Calling Petite ITs: Dressing DD

My daughter is about to turn 15. A long-confirmed tomboy, she is now starting to show signs of developing her style. But she's running up against the usual obstacles: Lack of clarity on what she is after, and fit issues. 

In the past month, she has gone from wearing square-cut boys' t-shirts and BF jeans or cargo shorts to wearing plaid shirts (sometimes layered over a tank) and BF jeans. It may not sound like a big step, but for her it is huge! 

Now we're working on a few other options.  And I'd love to hear your thoughts about brands, styles to try, etc. 

At just a fraction of a cm. taller than me, she's not a true petite....but pretty close to it. And she IS a true IT. It's really, really odd. If you measure our shoulders across, you get the SAME MEASUREMENT. If you measure our shoulders AROUND, that's where things get different. Her upper arms are broad and muscular.

I now have direct evidence of that distinction Angie draws between "square" shoulders and "broad" shoulders. Mine are square; hers are broad.

So where I take an XS in a top from a place like the GAP, she needs a Large in anything woven or her arms will be restricted in movement, and because she is otherwise relatively slim and small busted, the Large is then very loose in the body and long in the sleeves. Thank heavens she likes the oversized BF look.

She can do with a Medium in most knits, which work a bit better. 

Her body type is not unlike Kellygirl's, I suspect, so I've been looking eagerly at Kelly's posts!  But any specific recommendations will really help. 

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.


  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Kelly and I are built very similarly although I'm shorter than her.  My biggest suggestion is drape!  Draped or dropped shoulders are so flattering and don't have to be so "precise".  The oversized look is very IT-friendly, as you know.

    Jersey fabrics and other knits are wonderful!

    Also, items with swing are flattering.  Basically I am instantly attracted to anything with a triangle shape silhouette as it's the opposite of me and provides balance.  Tunics and skinnies or A-line skirts and dresses....

  • jackiec replied 6 years ago

    Hi Suz,

    Sorry I'm not any help at all - but isn't that so crazy that you could have the exact same measurement across the shoulders!?

    So no advice, but just chiming in that my boys are 12 & 13 and are becoming so difficult to dress, mostly because of sizing. They are no longer in the boys section but are a wee bit small for the men's section. We are in pre-teen/teen no-man's-land.

    Good luck and hopefully some ITs will be able to help out. Your daughter is lucky to have such a super stylish mom to help her out ;)

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Thanks, Una! Yes -- I should probably think in these terms: If it will look awful on me, it will look awesome on her!  

    Although I also wear dropped shoulders well. 

    She is kind of funny about anything that looks too "fashiony" -- so I will have to tread carefully, I suspect.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Just to add, for bottoms she will look great in cargo pants.  Anything that other women groan about "adding to their hips" will be great on her. 

    When I took my pear-shaped friend shopping I basically forced her to try everything I can't wear (fitted blouses, va-voom pencil skirts, anything with a nipped in waist) and it all looked amazing.  But I don't think you are the opposite of IT since you share some of the hallmarks (straight shoulders!)...

  • Aziraphale replied 6 years ago

    Not an IT, but I have some qualities that overlap with that body type. I'll add: stay away from dainty footwear. For the same reasons that cargo pants look good on the IT frame, chunkier shoes and boots tend to work. Luckily your daughter is a tomboy. Lots of short boots -- motorcycle styles in particular -- will look great on her, and probably suit her taste!

  • Carole replied 6 years ago

    I'm a "Tall" IT but I think the basic flattery guidelines apply to both. I have had great luck finding flattering tops lately at places like the Gap, Banana Republic....fluid, batwing, draping necklines, tunics etc. all are silhouettes that flatter broad shoulders. It's been fairly fun lately dressing a body type that used to be challenging because there are so many "fluid" top options right now. Some of the oversize cocoon type cardigans would seem to work well, too, as long as they weren't too long. Add in the skinny or straight bottoms and we are set. I have a few pinned lately on my Pinterest page but I'm having trouble copying them here.

  • Debbie replied 6 years ago

    I have a suggestion. Take her to her favorite store. Try to find a sales associate that has a similar style to your daughter. Let her try on anything that strikes her you can edit in the dressing room. The sales associate can to a tremendous help because they are not the Mom.
    My youngest has broad shoulder and muscular arms. She will sometimes buy woven shirts in the boys dept.

