Posted on November 06 2018
A major part of my raison d’être for starting the Jennifer Anne brand was to help put petite women on the same footing as other women: to provide them with a choice of well-made, elegant clothes for grown-up women designed to suit their proportions.
When you fall outside the parameters of the ‘sizing norms’ adopted by the fashion industry, it can be really hard to have an enjoyable shopping trip. I can walk into any number of well-known High Street brands, see rails and rails of lovely looking clothes and yet know that it will have to be my lucky day if I am to walk out of there with a purchase. It is just so hard to find clothes that I like and when I try them on will fit me and look as though they have been designed for someone of my height and proportions.
Designs for petite women (that is to say women of 5’3” and under) have particular requirements – not only on the overall length of clothes, but the width of their shoulders, the nape to waist measurement, the sleeve length, the leg measurement, where the waist sits, where the knee height is etc etc. To any petite woman, these statements are obvious but apparently not so obvious to the fashion brands out there.
We petite women feel invisible in the fashion world – we do not see ourselves represented, whether it be on the catwalk, in advertising campaigns or in the clothes on offer from fashion designers and on the High Street. How does that make us feel as women? It does not do a lot for your self-confidence. Petite women tell me repeatedly (and with total justification) that their fashion needs are being ignored, how they really struggle to find clothes that will suit their frame and allow them to feel confident and elegant. There is also a certain sense of resignation, a shrug of the shoulders “that is how it has always been” and an absence of hope that it will ever change. Why is that? It makes me quite cross to see how the fashion world has failed us.
This came home to me very much so during Fashion Week this year. It is such a fun and exciting time, highly visual and wonderfully engaging. The shows quite understandably draw a lot of attention and focus. There is animated discussion amongst the fashion journalists and influencers about the trends, the colours, the rising stars for the coming seasons. But who are we looking at when we go to Fashion Week or see the coverage in the press or on television? Image after image of long-legged women of around 5’10 and taller walking down the runway does, not unsurprisingly, create an impression that fashion is there for tall women, that beautiful and attractive means tall. If you are small, perhaps there is something lacking, not worth celebrating. If you are small you will never be chosen to show how fantastic these clothes can look, that as a smaller woman you are somehow less worthy of being represented.
I should point out here that when we talk of petite women, we are not talking of a minor section of the population. The stats just don’t bear this out.
- The Size UK Report, the first ever National Sizing Survey, cites the average British Woman is 5’4”
- According to the Fashion Institute of Technology, 50% of the population are under 5’4”.
How can the fashion industry continue to side-line such a significant section of the population? It beats me and I am determined to do something about it. The lesson of our time is surely that we can make change happen. By drawing attention to something that has been the ‘norm’ for a long time and showing that there is another point of view, surely we can move on from that resigned shrug of the shoulders and encourage the fashion industry to sit up and take notice of us.
It has to be said that as a group we have not been very good at achieving this. We should look to the plus size, curvy section of the population and applaud their achievements in getting the fashion industry to take more notice of them, to provide more options in terms of clothes on offer for them, to see themselves represented on the catwalk. There have been some fantastic examples of beautiful larger models taking their place on the catwalk. Simply by being there and having their images included in Fashion Week, these wonderful women are telling the world that beauty is not necessarily and definitely not exclusively linked to weight and shape.
We at Jennifer Anne had a survey carried out to see what petite women thought about how they were provided for and the results were unsurprising (to me at least).
- over 63% of Britain’s petite consumers feel the UK retail market does not cater for their needs in terms of range and proportions, making shopping a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience
- Only 16% of those polled felt petite women were better catered for than plus-sized consumers
With this in mind, I have launched a campaign #PowerfullyPetite to showcase strong and inspirational petite women to highlight that small women deserve just as much attention and portrayal as tall or indeed large women. There is sufficient space for all of us but there should be a more representational balance and that must include petite women. We petite women need more choice from the fashion industry and we deserve to see ourselves represented and celebrated on and off the catwalk just as much as those beautiful long-legged women we see year after year representing the major brands.
Please follow our campaign on #PowerfullyPetite and use this hashtag to spread the word. Add your voice and help change come about. Together I am sure we can do it.
Thank you to Unsplash and Flaunter.Com for the picture