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Monday, July 26, 2021
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Wearing Kids’ Clothes When You’re Petite

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Kate offered to share her advice on buying and wearing kids’ clothes when you’re petite — petite readers, I’d love to hear about your experiences! If you’re petite, have you ever bought clothes in the kids’ department?

I buy clothing in kids’ sizes for two main reasons: (1) I love saving money by feeling like I’m cheating the system, and (2) for me, kids’ clothing typically has sleeves that aren’t too long, and shoulder seams that hit my shoulder at the right place. (I do buy petite women’s sizes, and they fit well, but not all brands offer them.) Bonus: Kids’ clothes are extremely likely to be machine washable.

{related: slim but too tall for petites – when are alterations worth it?}

Fit-wise, I haven’t had as much success with girls’ pants as opposed to girls’ tops, but depending on your body type, you should give it a shot.

You may be thinking, “Uh, don’t kids’ clothes look like, well, kids’ clothes?” The answer is “It depends.” You will likely have to pick through (or click through) a lot of stuff you would never wear in a million years (although if you want to rock reversible sequins, go for it — er, just not at work). But you can definitely find pieces that don’t look childish or cutesy. (You’ll just have more luck at a store that sells adult clothing in addition to kids’ sizes, rather than a kids-only store.)

{related: where to get suits for short women}

Size charts will definitely be your friend, because just as with women’s clothes, kids’ brands fit differently. Also, some brands set 14 and 16 as separate sizes, while others combine them. Some offer XXL, while others stop at XL; and others, such as Target, Lands’ End, Old Navy, Children’s Place, and Kohl’s, have a girls’ plus-size range as well.

For one point of reference, I’m 5′ and wear a women’s size small — and anywhere from a 2 to a 6 — and in girls’ sizes, an XL (typically 14/16) usually fits.

Once you comfortable doing so, I definitely recommend buying from a brick & mortar store rather than online — both to see if the clothes actually fit and to determine if they look “grown-up” enough once they’re on. 

{related: work fashion tips for petite women}

Be aware that if your bust is any larger than 35″-ish, it might be hard to find girls’ tops that fit. If you wear a larger cup size, however, it’s a possibility; I wear a DD, and a lot of girls’ tops still work. (I don’t mind wearing fitted shirts, though.) In addition, girls’ dresses often have high waistlines, which aren’t always flattering.

Two disclaimers: (1) A lot of what I mention below is undeniably fast fashion. That’s not something I love supporting (and I’ve done lots of research for our posts on ethical shopping), but I’m not a perfect consumer by any means, and we all have to make our own judgment calls. (2) No, you’re not going to find a ton of workwear at these stores, but yes to casual clothes, activewear, and some pieces that would work in casual, creative, and even business casual offices.

For some recommendations for designer kids’ fashion, check out this article by a fellow five-footer.

{related: where to find petite-friendly clothes for work}

This post contains affiliate links and Corporette® may earn commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more details see here. Thank you so much for your support!

Wearing Kids’ Clothes When You’re Petite: 5 Stores to Shop

1. Target 

Sizes: Up to girls’ XXL & XXL Plus

Target has been my favorite source of kids’ clothes. When I’m in a frugal mood, I’ll pick up a few basics, such as solid color short-sleeve/long-sleeve tees that are often around $7–$9. I especially like these camisoles for layering — they’re comfy, have adjustable straps, and contain 38% recycled polyester (plus cotton and spandex). Plus, they’re only $4! 

My absolute favorite thing I’ve bought from the Target girls’ section is a gray, faux-suede moto jacket that was probably $30–$35. You’d never know it was designed for kids, and it’s machine washable. I also have a floral peasant-y top, a couple of long cardigans, and a cable sweater. 

The Target kids’ sections also have a ton of inexpensive graphic tees. (Many are very obviously kids’ styles, but you can search by “character” in the menu on the left to filter the results.) I’ve gotten a fun Wonder Woman tee, some cute/silly designs that I wear around the house (cats on a trampoline, anyone?), and a few comfy hoodies with cute prints (which I also only wear at home). 

Target also has a large selection of girls’ activewear that’s hit or miss in terms of how much you’ll look like, say, an 8-year-old. It’s definitely worth browsing, though.

I don’t typically shop the boys’ department (except for my son, occasionally), but depending on your body shape, it’s worth a try. It’s definitely a way to avoid extremely “girly” designs, since Target has pretty specific views on what “girls’ clothes” and “boys’ clothes” are.

