This is a more serious post than usual because I wanted to stand up for the “average, normal” woman! While I do work mostly online with my clients, I also plan on regular trips out to see what is in the shops. This means I can look at quality, fabrics and sizes “in the flesh”. A couple of Fridays ago, as I was due to be at the O2 in the evening for a concert, I decided to spend the night at a hotel close by and go for a shopping trip in Canary Wharf. The shops in this area serve predominantly working women who are short on time and although they may well be buying clothes for work, their lunch break might be the only time they get to shop for weekend and holiday clothes as well. Liz was with me and as we are different sizes and body shapes it is useful to see how pieces fit on us.
After my shopping experience at Canary Wharf, I have to say, if I were working there full time I would be depressed about the prospect of trying to find clothes there during the working week. But this applies to much of the High Street too and here is why.
Canary Wharf has a lot of the well know high street stores – mostly of the mid to higher end – but no department store. We started in Hobbs, whose sale had just begun. On the plus side they had all sizes out, although nowhere near as much in a size 16 as a size 10 or 12, so does this mean they aren’t stocking enough in a 14 -18 because they have sold out as there was plenty of sale stock left in smaller sizes. On the down side the shop was really hot (it was a very warm day) and part of the changing room area had been taken up with a rail holding more stock. Consequently the changing room I was in felt very dark and hot and I didn’t actually try everything on because I needed to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Liz found quite a lot in her size and despite it being very busy the staff were really helpful and this is typical of my experience of Hobbs when I visit them locally to me in Reading or Windsor, the staff are knowledgeable and keen to help you create outfits. I think in a location where the shop is likely to be at its busiest during the lunch hour though, there needs to be more changing room space and possibly some air conditioning.
What we liked at Hobbs:
We passed by Zara – not a lot fits me and despite being a Blogger I don’t really want to wear the same “must have” dress or top that everyone else is wearing. The quality has also suffered in the last few seasons too.
Reiss was another shop we didn’t go into and I am sad about this. I love Reiss and frequently use them in client’s capsules but with their clothes stopping at a size 14 they just don’t cater to a large busted and curvy body. If you are small though I would definitely recommend you check them out as they start at a size 4 and they do beautiful work wear and some gorgeous dresses.
So on to Cos. Here we had great success. Not only is their sizing generous they also had some great colour choices and by this I mean some unusual colours that you might have in your colour palette but haven’t been able to find anywhere else. There is also plenty of navy and black. However, I would say that their clothes are predominantly more casual than business wear and if you are small you might find many of the styles would drown you. Liz found a few pieces but for once I fared better than her and found loads that I liked and that fitted me. The shopping experience was really good. The changing rooms are spacious, cool and the staff are friendly and helpful and best of all, the prices, for the quality are very good.
One of the tops I bought in Cos
Next up one of my favourite brands; LK Bennett. I have to start by saying that I do really love LK Bennett and their stores are always immaculate to visit with large changing rooms. However, and this is a biggy, I rarely shop in their stores and tend to buy online. The reason being, their policy of only displaying small sizes. Unless you find an item on a sale rail you will almost never see a size 16 or 18 (yes they do go to a size 18, just discovered one new season dress in a 20!) out on the shop floor. Because of my job I will happily ask an assistant for a size 16 and in general they are equally happy to find it for you. But I don’t think you should have to ask. We don’t want to feel like we aren’t welcome in a store or intimidated into having to ask for our size, I really don’t understand the logic in this, if you don’t want to display a size 16 or 18 why stock them? Because all you are doing is making your customers feel bad and I would imagine that LK Bennett are losing sales from those women who don’t know they stock above a size 14 because it’s not out on the rail. I did ask for a couple of pieces in a size 16 and whilst the items do come in the size the store didn’t have them. Again this sounds like not holding ebough stock because I don’t believe there are no women working in Canary Wharf over a size 14!
What we liked at LK Bennett:
We stopped into Whistles where Liz found several items she liked and with the sale already on there were some good bargains to be had. But… yes you guessed it I found one item out on the rails in a size 16. The two members of staff didn’t acknowledge us as they were busy chatting to each other, so probably not somewhere you would feel comfortable asking for other sizes.
By this time, feeling a little despondent, we arrived at The White Company. Again not really somewhere for work wear but definitely where you might want to shop for weekend wear. And what a pleasure it was! Stock out in all sizes and probably as many 14s and 16s as 10s. Large and very comfortable changing rooms, in fact mine was more like a room than a cubicle, with huge mirrors and plenty of light. Plus very helpful staff, high quality and not excessive prices. I found plenty here that I would want to buy.
What we liked at The White Company:
So my question to retailers is this, why does a woman (actually a typical British woman) who is a size 16 have such little choice? And if you do stock a size 16 or above, why does she have to ask for it? Why can’t it be out on display?
I think that other than convenience this could be a reason why footfall in stores is going down. We don’t want to be intimidated. I can happily order my sizes online without being made to feel uncomfortable. Brick and mortar stores are suffering as online orders increase so shouldn’t shops be trying harder to get us in there and buying?
And if you are looking for brands that go beyond a size 16 or below a size 8 here are a few that I regularly use for my clients:
Boden – Sizes 6 to a 22 with many in short and long lengths too.
Pure Collection – Sizes 6 to 20 with some short and long lengths.
Marks and Spencer – sizes from 8 and up to 24 in some styles, short, medium and long lengths and Petite and Plus size ranges
Coast – Some styles to a 20 and a Petite range for gorgeous occasion wear
Navabi – A good range of brands and budgets starting at a size 14 with styles up to a 32
Mango Violetta – The plus size range from Mango with more on trend styles to a size 26 in some styles (check out the beachwear for some lovely swimsuits and bikinis)
Reiss – see above – start at size 4
What are your thoughts on this – have you had a bad experience finding your size? Is there anyone I’ve missed who does a good range of sizes?