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?

July 31, 2006

00P and Petite XXS at Ann Taylor and LOFT!

FINALLY! I can only assume that Ann Taylor realized that (1) its sizing runs insanely large, and (2) Banana Republic's 00(P) offerings were briskly selling. I happily also realized that not only was the company creating smaller sizes for regular and petites, it was also expanding its larger sizes up to 18 regular and 16P (XXL and PXL for sweaters) - in both Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor LOFT. Now, that's something that we in the "special sizes" category (hah!) can appreciate!

Perhaps the recent expansion was due to Ann Taylor Stores Corp. doing well during the last few months - tighter control of merchandise and a more focused direction with LOFT helped enormously with profit margins. Flush with increased sales, maybe the company saw an opportunity to capture more of the market by expanding the sizes offered?

What excites me most is the smaller sizing of the sweaters and knits. Admittedly, you technically can get some sweaters altered - but it really strikes me as a bad idea. It's just possibly impossible - and when it isn't, shudderingly expensive. So, what you see in the store is what you're stuck with. Hence, my previous whining about J.Crew's limited sweater options.

I haven't yet stopped by any Ann Taylor stores to see the new sizing in the flesh yet (I'm not even sure if they offer it in stores at all), but I just placed an order for a suit, dress, blouse, and sweaters to see if my pleasure is to be long lasting or just short-lived. Hopefully, its not just another disappointing bout of size inflation! I'll be sure to do a little write up as soon as everything arrives.

From now till August 27, you get 15% or 20% off everything (you get 20% when you order $175+) and free shipping with coupon code 44200002. With that in mind, give it a whirl! Oh, and for you picky shoppers out there (just like me, are you?), the discount is pro-rated for the items you keep when you return just about everything else in your order. So why not order more than $175 and give yourself the extra 5% discount....

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July 26, 2006

Gap Kids Store Review - Have I Shrunk Again?

Gap Kids
1535 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10128

I popped in a few weeks ago when my brother suggested I check out the store again. Of course, now I remember why I never shop in here! Most of the clothes are of decent quality and cut for the prices (sales come and go all the time here). So it's only the insistence of the Gap Kids designers to make everything so, well, childish that makes me refrain from buying most anything.

I know, at this point, most of you are thinking, 'what do you expect? It IS a children's store!' But my God, does everything have to have a little embossed (or gigantic printed) cutsie palm tree/sailboat/heart/rainbow on it?! Poor teenagers - I don't get the impression that 13+ year old girls or boys want to be dressed like this. Then again, it's been over a decade since I was that young, so maybe I'm wrong here? It gives me the impression that the only parents that shop here for their 14 year olds are desperately trying to tampen down their children's hormones. Can you possibly get more wholesome (at this price anyway) than this?

Anyway, despite my grumbling, I did wind up checking out the jeans -and a random dress, for kicks. It's been several years since I tried on a pair of jeans here, and I was surprised to find that either I've lost weight and a few inches off the top, or the pants are sized differently. About 7 years ago, I fit into a size 16 slim. The 16 slim fit in the waist, were just a little longer than my heels, and a little baggy in the thigh/leg area. Imagine my surprise when I slipped on a 14 slim and found that they were slightly longer than the old pair (which, alas, I no longer own), and tighter in the leg. I actually recall that I probably bought the size 16s back then because the legs were too short. I guess Gap realized teenage girls want to wear high heels or something, as I highly doubt they've gotten more willowy over the years.

The pants were not baby dolled up except for a tiny rainbow tag on the right back pocket. Easy enough to snip it off if you so desired. Quite a few of the other jeans did not have any of the girlie adornments on them, so if you can find a pair that's good here, it's a good deal cheaper (these were $29.50...about $20 cheaper than the ones in adult Gap). It also has some 'distress' marks on the inner thighs for stylistic purposes. They measure 26 1/2" around the waist, and have a 28" inseam.

