Retailer Reviews

Spring 2023 haul review: White House Black Market

White House Black Market is a brand I’ve been curious to try for quite some time, but never had the opportunity. WHBM has classic styles of workwear and occasionwear and carries many of its styles in petite sizes. But the only physical stores in Canada went bankrupt back in 2020 (and anyway, we’ve never had any stores here in Montreal). They do sell online and ship to Canada via Borderfree, but it always felt prohibitively expensive to order any of their items online.

But last month, their spring sale was on and they were running a free shipping and duty-free promo to Canada. So I got inspired to finally give the brand a try.

First off, the shopping experience: Ordering online was fairly straightforward. My order took about 2 weeks to arrive, which isn’t the quickest, but is not bad for international shipping. And the presentation is lovely, with my items arriving in a solid cardboard box that reflected the higher price point of the items. So far so good:

I decided to order three items with this first shop. The first thing I picked up was this velvet blazer in a rich wine colour. Let’s be fair: I’ve been working from home full time since spring 2020 and the last thing I really need is another blazer. But WHBM’s suiting separates have always tempted me, and I love the colour and fabric of this jacket. I just had to try this:

Blazer: WHBM Petite Velvet Editor Blazer in Port, size 4P, $119.99 CAD (reduced from $250)

At least, that’s what I thought I ordered. What actually arrived was a different jacket altogether, a cotton double-breasted blazer, also in port, but with entirely different styling. I believe what actually showed up was their studio blazer, which seems to come in black or navy but isn’t even listed on the site in this wine colour at all:

Not the same blazer at all: WHBM Petite Studio Blazer in Port, size 4P.

Sending me the entirely wrong item is strike one, WHBM. Not impressed so far. But, that aside, how did it fit? I guess I could use this as an opportunity to review the studio blazer.

And the answer is, I have mixed feelings. On the plus side, the quality is evidently very good, the fabric feels rich, the tailoring is impeccable, and I do love the colour. And, for perhaps the first time in my life, the sleeves on this blazer fit perfectly without having to be rolled up at all. Which, even for a petite jacket, rarely happens.

On the other hand, the double breasted style with two rows of jackets is really unflattering on my petite pear frame, making me look wide, boxy, and adding extra emphasis to the width at my hip area, which I usually try to minimize:

And moreover, it’s just too similar to another purple cotton blazer I already have in my wardrobe from Next Petite, which has a far more flattering fit:

I don’t need two similar jackets, and the one I already own is much better on me. That, and the fact that WHBM sent me the wrong item entirely, made this an easy decision to send back.

Next was this lace v-neck fit-and-flare dress that caught my attention because is actually a bit similar to a dress I used to own:

Dress: WHBM Petite Sleeveless Bonded Lace Fit-and-Flare Dress, size 4P, $230 CAD

Here it is on me:

I actually really love this. It fits very well. The fit-and-flare style is flattering. What you can’t see from the photos is how heavy this dress is; the fabric is rich, lined, and feels expensive. And it has pockets, which is always something that makes me overjoyed.

I’m a bit hesitant because I’m not sure I’ll be able to get enough wear out of this to justify the price tag. This isn’t an everyday summer dress; it’s really more of a special occasion dress, and my opportunities to wear it might be a bit limited. Still, I love the design and lace pattern, and the dress is pretty enough that I may just decide to keep it anyway.

Last, still on a lace kick, I picked up this lace sleeveless blouse with a flutter cap sleeve and illusion overlay:

Top: WHBM Sleeveless Lace Top, Black, size S, $49.99 CAD (reduced from $120)

Frustratingly, most of WHBM’s tops, including this one, aren’t available in petite sizes. But I loved the style and neckline, so against my better judgment I gambled on a regular size small. Here it is on me:

I really do love the style, and this is a top I could see myself getting a lot of wear out of. The flutter cap sleeve is a very flattering neckline on us petite pears, and the illusion neckline makes this easy to dress up or down.

Unfortunately, the fit is a problem. This is a perfect example of why it’s so difficult for us petite pears to shop in the regulars section for tops and blouses: It’s too long. Not just too long, but the overall fit is awkward: The neckline and armholes are too low, the waist falls at the hips, and torso area bunches up and hits at an awkward place on the hip area.

To illustrate, look what would happen if this top were to be taken up by a couple of inches at the shoulders, so that the waist sat in the right spot:

Instant improvement, as everything else would move to the right place: The waist nips in at my natural waist, the top falls to the right spot at my hips, and the neckline moves into place.

But, alas, due to the flutter sleeve detailing and the delicate lace fabric, this isn’t an easy alteration to do. It would involve removing the sleeve, taking up the blouse at the shoulder, and then reattaching the sleeve in a new spot. Not exactly within my own DiY capability, and taking it to a tailor would probably cost more than the shirt itself.

I do love this otherwise and would probably wear it a lot, if only it fit properly. This is why it drives me crazy when brands think that petite sizes are only needed for pants or dresses. WHBM, please make more of your tops in petite sizes! We short women deserve tops that fit, too!

Haul summary: Well, my first experience with White House Black Market was a mixed bag. Their clothes are high quality and quite beautiful, and the fit of the petite items is excellent. But the high price points, the fact that they sent me a wrong item in my order, and the lack of availability of many items in petite sizes, means that WHBM is unlikely to make my list of recommended go-to brands for petites. I may try them again if I need a classic investment piece or a special occasion item, but I’m unlikely to return to them on the regular.

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