Being a petite lady with curves is at times a unique challenge, when it comes to fashion. Most petite clothes are geared toward all-over petites, but with my hips and chest I’ll never be considered waif-like. The most direct solution – tailor, tailor, tailor – is useful, but expensive. The best way I’ve found to dress myself is to find consistently flattering brands and keep coming back for more. Here are some of my greatest hits:
I consistently go two places for tops, and rarely do I stray. The first is Nordstrom, whose in-house brands boast some spectacular petite options. Halogen and Caslon are two particular favorites. A classic crewneck cardigan or a drapey zippered jacket can easily add the perfect final touch to outfits for both the office and the weekend. A pet peeve of mine is outerwear with too-wide shoulders and bunchy wrists from excess fabric; both of these brands offer petite-friendly sizes.
The other brand that has my heart is LOFT, whose pima cotton crew neck tees are amazingly soft and the petite long enough that an ample bosom doesn’t turn it into a crop top. While often petite sizing is not necessary for short sleeve tops, the narrower shoulders generally available by shopping petite makes it worthwhile for me.
Bottoms are generally the cause of the curvy petite shopper’s anxiety. While stretchy fabrics can hide a number of challenges up top, there are fewer such options on the bottom. I’ve fallen deeply in love with Ann Taylor’s “curvy” fit trousers, which boast a higher waist and streamlined cuts. They are hands down the most flattering work pants I’ve found yet.
For denim, I’m a Madewell devotee. Their Skinny Skinny style jeans have the perfect amount of stretch to be flattering while not being yoga pants, and for whatever reason (I’m not complaining!) the standard length is exactly right. Note that Madewell changed their denim formulation a couple of years ago – previous jeans were 98% cotton, 2% stretch (industry standard these days) while current styles are 91% cotton, 7% poly, and 2% stretch.
Skirts are an incredible way to dress a curvy and petite body. I’m really into full skirts, which skim my hips without overly accentuating them. When wearing a full skirt, I recommend going high waisted – emphasizing the smallest part of your body is always going to be the most flattering option.
Like your Goodwill Fashionista, I’m a huge proponent of dresses. It’s a one-piece outfit! My go-to brand for office frocks is Nordstrom’s in-house brand Classiques Entier. Though they do offer some pieces in petite sizing, I’ve actually found their regular sizes to fit me perfectly without any need for alterations – the only shift dresses I’ve ever purchased that don’t need the shoulders taken in!
Asos has a wide selection of petite-sized dresses at very reasonable prices. Their house brand jersey knits are insanely comfortable and last a lot longer than many other brands at the same price point. There’s no in-store shopping to be done at Asos, as it’s a British brand, but shipping and returns are free, so what’s the harm in an online order?
For fancier occasions, Eliza J is a very petite-friendly brand. Their floaty chiffon gowns and classic lace dresses are appropriate for weddings, graduations, and any other time when you might need to step it up a notch. Adriana Papell has a great array of embellished pieces, for those times when the occasion requires some sparkle.
What are your favorite brands friendly to curvy petites?
Nora is half of the fashionable duo at Petite Curves Ahead. A grant writer by day, choir member by evening/weekend, and trivia aficionado based in Washington, DC, she will only dance if she can sing along while she does it. Nora describes her style as “classic with a bit of edge” and loves bold colors, delicate gold jewelry, and lots of mascara.