Fashion, Shopping Guides

UK Petite Brand Roundup: A shopping guide for Canadians

It can sometimes seem like British petites are spoiled for choice when it comes to clothing. So many UK brands carry petite sizes in styles ranging from classic to trendy. A recent shopping guide in The Independent highlighted many of them, from Asos to Topshop, from Jeetly to Bomb Petite and everything in between.

Are British women shorter than their North American counterparts? Is it that fashion retailers in the UK are less snobby about height than those on this side of the pond? I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s great for vertically-challenged Brits.

But what about for us Canadians? Are any of these brands accessible to us from Canada? What’s the deal with exchange rate, shipping, taxes and duties, returns?

I’ve always been a bit reluctant to shop online from overseas, due to the logistical challenges. But this Black Friday, I decided it was time to shake things up and give some of these options a try. From the initial list of 17 brands, I winnowed out the handful of US brands and had a look at the rest: Variety, pricing, sizing, shipping and returns. Here’s my report:


ASOS | Next | Boden | Dorothy Perkins | Missguided | Wallis | River Island | New Look | Topshop | Jeetly | Precis Petite | Marks & Spencer | Jennifer Anne | Bomb Petite


Brands I tried

ASOS

A go-to brand for trendy, young, fashion-forward petites, ASOS boasts low price points, wide variety, and — if you don’t mind iffy quality — a lot of on-trend pieces in petite proportions. In addition to its own house brand, ASOS also sells clothes by other petite brands on its site, including Boohoo, Fashion Union, Missguided, Miss Selfridge, and River Island.

The biggest benefit to ASOS is the sheer selection — at the time of this post, ASOS’s website boasted over seventeen hundred different SKUs. For those of us accustomed to having to choose between only a handful of options, this can feel like an embarrassment of riches. Dresses, jumpsuits, chunky sweaters, activewear, and holiday or clubwear all feature prominently. Most items are under $100 CAD, with a fairly good selection under $50. The styles are a bit young for me, to be honest, but that could just be my personal taste. Sizes are helpfully translated into US sizing on the ASOS.com site, so no need to convert further. If you’re tempted to size up because the sizing seems more junior-fit, don’t; I made this mistake with the two of the items I ordered, and they were both too big. Stick to your regular US size.

One thing I really appreciate about ASOS: They show their clothes on actual petite models! Yep, most of the models on the site are around 5’3″, which is such a huge benefit when trying to assess whether a style will fit a petite body. This is so rare in the fashion industry, and is something I really want to applaud ASOS for doing.

The good news for us Canucks is that they do ship to Canada: Standard shipping is a flat $6.50, or free if you spend more than $45. The bad news is they don’t pre-calculate customs or taxes, which means you’ll get dinged on those (along with brokerage fees) on delivery. Those can often cost almost as much as the clothes. Returns, alas, are also not free; you can ship back via Canada Post but it will cost $22.40 per return, which, ouch.

The other option is to shop in USD on the American site, which does offer free shipping and free returns. In addition, ASOS will reimburse customs and import charges on orders up to $800 USD. It’s a shame they don’t make the same offer to Canadians. If you want to ship to the border, ordering from ASOS is much like ordering from any US-based store.

Given all of that, I decided to take advantage of their 25% sitewide Black Friday sale on the US site to test it the brand. Here were the pieces I picked up:

ASOS Design: Petite button through mini skater dress with pockets. $45 $33.75 USD.

I liked the colour of this dress and it felt like the kind of piece that would be easy to grab-and-go for travel or a casual summer’s day. It felt like the perfect instagrammable dress to wear while travelling in exotic destinations. Based on the size chart, I ordered this in a US size 6 instead of my usual 4.

On me:

Sizing up was a mistake. The dress was too big, especially on top, and gaped at the chest. It’s also very short, even on my petite frame — I’d probably have to wear shorts underneath it. But the real deal-breaker on this dress was the fabric, an unlined 100% viscose that wrinkled and creased like crazy. So much for the perfect packable dress for travel; this would never survive in a suitcase or backpack. I sent it back.

ASOS Design: Petite corded lace fit and flare mini dress. $45 $33.75 USD.

Fit and flare is a good silhouette on me, and hey, a girl can never have too many little black dresses. The lace sleeves on this one gave it some visual interest. I figured, why not? Also ordered in a US 6 based on the size chart. Side note: I totally want that hat.

On me:

Once again, sizing up was a mistake, since the dress was too big on top. I probably should’ve stuck with my usual size of 4P. While I liked the silhouette of this, the dress was thin, unlined and looks cheap. It was also really short. Like, dangerously so. And the cutout back would make choosing the right bra tricky. This dress was another cute idea in theory, but a bad one in practice. Back it went.

ASOS Design: Petite sweater in mono chevron pattern. $40 $30 USD.

I liked the chunky pattern here as well as the short length. And I figured it would look cute with jeans or black pants as a trendy top. I ordered this in my usual size of US 4, since it’s a top where the hip measurement wouldn’t be as critical.

