Petite for the plentifully-proportioned

Thank you, Lynda, for your request: "My problem: I am 5'3, weigh 160 pounds... Yesterday I spent the entire day looking for a pair of pants, everyday and dressy. NOTHING fit. Theory only goes up to size 12.... What brand do you suggest?"

Lynda, dear Lynda: Theory is a recipe self-torture. Look at them, a beanpole's brand! No wonder you were dispirited.

Have a nice restorative gin & tonic and read on.

I'll guess because of your height/weight and comment that "nothing fit", you might need Misses' (or "regular") sizes for parts of your figure, such as tops in Petite L, but bottoms in 14 Woman Petite (WP), to give you more room in the thigh and seat, with the right rise.

Or you might need regular Petite, but in a larger size range and more generous cut than toothpick-thighed Theory.

Woman Petite (WP)
is not easy to find, but has become more common as the population ages. Enter a close relationship with FedEx to get
them. Below, some sources other than department stores' petite or plus sections.

Petite pant picks

Talbots carry Petite (to 16P) and Woman Petite sizes (to 22WP). We're watching Talbot's closely as the reinvent their line with less prep, more rep. Order by mail if not near a shop, or to access more choices than most locations offer.

I found these chino cotton-spandex Woman Petite pants in the Outlet section of the site for $19.99! (Care instructions say dry clean but I'd machine wash on delicate.)

Search the online sale section (a different part than Outlet) by entering your size, then selecting Petite or Woman Petite (consult their size charts) for the items that interest you.

Soft Surroundings carry useful Petite L and XL basics like this Stretch Gauze Wide Leg Pant (also available in white, black, and chocolate), $64.50.

The Petite and Plus versions of Not Your Daughter's Jeans are my petite GFs' adored jeans. Lord & Taylor's online site also offers the jeans in both Petite and Plus sections. Shown, the Premium Bootcut Jean, $98.

You can also find them at various online vendors like Harper Greer in San Francisco, a plus-size boutique that also sell their own designs.

Karen Gillam is a UK designer committed to making women "love to be petite" and offers pants up to size 18UK (about a US16, see size charts) and other items up to UK20. The company fulfills international orders. Pants come in up to three lengths. Shown, Maxine Herringbone Tweed Trousers, £79.

Land's End, usually devotedly dowdy, are slowly introducing some hipper styles. The Audrey Stretch Sueded Cotton Pants, actually cute, come in punchy golden yellow (as well as neutrals) in Petite sizes up to 18, hemmed with your choice of inseam. For $44.50, grab a few for everyday!

Perhaps a top-up on the G&T? And let's press on.

Tips for tops

I turn to Citron Santa Monica for interesting Asian-influenced styles. The boutique Abundance, in Sherman Oaks CA, carry the plus versions of this line. Call them, send a few photos and measurements, and ask if they would ship you a box of pieces they think you'd like. (Harper Greer, mentioned above, also stock Citron, and eBay usually has pieces in both plus and regular sizes.)

That's what my voluptuous 5'2" aunt did when she and her husband bought a chicken ranch in Maryland and she missed her New York shops. In this economy, that kind of service is back, and if I were a hard to find size, I'd cultivate this relationship. One sales person with an eye out for you and a few bucks' postage is worth ten futile trips to shops.

Oval Clothing ("an oval is the perfect form") are determined not to make Woman Petites look like garish wee toys. Their site has nothing but Woman Petite sizes, though only one pant, a capri. They do stock many tops and dresses. The Mandarin collar blouse made of imported French fabric is on sale for $85.

Petite luxe

My petite GFs say it's hard to find sophisticated clothes. For luxury fabrics and precise tailoring, check out Lafay
ette 148. Besides being sold in better department stores, they also sell via their web site and carry Petites in up to 18. (Shipping within USA only.)

At $298, these Petite Stretch Wool Menswear Pants are pricey, but the cut is chic and timeless. And who else makes a Petite dream of glamour like the Pearlized Lambskin Blouse, $698?

Lafayette 148's site has items on sale; one standout is the elegant petite stretch cotton Delaney blouse, $148 in Blaze.

Get it made: Local talent

You'll have all the perfect pants you need if you create your own brand by finding a great dressmaker.

If one is
petite and larger-sized or plus, this the path to clothes that really fit. Clip photos and take favourite pieces. Ask to see some things she has made. I avoid tailors if their primary clients are men, because I'm less confident that they can cut to flatter curves.

Go equipped with your own patterns, perhaps those from Petites Plus Patterns.

Even if you are not quite a plus proportion, these will be scaled to your frame. Pick Petite Plus' Flat Front Pant, with its clean, narrow lines and back zip, or ask a skilled tailor to adapt his or her own patterns.

I know you asked about pants, but I have a crush on their All Season Dress, for which they recommend stretch cotton, and their sexy Bias Skirt with Flounce.

Divine dressmaker on the web

The raison d' etre of Dress By Design, a shop and e-business based in Buffalo NY, is to put women in any location in lovely dresses.

When I visited this summer, I admired the owner, exactly your figure, in her princess-seamed Marilyn dress. For all curvy ladies: Dress by Design makes dresses up to size 24, and adjusts the fit for more or less room in the bust, hip, etc.

Choose from their fabrics (ask about cottons and linens; the current fabrics shown are more northern-type fall weights) or send your own.

Any other gems Lynda should know about, mesdames?

