Where do small women buy pants?
January 10, 2007 6:12 AM   Subscribe

My wife is 5 foot 1. Finding clothes has always been hard for her, but as sizes balloon it's become nearly impossible. Now even ladies' small sweatpants are too big for her; she can wear boys' sweats, but boys' jeans aren't cut for her curves. "I can find 6s, but not in petites. I can find petites, but not in a 6. There are short American women, and there are thin American women, but apparently there are no short, thin American women." Any advice? Where should she shop?
posted by futility closet to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ralph Lauren has a great petite line. Classic, good-looking clothes. A friend of mine has the same body type as your wife and she loves the Lauren designs. Also, eponysterical.
posted by iconomy at 6:21 AM on January 10, 2007

The Budget Fashionista has a list of places to buy petite clothes, and there are lots of resources and tips in the comments.
posted by iconomy at 6:22 AM on January 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

You might want to take a shopping trip to Europe. You can even find clothes there not made in China. I just came back from Spain where I was able to find Men's clothes that fit me much better than I can find here.
posted by JJ86 at 6:25 AM on January 10, 2007

Go to H&M -- they still have non-inflated sizes. She'll probably have to hem the pants, though, because they're all super long.
posted by footnote at 6:35 AM on January 10, 2007

Small women shop at Juniors clothing stores or the Juniors section at the department store. American Eagle usually has pieces that will work for grown-up professional women, including a popular line of jeans. For work clothes, European stores/brands like Zara, Club Monoco, FCUK and United Colors of Bennetton (these can be hard to find outside of larger metro areas) sell small sizes, but she may need to have her pants/skirts hemmed. A lot of those stores sell pants that are SUPER long so that women of all heights can buy them and tailor the length to meet their needs.

on preview: second H&M.
posted by junkbox at 6:36 AM on January 10, 2007

Ann Taylor the Loft has a good petite section, as does Banana Republic. I find BR is very consistent size-wise, so she could order online if she doesn't have a BR-petite nearby. Even those might be too long for her, so she might just have to accept that when she buys clothing she needs to get it altered. BR has size 0 at least, so finding 6s shouldn't be trouble.
posted by Amizu at 6:38 AM on January 10, 2007

Ann Taylor (and Loft) Petites, Banana Republic Petites, Petite Sophisticate (now only in outlet form).
posted by ml98tu at 6:38 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Limited has petite pants (starting at size 0) and offers the option to hem pants for free if they do not have a length that fits. I'm 5'4", thin and have short legs, and their pants work well for me.
posted by betty botter at 6:46 AM on January 10, 2007

Stores geared towards teenagers (or 'juniors' sections of department stores) will have smaller clothing, as will brands that originate in Europe. (Try Zara or Mango, if they have those in your area of the US.) For American brands, teenybopper or sexy-lady brands generally fit small, and usually include some non-teeny non-sexy items. (Try a store like 'Guess?').
posted by Kololo at 6:51 AM on January 10, 2007

Also, she may want to consider yoga/athletic pants instead of sweats. They're much more form fitting and will generally fit with no problems (particularly if she buys them cropped). I am a little smaller than your wife and own a bunch of them (regular length, only a few of mine are cropped), none are too long. They look cuter than sweats too IMO.
posted by ml98tu at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2007

Thirding H&M.

And if you can't afford the trip to Europe, perhaps shoot for a day in NYC. All the normal names usually will carry a better size scale than your average middle-America store, plus there's the 8 billion more boutique-like joints in Soho that should fit her much better.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2007

Definitely try European lines which are cut much smaller all around. Try United Colors of Benneton.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 6:59 AM on January 10, 2007

I third (fourth?) the suggestion of Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft. To some extent, it's a matter of finding the store that works best for your body and then buying most of your basics there. I'm short and thin and curvy (and no, that is not a contradiction), and Ann Taylor definitely works best for me.

Another possibility to consider is to buy clothes in the normal department and get the arms and legs tailored. Some places, such as Banana Republic, will do this for you. (It's free if you pay full price for the clothes but not if you get them on sale.) Otherwise, your local dry cleaner can probably do it for not much money.
posted by craichead at 7:01 AM on January 10, 2007

My wife likes B. Moss for this type of thing.
posted by mmascolino at 7:01 AM on January 10, 2007

Yoga pants definitely - they are really cute and fit a lot better than sweatpants. And the ones I have just kind of roll up on the bottom, so if I cut them myself it doesn't necessarily look like sloppy.