On me:

Yeesh, no. This was awful. The not-quite-crop, not-quite-full length bunches awkwardly around my hips. Not a good look for a pear-shaped petite, let me tell you. And the sweater is cheap acrylic, and quite itchy and uncomfortable. This, too, went straight back.

The upshot? Well, I’m glad I ordered to the US site, as I ended up returning everything I bought. All I’m out is the $5 delivery fee and the cost of fuel. But I have to say I found the whole ASOS shopping experience disappointing. If I lived in the UK I might give them another try from time to time. But given all the hassles and the disappointing quality of the clothes, I probably won’t gamble again from Canada.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: $6.50 flat, or free with purchases over $45 CAD.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: $22.50 CAD
  • Ship to US border option? Yes. Free shipping/returns.
  • Worth it? Maybe, if you ship to the border.

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Next

One of the biggest selections of petite clothing anywhere comes from UK retailer Next. At the time of writing, their website boasted over 1,000 items in petite proportions: dresses, jeans, shirts, jackets, sweaters, and basics like leggings and t-shirts. Their styles are trendy without being ridiculous, and there are a LOT of useful wardrobe staples.

Good news, Canadians: Next has a Canadian website with pricing helpfully in CAD. They offer free shipping on orders over $60. Shipping was fast — I placed my order on Friday, and two of the three items were delivered via DHL express courier on Monday. (The third arrived separately about a week later, after a shipping glitch — more on that below.) Returns aren’t free, unfortunately, but they helpfully provide a Mississauga return address. Best of all, shipping is DDP – duty delivery paid – which no painful surprises in the form of duty and tax on delivery. This is one of the only UK retailers I’ve reviewed to offer this arrangement, and it immediately put Next at the top of my list.

Sizes on the site are helpfully shown in both US and UK equivalents. Also, they’re one of the few brands to go up to a size US22, meaning petite plus ladies, this is a destination for you to check out! Many items come in both regular and petite versions, so make sure you choose the right one from the drop-down menu when you shop. One thing I noticed is that many items only come in one or two colours in petites, but in a broader range in regular, and it’s not always clear which are which. Unfortunately, Next also uses mostly tall models to show their petite clothes.

Prices are mid-range, with most items in the $50-$150 CAD range. Disappointingly, I found that the petite version of an item was often a few dollars more than the equivalent in regular sizes. That’s one strike against Next, and one I hope they address in future site updates.

Next’s Black Friday deals were modest and limited to select items. Nonetheless, I decided to pick up a few pieces to test out the brand:

Next: Berry flannel jacket. $110 CAD.

It’s a jacket! It’s my favourite colour! And it’s flannel, which is super cozy for winter. I had to have it. Purchased in my usual size of US4/UK8.

On me:

Yep, it’s purple and cozy! It’s actually not a perfect fit, despite being petite; the sleeves are maybe an inch too long, and the jacket is actually a little tight around my hips when buttoned. But it’s pretty good. A little shorter than I thought — it’s definitely more of a cropped jacket. Something I hadn’t even seen online was the interior lining, which is beautiful. This will be a great jacket to wear to the office over a shell and jeans. Keeping this one.

Next: Black spot woven collar layer top. $60 CAD.

I usually like faux-layered sweaters since I find they give a crisp professional look without bunching up the way a real shirt does under a sweater. I was forced to size down to a size UK6 on this one, since my usual size UK8 was out of stock.

On me:

I should note that I had some shipping problems receiving this — at first, the shipment appeared to be returned to sender without ever leaving the UK, and Next’s customer service were slow and painful to deal with when I made inquiries. But it did eventually arrive about a week later — after I’d been told that I would not be receiving it and would be getting a refund instead. Definitely strange, and perhaps a cautionary tale for anyone looking to order from Next. But I did get the sweater in the end.

Anyway, I like this far less than the jacket. The material is very thin. I was a bit worried that it would be too small, but the fit was pretty good — I even had to roll the sleeves. I don’t love the high collar without the ability to unbutton it at the neck, and the patterned shirttail at the hips does tend to call attention to an area I usually prefer to downplay. I suppose I like it enough to keep it and add it to my rotation of work-friendly tops.

Next: Red Ditsy Wrap Button Dress. $44 CAD.

This dress could go either way, I figured — either super cute and breezy for summer, or dowdy and old-fashioned. I decided to take a chance, since I don’t have a lot of summer items in this colour. I picked it up in a UK8, my usual size.

On me:

It’s actually pretty cute. It is not my usual colour at all — this pinkish-red is something I tend to avoid. But, looking at all the purple I keep buying, maybe it’s good to change things up once in a while. The fabric is richer and heavier than it appeared on the website; I was expecting cheap and thin, but this actually feels like a good quality dress. And it fits perfectly; even the front wrap doesn’t seem to be at risk of falling open. I like that it has a short sleeve, since I often prefer not to go sleeveless in summer, and this means I don’t have to put a sweater or jacket over it. The one caveat is that it’s pretty short, so I’ll probably need to put a pair of shorts under it if I’m cycling to work.

