I'm a petite size 12, and the world of trousers is not one that I can easily inhabit. Finding perfect-fit pants on the high street (or from designer brands) is like a needle in a haystack, and it is incredibly rare that I can buy a pair of jeans or trousers without having to factor in the remedial work of hems needing to be taken up or waistbands needing to be taken in to accommodate my waist-to-thigh ratio. Fortunately, I'm not too shabby when it comes to sewing (thanks, fashion design degree!), but in all honesty, I don't have time for absorbing yet another life admin task or the budget to keep carting everything I own off to a tailor. It's why you'll often find me wearing dresses and skirts rather than trousers, but 2023 is nothing if not the year of the tailored slack, and I've missed being able to join in on the fun. I bought a pair from COS earlier in the year—you know, the wide-leg ones everybody raves about—and while they are fantastic, I did have to get them professionally altered to be a good 20 centimetres or so shorter. It was yet another reminder of why my trouser collection is so lacking.
So when I recently stumbled across two petite trouser options—one at Marks and Spencer and one at Abercrombie—I couldn't help but hit purchase. M&S has both short and tall options for many of its pieces, but I have to admit it's not a route I've explored before, as I often think of myself as not really being petite in the sense of being super-duper small; I'm just short. And in the past when I've opted for supposed petite options, they just come up really small rather than my size but with less length. Abercrombie is a retailer you might not have once associated with size diversity, but it has, in fact, become one of the leaders at this affordable price point. Where most brands peak at about a size 31 waist for jeans (at a push!), Abercrombie & Fitch goes up to a 37, and it has extra-short, short, regular AND long options for hemlines. Amazing!
1. Abercrombie & Fitch Vegan Leather Ankle Straight Pants
First up, Abercrombie's faux-leather ankle straight pants (£82). I had been intrigued to try some vegan-leather trousers from Abercrombie ever since they took off on TikTok last year. I've also wanted to get in on the leather-trouser trend for a long while, but these can be some of the hardest trousers to buy when you're petite and hourglass—you need the waist to not gape but the thighs to not cut and the length to be just right, as leather is more problematic to sew and take up.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, comfort and fit on these, and they are perfect for comfy, cosy days spent WFH, but you could equally jazz them up with a white shirt or going-out top and heels for a night.
The fabric is quite stretchy and almost feels legging-like when on (dream!), but anyone looking at you would think you had much stiffer, sturdier leather trousers on. Because the stretch can be kinder to bottoms and thighs, it means that a close cut doesn't feel uncomfortable when you sit down.
I went for the cropped options in a short rather than a wide-leg or a longer-line silhouette because knowing what the weather is like in the UK, I'd be more likely to wear something that doesn't drag on the ground. Plus, this means they can work with everything from sock boots to trainers.
What I would say is that the straight leg doesn't hold in as much of a rigid position as a pair of real-leather trousers would, but you wouldn't get this level of ease with a pair of real-leather trousers. The waist for me isn't tight, and there is a little bit of room in the back of the waistband, but I'd rather this than have a pair of jeans that feel like the cut in when I sit down. The short length was perfect for my 5'1'' height.
I acknowledge that at almost £100, these are an investment purchase from a high-street brand, but I'd rather have a decent version of faux-leather pants than anything that looked or felt cheap and didn't last very long. I haven't yet washed them, but the guidance is to go for a cold wash only, which I will follow to the letter!
2. Marks and Spencer Crepe Wide-Leg Trouser
Navy trousers are something I like to lean on for those days I want to look smart and minimalistic but still feel relaxed. Wide-leg trousers are a staple in many wardrobes, but they can be a nightmare to get right when you're petite—either dragging on the ground or losing shape once you take them up. So three cheers for Marks and Spencers providing plenty of options in a shorter leg this season!
The weighty crepe fabric on these makes them feel like a properly autumnal pair of trousers, and the smart waistband with a tortoiseshell button adds some extra polish. They are just the right length for me to be able to get away with wearing flats but also not so cropped that heels suddenly create a pair of ankle swingers.
I went for my normal trouser size—a 12—but in the short/petite option. These have a little bit of stretch in them too, so they are nice to spend all day in, and it meant that the fit on my butt was just right. They also come in an array of colours that I'd be willing to consider adding to the family.
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