Petite Ave founder talks body diversity in the fashion industry

By TANYA WONGVISBULIN | November 9, 2017


Courtesy of SUSAN STAVA Vannessa Youshaei founded the online clothing retailer Petite Ave.

Are you shorter than 5-foot-4-inches and struggle to find clothes online that actually fit well because of your height? Do you find yourself having to constantly return or alter jeans that are too long or dresses that don’t fit your curves right?

Petite Ave — an online clothing aggregator that allows customers to easily find and purchase petite clothes from top retailers — just might be the perfect solution for you.

Launched in 2017, Petite Ave aims to empower petite women by helping them feel beautiful and confident through the clothes that they wear.

Vanessa Youshaei, a former SMB program manager at Google and the founder of Petite Ave, described her struggles in finding well-fitting clothes.

“Whenever I tried shopping in the petite department, I found unfashionable clothing for older women. But then whenever I shopped in the regular section, the clothes were too big on me; I’m only five feet tall. So I had this dilemma where I had to get things altered or shop in the junior section,” she said.

Youshaei’s struggle to find petite clothing is common for many women in the United States.

But, Youshaei’s search for fashion-forward petite clothes ended the day she came across a petite clothing line at Anthropology. It changed the way she viewed petite fashion.

“I thought ‘there must be brands out there that I am unaware of that carry stylish petite clothing.’ So I started doing research, and I found brands like Express, Paige and Missguided,” she said.

Discovering these stylish brands inspired her to start Petite Ave.

“I thought, ‘if I’m not aware of all these brands that carry fashion forward petite clothing, then other women probably are not either. So why not have a destination for petite women?’” Youshaei said.

But Petite Ave is an online shopping aggregator with a broader range of body types than you might expect.

Many people associate petite with being small; however, petite women actually come in many different shapes and sizes.

“It has nothing to do with size. You can be plus size and be petite. You can also be petite in just the bottom or just the top depending on the length of your torso and legs; you don’t have to be petite throughout,” she said.

Petite Ave has also worked with many stylists and fashion experts to select the types of clothing that look best on different body shapes.

Customers can identify their body shape on the website, which will then pull up clothes intended to look most flattering on their body. This helps reduce the hassle of having to return or alter the merchandise bought online.

Petite Ave’s Instagram account, @petite.ave, also runs a bi-weekly #PetiteProTip that educates women on the do’s and don’ts of petite fashion and gives them solutions to struggles they might have, such as how to appear taller.

When asked for her advice on how to successfully establish a startup, she focused on the importance of identifying a problem that you can provide a valuable solution to.

“Come up with a problem that you personally have and are really passionate about, because it is going to take a lot of time and perseverance to get something off the ground,” she said.

For those who have struggled to successfully pitch an idea, Youshaei offered words of encouragement.

“Your first idea might not be a home run. This was not my first idea. My other ideas didn’t go anywhere, and that’s okay. If you are passionate enough about starting your own business, then you’ve got to keep trying different ideas,” Youshaei said.

Youshael also emphasized the importance of discussing the idea with others to fine-tune it to your prospective customers.

“Talk to people as soon as you can, and don’t sit in your room and build something assuming people want it. What really matters is getting feedback from people because they are going to be your potential customers,” she said.

With the heightened inclusion of plus-size models and increased racial differences on the runway, the industry has come a long way in terms of its diversity.

However, petite women have yet to break into the fashion world and Youshaei hopes that through Petite Ave, changes can be made.

“Our goal is to become a voice for petite women and to show the fashion industry that petites are a big part of the market. Hopefully, [we’ll] be better integrated into the fashion industry soon,” she said.

Being as inclusive as possible is central to Petite Ave’s mission.

“I want it to be for petite women of all body shapes, ethnicities, ages, income levels and styles. That’s who we’re trying to cater to on our site,” Youshaei said.

Petite Ave’s emphasis on inclusion makes it more than just an online clothing aggregator.

“My goal is to change that perception by helping petite women discover fashion forward clothing that’s designed for all women 5’4’’ and under, regardless of size,” she said in an email to The News-Letter.

Increased clothing options empower petite women of all sizes by helping them feel confident. This trend also plays a part in the rising wave of acceptance in the fashion world.

The sentiment that, regardless of her race, shape or size, every woman is beautiful is slowly but surely permeating the industry.

Editor's Note: The print edition of this article appears slightly different.

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