Brick & Mortar Love: Shirt Tales & Petite Pants Pranks

In a thread a while back, Unfrumped said: "in the "real" store you can touch, feel, see before you purchase and if you go to different stores and departments within a store, it becomes easier to compare items literally side-by-side, or at least via recent memory."

A few months ago, I had the rare opportunity to shop for a couple of hours in Toronto. I had to return my Zara moto and my badly fitting Brooks Brothers shirt. I also visited Ann Taylor. That was about all I had time for, unfortunately, but it was highly educational all the same.

I discovered quite a lot about fit in both Brooks Brothers and Ann Taylor. Some of what I learned is relevant to Laura's recent slouchy pants threads. ( So, my musings, in case they are of value to anybody else.

First, Brooks Brothers.

I had wanted one of their non-iron shirts for a long time. Over the phone, after discussion and the trading back and forth of measurements, customer service determined I should wear a petite fitted shirt size 2 or possibly a 4P if it were a tailored fit. I ordered a 2P. We saw the result of that in an earlier thread. The shirt is WAY too short.

(Evidence, Pic. 1) I ended up keeping the striped version simply because I can use it with skirts. But now, having been to the B&M store, I know my true size.

I tried on many, in both petites and regular.

Lo and behold, the best fit (except, predictably, for the sleeve length) was 2 regular in a tailored shirt (vs. the fitted style). The sleeves are not SO long that they look ridiculous full length, and since I scrunch them most of the time anyway, it really isn't an issue. (Pics 2 & 3)

Discovery #1: I can wear a regular shirt at Brooks Brothers -- despite being on the upper edge of petite height, and quite short waisted.

Second: Ann Taylor

In the past, I have had some success with Ann Taylor petites. I have a 4P jacket from them that fits perfectly, and also a silk blouse in that size. The sleeves and shoulders on both are ideal, and while the blouse is perhaps a bit loose in the body, it's loose in a good way. (Or so I think!)

On my shopping trip, because I *could* do so, I tried on both petites and regulars in a different silk blouse.

And here is what I discovered. The 4P blouse fit okay; in fact, the SA saw it and said, "That's a good fit." Which it was.

But the 0 regular fit much BETTER, except that the sleeves were a tiny bit long. Not a huge amount long, just a little bit too long. Not a problem for someone who always scrunches, and in any case, they can be folded back, like a French cuff.

Discovery #2: I can wear a regular shirt in AT! Yay! This expands my shopping options, so I am happy.

I also tried on a dress. I didn't compare the petite and regular. Just tried the regular size…and it fit!

Discovery #3: I can wear a regular dress in AT. Yippee! Another expansion.

In future I would like to compare dresses and see which is the best. I imagine it might depend on the particular style.

Lest anyone think that I'm simply a regular sized person who has been deluding herself that she's a petite, I can provide some counter-evidence in the form of Banana Republic, where the petite version of any top or jacket or skirt or dress will ALWAYS fit me better than the regular sized version.

Having said that, I NEVER wear petite pants, from ANY maker.

Umm…EXCEPT for Ann Taylor!

I have a pair of modern fit skinny jeans from AT in petite that I really like. Thing is, they are on the slightly slouchy side…probably a size up from my actual size (but I bought them just after I lost weight when I had no idea about my size). They fit quite snug when I put them on but an hour later the crotch point is sort of creeping lower a bit and they get a slightly looser look. To tell the truth, I don't mind it.

So, while I was at AT, I tried on pants in regular sizes. I figured, if the blouse and dress fit in regulars, won't the pants fit in regulars, too?

Um…no. They do not. Or at least I did not discover a pair that did. They were either too big, or just not proportioned correctly for me.

What I DID discover was that if I size UP in petites at AT, I get a fun, slightly slouchy look. And so that is how I bought my print pants. I think they are intended to be more snug, but I preferred the slight looseness. If I had sized up even further, as Laura did, I might have found a pair that would offer me super-slouch.

Discovery #4: I CAN sometimes wear petite pants!

I also tried on pants at J. Crew. Sarah had suggested I try the Matchsticks for slouchy skinnies. But alas, no go. They look okay in my actual J. Crew size (which I only discovered today) but a size or two up they just look stupid, not nicely slouchy at all but hugely baggy and ill fitting.

I also tried the Gap "Original Fit" in (what I think) is my actual size. Cinnamon Fern wears hers to perfection and I love them so much on her I wanted to try them out myself. But I would have to size down for them to work at all, and they probably wouldn't work then, either.

So the hunt for the perfect slouchy skinnies continues. In the meantime, I do have my great distressed BF jeans from BR, with their moderate slouch, plus my super-slouchy ones from Gap.

Thank you for bearing with this musing, and I hope it is of some benefit to somebody out there!

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Transcona Shannon replied 7 years ago

    This is beyond brilliant Suz. And a fantastic explanation for someone who is technically petite but doesn't always fit petite sizes.

    It really does mean trying on several sizes in different lengths to find the one that works for you and that means being in the actual store. You can't do this kind of leg work via internet shopping.

    Now if only Winnipeg would get an Ann Taylor or a Brooks Brothers, etc. so I could do that rather than take my chances via ordering...

  • replied 7 years ago

    Bricks and mortar for the win! It's absolutely astounding the differences in the brands and sizing. It seems that it really pays to play around with sizes and cuts if at first you don't get the look you were going for. You're really being the boss of your clothes Suz and I appreciate all of the good ideas.

    The fit of the printed skinnies is really spot on. I like what you did with them. And that taupe sweatshirt is so luxe on you! I hope you found a BB shirt that works for you. For the record, Old Navy button front shirts are always just a tiny bit small for me in the shoulders and the sleeves are just a little too short (in size small); maybe they would be a good fit for you (my BB shirt is a 2reg as well and fits perfectly).

