Petite Fit Guide: Improper Fit of a Regular Size Blouse on a Petite Woman

Advice for clothing the petite woman is often misguided and unresearched. I get frustrated when I see a “Petite Advice” item in magazines or websites that states, “alter down regular sizes” or, “shop in the Juniors Department”. The people writing these things are obviously not petite women, or have ever had to go shopping with one. I can stand in dressing rooms for hours, tugging and pulling at fist fulls of fabric, wondering if my tailor could nip or tuck an item into shape. I’ve found it also takes a keen eye to figure out exactly how something should fit, when you’ve never seen it fit properly on yourself in the first place!

Recently, I was in H&M looking for anything interesting, and found a little button up blouse that looked cut really slim. I liked the cut, style, and color, so even though it was polyester (yuck!), I was curious to see how it would look on. When I got into the dressing room, my eye first fell on the slim cut of the top, and fit in the arms and shoulder. “It fits!” was my first thought…but then I looked closer and realized something was off.

I stared for a little while and then realized what the problem was. Can you see what the issue is with this blouse? Click “Continue Reading…” to see the answer.

If you guessed the bust is too low…you’re right!


Regular (or standard) sized garments are made for people above 5’4″. These garments will then be:

*Longer – to accommodate the longer torso of a taller person.
*Lower neckline – to accommodate the larger ratio from shoulder to bust of a taller person.
*Lower bust – to accommodate the larger ratio from shoulder to bust.
*Lower waist line -to accommodate the larger ratio from shoulder to waist.

On a petite woman, all these ratios are smaller than those of an average heighted woman, thus, details on the garment, like bust darting or waist seaming will end up lower on the body of a petite woman. Obviously, this is not in the right place, and on me, left unattractive, sagging bits of pleated fabric just below my bust.

When I grab a hand full of the shirt and pull it up at my shoulder, you can see the details of the shirt fall into their proper places on my proportions:


That looks better, but to alter this shirt to fit properly would be labor intensive. I am literally holding a fist full of fabric in my hand in the picture above, and removing this fabric would mean the sleeves also need to be re-worked. Is this worth it on a polyester shirt? NO!

Is this an alteration that can be done? I don’t know because I’ve never been brave enough to try it on anything with sleeves. Tank tops, tank dresses, and strappy things are easily fixed just by taking up the straps until everything falls into place. Sleeves however…I’m scared!

Anyone ever taken up a blouse with sleeves from the shoulder? If so, how’d it turn out?

15 Comments

  • Reply November 13, 2009

    Jess

    I'm really curious about this too…I'm a 5'3" 95 lb petite and I just got a shirt from anthropologie that could definitely use this alteration but I'm scared to ruin the shape of the sleeves!

  • Reply November 13, 2009

    PetiteAsianGirl

    Interesting post…I had my tailor take up a blouse from the shoulder. I wouldn't recommend it because it is normally quite costly (although she gave me a great price)since like you said, the sleeves have to be removed then reattached. I may post it later but of course I never took a "before" photo with it on!

    The reason I had it taken in was because the neckline was too gaping, so a different issue than this H&M blouse. Plus, I had 1-2 inches taken in unlike your fistful! The blouse was a very nice 100% silk material from BR Monogram, which justified the alteration cost. I can hardly ever justify altering polyester : (

  • Reply November 13, 2009

    CynthiaC

    This is exactly why most BCBG tops don't fit me properly!

  • Reply November 13, 2009

    Jess

  • Reply November 13, 2009

    elaine

    I've had shirts taken up in the back, which tends to automatically bring up the shoulders, but then you have to add in taking in the sides and sometimes cutting the shoulders to make them more narrow – so pretty pricey overall. I've had pretty good luck so far, but definitely something you would only do for a blouse that you are in love with.

  • Reply November 14, 2009

    Paulina

    Agree with Cynthia. BCBG never fits :( Same with most things from Urban Outfitters and F21.

