In recent weeks there has been much discussion about the ‘plus size’ market in women’s fashion being significantly underserved. In the same vein, I would like to ‘tip the scales’ in the opposite direction, and talk about women’s fashion often termed as ‘petite’. As a 5’2” myself, I fully sympathize with nearly half of American and one-third of British women who often struggle to find clothes designed to fit their petite proportions. Let me state outright that I am not talking about the so-called ‘zero size’ fashion but rather clothing that suits people under 5’3” or 160 cm – whatever their size.
With so many pint-sized celebrities with a link to fashion – from Sex and The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker to Kering boss’s Mexican bombshell wife Salma Hayek and from soap star turned fashion designer Nicole Richie to Russian fashion editor and street style icon Miroslava Duma – it is indeed surprising that the industry has not yet addressed this evident shortcoming of the women’s fashion market. Even more so considering recent research on the ‘Tinkerbell Syndrome’, which suggests that petite women are often more ambitious, more likely to succeed because they make the effort to be bold and courageous, to defy the norm.
And so the Tinkerbells are doing it for themselves. In the course of my research into fashion brands catering to the petite customer, most – if not all – seem to have emerged out of personal frustration with too-wide-hems, too-large-armholes and too-long-sleeves. Here are my three favourite picks:
Jeetley: Working as an optometrist, Jess Jeetley, 5’1”, was often told by her patients ‘You don’t look old enough to be doing this job’. So she went on to establish Jeetley, a UK-based fashion brand which specializes in smart clothes for petite women that would take them from the office to a black-tie event. Jeetley is also a collaborative brand where women can vote on future styles and suggest their own. Check out Jeetley’s wonderful coats and tailored dresses.
Allison Izu is a petite clothing company that is 100% Made in Hawaii. While attending the New York Fashion Institute of Technology design school, Allison Izu Song, 5’2”, realized that the majority of fashionable clothes were being designed with 5’8” models in mind. She came back to Hawaii determined to create her perfect clothing brand, which has since been featured in Oprah Magazine, Lucky Magazine and carried at Nordstrom Hawaii. Check out her denim selection, which includes maternity jeans.
Dannii Minogue for Target: Launched in 2014, Dannii Minogue’s petite collection for Australian budget store Target was an instant success. Despite my reservations against this fast fashion brand, I was pleased to see that Target has signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety even though their environment policy is quite rudimentary. Let’s hope that the 5’2” tall Dannii can bring about a positive change.
Obviously, changing fashion industry’s current focus on tall, slim models is no small feat. But catering to the fashion needs of a large proportion of the global female population is a business opportunity not to be missed.