I'm short and I'm shaped weird and I can't find any damn blouses. HALP.
January 12, 2010 4:30 AM   Subscribe

Where do petite women find clothes that don't look like your grandma?

I've been out of work for a couple months, but I'm supposed to be getting an offer tomorrow. In my previous life, I worked with a load of engineers and could more or less come to work in a barrel. I dressed slightly better than that, but generally didn't bother because I didn't need to do so. This is the same line of work (Project Management) but in a different industry (Interactive Marketing vs Product Development), and I think I need to dress better.

1. Petite selection SUCKS. Ann Taylor is generally too . . . it's not old, exactly, but it's too staid for my taste. I do okay at Loft sometimes.

2. I really need SHIRTS. I'm busty. In the Old Life, I just wore threadless tshirts, sweaters, and sometimes something slightly nicer, but really, finding blouses that are not covered in effing beads and sequins (a particular problem this season) that don't look better than tees and are hella pricey is an issue. Advice? Help? Because I'm very very short-waisted with boobage, I can get away with some misses rather than petite shirts, but sleeves get to be an issue. I hate tucking shirts in.

3. I'm not a twin-set kind of person. I like cardigans over tanks or camisoles fine, but not matchy. I feel like a tiny Hitler in anything too structured because I have kind of big shoulders to go with the boobs.

I don't need suits, although I have two nice suits that I can split up and use the jackets as blazers and the skirts as skirts; I plan to do that more in this new job. I could be talked into Ross or TJ Maxx, I suppose, but at my size, I find it's a lot of work to find *anything* there and I don't usually have the patience for it. I have no problem finding trousers and jeans, dresses are less of a problem, although selection on that count would be nice.

I'm in Atlanta. I am closest to Northpoint Mall, but can get to anything within the ATL area, including the outlets. I'm looking for store names or even places I can order online and send stuff back without a lot of hassle. I don't want to spend a fortune, and while I will get things tailored, big bonus points for just finally being able to SHOP.
posted by Medieval Maven to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (49 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Forever 21 is super cheap and actually has some nice items (generally requires some sifting, of course). Because of its teenybopper orientation, all the tops are effectively petite-sized, and they tend to have lots of empire-y cuts that work well for us short-waisted folk.
posted by Bardolph at 4:39 AM on January 12, 2010

Banana Republic and J. Crew have decent petites selections.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:58 AM on January 12, 2010

My girlfriend says "certain Banana Republics have a petite section and petite is also available online."
posted by haveanicesummer at 4:58 AM on January 12, 2010

Thirding Banana Republic's petites selection for professional clothes that have a bit of style -- lots of cardigans, camisoles, cute blouses, collared shirts, etc. that are not too long in the waist or sleeves.
posted by deeparch at 5:01 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Banana Republic or JCrew? My friends with your body type seem to like their petite clothes. Plus they offer in-house tailoring of hems/sleeves. I would also recommend buying shirts that fit the shoulders/boobs and having them tailored at the waist and shortened at a quality tailor. Express has petite sizes but tends to be a bit sluttier/trashier in style (though I do have to say that their Editor pants make most butts look great).
posted by melissasaurus at 5:04 AM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so far. I tend to be bored out of my mind the minute I step into a Banana Republic, although I could possibly be talked into making a go of it. . . .looking forward to more/other suggestions!
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:13 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know this sounds really weird, but a lot of my petite female friends shop at the children/teen dept of their favorite stores. I was buying clothes for my nephews and niece before christmas, and the friend that came with me ended up buying a pretty fashionable shirt.
posted by jedrek at 5:22 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to J. Crew and Banana Republic, I would also check out Eddie Bauer, Land's End, and J. Jill. They all have extensive Petite ranges online, and accept returns at their stores (for Land's End, you can return to Sears stores that have a Land's End section).
posted by xsquared-1 at 5:25 AM on January 12, 2010

Brooks Brothers no iron shirts are amazing and come in petite sizes. Classic styling, not as stodgy as you might think.

Don't rule out stores that don't have petite sizes but offer free alterations. Martin and Ossa is one that comes to mind. Many department stores also do this, including Nordstrom.
posted by c lion at 5:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine who is similarly proportioned often has success finding practical clothes at Eastern Mountain Sports.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:44 AM on January 12, 2010

Oh, whoops, sorry - looks like the closest EMS to you is in Virginia.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:47 AM on January 12, 2010

Lately I've had some luck at NY&CO. You can get some petite stuff in the store, but they also have a larger selection online.

