Women's Fashion

Elizabeth A. Haas on sizing, sales, and where to buy what

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 16.04.2007 10:58:17 (updated on 16.04.2007) Reading time: 6 minutes

Written by Elizabeth A. Haas
for Expats.cz

Whatever will I wear? is a question that takes on a whole new meaning when outfitting oneself in the Czech Republic. Given the random sizing, racks packed with boldly hued frocks in sometimes unflattering cuts, and suprisingly steep prices, the Prague shopping experience can be frustrating to say the least. Our guide will help with the basics—including important Czech shopping phrases—but when it comes to squeezing into that pair of rhinestone-bedecked, uber-distressed skinny jeans that barely cover your bum, well, you´re on your own.

Size Matters

The good news is that sizing systems for gloves, socks and pantyhose are the same in both the US, UK and Europe. Beyond that things get a little tricky. Some stores use approximate size measures—XS (extra small) through XL (extra large). But as there is little consistency among manufacturers it is always best to try on clothing for fit. A size XL t-shirt purchased in the States may swim on you; I recently bought an XL t-shirt at Clockhouse here in Prague that gave me the appearance of a cased sausage.

Which raises another key point: Many retailers sell clothes suited to more petite frames. The trendy threads sold at Terranova, New Yorker, Kenvelo, and the like skew smaller and are aimed at a younger crowd (in western parlance we call these sizes “juniors”). Fuller figures can take heart—many retailers around Prague, including perennially popular H&M, now stock plus-sized apparel. For a more sophisticated selection Zara, Promod, Marks & Spencers, Debenhams, and the bottom floor of C&A are a safe bet.

Women´s suits, dresses, pants, and coats can be roughly converted as such: An American 4/British 6 is a European 34. An American 6/British 8 is a European 36 and so on. Shoe sizes are as just as random. Generally speaking an American 7/British 5 ½ is a European 39. But my American size 10 foot can fit into a 40 or a 42 depending on the shop. Trying to convince yourself that any conversions are accurate can make for nasty blisters. It´s also worth noting that delicate, strappy footwear is not cut out for cobblestones. Investing in a practical—yet pretty!—pair of shoes is a wise idea. Find one, along with numerous stiletto-ed and kitten-heeled confections at Humanic, Bata, Leiser, Deichmann, or Tango.

If all else fails, don´t be afraid to ask salespeople for their help, many, even those at shops outside of the city center, speak English. For additional help converting sizes (and learning more than you´d ever need, nor want, to know about European sizing logic), www.onlineconversion.com is a useful site. Here you´ll find tips on converting everything from lingerie to wedding rings.

Return Policies

Trying on clothes before you buy them is a must, not only because sizes aren´t always standardized but because returning unwanted purchases can be a huge pain. According to Czech law, retailers must offer a two-year warranty on all goods. But despite the warranty it becomes a lot more difficult to return items the longer you keep them. Whether a shop will accept your return is solely up to the discretion of the manager. And if they refuse to refund your money or allow an exchange you won´t have much recourse, especially if you don´t speak Czech.

Always keep your receipt and things will run a lot more smoothly. With a receipt, you are usually entitled to return clothes for up to 30 days from the time of purchase for a full refund, store credit, or exchange. This includes sale clothing. If, for some reason, you don´t have a receipt, you might be able to exchange the item for a different size, color, or equally priced garment but return policies will vary from store to store. Often the exchange must equal the original purchase amount exactly. And since you won´t get cash back without a receipt, even for a paltry sum, you´ll be expected to purchase more to “even” things out.

Seasons & Sales

For those accustomed to the throw-away fashions of TJ Maxx, Target, and Walmart, Prague clothing prices can be shocking. Savvy shoppers will want to take advantage of end-of-the-season sales. Summer sales (akce) usually start in late August. January through mid-February is prime-time for stocking up on sweaters, pants, jackets and other warm-weather apparel. Sale items can usually be purchased for a steal—with clearance prices sometimes hitting the 79 CZK mark.

Fall fashions debut after the summer sales; expect to see winter jackets, scarves and hats on the racks in October; these items make way for the fun florals and bright colors of spring in February; while bathing suits, sundresses, sandal, etc., hit stores after Easter, sometimes earlier.

A Trip to the Mall

The Czech Republic, it would seem, is home to more malls than there are people to shop in them. But squint your eyes and close your ears at one of the many shopping “centrums” around town and you won´t know whether you are in Praha or Pittsburgh. In fact, the truly homesick may take comfort among the kiosks and food courts of these bustling shopping centers. Even those who are anti-mall will find at least one visit to be worthwhile—the many malls here typically house the same retailers and will give you a good idea of your fashion options throughout the city.

Prague´s major shopping centers are Palác Flora (www.palacflora.cz), Nový Smíchov (www.novysmichovoc.cz), Metropole Zličín (www.metropole.cz), Letňany (www.oc-letnany.cz), and Chodov (www.centrumchodov.cz). Here you´ll likely find most of the stores mentioned in this articles and other mall mainstays that cater to a variety of looks and sizes including Next, Reserved, S.Oliver, Time Out, Replay, Mango, Orsay, Esprit, Pietro-Filipi, Promod, and Zero. (Direct links to most of their websites are found on the various malls´ web pages.)

If you fear the daringly distressed denim, quirky detailing (i.e. sparkly appliques and bulletholes) and prices (up to 3,000 CZK a pair) of the Diesel or Gas boutiques located around Prague, mall stores like Lee and Wrangler, Guess, Pepe Jeans, Levi´s Store and Mustang offer more in the way of basic jeans. Be warned that a lot of jean joints don´t appreciate customers rifling through their perfectly stacked piles of boot-cuts and low-riders to find the right size. Show the salesperson the nearby hanging sample of the style you like and she´ll retrieve your size—and if she speaks English rudely inform you that you don´t look like a 32.

Beyond the Shopping Centrum

Stand-alone department stores also exist in Prague. Kotva and Tesco, to name a couple, are traditionally for the conservative-minded. The flagship stores of many of the mall retailers mentioned in this article can be found in the center and around the city (consult their web sites for exact locations). We recommend taking our shop-til-you-drop themed walking tour of Prague to familiarize yourself with the city´s fashion terrain:

Begin at the top of Wenceslas Square and work your way down, ducking in and out of the many arcade-style shopping and bargain stores (most hawking knock-off bags and cheap, designer-look clothing) on either side of the square. At the bottom of the Square hang a right onto Na Příkopě to check out Jack and Cottonfield, United Colors of Benneton, and Vera Moda. Turn left at the flagship Zara store and work your way down Havířská where you´ll want to stop into Max Mara. Take a quick left and a quick right onto Železná, a tiny street laden with upscale shops like Marina Rinaldi, Stefanel, and Jack. Cross Old Town Square and end up on Pařížská street, Prague´s answer to Fifth Avenue, for some wishful window shopping. Here one can fantasize about owning a Louis Vuitton handbal or Prada shoes—or for those with the dough—actually make it a reality.

Shopper´s Glossary

Exchange – Vyměnit
Receipt – Účet
Refund – Vrátit peníze
Return – Vrátit
Sale – Akce

Dress – Šaty
Jacket – Bunda
Jeans – Džíny
Pants – Kalhoty
Shirt – Tričko
Shoes – Boty
Skirt – Sukně
Sweater – Svetr

For some more eclectic tips and picks – hot designers & cool boutiques – see our follow-up article here:

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