There are plenty of advantages to being a petite person, from strangers offering to put you on their shoulders at gigs and being able to manoeuvre through crowds at lightning speed to – most importantly – saving money by shopping in the kids' shoe section. However, one of the major downsides to being 5'3" and under is the fact that clothes rarely fit properly.
While we can get away with the baggy look in some styles, more structured clothing can often look like we’ve taken our dad’s blazer out for a spin. This very conundrum has led to me avoiding suits for most of my life (despite the fact that my dream work wardrobe would consist of structured styles in every colour imaginable).
Thankfully, it is possible to alleviate the stress of shopping while petite by using one simple method: alteration. This magical hack allows you to purchase whatever style you fancy in the knowledge that your look can be tailored to fit your frame in just a few additional steps. That's why, this month, I finally decided to order a dreamy oatmeal suit that I have had my eye on for quite some time: Djerf Avenue’s continuously sold out Forever Blazer and Favourite Pants combo.
When the suit arrived, I was taken with its laid-back luxuriousness, the oversized jacket and wide-leg trousers giving the intended 'Swedish model-off-duty' vibe. However, my short torso and even shorter legs meant the fit wasn't hitting exactly as I wanted it to, which confirmed my suspicion that tailoring would be necessary to achieve my desired look.
I reached out to The Seam, a UK startup that connects customers with local tailors for home appointments. The app matched me with Tak Chigaduro, a bespoke tailor and designer who talked me through the areas of the suit that needed attention. She explained that a lot of petite people have narrow shoulders and backs, which results in suit jackets having excess fabric around that area and the trousers almost always being too long.
For my Djerf Avenue suit in particular, although purposely oversized, the padded shoulders were too wide and the trousers, while fitted at the waist, were bunching around my feet. Talking Tak through my vision of how I would wear my suit day to day, we decided to line up the base of the trouser legs to sit just above the sole of my go-to trainers. This way, my shoes wouldn’t be too covered by the fabric and the trousers would still look loose and relaxed.
As for the blazer, it was important that the shoulders became more slim fitting, while retaining the slightly boyish cut. This meant that we chose to leave the jacket length as it was and concentrate on reducing the shoulders and shortening the long sleeves.
"When shopping, I’d always recommend judging a suit jacket by how the shoulders fit. If the shoulders are bigger, they can easily be reduced," says Tak. "However, if they’re too small, there’s not much that can be done as that is one of the few points on a suit that doesn’t have excess to make it bigger."
Once my desired alterations were pinned in place, the suit was whisked away for tailoring (with a seven to 10 day turnaround time). In the past, tailoring has had a bit of a reputation as an expensive luxury but apps like The Seam and Sojo have made the market more competitive. My suit alterations started at £19 for the trouser turn-ups and £48 for the jacket.
Seven days later, the refreshed suit arrived back in my possession and it was immediately clear how much the fit had improved. The trousers now felt lightweight and airy as intended, draping perfectly over my shoes, while the blazer sat just beyond my natural shoulders, giving it a relaxed yet refined appearance.
Buying a suit with the intention of altering it can feel like a big commitment but the results speak for themselves, proving that petite people can get their hands on well-fitting clothes. Although most cuts can be altered to fit a shorter person, there are a few things to keep in mind during the initial shopping process.
Buying a suit with the intention of altering it can feel like a big commitment but the results speak for themselves.
"Petite frames should be looking out for fitted and tailored suits. Trousers should be cigarette, or cropped-style trousers along with a fitted or buttoned suit jacket as these styles will highlight the best aspects of your frame," says London-based stylist Nana Acheampong, who has dressed the likes of Little Mix and Eva Longoria.
When it comes to styling your selected suit, Acheampong also has a number of useful tips, including the importance of accessorising. "You can add a belt to your suit jacket to draw attention to your waist and add a heel (or platform trainers) to elongate your legs. Also make sure you are wearing a fitted top under your suit jacket."
Her biggest recommendation for an excellent suit though? "Get to know your local tailor or seamstress as this will make your suiting game top tier as it will be cut exactly to your frame."
Whatever look you go for, I can guarantee that nothing feels as good as strutting around in a suit that doesn't trip you up every 10 seconds. Short girlies deserve to look chic and tailoring might just be our ticket to getting there.