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?

April 27, 2007

Petite Salvation (of a sort) - the Rise of the Tween Shopper

I read this NY Times article, Tweens 'R' Shoppers, with a bizarre mix of pleasure/horror. Like every other business sector (computing/electronic companies probably realized this first), the apparel industry has realized that younger and younger children are having a greater influence over how their parents decide to spend their money. Armed with ready cash or credit card, kids are much more sophisticated and independent shoppers than in years past.

There has been an explosion of attention towards the growing tween market - older than little kids, younger than true teenagers; anywhere from age 8 to 12, depending on the definition. Part of it is caused by parents wanting to dress up their kids, part of it is kids wanting to dress like the fashion spreads. Either way, it's pushing down more choice and range into this demographic. One in which I'm essentially a member due to size.

I'm closer in shape to a tween than to an adult woman. You know the shape - less curve, but not no curve, and more straight lines than the average "fully developed" woman. It's often easier to find better fitting clothing shopping in the 10-12 year old middle school girls section - where I have found myself to be shorter than most of the 10 year olds.

At first blush, the increased selection just sounds like a fabulous windfall. How convenient! I, and every other sub 5'0" petite woman should just swoop into the nearest Abercrombie and call it a day. It'd even be cheaper than shopping in the more young adult audienced Abercrombie & Fitch! How cute we'd all look, how positively easier it'd be to shop, and how dressed to kill we'd be for that next middle school party!

So, of course, that's the catch: The clothes may fit better than everything else out there, but style-wise, it's doubtful that most of the garments could be used in more grown-up settings. Let's face facts: we're really just grateful freeloaders in this youthful age and size range. While we'll certainly get a wider variety of casual and basic clothing (you and your daughter can be twins!), the particular work apparel items that are most sensitive to fit problems (and difficult to find) will never exist for tweens.

But hey! At least it's something - right?

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April 26, 2007

Short Male Reporter Gets Publicly Ridiculed

Thank you to Alex for letting me know about this!

BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg (5'6") was sent to interview German MP Silvana Koch-Mehrin (6'4" in heels). Having trouble getting both of them in the shot (supposedly), Rosenberg was asked to stand on an equipment box.

Someone snatched a shot and sold it to Bild, Germany's biggest-selling daily newspaper, where it was mocked under the headline: 'Little Brit Questions Big Woman Politician'.

The situation is clearly ridiculous to people either because he's standing on a scruffy box and/or because he's short.

What's interesting to me is:
  1. Was this actually physically necessary or just something to tip over the edge to require a "fix"?
  2. Are female field reporters afforded the same luxury? And if not, is it because they're typically tall anyway? (and thin and attractive...)
  3. I'm assuming there's some level of national rivalry that made this worth it for the paper. (i.e., it's ok to make fun of him because he's British)
  4. If the gender situation was reverse, it's clear that this wouldn't have been quite as amusing to everyone.
  5. Is there some journalistic rule that they can't just both sit in chairs? It's not exactly a war zone or security issue here.
I feel rather sorry for Rosenberg because he was obviously just trying to do his job. With the box, he's either vain or insecure. Without it, he appears weak to people because he's so short. It's a lose-lose situation, and clearly unfair. Publishing the photo was undeniably mean-spirited of Bild for any number of reasons.

For you those versed in German, here's the actual article and picture:

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April 19, 2007

Growing Trend Towards Larger Shoes

do you ever shop for shoes at lord and taylor? the smallest pumps i can find on their website is a size 6. some come no smaller than a 7. i notice this is also true for nordstrom and ann taylor loft. have you ever done a blog posting about the sudden unavailablility of sizes smaller than a 6? whats going on? it seems that overnight average became something like a 9 and anything smaller than a 6 has become a rarity. have you found the same thing to be true?

- Gail W.

Hi Gail! Thanks for writing me. The shift towards larger sizes and the disappearance of smaller ones is frankly no surprise. As people get larger and taller, their foot size grows too. According to a Slate article published a few years ago (ironically centered around the problems of finding large sizes), "at the beginning of the 20th century, the average American woman wore a 3.5 or a 4; by the 1940s she was strapping on a 5.5." In 2004, it was an 8.5. And the decision whether to stock a size is a function of following the trend - it's simply not economically sound to waste shelf space on all those small shoes when fewer and fewer people are going to buy them.

It's curious that you specifically mention online shoe sources - which are usually better stocked than bricks-and-mortar stores. Of the many reasons I buy online, shoe size selection is definitely high on the list. Someone else had recently informed me about Ann Taylor Loft's decision to get rid of their smaller shoe sizes. To be honest, I've also never shopped at Lord & Taylor. However, I haven't noticed many other retailers cutting smaller sizes yet for their online selection - but it's only a matter of time.

Certainly, it makes sense that physical stores don't carry smaller sizes - it's not worth it to the store to waste shelf space on the shrinking percentage of the population who still wear these sizes. There are notable exceptions as well - I was lucky enough a few months ago to find a bargain at Kenneth Cole because the smaller sizes were both in stock and on sale. Most stores only carry down to a size 6 - but haven't yet cut their online availability (thank goodness!).

