At five foot one – yes, that one inch is important – I know a thing or two about the challenges of dressing a petite figure.
I’ve been petite all my life – or ‘dainty’ as numerous people have described me, as if I were a china teacup or similar – and I’ve struggled to find clothes that fit and flatter all my life, too. Trawling the high street as a smaller-than-average woman has always been tricky and the frustration of it is nothing new. Or so I thought…
Until I hit 40, or thereabouts. Two things occurred around that time which made me reconsider my personal style and the way I shopped. Firstly, I became aware that, as the mother of small children, I no longer wanted to dress like a child myself.
To be clear: it wasn’t that I had a penchant for Disney princess dresses or cartoon character tops, but I’ll admit to relying on children’s wear ranges for basics every now and then. Boys’ jeans, in particular, seemed to fit my straight-up-and-down shape (despite giving birth twice I never did acquire childbearing hips) and at the end of the day a white t-shirt is a white t-shirt, regardless of whether it’s age 12 or a size eight.
Often, shopping that way had added advantages, too; at a titchy size three, why would I pay more to buy women’s shoes when the equivalent sizing in a children’s store could be half the price? However, I was beginning to see that a bargain isn’t necessarily a bargain if the item falls apart. Or the zip breaks. Or if, after a month, the entire inside leg of a pair of trousers rips, very obviously, while you’re at work (a true story – don’t ask).
Which brings me on to my second point. The disposable, fast fashion stocked in most children’s and teenage ranges suited me fine throughout my 20s and 30s, but by 40 I began to expect more. My own style was maturing, as I started to veer away from current trends and towards a more classic, capsule wardrobe.
Finding my tribe online
Fashion magazines no longer inspired me and instead I turned my attention to style bloggers, particularly those like me: women of a certain age who wanted good-quality, timeless clothing from the high street.
The blogging world – including the micro-blogging community of Instagram – was an eye opener. Fellow mums were happy to chat about their bargain buys, while sharing discount codes and sale tip-offs for the higher-end, high street and catalogue brands.
I learnt loads, especially from other petite bloggers, who recommended vintage and online stores, as well as invaluable advice on altering clothes to fit. At last I’d found my people! Not fashion editors or journalists with a vested interest but ordinary women who wanted to look stylish and put-together in all areas of life, whether that be the workplace, on the school run or mucking in at soft play. Actually, I’ve never managed to look stylish at soft play but being on my hands and knees for most of the time means that (hopefully) my choice of clothes are overlooked…
So, the long and the short of it – what have I learnt? That my style has changed as I’ve got older, as have my expectations of the clothes I wear. Generally, I want long-lasting, classic pieces in good-quality fabrics (as well as the occasional throwaway fashion buy here and there!) and that, despite not being an average shape, I can still achieve my wardrobe of choice.
It just takes a little planning, a little shopping around and a little help from fellow fortysomethings who are going through the same thing.