One thing I have noticed is that the store in the upscale shopping center here has almost no clearance merchandise, while the one in the lower income area has a ridiculous amount of really great, really cheap clearance stuff all the time. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by thejanna at 6:02 AM on January 12, 2010

Just wanted to point out a couple things: Forever 21's quality might be a bit inappropriate for professional environments. The amount of sifting needed to find something that's age-and environment-appropriate and not completely cheap-looking often isn't worth it. Also, if you find Ann Taylor's stuff to be staid, you're probably not going to have any luck at Eddie Bauer/Land's End/J. Jill.
posted by thisjax at 6:04 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Anthropologie sells petites, if that's not too frilly for you.

Ultimately, if you want a perfect fit, I think that you will have to get things tailored. Shirts can be shortened, sleeves can be shortened, and darts can be added.
posted by picklebird at 6:07 AM on January 12, 2010

Also, it sounds to be like your size may not be the problem here, but rather trying to figure out your work-appropriate style. If the fit weren't an issue, where would you shop? Most women shop for their professional clothes at the above mainstream stores- BR, Ann Taylor, J Crew, etc. because of their work-appropriate if sometimes dull selection at reasonable prices.

Maybe you'd like Boden? -- sign up online and be on the lookout for sales! No petites, but their knitwear should fit you fine and shirts can altered.
posted by picklebird at 6:14 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

ModCloth.Com, Forever 21, Gap, Old Navy, H&M
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:26 AM on January 12, 2010

Not all Banana Republics are created equal -- call ask to ask about their petites section. For example, I live in NYC, and only a single Banana Republic location has a petite section. None of the other stores in NYC carry petite sizes on location.

I get mostly basics at Ann Taylor (like you I find it a bit too mature for me) and have had some good luck with blouses there. However, only the Ann Taylor flagship store (not Loft) in NYC has a full floor of petite clothing. There is nothing at the rest of the stores. We found a single Ann Taylor blouse that fit me and bought 5-6 of them. If you find a blouse that fits you well, buy multiples because the styles change so quickly. I know it's expensive, but we literally looked for months before finding a non-fugly blouse sans lace/beads/detailing that fit me. Stock up, and pack away the extras!

Additionally, I bought a number of nice cashmere V-neck sweaters from Lord & Taylor. Not cheap, but high quality and they last a while and go a long way. A lot of the other clothing there is also too mature for my taste, but I look at in in terms of buying specific basic pieces that will coordinate with something else. And the Lord and Taylor sweaters coordinate nicely with the blouses and an appropriately lengthed (but more interesting) skirt (above the knee or just below the knee). Add on some tights and boots.

Bloomingdale's used to be good for more professional clothing (but also a bit too mature for me); however, lately they seem to be cutting back on the selection. Ditto for Macy's.

Again, call ahead to find out which (if any) near you carries petite sized clothing before you head out. Good luck from someone who has the same problem (5' tall, not an A cup).
posted by kathryn at 6:26 AM on January 12, 2010

Don't know if this is available in your area but you could also try H&M for inexpensive but more likely to find "classy" looking clothing than Forever 21. I don't believe they have petite, but my girlfriend shops there frequently and is able to find sizes that fit, since they can run small (and carry XS sizes). I think H&M easily has the most stylish nice looking inexpensive clothing out there.
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:29 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Get the sturdy basics at J.Crew, The Loft, and Banana, not something that's gonna fall apart after a couple washes. Get someone who works there to help you shop. You've got a couple suits, so build up from there. Blazers and cardigans are good. It's better to look a bit boring than unprofessional. Then have fun, and express yourself, with accessories -- jewelry, scarves, shoes, purses, etc.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:31 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Not all Banana Republics are created equal -- call ask to ask about their petites section. For example, I live in NYC, and only a single Banana Republic location has a petite section. None of the other stores in NYC carry petite sizes on location.

While you should use the BR store locator filters to find a BR with petites (if you decide to go there), I just had to say that actually almost all of the BRs in Manhattan have petites....so I'm not sure what the previous poster is talking about.

Reiterating what I said above: TAILOR TAILOR TAILOR --- clothes are not meant to fit every body type off the rack.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:33 AM on January 12, 2010

Sometimes the store locator lies or the selection is very small. For example the Soho BR doesn't have petites. They may have added to other stores since I last called but the rep I talked to said the Rockefeller Center location was the best. Sometimes it's best to talk to a real human.
posted by kathryn at 7:03 AM on January 12, 2010

I'm short, petite, and busty, and have yet to be able to find anything at Forever 21 that fits me across the bust. So I wouldn't bother. Same goes for H&M - I'm convinced that their stuff is designed for women who are, like, 6 feet tall and flat chested.