If you're looking for particularly small shoes (less than size 5), Short Persons Support, has a listing of specialty sources. I freely admit that I haven't used any of these sources, since I'm luckily still able to find shoes at most retailers. Any readers out there who have?

Nordstrom's in particular is known for carrying small sizes in stores. Have you also tried the outlets? I've definitely seen smaller than size 5's in DSW and department store outlets. Lastly, let's not forget the children's department - for casual shoes anyway!

Good luck - it only gets harder as the years pass!

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April 16, 2007

Don't Fit Your Pants? Gain Weight!

I've never worn tight jeans in my life. I mean, the kind that mostly fit and aren't too short or too long in the rise. Even for the petites department, I find that my rise (distance from crotch to natural waist) is too short relative to the rise that's designed for the pants offered. I have a rather shallow hip. It isn't even much - half an inch or an inch at most, but it actually makes a big difference. For most of the pants I buy off the rack the waistband is too loose on me if the crotch hits in the right place. If I pull the waistband down to where its snug, then the seat and crotch are too low. That, plus my butt isn't exactly filled out. Imagine the Ryan cut pants actually hitting where the Martin pants should...with too much slack at the waistband. With that in mind, I have never worn the tight jeans that most women seem to favor when they go out. (I know, I know...I'm avoiding the 'perfect jeans' search.) For dress slacks, I always get them altered.

So it was a bit of a shock when I randomly tried Banana Republic's low rise boot cuts in 00P this past weekend - and they fit almost perfectly. In fact, they were actually snug on me - in the way that I assume jeans are supposed to fit? To be honest, it was a little uncomfortable adjusting as they stretched to fit over the course of the weekend. Since they were new AND tight, I definitely felt a little hampered in my freedom of movement! I guess I'm just used to a looser fit.

The sad thing is that I realized that it was because I had put on fat around my waist (and probably had a bit of water retention) - and only at my waist. I essentially "padded" my lower waist a bit to fill up the empty space. (In fact, they were just slightly too tight in the waist compared to the rest of the hip area.) So my pants fit better - even though I was wheezing my way up staircases. A bit disconcerting, don't you think? With this added new information to digest, it seems like my current choices are:

A) get winded while doing slightly strenuous activity because I'm losing muscle mass and gaining fat - BUT gain the ability to wear pants off the rack;
B) get back into shape so I don't keel over from sprinting a block - BUT be unable to wear off the rack clothes well anymore;
C) become a crazy gym rat that packs down protein shakes to build up muscle in my posterior to make my hip circumference bigger AND be in shape

Hmm. This is really crazy, because most women exercise to slim down. Not too many people I know actually try to gain body fat to fit into their clothes. And I have to admit, C is definitely not happening (nor have I been able to gain much muscle either).

Unfortunately, my recent good fortune has been dashed. I tend to easily fluctuate a pound or two with exercise, but am unable to actually gain much more mass than that - even with muscle building exercises and protein shakes. I estimate that I was up to about 90 when I bought the pants on Thursday, and am now down to 88. Very annoying as it's ONLY at my waist. I somehow lost the difference from dancing for hours on Saturday night.

So, I'm back to slightly loose jeans again - but it was fun while it lasted! My advice to all those that have a similar problem? Let yourself gain a little extra weight and see if it works for you. I'm not exactly sure if the trade-off is worth it, but it's certainly worth a try!

(I'll post a picture of how things fit when I'm feeling a bit more "full", as I lost the opportunity to do so this weekend.)

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April 08, 2007

Prince Charming?

While reading this week's The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones's profile of Prince, in Dorian Purple, amazed me. In her review of his new Las Vegas show, she brought up his height, only to toss it aside as a point of non-relevance. "Though he's just over five feet, lithe and pixieish, he never seems dwarfed by others onstage, and he is absolutely at ease guiding his ten-piece band. His backup dancers....were energetic and effectively underclad, but Prince was still the most seductive presence onstage."

What startled me is that she brought up his 5'2.5" height precisely because no one cared - it was brought up only to point out the lack of influence it had on anything in his professional life (or clearly, his romantic). His height had no bearing upon his musical skill, leadership, or sheer presence. And I couldn't help but think that, perhaps, Prince and his fans managed to do something that the rest of us with any short-person hang-ups are always reaching for - a complete attitude of height indifference.

Indeed, it's his continued status as a sex symbol at age 48 that is simply the most astonishing thing of all. Certainly, there are many talented short individuals respected for their work - actor Danny DeVito (5'0"), musician Paul Simon (5'3"), and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (4'10") come to mind. But it's not like most short famous men are noted for their sex appeal (even when they were younger). It's the most resistant area of change for the short man. The current cultural climate points out that short guys, particularly middle-aged ones, just can't be seriously seen as potential mates. Kudos to Prince, for managing to skirt the system!

Thank you Ms. Frere-Jones, for treating the height subject with such respect.