2. Athleta Girl

Sizes: Up to girls’ XXL

I haven’t tried Athleta Girl yet, but I’ve been meaning to try their workout clothes and/or loungewear. (They also have swimwear and bras.) If you like Athleta but want to save a little money, buying their kids’ sizes can be a good strategy.

Note that the the fit is a little smaller than, for example, Target, so if your bust measurement is over 33″, this may not be the brand for you. (However, returns are free, so it’s worth a try even if you’re unsure.)

This sweatshirt (with thumbholes, yay!) for $42 looks great. It comes in several colors, has great reviews, and contains Tencel Modal, which comes from sustainable forests. (Ninety-nine percent of the raw material comes from certified or controlled sources.) I also like this hoodie, which is available in several patterns and has thumbholes and a special phone pocket. It’s $49.

{related: the best athleisure brands that are worth the splurge

3. Ralph Lauren

Sizes: Up to girls’ 16 & XL 

If you’re looking for something preppier (and pricier), check out Ralph Lauren’s girls’ clothing. There are plenty of “grown-up” styles, many with the iconic logo and many without.

Their girls’ cashmere sweater, which is available in plenty of colorways (including a gorgeous lavender), is $250, as opposed to the women’s version, which is $398 (although a few colors are on sale for $199 right now).

Coats are a good bet, too (as they are for kids’ clothes in general); this quilted hooded down coat is on sale for $72 from $195, and this water-resistant barn jacket is marked down to $42 from $115. (Note that the lining of the down coat has a huge “I [heart] Polo” printed on it, in case you’re not a logo fan.)

{related: the best brands to shop for preppy clothes}

4. J.Crew (Crewcuts)

Sizes: Up to 16 & XL 

While I’ve bought J.Crew women’s clothes, I haven’t tried Crewcuts yet. This girls’ cashmere sweater is $89.50, while the women’s version is $98 and not available in petites. (Sure — not a huge price difference, but the fit is also a consideration, e.g., if you’re tired of overly long sweater sleeves. I hate when they stick out from my winter-coat cuffs.)

I also like their girls’ barn jacket that’s now on sale for $53 (from $75), which is the smaller version of their women’s barn jacket ($168). The kid style looks “adult” enough to me, and the floral lining details are pretty but subtle. This basic 100% cotton cardigan is cute and $39.50.

Also try J.Crew Factory‘s kids’ styles.

5. Old Navy 

Sizes: Up to regular XXL/14–18, slim XXL/14–16, and plus XXL/14–20

I haven’t tried much of Old Navy’s girls’ clothing, but I did recently buy this pullover, drop-shoulder hoodie for wearing around the house and liked it well enough. The fabric is just a bit thinner than I expected. (It’s still available in two colors for $18 on sale.)

I’m tempted to do a little more online shopping at Old Navy soon, because I’m seeing both a lot of basics and more interesting options. I just saw some fun stuff (“fun” according to me, at least), including these leggings in various patterns ($5), this light pink jean skirt ($22, 30% taken off at checkout), these pale green & pale yellow jean jackets ($28, 30% off at checkout), and these star & moon PJ pants ($12).

Note that Old Navy now offers gender-neutral clothing for kids (and adults, too).

Wearing Kids’ Clothes When You’re Petite: Where to Buy Shoes

Buying from the kids’ shoe section is a great way to save money on the brands you’d normally choose. Go down two sizes from your adult size to for your equivalent girls’ size. A lot of the shoe styles are clearly designed to be kids’ shoes, but others look great on adults.

The best bets are probably sneakers (Nike, Adidas, Converse), boots (Hunter rainboots, UGG, Sorel winter boots), and flip flops (OluKai, Havaianas, Reef). CorporetteMoms writer Ann told me that a couple of her family members have had success with Toms and Skechers

{related: the best flip flops for your commute}

I bought a pair of these Adidas flip flops last year for $20 for my 10-year-old son, but they were too big. When I tried them on (boys’ size 4), they fit great, and they’re now my everyday indoor shoes. (I bought him his own pair, too.)

Of course, if you’re looking for more traditional shoes for work, these are some of the major brands we’ve noted in the past that come in narrow widths and small sizes:

Some Comfortable Flats in Narrow Widths & Small Sizes

In our last roundup of comfortable flats for work, we rounded up some flats that came in extended width sizes… 

Comfortable Heels in Narrow Widths & Small Sizes

In our last roundup of classic black heels for business attire, we rounded up some pumps that came in extended widths, including: 

Readers, do tell: If you’re petite, do you wear kids’ clothes? What brands have worked for you?



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