The big shock came when I suspiciously looked at this dress. It came in the entire Gap Kids range of sizes. It's actually unbelievable to be wearing something like this past the age of 12, but I was stunned to find it available in larger sizes! The belief in the age appropriateness of baby bunnies and huge colorful flowers on clothing for 16 year olds by the designers is to be...commended.

Ok, honestly the thing that really threw me is that the sizes for some of the clothing seems be really off. The dress I tried on did come in size 14 and 16 too, but I was wearing one sized for an 8 year old! How embarrassing! Not only was the item a size 8, but it was slightly too big for me, well, everywhere except the shoulder straps.

So I have a relatively big bottom and small top? Hmm. I'm not really sure about that one either. Another item I own is a denim skirt that I bought about 3 years ago that I absolutely a size 8, with a 24" waist. Oh well, I guess this isn't something to fuss about - after all, the adult clothing is the same way!

Gap Kids does not carry dress up clothing except for a button down shirt or two, in either gendered section. If you're willing (or deliberately looking) to put up with the cutsie stuff, then the place does carry quite a good selection of decent polo shirts, pants, jeans, and outer wear - with a definite imbalance towards pink and pastels for the girls, and blues and yellows for the boys.

Otherwise, you can do what I do, and hit 'em up for a lone skirt or shirt that doesn't make your short self look like you're supposed to be shopping here! If you're looking for great quality however, I'd suggest somewhere else, as most of the stuff isn't made to last terribly long in great condition.

If anyone else has any other suggestions for children's stores, be my guest and let me know!

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July 24, 2006

J.Crew Phone & Online ordering review

In my last post, I did a mini-review of J.Crew's retail store, to get a peek at all the stuff short people can't buy in store. Because of a complete lack of petites in store, I decided to chronicle my experience with J.Crew's mail order service.

It's possible to order J.Crew's merchandise through its catalog, online, or over the phone at 800-562-0258. However, all 3 of these methods require you to pay extra for shipping. Now, I don't know about you, but I get annoyed whenever I have to pay extra to purchase something I may not even wind up buying (incidentally, there is free shipping with code NFS-100 until August 4th with some restrictions...but this is very rare!). Since most of the special sizing selection is only available through the mail, I don't consider free shipping a perk anymore. It's bad enough that stores don't stock my size or enough items in my size - stores should definitely comp for the shipping and extra annoyance!

One little know fact is that if you can actually get free shipping to your home if you order on the red phone in any J.Crew store, as long as at least one item is full price. If you don't want anything, you can return everything in store as well. It's a pretty straight forward process; the only annoyance is that size 0P clothing disappears quickly (not one dress was available), and the sales associate on the phone with you can't filter by size - only by style number. If you're cheap like me, my suggestion is to browse online, and jot down all the style numbers you're interested in. After purchasing 2 sets of suits and a blouse, I waited for my order to arrive.

My order arrived in less than a week to my apartment. I was very impressed with the packaging job. As you can see, everything was on an individual hanger and then plastic wrapped. The hangers were good quality - the pants hangers even had a rubberized elastic that held my slacks in place. I typically order from Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, and J.Crew definitely did a better job with wrapping its mail ordered items.

Unfortunately, I didn't wind up liking the clothing very much. Everything was huge on me. This short-sleeve French Oxford Shirt was a size 0P, and needed to be taken in a lot! Even so, I thought that it was a a pretty good quality shirt and not terribly expensive at $58.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the wool twill suiting or the wool gabardine suiting I got either. Besides the fit issue (when is it even not an issue for me? - just look at the photo at left), I didn't particularly care for the fabric itself. On the plus side, while I was returning everything, I learned that all J.Crew button cuff jackets are actually functional - so you can 'roll' up your jacket sleeves a bit. Price wise, they weren't that bad, at $228/$198 for the jackets, $128/$118 for the pants, and $98 for the skirt. But without any subsudies for alterations, J.Crew suits are a costly option for me.