A couple of things: first, I gave up on button-front shirts long ago. As someone with an ample bust, wide shoulders, and a short waist, these will never work unless they are custom tailored. Instead, I stick with knits.

As for stores - I do quite well with Target's Merona line. It's office- and office-casual-friendly, decent quality (somewhere between F21 and Banana), and inexpensive. J Crew is on the spendy side but the fit is pretty good. And check the petites' department at a good Macy's - not all are created equal. I've found that some stores barely stock petites at all, while others have entire half-floors devoted to us.
posted by chez shoes at 7:23 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm also petite with quite a bit of boobage... for dressy shirts, I've had the best luck at H&M. NY&CO stuff also tends to be cut for a more busty figure, but H&M has way more variety. Banana Republic and JCrew are, in my experience, cut for a smaller bust (I've found that the more upscale the retailer, the smaller the chest they expect you to have -- so, e.g., I can shop for shirts at Old Navy but I can't shop at the Gap or BR).

The quality at H&M and NY&CO isn't great, but... eh. I take what I can get on my limited budget.
posted by pluckemin at 7:23 AM on January 12, 2010

On non-preview: Huh, apparently chez shoes and I have completely opposite opinions about which stores are best for small, busty women. I guess this just goes to show that you really need to get out there and try stuff on and see which stores tend to work for you.

(Also, for pants, I will concede that Banana Republic and JCrew are way better, because they actually carry small sizes. H&M is always sold out of the small sizes by the time I get there, and NY&CO doesn't go small enough for me.)
posted by pluckemin at 7:26 AM on January 12, 2010

Coldwater creek has lots of matronly stuff, but will usually have plain blouses. Never pay full price - they always have sales and coupons. I wear lots of twinsets, but I buy bright colors and mix-n-match. Landsend and Talbots have good selections in petites. Again, not fashion-forward, but well-made clothes to build a wardrobe, then you can add fashion and fun.
posted by theora55 at 7:26 AM on January 12, 2010

Honestly, wearing suits is easier. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever thought I'd say that. But you can wear pretty much anything within reason under a suit jacket, since only a little bit of it shows. I get suits on sale at Ross.

Corporette.com is good about alerts for sales for sites selling business-appropriate clothes, whether you stick with separates or wear suits.
posted by desuetude at 7:43 AM on January 12, 2010

I'm petite and work in a professional environment (though not corporate), and have just discovered the fun that comes from wearing Urban Outfitters clothes. I assume their clothes are meant for young people, and so their sizes are on the small size. They obviously don't have lots of button-down blouses and that sort of thing, but they have lots of dresses and skirts that can definitely work for petite gals as work clothes. They're selection is so much more fun than BR and J.Crew, too! I think by mixing UO clothes with more traditional stuff from BR you can achieve a great look.
posted by lagreen at 7:49 AM on January 12, 2010

I am similarly shaped, though long-waisted (short legs, woohoo), and I rarely wear button-down shirts. If you must wear them, your best bet might be to buy a size up (the size that fits your shoulders and bust) and get them tailored down in the waist and/or length.
What I find is much easier is buying non-button down shirts, especially stretchy ones like sweater material tops.
posted by ishotjr at 8:11 AM on January 12, 2010

Club Monaco (Lenox Mall). It always surprises me how well their stuff fits so many different types. Not everything will fit, mind you. For example: I'm a beanpole with a long waste, so the dresses don't fit. But the pants fit perfectly. However, my petite and slightly curvier friend fills out their tailored dresses to a T. But their pants suck on her.

Anthropologie (Also Lenox). It's like going to a flea market of cute, especially if you're little and can rock the sexy nerd bit. You won't find a whole section of petites, but you won't really find a whole section of anything, specifically. Worth at least a stop-by.

Bill Hallman (Local Atlanta mainstay, Virginia Highlands). Hallman and his family handpick all of their stuff, so it's across the board— but fairly consistent style-wise. You'll find less in the way of dressy pants for petites, but they have really great, just-throw-it-on dresses. (I remember finding a wrap dress there that didn't fit me, for lack of chestal area. But would probably look great on you.)

J. Jill (I think it's near the Target in Buckhead). Surprise of all surprises, this grandma-ish place has cute, basic stuff, and a fairly sizable petites section. I've gotten some great sweaters and a nice, long winter skirt. Give it a shot.

