that these places stay in business - but I guess they scrape by somehow. The stores are usually filled with sexy, slightly trashy garb perfectly suitable to go out clubbing in. There's also a tiny dressing room with no mirror - both for saving space and for forcing you to go out under the eyes of the sales staff to use the one outside.

I guess the saving grace of all stores like these, is location, location, location. The 6 line's Spring Street stop is very close - you can practically trip over this store (and just as easily walk past it too) when you get off. What made me stay in was the Russian model/saleswoman that was as thin as me, but almost 6' tall! I definitely wanted to ask her where she got clothes herself. As typical of the waiters and boutique workers in New York, she was obviously working there to cover expenses while she tried a hand at modeling. Talking with her was very amusing as we shared complaints about finding stuff that fit.

It's pretty funny when the sales staff can't actually wear the clothing that is being sold there - even if they're the correct gender and share the same style. It was pretty late in the day when I walked in, so it was just me and her. I've gotten pretty upfront in shopping at this point - so I asked point blank whether anything Togs had would fit me. She looked me up and down and then confessed that not many of the things even fit her!

At this point, she hurridly snagged me two tops before I could leave. Ok, sure, why not? The t-shirt fit perfectly and was made of some stretch cotton with gold snakes. I walked out to take a look in the mirror and she declared it looked fabulous on me (as if she'd say anything else, really!), but I didn't think it was anything special. "It looks expensive," she said. Well, I beg to differ, but even so, it certainly cost $88! I definitely shimmied out of that one quick.

The other top was way way way too low for me in the front. I'm pretty much hopelessly boob-less, and this top would require me to wear it bra-less, as it dipped below my sternum (you know, that bony bit where your ribs connect in front). Uh-uh. No way. It'd be falling off of me! I was wearing my padded strapless bra, and even then, it was too big. And the cost for the little slip of silk? $108.

As I was leaving, I figured I might as well ask. What do you do for pants? She leaned in and conspiratorially mentioned that she was in love with Buffalo jeans in size 23. They were slightly too short for her and they be too long for me but a cuff or hem wouldn't kill me. I've never heard of them before, but I promised to check them out.

Overall, pricey and typical of such stores; it's all about convienence, convienence, convienence. The nice part for me was that even though the help couldn't help me in store, she gave me a hint or two for elsewhere!

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Jimmy Au's Menswear - For you short guys, formal wear, finally!

Jimmy Au's For Men 5'8" and Under
9408 Brighton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Out of sympathy for my brother and short guy friends, I've kept an eye out for 'petite menswear' - and I came across this in my usual web sweep of all things short. Jimmy Au's specializes in tailored clothing for men under 5'5", with particular emphasis on "proportion and perception". They've been around for 30 years or so, which means they definitely have a customer base.

Unfortunately, they don't seem to do any business online yet - but after I called Jimmy directly (yes, he actually picked up himself!), they may be doing online sales in the near future. If anyone's going out to LA area, check it out and let me know! Their price point was described to me as Saks level - but for ready-to-wear small sized mens stuff, I'd think it's probably worth it.

There's going to be a short men's designer fashion show on the NBC's Today Show on June 12th. I am currently TV-less so I'm going to try to swing by and watch the show there. This should be fascinating! Anyone willing to record for me? I have no TV!

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June 05, 2006

Mexx store review - Euro urban style

Mexx Soho
500 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

With a sprawling international presence (would you believe 2 stores in Afghanistan?), Mexx has barely touched the American market with only 4 stores in the NYC and DC area, and no way to buy online right now. This is certainly a shame for anyone elsewhere, as I found the brand to be quite a good value.

Style-wise, I admit that I can't distinguish between the different Euro labels very well. I associate stores like H&M and Armani Exchange with a sleek and slim style, cooler color scheme shying away from loud colors, and open almost sterile store environments. However, it was Mexx's mix of style, quality, and price that makes me recommend it. Unlike H&M, its clothing (and clientele) tends to be more upscale and is of better quality - at a higher price of course. It lacks A|X's slightly snobbish appeal and is noticeably less expensive.

