I’m not exactly sure when but, at some point, I gave up searching for clothes in the petite section and pivoted to wearing straight-fit clothing instead. If things had to be a bit baggy or ill-fitting, I was willing to take the hit as long as I had access to the same never-ending string of clothing options as everyone else (meaning those above 5'4"). I took it as part and parcel of my experience as a short woman and didn’t think too much about it until I had a number of shopping disasters buying jeans and dresses last summer. Swathed in reams of fabric going way past my ankles, I finally decided enough was enough and began searching for clothes that were created for bodies like mine. But with many brands seeing the petite experience as an uncommon one, the options for quality clothing were few and far between.
This is something that Jennifer Ison, founder of petite-only clothing brand Jennifer Anne can relate to, having previously struggled to find clothes for her 5'1" frame: "Being petite is often seen as a niche thing but it isn’t really. Statistics show that the average height of a woman in the UK is 5'3"." From her own research, Jennifer found that 63% of petite women in Britain felt that the retail market didn’t cater for their needs, with many discussing difficulties when it came to proportions and lack of variety. "Often the petite shopping experience is about ‘making do’ or not coming back with anything at all," she says. "I think it means that petite women end up buying things that don’t suit them or reflect their personality because you are just so happy to find something that fits."
At-home styling service Stitch Fix recently homed in on this problem. The company now carries petite ranges from well-known brands and has added its own petite collections across its in-house womenswear labels. With the pandemic still stopping many petite people from having that all-important IRL try-on experience, the personal styling service aims to bridge the gap, allowing petite shoppers to input their exact measurements and style preferences and have a box of five clothing items which meet their requirements delivered straight to their door.
Keen to dip my toe back into the world of petite brands and clothing, I was curious to know if the service could use my information to dress my frame better than I could. As someone with pretty specific fashion tastes, I was sceptical of coming away with anything I would keep but with a fairly in-depth online survey and the ability to message a stylist directly, I decided to take the plunge and request three petite outfits for a variety of occasions. Ahead are all my thoughts and feelings about using an at-home styling service as a petite woman.
When it comes to wearing midi dresses as a 5'2" woman, I know that the majority of the ones I try on will turn out to be maxi dresses. It’s something that I often consider while out shopping during the warmer months and the majority of the time I just opt for trousers to save myself the hassle. Surprisingly, this dress from the petite range of Stitch Fix’s in-house label Mauvette felt quite flattering on my frame. Sitting at a nice spot on my ankle, with both heels and my old faithful Birkenstocks, the dress fit my brief for an easily wearable date night look for dinners and picnics alike. However, when it comes to personal style, I can’t say floral is particularly my thing (the majority of my wardrobe is comprised of plain block colours). While the service listened to my love of dark hues, the bright ditsy print was a little bit loud for my liking, meaning although the dress fit well, it wasn’t a match when it came to individual taste.
Okay, this outfit could have come straight out of my own wardrobe. While filling in the styling survey I made sure to emphasise my love of all-black looks and Stitch Fix definitely delivered with this jet black ensemble. As someone who works (worked?) in a fairly casual office, I normally gravitate towards tailored trousers and a top, which made these cropped All Saints pants the perfect pick, sitting just above my trainers when I got up to walk around my flat. Similarly, the ribbed short-sleeved shirt from Samsoe & Samsoe was a bit of me, fitting close to the body and easily tucked into the trousers. As many petite gals will know, oversized knits and tees can look like you’ve raided your dad’s wardrobe so tight tops always help me feel a little more put-together. I appreciate that this might have been a consideration in the stylist’s process or a happy accident but, either way, it made me feel smart, which was my main goal for the outfit.
You probably can’t tell by my face but these jeans were a revelation. In recent years I have opted for baggy, wide-leg jeans after seeing them on every supermodel in the game. Why did I think that my squat legs would look like theirs? I have no idea but I didn’t realise how much I missed well-fitting denim until I jumped into these cropped Lee jeans. While I would have perhaps gone for a black jean over a blue, the delight I experienced at having them caress my body in all the right places was a major win, which only got better when I realised they hit exactly on the ankle to show off my boots. The fit of the YAS jumper worked fairly well with the jeans, allowing me to tuck it in without tons of fabric swamping my stomach. While the jumper was perhaps a little mature for my taste, this outfit made my proportions look pretty damn good so I’m happy to call it a success.
Considering the difficulty I've had in finding clothing that fits, it feels like the introduction of styling services for petite bodies can only be a good thing. While customers are limited to the brands that Stitch Fix carries, it's nice to see a variety of petite-friendly labels on the platform that step outside the usual realm of high street stores. As someone who enjoys fashion (and having control over her clothes), the service isn’t necessarily something I would use on a regular basis but with only a £10 styling fee and the ability to try before you buy, it's definitely worth looking into if you have sizing issues.
With questions about height, weight and proportion alongside colour, fabric and print preferences, it's nice to feel like petite concerns are being considered without having to compromise on personal taste. As Stitch Fix's petite-specific service grows (no pun intended), hopefully the inventory of brands will expand with it, giving shoppers even more options. Plus, with the service showing that there is a market for petite shoppers searching for catered clothing, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before other styling services join the petite revolution, too.