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Stores eliminating petite clothing?

AmyC | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Last week, the New York Times ran an article describing how high-end department stores (Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Saks 5th Ave)
are eliminating or drastically cutting back their petite departments. They’re not interested in catering to the 50-something professional who buys from those departments, because after all, they can always buy regular sizes and pay to have them altered. Younger petite women, apparently, prefer the ‘sexier’ styles available in the regular sections.

This article generated a slew of letters to the editors from professional women who are angry about the decision of the stores.

Did anyone else see this? When I read the article and the response, I thought “What a great opportunity for a custom clothier” — these women want clothes that fit properly, they already buy high-end clothes, and it seems like it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them that the extra cost of a custom-clothier is not as high as it seems, when you throw in alterations, and, with the benefit of a truly good fit, it would be worth it. I have no idea, though, how much a custom sewer would charge for clothes in a professional wardrobe.

What do you think?


  1. mjorymer | | #1

    The Today Show also featured a segment on this development and interviewed several women who buy petite clothes.  One of them said, "I guess I'll have to learn to sew my own clothes."  Another commented, "it's not fair that we have to take our clothes to a tailor."  

    There are probably many opportunities for custom clothiers to market to women in this size group for alterations and for custom made garments.

    Marijo Rymer

    VP Public Relations

    Professioinal Association of Custom Clothiers 

    1. Musicmaker | | #2

      I am a petite who has been frustrated by the lack of stylish clothing in many of the petite departments lately, especially in anything other than sportwear and separates. I learned to sew for myself before the advent of petite clothing, which is obviously a good thing. Maybe this will bring others back to sewing and increase the number of fabric stores available...one can only hope!

    2. AmyC | | #7

      Marijo,Have you thought about writing a letter to the Times about the custom clothier option for petite women? They've published several letters so far on the subject, and none of them have mentioned custom clothiers for petite women. Amy

  2. PASDENOM | | #3

    Even moderate price department stores used to do alterations, for a fee, of course. Seems now mass production means we all have to be the same size or are simply out of luck.

    1. mjorymer | | #4

      It is possible to find good alterationists and custom garment makers.  Custom sewing and fitting expertise is not inexpensive, of course.  Neither is good plumbing or good lawyering or good quality brick laying.  Sometimes the Target shirt is just fine, but at other times we want quality and fit and we have to pay for it.


  3. Beanhi | | #5

    Not only are petite sections shrinking, my favorite store Petite Sophisticate closed a couple of months ago. Apparently they were purchased and the new owners didn't choose to keep it open.

    On the bright side less time shopping gives more time to sew.

  4. marijke | | #6

    Because I live in a small town I don't get to shop much (no mall, only a Walmart), so I hadn't noticed.  I do, however, shop through catalogs and they seem to have plenty of petite sized clothing.   Did the article say it was just the stores or purveyors of women's RTW more generally?


    1. AmyC | | #8

      The article I read focussed on the high-end department stores, and the effect it will have on designers like Ann Claiborne, who will make fewer petite sized clothes if the stores shrink their petite sections.

      1. marijke | | #9


        I finally found a copy of the article online and it did indicate it was just the high-end retailers, but that sales of petite clothing overall were up. 

        It also seems an odd choice: if petite women want more stylish clothes, wouldn't it make more sense to begin making stylish things in petite sizes (rather than eliminating petite sizes altogether)?

        Maybe I just don't understand how retailers think...


  5. carolfresia | | #10

    I saw that article, too, and had the same thoughts: Great for those who sew, either for themselves or for others.

    On a recent trip to Hawaii, I spent some time shopping in a department store--I think it was Macy's. I was amazed at the size of the petites section: it was quite large. I then realized that this might be because there is such a large population of Asian women in Hawaii, as well as many tourists from Asia, many of whom have petite proportions. In fact, when I purchased a top at an independent shop in Honolulu's Chinatown, I was told to buy size XL, even though I probably wear a RTW 4 top usually. These clothes were cut specifically for the small frame of the Asian customer. Clearly, there's a market at least in Honolulu, for petite clothes!

    Sewing petite clothes has many advantages over simply altering regular sizes. You can take out length and width anywhere, not just at the hems, and you can also size down details like pockets and lapels to look better on a smaller figurer. Plus, it's astonishing how little fabric you need to make petite clothes! You can really splurge on the good stuff. It's much harder for a super-tall person, alas.


  6. mimi | | #11

    AmyC: They were talking about this today on The View; evidently enough customers complained that Saks is rethinking its planned closing of the Petite Department.


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