I'm the same height and completely sympathize. I usually buy pants from Banana Republic's petite line, or Ann Taylor Loft. I am not very curvy and both have pants that are cut to be slimmer in the hips and thighs, which look a lot better on me. J.Crew's petite line is pretty good too although I haven't really seen much of their petites stuff in stores, just online. H&M or any other European stores would work too. I also shop at T.J. Maxx a lot - the ones by me (in Boston) have designer jeans for half price. I mention them because they usually come in smaller sizes than other stores; I have to get them hemmed, but they fit very well in the waist.
posted by sutel at 7:05 AM on January 10, 2007

The juniors section is not necessarily a good option for those who do not wish to look as if they are trying to look sixteen. Plus, the rise in the pants is way too short if you have any kind of curves.

I do okay with some of the clothes at H & M. The casual pants have those infuriatingly short zippers, but the businessy or dressy pants are okay. For jeans, I can still occasionally find something decent at the Gap.

Ann Taylor does indeed have a great petite line. I've had some luck with DKNY jeans. I have a great upscale consignment store where I buy stuff like this, since I can't afford them at regular price.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 AM on January 10, 2007

As another petite woman, I'm seconding: Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, H&M, and the Limited (although I've only bought pants at the Limited). Anthropologie also carries some of their pants, skirts, and dresses in petites.

If she needs business suits, I find Anne Klein and Tahari's petites lines (at most department stores, I usually do Lord & Taylor) are cut nicely - they appear to be actually cut for smaller women, not just scaled-down bigger sizes. Ditto for Ann Taylor.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes the girls' section at stores like Old Navy and the Gap are good for basics -- t-shirts, tank tops, sweat pants/yoga pants -- usually it's not too hard to find plain ones that don't look like they're just for little kids.

And find a good tailor - especially for skirts and such, it can be as simple as taking up a hem and/or taking in a side seam to make a regular size look good on a petite woman.
posted by AV at 7:43 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife has this problem. The absolutely best thing you can do for your wife is find her a good tailor/seamstress who can do complicated alterations. Any dry cleaner can hem pants, but a good tailor can do amazing things with the shape and length of shirts, for example. Finding a good tailor will make the clothes shopping a lot easier --- she can then shop by material and design, and let the tailor make the fit right. Not everything can be altered, but this will help.

Also good, as has been mentioned, is waiting to shop for clothes until you travel somewhere where lots of women have her shape. Southern Europe, urban Latin America, NYC, Montreal, etc.

Where she should shop also depends on what kind of clothes she is looking for --- athletic/sporty? Business casual? Sexy evening out? The suggestions of Zara and other stores above are good. We have also done ok with some items from Lands End and LLBean --- they have petite sizing, and not all of their stuff has been super-sized, unlike some other brands that used to work. Not ultra-fashionable, but good prices and quality, and the return policy means you can send back anything that isn't so great. MEC has a number of shirts and pants that fit small women very well, in addition to all their outdoor gear.

We have not done well with juniors' or boys' clothes --- the curves just don't match up well. However, sometimes men's pants and shirts do work. A lot will depend on her build.
posted by Forktine at 7:44 AM on January 10, 2007

I'm 5'1 and I take everything that I can to the tailor. Delias sometimes (although not right now) carries sweatpants that come with an inseam choice, which is nice if you don't want to crop your pajamas.
posted by lemuria at 7:53 AM on January 10, 2007

I third (or fourth or fifth) the H&M and Zara recommendation -- but my secret (for non-office clothes, at least) is Gap Kids. I have a lot of cute jeans and shirts from there. They fit better, they're usually similar in style to the "grown up" stuff, but they're cheaper. (Target's juniors section also has good stuff in terms of jeans and athletic wear.)
posted by mothershock at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2007

Also, for basics like t-shirts, I really like American Apparel. Their women's shirts are cut to be slimmer and are very flattering. I like having just basic t-shirts under a sweater or something like that, but it is difficult to find ones that are women's XS/S and still slimly cut. (Can really bunchy up under those sweaters) I was buying boys t-shirts for awhile but they are not always that great either. AA has many in all sorts of different colors and the cotton is very soft and comfy.
posted by sutel at 8:49 AM on January 10, 2007

Petite Sophisticate still exists? Yee-ha!

I'll nth Ann Taylor/Loft, The Limited (they're called "short" rather than petite and only certain designs of pants come in short/tall), Banana Republic, and H&M. J. Crew, except that I've never found the Petites stuff in the store to try on. I believe the Gap introduced petite/tall sizes earlier this year, but that's also something I've found more online than in-store.

As for jeans, I just buy what fits my circumference and step on them till I've worn out the cuffs. Alas.
posted by srah at 9:01 AM on January 10, 2007

Decent Exposures (women-owned) now makes cotton sweats and cotton /lycra leggings to order.

