Updated on April 3, 2016
Petite Pants Part 1: “Short” Does Not Mean “Petite”
This article is the first of a three part series on the specifications, fit, sizing, selection and purchasing of petite pants for your athletic and outdoor pursuits. If you are looking for some advice on finding pants for hiking, climbing, trekking, traveling, skiing, snow sports, or other similar activities you’ve come to the right place!
FINALLY, PETITE SIZES!
Thankfully in the last five years, popular athletic and outdoor clothing manufacturers have started to carry product lines that they are labeling petite. Prior to this, it was almost impossible to find properly fitting clothing for our athletic and outdoor adventure pursuits.
It was so frustrating to see friends wearing the latest gear made from high quality materials with amazing features that you would only be able to wear if you purchased a sewing machine or saw a tailor to have adjustments made. And in many cases, making alterations wasn’t even feasible because the fit was too high in the torso or because of the type of fabrics used or special features like ankle zips.
However, as exciting as it is that manufacturers are selling more and more petite products, although they are are labeled petite, finding the right fit is still a great challenge.
DILEMMA WITH WOMEN’S CLOTHING IN GENERAL
We all know about the wide variation in sizing among women’s clothing in general. Instead of sizing clothing using accurate standard dimensions, a vague numeric system of 0-14 or even worse the ‘small,medium,large’ system is used. It is a fact that a piece of clothing by two different manufacturers with the same sizing label, is likely to have entirely different dimensions from one another.
Add on top of that variations commonly found in different models from the same manufacturer or even variations within the same model due to poor quality control makes finding a good pair of properly fitting clothes an ultra time consuming effort.
“SHORT” DOES NOT MEAN “PETITE”
For petites, on top of the typical challenges mentioned above with women’s clothing, a lot of manufacturers have different definitions on what ‘petite’ actually means. More specifically, the piece of clothing posing the biggest challenge it seems, is finding properly sized petite pants. Although labeled petite, some manufacturers have only taken their standard sized pants and cut an inch or two off the bottom of the legs, without altering any other dimensions. The proper label for pants having only shortened legs or reduced inseam should be “short”, not “petite” and that is where many manufacturers get it wrong. For most individuals who would call themselves petite, properly fitting pants would include not only a reduced inseam, but a reduced torso rise in the front and back of the pants as well. Thus there is a significant distinction between “short” sizing and “petite” sizing.
In addition, most manufacturers use different inseam and torso rise dimensions in their petite and short sizes.
Some examples of these varying “petite” pants dimensions include;
- REI Brand: Petite is designed for those measuring 4’11”-5’3″ tall. Generally, petite sizes are 2.5″ shorter in inseam and ¾” shorter in total torso rise, and tall sizes are 3″ longer in inseam and 1″ longer in total rise than regular sizes. Size chart
- Athleta Brand: Petite is designed for those measuring less than 5’4″ tall. Petite bottoms are generally 2” shorter in inseam length and ½” shorter in torso rise. Tall sizes are 3” longer in inseam length. Generally, their pants models come in mid and low rise sizing and they offer fitted to semi fitted and relaxed fit pants types with different style leg openings (bootcut or skinny for example). Size chart
- Eddie Bauer Brand: Petite sized pants designed for those measuring 4’11” -5’3.5”. Generally, petite sizes are 3” shorter in inseam at 30” in length. Tall sizes are 3” longer in inseam length at 36”. In their sizing chart they mention that torso rise is adjusted proportionally shorter for petites but they do not mention by how much. They also carry “short” sizes at 2” shorter inseam length at 31” total inseam in some models. They also offer straight and curvy style fits. Size Chart
- Lands End Brand: Designed for those 4’11”-5’3” tall. Generally petite pants are 2.5” shorter in inseam length from the standard 30.5” regular inseam length with a 1” shorter total (½” in front, ½” in rear) torso rise. Tall pants are 3.5” longer than the regular inseam length. They also offer Fit 1 (low), Fit 2 (regular) and Fit 3 (high) rise pants. They will cuff or hem trousers free of charge to desired inseam lengths. Not much of a selection of athletic pants. Size Chart
Some manufacturers with “short” labeled pants that do not include reductions in torso rise include:
- Eastern Mountain Sports Brand: Short pants have a 29” inseam which is 2” shorter than the standard 31” regular inseam. Tall sizes are 2” longer at 33” in inseam length. Size Chart
- Patagonia Brand: Short pants have a 30” inseam which is 2” shorter than the standard 32” regular inseam. Tall or long sizes are 1” longer at 33” inseam length. They also offer slim, regular, relaxed and classic fit style pants in regular and low rise options. Size chart
- PrAna Brand: Short pants have an inseam that is 2” shorter than the regular inseam (which depends on model but regular inseam lengths vary between 31” -32”). Tall options are 4” longer than regular inseam lengths. They also offer fitted, standard and relaxed fit pants with classic, standard and low rise options. Size chart
- Columbia Brand: Short pants have an inseam that is 2.5” shorter than the standard 32” regular inseam length. Long or tall inseam lengths are 2.5” longer than regular inseam lengths. They also offer active/fitted, classic and relaxed options.
- Royal Robbins Brand: Short pants have an inseam that is 3” shorter than the standard 32” regular inseam length. Long or tall inseam lengths are 2” longer than regular inseam lengths. They also offer tapered, straight and boot cut options in contemporary (regular) or classic (high) rise. Size Chart
Some manufactures that get it wrong and label short pants “petite” when they only have inseam reductions include:
- LLBean Brand: Petite labeled pants have an inseam reduction of 2” shorter than the standard 31” regular inseam length. Long or “medium tall” inseam lengths are 2” longer than regular inseam lengths. They also offer curvy styles in some models and low (favorite), regular (classic) and long (original) torso rise options. Size Chart
- ExOfficio Brand: Petite labeled pants have an inseam reduction of 3” shorter than the standard 31”-32” regular inseam length. Long inseam lengths are 2” longer than regular inseam lengths. They also offer slim, natural and relaxed fit with tapered, straight and boot cut style leg options in regular (classic) and low (modern) torso rise options. Size Chart
So, as you can see, what ‘short’ and ‘petite’ means from one manufacturer can mean something entirely different in another manufacturer’s models. This can make it so confusing and time consuming for us petite folks so we hope the info above helps a little! The information above is a general guideline from researching the various retailers and you should be sure to verify the dimensions before buying.