Shopping with Next from Canada isn’t risk-free, and the customer service is a bit iffy. But I liked what I bought enough to venture that Next will be joining my list of regular places to find wardrobe basics in petite proportions. Overall, a good find!

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping:$6 CAD flat; free on orders over $60.
  • Duties and taxes: Covered / no additional charges on delivery.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, but Canadian return address provided.
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, but no advantage.
  • Worth it? Yes!

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Boden

A mid to upper range UK brand full of chic quality pieces, Boden has a small but interesting line of petite styles. There were maybe 100 different items on their site at the time of this post. There are plenty of wardrobe basics: Tees, tops, pants and other staples, but especially dresses. Since dresses are among the trickiest items for most petites to buy, Boden could be a useful find.

Prices are rather higher than most of what’s found at the more trendy stores. The quality is hopefully higher to match. Most of the dresses on the site seemed to range from $130-$250 or so. Since many styles are available in petite, regular or long, the models used to display the clothes appear to be standard height, not petite, which is a shame but not unusual. Another thing to love about Boden? So many of their dresses have pockets!

The good news? They do ship to Canada via their e-commerce partner Global-e, with prices on the site converted to Canadian dollars. Shipping costs a flat $21.95 CAD, or is free on orders over $165. Duties and taxes are helpfully included in the price, with a guarantee of no surprises on delivery. Returns, unfortunately, are not free; Canadians need to return items by post to the UK at the customer’s expense, which can cost several hundred (!) dollars. Boden does occasionally run promotions that include free returns from Canada, which is, in my opinion, really the only time it’s worth ordering from them.

I should warn you that, while Boden’s customer service is excellent, Global-e is a bit of a nightmare to deal with. Anyone trying to return an item from Canada will have to contact Global-e directly for an international return label, since the only label provided in the box is for Royal Mail and only useful within the UK. I found it takes 24-48 hours for Global-e to respond to a ticket. There are also no exchanges offered on international orders — you have to return and re-order. There are definitely some hoops to jump through for international customers, and I hope Boden works with its fulfillment partner to make the process smoother in the future.

Alternately, there is an option to ship to the border with Boden by ordering via their US site. The main advantage there is that you get a helpful prepaid label that sends clothes back to a US-based return address for only a flat $7 fee. If shopping outside of a free return promo, this option may be better for some Canadians who live near the border. But I’ve found that the prices are actually a bit higher when shopping on the US site, once you factor in the exchange rate back to Canada. So do check before you buy.

On Black Friday weekend, they were also running a promo for 30% off all regular priced items, with free shipping on orders over $54.95 CAD and free returns. This helped convince me to give the brand a try. Here’s what I picked up:

Boden: Albany tweed dress in post box red herringbone. $257 $179.90 CAD.

I loved the professional look of this dress so much that I ultimately decided to give Boden a try just for this one. I figured it would be the perfect dress to wear to business meetings, with just the right silhouette and colour for my frame. Unfortunately at the time I placed my order, they were out of stock of my usual size, UK 8P / US 4P, so I had to size up to a UK 10P.

On me:

Ahhhh, it’s too big! It’s beautiful in person, with a rich luxurious fabric. The colour is perfect on me. But the size is off. I tried to exchange it for the size down, which had reappeared on Boden’s website in stock after I placed my order. But alas, they wouldn’t process a free exchange from Canada. Back it went. Sob.

ETA: After contacting Boden’s customer service team, they actually did sort out an exchange for me for the size down, at the same price I originally paid. Good on them. Unfortunately, even in the UK 8P, the dress was still too big and baggy on top. I’m in the process of trying to return the smaller size, too — which, predictably, has turned into an exercise in frustration with Global-E.

Boden: Anya Waterproof Mac in Mulled Wine Spot. $257 $179.90 CAD.

When will I learn to stop buying more jackets? I don’t really need another jacket, do I? But it’s so pretty. And I love the colour. And it’s waterproof AND fleece-lined, which makes it different from my two — yes, two — rain shells that I already own.

On me:

Unfortunately, this arrived damaged. One of the sleeves had a lining sewn in faulty, so that it twisted up and made it difficult to get my arm through the sleeve. Other than that, though, this fit absolutely perfectly. I just love it. I was kinda hoping it wouldn’t, because of the price tag. But I do.

So, after Boden customer service stepped in to help out in getting an exchange processed, I decided to reorder it. The replacement arrived about a week later, in perfect condition. I can see getting a good amount of use out of it in wet weather. And hey, Canadians can never have too many jackets, right?

Boden: Luna Dress in navy and milkshake bud. $115.95 CAD.

This is the sort of casual, BoHo style that I always end up liking more in theory than in practice. Still, I loved the colour of this dress, and I hoped that in a petite size, it would fit well enough to overcome my usual aversion to shapeless shift dresses.

On me:

Nope nope nope nope nope. This dress is a muumuu. Or a caftan. It’s shapeless and oversized and busy, and it kinda makes me look like I stepped out of some bad remake of Little House on the Prairie. Even the pockets couldn’t save this one. As much as I keep admiring these loose shift dresses on models, I need to learn to stop trying to make them work for my body. I need a dress with a defined waist, end of story. This one went straight back.

Overall, Boden has some really nice designs. The fit and proportions for petites seem to be relatively true to size. While the more unstructured BoHo styles don’t tend to work as well on me, their more classic tailored silhouettes are better.

The steep prices and high hassle of returns from Canada makes Boden an unlikely store to be added to my regular shopping list right now. But they have lovely designs and good customer service. If they make just a bit more effort to work with their fulfillment partner to iron out the kinks and make international shopping easier, I wouldn’t hesitate to check them out in the future. This is one to watch.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their partner Global-E.
  • Shipping:$21.95 CAD flat; free on orders over $165.
  • Duties and taxes: Included; guaranteed no extra charges on delivery.
  • Returns: Mail back to UK at customer’s expense. Free on limited promos, but high hassle factor.
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, but prices are higher; not worth it.
  • Worth it? Probably not. Dealing with Global-E is too much of a headache.

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Brands I didn’t try

Dorothy Perkins

Another fashion-forward brand with runway-inspired pieces at wallet-friendly prices, UK brand Dorothy Perkins has a very decent petite range, with over 400 items when I checked their site. I personally like many of their styles, which tend to be a little more classic and tailored than similar pieces from, say, ASOS. In addition to sweaters, jackets, pants and dresses, they have a good collection of (fall) coats, and a fairly extensive bridesmaid dress selection.

Sizing is UK, which means you need to convert to your US/Canadian size. They do provide a handy chart and guide, or the quickest shorthand is to go up two sizes (so, if you’re a US 4 like me, you’re probably a UK 8). But do double check. Dorothy Perkins, like ASOS, uses actual petite models in its catalogue photos, which is so rare and so very appreciated!

Shipping to Canada is available via the UK site only, for a flat £7.50 fee. Unfortunately, they charge taxes and duties COD and there’s no way to know them in advance. They also do not offer free returns; you can ship items back within 28 days — a short timeframe considering international shipping delays — but it will be at your own expense. Double ouch.

They do offer the option to shop via the US site, which offers USD pricing and free shipping on orders over $50. But the catch is, they still charge duties and taxes on US purchases, since they all ship from the UK. Plus, no free returns from the US either — it’s the same deal as Canada, post at your own expense. Also, I ran a few quick tests and noticed that the price in USD was quite a bit higher than the price in GBP even after the exchange rate and shipping costs were taken into account. It’s probably cheaper in this case to just ship directly to Canada.

Given all that, I figured I’d have to be REALLY sure about a piece from Dorothy Perkins to gamble on ordering from them. A quick browse of their site later, I identified some cute pieces that I might’ve liked to purchase. But with the high costs of shipping and returns, I just couldn’t take the risk.

If you want to take a shot, here are some cute looking items:

Dorothy Perkins: Petite Port Metal Detail Jacket. £32.

Dorothy Perkins: Petite charcoal 2 in 1 jumper. £19.60.

Billie & Blossom: Petite coral red ditsy floral dress. £17.50.

If only they offered more convenient shipping and returns to Canadians! I’d really like to be able to add Dorothy Perkins to my go-to shopping list. Maybe one day.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: £7.50 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, but not worth it.
  • Worth it? No. Too risky.

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Missguided

Missguided is another young, trendy, fashion-forward brand from the UK with a decent selection of petite dresses, tops, jeans, rompers and jackets.

Here’s the thing: Missguided is available at Hudson’s Bay… in regular sizes. NOT in petites. This is one of my rantiest rants ever: The Bay has bought the Canadian exclusivity rights to a number of brands now, opting only to carry straight sizes but also preventing anyone else from selling petite sizes even though they choose not to sell them themselves. It’s infuriating, insulting, and frustrating to the hilt, especially since one of the affected brands is my all-time workwear fave Calvin Klein Petite (which I’m forced to ship to the border since Macy’s isn’t allowed to ship to Canada because of the Bay’s rights to the brand here). Fuck you, Hudson’s Bay. Seriously. Fuck you.

But anyway. Missguided. Other than from its own site, you can also buy Missguided’s petites line from ASOS’s US site (see above). Shipping to Canada from Missguided’s US site is $5 CAD flat, which ain’t bad. However, they ship from the UK and they do charge taxes, duties and brokerage fees on delivery. Ouch. Unfortunately, returns are also at the customer’s expense. They have a return shipping address in Mississauga for Canadians, which helps cut the costs somewhat since domestic shipping is way less expensive than shipping back to the UK. But it may also complicate being able to claim a reimbursement for taxes and duties.

The ship to the US border option exists here, too. The main advantage is that Missguided doesn’t charge taxes or duties on orders under $800 when shipping to the US. Other than that, the costs of shipping and returns are pretty much the same whether you ship to Canada or the US.

Anyway, what are the styles like? Honestly? A bit trashy. Yeah, okay, a lot trashy. Here are some examples:

Missguided: Petite pink cowl neck velvet mini dress. $46 CAD.