Mix and match these guys, and you can't lose! :) Hope this helps.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:43 AM on January 12, 2010

I am 4'11" with completely opposite fit problems; I have the smallest shoulders ever, and I'm only an A cup. Nevertheless, the strategy for button-up shirts for you and me is the same. I shop for something small enough around the shoulders and bust, and then take it to a tailor for the sleeves and hem. Shoulders are the hardest part of a shirt to alter, so if the fit there works, most other things are negotiable. The waist can be taken in if it fits your boobs but looks too boxy, darts can be added, etc. This sounds expensive, I know, but it's cheaper than constantly buying things that only kinda-sorta fit that you wear twice and give away. Alterations should cost $10-25 per shirt depending on the level of work needed.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

c lion mentioned it above, but I'll add that if I'm gonna shell out some money for a shirt or two, I will take over J Crew or Banana Republic any day. Brook's Brother's"Their shirts seem to come in 3 fits--perhaps one will work? The cut of some BR/JC stuff can look dated after a while.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:52 AM on January 12, 2010

Also, try shopping a size larger than you normally would at H&M for cute little blouses and tops that are trendy enough not to bore you and that will pair easily with a basic skirt or slacks. Again, if it's decent quality, it's worth a little alteration to make it perfect. Not everything at H&M is worth that much trouble, but if you get more than 40 wears out of it because it fits and it's versatile, you will be glad you made the investment in time.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2010

I have no shopping advice, but I'm here to say that if you're busty, nothing makes you look matronly like low boobs. Go find a nice new bra that keeps them up, and everything will look better, I promise. Hiking them higher will make you look like you suddenly have a waist.

As for actual tops, I have given up on button-up shirts worn alone, so i usually throw them over a cami and button to just under the fullest part. The top done button usually ends up being just above the underwire. That might be too casual a look for an interview, though.
posted by timepiece at 9:26 AM on January 12, 2010

I've had some luck at Brooks Brothers. They have classic, flattering businesswear, and I've found the quality of their shirts, particularly, to be much better than J.Crew or the Gap-owned stores. There's often a tailor on-site, too, who can help with alterations. They're a bit pricey, but I've found very good deals at the Brooks Bros. Outlet stores. Looks as though there's a shop at the North Georgia Premium Outlets.
posted by Spinneret at 9:30 AM on January 12, 2010

They aren't based in America, but I recently stumbled upon Asos Petite. Think of them like an Urban Outfitters with Petite sizing.

I bought a dress, and for the first time, the waist hit where the waist is supposed to hit without looking excessively matronly.

I only really hit it up for dresses. Tops and pants are easy to tailor. Just find someone you trust, and go to whichever store suits your fancy.
posted by politikitty at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2010

JCrew really isn't bad and do sell petites. I have found some nice suited-for-work blouses there on occasion - if I find a style I like, I buy in several colors, but I'm not fond of the silk tanks with stuff stuck all over them, and they do alot of that. Club Monaco does have some snazzy tops, sometimes. It is hit and miss but worth a look if you never happen to go in that store. I have coworkers who buy a few items at Benetton and make them look good, though the quality isn't high. A nice Brooks Brothers shirt will last a long time.

I wonder if part of the issue here is just disliking office-appropriate clothes in general, because a lot of the time, they do tend toward the dowdy and boring? I feel that way and tend to wear a lot of layers and funky scarves at the office; if I have to wear trousers and a boring tasteful blouse (or god forbid, a suit), for most of the day I'll just leave the suit jacket hung up in the corner and wear an interesting scarf and cardigan over my blouse instead.
posted by citron at 11:11 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried White House Black Market? Prices are similar to Ann Taylor but it's less staid. I'm 5'2" and it's one of my standbys. They only carry some of their pants in short inseams, but I've had very good luck with their tops, dresses/skirts, and capri-length pants even though they're not petite sizes.
posted by magicbus at 12:29 PM on January 12, 2010

My girlfriend is very petite and buys clothes at Express and Banana Republic. She bought some of her favorite outfits of all time at a Banana Republic outlet, which is a great option especially if you have budget concerns. The petite selection varies by the outlet so I would call first.

New York & Co also has a petite section, and they're having some craaaazy sales right now.
posted by granted at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2010

Not sure why anybody actually would want to buy shirts or blouses - smart stretchy fabrique tops would be a lot easier to find in the right size, come in range of colours and require only minimal ironing. They'll look perfectly smart and professional with your jackets, cardigans etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:29 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Part of it is definitely that "officey" attire just annoys me, but the nice thing is that I don't have to be *corporate* - I just want to dress *better.* There are some highly recommended places on here that I've previously written off (Banana, JCrew), so I will dutifully give them a try.

