By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates athttp://eepurl.com/ceSobT
Petite women in Toronto are no longer welcome at the Eaton Centre’s department stores in downtown Toronto. The three department stores in and around Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall—Saks, Nordstrom, and Hudson’s Bay—offer almost no clothing for petite women.
Every woman, regardless of her shape or size or height, should be able to find chic and flattering clothes that fit. If only the fashion world felt that way.
Most women’s clothing is sized to fit a woman of about 5’5” and won’t fit shorter women properly. Just shortening a garment won’t make it fit; it needs to be entirely re-proportioned so that the neckline, waistline, pockets, and hem all sit at the appropriate place on the body.
The fashion industry offers clothing in petite sizes for women who are 5’4” and under. The average woman’s height in North America is around 5’3”. Clearly, petite women are far from rare, yet they’re offered limited choices, mostly basic styles in shoddy fabrics. And those choices, which were never extensive in the first place, have been shrinking over the last ten years, as department stores closed their petite departments.
Let’s take a closer look at the three culprits: in the Eaton Centre:
In early 2016, Saks Fifth Avenue, an American department store known for its high-end fashion offerings, opened its first store in Canada. The local media gushed about the luxurious store’s first location in Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall, noting its extensive line of exclusive designer clothing. About fifteen years ago, I used to shop at Saks when I visited the U.S. Their store in Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall had an impressive petite department—I’m 5’2.5”—with a wide range of beautiful clothing. I remember buying a petite-sized Ellen Tracy denim jacket there; it had gorgeous ivory top stitching and a blouson shape. I decided to visit the Toronto Saks store to see what all of the fuss was about. I wasn’t impressed.
The Toronto store doesn’t offer a single item—not one single item—in petite sizes. The store’s website doesn’t, either. When I emailed the store to ask about their petite sized offerings, a representative told me that (1) Saks does offer petites in some of their stores, (2) I wouldn’t be able to find petite sizes on their website (no kidding!), and (3) if I wanted to find petite clothing, I would need to contact individual stores in the U.S. Apparently, Saks abandoned its petite department in 2006 for reasons that remain unclear to this very day. When their petite-sized customers complained, the store brought back its petite department, but it seems to have disappeared again. In the meantime, they’ve expanded their plus-sized clothing department and now offer pieces by such high end labels as Eileen Fisher and Lafayette 148. Come to think of it, Lafayette 148 also makes glorious clothing in petite sizes, but you can’t buy it at Saks, or (apparently) anywhere else in Toronto, even though there are probably a lot of petite-sized Toronto women who could afford it.
Toronto’s fashion media might be in love with Saks, but I refuse to shop there, not even if I suddenly become rich, not even when their clothing goes on sale, not ever. Because I, the customer, shouldn’t have to do the work of contacting individual stores to find something, anything in my size. Obviously, the people running Saks don’t value people with bodies my size, so why on earth should I give them my hard-earned money?
Several months later, in September 2016, Nordstrom opened in the Eaton Centre; once again, the local media greeted the new store with fawning coverage. In the U.S., Nordstrom is known for its reasonable selection of designer petite clothing, but when I visited the Eaton Centre store in September 2018, I discovered that it offers NO designer petites; in fact, the store’s only petite offerings were a few pieces by Halogen. A clerk in the store reassured me that I could still purchase designer petites online from Nordstrom . . . as long as I was willing to pay a lot of extra money for shipping and duties! No thanks! Petite women—like other shoppers—need to be able to try on clothing in the store, and they shouldn’t have to bear the extra cost of having clothing shipped from the U.S.
Petite-sized women who live in Toronto should have the option of purchasing quality clothing (including designer clothing) in their size range. Their counterparts in the U.S. already have that option. They should also be able to find petite-sized clothing in Nordstrom’s stores. The Eaton Centre Nordstrom made the mistake of combining misses and petite-sized clothing into one department; shoppers weren’t aware that the store carried petites because they couldn’t see them. Petite shoppers should have had their own department within the store.
I contacted Brandon Gross, the manager of the Eaton Centre, and expressed my concerns about Nordstrom’s limited petite-sized offerings, but have not yet received a reply.
The biggest disappointment, however, was the Hudson’s Bay store across the street from the Eaton Centre. When I visited the store in September 2018, I was shocked to discover that it will no longer be carrying any petite sizes at all! NO PETITE SIZES IN THE BIGGEST BAY STORE IN CANADA!!! The only petite clothing left in the store was a sad-looking rack of left-over items in the Lord and Taylor section (see the attached photo). When I wrote a letter to the Bay to protest this decision, I received a call from Richard Montgomery, who promised to pass my letter on to the store’s buyers. Meanwhile, a clerk at the Eaton Centre store reassured me that I could still purchase petite-sized clothing from the Bay’s website. That site, however, offers limited options for petite women, and almost nothing in the designer category, with the exception of Lauren Ralph Lauren, which is no longer available in petite sizes at the Bay store at Yonge and Bloor.
So, what can petite women do about this?
- Write to Nordstrom, and Saks/Hudson’s Bay, and tell them you want better options for petite women at their stores (especially at the Eaton Centre): (1) Ask for special petite clothing departments at those stores. (2) Ask them to carry some of the quality designer-petite lines available in the U.S. and list those lines (Eileen Fisher, Johnny Was, Nic and Zoe, Caroline Rose, Joan Vass, Go Silk, Misook, Michael Michael Kors, which are carried in the U.S. by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom).
- Send your message by snail mail, not email. Snail mails are taken more seriously:
- Nordstrom: Brandon Gross, Store Manager, Eaton Centre, 260 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2L9
- Saks and Hudson’s Bay (Hudson’s Bay now owns Saks): Richard Montgomery, Vice-President, HBC, 8925 Torbram Road, Brampton, Ontario L6T 4G1
- Don’t shop at the Eaton Centre department stores (Saks, Nordstrom, and Hudson’s Bay) until they start to offer a decent selection of quality petite-sized clothing.
- Don’t shop at any other store that refuses to carry clothing in your size range.
Petite women, it’s all about self-respect. If you want to purchase good quality clothing, try Neiman Marcus (online), Talbots, or my personal favourite, Brooks Brothers, which carries some of the fashion-forward items from its Zak Posen line in petite sizes. A lot of the clothing from Brooks’ regular-sized Red Fleece line fits petites well, too. Custom-made clothing (from a dressmaker or tailor) is another option.
Please share your experiences. Did you contact Saks, Nordstrom, and Hudson’s Bay? If so, how did they respond?
Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidasand sign up for free updates at http://eepurl.com/ceSobT Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Love-Punch-Line-Kathleen-Jones-ebook/dp/B07BYNX7BM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525812415&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+the+punch+line)and Indigo Books and Music (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/love-is-the-punch-line/9781945181337-item.html?ikwid=love+is+the+punch+line&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0)Visit the Love Is the Punch LineMedia Room at https://kathleenjones.org/media-room/