Guide To Clothes Shopping In Canada

A Canadian Toonie

A Cana­dian Toonie

Granted, I’m no the most styl­ish woman on earth — I know, shock­ing for a French, but should I remind you I don’t drink wine either?

But lately, I real­ized how much my style and my way of shop­ping changed. I guess I became… well, more North American.

Clothes shop­ping in Canada isn’t that dif­fer­ent from shop­ping in Europe at first glance. Yet, there are some tricks and local trends. So I wrote a lit­tle “guide to clothes shop­ping in Canada”.

Where to shop? Most Cana­di­ans shop in indoor malls. Each big city has at least three of four famous malls which are also often land­marks and trans­porta­tion hubs. Most malls are located in the far sub­urbs (which is why some Cana­di­ans travel to their city down­town only a few times a month!) while some are down­town. Shop­ping malls are very prac­ti­cal in the win­ter because you don’t have to go out, you can even grab a bite at the food court (if you are into fast food). That said, malls lack char­ac­ters: they all look the same and shops are very sim­i­lar from one mall to another.

Clothes sizes are dif­fer­ent. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, every­thing is big­ger than in Europe or Asia. Most tops go from XS, S, L, M to XL. For pants, it depends: some are in US sizes (usu­ally from 00 to 14), some use waist size (usu­ally from 24 to 36). Some stores carry exclu­sively “plus size” fash­ion (from 14 to 26), such as Addi­tion Elle, Laura Plus etc. Petite sizes are stan­dard cloth­ing sizes designed to fit women of shorter height, typ­i­cally 5’3″ or less. The way clothes are cut is also dif­fer­ent. For instance, as a European/ Mediter­ranean, when I gain weight, it typ­i­cally goes on my butt and thigh but my waist is thin. But most North Amer­i­can women seem to gain weight on their stom­ach, not on their thighs. There­fore, when pants go up in size, the waist is big­ger but not the legs… most of my pants fit fine on the legs but I always wear a belt!

Bar­gains and sales are the way to go. When I first came to Canada, I often con­verted the Cana­dian dol­lar to Euro and found clothes much cheaper than in France, so I’d buy them full price. I soon learned that there were sales all the time… When I shop now, I go straight to the end of the store where great bar­gains can be found. Gap, Tommy Hil­figer, Roots, Jacob… vir­tu­ally all stores, expen­sive or not, have some great deals if you are will­ing to buy last month’s fash­ion (shock­ing, I know). I recently bought some pants at Esprit for the grant total or… $9.03!

You can find even cheaper clothes at fac­tory out­lets. They are usu­ally located in the sub­urb and carry the pre­vi­ous year’s fash­ion. Roots, for exam­ple, has amaz­ing dis­counts. Shop like Win­ners carry heav­ily dis­counted brand names.

So, are clothes expen­sive? It depends where you are from, obvi­ously. To me, every­thing is much cheaper than in France. I can find a great pair of Levis jeans for $40 (reg­u­lar price, not on sale). I rarely spend more than that for pants and skirts actu­ally, unless it’s a spe­cial item I really need. Tops are even cheaper, I think mine aver­age $15. And all these clothes are brand name! So, what’s more expen­sive? Well, any­thing branded “Euro­pean”, whether it’s the style or the brand. For instance, Mexx and Benet­ton are much more expen­sive than in Europe. Per­fume and make-up isn’t cheap either, but that’s another topic.

What should you invest it if you have just arrived in Canada? Most immi­grants think they need a full new wardrobe when they land here. The truth is, I wear pretty much the same clothes year round. Only my shorts are put away for the win­ter! In the win­ter, I just wear a sweater on my t-shirts and I gen­er­ally wear pants. I still wear skirts but with panty hoses. Warn­ing: don’t try this your first year in Canada. Being out­side wear­ing a skirt when it’s –20C, like I did this week, takes some time to get used to! In order to be able to wear your reg­u­lar clothes, what you need is a very good coat, prefer­ably a rel­a­tively long one (to short, it doesn’t block the wind, to long, it gets dirty very fast). You will also need gloves, a hat and a scarf. Oh, and my secret: very good and thick socks! With that, you should be able to wear nor­mal clothes (i.e. pants, t-shirt or blouse + sweater) under­neath and not freeze to death.

Are the clothes good qual­ity? It depends on the brand. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, yes. Tops are not a prob­lem, I can keep mine for years. Pants are a bit trick­ier, because the salt in the win­ter can really dam­age them (it lit­er­ally dis­in­te­grates the fab­ric). My biggest pet peeve in Canada is shoes. I have yet to find shoes that will last longer than a few months. Granted, I do walk a lot. But there seem to be a lot of “cheap” shoes here that don’t last.

Finally, don’t for­get that every­thing comes with expe­ri­ence. You will tend to spend more money than locals at first because you are not famil­iar with all the tricks and bar­gain. But you will learn to find your way around the mall!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


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