The other part of it, honestly, is that I'm 30 this year and while I didn't mind turning 30, I certainly don't want to "look 30." I just also don't want to look like I think I'm 18. Of course, at this height and with my family's babyface genes, I'm not sure I can help it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:02 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nobody has mentioned Chadwicks on here yet, so I will. It's affordable, not super high-quality, but not junk either -- esp. this kind of shirt here. Basic, versatile, no sequins, and doesn't have to be tucked in. If it's too staid, wear it unbuttoned over a cami and add cool jewelry. I also recommend Bravissimo for shirts to accommodate the girls. Good luck.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:58 AM on January 16, 2010

Sounds like you and I are shaped similarly (I am 4'11", wear a 36DDD, and have a very short torso) - I shop online at Banana Republic, JCrew, and Anthropologie. It requires you to know what size you wear already (try on in stores), but then you can just wait for the sales and buy at your convenience. I also shop at White House Black Market and Dillards (or Macy's) for dresses for weddings, etc. I ALWAYS have dresses and pants tailored. I think one of the major problems is not your (and my) proportions, but that "dressing as a 30 year old" (I'm 31) is hard - it's too easy to look way to young (especially being petite) or way too old.

Good luck!
posted by getthebubbles at 5:56 AM on February 2, 2010

Have you tried the I.N.C. line at Macy's? I adore their style. It's professional, but not boring, and their clothes are well-made and always have nice details without being too girly or frilly.
posted by elisebeth at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Petite, busty and seconding Macy's - their house brand, JM Petites has some nice stuff (sweaters, trousers), and they often have holiday sales (hello, Columbus Day) in which it seems like their entire petites department is on sale - I bought four pairs of Dockers mid-rise trousers, two sweaters and a shirt for less than $100. You have to sift a little, but it was by far the most positive shopping experience I've had recently.
posted by deliriouscool at 6:42 PM on February 2, 2010

I have a very busty friend who also gave up on blouses along ago, too. I have as well, and I'm 112lbs, 34A, mostly because if the are no-iron then they are boring/grandma-ish and if they are cool, then they are usually expensive and/or not comfortable.

Knit tops have come a LONG way and you can get some really nice, professional but fun sweaters in all sleeve lengths now. For example, this twist-neck sweater from Ann Taylor Loft would look great with dress slacks. You'd probably want a cami under it for the office, but there are similar sweaters with higher necklines out there. http://www.anntaylorloft.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=24396&N=1200006&pCategoryId=3359&categoryId=200&Ns=CATEGORY_SEQ_200&loc=TN&defaultColor=Citrus%20Green&defaultSizeType=Regular

Banana Republic's cap-sleeve belted sweater is perfect for work: http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=51429&vid=1&pid=719674

I second the motion on the good bra. Makes a HUGE difference. Thin friend of mine told me last week that a friend of hers kept saying something looked different about her--lost weight, new suit, something. Turns out it was her bra (she usually didn't wear one)!
posted by selenium7 at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2010

I may not forgive myself for sharing this sweater, but I had to do it. Brooklyn Industries super cute.
posted by selenium7 at 8:03 PM on February 2, 2010

I'm petite, with curves, and I actually love button-down shirts; they look clean and professional. I find that applying some double stick tape fixes the gap-in-the-bust problem that made me think, previously, that I couldn't wear them. I buy this online, but any fabric store should have some.

Basically nthing what a number of people said here - my favorite button-downs are from Banana Republic - got some great ones at the outlet a few years ago. J Crew's Heritage collection is also very nice - they may tailor for free if you use their credit card, as they do that for pants. Brooks Brothers will do free or low-cost in-store tailoring on full-price shirts.

Sometimes I can get away with a nice tee-type shirt from Velvet under a cardigan - these are available in boutiques or Bloomie's or online.
posted by theflash at 7:22 PM on February 3, 2010

Response by poster: Just to follow up -

Much to my chagrin, I ended up cleaning up at Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor loft, but I ended up with a a LOT of dresses, and not a lot of shirts or pants. I think I'm just genetically impaired when it comes to pants that aren't jeans and shirts that aren't sweaters.

However - the answers in this thread did make me look back at Ann Taylor, LOFT, and Banana, and I did actually find things at all three stores (and a few more, like H&M where I got some cardigans) that I wouldn't have found before because I was letting my frustration color my shopping. So if nothing else, thanks for convincing me to give them another try.

Because otherwise, I'd be naked. At work. And that would be *awkward.*
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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