Ask dapperQ: Shopping for Smaller-Than-Small dapperQs?

A reader writes:

I appreciate all that this blog does and often long for the fashions on display, but it’s an all too common occurrence for me to read an article, be interested enough to check out the brands mentioned, and find that they don’t carry anything small enough to fit me.

I’m 5 feet tall with a 27 inch inseam and wear a boys’ size 3.5 shoe, and I don’t live anywhere near New York or any other major fashion centers, which makes dressing dapper, or even like an adult, pretty difficult. My choices are pretty limited when I have to shop in the children’s department, and fitting my decidedly not boyish hips limits me even more. And forget buying shoes! I’ve almost given up on anything besides hiking boots and sneakers; so often I’ll see shoes advertised for “small” sizes, even on this blog, but they only go down to a men’s size 5 or 6.

Do you have any advice for us smaller-than-small dapperQs?”

First and foremost, I’m going to have to insist that you read “Finding Fit: Come to Terms with Tailoring.” Smaller-than-small dapperQs certainly face different challenges than the average Joe. But, the reality is that many people, regardless of size, find it difficult to develop a truly great fitting wardrobe by purchasing off-the-rack, mass produced clothing. The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good by Esquire Magazine writes, “Are you a ‘drop six’? If you are, you’re a suit maker’s dream: Your chest is six inches larger than your waist. You can wear anything. Sadly, most of us don’t live inside those ideal tailoring measurements.” Details Men’s Style Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Making Your Clothes Work for You states, “Just because you’re buying a suit off the rack, doesn’t mean it won’t require a fair bit of tailoring.” The first commandment in GQ’s “10 Commandments of Style” is to “honor thy tailor.”

Takeaway? Tailoring is key. When creating a clothing budget, always include a line in the budget for alterations. This is a bit hard to do when you hardly have enough money in your pocket to buy any clothes at all in the first place. If this is the case for you, try thrifting. You can find great items for super cheap at thrift stores. You can then have items altered to fit you better using the money you saved by thrifting.

My next bit of advice is to take a look at Qwear’s article on Asian menswear brands. Many Asian menswear lines design clothing in smaller sizes than typical American sizes. Check out Qwear’s list of recommended brands here. In fact, some Asian brands, such as Uniqlo, offer both men’s and women’s masculine /androgynous clothing in slimmer cuts and affordable prices. My partner, pictured below, just purchased a masculine women’s suit jacket and matching pants that came in an extra small to fit her 5’2″, 106 lb. frame. The grand total was less than $110 dollars, so I bought her another suit in a different color for her birthday since she has such a difficult time finding clothing in her size!

SenkaMy fiance is very petite (5’2″ and 106 lbs). Here she is wearing a Uniqlo suit jacket (she also owns the matching dress pants not pictured here) paired with American Eagle jeans, an Obey t-shirt, and prayer beads she brought to the U.S. with her from Bosnia, her home country. Uniqlo is one of the brands Qwear recommends.

dapperQs with small neck sizes (e.g. 14″) may also want to check out some conventional brands like Club Monaco, Lands’ End, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Thomas Pink. These brands carry menswear-inspired women’s casual and dress button-downs (women’s wear shirts will have smaller neck options) and some even come in petite sizes and have styles without bust darts! (Club Monaco also carries petite tuxedos!) However, you may still need to get these shirts altered by a tailor to achieve the ultimate fit. Try finding these brands at thrift stores for $avings and use the extra cash on alterations. If you prefer to shop only in men’s stores, try Express for Men; their shirts come in neck sizes as small as 13. Also, many slim-fit brands in the menswear sections come in smaller neck sizes.  If you’re very petite, you can even try the boys section at some stores.

sheila RamosdapperQ model Sheila Ramos is wearing a tuxedo suit from Club Monaco’s petite section; tuxedo shirt from Kyle Thomas; black bow tie and white pocket square from the Tie Bar; and gold lapel from Dapper World. Sheila is picutred at Spice NYC’s 5th Year Anniversary Party at the Monarch Rooftop.

You can also get clothing custom made. Check out our store guide here, which lists brands such as Ratio that have received high praise from our team and our readers for designing bespoke apparel that fits dapperQ bodies of all sizes. In addition to delivering clothing right to your doorstep, some of these brands (e.g., Ratio, BCC, etc.) even offer online, telephone, and/or Skype consultations to dapperQs who do not live near one of their storefronts.

Small QsOutfit details: Oxford shoes; Not Rated (size 6 in women’s). Jean jacket; Old Navy. Button down; American Eagle. Argyle cardigan; Brooks Brothers. Khaki pants; Celebrity Pink. “Estate” work bag; Fossil. Aviators; street vendor. Scarf; hand sewn by grandmother.

Now, for shoes: Check out our piece “Masculine Shoes in My Size” for brands that offer masculine shoes in smaller sizes and tips on how to use fashion search engines, such as Shopstyle, to find said brands.

Stay tuned in the next coming weeks. We’re going to do a photo shoot featuring the above Uniqlo jacket paired with the matching dress pants.



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  • I second Asian brands. Not every town has a Uniqlo, but there are a number of Korean clothing designers on amazon like TheLees and Doublju. You might have to dig through some of their funkier designs, and the pants might be an issue if you have hips since they do tend toward really slender cuts (I can wear the shirts, jackets, and waistcoats of most of these brands, but squeezing my snack cake enhanced waist into even the larger size pants is a mission impossible). The shipping and returns policy has to be paid attention to. It's not always great.

    I've also found some nice fitting British brands like Ben Sherman, TopMan, and Fred Perry on Amazon, and unlike with the Korean brands, the returns are usually free or very cheap, so you can take some chances without losing out on cash.

    I was small and skinny and grew up in rural Kentucky, and then went to school in a very casual college town. I spent most of my life with the sartorial option of dressing like a 10-year-old or looking like a 10-year-old who raided a grown-up's wardrobe. So I feel the pain.

  • I definitely agree with a lot of the advice offered in this piece. Truth be told – tailoring is going to be key for you, as it is for so many of us.

    As for shoes, I just wanted to offer one more suggestion – They definitely have shoes in your size. It’s not the best variety, but they will give you an alternative to hiking books and sneakers when you want to dress things up a bit. They also have lots of clothing options by well-known designers if you’re looking for that, as well.

    Good luck!

  • Consider Brooks Brothers boys. I am 3″ taller than you but have had good luck with them so far for dress shirts, especially if on sale. I have ordered size 14 online a few times, and tailored a blazer from there once.

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