Sizing is just obsurd - the pants in particular were just falling off of me! In fact, a nice strong tug would have them swimming at my ankles. I literally would need to have them taken in 4 1/4" to fit correctly. They measured 30" around - completely unfixable unless I were to get them taken in through the back (the seat was too big as well) and through both side seams. On a particularly outraged note, the size charts for J.Crew indicate that a size 0P should have a 23" waist and 33" hips. In reality - according to its size chart, the true measurements indicate that the pants should accurately be sized as a 6P.

All in all, aside from the sizing, I found this crop of suits from J.Crew a little disappointing, but not terribly so. The suits were, after all, well constructed and shapely. I wasn't fond of the fabric choice, but I am admittedly a fabric snob. When the Super 110's come out again, I'll be pawing at the suits again. It's just a shame that I'm really too small to wear them.

If you're a bit longer limbed than me, J.Crew might be a good option for you. Fit really is everything, so if it works for you, its not a bad price for the quality. If all you need is a hem, then this is a great bet. Otherwise, I would suggest a trip to Brooks Brothers, where old-school suits come with cheaper alteration options. Finally, it is again worth noting that J.Crew doesn't carry any petite sweaters, which is truly a shame. I'm glad I made the effort of looking at its items - but for me, J.Crew just won't cut it unless it makes its business attire smaller. Hopefully, J.Crew will be willing to create a size 00P like Banana Republic did last year!

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July 20, 2006

J.Crew - A Quick Store Visit

347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017

As I noted in a revision to my previous post, Finding Petite Stores - Where Can I Go?, J.Crew does not in fact, stock petites in any of its retail locations. They do, however, have a petite selection that can be ordered either online or over the phone. I decided to take a closer look at the large J.Crew on Madison to check out the quality of some of the items in person.

This store is one of J.Crew's largest in Manhattan. It's really close to several other traditional suiting stores due to its Midtown location near Grand Central. Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, and Ann Taylor are literally across the street. The store is laid out all on one floor and includes both men's and women's selections. I found the staff there to be extremely nice and helpful. Yet again, I discovered another thin salesperson to commiserate with - she also has to get 0's taken in! She was very good about explaining the alterations policy to me.

Alas, J.Crew is rather miserly and won't pay for any alterations on non-full priced items. And even for the full priced merchandise, only basic hems are free! Hmph! But I did walk out of there with the card for the store's tailor. Not only does he do all the alterations for this store, he also has accounts with other retailers so I'm pretty sure he's good. J.Crew and he have an arrangement so that if anything happens to mess up the garment, it's handled so you won't get screwed. I'll have to give him a try some time on some stuff I have already.

Right now, they're running a summer sale, but the only things I actually took a fancy to were the cheap ribbon belts and the men's bowties (yes, you read it correctly). I never got the impression that the 'J.Crew Man' wore bowties - but I guess that's why they're on sale. I snagged a ribbon belt for myself, and two bowties - one as a gift and one for me as a gag. Yes, I do know how to tie one!

I poked around the non-sale items but wasn't particularly impressed there either. Ok, I fully admit that I really don't like J.Crew merchandise in general - but its traditional suiting and work wear is definitely classic and wearable. A few seasons ago, I was taken with the quality and pricing on the Super 110 suits they had. If only more of its corporate stuff fit!

Searching a bit, I latched onto a J.Crew's cashmere sweater. I honestly thought they were better than Ann Taylor's or Banana's. And they're about the same price (this one's $138), if not cheaper. Pity, as it seems a cruel joke that none of the sweaters in any fabric or style are made for petites. So, this woefully huge XS cashmere sweater (at least on me) is as close as it gets for me in J.Crew. In the picture, you might be able to tell that I'm trying to extend my fingers as far as possible. Yeah, sleeves are way too long (19" from armpit to cuff) and wide, along with everything else!

I promise! The review for my petite phone order at the J.Crew store will be up very shortly!

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July 13, 2006

Capri Pants??

Summer in New York (especially Manhattan) always kills me - the concrete jungle we live in becomes incredibly hazy and well, disgusting. I'm all for shedding more layers and getting some circulation, but one article of clothing just boggles my mind - capris. Especially for shorter people! I admit that I'm a bit biased as I've never found the look to be particularly attractive on anyone - even tall women. But I just don't understand why a short woman would want to wear something that makes her look even more short.

Don't get me wrong, I understand why people wear them for practical reasons. Sure, they're a bit cooler and show a lot more than a modest full pant leg does, but I find them aesthetically challenging. The shortness of the hem never fails to make me think that it merely chops up a woman's legs, and the blocky effect makes short people look even shorter and stouter. Some would argue that they don't mind looking short, but I don't think 'a little teapot' is exactly what any of us are going for.

I know, the pants in the picture aren't great on me as they're a little too big in the waist/hip area (they're from Banana Republic in 00P). But check out the first picture...I look silly don't I? I feel like I'm borrowing someone's Lederhosen from the Heidelberg restaurant nearby and should start belting out a drinking song!

So instead of looking like a happy, hearty Bavarian, try going for hems that are short or, alternatively, at least ankle length. The idea is to elongate your figure. If you don't break up your leg line, it will give you a longer and sleeker look. That's good no?

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July 10, 2006

Petite Confusion - What Does 'Petite' Mean?

(Sorry for taking so long to finally post again! I got a little sidetracked, but I promise to try to stick to the 'at least twice a week' posting schedule.)

There's a lot of confusion about what is meant by the term 'petite' when used for clothing. Part of that is because the word isn't well defined, and different stores mean different things when an item is labeled 'petite.' Not surprisingly, most of the guys that I talk to about this (Yes, I know, don't you feel sorry for them, being stuck in a conversation about women's clothes?) are very confused, and usually think 'Oh, it just means very small right?'

Well, yes. Sometimes. Certainly that's what people mean when they talk about someone being 'petite' coloquially. For clothing though, that's not always true. Two definitions seem to be most prevelant in the industry:

Proportion: Some labels actually carry a separate petite line or sizing which strictly refers to a shorter proportion. Brands like Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Liz Claiborne, Ellen Tracy, and others size their clothing down for rises, inseams, and sleeve lengths (among a multitude of other things). The standard is usually defined as 5'4" and under - although certainly some tall women are better off with petite garments, just as some shorter women fit better into regular sized clothing. While an item labeled 4P is smaller waisted/busted than a regular size 4, it is incorrect to assume that 'petite' for these brands means 'made for a slighter woman' - it only means shorter. You may now thank the fashion industry for lumping the entire range of 0P-12P+ under the euphamistic umbrella of 'petite'. I guess 'petite' is better than being called 'short', and if you're in the higher range of size, it implies a slenderness that most women seem to want. 'Plus sized petite' clothing is definitely available as well, which seems contradictory until the term is parsed.

Slenderness: The second definition agrees a bit more with the venacular sense - smaller than XS; tiny. While the brands escape me right now, I recall encountering quite a few of them in my earlier shopping days (anyone recall any labels that do this?). The size tag usually indicates a lonely 'P' all by itself. They are not sized proportionally for shorter people - they are just tighter and made to fit a more slender person.

Lastly, there're those weird oddball cases - like the Armani Exchange '0P REG' pants I own. Let's try to dicipher that shall we? A|X doesn't make any other 'P' labeled size - no '0P Short, no '4P REG' either. In fact, this pair has the same length as the '0 REG' pants, albeit a little bit tighter in fit, and with a slightly shorter rise. And yes, every other size can be purchased in with short, regular, and long inseams. Crazy no?

Who knows where A|X's particular schema came from, but it only proves the point that women's clothing sizing is arbitrary. The only reliable guarantee is that brands use sizing as a tool to charm women into liking how the label's clothes make them feel about themselves. So next time you go shopping, realize that the sizing is just a game to make you purchase - and that applies if you're a 2P or a 14 regular. No tricks here - just get what makes you look good, even if you'd like to be a smaller or larger size. No one's gonna be checking your label's size anyway. And if all else fails, you can do what I do and bring your trusty tape measure along (like me!) for a spot check between brands.

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