That creepy Dov Charney just sold American Apparel, but I think he is still involved with the company. I've been very reluctant to buy their stuff because of his actions.
posted by brujita at 9:12 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ok. I stand a couple inches shorter than your wife. I have a crazy hard time finding pants that fit. A few years back, The Fashion Industry rejiggered their tables such that "petite" is 5'4" (for those playing at home, this is average height). So The Fashion Industry made a conscious decision to write off the 1 in 5 American women who stands under 5'2". Next time you are in the mall, look around to find anecdotal evidence of this fact, and note the ways women get around this: teeny women in monster heels; women whose pants drag underfoot; clearly home-hemmed pants. Sorry for the rant as this is a pet peeve of mine, but now for the advice.

Currenty the standard petite inseam is 28 inches, or floor dragging. Lands End will hem most pants for you, and they have a 26" inseam petite jean. I am told that you can order a 26" inseam from The Gap, but these sizes are not available in stores, and I have never ordered them. Finally, Nordstrom will hem any regularly priced item to order, but I can't justify Nordstroms kind of money. The other thing you might consider is that if your city has a sizable Asian community, try shopping where the Asian ladies do. The Chinese and Japanese women in particular tend to be a little shorter, less so Korean women. They are buying pants that fit *somewhere.*
posted by ilsa at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just ordered some Gap petite jeans this winter. I'm her height but a larger size. They still need to be hemmed or cuffed, but they are the best fitting jeans I've found in all other aspects.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:53 AM on January 10, 2007

I have been buying my wife (5'2" and petite) size small casual athletic pants from old navy online for the past 2 yrs. Surprisingly they are a good fit especially in the length, which tends to run too long in other brands. I know she shops at Banana Republic for camisoles and tees. She is also in love with the new Forth and Towne stores, but I don't know if she has purchased anything from them yet.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2007

I haven't had very good luck with Forth and Towne, although my taller, bigger shopping buddy has. I think they just cut for a bigger woman than me. In general, that's a good thing, because most women are bigger than me, but most of their clothes don't look right on me at all.
posted by craichead at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2007

I often have very good luck at Old Navy for small stuff (I'm 5" in shoes and usually size 0). Their XS shirts almost always fit well, and they used to sell pants in size 1 short that fit well. (But they may have discontinued these as I haven't seen any recently). Lots of their stuff is way teenybopper, but the basics are good and seem to hold up well (I have several pairs of pants that have been worn once a week for about 6 years).

But sizes are getting crazy; I tried on a pair of so-called size 0 pants at a J. Crew store the other day and they were about 2 inches too big around the waist. That's just not right. I sure wish women's pants were sized like men's pants.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2007

My sister who's 4'11" goes upscale to find clothes that fit her. Banana Republic is a favourite, as is Aritzia. She says BR has a size 00 that fits her perfectly. This is in Toronto.
posted by sid at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2007

" Lots of their stuff is way teenybopper, but the basics are good and seem to hold up well (I have several pairs of pants that have been worn once a week for about 6 years)."

Maybe not -- in a recent trip to Old Navy my husband was complaining that the jeans have suddenly gotten all flimsy and not worth even the really cheap price.

A sweater I got there last fall was constructed in such a way that it is basically guaranteed to fall apart if worn, which I didn't realize until I got it home and it started to self-destruct.

Re: petite clothes, Ilsa's post may explain why even the short-length pants seem too long these days. I have the fun problem of being short, but having weird proportions -- long torso, short legs -- and now even the short stuff is too long for my legs, but tops are also getting way too long, which is not a problem I am used to having.
posted by litlnemo at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2007

the stuff at blue fly tends to run small. i've heard lerner new york and company is changing its style, but a few years ago it was the staple store for my sister and i (we're both short and slim--she's 4'11 and i'm 5'2)'s basic pants, work skirts, and oxford shirts, etc.
posted by ifjuly at 1:33 PM on January 10, 2007

oh, and as for pant length--it's totally worth it to just find a decent but reasonably priced local tailor to hem them. seriously. it makes such a big difference. for the stuff you really love the look of, it's worth every penny i say!
posted by ifjuly at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2007

i should mention that re: lerner you have to actually go into the stores, DON'T look at the catalog. this was true back then for us anyway--the clothing is COMPLETELY different between the two. and i visited a lerner in the south when i moved to memphis and it was horrible, just like the catalog clothes--garish and cheap looking. the stores, at the least the ones in new york state a few years ago, had great simple work-friendly basic clothing--comfy stretchy black pencil skirts, oxford shirts in pretty colors, black pants, decent jeans, etc. and if you did it right, with their many coupons and sales and bogo promotions, you could get it all for very reasonable prices. but again, i haven't been in a while so...i hope it's not turning towards the catalog/southern store thing, blech.
posted by ifjuly at 1:38 PM on January 10, 2007

I'm slightly taller than you, but have the same problem finding petite-length clothes. I read a newspaper article recently which said that a number of the large department stores were either discontinuing or reducing the petite lines of clothes they carry. I was very disappointed at that - as if it's not hard enough being short already!
I'll nth the suggestion for Ann Taylor - I like them for business wear. I also find Lee petite jeans fit me well - good length, and proportioned well. I don't like the cut of junior-sized clothes at all - they look ridiculous on me.
Finding a good seamstress or tailor is an excellent idea as well. But I learned to sew in order to do minor alterations (hems & seams) myself.
posted by lawhound at 6:24 PM on January 10, 2007

Another tiny person, here -- 5'0" and slender. And I can't afford to buy clothes at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor.

For pants, I go to Goodwill. It's not the most pleasant shopping experience, but in a couple of hours I can usually find two or three pairs, for about $5 each. The jeans are always too long, so I just cut them off and leave a frayed edge, which is acceptable these days. Nicer pants go to the tailor for hemming.

For work I invested in a few suits by Vertigo, bought at Nordstroms. (The only really expensive clothes I own.) Sleeves and pants had to be hemmed. These clothes are made of a wonderful stretchy but sturdy fabric, and you can wash them in the machine, so no dry cleaning bills. They have so far lasted me ten years, and are stylish while having a classic look. Very comfortable to wear. I can roll up the jacket and use it as a pillow on a long flight, and it still looks good-as-new when I land. Amazing.

I buy tops at nicer second-hand stores. I often end up rolling the sleeves a little, but no one really notices. Nice blouses, etc, require the tailor, of course. The recent trend for 3/4 sleeves has been a huge help, esp. for sweaters.

Also, vintage clothing is often a good bet. I have some great suits and dresses that fit me without tailoring, are very well-made, and look chic.

For active wear, I usually go to REI and check out the kids dept. This is a great resource for fleece pajamas, long underwear, ski wear, etc.

My sweetie just bought me a down jacket that fits like a dream. It's made by Sierra Designs, and came from the Sierra Trading Post. It's their regular XS.

Small feet, anyone? I wear ladies size 4.5. Impossible to find, except at Nordstroms, and you need a small loan to buy shoes there. Most of my shoes come from Payless kids, but my favorite everyday shoes are my kid's Dansko clogs. Ultra-comfortable, long lasting, and cheaper than the adult sizes. They were well worth the investment.

Best of luck.
posted by shifafa at 10:04 AM on January 11, 2007

Alright petite ladies, I am going to let out one of my wife's shopping secrets. Go to the expensive stores and scout out tasty clothing items. Your petite sizes will be on the sale rack in a week to a month. All the chubby girls clothing sells fast and the petite flower wrapping is left for you to buy at closeout prices. That is how my honey cleans up at Nordstroms, Banana Republic and other top shelf stores.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 3:22 PM on January 11, 2007

I haven't seen Petite Short (PS) sizes mentioned in this thread. Most big department stores such as Macy's, J.C. Penney's, Sears etc. have Petite Short sizes in jeans and casual pants. Ask the clerk which brands come in Petite Short. I'm pretty sure at least Levi's, Lees, Karen Scott and Briggs do. I haven't found any Petite Short dress pants though, maybe because they assume you wear dress pants with heels.

My favorite jeans are Gloria Vanderbilt's Amanda jeans, which mainly seem to be sold at Kohl's. They are wonderfully slimming, come in different colors, and I don't have to hem them. (I am 5'2" with short legs and arms.) Those jeans work best if you are not too hippy and have a bit of a stomach. They slim your legs without squeezing your stomach. Every other single pair of pants I try that fits me comfortably in the stomach makes my short thighs look 2 miles wide.

Shorts also look ridiculous on me unless I cuff them or turn them into cutoffs. Then they look hot.

Sometimes at thrift/consignment stores you will find pants that the previous owner already hemmed for you.

My mom gets around this problem by never wearing pants or shorts at all.
posted by serena15221 at 10:43 AM on May 20, 2007

This may be too late, but...

I'm a petite woman who usually wears a size 0 or 2. It's slightly higher-end, but I've recently discovered Armani Exchange. They offer sizes 0 and P0 (petite zero).

Also, the Delia's (they have retail stores, a catalog, and delias.com) has jeans down to size 0 and 26", 28", and 30" inseams.
posted by theseampsgoto11 at 7:54 AM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

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