  • Reply November 14, 2009

    Alterations Needed

    Hi Jess!
    Cute shirt! It looks to me like the shirt and sleeves are all one big piece of continuous fabric that is seamed along the shoulder and down the sleeve. I would imagine a tailor could just take that whole seam up, which would be much easier than taking off and re-working the sleeves. That alterations would then slim the sleeve, so you should make sure it doesn't slim to much, ruining the whole look of the shirt. Have your tailor (or a friend/family member) pin the shirt up at the shoulder and down the sleeve to make sure the sleeves still look okay after being slimmed. Good luck if you decide to go for it!

  • Reply November 14, 2009

    Jackie

    *thumbs down* that shirt is wrong. To a normal sized girl, it would look fine. But I can see that the proportions between shoulder and waist, waist and hip are to long! I have the same problem and unfortunately you a tailor can't always fix that. *sigh* I wouldn't buy something that needs that much work…

  • Reply November 16, 2009

    sherbert

    i weigh more than you, but I am an inch shorter 4'10 and this exact shirt and i do not have the bust problem- yes i got it at H&M and it has ruching in the back… which is the problem. I tucked this shirt into my professional skirt, and it created extra "hips/bulge" between the ruching and the waistband of my skirt. That is the downside, but i already bought it. But the bust fits perfect b/c i am a 32/34 B… and no, i am not saggy boobed. Maybe you need a smaller size! I did get the XS but well… i hope that's the one you tried on.

    Here's a pic of me wearing it after a big meal:

    http://www.bluemackerel.com/ebay/HMShirt.jpg

    It really surprised me to see this shirt on your blog b/c i got to this blog to search on J brand – i just got the 910 ink in size 24and love it, except it kept falling as i was hiking today. I told my bf that it was cuz my thighs are too big in comparison to my waist, but i guess that's not true, others have had the roomy waist issue on J brand's awesome 910 ink.

  • Reply November 16, 2009

    Alterations Needed

    Hi Sherbert!

    I'm glad the shirt works for you! You look great in it! You probably have a longer torso than I do, and so have better luck fitting into regular sized tops. Lucky you! And, yes, the top I'm wearing is the XS…H&M doesn't go any smaller than that…*sigh*.

  • Reply November 16, 2009

    sherbert

    Thanks! i bookmarked your blog- it's great! all these petite women coming out on here whereas usually i'm the shortest one in any room.

    While clothes are an issue, shirts & pants i can alter myself or with a tailor, but shoes (and pantyhose…) are a different story. Really excited to see you wear size 5 shoes as well. I wear a 5 -4.5 when i can find it- and don't know why many mfgs do not even bother making 5's. b/c i'm so short i like to wear heels… and high heels + steep incline due to short feet + shoes that are too big = not a walk in the park.

    Enough ranting … Well i'll be reading!

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    sherbert

    Thanks! i bookmarked your blog- it's great! all these petite women coming out on here whereas usually i'm the shortest one in any room.

    While clothes are an issue, shirts & pants i can alter myself or with a tailor, but shoes (and pantyhose…) are a different story. Really excited to see you wear size 5 shoes as well. I wear a 5 -4.5 when i can find it- and don't know why many mfgs do not even bother making 5's. b/c i'm so short i like to wear heels… and high heels + steep incline due to short feet + shoes that are too big = not a walk in the park.

    Enough ranting … Well i'll be reading!

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    Hi Jess!
    Cute shirt! It looks to me like the shirt and sleeves are all one big piece of continuous fabric that is seamed along the shoulder and down the sleeve. I would imagine a tailor could just take that whole seam up, which would be much easier than taking off and re-working the sleeves. That alterations would then slim the sleeve, so you should make sure it doesn't slim to much, ruining the whole look of the shirt. Have your tailor (or a friend/family member) pin the shirt up at the shoulder and down the sleeve to make sure the sleeves still look okay after being slimmed. Good luck if you decide to go for it!

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Jess

  • Reply October 19, 2014

    Betsy

    If the shoulders and sleeves fit comfortably I would leave those alone. It looks like there is a seam under the gathering at the bust. I might try to unstitch this seam and the side seams, remove some of the gathering to make it less obvious but still retain the detail a bit. Then try to make a dart or two from that midriff seam to point to the correct bust point and resew the seams.
    I try to find seams or create tuck/seams nearest the problem if it can be done without detracting from the style or hang of the garment. The shoulder lift is too far from the bust droop and would require sleeve, collar and front placket alteration.

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