Shopping for clothes as a petite woman can be a challenge. Darts, seams, and hemlines don’t always end up where they’re supposed to lie. Boxy styles have a tendency to look frumpy. Cropped jeans are, well, they’re often just jeans. Being petite isn’t just being short; women 5’4” and under are proportioned differently than taller women, which necessitates a different approach to sizing clothing altogether.
Isabella Sun, founder of Short Story, knows this first hand, and her growing company is a woman-led answer to a long-neglected fashion problem. Short Story is “the premiere personal styling service for petite women,” whose “mission is to remove the ‘ugh’ from the shopping equation for millions of petite women so they can dress with effortless confidence.”
Well-fitting clothing can certainly play a role in your confidence level, whether you spend your days at work, at home, or in some combination. Having those clothes come right to your door is even better.
In the following interview, Isabella shares about starting a clothing company without experience in fashion, the joys of watching a startup come to life, and her hope that every woman be empowered to be put forth her authentic, beautiful self.
Lindsay Schlegel: What inspired you to start Short Story?
Isabella Sun: I’m from an entrepreneurial family. We’re self-starters, including my mom who immigrated to the U.S. with one suitcase and a few thousand dollars. I watched her run a business as a single mom, and knew I’d start a business one day. My first job out of college was in banking in New York City. You have to be put together for client meetings, but I was constantly struggling to find clothes that fit. For a shorter, petite woman, a lot of clothing ends up being too long, boxy, or frumpy. I spent a lot of money on tailoring. I bought things from the kids’ section. That felt ridiculous. My short friends also had the same problem. After doing some research, I realized that half of all women in the U.S. are petite! It became obvious that this is a problem begging to be solved. I had no experience in fashion or retail, but took the plunge anyway. My grandma was not thrilled about me leaving my corporate job, but here we are.
LS: What is your goal for each customer and your hope for the company as a whole?
IS: My vision for Short Story is to be an authentic fashion company that celebrates petiteness and modern womanhood. We come in all heights, shapes, and sizes, so why doesn’t fashion reflect this? We’re building a company for real women. Many of our customers are busy professionals or moms who struggle with fit or need help looking put together. We’re here to help them navigate that and other challenges in life. Think of us as your online girl pal. Whether it’s a wardrobe makeover or a wedding, we’re here to help you find that perfect dress or pair of jeans. My hope is that all women can learn to feel good in their own skin.
LS: What obstacles did you face in the process of launching this business, and what would you say to other women looking to launch a new venture?
IS: Starting out in a new industry means you have to fake it until you make it. Attending my first trade shows was pretty hilarious—I had no clue what I was doing and asked so many questions. Don’t be afraid to ask! Often, that’s where innovation and change come from. You’re evaluating problems in a new way. Retail is pretty entrenched in the way it does business, so we constantly have to challenge conventions in order to deliver better fitting garments and a better user experience to our customers. My advice is to be fearless in challenging the status quo.
LS: What is the best part about coming to work each day?
IS: I come to work every day feeling like the luckiest girl. This is a fascinating problem to solve, and I get to work with a team of individuals who care deeply about building a new world for petite women. Our team is women-led and full of creative, smart, and driven people, from the stylists who curate outfits for our clients to the fulfillment team who packs each box with loving care. We have each other’s back. The thing about startups is that there is no handbook. You have a shared mission, you’re building this rocket ship together, and each person has a critical role. You use all the tools in your toolkit and you learn as you go. Watching it come together, from a germ of an idea to a living, breathing thing is the most satisfying feeling.
LS: What is your favorite garment you've discovered through Short Story?
IS: Oh, this is hard! I’ve discovered so many favorites through Short Story. We have a high standard for brands we work with—they have to meet our fit and quality bar. We also launched several of our own clothing labels, one of which is Petite Principle. We created this line based on real customer feedback: a desire for minimalist capsule-type pieces. One of my favorites is a classic wrap jumpsuit that’s perfectly proportioned for petites. Jumpsuits are usually so hard, but this one fits in all the right places. We are very intentional with every detail--we only want to make things that women will love and keep forever.
LS: Verily's tagline is "Less of who you should be. More of who you are." How do you see Short Story living out a similar philosophy?
IS: This really resonates with me. We’ve all tried to fit into some kind of mold at one point and felt inadequate. But confidence comes from within. I think about this a lot as we help our customers and build a company. How do we empower women to live comfortably in their skin? To speak up? Everyone has an interesting story to tell. We’re building a product for real women, so we feature real customers in our photoshoots. Short Story is about empowering women to be unapologetically authentic as they craft the individual narratives of their lives.