Hide Your Credit Cards: Hit the Best Shopping in Toronto's Bloor-Yorkville

The Bloor-Yorkville area in Toronto might now be known as the hub of the sophisticated, but it wasn't only that way. If you go way back to 1830, there was even a guy named Joseph Bloore. This now-exclusive neighbourhood began as a residential neighbourhood and brewery site (because those things go together like birds of a feather).

Ask a baby boomer what Yorkville was like in the 1960s. Shabby, run-down, but hippie chic, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young played here back in the days when smoking publicly and wearing bellbottoms were even more fashionable than they are now. The cigarettes and pants have changed dramatically, as has the landscape, thanks to the influence of businesses like Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen. Soon coffee houses with acoustic sets became high-end boutiques for the incredibly wealthy.

With condominiums aplenty and fashions shows parading through Bloor-Yorkville's many Starbucks, this neighbourhood is a symbol for the dynamic pulse of ever-changing Toronto. While things remain uncharacteristically stagnant, get in your shopping while you can at Holt Renfrew, L'Elegante or Over The Rainbow. Even the thrift stores aren't what we would call affordable, but you may run into a celebrity, or a unique item that won't be replicated at your next cocktail party. If you can't afford to shop, look at it as a museum of clothing and jewellery and then celebrate your ability to restrain with a foamy latte.

Window or regular shopping: it is time to get to these 10 Best.


Sometimes all it takes is the right accessory to pep up an outfit. A little black dress with the right statement necklace stands out from the pack. A piece of costume jewellery or the right scarf or handbag is often the initiating point in a conversation between two women. Accessity gets it. Directly in front of Cumberland's "big rock" (and that may be the only directions you need), this Yorkville store used to be called Leggings and has upgraded significantly since its early days. On top of everything trendy, this store might establish "what's hot" before the fashion magazines do.

You may assume that a consignment shop translates to moth-eaten clothing, but that is certainly not the case in Toronto's luxury marketplace of Yorkville Avenue. Basia's Closet is actually one of the hottest places to shop in Yorkville, consignment shop or not. With preowned luxury accessories, shoes and clothing, it won't be as impossible to outfit your closet with a little more Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Prada. There are incredible discounts of mint-condition pieces that no one will know was preowned by anyone but you. The owner Basia is remarkably welcoming and excited to make the biggest brand names more affordable for your lifestyle.

The average woman's bra size can change over six times in her lifetime. If you have been getting by with some old models with worn-out elastic bands, it is time to get over to an expert and find out your true size at this moment in time. Who better suited than a store dedicated to finding the perfect fit since the 1970s? Unlike Victoria's Secret, the Bra Bar is a more intimate experience that isn't loaded to the brim with models (the bras, not the people). There are selective choices made by the discerning staff, who are all trained as fitters to help your undergarments to stay in place.


We will revert to a Karl Lagerfeld quote to open up about L'Elegante: "Never use the word 'cheap'. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans – it's up to you." Designer Lagerfeld sure got it right (and made the rest of us feel better about ourselves, even without multi-million dollar wardrobes). L'Elegante is in the business of "exquisite consignments" or high-end designer labels at (more) affordable prices. You can look more than chic in less expensive clothes. Thanks for the advice, Lagerfeld.

Whoever said "diamonds are a girl's best friend" obviously doesn't live in Canada. Diamonds are nice and all, but they certainly don't keep you warm. What does do the trick incredibly well is cashmere and Kumari's is the store to find it in more than 200 shades. Whether you are looking for a sweater, a cape, socks, a hat, gloves or a scarf, the plush fabric cascades over many hangers in this Yorkville store, just beckoning you to get warm already. There is also jewellery and baby items, should you know a baby that is deserving of this exclusive goat hair.

Men don't only have to be the arm-candy in the shopping experience. Rather than spending a day answering "yes" to the question "Does this look good on me?" men can have a shopping experience that will have them looking dapper or fly or on fleek, depending on which generation they come from. Think of contemporary street clothing, with just enough flair to have you stand out from the pack and just enough dressiness to confirm that you are not on your way to a skater's park. 25% of the clothing is Canadian and it is rare to find an item in the four figures.

Although 40 years doesn't sound that old, in Toronto's notoriously fickle retail landscape, it is impressively long. Over the Rainbow isn't going anywhere as long as jeans don't go out of style. In 1975, Over The Rainbow opened as a tailor-made denim warehouse. Now they carry over 30 brands in many sizes, styles and fits. In today's yoga pant culture, a pair of well-fitting blue jeans almost seems dressy. Whether you are dressing them up or down, make sure this well-worn piece of clothing fits you perfectly with in-store alterations. Enjoy some of the famously free Jujubes as you browse.

Even if you have never had the funds or occasion to attend a ball, shopping at Divine Decadence will have you wishing for your own fairy godmother. Carmelita Blondet will be happy to take on the role of godmother, a woman that is as at-home in mountains of tulle and silks as she is in a pair of sky-high heels. Vintage dresses, from the days when people used to dress up, sit impeccably on hangers, begging for your inner little girl to play dress up. There is a Spanish embroidered silk cape from 1910 and a cream silk lace dress from 1930. Everything is in mint condition. Celebrities often make their way over and someone with the last name of Gaga likes to get unique stage wear here.

Yorkville Village
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Yorkville Village

Upscale shopping at its best; this Bloor-Yorkville destination has been at the top of the list for visiting celebs and well-to-do Torontonians since it opened back in the 1970s. Look for shoes, handbags and couture from designers such as Badgley Mischka, Christian Louboutin, Monique L'huillier, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Zac Posen. Shop for organic groceries at Whole Foods (still dubbed as Whole Paycheque) with the cloth bag-touting elite. Pick up a bottle of wine. Go to the Yorkville Club for a sweaty yoga class or spinning session. Whatever you do here, it will be stylish because it's all about location, location, location.

Shopping at Holt Renfrew in the Bloor-Yorkville area of Toronto harkens back to the time when customer service was all about the customer rather than the commission. There are concierges that roam the store ready to attend to your every need. There is complimentary alterations on all full priced items. There is an in-house spa and barber. There is a cafe with Pinterest-worthy pastries and the frothiest of cappuccinos. High end designers present fashion shows in the store. The experience is top notch, even if your price bracket will only allow you to look longingly at items. Drown your sorrows in one of those cappuccinos before you exit.


Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney