Wanna hear something crazy? The average woman is approximately 5’ 3” worldwide and wears a size 16. This means that the average woman is a petite plus size. Now the crazy thing is, even though this is currently the most common female body type, it also happens to be the hardest sizing to find among retailers.
So if you’re short AND you have some curves, you might be feeling frustrated like our friend, Stephanie, who submitted today’s Q&A Thursday question. She struggles to find her size in stores but when she orders clothing online, it rarely fits her properly.
If you’re a petite plus size woman, I’m about to serve up 7 ways to improve your shopping experience. Believe me when I say it’s possible to build a wardrobe you love, no matter your clothing size. Tall or petite, curvy or slender, there are options out there for you. Now, let’s help you find them!
1. Curate a Small Capsule
If you don’t enjoy shopping but you want to have a wardrobe you love, less is truly more! Be strategic when you do shop. Come up with a plan, spend some time thinking about what you want in your wardrobe, make a list, and then go on the hunt for those specific pieces.
Look for items you can mix and match effortlessly. Shop for your best colors. Opt for items that reflect your style goals and give the impression you want to make in your career. Strategy is going to be way more important for you when you find shopping to be a challenge, because I don’t want you to waste any time or energy aimlessly looking for whatever you can find to fill up your wardrobe.
2. Be Flexible
No matter your size, I talk to so many women who face the dilemma of not having many store options where they live and hating to make returns when shopping online. But the reality is, shopping can be inconvenient either way, depending on how you look at it. So we need to be flexible.
I want you to consider what’s most important to you.
Does it feel like a priority to be able to try things on in the store first? If so, you might need to expand beyond your area. Is there another town within driving distance that you could make a day trip out of? Maybe this means only shopping a couple of times per year. Perhaps you make it a weekend adventure and take your best friend with you.
If options feel more important, then please reconsider shopping online. Go in with the mindset that you will be making some returns. Expect it and then you’ll be pleasantly surprised if everything fits you perfectly! The nice thing about shopping online is that you have access to every brand in the world, you can check size charts, read reviews, often see how it fits on different models visually, and choose from a larger array of sizes.
3. Try On and Order In-Stores
If you’re feeling really mad at me right now, I have a third option for you! When I worked at J.Crew, they carried tall and short inseam options ─but not in stores. So we would have clients come in, try on pants, and then we would order the right size and have it shipped to them directly for free. It was the best of both worlds! Clients could shop around, touch the fabrics, check the quality, try pieces on to get an idea of the fit, and then order in the right inseam or sizing for them.
I’m going to give you a list of brands that offer petite plus sizes and many of them are really big national chains that you can find at most local malls. So this is a great option for you to keep in mind! You can always call first and ask about their ordering policies and often make an appointment to work with a salesperson. They can pull styles for you and help you with sizing. Don’t struggle on your own! Reach out and see what your favorite stores have to offer.
4. Prioritize Petite Sizing
You might be tempted to shop based on size alone. I know this expands your options, but if you’re struggling to find pieces that have the right cut and fit for your frame, make sure you’re shopping for petites.
At under 5’ 3”, petite sizing will be better designed to fit your height and proportions. You can also look for short and extra short inseams. A few brands that currently carry extra short inseams are Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and Torrid.
5. Set Aside Some Funds For Tailoring
Another option is to allocate a portion of your budget each season for tailoring. I recommend this to everyone, not just petite plus size ladies! Tailoring can make a significant difference in the fit, feel, and look of your clothing. You can have your pants and sleeves hemmed to the perfect length and jackets and dresses taken in wherever needed.
This will usually cost somewhere in the range of $10-75 depending on where you live and what you need to have done. I highly recommend finding a local tailor and asking for a quote!
I only recommend tailoring for pieces you otherwise love. If the color is off or it doesn’t align with your style goals, invest your funds into a better replacement instead.
6. Sign Up for a Petite Subscription Box
While I have mixed feelings about style subscription boxes as a whole, this is a wonderful solution if you have a hard time shopping for your sizes. Most subscription services employ stylists who can offer you guidance, will get to learn about your tastes, and can help improve the quality of your selections each month. You’ll be able to explore new brands and enjoy the convenience of shopping in a way that’s geared toward easy peasy returns. Plus, you won’t be charged for any pieces you don’t love!
Here are some companies to check out:
- Short Story (petite sizes 00 – 20)
- Stitch Fix (petite sizes 0 – 16)
- Gwynnie Bee (curated collections for women under 5′ 3″ and over 5′ 9″ in sizes 0 – 32)
7. Be Influenced
This might surprise you, but if you’re a petite plus size then I want you to be influenced. Seek out social media influencers and style bloggers that share your body type and, ideally, reflect your personal style and coloring. See where they’re shopping. Get outfit inspiration. Learn from their shopping hauls and brand try-ons. Ask them questions!
Be careful about not getting caught up in wanting to buy ALL the things. But use their content as a way to inspire, educate, and empower you when it comes to shopping and styling your gorgeous curves.
Petite Plus Size Brands
This is not an exhaustive list, but I want to leave you with a little direction on where to shop for petite plus sizes. Many of these companies are located in most malls nationwide, making tip #3 easier than ever!
Keep in mind, several of these brands carry larger plus sizes as well. But for the sake of this post, the list below is categorized by petite plus size ranges only up to:
- 12P: J.Crew
- 14P: Banana Republic
- 16P: Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, ASOS, Talbot’s
- 18P: Chico’s, Kohl’s, LOFT, Macy’s, Madewell, Nordstrom, Target
- 20P: Gap, JCPenney, J.Jill, M.M. LaFleur, Old Navy
- 26P: Lands’ End
- 28P: Lane Bryant
- 34P: Catherines
- 36P: eShakti
- 40P: Universal Standard
I hope this has left you inspired and empowered, with the confidence that you can build a wardrobe you love no matter your height or size!