Missguided: Petite black faux fur aviator jacket. $105 CAD.

Missguided: Petite nude 90s neck snake print mini dress. $31 CAD.

The upshot? I can’t even bring myself to be disappointed about the poor shipping and return options here, since I’d be hard pressed to find a single item of clothing in this line that I’d actually want to buy. I suppose if you want petite-friendly clubwear, or, y’know, are considering a new career as a Vegas stripper, this might be a good place to shop. Otherwise? There are better options.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: $5 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense. Canadian return shipping address.
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, but not much of an advantage.
  • Worth it? Not if you’re over 25. Or have any sense of self respect.

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Wallis

Holiday clothes, coats, and cute tops in petite sizes abound on UK retailer Wallis’s website. The styles are perhaps a bit more mature than the ultra-trendy likes of Topshop or Missguided, and the clothes actually look like they’d be decent quality for the price points.

Unfortunately, like most of the retailers on this list, their UK site does ship to Canada, but only at a steep price: £7.50 shipping, plus taxes and duties, plus returns at the customer’s expense. They also have one of the least flexible return policies on this list — only 14 days to return ship — which is cutting it close with international shipping times both ways.

There’s a .com site for Americans, but the shipping costs are similar ($10 USD flat) and they also force you to return to the UK at the customer’s expense. The only advantage to shopping on the US site seems to be seeing prices in dollars instead of pounds, but that’s not much of a savings.

In case you’re interested, here are a few of the cuter styles I noticed while browsing Wallis’s petites site:

Wallis: Petite brown short padded coat. £75.

Wallis: Petite red berry floral dress. £50.

Wallis: Petite floral sequin mesh jumpsuit. £55.

There is also a good selection of basics like denim, blouses and jackets. Unfortunately I was not willing to take the financial risk of ordering from their line. Perhaps one day they’ll offer local shipping and returns, and I will be able to test them out.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: £7.50 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, but not worth it.
  • Worth it? No, too risky.

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River Island

Another young, fashion-forward brand now making clothes in petite proportions, River Island has a small but decent selection on its own website. The line is trendy, though some of the styles seem like they might not be the most flattering to petite figures. Most items are wallet-friendly at under £50. The River Island website, like a number of other UK brands on this site, uses actual petite models to show their petite clothes — something I applaud wholeheartedly since it’s so rare and makes such a difference.

The UK website has “preferred” shipping and return arrangements for a number of international markets. Unfortunately, Canada is not one of them. For us, shipping costs £10, duties and taxes are extra, and returns are only available by shipping items back to the UK at the customer’s expense — which, fair warning, can cost up to hundreds of dollars. It’s a hassle, to be sure.

The US, on the other hand, is a “preferred” country. Shipping there is free for purchases above $50, duties and taxes are reimbursed, and returns are offered by preferred courier. Unfortunately the website is skint on details about costs and logistics of this service. But if you must order from them, it might be safer to go via the US site and ship to the border. However, it’s worth noting that TrustPilot’s reviews are terrible, with tales of packages not arriving, poor customer service, or missing tracking information.

Some River Island petite pieces are also available at ASOS, which may be another purchase option for Canadian customers not wanting to chance ordering from River Island’s website.

Here are some of the pieces from their current line:

River Island: Petite red check boucle double breast jacket. $90 USD.

River Island: Petite pink lace swing top. $56 USD.

River Island: Petite burgundy cowl neck jumpsuit. $110 USD.

I didn’t order anything from River Island, given the high cost and risk of purchasing from the website. But if the styles appeal to you, feel free to check them out.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website and some on ASOS.com.
  • Shipping: £10 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK. No assistance.
  • Ship to US border option? Yes, via US website.
  • Worth it? Very risky via their website. Possibly via ASOS.

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New Look

Another wallet-friendly UK brand with a decent offering of petite basics and on-trend pieces. New Look actually has some really cute stuff that manages to fill the hard-to-find style space between teen and grandma.

Like some of the other sites on this list, New Look uses actual petite models to display its petite clothes, which is something I always appreciate when I find it. The sizes are given in UK sizing, so make sure to check the chart and convert to North American sizes when you order.

The good news is, they do ship to Canada. When you choose Canada as your delivery country, prices are displayed for some reason in Euros, not dollars or pounds. Shipping to Canada costs a flat 9€, or is free on orders containing full price items* (not sale items) totalling 65€ or over. Unfortunately, New Look has the same problems as most other UK retailers on this list: Taxes and duties are charged COD, and returns are by post to the UK at the customer’s expense. All this makes the prospect of ordering items that might not fit very risky. Unlike other retailers on this list, they don’t have a US store with favourable ship-to-the-border options either.

Here are some of the pieces I was drooling over:

New Look: Petite Black Houndstooth Double Breasted Coat. €59.99.

New Look: Petite burgundy corduroy mini skirt. €22.99.

New Look: Petite grey cable knit cardigan. €29.99.

