The one piece of advice you always hear as a petite woman buying clothes is: “Find a good tailor.” Now, I’m not one to knock a good tailor. A good tailor can be the difference between a good dress and an amazing one. A good tailor can totally revamp your wardrobe. Definitely find a good tailor.
Who wants to go to a tailor every time they buy a new piece of clothing? Not me, that’s for sure. As a petite gal, being able to find into a piece of clothing off-the-rack is somewhat rare, but still doable. Here is my comprehensive, ultimate guide of tried and true brands for petites.
These are my go-to brands for basics and daily-wear clothing. I’m usually quite picky about not only fit, but also quality (so that includes material, durability, etc.). I prefer natural fibers over synthetic (though of course those are unavoidable).
Banana Republic – They have a Petite line – usually the petite version of their regular sizes (they also have a Tall line). BR’s quality has been up and down over the years, but I think they’ve made efforts in recent years to be more consistent with their sizing and also improve upon their design. I get dresses and sweaters from here – I look for the cotton, wool, cashmere ones. Their pants fit rather strangely on me.
J.Crew – They have a petite line as well.They hit a low point a few years back in terms of quality and design, but seem to be trying to improve both lately. The caveat I have with J.Crew is that their sizing is not consistent across their brand. Also their sizing is kind of ridiculous. 000p and xxxs? Really? You might be a 0 in one dress and a xxxs in another. You really need to go into their stores to try things on – or buy online and then return. The quality of their clothing is decent – they often use natural materials (cottons, linens, silks).
Gap – good for basics. Construction and quality of anything more complicated than a basic tee, however, is not so great.
Helmut Lang – Helmut Lang is hit or miss for me. The body type that the brand seems tailored for is flat-chested and narrow-hipped. Their pants are also incredibly long and would not work for petites. Their sweaters, tops, and dresses are more what I will occasionally peruse.
Natori – Their bras run small. You can often find them on sale at department stores.
Theory – great for professional workwear. Their sweaters are nice.
Vince – They can run really big sometimes. Ridiculously big. But I have found some sweaters or wraps of theirs that fit me in their XS small. What I like about this brand is that they often use natural fibers (cottons, silks, wool, cashmere, even yak wool).
Zoee Karssen – This is one of my go-to-brands for the perfect white tee. They are based in Amsterdam, so their designs are often slightly edgy. The quality and fit is quite nice, and I’m still wearing shirts that I’ve gotten three years ago – they’ve held up well.
I’ve also found that clothing with elasticity (knits and wrap dresses) are also good for the petite frame and they are usually sized smaller. Jonathan Simkhai does a lot of knits (dresses, tops) – you can find his pieces on sale at the Outnet.
These are brands that either I haven’t personally tried on, but have heard good things about; or, that I have a few caveats about.
Asos – does carry many petite sizes, but quality varies widely depending on brand.
Ann Taylor has a petite line. While I’ve gotten a few things from in the past, their quality has definitely decreased over the last five years. Their clothes use mainly synthetic materials.
In all of these brands, I look for the words “skinny fit” and “ankle” – those are the ones that fit me well without tailoring. Jeans can be tricky though, so I always make sure that I can try them on and return them if they don’t fit.
J Brand – My top brand for jeans. Really nice substantial feel to their jeans (although they do sell lesser quality versions at various outlets, so watch out). Skinny fit can sometimes mean “jegging” – you want to stay away from jeans that feel more like jeggings, as they are more liable to lose their elasticity. Look for a high percentage of cotton on the fabric tag (I like to see 96% and up).
Paige – Also good, though their jeans feel thinner that J Brand jeans to me.
Joe’s Jeans – Fit similarly to J Brand jeans for me, but not as well. Still decent.
Rag & Bone – This is a relatively new find for me. Their jeans can run long but they are one of the few that don’t bunch up around the knee area. They are super comfortable as well.
I think it’s probably easier to find shoes for petites than clothing for petites. I wear a size 6 shoe, for example, and that is readily found in all brands. I just really want to talk about one brand for shoes and that is Stuart Weitzman, which does nice boots for thinner calves.
UK or AUSTRALIAN BRANDS
UK and AU brands run smaller than American brands. Most European countries size smaller than American brands, in fact. Here, I’ll be discussing some great options from the UK or Australia.
Zimmermann – an Australian brand that does great silk cocktail/summer dresses.
Burberry – classic for trench coats and outerwear. You want to check the tag to make sure that it’s made in England – some are made in China. Burberry has a sale maybe once or twice a year on their website, though they will go on sale more often at department stores where they are carried.
Nicholas – an Australian brand that does great polished, structured pieces with a modern edge. They don’t have an online store, but you can find the line at Saks, Revolve, Neiman, etc.
AllSaints – A little too edgy/grungy for me at times, though they can have more muted pieces as well. They are known for their leather – which they do quite well. I’ve gotten a leather skirt from them before. Their dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, all run small. They have a few outlet locations around the US, and I’ve scored great deals (dresses for $20, leather pieces for $40) there.
Muubaa – my number one brand for leather jackets. They have leather jackets with half knit sleeves – which I highly recommend if you have skinny arms like I do. The Outnet carries this brand, and I’ve gotten leather jackets for $250.
DESIGNER EUROPEAN BRANDS (FR & IT)
French and Italian brands, like UK/AU brands, run smaller. French brands often start at size 34, which is usually smaller than the standard size 0 in America. I would say the equivalent 0 in French sizing would be a 36 or 38. Italian brands on the other hand start at 38, which is close enough to a US size 0. Some Italian brands can actually run larger than US sizing (Prada, Marni in particular), but these are the ones that have fit me in the past.
These are designer brands, which are often exorbitantly priced and may seem out of your budget. However, if you scour enough places (both online and in stores) and wait for sales, you can find designer pieces at very good prices. Yoox, outlet stores, TJ Maxx (the ones with a runway section) are great places to score deals. I’ve gotten Armani dresses for $100-200 at their outlet stores, Valentino dresses for $100 at T.J. Maxx, Gucci dresses for $150 at their outlet stores, Missoni dresses on sale at various department stores.
Chloé – They run slightly bigger than the average french brand, but you may still be able to find pieces that fit in size 34, 36, 38. Their style is a little bit more playful, youthful than what would be appropriate in a workplace setting.
Missoni – They do knit day dresses very well.
Armani – There’s a few different Armani lines. Their outlets are wonderful if you have one near you. The tailoring of their pieces is incredible and the quality excellent as well. Great for workwear.
Gucci – They have slinky wrap dresses, as well as more structured ones. Their pants seem to be on the longer side.
Dior – Comes in size 34. Very feminine.
Valentino – Gorgeous dresses and gowns for more formal occasions.
Dolce & Gabbana – They have nice dresses for cocktails. Sometimes their patterns can be a little on the shiny/tacky end of the spectrum.
Rick Owens – The gold standard for leather jackets. Their ribbed sleeves perfectly hug slim arms.
I have found that the diffusion lines for Missoni (M Missoni), Giorgio Armani (Armani Jeans), and Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) run smaller than the main lines.
In contrast, the diffusion lines for Chloé (See by Chloé) and Valentino (Red Valentino) run larger than the main lines.
As a petite woman, finding pieces that fit well can be a challenge. Hopefully, this guide will lead you in some new directions and help you discover some brands you hadn’t heard of before – or didn’t realize were good options for petites.
What are your go-to brands for petites? Let us know in the comments below!