The History of Petite Fashion: From Past to Present

To most of us, Petite sections feel like a modern concept. We are used to shopping for Regular sizes, tailoring and hemming our clothes. Whilst Petite sizing still consumes only a small fraction of major department store floorspace or online marketplaces, it isn't quite as novel a concept as we might imagine.

The 1940's

In the 1940s, US fashion designer Hannah Troy found that many of her customers couldn't find clothes that fit them properly. As a blouse designer, in particular, she noticed that many women had short torsos, making her tops too long for them.

She decided to investigate further, and dug into old government statistics recording the measurements of women entering the military service during WW2. Her research showed that only 8% of women fit the “ideal” standard proportions, with over 2/3 of those surveyed being short-waisted.

And so, Hannah set about to launch the first range of Petite women's clothing.

This, she lovingly dubbed "Troyfigure". The range was essentially a children's section with more mature designs. Hannah developed her own secret sizing guide that aimed to "plump up" children sizes to accommodate a grown woman's curves, and the range was a hit.

Pressed for a term to describe this range, Hannah chose the word "Petite", allegedly because "it just had a nice ring to it". We couldn't agree more.

The 1950's

As Hannah Troy's line gained in popularity, other US brands began to copy the concept, launching their own lines. Separately, designers elsewhere in the world also began to take notice, and follow suit.

Couture designer Madame Carven was known for designing clothes for Petite women since the mid-1940's. She believed fashion should cater to real women, not idealised figures, and based her sizing on her own body, and those of her friends. Carven herself was 5'1.

1952 Carven | Black cocktail dress, Vintage dresses, 1950s fashion  photography

In 1950, she launched a prêt-à-porter line with design elements chosen especially to flatter a Petite body. Her use of vertical stripes and V-necklines elongate the body, whilst cinched waists add definition to a smaller frame.

The 1980's

Petite fashion remained rare amongst retailers - and it was only in the 1980's that new lines began to appear, catering to shorter frames. The likes of Next Directory and Principles were launched, offering a broader Petite range than was previously available. Unfortunately, these sections were often geared towards an older clientele, and it was virtually impossible to find ready-to-wear clothing for a younger audience.

The 1990's

With the rise of fast fashion, standard sizing became the norm. Retailers began to produce ever-increasing quantities of garments, in as cheap a way as possible. This meant standardising everything - from fabrics, to prints, patterns, and sizing. 

It was an incredibly alienating time to be Petite - gone were the days of tailor-made clothes, or smaller shops, and in was the era of mass production. And Regular sizing.

The 2000's

Consumers were increasingly demanding clothes that fit them. And retailers began to respond. A number of high-street shops began to offer (limited) Petite sections, and the term became mainstream.

But there's still a long way to go.


I launched Piccoli in September 2022 because I could never find the clothes I wanted, in my size. 

Piccoli is a brand of elevated basics for Petite women. Our clothes are crafted in high-quality premium materials, and our designs reflect a timeless elegance. They are pieces built to last - and to flatter you the most. These are not shrunken versions of Regular pieces, but rather, exclusive designs made especially for Petites.

If you're ready to upgrade your Petite wardrobe, don't forget to check out our best sellers. Designed by Petites, for Petites.


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