Sunday, September 15, 2019

P Words - Petite and Proportions

On the nightstand next to my side of the bed can always be found a few sewing magazines. It is my "go to sleep" reading. There is a mix but mostly they are from my collection of Threads. I have never regretted dragging those mags from home to home over the years. I know, I can get the DVD archive but I just love turning  pages and reading from them as they lay open and propped up on a pillow on my lap. A screen does not give me the same thrill. Besides, it is part of what they now call "sleep hygiene." Screens are not recommended for good sleep hygiene!

Lately I've been enjoying a batch from 2001. Wow, there were some serious and inspirational articles in that time frame, Threads at it's best! Just look at the titles listed on the cover! One article really caught my interest recently, so much so that I felt a blogpost might be the place to further discuss. The mag is issue #94, May 2001 and can be found starting on page 48. It is six pages long with lots of photos! The article is about fitting and styling for petite women. Four lovely women have been chosen and they are shown wearing their own clothing which have made and quite nicely. There are comments from them about how they like to dress and some great comments from the author, Karen Howland. 

Let's talk how petites dress and what looks best on us. I am no style expert and sometimes I just want to wear something I love that really does me no justice. I think we all have those pieces in our wardrobes. But I've lived with my five feet of height a long while and made lots of style booboos along the way.  I think I now have a good idea of what looks good with my size and coloring and how to make a pattern or design work for a petite. Frankly, I feel it's all about proportion. If the proportions are off, The perfect color won't fix that. This article reflects the patterns of the time, 2001, although I would wear the clothing of one of the women today but just change the colors and prints. I did actually find a lot about the garments similar to what women of the same ages shown are wearing currently.  Here are a few bullet thoughts triggered by the article. . I am not showing the pics from the magazine, copy write, respect for the women and all. You don't have to have read the article to get my gist. 

5'3" and beautiful Julianne Moore in a dress that is comfy and does nothing , NOTHING for her loveliness. 
  • Quite a few of the garments were quite voluminous, lots of fabric and draping and long. We see this today as well  in Lagen Look inspired patterns and clothing. IMHO, these garments swallow petite women. I tried some. They swallowed me and as much as I wanted to be the cool girl looking so artsy and like I just left the gallery, I ended up donating them all. Some were quite nice but really not doing the petite form justice. OK, some petites are short AND round but adding all that fabric just emphasizes that, IMO. Those styles can hide a lot but I have seen petite and curvy women who emphasize their curves and they look fabulous. Think fit and flare as one example. 
Sherry Shepard in a fit and flare dress that complements her beautifully. Now picture her all layered up in Lagenlook.
  • Because petites are short, their waists can seem more vertically centered than their taller sisters who may have longer legs or torsos. Looking at the Threads photos shows Bird Ross wearing a dress with a waistline just a little above normal. It just looks so good on her. I have seen this silhouette being used today and the painted top I just finished  has that "lifted" waistline. 

  •  Why does it work on petites? It gives length to the lower torso. Nothing looks good cut n half, people. When I did custom window design one of the first things I learned is to not cut the window in half. Dividing the space in thirds, fifths, or sevenths is far more interesting. Those 6 foot runway models with the blazers ending at the fingertips? That is probably a third of their length. On a petite that blazer divides the outfit in half, not a good look. 
I love this tucked in tee, great proportions and she is a curvy petite. 

That brings me to the biggy. Petites need to be aware to not divide themselves in half.  It's just not our best look. FWIW, I've done it more times than you'd think. I make a beautiful jacket, a lovely skirt, and what is wrong with this and why don't I want to wear it? Well, it cuts me in half and it just doesn't look that good even though the separates are beautiful on their own. 

Vogue 1644, show that crotch line, petites!

