I am not petite, nono, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am 5'9" and quite proud of it. Except, of course, when I try to date and have to wear my low-heeled shoes because not every guy is going to be tall enough for me to wear the higher-heeled variety. And, on that note, I'm slightly sick of the high-high-HIGH heels I've seen in department stores everywhere. Sometimes it's just difficult to find a modest heel these days. It's like ballet flats, hooker stilettos, or nada.
But that's not what I meant to focus on right now. I read this article in The New York Times, about how major department stores are minimalizing or discontinuing petite lines and floor space.
"Executives at the three department stores said the decision was based on the poor sales of petite sizes, which are traditionally designed for a woman 5-foot-4 or smaller, with pant lengths and jacket proportions cut accordingly. Petite women, they said, would rather wear the more youthful, skin-baring and tighter-fitting clothing in the contemporary departments, even if it does not fit them as well. And, they point out, there is always tailoring."
Many loyal "P" customers are understandably angry, but if the stores aren't turning out a profit, I don't see what customers expect from management. Fashion is a business, dahling. My favorite quote of the article puts it quite bluntly:
"'It appears that we have frustrated some customers,' said Ron Frasch, the chief merchant at Saks. 'We are trying to figure out how many we have frustrated.'"
True, Mr. Frasch (may I call you Ron?). It's a numbers game; it's a money game. No one is claiming otherwise. If women expect service to bend to their minority needs and desires, they can go to specialty boutiques, online, or to tailors. I don't mean to sound harsh. My own mother often shops in petites for tops (and I am quite angry with her for being petite, because all of her lovely, well-preserved vintage coats from the seventies do not fit my broad shoulders or long arms at all). But big and tall women and men, as well as those with big or small feet or any number of other specialty needs have to do the same. You and I (and all of us), we sometimes go to specialty supermarkets, retail stores or other establishments to get what we want when it isn't what the majority wants. I am a health-conscious vegetarian, sometimes grocery stores don't provide amply for my needs, and I go elsewhere. It's just the way.
The article claims that some petite women feel targeted and undervalued by this change. I don't find it much more actively discriminatory for Sak's to reduce its petites section than I do the fact that no store sells Ben & Jerry's low-fat frozen yogurt Phish Food within 300 miles of me (mm, sometimes it's as though I only dreamt you). Isn't walking into a store that caters to your needs explicitly also rewarding, albeit less convenient? If the petites sections were as necessary and useful and popular as they were in the 80's and 90's, they would doubtlessly be remaining. If there were a store to which I could reasonably drive to get that Phish Food? Boy howdy, I would.
This article has some useful tips if you're a petite shopper.
Finding Clothes That Fit and Flatter on WebMD.com, of all places, has some helpful hints if you've had the experience (haven't we all?) of walking into a store and feeling like the clothes were meant for someone other than you.
As always, feel free to let me know what you think on the matter.
(The picture above is Kristen Bell, star of Veronica Mars, a whopping 5'1". I think she's just fabulous, and she dresses her height with flourish and grace.)