  • cinnamon fern replied 6 years ago

    I am not really an IT - although I am borderline petite - but I think I often run into a similar fit issue.  Fitted tops and jackets pull under the arms in back and in the bicep even if there's plenty of room (or too much room) elsewhere.  Tops cut to be fluid through the body and fitted through the shoulder are particularly vexing in this regard.

    I think this comes from a top being cut too small across the upper back.  This puts the armholes in the wrong place and causes pulling in the sleeves.  Mall stores that are particularly bad for this fit issue for me are Madewell, J Crew, and the Gap.  (BR is much better, haven't tried ON.) 

    As for stores that work well that a 15 year old might shop at - that's harder. 
    Is there Uniqlo in Canada?  I have three great woven shirts from them (the IDLF range).  Also, if she doesn't object to gear brands, they tend to work well and be comfortable - try Prana, Under Armour, and North Face.

  • thimblelina replied 6 years ago

    Oh I know that figure well! In my 20s I was about 105 at 5'6" & I only bought my suits at ann taylor because they were sold as separates. I would get a 2 or 4 for the bottom & an 8 jacket. Today I'm generally an 8 or 10 on the bottom & a 12 in blouses & jackets. All to accommodate my shoulders! Get her used to the notion of tailoring if necessary, especially dresses. The best dresses for me at that age were relatively bare & unstructured up top, then I could layer a cardigan or shawl over as needed. Kim Catrall of Sex & The City and princess Charlotte of Monaco both have this body type & they are lovely. The middleton sisters have it to some degree too.

  • replied 6 years ago

    This is interesting. The experiences I had with my own DD - now 18 - while she was at that age were like this: " need new jeans, leggings, etc honey? "   "Yes."  "Ok, off to the mall?"  " Sure."   Into one , maybe two stores. Picks out a few things, very decisive, I didn't interfere.   Pay, go home. Easy.  She had her mind made up about what she wore, and it was pretty much the uniform of high school girls city-wide:  jeans, sweats, Lulu tights, hoodies, cardis and tanks, adidas shower sandals and sox.  (when not wearing those horrific UGGS - thank god that trend is done) .  Her body type didn't always suit what she wore, but I said nothing.  As long as she was appropriately covered, I stayed out of it.  Interestingly, she has an excellent eye, and often now tells me what to do :)  There were very few girls at that age interested in expressing themselves with fashion - which was a blessed relief, financialy. 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Thanks, all. 

    Lisa, I do think my daughter is influenced by her peers, for sure -- and most of them are not "into fashion" in a high-end way (thank goodness for my wallet!!) but most have a clearer idea of what they want than she does. It's never been an interest of hers until now. It's like she woke up and suddenly recognized: Wait a minute here, I look WEIRD! I better go find some stuff that looks better on me! ;)

    Oh, and I am joining you on the demise of Uggs worn as winter boots. Was there ever a stupider boot for the Canadian winter? I know that the brand actually makes some amazing real boots, like those very cool Cortonas. But those slipper boot things worn outdoors? UGG is the word for it!! 

    Thimbelina, she is still too tomboy to venture a dress but I will definitely keep that in mind. How thrilled her grandmother would be to see her dress up one day!! 

    CF, that is fantastic advice. We don't have Uniglo in Kingston for sure but I think there is one in Toronto; I can check. And just to hear that some brands work better than others is helpful. What you describe is exactly the issue. It's pulling across the back, and/or the underarms are not in the right place somehow. If BR is better than Gap I might be able to find her a few things there -- sweaters and such. Though, alas, it is also pricier...

    Debbie, that is a great idea. I think her favourite store so far (based on her peers' preference for it) is Urban Outfitters, and we have one downtown. 

    And I LOVE the suggestion to try the boys' department for shirts. Brilliant. She does have one boys' shirt already (inherited from me) and it works well on her. 

    Carole, thank you. Yes, I love the fluid tops around now, and it's nice to see that she can wear some necklines that don't work so well on me. In the past she was too modest to show that much skin, but now she is okay with it. 

    Aziriphale, thank you! That is wisdom. Luckily she loves chunkier footwear. Her  faves right now are a pair of Blundstone chisel toes. They look good on her. 

    Jackie, thanks for commiserating, and right back at you! It's tough dressing tweens. 

  • UmmLila replied 6 years ago

    My daughter turned 15 last month as well. She's not an IT. I'm not sure what she is, but on the slender side. She already has very defined tastes in clothing, pretty much always has, and often leans towards dressy (for example she is a fan of pleated maxi skirts), but today went out in plaid shirt, cardigan, skinny jeans and grey oxfords.