  • Freckles replied 7 years ago

    Brilliant Suz, thanks so much for sharing.

    Even if we are proportioned differently I think your experience has taught us to really sometimes try things we never really think of.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Great suggestion, Claire - I will give it a try.

    I know...that inexpensive taupe sweatshirt is getting a lot of wear. It will wear *out* by next autumn, but maybe I'll be able to replace with a higher quality one then. I do like the drape, which comes from its being linen.

    And it definitely pays to try different sizes and cuts, as I am learning. It can make shopping a slow and laborious process, especially in Canada, where typically, petites are not even available in store (BR and BB and AT being partial exceptions).

    Shannon, you are just going to have to arrange a shopping trip to Toronto.....

    ETA: Freckles, so true. Angie is right - leave no retail stone unturned.

  • Asingh replied 7 years ago

    White shirt in photo no. 2 looks great and those skinniest have a great fit.

  • Inge replied 7 years ago

    This is very, very useful info, Suz, thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us. And it proves once and again that you have to keep trying things on, that sizes can vary so much from brand to brand (and different styles within on brand), and yes, it's so incredibly handy to be able to visit a brick-and-mortar store and do all the experimenting in one sitting (and take notes for future online purchases). You'll be able to order online with much more confidence now, and that new BB shirt fits fantastically!

  • Sylvie replied 7 years ago

    Suz, this is a fantastic analysis. I have (somewhat painfully) gone through a similar process myself. I typically need to try on four (!) sizes to figure out what will fit me best. Two from regular and two from petite.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Thanks, Sylvie. It is some comfort to know I'm not alone. In future, I think that's pretty much what I'm going to do, too, unless I absolutely know the brand already. I remember some of your posts last year where you compared a petite and a regular version of a top or a skirt and those were always fascinating. For some of us, I guess we will always be compromising a little bit somewhere (unless we go for alterations or get lucky with a specific maker.)

    Inge, thank you! And yes, I feel good at least knowing what size of BB shirt to buy!

    Thanks, Asingh!

  • Laura replied 7 years ago

    Suz, I admire your research and intrepid reporting. Capitalize on it as much as you can right now, because manufacturers seem to change their sizing all the time!

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Great post, very educational. Loved to read it!
    Could it be you fit regular sizes in tops better because you are long torso?

  • Sveta replied 7 years ago

    Suz, you are the best reporter from the "fashion trenches"!
    Actually I don't think the sleeves on your BB shirt are too long - I would love mine to be this length but it never happens...:-)
    That's why BB shirts are not for me...until they make them in Tall sizes... if you need regular in them I have no hope whatsoever!

  • Debora replied 7 years ago

    Thanks for your wonderful analysis, Suz! I have several malls within driving distance, so most of my shopping is down in brick and mortar stores. I had no idea how difficult it must be for those of you who don't have the selection of stores available, and how especially frustrating it must be jumping between petite and regular sizes. Also, how interesting to see the vast size differences between brands and stores. I have to think that men must have it so much easier than we do when it comes to sizing. Thanks so much for sharing - this was a great read,

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Sveta, you are right. I was actually thinking of you when I tried the shirt. Very frustrating. I know that Kyle also wanted to order one, but I am not sure it is long enough for her.

    Krish, I don't actually have a long torso it turns out. I always thought I did, but in fact I am short-waisted but average torso overall; in other words, my rise is long proportionate to my waist placement, but my overall torso length is proportionate. And my legs, that I always believed were short, are not really short; they just aren't long. I do have rather short CALVES which can make the overall leg look shorter.

    Laura, you are SO right. I'll just figure it out and they will change things up!

    ETA: Debora, thank you for your kind thoughts. Yes, those who have a good selection of real stores are SO lucky!

  • ManidipaM replied 7 years ago

    Woah! This IS an education! Even though, like Sylvie, I've gotten used to trying about four sizes of pants and at least two in tops... all without petite sizes. I guess petite really isn't for every petite person---I find it notoriously difficult to fit P sizes myself, even when I meet them elsewhere in Asia.

    Problematic for people who actually hate going into a store and can't decide on the spot; but life does get easier when you can get size sussed out in-store, even if you then order online... Though here, there are few brands I can buy online, I daresay you and Shannon might prefer my problem to a scarcity of brick-and-mortar stores in the neighbourhood! Mostly, for me, it means two shopping trips---tiresome!--- because after all the trying on... I'm too exhausted to decide and buy, and I stay tetchy till the decision is in the bag, so to speak!

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Wow, Suz, my body bears resemblances to yours, I wonder if it could also be my case... I always thought I was a long torso short legs gal. I know that I have the same rise situation as you, from previous posts. And my natural waist is very high (on a long torso!). Is that what you mean?
    How did you figure this out?

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Krish, I went to Imogen's site and did the measurements she gives to discover proportions. I had no idea I was short waisted; it was a new discovery. Here is the instruction video: http://www.insideoutstyleblog......tions.html

    Admittedly, it is difficult to measure ourselves perfectly accurately. So there is still a chance that my legs are a bit on the short side, as I had always imagined. But the proportion problem is far less than I thought. It just tends to look that way due to the short calves, and relatively long mid-body area, plus the fact that I have a very large head. That is the most disproportionate aspect of me, it turns out!

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Fantastic! Doing it right now!

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Wow, did it! I'm so surprised my legs are proportioned! But my rise is long because the break is a bit lower than the string reaches. Waist: short, like her. Bust: long. (Horrible to put those two words so close together, sad by sad).

    But I still think that I am long torsoed, simply maybe not so short legged.

    How instructive! Thank you so much for this.

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