What Petite Sizes Really Mean for Mother of the Bride Dresses

Dresses-on-Mannequins-220x141As seen in, “Huffington Post…

Many women think that “petite” means small, when in fact it doesn’t. There are a number of women who are short and plus size. They are often shocked to find out that they are “petite” — women’s petite.

 

What is a women’s petite?

Unfortunately, women’s petite is the most difficult specialty size to obtain. While petites in general have become increasingly more difficult to find, women’s petite have become the most difficult to find. It’s unfortunate that more manufacturers don’t realize what a large percentage of the population need women’s petites.

Of all the specialty sizes, I believe women’s petite makes the biggest difference in fit and in the end, appearance.

A regular women’s size won’t work on a petite, plus size woman. The proportions will be all wrong. The jacket will be too long, the bust line will be too low, the waist will be too long, the hips will hit in the wrong place and she will look like a little girl playing dress-up.

While most petite sizes will be shorter in length and have shorter sleeves, the length of the bodice is the major differentiator, as it’s the most difficult to correct for alterations.

 

Check the fit

Always look for excess fabric in the back — I refer to this as “bucokkling.” This is the telltale sign of needing a petite. I am amazed at how many women are oblivious to this. Brides, mothers and bridesmaids need to pay particular attention to this. You certainly don’t want to have this fit problem walking down the aisle — when everyone is staring at your back.

 

Alteration options

If you are unable to find a dress you like in women’s petite, which is quite likely to happen, there are some fixes:

• If the dress has straps, they can usually be pulled up to correct for the length in the bodice. Occasionally, the armhole may have to be cut deeper to allow the dress to be lifted properly. It is important to make sure that the straps aren’t shortened to the point where the bust points are no longer in their proper place.

• If the dress has sleeves and the back is buckling, the only option is to remove the sleeves, shorten the dress through the seam on the shoulders and sew the sleeves back on. The same applies to a jacket that is running too long waisted, as well. This would only apply to a long jacket and not a bolero jacket, as bolero jackets are already short. These alterations will prove to be more costly.

• Please note: There are certain styles in which it is impossible to shorten the extra length in the bodice. These are typically strapless gowns with no break in the bodice. A qualified consultant and/or seamstress should be able to guide you on this; but proceed cautiously, as I have seen many cases over the years where stores have assured women that this type of alteration could be performed when it actually couldn’t.

 

Styles to look for

An easier option than alterations is to look for less structured dresses and dresses with shorter, to the top of the hip, jackets. In this particular case it is important to remember that the more structured a garment is, the more alterations necessary to make it work for a woman who is either a petite or women’s petite.

 

Now that you know

With a bit of luck, perseverance and this knowledge, it is possible to find a dress perfectly suited to your proportions.

If you want to delve further into the exciting world of weddings, I invite you to tune into my new show Mother of The Bride premiering back-to-back episodes every Friday at 9 and 9:30 p.m. on Slice.

 

 

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“Petite” Only Means Small in French

When we talk about “petite” in fashion, we are referring to being short in stature. While you might argue that “petite” does in fact mean small, consider this: We have many women who are short and plus sized at the same time. 

It is sometimes difficult for me to convince short, plus sized women, that they are in fact “petite” – Women’s Petite.  

Women’s Petite is the most difficult specialty size to obtain, but probably makes the biggest difference in fit. Many times a regular women’s size will swallow up a Woman’s Petite. The proportions will be all wrong. The jacket and waist will be too long and she will look like a little girl playing dress-up.

Of course, most petite sizes will be shorter in length and have shorter sleeves. In my opinion, the length of the bodice is the major differentiator, as it’s the most difficult to correct for alterations.

Always look for excess fabric in the back – we refer to this as buckling. I am amazed at how many women are oblivious to this. You certainly don’t want to have a fit problem like that as you walk down the aisle. As I always tell all of my customers, “It’s the only time in your life that everyone is staring at your back.”

While Petites in general have become increasingly more difficult to find, Women’s Petite have become the most difficult to find. When I find them I grab them up. I am amazed that more manufacturers don’t realize what a large percentage of the population qualify for Women’s Petites.

If you are unable to find a dress you like in Women’s Petite, which is quite likely to happen, there are some fixes. If the dress has straps, they can usually be pulled up to correct for the length in the bodice. Occasionally, the armhole may have to be cut deeper to allow the dress to be lifted properly. It is important to make sure that the straps aren’t shortened to the point where the bust points are no longer in their proper place.

Please note: There are certain styles in which it is impossible to shorten the extra length in the bodice. These are typically strapless gowns with no break in the bodice. A qualified consultant and/or seamstress will be able to guide you on this; but proceed cautiously, as I have seen many cases over the years where stores have assured women that this type of alteration could be performed when it actually couldn’t.

If the dress has sleeves and is buckling, the only option is to remove the sleeves, shorten the dress through the seam on the shoulders and sew the sleeves back on. The same applies to a jacket that is running too long waisted, as well. This would only apply to a long jacket and not a bolero jacket, as bolero jackets are already short. These alterations will prove to be more costly.

An easier option is to look for less structured dress and dresses with shorter, to the top of the hip, jackets. In this particular case it is important to remember that the more structured a garment is, the more alterations necessary to make it work for a Women’s Petite. We have several styles that are not Women’s Petites that still work well for a short, plus sized woman, so they are not impossible to find.

With a bit of luck, perseverance and knowledge, you should be able to find a dress perfectly suited to your proportions.

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Smaller Is Not Always Better

I have a rule of thumb regarding sizing. Once you find your dress, buy it or order it in a size you could wear this weekend.

Almost all dresses can be made smaller. I don’t know of any social occasion dresses that are made to be let out. As I explain daily, this is a one-way street. These dresses have no seams and most of these fabrics are too delicate to be let out – not to mention the fact that beading realistically can’t be added.

It’s been my experience in dealing with customers that it’s difficult to predict where the weight will come off. Different body types lose weight differently. If the weight comes off your arms and face, but it’s still tight in the hips you’ve got a problem. 

There is another variable that should be considered. I have had customers who have had to be put on certain medications that have caused them to gain weight. If the dress is already too small, this can be catastrophic.

No matter how stunning the gown, an ill-fitting garment is never flattering. I want you to be remembered for all of the right reasons. If you lose weight, great! You can take the dress down. I want you to walk down the isle with confidence looking beautiful.

 

 

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