Summer is here! The temperature gauge just hit triple digits. It’s humid, gross and icky but of course you still want to look cute. So you start picturing the perfect summer dress. Its soft silky fabric is light and hugs your curves just right. It’s a light-yellow floral print that’s not too out there. It’s in essence- perfect.
So what do you do? You make your way over to the nearest shopping mall and while perusing the racks, your eyes fall on your dream dress. The color is bright but not too bright and the fabric is so soft that it feels like it’s caressing you. Of course, you have to try it on! So you grab the outfit and make your way to the fitting room stall. When you pull the dress over your head, excited and stomach fluttering, you glide forward towards the mirror. Only to trip over it because you had to get one size bigger so that it would fit your generous chest (YES, petite girls have boobs!).
“We’re not children with boobs!” exclaims Sil Thinna, 32. Sil is the epitome of the hashtag #shortgirlproblems at a height of 4 foot 8 inches. Finding the perfect summer outfit isn’t just difficult for her, it’s more like trying to find a dog with pink hair. It surely exists somewhere. Someone had to have dyed their dog’s hair pink. But it would just be easier to get a dog, get some dye and just color the dog’s hair yourself (That was probably a bad analogy, but you got the point, yeah?).
As a woman below what is considered ‘normal height’, Sil finds shopping a struggle. When asked about her shopping experience, she stated simply that “I just don’t do it.”
It’s difficult to understand the full extent of the problem if you haven’t experienced shopping for petite clothes yourself. I’m not even sure I fully understood, until I started working with my friend, founder of Shell N, on this blog and started learning more about fashion. I always thought that I was the problem. And that there was no way any other person my size had trouble finding clothes. I never once thought that it could be that the clothes just weren’t made with petite women in mind.
There are a number of issues to consider when finding clothing if you’re petite. From our own body shape to the cut, fit and style of the dress- everything has to be taken into consideration.
The automatic assumption slash recommendation is that if your chest is an issue, you can just size up. The problem with sizing up is you end up with all the excess fabric at the back and shoulders. As petite girls, our torsos are shorter and our shoulders slimmer, so the dress ends up hanging off of us. Talk about unflattering.
“Where my hips start is where the torso still is!” exclaims Sil.
What about when the dress does fit? It ends up being too low cut and we unnecessarily flash the whole world. I have so been there. Our boobs are not accessories. We deserve to be able to find clothes with enough fabric in the right places.
So what’s Sil’s advice as a petite shopper? “Buy your dresses with safety pins and tape in hand.
Summer dresses aside, there are about a dozen events that requires women to dress up and appear their best. One such event? The dreaded job interview. Who hasn’t spent hours trying to appear professional and put together for an interview? Jennefer Huynh, 31, 4’11, relays her own experience as a petite shopper:
“One time, I needed dress pants for an interview. I was at Marshalls looking at business clothes, and all the pants that fit in the waist were too long. Until I tried on a pair of pants, surprisingly it fit great! The length was perfect! I looked at the tag and they were meant to be ankle pants…”
Haven’t had enough horror stories?
If you haven’t caught on yet, I myself am a petite girl. How petite? Just this week I took my students on a field trip using the school van. The seats in this van are anti-petite person. And the seats don’t even move up! (Who do I sue for height bias?!) This being the case my boss had to get the booster seat for his kid out of his car and loan it to me. So I sat in the booster seat. For the first time since I was 3 feet tall. In front of my grown students.
My. Pride. Was. Gone.
So yes. I’m short. I’m a nice, petite 5’2. As a petite person with a generous chest, I have the same struggles as Sil when shopping. This explains why I HATE shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I love clothes. I love dressing up. I love the process of searching through my closet and finding just the right combination of clothing for a particular event. But that’s my CLOSET in which I’ve painstakingly compiled a number of clothes that I am positive fit and look good.
Shopping, however, is a different story. I used to go shopping with my best friend when I lived in Korea. The only way to describe myself in this duo, was as the grumpy boyfriend who sits on the couch in the corner scrolling through the same feeds on Instagram again and again. That was me. Because regardless of whether I was in Asia, Europe, or America, shopping for me was and has always been the same. I look through the store in 5 minutes flat and decide in those 5 minutes what might or might not look good on me. Then I decide whether it’s worth waiting in line for a fitting room just to find out it doesn’t fit after all.
How often do these clothes end up fitting? Less than 25 percent of the time. Just ask Sil if you don’t believe me.
The truth is that shopping for a job interview, dress clothes for work, a beautiful dress for a birthday or a wedding should not be a trial. Why can’t we, despite being short, go shopping for an outfit that’s stylish, fits perfectly, and within a reasonable price range without scouring the globe?
So, my solution? Well in Asia it was simple. I shopped at the same 3 stores and only EVER bought my jeans from Uniqlo. Why? Free tailoring. In America, it’s not so simple. No more Uniqlo. No more free tailoring. No more familiar petite friendly shopping. Now I have a new solution.
Shell N Fashion.
The majority of petite women I’ve talked to dislike shopping. The majority of petite women I’ve talked to have a tailor.
“I never buy an outfit if Shell doesn’t think she can fix it,” says Trinh Nguyen, 34, 5’1. Trinh has the same troubles as most petite women in terms of shopping. She, however, has a secret weapon. A sister skilled in the art of fashion design. Shell isn’t petite but her sister and many of her friends are. As such, from high school onwards, she has been tailoring and designing clothes for her sister and friends.
Over time, she noticed that the petite women’s niche was sorely lacking in terms of clothing options.
Now there are clothing stores that offer petite lines. Banana Republic, Lane Bryant and Top Shop, to name a few, all carry petite clothing. The issue is that the options are so limited. These stores cater towards ‘normal-sized’ women. In fact, the only store that I’ve found specifically geared towards petite women, is Petite Studio in New York. New York.
Women today are all shapes, sizes and colors. This being the case, whether you’re average height, plus sized or petite- every woman should be able to easily find clothing in her size. Shell understands this and gives us the option to find clothing that is feminine, stylish, and that fits.
Sure, you can go down the street to your favorite store and just try the clothes on. Sure, you can go to a tailor. Sure, you can tailor the clothes yourself. But why go through all that? You deserve the chance to fall in love with a dress, try it on, have it fit, and think to yourself- perfect.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look. @shellnfashion.