Posts Categorized: shopping

Reader Request: How Does Petite Sizing Work?

petite

Reader Wendy emailed me this question:

I was wondering if, at some point, you could discuss the particulars of petites. I’ve never understood whether it just applies to the length of the clothes or whether it affects the overall garment in some way. Does that make sense? I am short, but not necessarily “petite” in my frame, so sometimes petites work, but sometimes they don’t. I’d certainly appreciate it.

Great question, and one that isn’t often addressed directly. We associate the word “petite” with height, and that’s certainly a factor. But clothing that is designed for petite frames isn’t just shorter, it’s designed for a set of proportions that diverges from standard sizing in several ways:

Hems: This one, most of us know. Petite dresses and skirts have slightly higher hemlines, petite pants have shorter inseams.

Arms: Most petite clothing is designed with shorter sleeves.

Rise: Many petite pants and jeans will have a slightly shorter rise than regular sizes.

Waist: To accommodate a frame that is often more compact, petite dress waistlines are often a little higher than those of regular sized dresses.

Knees: If you’re working with a really good petite line, designers will have adjusted knee placement to suit shorter legs.

So if you’re a regular height person with a short waist, you can try buying petite tops. They’ll certainly be shorter in the body, but shortened sleeves may look a little odd on you. And if you’re over 5’4″ and your long-waistedness affects your pant hems, you might want to go with a short inseam instead of switching over to petite sizes.

My favorite resource for all things petite is Alterations Needed, followed closely by Extra PetiteCurvily and Petite Plus Meow offer great inspiration, but not as many tips and tutorials.

Let’s hear from the petites: Any other design details that are specific to petite clothing? What’s your greatest fit challenge? Which regular size garments can you wear, or tailor to wear? Let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy Old Navy.

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Reader Request: Young Clothes, Old Clothes

young clothes old clothes2

one | two

Reader Kristin popped this one into the suggestion box:

If you haven’t done one before, maybe a post about what aspects of clothing are typically considered “young”, which ones are “old” and which ones can be variable? Sometimes I get confused when someone identifies something that I like or a store that I frequent as “old lady” or “twee” when I don’t see it that way at all. Then it makes me wonder if I’m managing to inadvertently age myself or look childlike by my wardrobe choices.

A tough and fascinating question. First off, I feel compelled to say that I don’t really believe in hard-and-fast age-appropriateness guidelines. Each woman needs to make her own decisions, individually, about what she loves wearing, feels comfortable wearing, and feels is a good match for her internal age, chronological age, or both. That said, there are features and designs that read as “young” or “old” due to trend cycles and socially reinforced preferences. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, avoid them, or embrace them, but it’s hard to deny that they exist. A pink tulle skirt will read young to most people, and a lace shawl will read old to most people. However, in many cases …

It depends how you style it

ruffles

Both of these women are wearing garments with ruffles. The garments have some design features that set them apart from each other: The white dress is short and low cut, the blazer is high-necked and tweedy. But consider this: If a 60-year-old woman took that white dress, threw on a pair of leggings, a scarf, and a longline blazer, she’d look pretty sharp. And if a 20-year old tried that blazer unbuttoned with a graphic tee, boyfriend jeans, and heels … well, those bell cuffs might throw it all off a bit, but it’d come close to working. Most items that read as “young” or “old” can be styled to appear fairly neutral.

Also keep in mind that some items that feel “old” actually feel that way because they’re dated. Let’s look again at the images from the top of this post.

blazers

one | two

The blue blazer has a high stance, Peter Pan-esque wide collar, and wide 3/4-length sleeves. Any one of these elements might work on a simple blazer, but mushed together like this they look a bit stodgy. The high stance is the real killer here. Contemporary blazers typically have no more than two buttons and a much lower stance. So if someone is wearing this blazer, they might look older because the piece itself is somewhat dated in design.

The pink blazer is a drapey knit with little shaping and tiny, stylized lapels. This piece will look dated someday, but right now it reads as “young” because it’s a fairly new, trendy shape and style. But while the dated blue blazer would be tough to update and transform into a younger-looking piece, the trendy pink blazer would be just fine on an older woman if styled to suit her.

Can you tell I’m a little reluctant to make a big list of traits that fall solidly into one camp or another? What I’ll do instead is offer up a few, and then turn it over to you to discuss. I know that this is an extremely subjective topic that will prompt different responses from women of different age groups and cultures, so I’d never say that my own picks here are carved in stone. But I’ll get the ball rolling.

