Dapper and Diminutive : petit(e) bodies

Finding men's clothing that fits a female body isn't simple for any DapperQ. Petit(e) bodies present their own challenges. How do you find masculine swag for a pixie-like figure?

Finding men’s clothing that fits a female body isn’t simple for any DapperQ. Petit(e) bodies present their own challenges. How do you find masculine swag for a pixie-like figure?

Q: I am kind of new to the whole butch thing, but I definitely know that I enjoy dressing from the men’s department. I am having a very hard time finding both casual and dress clothes because I am actually pretty small all around. I am only about 5’5″, have a small chest and am pretty thin so finding clothes that fit properly is getting really hard. I like guys jeans but they make my butt look big and a lot of guys shirts are just too big. I want to be able to dress comfortable and decently (and more importantly affordably, I am a college musician and am on a very tight budget) in men’s clothing but I just don’t know what to wear and where to find it… Please help…

A: I’m a titchy 5’0″ and weigh only 42kg (93 pounds), so this is something I struggle with a lot! My own style is more than a little bit preppy – as a female-bodied, geeky, British gentleman I’m sort of becoming a parody of myself – so I don’t know whether my experience will be helpful to your own journey towards a style that’s authentic to you, but I thought I’d share just in case. My number one rule is to only shop on the internet. It’s not profitable for high street stores to stock my size on the shop floor, but they often sell the same clothes in smaller sizes online. Ensure that free-of-charge returns are available before you order. Decent websites allow you to do targeted searches for XXS menswear and size zero women’s workshirts with proper collars. The former hides my curves, but the neck tends to be too big, while the latter might be slightly more figure-hugging than I would like but since the neck fits, I can wear it with a tie. So it sort of balances out. Getting shirts tailored is always a good idea, but not really an option for students like you and me. I still make a point of spending that little bit extra on good fabric, so that when better times come along my favourite shirts will still be worth spending the money on improving. Try to avoid the temptation to buy poorly made shirts that will need to be replaced a year down the line. Sadly, I don’t know what to advise when it comes to jeans. Carrot-cut trousers in boy’s sizes tend to fit me okay, as do boy’s shoes and boots. Chinos in women’s sizes are available that don’t look too feminine. Have you struggled to find masculine clothing for a small frame? Do you know the magic secret for perfect boyish jeans? Comment below or give us a shout on Twitter to share your wisdom.

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9 Comments

  • Just as an aside. I’m 150lb and 5’6″ which is a healthy BMI, but a bit on the robust side. Size ‘S’ in men’s shirts fit, including collar and sleeve, off the peg and most size 32 men’s pants seem to fit (often including length). This make shopping pretty easy, however, I have to admit that I probably float 10lbs heavier than I would if I wore women’s clothes. Does anyone else feel they ‘tailor’ their body to their clothes?

  • I’m 5’2″ and I shop exclusively in the boys’ section. It’s great! Everything is made for someone my size and is more proportional to my body. Crewcuts (J.Crew’s kid section) is my favorite place to shop. Men’s clothing is clearly made for someone taller than me and winds up looking ridiculous on me. I’m at the point where I’m skipping adult sizes altogether.

  • I find the sleeves too short on boyswear – maybe I’m a gangly little halfling.

    Oh, and I wish I tailored my body to my clothes! I’ve been growing frightfully buxom lately.

  • hey. i’m 5’5″ 120 lbs and oscillate between dapper andro hipster and a more urban fixie riding look. for nicer clothes that are tailored ish but look very nice and last forever, the following always have 5-10 super andro pieces in their women’s sale racks: ralph lauren rugby, brooks brothers outlet stores, and j crew (who has something called the bennett chino on sale right now – it’s the most amazing pair of pants i have ever bought – $45 and perfect for midrange weather formal or casual). for cheaper, hit up urban’s cale rack – BDG jeans always look cuter as cutoffs – roll for a nicer look paired with a button down, blazer and bowtie, unrolled for riding yr fixie. also, in their mens department, they have shirts by a company – i think its their house brand – “divided” – the XS shirts always fit well and work as flexy business casual or casual items.

