The petite market has a reputation for being short on fashion, but a retail shift is underway. Back in 2006, American department chains, like Neiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomingdale’s, started to quietly downsize or eliminate their petite departments (sized for women 5 feet 4 inches and under) and switch to an online-only model. The move was bold and illuminating.
Executives explained to The New York Times that their decision wasn’t based on sales floor space or height variances over time (the average American woman still hovers around 5 feet 4 inches), but on a low sell-through. Petite women were no longer interested in the buttoned-up workwear popularized in the 80s by brands like Liz Claiborne or Jones New York — and that was largely all that was available. They wanted “more youthful, skin-baring and tighter-fitting clothing in the contemporary departments.”
Slowly but surely, brands are stepping up to fill the void. In 2012, for instance, Anthropologie debuted its first petite collection featuring approximately 70 styles. Today, the retailer offers a selection of more than 500 pieces, including exclusive designer collaborations with the likes of Tracy Reese and Whitney Pozgay of WHIT. But it’s not only mass-market retailers who are beginning to capitalize on the underserved category. Earlier this year, Los Angeles cult brand Reformation premiered a petite line titled “Don’t Call Me Cute,” featuring jumpsuits, flirty skirts and breezy dresses that don’t need to be hemmed. And guess what? There wasn’t a button-down in sight. We’d say that’s a step in the right direction.
For a rundown of the 10 best petite clothing stores and brands right now, keep reading.
Reformation’s business motto is simple: “Killer clothes that don’t kill the environment.” Look to this West Coast shopping hub to revamp your dress collection, from date night minis to wedding guest maxis.
J.Crew’s petite section is legendary. Here you can find fashion-forward women outerwear, separates, suiting and even wedding gowns for women 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches.
ASOS is a favorite for the petite set on a budget. The high street retailer stocks everything you could think of, including hard-to-find items like womens bathing suits, capes, crop tops and jumpsuits.
If you haven’t set foot inside an Express for years, give it a shot. You may be surprised to see a plethora of petite skirts, trousers and tops under $100.
If you’re tired of faking it with cropped jeans and kiddie clothes, visit Paige. You can stock up on a variety of jeans here that were actually made for you.
We love Topshop for the ultra trendy pieces that you won’t get anywhere else. Think glitter bomber jackets, patchwork dresses and faux fur chubbies.
Since Anthropologie was a pioneer in the modern petite market in the U.S., you’ll find a wide-ranging selection of ready-to-wear with form-fitting arm holes, higher knee breaks and tailored sleeves.
Vilanya’s petite line has been around for years. It’s particularly useful when you need plus-size petite clothing since options go up to a size 16P.
Back in the day, Eileen Fisher used to skew toward an older clientele. Now if you’re scrappy, you can buy La Garçonne-style silhouettes for petites who lean minimalist.
You can always count on LAUREN Ralph Lauren for three things in the petite department: Turtlenecks, black trousers and one solid statement piece.