Lynda, I hope this transforms your Theory into a Belief: with some creative shopping, your perfect pants (and other pieces) are out there!


Anonymous said…
This is a great list Duchesse. I've forwarded it to my petite plus sister and I know she'll find it very useful.

Just curious...Lafayette 148 is designed by Edward Wilkinson, a man who is committed to both missy, plus and petite sizes. I don't think Lafayette is a store brand, as I've bought some of his clothes in Saks and Neiman Marcus. They are expensive but incredibly well made.

Duchesse said…
Anonymous: Meant to say that you can buy Lafayette in dept. stores, not that it is a proprietary brand for any one of them. Agree with your opinion, marvelous clothes!
dana said…
Thank you so much! My husband's mother is a woman's petite, and I've been despairing over gifts for the almost seven years we've been married. She's 83, has only sons, and deserves some really nice stuff. Pajama Gram seems to have some women's stuff short enough to work.
metscan said…
So much information, you have done a thorough job, Duchesse. There is not much to add. I myself, have taken some clothes to the tailors ( a good one ). Buying a size too large can easily be altered to fit.
Lynda said…
Thank you so much for all your wonderful suggestions. I certainly will try them out. I will try regular sizes and take them to a tailor for alterations.
Will toast you with a G&T tonight.......Thanks
Anonymous said…
wow.that was great.what about plus ladies like myself[173cm 85 kilos]any suggestions?please choose firms that ship internationally[figure hourglass,round tummy]
Deja Pseu said…
I second your assessment of Theory. They might as well call the brand Ectomorphs Only.

When I was a size 14 Petite, I also had very good luck with Jones New York women's petite trousers (actually I had a couple of their suits, but the trousers fit beautifully). I also found some decent jeans at Lane Bryant in short lengths (the store, not the catalog).

Talbot's really does seem to have the best selection of Women's Petites.
Frugal Scholar said…
You are so nice to do all this research, esp since you are tall!

I have only lately realized how lucky I am to have no fit problems at all. Well, now I am finding waistbands uncomfortable, but, otherwise, I must be the body they make all the clothes for.
Duchesse said…
Sounds like you are Woman or Plus but not Petite. These online vendors ship internationally (see the Customer Service section of their web site):
-Talbot's (
-Saks Fifth Avenue (Salon Z section of site), ships to 38 countries,
- Lands' End (

re boutiques, contact them if you see something you like on the site. Not sure if they ship internationally, but in this economy, most are quite forthcoming:

In addition to those in my post:
Kathleen Sommers (

Daphne Larger Sizes (

As far as styles, Lands' End has a virtual model feature which is quite useful for "trying on" the items. I like fitted shirts worn untucked (as like you have a tummy, but want a shape). Just avoid rectangular-cut clothes. Goes without saying that the hourglass needs a good supportive bra; I replace my everyday ones every 6 months.
Duchesse said…
dana: Thaks for the tip, nice site! I have an 80+ MIL so this will be useful.

Pseu: Knew you would know where to look, Talbot's Petites are especially chic this season.

Frugal: And that is also how you scoop up those amazing thrift finds!
Nancy (nanflan) said…
Don't limit yourself to Petite sizing only, just because you're short. I'm only 5'4" but Petite pants are just a wee bit too short for my liking and the rise is often too short.

Several years ago when I weighed a good bit more than I do now, I had good luck with Jones New York. I just had to get used to always altering them shorter.

I also have some petite plus friends who like Coldwater Creek, although I think they're too casual for business looks.
Duchesse said…
Nancy; Good advice, Jones is on the more ample side for cut. Thought of Coldwater Creek but thought someone trying on Theory would not be drawn to their styles.
Imogen Lamport said…
Great resources. I have to say in my experience (and I only know about Australian shopping), pants are the most difficult garment for so many women to buy, and often it's better to find a great tailor (not dressmaker usually) who can make you a pair of pants to fit you perfectly.

If time is money, and you haven't got weeks to go everywhere to hopefully find those elusive pants - get some made!
Maggie said…
Great list, Duchesse. Lynda, I would try Talbots-the price is right and they are easy to find. But as a seamstress/sewist (Sewist is the new seamstress, I guess it's not gender biased!) I favor the custom made pair of pants. If you can find someone in your area to make a pair for you, you'll have you pick of wonderful fabics and styles. Or have a pair altered. Nancy was right about the rise being short on some petite pants. Go with a regular size if it fits from the hip up and have the leg altered, a relatively easy job.
Anonymous said…
thank you so much duchesse.any suggestions about the right kind of bra?
Duchesse said…
Maggie: Sewist! A new word for me. Guess it works better than "sewer".

efi: For everyday, Olga Sheer Tapestry Minimizer, available from many online lingerie vendors or in dept. stores. For really beautiful bras, Lise Charmel or Barbara, French brands sold in lingerie boutiques. You can also do a search on "full figured bras", there are a number of online specialty sellers like Hips and Curves (
Nancy (nanflan) said…
Duchesse said: Thought of Coldwater Creek but thought someone trying on Theory would not be drawn to their styles.

Umm, true. I think they're trying with some of their new pant styles but they aren't quite there yet.
Anonymous said…
Super duper post Duchesse. That's a lot of research. I am printing this for my files for the next "fluffy petite" client. Those plus petite sizes are indeed rare. Especially in good quality.

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