The Hunt For A Petite Suit

After weeks of searching— hitting up my much-loved Everlane, a dalliance with MM LaFleur, and hours upon hours of scouring ebay, Poshmark, and hitting the shopping district downtown– I finally found a suit that actually fits me! Huzzah! (“huzzah”, by the way, is my triumphant exclamation of choice)

I’m in a conservative industry so I decided to go for a classic black suit. I bought the “Seasonless” two-button blazer and pencil skirt from Ann Taylor.  The low V of one-button blazers make me look like I’m swimming in my mother’s hand-me-downs, so I was psyched to find a two-button option.  The pencil skirt hits right at the knee and is a nice classic look. The quality of the pieces is acceptable for the price point– thick keyhole button holes, fully lined, finished seams, extra buttons sewn in, but made out of poly/rayon a cheaper blend. Between AT’s 50% off sales and my work’s discount shopping portal, I was able to knock down the price of suiting from $258 down to $109.

I bought the Amanda Uprichard Simon blouse at a consignment shop in the fanciest neighborhood in town. Though it is pretty hard to find online in cream/white, the blouse seems to have retailed for $193. I got it for $49 in excellent condition. Not as good as Lily’s finds, I’ll admit, but alright nonetheless.

Therefore, I ended up paying $158 for an three-piece outfit that at full retail would be $451. Around a third of the cost, not too shabby! Or maybe retail mark-ups are just wonky. Probably both.

My big takeaway from this exercise has been that finding clothing as a petite woman is hard. That’s one of the big reasons I so rarely actually buy anything. Constantly feeling dejected, going into clothing store after clothing store because nothing fits, is no fun at all.

But I did come out the other side with some tips in case you’re looking to shop suits anytime soon as a petite woman.

1. Be prepared to compromise on at least one: price, quality, fit.

Define your priorities before going shopping. You don’t want to be at the register with a luscious mohair suit that hits you in all the right places only to realize that the $2000 price tag is more than you really wanted to spend (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).

Since I was looking for something to wear maybe five or ten times a year in a less fashionable industry, it wasn’t pivotal that my suit be top-of-the-line quality and fit. So I got something cheap, and good enough construction-wise and fit-wise.

2. Figure out what a brand considers “petite”

At a towering 5’1″ (155 cm for my Canadian readers) I am petite enough that even the petite/junior sizes at most stores are too big for me. In the fashion world, 5’4″ and under is considered petite, even though the average height for American women is 5’3.5″.  Talbots targets a woman at 5’3″. Ann Taylor seems to go shorter. Just keep in mind that if you’re 5’2″ or shorter, your petite clothes may still require some additional hemming.

3. Skip the department stores

Hot take: department stores are overrated. They are often laid out by brand, which makes approximately zero sense, and it is impossible to tell whether or not a particular brand is stocked with petite sizing. I’ve heard great things about having a Nordstrom shopper, however, so if you insist on going the department store route, make sure you get help from an associate.

4. Remember to bring your heels

Workwear looks vastly different with and without shoes, and in particular those 3″ heels may make those formerly-too-long pants just right.

5. Know what can be easily tailored versus not

Hemming pants: easy. Shortening sleeves: medium. Taking in a lined blazer: $$$.

6. Keep the tags on

That 50% off sale? That wasn’t happening when I bought my AT suit the first time. I shelled out full freight to start. All $258, just to make sure I had it in hand by the time my business trips rolled around. But those weren’t for a couple weeks and I wasn’t in a hurry to wear my suit in public. So what’d I do? I checked the Ann Taylor website every day to see if there was a sale going. Once it hit 50% off, I bought a second suit, brought my original back for a refund, and never had to risk my size running out. A little inconvenient (many stores will just do price adjustments, but not AT), but totally worth it for the extra savings.

7. Get an Amex card

If you go the online shopping route– because, let’s face it, getting discounts from the comfort of your couch is pretty appealing– make sure you have an Amex card handy. Why? Because Amex cards give you access to ShopRunner for free. That’s 2-day shipping at a lot of the mid-tier brands for $0. Perfect if you want to try out a lot of different suits, but are too lazy to visit the stores in person.

Now that I’ve gotten my suit down, I’m ready to move on to my next personal style project: finding the perfect pair of jeans.

What are your tips for finding petite clothing? Any jean brands you particularly like or recommend?

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