  • Petites are the Queens of the short top, the short jacket, worn with longer culottes, maxi skirts, long wide pants, yes. It's all about proportion. I had a pair of pants for years I wore till they fell apart and I got more compliments on those pants than any I've ever worn.  They were classic slant pocket, wide legged, almost floor scraping wool flannel pants.  The truth is that it wasn't the pants. It was the proportions of the outfit.  I ALWAYS wore them with a very short sweater, top or tucked in white, tailored shirt. My legs looked longer. I was not cut in half. I really think if you have a tummy or booty you can still wear a long skirt or pant with a shorter top like the one above. It doesn't have to be Brittany Spears short but just don't let it cut your body in half. Again, all about proportion for petite.  Raise that jacket hemline!
Vogue 9347

  • And one more comment about petite proportions: take that down to the details. Those big collars, capelets on the shoulders, pockets, etc.-----CUT THEM DOWN. Make them smaller like you are. Don't let those details wear you. Wear those details so you can shine in all your petiteness.  The grey top above is a perfect example. I would cut the collar height back maybe a half inch and definitely cut the cuffs back maybe a 1/4 inch as well. I would get the big buttons but probably in a color the same as the fabric. I almost always cut back any collar or pocket at least a quarter inch all around as the design allows. It makes a difference. Would you like to wear a voluminous dress, feel cool and flowey in the summer? I hear ya. Just cut it down so your not covered in what looks like your next load of laundry. Let yourself show. 

I would love to hear your comments on this subject or on the Threads article. Again, the clothing in the article reflects the times but Bird Ross has it all figured out. Her garments are quite different from the others but they look so great on her and SHE shines through. Being an artist she totally gets proportion and it shows in her clothing choices.  She was my fave of all the petites but I really appreciated how all the petites each had a very clear personal style.  I thank all the ladies in that article who so bravely put themselves forward and are all such incredible sewists! They are all beautiful! ..........................Bunny


  1. I'm a petite as well. Interesting post especially the point about the details like big collars. I recently finished the top from Vogue 1642 and in my blog post, I joked that I look like Mort from the Bazooka Joe comic series. On my five-foot-almost-one-inch frame that collar is overwhelming. If I took it down, maybe strategically placed some dart to give it some more shape, it may have been better for my petite shape. I still love the design, but there is something that I could improve on for my shape.

    1. Wow, I am so glad for your comments. I have this top in my queue as we speak. I had seen your blogpost and wondered if you did the longer or shorter version. I was debating about the "pleat" which really isn't a pleat behind the collar and whether I wanted to bother with it so the collar could open and lay flat. Hope you come back and see your comment. If not I will probably contact you. Thanks so much.

  2. Bunny, I plan to do exactly as you’ve stated with that Vogue pattern!

    I’m average height, a little over 5’5”, but I’m so thick that I’ve always felt shorter. Even 50lbs lighter I’ve had thick, muscular bicep, calves, and thighs. So I feel very squat if I don’t watch proportions.

    I think Lagenlook is so cute on some people, but do hate the implication that all older women want (need) super loose, layered looks.

    1. Agreed. I hate that many older women think thi loose layered look is all they look good in. I get dressing for comfort but some of the LL I have seen................

  3. Yes, Bunny, yes! I too am a staggeringly tall 5 foot nothing. I look at the big floaty loose tops and dresses and think they can look elegant, but know in my heart that I would look like a baby in swaddling wearing them.

    I find the same proportion advice is key for accessories too. Thise giant tote style purses that are currently in style make me look like I've packed for an entire weekend away.

    1. Yes and thanks for bringing that up. I admit that when I was working full time a big bag held a lot that I needed but now I enjoy a little cross body bag and the challenge of seeing what I can pack in that little bugger.

  4. 5'4" here. You are so right about the details! How many shirts have I not bought because the collar was out of proportion for me. I think you are totally right about the short top/jacket too, but I'm glad you said it the way you did because I tend to automatically think that my waist cuts me in half when actually I'm short-waisted and it definitely doesn't. I'm happy this proportion looks like it's going to be in fashion for a little while!

    1. Me, too. Shorter jackets and tops aren't always in style or they are too short a la Brittany Spears. Right now there are nice options. I love that Kathryn Brenne ensemble above.


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