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?

October 17, 2006

Almost Locked in the Dressing Room

I consider myself at least a semi-pro at the whole changing room thing. With so much practice, I can shuck out and regarb in pretty much record time. Screens, sliding latches, hook latches, hanging pieces of cloth, you name it and I've seen it as a door...or at least I thought.

Today, I made a quick stop in Armani Exchange to browse through the sale items, as I was passing the store on Fifth Avenue anyway. I collected quite a few items to try on and a sales woman led me to the fitting room. I guess it's been a while since I've been in the store, as I got really confused when I couldn't figure out why there was no catch, doorknob, latch, or any other means of securing the door behind me. And the door was definitely didn't have some sort of neutral closed position that 'clicked' into place. Maybe this wasn't a real changing room? I was so weirded out (I wasn't going to undress with the whole darn world breezing by while I was changing!) that I walked out to find another room. The sales woman must have known I would be confused and kindly mentioned that I didn't latch the door. Really, no kidding? At this point, she gestured to the mysterious latch...that was at the very, very top of the door!

I shuffled back into the room, then suddenly found the door shut behind me and the latch latched. She told me her name as she walked away, in case I needed something. I jokingly mentioned that I might need her to unlock me from the room - but didn't realize that this wasn't far from the truth! I was luckily wearing my 2" heels or else I could have been a little foolish, jumping up and all to try to snag the latch. Seriously, this latch was 74 inches from the floor and I could barely reach it! (You should all know by now that I carry a measuring tape with me for these critical and embarrassing moments)

Ok, I know. I am really short, and heck, they probably assume that everyone shopping there has a little more altitude than me. But come on, check out the picture - there's no way that this latch is expected to be seen by the average Joe! (or Jane) It blends right in, and you have to be 6'4" to have it at eye level!

As for the items I tried on, nothing quite worked out. They also seem to have a new bizarre extension to their already strange sizing system, which I previously mentioned here. Some of the pants I tried on were a P0 regular, and some were this new oddity of a P0 petite. Unfortunately, I was in too much of a rush to properly measure anything or take a picture, but I seriously couldn't tell if there was actually a distinction. I'll have to follow up on that at a later point.

Man, I didn't realize these stores were made to booby-trap small children! Maybe it's to help babysit the kids while the parents are shopping? An indoor pet/child fence if you will....

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October 12, 2006

Link in the Wikipedia!

Thank you to the lovely reader who was kind enough to include my post as a link in the Wikipedia entry on Height and Intelligence. Thanks to everyone else who's stuck with me on this crazy journey!

While I certainly blog for my own amusement, it really is great to know that other people find my essays worth reading. I really try to focus my entries and give a detailed analysis - whether a shopping trip, a noteworthy bit of news, or just a general commentary.

So, just out of curiosity, what do readers find to be the most interesting (or boring or just too long-winded) of my entries? The store reviews? The essays on news items? This started off as just a shopping documentary blog, but has definitely expanded (and possibly moved away) to include quite a few other things. I'm intrigued to know what people think about it.

Oh, and I promised two writers posted reviews of their short-related books, so stay tuned. I'm way behind, but as you realize by now, I try to do everything thoroughly. I am indeed, insanely pedantic about some things, so I refuse to just re-release the press releases without reading them first!

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October 10, 2006

Zero - the Next New Size

Today's Women's Wear Daily (WWD), the fashion trade publication, finally made note of this phenomenon in today's article, Those Zeros Keep Adding Up, by Rosemary Feitelberg. My friends know I've been talking about toying with the idea of starting a petite low-sized clothing line for months. I've even been contacted by an early reader about this idea! (Alas, the funding issue was the real problem with bringing my idea from concept to well...reality.) Everyone is now finally paying attention to the expanding and undertapped fuller-figured market...but that leaves us small people in a real lurch! But the article notes how certain designers are really cashing in on the slender framed.

