Petite Proportions Are Not Always Created Equal

Did you know most petite sized clothing is proportioned to fit women 5’3″ to 4’11” tall? The difference in proportions between a woman who is 5’3″ and a woman who is 4’11” can be remarkably different, so if a garment is cut to fit the taller end the petite size spectrum, guess what happens when a shorter gal tries the same garment.

At 4’11”, I just barely make the petite sizes cut-off. Even though my height is supposedly taken into consideration when proportioning petite sizes, I often find that even petite sizes are cut too large for me.

Case in point, here is a Banana Republic Petite size XXS top I ordered on-line recently. Here is the stock photo from the Banana Republic website, which shows how the garment is intended to fit. The asymmetrical neckline is high enough to be modest, but still an interesting detail.

Now, here it is in size XXS petite on my 4’11” self.

Banana Republic Asymmetrical Tee in size XXS petite.

The neckline is ill-proportioned on someone so short. The bottom of the V comes down way too low and to far to the side, so that it is no longer modest, and actually shows my bra. The shoulder width, torso width, and length are all proportioned well, but I bet the neckline fits much better on a woman closer to 5’3″.

Even with the availability of sizes as small as XXS petite at stores like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, they still aren’t proportioned to fit a woman quite so small. And if this is how a garment fits a woman of 4’11”, which is technically a height that has been taken into consideration, I can only imagine how it would look on a woman even shorter than myself.

Just another thing to think about when out shopping…

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Red

    I'm not a "tiny" petite at 5'1 (I have an hourglass shape, and usually wear a 6 or 8 Petite dress at Banana Republic). Lately I've noticed that BR's petite sizing has been all over the place. Just yesterday I tried on several petite sized dresses from the new collection and NONE of them fit well. The proportions were all off. I usually wear a 32D bra, and thus have trouble fitting petite shirts and dresses over my chest even if garment otherwise fits well. Yesterday, however, I actually had the opposite problem with a few of the dresses and two tops I tried on — it was like they were cut for someone of non-petite proportions around the neck and shoulders. I spoke to the tiny petite (4'10) SA helping me and she said she and other petites had been having the same problem with the latest batch of petite sizes from BR. The lack of consistency is frustrating, but I am often grateful BR and other stores offer petite sizes at all.

    I did get a fab denim jacket — at Gap Kids — so my retail trip was not completely wasted. Heh.

  2. says: Alterations Needed

    Hmmm…maybe the exaggerated ill-fit of this shirt is due to bad BR sizing this season. Thanks for the sleuthing Red!

  3. says: Anonymous

    I've been having the same experience with BR this past season — necklines are huge! In fact overall fit is pretty baggy.

    Re: the printed blouse with the back tie you bought — don't you think even that neckline is out of proportion for a xxsP petite? It is too wide and too low. And that is supposed to be a somewhat fitted style. I ordered the xxsP fuschia version of that and was shocked when I saw how loose it was.

  4. says: Alterations Needed

    I'm so used to having too low and too wide necklines that I don't really notice it too much anymore. The top is sheer, so I have to wear a camisole under it anyways, which solves the neckline problem. Now that you mention it, the neckline should have been better proportioned for a XXSP.

    I just chalk it up to the garment not being proportioned for someone as short as I am.

    Maybe BR got a new fit model this season, and the clothing has adjusted accordingly?

  5. says: Jackie

    I have noticed this too last time I hit BR. They really need to get the proportions right. Do they size everything around a woman who's 5'3"? the XXS isn't cut short enough. I find that their tops fit widthwize fine, but the top is usually too long! The torso proportion is off height wise. Arghh. Height porportions are not as easy to fix either.

  6. says: Cynthia

    This is what I think: Petite sizes are generally sized on someone who is around 5'2"ish and likely a size 2 or so. She's probably wearing heels which are approximately 2" as well. That's why a lot of taller petites feel that they can't wear petite pants and shorter people find clothes out of proportion.

  7. says: ghettoflower

    I have just stumbled across your blog today and it's such a relief to know I'm not the only "little woman" having these problems!!!

  8. says: Nina

    Hey Alterations Needed,

    I came across your blog when I was looking for input on whether zipper bottom jeans can be altered to be made shorter in length.

    Coming from someone who is approx. 5'3" and 32D-25-36, I have always had major trouble fitting into petite length and fit clothes. So I haven't found petite fittings to be accurate either, in terms of the other end of the spectrum, when they say it also fits someone who is 5'3".

    If you have any info on whether alterations of zippered bottom jeans are possible, please let me know.

    Great blog btw, very interesting and informative–you write well.

  9. says: Alterations Needed

    Hi Nina! Thanks for the kind words!

    As for the bottom zippered jeans, if all you need is to shorten the zipper along with the hem of the jeans, it should be possible. All a tailor would do is remove the zipper, hem the pants, and then cut the zipper to the right length and re-sew it in. If the zipper would be mostly removed when the pants are hemmed, and you want a new zipper slit to be cut along the leg, then that might be trickier, and more expensive. Good luck if you decide to go for it!

  10. says: Anonymous

    Wow, that was incredibly helpful! Thanks so much. I'll definitely be checking out your blog on a regular basis. :)

    Take care,

  11. says: jen

    a lot of photos are fudged as well so you never know what you are getting until you try it on yourself.

    i used to be able to wear BR xs (non-petite). i still have a cardigan and a couple of knit tops from several years ago (a little worn but still wearable) that fit nice and small. the last time i tried on some xs petite cardigans they, they were huge! i don't know if it's part of the vanity sizing or what. also i notice that the smaller sizes are often ill fitting unless you go more upscale. i think it has to do with the fact that fit models are a medium and then the size is either graded up or down (and sometimes not very well).

    i'm glad i found your blog in any case!

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