#KnitPetiteProject: What should we look for in off-the-rack clothes?

Our last post where we went through our closets and found hidden gems.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

The #KnitPetiteProject now has a Ravelry group. Join us!

SURVEYChecking in with how you think the #KnitPetiteProject is going! Are we addressing your questions?

October’s focus for the #KPP is shopping for petites. What to buy? Where to buy it? How and when to modify your current off-the-rack clothes?

Today, we’re talking about what to look for in new clothes.

By now in the #KPP, you’ve constructed a clear idea of what you want from your clothing, and gotten an idea of how to achieve that through modifying for your own body and shape.

I thought it was important for us all to get to this point before jumping into a discussion of shopping and fashion advice, because these advice sources can wield great influence on us and make us feel we should want certain things, and we should avoid others.

Of course, if your goals, aesthetics, and interests line up with that advice, then proceed! If, on the other hand, they do not, I encourage you to ignore that advice and forge ahead with whatever works for you. I want us all to be able to sort through what IS and IS NOT for us; what is HELPFUL and what is HARMFUL.

That’s the focus of the next two weeks.

Here, we’ll talk about some language, some fashion bloggers, and body positivity.

One of the most powerful feelings I’ve felt recently is the confidence of altering items in my own closet; just because I bought it in a store doesn’t mean it’s perfect and untouchable.

What to look for

  1. Quality: as makers, we have an understanding of clothing quality. Make sure you’re getting the expected value for the dollar amount you’re spending.
  2. Fit: as a #KPP person, you’ll be familiar with the issues surrounding picking a size in shops, more familiar with your own shapes and sizes, and be armed with an idea of how and what to modify.
  3. Styling: this is a biggie, and one that I’d like to focus on for the rest of this post, and the next couple of weeks.

Styling Advice: Be Critical of What you Read

One of the major reasons I started the #KPP was the plethora of advice out there regarding the “dos and don’ts” of dressing for petites. I want to encourage us all to put on our critical-thinking caps and keep in mind that behind advice articles are authors, and those authors will have a bias and/or assumed end-goals that can conflict with our own and even cause us to feel inadequate, wrong, and ashamed of our bodies.

Remember: wear what you want and what makes YOU feel fantastic, no matter what the “advice” says.

Common petite styling advice says to wear prints in relation to your size (ie: don’t wear large prints). Here I am in a large print. Styling advice can be broken!

Case in point: this article tells us as petite women not to wear flat shoes because “they will not give you the additional height you need” (emphasis added by me).  This article is assuming I, as the petite reader, “needs” additional height. I “need” to feel that I look taller than I am. You also find a lot of language like this in articles written for larger women; in many cases (that I’ve read), these articles amount to nothing more than fat-shaming. Pay attention to the words the article uses. Do you “need” that? Really? What are they assuming you want?

Compare this to the following point in the same article that says I, as a petite woman, shouldn’t wear anything cropped  because “it will shorten your torso”. This piece of advice feels less egregious, since it’s not telling what I NEED, though it is still assuming my end goal is to avoid appearing the height that I am. On the flip side, they are at least being clear about what affect they think wearing something cropped will have.

You’ll also encounter advice from experts that is directly contradictory to other experts. For example, this article’s expert suggests petite folks should indeed wear cropped items, and high-waisted pants (something that’ll visually cut your torso into different proportions).

For me the fact remains: I love wearing crop tops, like the way I look and feel when I wear them, and I don’t think they make me look shorter, squat or in a proportion that’s displeasing. Your ideas and preference may vary! I mention this to illustrate how being armed with a thorough sense of what YOU want and an eye to critically dissecting advice means you can sort through what IS and what IS NOT for you.


I’m going to very quickly touch on aesthetics here, as we’re traipsing toward that territory and I think it’s a good line to draw when thinking critically about these types of advice articles that can ultimately be body shaming and harmful to our sense of worth.

I’d like to go further in depth about aesthetics next week, using art and symbols as a sort of neutral territory, but for now keep in mind that some of these pieces of advice are such because they assume your aesthetic end-goal is the same as theirs. This business about “don’t wear crop tops because they make you look shorter” may indeed have merit in an aesthetic basis. I may very well appear shorter if I wore something like that because of the proportion that cropped line would visually “cut” my body in to.

The questions we have to poke at are do I care if it makes me look shorter, do I agree that it makes me look shorter, and what are the other factors happening in my own personal array of shapes and sizes that affect this advice?

For example: I happen to like the aesthetic of crop tops for myself because, even though I’m short, having that visual line run across the smallest part of my torso gives me a curvy shape that I’m quite happy with. And to be frank, this aligns culturally with the preference for women to have this sort of shape. Aesthetics and personal taste. It’s up to you.

Me, breaking some petite styling advice

Look at this photo: what do YOU think? And of course remember, I don’t care what you think, nor should you care what I think. Dress for your own joy, not someone else’s oppressive thoughts about what you should want. Be critical of that “need” language that pops up so much in this sort of advice. It’s insidious, so easy to read, take in, and have pick away at your sense of self.

First decide what YOU want your goal to be. If you agree that you want to look taller, then this is the advice for you. But if you don’t agree, don’t let it make you feel you have to want to be taller –  you NEED to be taller.

Getting into the Advice Articles

In a rare instance of a petite styling tips article that I think is pretty open and pretty much free of body shaming language and assumptions is this one from Buzzfeed. I appreciate how it takes a practical approach to some of these tips (ie: layers can cover some ill fit, don’t be afraid to take scissors to unwanted details), and I really appreciate that some of that “general rule” advice they give is actually explained. For example, “Cuffed sleeves (and a quick tuck) can break things up and emphasize shape” tells you why it’s making that suggestion, and the functional outcome of it. Same with this line, which I think you can imagine my crop-top-loving little heart fully agrees with: “Pair a fitted crop top with high-waisted skirts or shorts, says Gordon. This can help balance both halves without sacrificing shape.”

One of the consultants for that Buzzfeed article is Kelly of Alterations Needed. Her website is easy to navigate and thorough, but as with anything

Jean Wang of Extra Petite has a useful alterations section, where she outlines the way she alters off-the-rack clothes for her own petite body.

Sarah from Curvily is a petite plus fashion blogger who shares her OOTD and has a handy shopping guide that includes discussion on trends and fit with topics like “best plus size rompers of 2017” (find a great interview with Sarah here on the Curvy Fashionista)

This article includes shopping tips for petites from popular petite fashion bloggers, including some of the women we’ve mentioned above:

Kelly: Find a tailor in your area who understands your petite needs. It’ll make shopping easier when you know your tailor can work a few miracles for your figure!

Jean: Don’t limit yourself to solely the petite department. Train your eye to look for petite-friendly signs—I’ve found lots of gems in regular sizing. For instance, go for items that appear to be three-quarter length on models as these often fit well on a smaller frame.

Nadia:  before any shopping trip. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to go up a size and have a seamstress tailor the item to your body. That’s what I often do.

Find a list of other petite fashion bloggers here on Buzzfeed.

Jessica Torres has a fantastic post recently here on her blog where she wore “what she wasn’t supposed to” for her body type and felt fantastic in the outfit.


Do you follow any fashion bloggers?



#KnitPetiteProject: What should we look for in off-the-rack clothes?

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