YOUNG

  • Distressed/torn anything
  • Peter Pan collars
  • Tulle skirts
  • Babydoll/empire-waist dresses
  • Rompers
  • Cropped tops and sweaters
  • Printed leggings
  • Short shorts

OLD

  • Pleated, tapered pants and jeans
  • Applique sweatshirts and jean-style jackets
  • High-stance jackets and blazers
  • Twin sets
  • Paisley print
  • Collared sweatshirts
  • Zip-front vests
  • Tweed
  • Crocheted sweaters and some crochet accents

Interesting to note that nearly everything on my “old” list is either a fringe trend right now (pleated, tapered pants) or something that hipsters have commandeered (tweed). And some items from my “young” list (Peter Pan collars) have “old” iterations. Just depends on the garment and how it’s styled. TRICKY, EH?

Another point of clarification: I don’t think of young as good and old as bad. And I don’t think it’s unacceptable for young women to wear tweed or for old women to wear Peter Pan collars. There’s no black and white in this issue, only shades of gray. Which means that even if some of the people in her life feel like Kristin is wearing clothes that are too old or young for her, that is merely their opinion.

Over to you: Are there certain garments or styles that read as inherently “old” or “young” to you? Do you agree that it can all come down to styling?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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This Week I Love …

… subtle metallics.

I will admit to buying a silver sweater last year. I loved the idea of metallic threads mixed with cotton and wool, and the one I ordered looked very cool in the photos but more or less like sweater-shaped aluminum foil on arrival. (Like this, but … worse.) But I’ve been eyeing metallic clothes, shoes, and bags since then and pondering another purchase. Here are a few subtle metallics that have caught my eye:

jcrew metallic linen tee

J.Crew Linen Boatneck Tee – $45

I managed to thrift up a blue-gray metallic linen tee, and I just adore it. Woven linen wrinkles the second you look at it, but linen knits like this are less wrinkle-prone. This top would look amazing with tan or light khaki slacks, light wash or gray jeans, or a pastel pencil skirt. Also take a peek at this metallic linen blazer in regular and petite sizes … though it will be much wrinklier. eBay has some plus size options, including Eileen Fisher.

earth shoes bellwether

Earth Bellwether – $94.99

I bought these at least a year ago, and am amazed to see the exact style and color is still available! These are a great alternative to black, and a little more exciting than gray. Plus they’re Earth brand, so well made and fabulously comfy. Available in wide widths, too. If you prefer a warmer metallic for your flat, this bronze pair is fab and comes in both narrow and wide widths.

gap_metallic_sweater

Gap Shrunken Metallic Sweater – $41.99

I ended up buying this one around Christmas, though it’s yet to show up on the blog. Aside from the metallic finish on the front panel, the sweater is 100% cotton so it washes and wears well. It’ll also play nicely through spring until the truly hot weather arrives. Also available in petite sizes. Prefer a solid color? This similarly shaped sweater is available in three solid metallics.

karen kane metallic plus size dress

Karen Kane Plus-Size Metallic Knit Dress – $63.03

This one might be a little too sparkly for a conservative office environment, but great for a night out and easily dressed down with a denim jacket and ankle boots. That gritty, gunmetal metallic is so appealing to me. Available in sizes 0X – 3X. In regular sizes, you can grab this pencil skirt made from the same material.

london fog metallic tote

London Fog Reid Tote – $85

Love that dark yet warm bronze in a classic tote shape. At 15.9″ x 11.9″ x 6.1″, his bag could’ve made it into our recent file-friendly work bag roundup. It’s faux leather, but if you prefer the real thing this bag has a similar shape in light gold leather.

metallic scarf

Mango Metallic Scarf – $23.99

Just the slightest hint of a metallic finish on this light beige scarf makes it seem luxe and sophisticated. And the airy neutral makes it ideal for spring and summer wear. Also available in a very pale gray/silver.

metallic petite sweater

Petite Metallic Pleat-Back Pullover – $59.99

This sweater definitely has a slouchy fit, but I love how it’s styled here and could be great with just about any slim-fitting bottom. And it’s got just a hint of cashmere for softness – a characteristic often missing from metallic clothes. Plenty available in petites, just a few in regular sizes. Here’s a similar sweater in sizes 1X – 3X.

metallic belt

Land’s End Refined Reversible Belt – $19.99

Friends, you’d be surprised by the versatility of a good metallic belt. It needs to be subtle – sequins and holographic silver finishes do not a useful belt make – but if you can find one like this with a burnished, understated finish, you’ll find it goes with just about everything. The gold version is shown here (reverses to “papaya” which looks brownish), but you can also nab this beauty in pewter/black or tortoiseshell/black. Also available in plus sizes.

Do you wear metallics? Which is your favorite shade? Any other resources to share?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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