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?

August 31, 2006

Club Monaco - Bargain Sales Rack

Club Monaco
1111 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10021

This retail chain is my favorite basic tops store - I LOVE the sales rack! For me, even though this chain is actually Canadian, it mushes into the same Euro mold as the Mexx, Zara, and Armani Exchange types. The look is long, lean and minimal, with not too many prints and mostly monocrome shades. Club Monaco is pretty reasonable in price - cheaper than A|X, and about on par with Banana Republic full priced. However, unlike either of them, CM discounts sales items quite agressively so there's quite a decent selection of styles and sizes on the rack. The sales clothes are not just the Bad Ideas and come in more than just extra huge or extra tiny.

While Club Monaco doesn't have a petite's section, I have no size problems with the extra small knit shirts. I love the t-shirts, and I stock up on them when the sales are going on. Curiously, like H&M, I find that the tops seem to be proportionally smaller than the bottoms for the same numerical size. This should be particularly weird coming from me, as I'm pretty sure I'm smaller on top. While the tops are a bit longer than I ideally would like, they're still a real steal at this price and quality! I typically pay around $9, and sometimes $5, for a plain 100% cotton T-shirt that's well made and isn't baggy on me.

In trying out pants or skirts, everything is huge on me (and too long!). Unlike the shirts, these Ursula pants in size 0 are just way too big and long. While some people like very, very low rise pants, I don't - especially when I get a baggy butt since they're not meant to be that low! Like the shirts, the pants are quite a decent price on sale at $49, but originally $119. But these pants are a lost cause for me even with alterations - the back pockets would be so close together after getting the waist and seat taken in that I'll just have one weird looking pocket hanging out behind me!

Club Monaco helpfully mentions that alterations are free in the fitting room - but is it only hems? Unfortunately, yes. When I asked, I learned that the alterations policy was typical - free hems only if you buy the items full price. If you need more work done, tough, as the tailor won't do it - and if you buy it on sale, you'll have to pay about $10 for the hem. Still, if all you need is a hem (which, is never the case for me), my general policy is let them do it - even if you pay. Since it's the store's merchandise, if the tailor screws up, you won't be paying a dime for any of it.

All in all, I do like the merchandise and plan to visit the store's sales rack often when I need new shirts. As generally the case, if you're going for a better sales selection, hit any location that isn't as well trafficked.

Ribbed Tank: 7" strap to strap, 21" underarm, 30" waist, 13" to waist from shoulder.
Plain T-Shirt: 13" shoulders, 29" underarm, 25" waist, 13" to waist from shoulder.
Ursula pants in size 0: 34" inseam, 29" waist, 36" hips, 7.5" front rise, 13" back rise.

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August 25, 2006

Princeton Study Coorelates Height and Intelligence

Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes
Anne Case and Christina Paxson

Two Princeton economists recently produced a study that examines the correlation between height and intellectual capacity. It is commonly acknowledged that taller people hold jobs of higher status and usually make more than their shorter coworkers. Most previous studies conclude that discrimination, self esteem, and social dominance are the factors that contribute to the very real differences in outcome. The 52-page paper instead offers another hypothesis: "On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter....As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns."

And as unsavory as this paper's conclusion may seem, it is not as brutally simplistic as it sounds. True, Case and Paxson do actually posit that height and intelligence are correlated. But more importantly, (and very easily ignored) it also stated that factors that affect adult height, such as malnutrition and in utero substance exposure, prevent, for lack of a better expression, full actualization of a person's potential. In short (no pun intended!), people associate taller people with less physical and psychological deprivation during childhood - deprivations that are empirically known to detrimentally affect a person's abilities. They also take pains to remove other variables from affecting their conclusions:
One possible explanation for these correlations is that taller children are provided with greater levels of cognitive stimulation at school. Teachers may pay more attention to taller children, or taller children may be more likely to be enrolled in school earlier than shorter children of the same age. However, evidence from other surveys indicates that the association between height and cognitive outcomes begins too early for this hypothesis to be plausible. For example, Rose (1994) finds that the length of 5- to 12-month-old infants is associated with measures of information processing speed.
The authors move on to explain that smarter adults tend to gravitate towards higher status fields that place more value on intelligence - which means prestigious professionals were advantaged developmentally, and are likely to be taller. They also briefly mention a study that tried to understand the perception of height in relation to status:
In another experiment, groups of college students were introduced to the same person...whose status was described differently to each group. On average, students perceived the confederate to be taller when he was introduced as a lecturer than as a fellow student, and even taller when introduced as a senior lecturer, and taller still when thought to be a professor (Wilson 1968). But this difference in perceived height reflects the reality that more successful academics are on average taller (Henley 1993), which may have led the students to statistically discriminate when judging the height of a ‘professor.’ Asked to identify “great” US Presidents and those who were “failures,” Americans single out significantly taller presidents as “great” relative to those mentioned as “failures” (Young and French 1996). Although the authors argue that this supports the self esteem hypothesis, it could also be that presidents who were identified as “great” were both tall and of superior intelligence, and that it is the latter to which their greatness is attributable.
Impressive and interesting as the study may be, I am disappointed that the two authors made no pains give us as readers many suggestions or cautionary notes in interpreting their study. Surely, if this was a study on the correlation of race and crime (with associated causal relations of socioeconomic factors), great efforts would be made to clearly state that determining potential criminality in an individual should not be affected by his race. Actually, even if it wasn't, we're well trained to immediately understand this (although, interestingly enough, not actually touched upon at all in this study). Sexism is also understood; the study does note that even controlling for height, women still make 17% less than their male counterparts. But heightism?

It's actually almost casually brushed aside. Case and Paxson mention that other studies hypothesize heightism (noted as "discrimination" in the paper) as a major factor in discrepancies in pay, but barely touch upon it themselves. They also mention that, when given the opportunity to do so, deprived children almost, but not completely, catch up with their taller peers in both physical and cognitive development. But what if the individual never has the opportunity to jump ahead cognitively? That is, after all, the reason that the college admissions process takes into account an individual's socioeconomic status and current potential opportunities when evaluating candidates.

Height bias is just not considered something worth quibbling with - and when you actually do, it's scoffed at and ignored. It's like a bad joke - surely you're kidding right? The reality is, short people do experience discrimination. The lack of public acknowledgement that it even exists only makes experiencing it worse. It's like the doctor telling you there's nothing wrong with you - it's all in your head. I would postulate that plenty of taller people would find the existence of sites like Short Persons Support to be completely ridiculous. After all, we're just overly sensitive right?

The release of a report like this without disclaimers is really a grave oversight - and dare I say, ethically questionable? The seriousness of the situation is clearly ignored. Kai Ryssdal even made it a joke about how he should be better paid because of his height - and this was the signoff to the popular NPR radio show Marketplace!
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about an interesting study we found. It said college-educated, left-handed men earn more than righties. I thought that was nice to hear, since I'm a lefty myself. Now, another piece of research in the same vein. Economists have long known that tall people make more than short people. The standard theory was that it had to do with social discrimination. But some economists at Princeton argue taller people . . . well, they're just smarter. So, they make more. Four inches in height gets them about 10 percent more in pay. Let's see. My boss is about 5-10 . . . I'm 6-1 . . . Yeah, I'm definitely asking for a raise.
I cringe at the interpretations of this study. Blogs have already picked up the sound bite. I will give Case and Paxson the benefit of the doubt - perhaps this study was not meant to surface to the light of day (and impatient media handlers). I doubt most of the bloggers have even read more than the Reuters piece (and not even all of it). I already see blogs like the Huffington Post ignoring the more detailed aspects of the study. As this blog states already, "Princeton economists say findings justify better pay for more height." Here's another off MySpace that has already spawned ridiculous comments along the lines of "I guess this means I'm stupid...." (yes, yes you are if you agree that this study makes you stupid)

I'll just be waiting for an enterprising short Princeton student to hang a mockery of a banner off the economics building screaming "Short people are dumber! Princeton professors inside say so!"

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August 17, 2006

Petite Model Casting Call - Is 5'7" Petite?

Tangentially following up on Kathleen's post regarding the use of petite models, I found this ad in Craigslist today:

Reply to: see below
Date: 2006-08-17, 10:17AM EDT

Petite models needed ASAP .
We are loooking to hire new faces
Women 5'0"-5'7"
Ages 18-29

Competitive day rate is set at $1500 a day

Guess who called? Obviously, I was very curious, but didn't manage to get much information. I shouldn't have been as startled as I was when the woman on the other end asked me how tall I was, and what shoe size I wore. After all, she were probably getting hundreds of calls today for the same thing and was running on auto-pilot. But what really surprised me was that she didn't just hang up on me. The woman was rather nice - brushed off my concern about my shorter-than-five-feet height and reassured me it that would be just fine.

So, she asked, when can I come in? Well, er, I have no photos. That's fine. Or experience. That's ok. Or a clue. (ok, I didn't actually say that) What should I wear? Something appropriate. (What the heck is appropriate????) Finally, she asked if I belonged to a union, or would have any restrictions against joining one. (Ok, I am completely out of my depth here....) She gave me the directions for the agency's office and told me to come in tomorrow.

Ok, I admit that for a split second, I was actually tempted to go over there, since never in my life could I ever imagine observing (hah! participating!) in something like this. (Don't worry, reality set in and I'm back to normal.) Now I'm just stuck with overwhelming curiosity. Who in the world is hiring these models? When I first saw the ad, I figured that they were just looking for women that were closer to the more realistic heights of the average American woman (which is 5'4"). But what if they are actually searching for shorter women??? Women that, dare I say, are as short as me? Not only that, but they seemed quite generous with the age range...up to 29! Now I'm just very very curious about what is going on here!

Well, maybe I can stop by. Just for a little peek.


August 14, 2006

Zafu Followup - Loyalty from Honesty

Earlier last week, I posted about Zafu, an online women's jeans shopping guide. Surprisingly, my review managed to get a nod from Frank Pillar at Mass Customization & Open Innovation News. He highlighted a particular point that I think too few retailers realize. Consumers, particularly those that have highly specific needs and have a hard time shopping, really appreciate and have a positive regard for merchants that don't waste their time and resources in a run around. In turn, retailers gain the trust and therefore loyalty of the consumer - something that's not so easy to come by.

I, for one, value honesty when working with a retailer's staff. If you don't have something that fits, tell me, and I'll have a positive feeling about the whole experience. Maybe I'll come back, maybe I'll recommend the store to someone else. I certainly did with Zafu. Waste my time, and I'll walk out annoyed. The trust issue is one of the reasons why I really hate it when clothing companies are purposefully deceitful in their sizing chart claims.

I had also emailed a followup to Zafu's team regarding their size constraints, and received a quick and, to my surprise, somewhat personal reply:

Hi Amy,

Thanks for your email and the wonderful review on your blog (we would like
to include it in our press section if that's ok with you). We've been
working on zafu for fifteen months now and it's just great to be getting so
many responses.

We totally understand your questions and will be dealing with them very
shortly by expanding our size coverage. When we launched zafu we realized
that we had to focus somewhere and decided upon the current offering. Our
code is to start small, do a great job and then expand steadily. I guess
it's the whole walk before you run mantra.

Over the coming weeks and months we'll be adding new products and further

expanding the range of people we can help. By the way, you may be
interested to know that if you create an account we will send you an
occasional email telling you about new jeans that will fit you.

Again, many thanks for writing to us,

zafu team

We'll just have to wait and see if Zafu really does pan out in the coming months!

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August 10, 2006

Sitting Is So Hard

I think it's fair to say that I hate most chairs. I feel like I'm in some horrible medieval torture device. Cruel and unusual punishment indeed! Not only are there issues with the chairs themselves, but in conjunction with a table or desk, it's hard to say whether standing is a better option than squirming uncomfortably for 8+ hours in a typical office. To be fair, anyone sitting in a position for that long is bound to be uncomfortable. And that's for people that are starting from an ideal ergonomic arrangement (all good except for the desk height). There's no way that my way of sitting in modern office furniture (or, heck, any furniture) can ever be misconstrued as ideal or ergonomic.

Chairs are usually too deep and too tall for me. Ideally, I want a chair depth to be 13" or less and for the seat height to be 13" or less (length of my heel to back of my knee). That way, I can get back support and also have my feet (and the weight of my legs) resting on the floor. Now, since most people pass through, or never leave, the IKEA stage of furniture, I look a sample of 8 chairs from that store. The listings thoughtfully listed important measurements, and I determined that the average depth and seat height are 15 4/5" and 17 3/4", respectively.

With the addition of a desk, the problem multiplies. The average desk is anywhere from 28" to 30" high. You can't usually raise or lower office furniture. And since I don't want to be working at chin level at my desk, that means I have to always raise my chair to compensate. Hence, the leg dangling that often occurs. Work is probably the worst place for me to be, comfort-wise, since I don't really have a choice in furniture.

When I'm in the office, it's hard. Since bigger is apparently always better, the office chairs could eat the IKEA ones for breakfast. So, when I'm in the office, if I wear 6" heels and use a big pillow behind my back, I'm all set. But of course, that's ridiculous. So is the fact that I have to make so many changes to make myself even remotely comfortable because someone thought the huge furniture looks more imposing. I use a footrest to prop up my feet, but it usually isn't enough. Which leads me to my solution - sitting cross-legged, or curled up, in the chair, with my shoes kicked under the desk. While this is okay when I go to a movie theatre (well, maybe it isn't, but it's dark, so no one can see anyway), it's not particularly professional or proper in the office environment.

Luckily, we don't live at the office (well, hopefully not anyway). If you're buying stuff your yourself, find the furniture that's best for you. Certainly, most short people aren't as short as me. But adjustable furniture is always a good bet. Furniture stores do sell adjustable tables and desks, such as this one, albeit not that many. As for an office chair, find one that has a footrest to brace your feet on, like this one. For regular chairs, this may be a little more difficult. Some have a cross-brace in front; again making the height issue irrelevant. Otherwise, an ottoman anyone?

The funniest thing about the chair problem is that I often find it easier to sit when I'm wearing heels. Yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron - why in the world would you wear a pair of 3" heels when no one can see you?? But it's true. That's why I sometimes play piano in high heels. It's all for greater leverage and all that. Honest!


August 08, 2006

I Am Indeed Provably Short and Petite

Kathleen Fasanella, writer of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, keeps the very highly detailed site Fashion-Incubator. Full of information regarding the practical aspects of clothing design and construction, it also has articles and commentary on industry trends. If you actually want to know more about the nitty-gritty side of clothing, this is the place to start. She was kind enough to post a short snippet about me here, in which she describes where I want to be taking this blog in the future. Thanks Kathleen!

What I found particularly amusing was that Kathleen couldn't tell how small I was from my shots. "From her photos, she doesn't look petite at all. Cameras lie." Eek! I guess I didn't leave anything to compare myself against. Well, just so there's no confusion, I'm offering concrete evidence (well, close enough anyway) that I am indeed, very short. It was hard enough juggling the tape measure and camera to get a full body shot, but close enough I think?


National Underwear Day!

An amusing tidbit has come to my attention, which may spark the attention of all you voyeuristic Manhattanites. Titillating but true, Freshpair is staging National Underwear Day in Manhattan tomorrow. It's supposedly an event to promote the idea that "underwear deserves a lot more recognition than it gets." Yeah sure, ok. I just read "publicity stunt" - but I'm not going to deny that I'll try to stop by to check out the goods.

"More than just eye candy, our models conducted various surveys on undergarment choices and asked people to sign a petition which urges official recognition of this underwear-honoring day." In an effort to tie up even more pedestrian traffic, the models will be wandering around areas like Penn Station and Times Square. And, er, 'free samples' will be handed out by those models you'll be ogling. Try explaining the new lacy thong you'll be carrying back to your co-workers.

It will be interesting to see how badly this event is going to gridlock already crowded parts of the city. Even without this, Times Square is probably one of the busiest areas in Manhattan. Since I'm already at armpit level, I'll try to avoid the heat and crowds by going to Penn Station to gawk at the gawkers.

Pity that the advertising is completely useless on me. I won't be spending a dime with Freshpair, as the only thing it has in my size is already something I know is too big. And as for recognizing the status of our unmentionables, I don't need any help realizing how important underwear is!


August 06, 2006

XXSP Sweaters at - A Follow-up

I have struck gold! I have finally found sweaters that actually fit me almost perfectly (note: I don't really ever expect to find anything that fits me perfectly). I am in shock!!! Last week, I discovered that Ann Taylor was offering clothing in 00P and XXSP online. Obviously, I immediately ordered a mixed set to get a general sense of what the label meant by 00 Petite and XXS Petite. Apparently, they meant what I've been hoping they'd mean!

All the items was wrapped up very nicely when the box arrived. Everything was individually wrapped, sometimes with tissue. The jacket was also on a hanger. Yay - a nice new hanger for me. I unwrapped everything and took a look at what I'd ordered.

This is the first time in my life that a twin set has actually fit me. Ever. The shell is usually the problem - but as you can see, if I had a slightly larger bust, it'd be perfect. Someone bigger than me would be fine too - the sweater does stretch, after all, since it's made from silk/nylon. I'm not too enthralled with the cardigan, since the sleeves are too long, but it'll do in a pinch. Luckily, I'm not in a bind, so I'll just wait and see what else they produce before laying down the dough. I'm VERY happy they started producing these XXSP's though - when they finally come up with something I like, I'll be there in a flash.

The silk/cotton ivory shell I got fit decently, although I wouldn't want to actually buy it. Like I said, this was a totally research purpose only batch! I didn't really like the quality of it - maybe I just dislike cotton sweaters? Probably. I got some sort of fiber content issues. That sounds crazy doesn't it? What I mean to say is that I generally hate cotton sweaters and suits.

But crisp cotton shirts are definitely ok. Oops. I realized I forgot to order one somehow, but I got this silk one instead in 00P. Which fit exactly like a silk shirt is supposed to on me (ok, fine, yes, maybe it could be a little tighter since the designer assumes that the buyer has a chest, unlike me). Silk shirts should be worn looser than a cotton shirt. Or rather, if you're the more modest type, a silk button down shouldn't stretch. Yeah, yeah, I know, you can totally see the fold marks. I avoid ironing like the plague because it's all or nothing for me - which means a long ironing session for each piece. And once the iron's hot, I might as well do everything, right?

Thanks to my incredibly detailed-oriented self (shall we say, anal?), all the measurements are below. I'm not a tailor but they seem to do the job of figuring out what would work. I'll be getting to the suit, dress, and skirt soon enough.

Twinset shell: 9" shoulder strap to strap (from the center of the strap), 7" from the shoulder to bottom of the armhole, 27" widest circumference under the arms, 25" waist, 13" from shoulder to waist.
Twinset cardigan: 16" shoulder seam to seam, 30" widest circumference under the arms, 27" waist, 21.5" sleeve length from above, 17.5" sleeve length from armpit.
Cotton shell: 8" shoulder strap to shoulder, 4" from the shoulder to armhole bottom (stretchy straps), 26" widest around arms, 23" waist, 13" shoulder to waist.
Silk shirt: 14.5" shoulder seam to seam, 32" circumference under the arms, 28" waist, 13" from shoulder to waist.

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August 05, 2006

Zafu - A New Approach to Jean Shopping?

Zafu is an interactive website that helps to "match jeans to you" for women. It literally launched this past Tuesday and is a novel approach to the problem of finding the perfect pair of jeans. By answering questions about how current jeans fit, your stats, and what you'd like your jeans to do for you (such as make your "butt look perky"), it makes suggestions about what brands of jeans would be the best for your needs.

This is a fabulous concept - but in my unhappy extreme case (see third picture), I'm out of bounds for a great many things (weight, jean size, and, heck, the other questions too!) that have an effect upon suggestion accuracy. Alas, while I'm sure that had anything really been available in my size Zafu would have eagerly dished out recommendations, I already know that the smallest offerings are too big.

But for the rest of you, it may prove to be a great shopping tool. While most of the jeans are designer or specialty brands - like 7 For All Mankind or Diesel, it also offers cheaper or more modest selections such as Chadwick's or Old Navy. I've noticed that the trend level tends to be mostly based on rise height (what a surprise right?). Any age group is welcome to use the tool (although everyone over 46 is lumped into one category!), although it assumes you are of a normal adult size.

When you're done with the survey, a detailed list of specific brands and models is given. What is incredibly wonderful about this is that specific reasons are given about why the recommendations have been given.

Zafu profits through a commission based model for every purchase made through its referral. I can see an online service-based model a little harder to manage than in person. High end stores can generate off (but can't guarantee) loyalty through personal attention and because goods are literally in your hand rather than in the proverbial bush. The good things about a product are much more upfront and personal, and sales pressure is much higher. Online shopping is much more analytical and price focused, since an extra 5 minutes of hunting might get you a much better deal.

All in all, I really like this site, even though I can't use it! (Hey, that must mean something right???) Users have an opportunity to save their information, both as a boon to the customer (if they are happy with the advice of the site) and to the company (for repeat customers). The comments and suggestions that Zafu gives are based off actual user studies, so it's not just force-fed marketing by the brands themselves. I'd love to see them add children's sizes - some designer labels definitely cater to the teenage crowd. Zafu should definitely do this, as the 'tween' segment is growing rapidly. And who doesn't believe that status and body conscious teenagers (and us poor souls who never grew out of that size range) wouldn't want to have these tools available too?

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August 03, 2006

Size 5 Feet - Sometimes It Pays to Be Small

I almost never walk into a Kenneth Cole because the prices are just high - even on sale. But I promised to meet a friend at Grand Central this past weekend and needed to kill some time before he arrived. Actually, I took a wrong turn (sorry, I'm not a Grand Central navigation pro yet!) and thought I was going into the Banana Republic, but stuck around in Kenneth Cole when I noticed that there was a 70% off the sale prices sale.

Well! That makes a huge difference. I went through the clothes for a few minutes but realized that nothing would fit me. If you're a normal sized person, those items were downright inexpensive, so you should give it a shot! As an example, I picked up 2 men's button down shirts for a friend for $18 each instead of the full price of $79.50.

For me, what I really noticed was the shoe section. Most of the shoes were the random assortment of large sizes or left over ugly shoes. But more importantly, I realized that Kenneth Cole actually carries size 5 and 5 1/2 shoes in its retail store! If you have small feet like me, you realize that finding a pair of shoes smaller than a 6 is a nightmare, as a lot of stores only carry the smaller sizes online.

Lately, I've stuck to the Zenswa style that Reebok makes, with a split sole. They're very light and very comfortable - but the outer toe area tends to wear out quickly. I've been meaning to replace them for a while, and finally found my opportunity here. I found a whole stack of size 5 sneakers called Sneak a Boo II that were rather nice and I tried them on. Talk about a sweet deal - they were originally $125, but I paid $24. When I left the store, I had 2 pairs of shoes and 2 men's dress shirts. The total bill? $83.98.

For the small footed, it seems crazy is that stores no longer typically carry size 5's or 5 1/2's - even though they're still in the standard non-specialty size range. In places like Manhattan you'd think that they'd sell well, but I guess that's the way it goes. I've always had an issue with the seemingly unfathomable size allocations for stores (how many of what size is carried on a location to location basis), but there's not much I can do about that.

Now, for those of you out there that live in suburbia, be thankful that stores still stock rather inefficiently because if you're in the upper or lower ranges of sizing, sale days are fabulous. I should know - I'm from Long Island! (No jokes, please - or at least make it original!) Roosevelt Field Mall, the 10th largest in the country, was (and probably still is) this pristine field of too many size 0P's and size 5 shoes during sale season. So for all you guys and gals out there that are too small - try hitting up the nearest suburbs for a great deal!

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