All the Petite Ladies


All the Petite Ladies

Every day, people face discrimination due to their height. High school players get cut from basketball teams because they are too short. People are pushed to the back of the photo, or else forced to squat in the front. Not too long ago, a guy friend confessed to me that “tall girls” make him uncomfortable.

We renounce discrimination and shallow judgments as a society, yet we sort each other into lines and predict athletic ability based on height without a second thought. Both ends of the height spectrum certainly are judged, but coming from the short end, I will only voice the struggles of the petite. Frankly, there isn’t much to complain about being 5-foot-3 and under on its own; it’s society, specifically the fashion industry, that makes us feel short and limited.


While supermodels Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell have a few inches over her, Kate Moss was the “It” model of the 1990s, proving height does not determine modeling success. 1995

While it’s great to witness today’s constant conversation about diversifying body image, when I look at campaigns promising to depict “real women,” I still don’t see my height. Granted, Mattelthe oft-attacked enemy of self-esteemdid make a commendable effort by recently releasing a petite-sized Barbie. Yet Barbie is only a doll, and when you become an adult and actually realize you’re petite, you don’t really care about what she looks like.

It’s the fashion industry who deserves the blame, and if the industry’s already trying to loosen its standards, why not get rid of the height requirement for models? Rejecting someone because they are not at least 5-foot-9 is the most blatant discrimination, and honestly, a waste.

Sure, there’s an allure in towering over the crowd, but a lack of inches does not denote a lack of beauty. Models like Twiggy and Kate Moss — who were able to break into the fashion industry despite both being a mere 5-foot-7 — have become some of the most iconic. Besides, wouldn’t it be cheaper to make smaller clothes and shoes for the runway? You’re welcome, Valentino.

Petite Article Pull Quote

Beyond the runway, most brands still seem to consider it a hassle to make sizes for petites, so those like me are left without many options. There are normal stores, plus-size stores, and the petite/grandma section in department stores like Macy’s or J.C. Penney. Even among more contemporary brands that have a petite section, like ASOS or J. CREW, the selection often feels limited.


Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have established themselves as fashion icons with their ability to pull off oversized clothing despite their 5-foot-3 frames.

As a result, we stick with shopping among normal sizes, digging for XS tops and pants marked “short,” which chronically seem to sell out. This is not to say once you find the smallest size it will fit; often the piece is too long or loose in one direction or the other. Those that think being petite isn’t a disadvantage obviously never had to endure t-shirts looking like dresses, pants so loose a belt couldn’t even salvage them, and all-consuming coats. Did Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen choose to embrace the oversized look? Or did they realize they had to swim rather than drown in ill-fitting clothing?

This isn’t to mention there are certain trends short girls practically have to avoid. Parkas? Why so long? Midi-skirts? How about minis? Flats? Aren’t they a little overrated? But who are we to complain? Every body type has looks that work and those that don’t.

Despite how people of all races and genders can identify as petite, when it comes to the body-acceptance movement, this population lacks a voice. Being size 0but not 5-foot-11seems to make one un-entitled to talk about how hard it can be to find clothes. The fact that petites generally are forgotten, underrepresented by models, and ignored when sizing garments is an issue. Don’t get me wrong; I was content to continue perusing the XS sections, but if all this commotion is going to be made about body diversity, do not overlook the short ones now. 

—Emily Cieslak

Images courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar and Pinterest.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *