I’m lucky, I know. I’m 5’7 and, for the most part, I fit the measurements of most brands’ regular size(s) pretty well, pants being something of an exception. Not that I’m the same size everywhere (or even the same size on top and bottom) but I can usually find a size that fits without the need for alterations. That is not the case for a lot of my friends. If you are a plus size, or tall, or petite, it can be a struggle to find stylish clothes that fit properly. I’ve heard my fair share of complaints from people — especially about pants. So I thought it might be useful to put together a handy guide to shopping for different body types. Thanks to my wonderful friends who agreed to share their wisdom, here are some suggestions:
In some ways, this is the toughest category. Clothing manufacturers still haven’t figured out that plus size women (a) have style and want to use it, and (b) come in all shapes, just like everyone else. It’s hard enough to find stylish clothes in the right size, and then you also have to worry about how it fits — height-wise, bust-wise, and so on. Some of the places to check out include:
– Winners — they have a decent “regular” selection, particularly in tops and dresses, which go up to 14 and sometimes 16, as well as a “plus size” section. As is the case across the board, Winners does require a lot of patience — you have to look through each rack, and there are no guarantees you will find anything on any given day.
– Ricki’s — a good place for affordable, office-appropriate wear, including suits. They sizes can go up to 20 and, at least online, they offer pants in lengths up to 36 inseam. [It seems that this is no longer the case in-store.]
– Bluenotes — their jeans go up to 38.
– H&M — you can usually find trendy, affordable pieces (especially tops and looser fitting dresses, but usually not pants). Their adult sizes go up to 16.
– Talbots — it skews a little older, but if you like classic preppy pieces like pencil skirts and shift dresses, it’s worth checking out. Sizes go up to 20. Comes with a higher price tag, though.
– Torrid — sadly, there are no stores locally, but you can order online or buy in the States when visiting. Their clothes fall into the same category as H&M’s, but they are a dedicated plus-size retailer.
– JCrew — again, no local stores, but they do carry up to size 16 (and have petite and tall lines). I love a lot of their pieces, which are right up my “classic girly” style alley. The difficulty, of course, is buying clothes without the chance to try them on first — particularly problematic for more fitted items (like skirts and dresses). Their cardigans are amazing, though!
There are many apparent misconceptions about tall people on the part of clothing manufacturers. Pant length is only one of their concerns. Another is the length of sleeves, and the positioning of the waist for things like shirts and dresses. Even for people whose torsos are not disproportionately long, being tall their torsos are longer than those of shorter folks — this means the waist sits lower than the cut of most dresses, for example. Slimmer tall people have an added problem in that, if they are able to find clothing that is long enough, it most likely won’t be their size — it’s more difficult to find clothes made for a 6′ tall woman who is not a size 12-14.
– Club Monaco — the place for dress pants, I’ve been told. Club Monaco is also great for suits, although this varies from season to season.
For anyone with an inseam over 32, I’ve been told it helps to look for pants that have at least 1-2 inches of additional material in the seam when new. That way, a tailor can take down all the material in the hem, put in a new hem, and use the extra material for length. It’s getting harder and harder to find places that carry pants with inseams over 32, but another place where it’s possible to come across 34 and 36 inseams is GAP (and Old Navy) … at least occasionally. Jeans are an exception, as most higher end labels have fairly long inseams to start with.
– Teenflo — also great for classic suits, though it comes with a higher price tag. It is possible to find their suits at Winners starting at around $200 (full Winners price). A word of caution: some of their suit jackets can be somewhat short-waisted, which might not work for everyone.
– Victoria’s Secret — great for … wait for it … pants. Their “long size” comes with a 36 inseam. The downside is that you have to order online, and deal with the resulting complications. Returns or exchanges, in particular, can be frustrating as you have to pay the shipping charges both ways. However, if you join their online club, you can get discounts on shipping and other special offers.
– Nine West — their suits and dresses are sometimes cut a little bit longer, so they are worth checking out. A number of retailers, including The Bay and Winners, carry Nine West.
– Kaj Clothing — a downtown boutique catering to tall women exclusively. I haven’t heard personal testimonials regarding its selection, but if anyone is interested in checking it out, let me know what your experience with it is.
I know what you’re probably thinking, but I’ve been told that hem length is not really an issue for petites, brand-wise … in that pretty much all pants need to be hemmed. Wearing high heels helps — if you don’t mind wearing them, that is. Sometimes, (regular) cropped pants can work as well, as long as they are a straight/narrow boot-cut not flared, although this depends on the person’s height. Dresses and skirts are a little bit easier to find, as many places (like Club Monaco) cut theirs in a way that tends to work better on petites than, say, tall people.
– Banana Republic (regular and outlet) — a good place to look for reasonably-priced suits and dress pants. I can attest from personal experience that BR has really great pants for curvy girls, the kind that fit both the (smaller) waist and the (bigger) hips.
– Arnold Churgin – many petites get a double-whammy raw deal in that they also have “non-regular” shoe sizes (6 and under). Churgin is one of the few places where you can find shoes that run small, along with Via Veneto Shoes in West Edmonton Mall.
– Jacob and Mexx — you can usually find dresses here that are cut to what would be an office-appropriate length for petites (roughly knee-length). As mentioned above, Club Monaco is another option.
Jezebel recently ran an excellent feature on tips for petites. It is very comprehensive and, even if the store recommendations don’t always work up here, the general tips are really useful. Check it out!
If you have or know of other go-to places for petite/tall/plus size women, please share in the comments.