Ultimately, New Look is one of the brands I might most like to be able to order from Canada. If they offered more convenient shipping and returns, I’d probably take the chance. Some of the pieces were so cute that I was sorely tempted to break my rule and take a chance on an order anyway, especially with their Black Friday deals. But without knowing how the clothes fit me, I just couldn’t risk it. Oh well.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: 9€, or free on orders containing full price items totalling 65€ or over
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? Risky. Prices are low enough that you may want to gamble.

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Topshop

Topshop offers young, trendy petite-proportionate clothes at mid-range prices. They’re one of the few lines to appeal to a younger petite audience — most North American petite brands tend to cater to the senior crowd — so they stand out as far as that goes.

I do find their clothes in general to be overpriced for the quality. The styles can go a bit too far in trying to be trendy and cross the line to simply unflattering and ridiculous. You won’t find too many classic pieces here. And a word about sizing: It’s definitely juniors, so you’ll need to size up. Annoyingly, clothes are displayed on non-petite models, making it hard to see how they’d fit a shorter frame.

Topshop’s website does ship to Canada: Shipping is a flat £7.50, or free on orders of over £100. Taxes and duties are unfortunately charged COD. And returns are by mail only, at the customer’s expense. So, not very international-shopper friendly.

The good news for Canadians is that Hudson’s Bay stocks Topshop, and actually carries its petite line. So we can buy Topshop’s clothes without expensive hassles with taxes, shipping and returns. Unfortunately, The Bay only stocks a small percentage of the total petite line — at last check, it was about 20% — and many of the pieces seem to be in outdated or from previous seasons’ lines. So it’s a poor substitute to browsing on the full Topshop site.

Here are a few examples of the types of pieces that Hudson’s Bay carries in Topshop Petites:

Topshop: Petite Penelope mini skirt. $50 CAD.

Topshop: Petite clash check midi dress. $110 CAD.

Topshop: Petite metallic striped plisse trousers. $70 CAD.

Would I order from Topshop? Not from their website. Maybe from Hudson’s Bay, if I saw a piece I particularly liked. But honestly, nothing from their line really appeals to me all that much. I think it’s geared towards a much younger audience, and one with a vastly different sense of style from me.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website or a limited selection at Hudson’s Bay.
  • Shipping:£7.50 flat, or free on orders over £100.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? Only from The Bay, if that.

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Jeetly

Completely opposite from brands like Topshop is UK line Jeetly, which makes business-appropriate basics like suits and dresses in classy, timeless designs for petite professionals. Jeetly is a brand whose mission I can get behind: They want to empower women and help petites look confident, feel confident, and dress for success. Jeetly knows all too well that dressing in too-big, poorly cut clothing that is made for a woman half a head taller can be very career-limiting. In addition to clothes, Jeetly’s website also offers petite fashion and style advice and supports petite bloggers and advocacy. Their blog addresses issues like height discrimination in the workplace, among others. Jeetly is more than a clothing brand; it’s a company driving change. La Petite Poire approves.

A brand that only makes petite clothing is going to be somewhat different from one that begrudgingly launches a limited petite selection. Jeetly is definitely a premium brand, with prices to match. Its clothes are what you may call “investment pieces” rather than fast fashion.

Jeetly does ship to Canada, but at £17.95 flat, it’s pricey. Duties and taxes are also charged COD, and since the clothes aren’t cheap, these can and will add up quickly. Returns are also by return mail to the UK at the customer’s expense. So shopping internationally is a very risky endeavour for us Canadian petites. I really do wish Jeetly would come up with a better international shipping and fulfillment plan, since I’d like to be able to support this brand more.

Here are some examples of Jeetly’s offerings:

Jeetly: ROMA Petite black shift dress. $175 CAD.

Jeetly: Gina petite navy blue suit jacket ($102 CAD) and skirt ($53 CAD)

The thing is, most workplaces these days are business casual at the very least. So these kinds of staid, conservative suits and dresses have very limited use outside the courtroom or the interview room. It’s a workwear niche that I think some US brands like Calvin Klein Petite solve for me nicely, and at far lower risk. In addition, many of Jeetly’s styles are sheath or shift dresses or pencil skirts, which I find less flattering on my petite pear-shaped frame than a-line or fit-and-flare silhouettes.

In addition to their classic workwear pieces, Jeetly also has a number of cute slogan t-shirts with supposedly empowering platitudes on them, like “boss lady” or “girl power”. To be honest, those make me roll my eyes a bit, especially since they charge over $60 for a basic tee. But hey, if that’s your thing, at least the t-shirts are supposedly petite-friendly.

Ultimately? Jeetly is a concept I like more in theory than in practice. We desperately need more brands doing this sort of thing for petites, so I applaud and encourage Jeetly. At the same time, I’d like to see more variety, wallet-friendlier pricing, and — most of all — better international shipping and return policies. I’ll be watching this brand as it evolves.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping:£17.95 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? They’re investment pieces, so maybe.

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Precis Petite

This is a story that is becoming all too common of retail failure in a changing marketplace.

