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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you notice that payless, which used to carry women's shoes down to a size 4, now only goes down to a 5? not only that but any shoes they have that are a size 4 or 4.5 have been reclassified as children's sizes

April 27, 2007 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is that I'm really thankful that many high end denim lines have started making childrens' sizes. I just bought a pair of 7 for all mankind jeans in the kids department that fit wonderfully and are the perfect length to wear with flats(Paige makes petites, but they're too short to wear with heels and too long for flats). They're also somewhat cheaper than the adult version. I just wish that designers started making well cut dress pants and coats for children, too!

April 30, 2007 9:33 PM  
Anonymous teresa said...

what's scary is that even todays preteens completely tower over me.
(i'm 4ft10). my girlfriends daughter is 12 and 5ft11. she sent me a link to her team roster and i'm amazed to see that even the shortest girl on the team is 6 inches taller than me. granted this is a basketball team, but still. they're only 11 and 12 years old yet 1/3 of the team is over a foot taller than i am. that's crazy:

April 30, 2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger jj said...

I have the problem of being embarrassed to shop in the girls section. I'll do it sometimes for athletic wear though, girls workout gear is much cheaper, and I don't have to hunt for capri lengths.

On the jeans situation, I prefer to buy mine at the "normal" length (read: crazy tall) and have them hemmed to fit. That way I can have the tailor hem them to the proper length for my shoes. It doesn't work for the extreme boot cut styles of course, but for straight leg and slim cut styles it works just fine.

I think Joe's Jeans makes a petite cut as well, although their sizing tends to run a bit large.

May 01, 2007 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I may have some good news for those of you who are (much) shorter than average.

In the April 2007 edition of Entrepreneur magazine, in the lower left corner of page 16, there is this little blurb:

Fashion designers including Nicole Miller will be introducing clothing lines for the "subzero" market.

That's not an exact quote but close enough.

I realize that shopping for Nicole Miller and other top brand designers will quickly break the bank, but maybe, just maybe, it's a start.

May 02, 2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for the post! Unfortunately, this subzero market is not for subpetites (or even 5'4" petites). Instead, the subzero trend is actually geared towards the super thin (but taller!) among us. I actually posted about this in Zero - the Next New Size in October.

Similar to tween selection expansion, subzero sounds better than it actually is for petite women. But it sure is a tease!

May 02, 2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger CynthiaC said...

Yes, Amy is right. I think people need to be educated about what exactly petite sizes are. Too many people, including STYLISTS believe that petite refers to the skinny only. I have even heard actresses of above average height being called "petite." (Yes, Oprah, I'm looking at you!) Kirsten Dunst is 5'7 or so, she is NOT petite. Eva Longoria is petite. Reese Witherspoon is petite.

May 02, 2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

I'm about 4'10" and still a couple pounds shy of 80lbs. The thing is that at 22 years old, I am too curvy to fit the kids' jeans right (designer or not) and much too slim for any adult-cut jeans.

I still buy all of my jeans at abercrombie kids, but I'm seriously worried about going into the working field after graduation. My good old 3-pairs of the same style, light-wash ripped jeans just won't cut it. I'm convinced plain, dark jeans in my size simply don't exist. As for shoes? I'm a true women's 4. It sucks.

May 07, 2007 2:57 AM  
Anonymous Jelly said...

This dialogue is interesting. Standing at about 162 cm (5'0"), I am a shorter than the average woman. I have such a small bra band size that I have to buy bras at specialty stores. Yet I have quite a large cup size. I have a pouchy stomach, generous hips/behind/thighs, but everything else is small (especially my wrists). My shoe size is either 7 or 8, depending on make. I'm a disproportioned petite! In terms of proportion, I have characteristics of the typical thin petite and the larger, taller woman. Kids and tween clothing don't fit. Makes it hell to buy clothes, so it's frustrating to get dressed in the morning when you have such a small wardrobe to select an outfit from. It doesn't help when half the things are in the wash.

June 20, 2007 11:08 PM  
Anonymous carolyn said...

jj i know what you mean about being embarrassed to shop in the girls section. i usually just kind of look around from the perimeter trying to pretend i'm not really shopping there! depressing when even the 10 year olds are bigger than me. i'm 4ft11. how tall are you?

