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Pretty and Powerful: Tigist Petites is Changing the Way Petite Women Dress

Photo courtesy of Noel McGrath.

It’s been more than three years since Tigist Ketema, the founder and visionary designer behind Tigist Petites, first conceptualized her industry-changing clothing brand. Born out of her own frustrations, Tigist Petites is a New York-manufactured, luxury dress brand committed to quality and ethical practices from design to delivery. A result of Ketema’s own inability to find well-constructed, high-quality dresses to fit her own petite, hourglass frame, Tigist Petites’ garments are elegantly crafted to meet the sizing, style, and quality standards of the brand’s sophisticated audience of pretty, powerful, petite women.

“I was continually frustrated by the lack of well-made, well-tailored silhouettes available in my size, particularly when it came to shopping for workwear,” said Ketema. After diving into her own extensive market research and “personally coming across many other women who shared the same frustrations,” Ketema found that she was not alone in her quest for chic, stylish pieces that were specifically made for the petite female figure and set out to make the world’s first designer ready-to-wear collection for petite women. Each piece is specifically cut to suit the unique height, shape, and quality needs of the petite female form.

“When designing petite dresses,” said Ketema, “hemlines are far from the only consideration.” Most standard-sized brands simply chop the length of a dress or shorten the inseam of a pant to accommodate a shorter body, however, the petite female figure actually needs more tailoring than a simple hem chop. “It’s problematic because the overall proportions of petite women differ from those of a woman who is taller than 5 ’4”, explained Ketema.

For a garment to truly be fitted for the petite figure, arm, shoulder, and torso measurements also need to be taken into consideration; something that the majority of major brands simply do not invest the time or energy into doing. “Working ‘down’ from a standard-sized pattern, the seams of a standard-sized garment land in the wrong places and lead to an awkward fit,” said Ketema, who described this experience, one that she and many other petite women have faced, as “demoralizing.”

Because Tigist Petites is exclusively designed for women under 5’4″, however, each of the brand’s patterns is specifically designed to fit and flatter the petite form. “We make sure our dresses are fitted on petite fit models so that the dresses are cut and sewn in accordance with what looks best on the petite frame.”

The end goal of Tigist Petites is to make each woman wearing one of their pieces feel comfortable and confident in her own skin, so instead of fidgeting with her dress, she can focus rather on conquering her day.

When she set out to create her line, Ketema heavily drew inspiration from high-end men’s suiting; silhouettes that are ubiquitous in the boardroom and that often serve as grand symbols of success and power. Tigist Petites is an “ultra-feminine alternative loaded with the same measure of power and self-assuredness,” promised Ketema, who aims to embolden her clients, primarily professional petite women working in corporate spaces, to feel self-assured and confident walking into any room.

That confidence is also something Ketema herself needed when conceptualizing her brand. While many encouraged her to manufacture her garments overseas to lower costs and increase accessibility to her line, Ketema held strong in keeping her brand American-made. “Making sure every piece in the Tigist Petites collection is made ethically is supremely important to me,” said Ketema, who holds a master’s degree in global policy and wrote her thesis on the pervasive nature of labor abuse in the global fashion industry. Manufacturing in New York’s historic Garment District is not only a love letter to the city Ketema calls home, but also allows her to “closely monitor both the quality of work and the labor practices of my production partners,” she said. “I take on the added costs knowing that I can guarantee that the skilled tailors and artisans working on my line are paid fairly for their work and treated with dignity throughout every step of the process.”

Ketema’s championing of slow fashion and local production and commitment to providing high-quality, well-tailored pieces for petite women is already paying off, with her customers raving over her initial three silhouettes, each of which is available in three distinct fabrications. The Tigist Petites’ debut collection of dresses retails for between $835 and $855, depending on the style and is available online now at TigistPetites.com.