See, UK brand Precis Petite has been a longtime staple of the petite section at such Canadian department stores as Hudson’s Bay. But the parent company Jacques Vert, which owned Precis Petite and distributed it internationally, went bankrupt last summer, taking the jobs and clothes with it.

The styles, it should be said, catered mostly to the grandmother set. They were traditional, old-fashioned, and failed to keep pace with trends. I was never a fan of the brand even when I could easily find it here. So I’m not too heartbroken. Still, it’s sad to see yet another petite brand fold, given how few of them there are in the world.

For now, you can still buy Precis Petite clothes on their UK website. But that may be temporary.

  • Availability in Canada: Via UK website for now, maybe.
  • Shipping:£20 flat.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? Definitely not.

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Marks & Spencer

Ubiquitous British department store Marks & Spencer carries a small petite selection of a few basic wardrobe pieces. Nothing that stands out as particularly exciting, and there are only a handful of items. At the time of this blog post, there were only 38 petite items for sale on the site, to be exact. A far cry from the thousands of SKUs on sites like ASOS or Next.

Many of the reasons Brits love M&S — free tailoring, lovely in-store environment, customer service — aren’t really relevant to people shopping online from abroad. Given all that, and the limited selection, I’d be hard-pressed to find a good reason for Canadian petites to want to buy these clothes.

But if you do, the good news is that their website does ship to Canada. The Canadian version of the website gives prices in CAD, though sizes are still in UK. Shipping charges are very reasonable at only $5 CAD, or free for orders over $100. Even better, M&S is one of the few UK retailers to fully cover taxes and duties, so you won’t get hit with any unexpected COD charges. Unfortunately, returns aren’t quite as easy; Canadian customers have to mail return items back to the UK at our own expense. Ship to the border isn’t available unfortunately, as M&S cannot mail to a PO Box.

M&S was having a 25% Black Friday sale at the time of this post, so I browsed to see if anything caught my eye. Here were a couple of pieces I contemplated, though ultimately didn’t end up purchasing:

M&S Collection: Petite Trench Coat with Stormwear. $106 CAD.

M&S Collection: Petite Cotton Rich Leggings. $23 CAD.

I can’t speak firsthand to the quality of the clothes at Marks & Spencer, though they’ve been in the news lately for many of the wrong reasons. I’m glad to see there are still a few petite options at M&S. But this is a tired brand that isn’t really doing anything all that innovative. And it shows. I wouldn’t really consider them worth adding to my shopping list.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: $5 CAD flat, or free over $100 CAD.
  • Duties and taxes: Covered / no additional charges on delivery.
  • Returns: At customer’s expense, mail back to the UK.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? For basic staples, perhaps.

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Jennifer Anne

A brand by a 5’1″ lawyer who couldn’t find any work-appropriate clothing to fit her — so she launched her own line. Jennifer Anne’s clothing is quite high end and pricey. It’s also extremely conservative; I’d venture a guess that most lawyers on this side of the pond could get away with being a bit less stuffy. Still, if you’re looking for timeless basics, this might be a good place to start.

The collection is quite small — at the time of this post there were only 66 items listed for sale on Jennifer Anne’s site. Another designer on a mission, Jennifer Anne uses only models 5’3″ and under on her site, and maintains a fashion and style blog for petite professional women.

Sizes on the site are UK, and there’s a helpful size guide. One thing I also like about the site is that, in addition to detailed fit descriptions and showing their clothes on petite models, they also include photos of real “average” petite women — who aren’t necessarily young or model-proportioned — wearing many of the items. That helps give a clearer picture of how these clothes would look and wear in the real world.

As a small independent brand, Jennifer Anne doesn’t have quite the same shipping and fulfillment power as the majors. As such, international shipping is pricey — £30 for orders under £750, or £40 for orders of £750 or more — and restrictive. Ship to the border isn’t an option, as they won’t send to PO boxes. They also don’t offer international returns, and international exchanges are at the customer’s expense (as are dealing with hassles with duties and customs). This is NOT a user-friendly shopping experience for customers outside the UK.

Here are a few of the current items from Jennifer Anne’s collection:

Jennifer Anne: Petite Black Polo Dress with Blush. £210.

Jennifer Anne: Persephone Petite Blush Silk Crepe de Chine Pocket Shirt. £150.

Jennifer Anne: Bronte Blue Button Front Dress. £249.

As you can see, the name of the game here is conservative, classic, and business-appropriate. Jennifer Anne is definitely filling a niche for high-end petite professionals who work in more formal workplaces.

Unfortunately, her selection is too narrow and her shipping options are too pricey and restrictive to make ordering from Canada a realistic option. I wish her much success, but this line isn’t for me.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: £30 for orders under £750, or £40 for orders of £750 or more. No PO boxes accepted.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: Not offered. Exchanges only at customer’s expense.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? No.

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Bomb Petite

Okay, so, you know those mansions in Upper Westmount that you drive by and admire without actually ever believing you’d live there? This is kind of how I feel about Bomb Petite: A high-end fashion brand out of the UK that makes exclusive, unique items just for petites. That’s right: They’re making designer clothes for short women! I think I may be in love.

In addition to its own in-house items, Bomb Petite founder Jenny Liu, herself a petite 5’4″, collaborates with independent designers to offer exclusive petite items. Names such as Charlotte London, Nancy Mac, Estonian brand Relax Baby Be Cool, and Jennifer Anne (see above) appear on the site.

Bomb Petite is also a brand on a mission: Their site offers style tips for petites, interviews with petite celebrities, and links to other petite bloggers. Oh, and even a call for petite models between 5′ and 5’4″ to model their clothes. Jenny Liu, you’re my new hero.

Now, the bad news: Shipping to Canada is tricky. Bomb Petite works mostly with independent designers who don’t have the same resources in terms of distribution as the big brands. They do ship to Canada, at a flat $24.95, or free for orders over $250 — a threshold quickly reached on this site, given the high prices. But import duties, taxes and brokerage fees are charged on delivery. There’s also no word about international returns — whether they’re even possible, let alone what they cost.

The price tags of their clothes are definitely steep: Dresses for $250 and up, coats and jackets even higher. These are high end fashion pieces, and it shows. There are some occasional sales, though, and the clothes are beautiful and unique. So it’s definitely worth perusing their site… even if it’s just to make endless wishlists on Pinterest.

Here are a few examples of the ever-changing items that you can find on Bomb Petite:

Nancy Mac: Petite Kristen Dress in red rosewood lace. £195.

Vjera Vilicnik: Petite Nina dress in black. £250.

Relax Baby Be Cool: Petite Kawung Print Open Back Mini Dress. £99.

It’s so refreshing to see clothes that are designed to make petite women feel beautiful and sexy and awesome, not merely like afterthoughts. If we’re ever going to end the short stigma in the fashion world, this is what it’s going to take.

Oh, and in case you can’t find anything to suit you on the site? Bomb Petite offers a bespoke service, creating custom-made wardrobe items that they design by appointment with their customers. That’s definitely going on my wishlist if I ever win the lottery.

For now, though, Bomb Petite will be a site I use more for inspiration than for actual shopping. I’ll just browse, pin and drool.

  • Availability in Canada: Yes, via their website.
  • Shipping: $24.95 flat, or free on orders over $250.
  • Duties and taxes: Charged COD, plus brokerage fees.
  • Returns: No idea.
  • Ship to US border option? No.
  • Worth it? If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

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Whew. That sums up 13 of the 17 the brands in the Independent article. I’ve left out the US-based brands they referenced, including Anthropologie, J. Crew, Eileen Fisher, and Reformation, since this is meant to be a blog post about UK brands. I will cover them elsewhere and another time.

A word about sizes

Just a caution before you order anything from a UK-based retailer: You’ll want to double-check the size guide to see whether they’re displaying UK or US sizes. Since so many of these sites automatically adapt to your location, it might not always be obvious how they’re displaying sizes.

How do you find your UK size? The quick answer is, if you’re a petite 00 through 10 in the US, go up 2 sizes to find your UK size. So, in my case, I wear a Petite 4 here in US/Canadian sizes, which makes me a Petite 8 in most UK sizes.

Here’s a handy conversion chart from Jeetly:

Note that this chart isn’t always accurate. Sizes are tricky and not standard across the board. Some brands cater to younger customers and size in more “juniors” proportions, so if you’re ordering from, say, Topshop or Missguided, you may need to size up. Petite plus sizes can have more variety in terms of how they match up between US and UK, too. If you’re ordering from a new brand that you’re unfamiliar with in terms of fit, definitely read the reviews and the size charts carefully. A number of the sites in this guide use “true fit” technology to predict your probable size. But ultimately, there’s no way to tell until you try.

UK petite shopping roundup

There’s no doubt that British petites have a lot more choice than we Canadians, or even many Americans, when it comes to shopping. Clothes appealing to petites of all ages and tastes are plentiful and readily available on the high street and online. A lot of things that are common in the UK are still quite rare here, like actually using petite models to showcase petite clothing online. And if you live in the UK, you can enjoy free shipping and easy returns at most of these retailers, too.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case for those of us shopping from Canada. With few exceptions, they charge us high shipping costs, COD taxes and duties, and returns are on the customer’s dime. That can make online shopping an expensive and frustrating prospect.

If you’re lucky enough to be living or vacationing in the UK, you may want to pop into some of these retailers’ physical locations and try on their brands. Once you get a sense of what sizes and styles work for you, you may feel more confident in taking the risk of shopping online from Canada.

My top picks for Canadians? From this list, I’d say ASOS (if shipping to the US) and Next (with a Canadian return address) are the only brands that may be purchased with somewhat reduced risk. On the higher end of the quality scale, Boden makes shipping to — though not returning from — Canada relatively easy. No UK retailer offers the same convenience as stores on this side of the pond, where we take free shipping and free returns for granted. But for the petite variety and selection, it may be worth giving a few of these brands a try.

 

 

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