Shopping and the Difficulty of Finding Small Sizes

There are tons and tons of posts online shopping and body image, mostly focusing on the difficulty of those on the larger side.  However, the same goes on the other end of the spectrum!  Have you ever tried shopping when your feet are smaller than a size 6?  Well, this girl certainly has!  Most of my shoes are purchased at full price, and anything from a sale is probably no more than 25% off.  No 50-75% off for me!  In fact, many of my shoes come from ONE specific brand, one which carries shoes as small as a 4 (I’m a 4 1/2 with them) and I ALWAYS go to their pre-season trunk shows, just to ensure myself something.  The shoes are pretty expensive, but luckily, only 50% is due at order, with the remaining to be paid at pick-up.  Why don’t I purchase from the children’s section?  Well, you can’t get proper, adult-looking pumps and other dress shoes in girls’ sizes!  Athletic shoes, are, of course, different, but at the same time, one wants more options than plain and cartoon characters.


Just two pairs of my shoes


It’s no different for clothing.  I had a Holt Renfrew gift card and was eager to spend it before it expired.  So off I went to the store.  I found an item which I liked very much and asked for my size.  Unfortunately, it was not available at the location I went to.  The only store which carried a small was in Edmonton, which meant that it needed to be shipped over.  I asked if extra small was available, and the associate claimed that extra small didn’t exist in the line.  I wasn’t sure about that, but went along with his claim as I was fairly interested in the dress (a wrap dress, which can be altered easily) – the purchase could always be reversed if a smaller size is found.  At the end, yes, extra small WAS available, so the dress was “returned.”  As the brand was leased, I wasn’t able to use the gift card anyway (I ended up buying skincare products with said cards)

A closer look at the size!

Holt Renfrew has been lacking in smaller sizes recently.  This isn’t something I understand, as Holt’s is supposed to compete with Saks and Nordstrom and both carry a larger volume of clothing smaller than a size 4 or 6.  The market is there – in Toronto, especially.  Luxury stores in Toronto (and Vancouver) have a sizable East Asian clientele, who are typically smaller-framed.  Of course, most are not sizes 0 or 2, or even size 4, but more from the demographic would be on the smallest end of the size spectrum than other populations.  By carrying fewer small sizes, then Holt Renfrew is losing business to its competitors.  It’s Business 101.  This isn’t just clothing, but shoes as well.  And the shoe issue is more difficult than clothing as most brands don’t even MAKE my size.  I’ve come to terms with that, and I just don’t bother shopping from those brands (no use complaining.  They’re not going to care when it’s such a small demographic).  Their loss.

So why don’t I shop exclusively in Asia?  Because I live in Canada and rarely make trips over the Pacific – my last trip to Hong Kong was in 2011.  And while Asia may have more items in my size, I am not interested in purchasing online and having to pay expensive shipping and duty charges.  And that’s IF they even ship here (and not to mention, take credit cards with a Canadian address).  Of course, my other option is to go vintage, but one also needs to be able to style vintage clothing so that it won’t look too…costume-y.

I know that I shouldn’t be ranting like this.  As a small person, I have “size privilege.”  However, we are talking about business and demographics in this case.  I know the bulk of Holt Renfrew’s customers are probably in the sizes 6-10 range, and thus, they need to these individuals’ needs.  However, if more people skew these sizes rather than, say, 10-14, then more people are also going to be looking for sizes 0-4.  And despite my so-called “privilege,” being “too small” also puts one at a disadvantage, whether people who skew larger understand or not.  Stores just don’t order enough, and if you get there “too late” – even if the item isn’t on sale yet – you are out of luck.  And usually, the pieces aren’t even all that old.


Cynthia Cheng Mintz

Cynthia Cheng Mintz, previously known for her sites, DelectablyChic! (still “live” and still active on social media) and Shorty Stories, was born and raised in Toronto. In addition to writing, Cynthia enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the Canadian fashion industry. She is involved with various philanthropic projects, including music, arts, culture and mental health awareness.