  • I am 5’9″ and about 120, 125 on a good day, and finally decided to splurge and buy a pair of APC men’s jeans – size 28 which I’m incredibly happy with. It takes effort to break them in, but for those looking for a great jean look no further. They have a women’s line, but I’m not sure how the fit differs, personally I love that men’s jeans aren’t cut so your butt hangs out.

    j.crew sells mens xs slim in some styles online, i recently ordered a couple of sweaters on sale and was very happy with the results – haven’t tried their men’s oxfords or dress shirts as I’m pretty happy with their women’s selection in that department. I used to do a lot more second hand shopping and found a lot of great ralph lauren dress shirts or faconnable in the women’s department. again, mens run too large in many cases. the men’s xs sizing at h&m can be hit or miss. kids close are far too short…

    any thoughts for men’s shoes in smaller (6) sizes?

  • I also have this problem, seeing that I am small for a woman, nevermind trying to wear men’s clothing. My cheap trick has been Marshall’s and sale at Urban. I buy my shoes online, or from companies like Bass or Clark that design the same shoe for men and women. I tend to go for boy’s tops (Medium to large depending on sleeve length) and men’s for bottoms. Since I have hips, I wear 32in waist so I can sag them a bit to cover my ladybits. It works out really well for me, I have an entire wardrobe for work and for play and it didn’t cost me my first born!

    Also– buy for quality. I really like Land’s End line for boys. Kids clothes are made tougher because kids are harder on their clothes! Spend the extra ten dollars if it will last you an extra ten years, you probably aren’t growing anymore so its not like you will outgrow it.

    Women’s cuts, in general, are cut to flatter female figures. If bought at a proportional size for your body, they WILL make you look more feminine regardless of “tomboy”, “boyfriend”, or “men’s style” cut. Remember: stores are targeting mainstream women who are looking to attract men. If you buy women’s clothes bigger in hopes of covering your ladyframe (like I used to), you will be sadly disappointed. They are still cut to show a ladybody, but now you just look like you bought the wrong size.

    Finding men’s clothes that fit your body is never going to be easy or quick, but it can be a fun challenge. Find what brands, cuts and styles work for you and stick with it!

  • I’m 5’6″ and 120lbs and I am ALWAYS on the hunt for clothes that fit me and my gender expression. For the most part I stick to the boys clothing department. Abercrombie kids is one of my favorite places to shop (i’m a medium or a large) even the sleeves are long enough which is usually a problem for me (granted sometimes they are still too short so watch out). Second favorite place is AE. Some of there XS t-shirts and sweatshirts fit (some), not all. My new favorite store to find clothing in is H&M kids (size 13-14, 14+). I can always find something in their boys department. They have great chinos that even fit me (pants are always the hardest for me to find). I’ve also had luck in department stores, recently I found a bunch of t-shirts and shorts at Nordstroms. Happy shopping!

  • I forgot to mention… Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and Topman Men’s departments all carry XS and even XXS in some cases. If you look online at Urban Outfitters they will tell you if the shirt fits tighter or looser, the tighter fitting XS fits me, but not the loose/regular fit. Topman and American Apparel XXS are even too small for me sometimes, so if your really small then I would suggest hitting up those two places (unfortunately they are rather expensive).

  • I am highly vertically challenged so I have, in recent years, almost always shopped from the kids departments. My shirt collection consists mainly of Crewcuts ones because they fit me the best. They can be a little on the expensive side for students but if you wait till they are on sale, you could get them at about $25 each and they are of decent quality. They also come in nice patterns, colors and not like many other kids brands. However, they tend to be button-downs, except for the more expensive Thomas Mason collection. So for dressier point-collar shirts, I wait for sales at Brooks Brothers, and have managed to get some nice ones from Nordstrom too. Crewcuts also carry nice oxfords and wingtips in the kids section. Their pants are also quite nice, but come with the somewhat annoying adjustable waistband. I also love their v-neck sweaters. H&M is where I get my socks because Crewcuts socks are a few times more expensive. I have noticed that Zara kids also occasionally have nice casual shirts.

    For jeans, I have found that American Eagle mens’ jeans go as low as 26W and 28 inseam. All my jeans are from there as I don’t need to spend extra money to hem them. Many slim collection from other brands only go as low as 28W.

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