"Robert Duffy, president and vice chairman of Marc Jacobs International, recently said Marc Jacobs sells more zeros than any other size in its collection and, truth be told, he has never seen a cutting order for a size 14." Lela Rose started offering zeroes because her clientele was swimming in her size twos. Nicole Miller is even planning to introduce a subzero size next season! (It was bad enough trying to explain what a size double-zero I going to have to explain that I am wearing a negative two now???) What is funny is that this "sub-zero" is going to be based off of a 23.5" waist and 35" lower hip...which is what most retailers claimed their inflated zeroes to approximately be.

The article offers several explanations for the rise of the zero, including the fault of the media for focusing on the "never-too-thin mindset." The booming popularity of the zero is claimed to be a result of the overexposure of the infamous overly-skinny women of the runway. Ed Bucciarelli, CEO of Henri Bendel agrees and mentioned that "we live in a very celebrity-conscious world...[where] some are trying to emulate the girls they see on the covers." I certainly agree with Feitelberg on the unhealthy obsession of the American public on thinner and thinner models, movie stars, and socialites. (there is some counter push as well - like Madrid fashion's model ban) Regular readers know my feelings about this from my Fashion Week New York posts here and here.

What is interesting about this particular analysis is that it completely focuses on the high-end, expensive designers and the high-end fabulously wealthy patrons who can regularly afford such fare. It is crystal clear that the designers mentioned don't want anything to do with larger half of the female population. They are not catering to the masses - and the masses are generally heavier. It is not just an accident that Marc Jacobs doesn't sell to the average sized or higher woman. Marc Jacobs is notorious for micro-picking his sales staff for acceptable stylishness and attractiveness. No kidding that nothing was cut in a size 14...there's no such woman in the Marc Jacobs (or insert most any other high end label) universe!

Feitelberg offers several other possibilities that dovetail with the too-thin idea. Vanity sizing, the system in which a garment label indicates a numerial size smaller than what the same garment would have been in earlier seasons, is a major cause of consternation among the thin. "Some might be all too familiar with what a shopping challenge zero-ness poses.... Even that isn't small enough [for some people]." The thin are literally being sized out of existance by the clothing industry - or at least, for the mid-priced and lower ranges.

I am amused that Feitelberg mistakenly equates zeroness with petiteness, by completely misreferencing the Saks incident. She sees some designers expanding their sizes downward as a means to capture the underserved petites market. "The news caused such an uproar the retailer has since said the department will be reinstated. As things stand, zero is 'one of the sizes that sells out pretty quickly' at Saks, a company spokeswoman said. Theory, which also offers items in a double zero, and Alice + Olivia are among the popular labels with size-zero customers, she said." Both Feitelberg's (and possibly the high-end designers') reasoning is faulty, as the reason for the backlash (and subsequent mia culpa by Saks) had nothing to do with the lack of small options. Instead, the problem was that the petite customers were alternately deemed fat and tasteless, or expected to put up with designer labels that created smaller sized clothing (but not shorter statured). Petite does not mean thin!

The informative parts of the article actually touch upon the mass market segment of the industry. Feiltelberg highlights Jennifer Hoppe, a zero-sized, 110-pound woman living in NY (interestingly, her height is not mentioned - but I suspect she is taller than 5'4"). This interview actually highlights most of the problems that petite and/or thin people face. "She often finds herself shopping at Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy - sometimes in the children's department - to try to find clothes." She spends hundreds annually to alter her garments because the standard sizes just are too big. She actually mentions her dream of opening a store for small people "even though [she] knows it's so politically incorrect."

Hoppe also touched upon a topic that I've mentioned in the past before too - size discrimination. She wrote an article about the "reverse descrimination she faces" in For Me, where she is the lifestyle editor (the magazine is closing, as of the Oct 2006 issue). "People often think it's perfectly OK to comment about how I'm really small and the fact of the matter is they would never say that to an overweight person." Mentioning the lack of clothing options also gathers backhanded non-sympathy from sales staff. "They'll say, 'Isn't that a great problem to have?'"

I've been arguing that there's profit to be made by means of a contrarian strategy. How can you possibly get a great return on investment if everyone's jumping in on the craze along with you? (Do we need reminders of the dot-com era as an extreme example?) Early designers (or investors) have an extremely high advantage. I have long been trying to convince people that creating a tightly focused thin petite line, particularly for professional wear, would almost guarantee loyal customers. Of course, this always bumps into the problem of production costs for smaller batches. But there's no denying that if a decently designed line was offered that fit this sub-market, it would be loyally followed. Even Kristi Yamaguchi mentions that "if I find something I kind of like, I feel pressured to get it. I know if I wait, it will be gone. Stores need to carry more small sizes." The article mentions that thin shoppers therefore must buy full-priced items, before all the goods are gone. Considering the potential savings if I calculate the value of my time, I probably should do the same instead of scoping out deals.

Under-served markets, like petites or problem sizes, are generally a captive audience. You can pretty much sell them anything and they'll buy it. (look at all the people that still bemoan the original Petite Sophisticate line...uber frumpy!) Mid-priced labels like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor are just wisely cashing in on the petite opportunity. Someone should definitely get a major jump on the under-served super-short and/or small - WWD has already started wising up to it!

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October 05, 2006

Keyboards for Small Hands

Michelle B. was kind enough to inform me of a post on American Inventor Spot about smaller computer keyboards. While the three keyboards and reviews are definitely geared towards children, adults that have smaller than average hands may find them useful as well. And considering that many smaller people already stock their closets with kid's sized clothing, there's no reason to discriminate against other kid-centric items if they help!

While I personally will not be making the switch-over to a mini-keyboard (I luckily don't have very small hands - years of stretched and strengthened my hands from classical piano have also helped), anyone who feels the strain while typing should probably give one a try. And if you have kids, it's even more efficient since they can use the keyboard too!

Besides, who wouldn't want to have one as a colorful conversation piece?


October 04, 2006

Petite Choices in Charlotte, NC

Steve Swain was kind enough to send me a link to Popular Shopping Resources For Petite Clothing in the Charlotte Observer. Crystal Dempsey was doing a series about different clothing resources for women with "different body types" (i.e., "deviants" like plus sized, tall, and petite women). Ironically, as I've been finding, paying more to live in a big city gives more choices - except when you're looking for petite clothes. I frankly don't see that much more selection in NYC than in Charlotte, NC.

It was definitely interesting to read the comments and suggestions that Dempsey received. Now, Charlotte isn't a tiny backwoods hick town (despite whatever Southern jokes people may crack), but it isn't exactly known for its cutting edge fashion either. Charlotte is somewhere you'd expect people to be a little more conservative in dress, and a few seasons behind on the latest trends.

New Yorkers will delightfully tear Talbots to shreds. (and then embarrassingly walk in because, hey, there's still occasionally stuff that works!) Perhaps North Carolineans (?) are more forgiving? Maybe not. Beth Johnston mentioned that Talbots clothing was "guaranteed to fit and sort of stylish. The better stuff doesn't look too much like my mother...." Ouch. Well Talbots, be glad that your clients are settling for stuff that isn't too terrible! J. Jill is said to be the "same as Banana Republic, only not trendy." It's not only the sharp-tongued urbanites grousing about frumpy wares!

Interestingly, while stores like Banana Republic and J. Jill were mentioned, the only department store mentioned was Macy's - specifically its International Concepts, I.N.C., line. "You will not find the typical polyester, flowered 'grandma' type styles." Isn't it strange that no one mentioned the Nordstrom in town? Perhaps they don't stock petites in this particular location? Just another reminder that retailers do take regional variances into account (too few petites probably).

Unsurprisingly, great customer service is a big plus no matter where you live. Cinch was recommended despite the lack of petite sizes because "the ladies are terrific at finding what works on the vertically challenged." If only we had great customer service up here (that didn't cost a million bucks)!

The bottom line, though, is that mail ordering is the bread and butter of the petite woman's closet. And although I personally wouldn't buy anything from Lands' End or L.L. Bean (both unstylish and way too big for me), they certainly do supply quite a few petites with the garments they need.