The problem with shopping for ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes, is that they are made from a pattern that only fits a perfectly proportioned model. Each different size is made larger or smaller than that model. But real women and men aren’t like that; we are bigger in some areas and smaller in other areas. That is why clothes off the rack usually will be too tight in some places and too loose in others, which can explain why some women find shopping so frustrating.

I went shopping with a very gracious volunteer to demonstrate how one garment will fit on different bodies. We both happen to be the same size (mostly), but she is petite. This post is the first in a series where I will point out some of the flaws in fit and style of off-the-rack clothes. I apologize for the poor-quality of photos, but we had to be stealth and there’s only so much you can do with florescent lighting.

The first garment is a blue lace dress, designer unknown.

front and back views of blue lace dress

At first glance, you might think, “That doesn’t look so bad. What’s wrong with this dress?” And you’d be right, there isn’t anything wrong with this dress on my frame. However, it doesn’t do much for me. The lace sleeves look too tight, giving the illusion of sausage-link arms, and the style is very matronly. Otherwise, the skirt is a great length with nice fullness, and the waistband highlights my nice figure.

To fix the dress, I would either make the sleeves wider or short, cap-sleeves. The neckline would be deeper and more rounded, like a U.

But on my petite volunteer…

front and back on petite frame

You can see that the waist is too low on her frame, meaning it either hits in the wrong spot or the fabric bunches up above it. On her, the full skirt emphasizes larger hips, and the matronly style enhances her bust. 

To fix the dress on her, the waist needs to be raised, the sleeves a little looser, the neckline lower and a gathered, rather than pleated, skirt.

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