    Her favored shopping destinations are Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, some American Eagle, some Aeropostale, some Zara and ASOS online.

    There are three pairs of Uggs in her closet that she will never wear again, having determined that the end of middle school was the end of Uggs.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    It sounds like the Eastern seaboard uniform is plaid shirts for teens right now. Well, plaid shirts we can find, so that is a plus! Thanks, Ummlila, for the brand recommendations! 

  • DonnaF replied 6 years ago

    My DD21 (almost!) is very much an IT but has a somewhat girly style.  Pray that your DD never wants/needs a conservative woven blazer; the tailoring cost would not be warranted for a kid's changing tastes.  Sweaters and other knits are their friends.  I haven't seen slouchy bottoms reach DD's set other than (horror of horrors) pjs.  They seem to wear yoga pants as pants.  :(

    IMHO, a big challenge is finding appropriate stores -- better quality than F21 but not skewing too *old* or preppy from their perspective, IOW, just about everything else.  Since they stepped up their fashion game, I think DD likes Target, and it's at a price point she can afford.  She has a bit of a fast fashion/throwaway mentality when it comes to clothing, so I don't see pushing her to buy better quality for the long haul.  :(

  • Elly replied 6 years ago

    I'm not a true IT (because I'm busty and have hips and a booty) but I have broad shoulders-- I can end up being 2 sizes bigger in jackets and wovens than I am in knits. My suggestions are to look for "blouses" in soft and stretchy fabrications like knits, flannels, corduroy and denim with stretch, and some soft crepe and chiffon fabrics if she wants a few my styles to try. She would also look great in all the sassy sweatshirt styles out now. If I was a teen today with a tomboy style I would mix girl-next-door with rocker chic but keep it simple. If you think she is done or mostly done growing (I fit the same clothes for the most part from 15-19 until in my early 20s when I hit that final female milestone of bust increase and hip widening) I would invest in some moderately priced pieces she will likely wear day in and day out for years (wool coat, leather jacket thrifted or got for a steal in a swingy moto style, knit moto jacket, nice sneakers, booties), then stick to old navy, AE, and Forever 21 for the rest of the pieces--- flannel shirts, tees, tee-type blouses, sweatshirts with good shape. I would also consider introducing her to accessories with a couple "cool" belts to wear with jeans, maybe a leather cuff, and several hat options if she will wear one on the way to and from school in the winter. Plus, I think it is hugely important to have a set of clothes that can look appropriate for school presentations (slacks and a dressy blouse plus good shoes), and another set (or variation on the first) that looks special for "party" attire-- even if it is just really nice jeans with a special top (black straight leg jeans, booties, a rayon sweatshirt with a metallic foil logo and her  leather jacket and leather cuff).

  • Neelie replied 6 years ago

    I will watch this thread with interest as my dd is a bit younger and smaller but has a similar aesthetic...I am always on the hunt for not too feminine and very comfortable clothing, but that are still appropriate for various situations.  Casual is easy but dressier events are a struggle.

  • Joy replied 6 years ago

    Have you tried Old Navy? I was there yesterday looking at the plaid shirts and I have shoulders like yours. I had to size up to a medium. The SA said the shirts will shrink in length and arm length, so I have my fingers crossed.
    Individual shirts fit me differently through the shoulders ( bad quality control?)

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Joy, yes, we have been to Old Navy and she got one shirt there. (Like the one in Angie's finds, except she chose the grey version vs. the pink and red.) She also got a puffy vest and a pair of BF jeans there. 

    Neelie, it's definitely a challenge finding non-feminine but not downright 'boy' clothes for girls!

    Elly, those are great suggestions, thank you. We found her a pleather jacket at the thrift store; it's not the most beautiful thing in the world, but she thinks she looks amazing in it, LOL. I agree 100% about the "dressy" options, also. Even if you don't wear dresses, you still need to look respectable for certain events. I just got her a pair of dress trousers (at Old Navy, again) and a white button up shirt, which she needs for her tae kwon do tournaments if she is officiating as a referee. She still needs a dressier style of blouse -- this seems to be the big challenge at the moment, but I am on the hunt. 

    Donna, you're right that it's tough to find decent quality at a reasonable price point. I don't think DD has a throwaway mentality (yet) - but that might change as she gets more into this. 

    Thanks, all, for your help! 