Mexx doesn't have a petite section, but the sizing was suprisingly better than I expected. I picked up a few size 0 items and found them to be comparable to petite's sizing in stores like Banana Republic and much slimmer than Ann Taylor. Definitely, the sleeves and hems are a bit longer than traditional petite's, but the body fit is more snug. Given a choice, it's much cheaper and easier to fix sleeves and hems than taking in at the body. Here's a rundown of some of the items I picked up to try.

This long blue cotton skirt is great. The waist is only 27", smaller than this BR skirt in size 00P I tried on. I appreciate the quality of the zipper and it's interior button reinforcement. All the stitching is well done - the seams all lie flush and there's no puckering anywhere. I always want a lining for skirts and dress pants, so the full length cotton lining was very appreciated. The designers were even thoughful enough to think to have the lining stitched so that the "outside" side is facing your legs so that everything is smooth. All the hems are finished so there's no snagging or shredding. The price? $79.

The button down fits me almost perfectly. For this shirt, I should have a slightly longer torso, and be slightly fuller. Ideally, I would want to be 13.5" or 14" from the bottom of the collar to my natural natural waist - the shirt measures 14.5". However, I'd be happy to wear this as is. It's made from a thin, filmy cotton that tends to wrinkle, so it's not my personal preferred cotton weight, but very good for hot weather. The lines emphasize a feminine cut and hourglass-like figure, which helps me, since I'm so flat and straight. $44 full price is perfectly reasonable.

As you can see from the pictures (please ignore the horrendous matching job!), this linen jacket is too big for me - particularly in the shoulders. But otherwise, it's a good fit. It's cut for a bigger busted woman, but the waist size is perfect for me (although slightly lower than ideal) at 25" for a jacket. As for the skirt, it's a big looser than the other one at 28", and I'm not too thrilled with the decorative extra fabric at the waist - it makes me look like I have a puffy butt! Costwise, the jacket was $119 and the printed skirt was $59.

I'll definitely be keeping Mexx on the list of stores to stop in regularly!

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June 02, 2006

Zoolook store review - Fancy Dresses to Fit

399 West Broadway
New York, NY 10012

So I gotta rave, because it's not often I find a shop that is so willing to be accomodating. I walked into Zoolook on West Broadway after an interview around the corner a few weeks back and was immediately surprised.

It's got that art studio splashed paint thing going on and is pretty open and airy. A wonder, the place actually has its own skylight. The store had a bunch of stuff on sale and I was looking through, just for kicks. The owner, Shine, came over to help me and she suggested a few items on sale that were "small." I was doubtful, but figured, sure why not?

If girlie dresses aren't your thing, this is not the place for you. The dress I tried on was definitely too big, and when I came around to check it out in the mirror, I told Shine. Who, wonder of wonders, proceeded to pin in the dress so that it didn't just look like a sack on me.

So it turns out that Shine is the designer of all the dresses in the place. Huh. Now that I'm looking at myself pinned in, it suddenly fits. And I wanted it. I really wanted it. Designers, are you listening? When it fits, it totally increases a customer's desire to buy it! Needless to say, I gave in and have already worn it twice since the end of April. Price? Well, sans alterations, it was less than $300. Ok, not cheap at all, but where the heck are you gonna find a handmade dress for that price? Plus, everything is silk lined, which feels fabulous.

Shine had to take it in and move the boning and straps. A heck of a lot of work, but in the end the dress, originally a "4", fit me perfectly. I totally will be checking out her sales rack in the future. In fact, see pictures of a yellow size "2" dress ($150 I think). It was too long for me (and I don't think I dare wear this color), but if you're slightly longer in the torso and above 5'0" naturally, it'd fit.

I can't be the only person terrified that a tailor is going to screw up that big ticket dress/coat/skirt/etc. So for once in my life, I was completely sure that she wasn't going to ruin it. Cause it was her baby.

Quality, fit, price, and a personal touch. Things that are often hard to find for smaller clothing - but I definitely found it here! I asked her if she would be making other clothing - but alas, she doesn't have the time. Sigh. The search continues....

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