July 15, 2007 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if you look around there are possibly quite alot of people under 5'0.If shops catered more for people around that height we would all be better off.I am 4'10 and always had to wear my clothes passed on from my sisters has they were taller than me.Okay they were always being taken up,i very rarely got new clothes till i got older.It is a good job that my mum is very handy with a sewing machine has she always takes up my clothes.Being wider than a 10/12 yr old i cant buy them.So i have to buy regular if there is no short available.So i usually but a couple of pairs to take to my mum she gets me to stand on a stool and she pins them up.Sometimes she can take at least 6 ins off.It is the same over here the shops dont help shorter than average people which is a shame has they could possibly make a killing.If the average height was lowered i think the clothes would be relatively shorter for people.

October 15, 2007 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

I am 5'3' and 95 pounds and I have trouble too. I recommend Theory double zero if you want to spend a little more, it is high quality and will last forever, and actually fits for the most part! Saks also has a wonderful seamstress, again if you are in for spending a little more (because the clothes are expensive, and then you pay for alterations, too). In NYC, there is a cute tween shop in the W. 80s/Columbus that seemed to have a decent selection of dresses.

If you are on a budget, try Filene's basement-- some of them have excellent children's sections including cute stuff from Ralph Lauren, and I recently got a lovely children's size 12 Via Spiga wool coat! The arms were a little short but my tailor adjusted them easily. I also bought a children's satin dress size 12 there that I can wear to work (Hype brand, $30). Some of the kids stuff there is more sophisticated and well within price range.

Also, I tried Banana Republic pants in a double zero and I was so disappointed-- they were huge! Although I think their dresses and shirts may be ok. Still haven't found a cheap place to get dress pants without having to tailor them.

PS- I'm so glad I'm not alone in this!

December 05, 2007 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean it isnt nice having to shop in the junior section of shops.I am barely 4'10 that is only when i wear shoes without shoes just over 4'9.I think the clothes shop now are fully suited for the adults who have to use them.I went shopping with my 2 daughter who are 5'5 and 5'7 they are 10 and 14.They can shop anywhere i measured a pair of trousers up to me and they were in excess of 6 ins longer than me.Now when i take my son shopping he is 12 yrs old and 4'6 he apparently got his height from me.He should make it to 4'11 if that.I buy his clothes aged 6/7 yrs.He obviously doesnt like it but they come up to the right height without taking them up.Same as the school uniform i bought him black trousers 6/7 yrs they are good.His white shirts are 5/6 yrs has the chest is just right.Once one of the boys spotted his clothes and looked at the size this made him very upset has they started laughing at being 12 yrs old and wearing 6/7 aged clothes.He was told to go shop in mothercare where he wouldnt have a problem.His feet are also small the shoe size is only 10/11.

February 10, 2008 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the same problem has alot of people around when trying to buy clothes.Now i am in my 40's now and my height is 4'9.5 yippee for the half no docbt i will lose it when i start shrinking hey.I have 3 kids 12 yr old daughter she is 5'6 14 yr old son he is 5'9 and a 16 yr old daughter she is 4.10.Now i accepted my height problem while growing up and being the shortest in my family out of 6 kids and being the oldest.Now Jessie who is the oldest and only 4'10 tall has had to endure the same problems has me like watching her brother and sister grown taller then her.I remember when we did their height charts for each of them and realised she will struggle when she hadnt grown after her 10th birthday.Sally overtook her when she was 8 yrs old.We thought Peter would be quite tall and he is still growing.MY husband is 5'10 so they look lie they have their height from him.When i buy clothes i can only buy children aged ones has the length is usually good.Jessie hates going into the kids department has she get annoyed when her sister comes out with totally different clothes to her.I usalyy do the alterations on clothes when needed so i am quite busy when we go shopping.Jessie has quite a few friends but they are mainly a good 5 ins taller than her and she lies to wear high shoes so it isnt much different.I giver her all the help she needs to overcome these problems has i have already been through it.One of the good things is that we dont tend to age has much has the rest so i am still looking has young has ever and people can never tell my age which is nice.

April 25, 2008 8:25 AM  

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