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Sweaters! Good thing it's getting chilly out. Sounds like loose sweaters would be perfect for her shape.

    I was also going to suggest shopping the men's section for woven shirts - or possibly boy's. My shoulders are somewhere between yours and your daughter's, and men's flannel shirts can be quite reasonable on me.

    I'd also try to find an assortment of basic tops with different necklines (scoop, ballet, turtleneck, etc) and see what looks best on her.

    And definitely avoid the Juniors section. My arms never fit their tops even at that age.

  • L'Abeille replied 6 years ago

    I have your daughter's shoulders. I too was going to recommend you try the boys'/mens' depts. (What a shame, when she's finally expressed interest in NOT dressing just like the boys.)

    Then I remembered... Joe Fresh shirts
    fit me really well. To the extent that I have been prepared to order their silk shirts online, something I'm always afraid to do if I'm not really sure of fit. They to have a "Black Friday" weekend sale online. They have a good variety of basic women's shirts--always some plaid versions--and I have been pleased with the quality.

  • Gigi replied 6 years ago

    I don't have any real advice, but reading jackiec's post made me wonder about shopping in the men's section for your daughter. I would suspect that men's tops are probably made for broader shoulders and a smaller chest. But depending on what style your DD is going for, this may not work.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    These are all great ideas, thank you! Gigi, you hit the nail on the head! I think for some shirts it will work just fine. 

    L'Abeille, I know, eh? And here I thought I was finally going to get her into something slightly feminine, sigh....  ;)  But the suggestion to try Joe Fresh is brilliant!! All I have to do is go to Loblaw's for that! Thank you so much; I will check them out. 

    Greyscale, you made me laugh. We had a few awful moments in the Juniors' Department at Winner's about a month ago. She looked at me in horror when she couldn't even get an XL on. "Mom....what's going on? I'm not that big!!"  

    "It's not you, it's the clothes," I muttered, as I hastily shoved her back into the Misses department. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    Hi Suz! I had the distinct pleasure of taking my DD's BFF shopping for her back to school wardrobe. Also a bit of a tomboy, she is a gorgeous IT and insisted on button-front shirts. Finally, we found some knit ones, some with raglan shoulders, that gave here the button-front vibe she wanted, while giving her a lot more ease than a woven shirt would have done. Maybe some of your local stores will have these? They seem to be fairly popular, and they don't look too "fashiony"  either, to my eye. Good luck! And congratulations for the progress she has made already!

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    One caveat with the men's section - any shirts that are fitted and euro-style will probably not fit her hips no matter how narrow. I can wear all my boyfriend's jeans, and his tees are fine on me, but his size XS fitted shirts don't button over my hips. It's fine if I size up for an oversized look, or buy American cut shirts.

  • kellygirl replied 6 years ago

    Lots of great suggestions here. In fact, I'm taking notes! Shopping for the IT can be so frustrating (try it times 3!) If it fits in the shoulders, it fits no where else--is me, DD1 and DD2 in a nut shell.  I've pretty much thrown in the towel when it comes to woven button downs but I love CC's idea of the mixed media button down. Raglan sleeves are awesome and so are the slanted sleeve and dolman.  Those are styles that get us. Knits are the way to go for sure. DDs have had shoulder success at Hollister (dolman/dropped sleeve sweaters,) Brandy Melville (stretchy knit tops,) Express (knit tops), Uniglo for plain tees especially the short sleeve dolmans and F21/H&M for the drapey fashion tees. In terms of things that work well on them--knit peplum tops if they hit at the right spot and skater style skirts seem to have enough fullness to balance their shoulders. The "skinny" at Hollister is cut like a straight leg and is very flattering without being a "boot" cut (which is not in style at their school.) Skinnies with knit tunics and boots work too (mine wear the Ugg--I know.) 

    So glad I saw this post. Picked up a new foster yesterday and have been extremely busy. Hope DD and you get sorted!

  • Glory replied 6 years ago

    I have 13 and 15 year old DDs. I can still sometimes pick up a thing or 2 for the 13 year old and she will enjoy it but haven't been able to shop for my older daughter in several years. I can go with her but she picks her own items. She has a very casual style.
    Her favourite places to shop include: Aritzia (not often due to high price point), Joe Fresh, Sirens (you have to pick but they have some great unique tops and sweaters), Garage (but less often because many of the gals shop there and then all have the same top), Winners, Target, Sportcheck, Sport Experts.

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