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What Are plus Size Petites?

Maggie Worth
Maggie Worth

The term "plus size petites" refers to clothing for women who are both full-figured and short in stature. The hemlines of arms, legs, and waists of such garments are shorter than average clothing and the clothes are also cut to fit larger sizes. These special sizes can be difficult to find, particularly in brick-and-mortar stores.

Plus size petites are a relatively new size category of the fashion market, having come into common usage only since about the year 2000. Prior to that, plus sized clothing was made to a standard length in nearly every case. The expectation was that shorter women could simply hem pant legs and shirt sleeves, usually the most problematic hemlines for them. Pants were sometimes offered in plus size tall because designers perceived that many plus sized women were tall and that, while a too-long leg could be hemmed, there wasn't much to be done with a hemline that was too short.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Designers discovered the need for plus size petites when they realized that being short affected plus-sized women as much as "average" women. In fact, it could be much more impactful because of the way plus size garments are often designed. They realized that, to ensure the best fit, the proportion of the garments should be altered altogether, rather than simply shortening the hems.

For example, plus-sized tops and dresses frequently feature empire waists, which camouflage midsections and stomachs and draw the line to what is often the slimmest part of a plus size woman's body. If a very petite woman attempts to wear an average length garment with an empire waist, however, two things happen: first, the waistline either falls too low, defeating the purpose or, if worn in the proper location, causes the bust of the garment to bunch or poof out because of the excess material, ruining the line; second, the bottom hem of the garment falls far lower than it should. This can make a top look like it was intended to be a dress, while not being long enough to actually wear as a dress.

Another problem was apparent with pants, as the waistline and the beginning of the inseam of average length pants were too far apart for petite women. This caused the fabric in between to bunch up and was both unflattering and uncomfortable. Demand from petite women who were also full-figured grew, and plus size petites were developed to meet the need.

Now, plus size petites are more common, particularly in shops that specialize in plus size clothing. It is not uncommon, however, for stores to stock only a few petite samples and make a broader range of items available by special order. Catalogs specializing in plus size clothing also frequently offer petite options.

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Discussion Comments


My sister is plus sized (as am I) and she's five inches shorter than I am. And I'm average height! She has a hard time finding anything that really fits her, even though she's lost a lot of weight. It's tough. She's very short-legged, so nothing fits her very well. She's been known to buy capri length pants because they usually hit her at the right place for regular length pants! My mom, also short, has done the same thing.


Many more plus-size stores stock pants, at least, in a petite size. Even though I'm 5'5, and not technically "petite," the "average" length pants are still too long for me. I can hem them, but the petite size is perfect. I'm short waisted and even though I'm kind of long-legged, I'm still a little too short for the average size.

Some designers seem to equate "plus size" with "big and tall," and it's just not the same thing. There are many women who are 5'11 and would be considered "plus size," but most are not.

And P.S. Plus sized women should *never* wear an empire waist, in my opinion. Makes you look very pregnant. A better choice is a straight cut shirt that can be belted, if desired, or that naturally cinches in at the waist area. The length should fall below the hip. Nothing is worse than a too-short top that hits right at the top of the tummy or buttocks, which makes them look twice as big.

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