Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Want someone to pick out your clothes for you? Stitch Fix personal styling service review (picture heavy post)

FYI: There is some discussion of clothing sizes in the following post.
I heard about Stitch Fix from a friend, who gave me her invite link. It is a service where you fill out a profile, pay $20, and they send you five "hand-picked" clothing/accessory items to try on based on what you said you like in your profile. There are no charges for shipping or returns (i.e. that is factored into the overall cost), and if you decide to keep anything, the $20 "styling fee" goes toward the cost of the item(s) you buy. If you return everything, you've paid that $20 for the experience. You have 3 business days to decide what to keep and what to return.

Okay, so it maybe doesn't fit neatly into the "cheap" category, but I also cater to the lazy and/or incompetent around here, and it does suit those of us who identify that way. Someone else shops for you and sends the shit to your house? That's lazy as fuck.

I read some reviews online before I signed up, and they were almost all positive. My review is more neutral. I had one negative experience and one positive experience with the two packages they sent me. Customer service was good, but my first box was . . . not.

The contents of my first Stitch Fix package.
The contents of my first Stitch Fix package.
Once I signed up and filled out my profile, I actually got off the waiting list within just a few days. I was excited. My package arrived quickly, and it was packed nicely in tissue paper, with an instruction card and an invoice included.

In my profile I'd noted that I wear a 38B bra, and a 12/M in tops and 14/L in bottoms and dresses. My birthdate is also included in the profile: I'm 31. They also ask questions about what style of clothing you wear. I indicated that I prefer classic and romantic styles, that bohemian and edgy are okay, and that I'm not a fan of preppy. I said I wear more dresses than pants, and that I'd prefer all of my items to be as cheap as possible. I also said that I'd mostly like work appropriate clothes, along with some casual or going-out-for-drinks type stuff.

I was really disappointed with what I got in my first package. First of all, I think that overall this is more of a boho look than classic or romantic, unless romantic means childish. Worse than the style problem, though, was that absolutely none of the clothing in this box fit me. And, I mean, it was so small that I couldn't even try it on, period. See that pink shirt? It not only looks like the sort of thing a 12-year-old ballerina would wear, that's who it would fit, too.

I was so frustrated. I assumed that they must be using juniors sizes, because the tops they sent were labeled medium, but they fit like smalls. I really do wear M in most tops: I looked through my closet before filling out my profile. I felt like if these items were really hand-picked by someone, they should have looked at my bra size and looked at the fact that I said I wear 12-14, and chosen things accordingly. So I wrote a polite, but disappointed, email to customer service outlining my frustration. It wasn't that I didn't like what they sent (I didn't, really, but that was the gamble I signed up for) - it was that I couldn't even try it to see if I liked it on.
Glue circled in black
The other problem was the necklace, the one thing that fit. It was priced at $32, and it just wasn't good quality. It was plastic glued to base metal, and there were big gobs of glue visible on the stones. I've seen nearly identical things for less than a third the price from Forever 21 - and I wouldn't buy them from there with glue all over them either.

Customer service responded to me within a couple of days and apologized for the issues I'd had, and credited the $20 styling fee back to my account, which I certainly appreciated. They said that they do not stock juniors sizes, but they do sell "contemporary brands" whose sizing may run small. Contemporary as opposed to the, what, historical or futuristic clothes I have in my closet? Whatever. Anyway, I wish they had mentioned somewhere on the site that things run small to begin with. Or, better yet, that their stylists took that into account when choosing things for me! So I returned everything and started again.

I adjusted the sizes in my profile up a little bit, and said that I hated boho, but preppy was okay (even though that makes me think polos and khakis and hell no). I also asked for no hi-lo hems, please. And then I scheduled another delivery.

The second package was much better. Here's what I got:
Tab-sleeve blouse, $49
Mint tank, $49
Flutter-sleeve blouse, $49

Striped dress, $69
Acrylic and glass flower necklace, $32
I actually liked all of these items when I opened the box. The floral print blouse looked SO GOOD when I tried it on, but it was one full size too small. It had no stretch, and so I nearly panicked thinking I was stuck in it for a minute. I escaped, but I was tempted to keep it just in case it fit someday. That's how much I liked it. It looked so much better on me than it does on the hanger. But for $50, I wasn't that stupid. I did contact customer service, even though their FAQs say they don't do size exchanges, to ask if they had a larger size. They responded promptly, but unfortunately, they didn't have it. I even googled my ass off trying to find it elsewhere with no luck. It was not meant to be.

The mint tank just wasn't flattering when I tried it on. The blue blouse was a little too tight in the chest, so the buttons gaped, and for $50 I want a better fit. The striped dress looked really great on, and I was tempted to keep it, but I already have a few very similar dresses, so decided it wasn't a good investment.

In the end, the only thing I kept was the necklace. It is really beautiful and better quality than the previous one. It reminds me of a brooch that used to belong to my grandmother. When I opened the box, one of the blue stones fell out, but I was able to just pop it back in and tighten up the prongs holding it in place. I checked the others, and they look pretty secure. I really hope another stone doesn't fall out, but I think it will be okay. And I was fine with the price of this one. It's more than I would normally pay, but it's even a little cheaper than the identical necklace from Bauble Bar, so I don't really feel like I'm being gouged or anything.

The prices are higher in general than what I normally would spend on comparable-quality clothing (mostly because I am a dedicated sale shopper), but I understand that their styling, packaging, shipping, etc. is built into the cost. I think it is reasonable from a business point of view. You will get 25% off if you decide to buy all 5 items, but I think a better system would be 10% off if you buy 2, 15% for 3, 20% for 4, and 25% off for all 5. Or something like that. I might have been more likely to keep more items with an incentive that wasn't all or nothing. I don't know how that wold work from their perspective, though, i.e. if it would be cost effective or whatever.

They also provide little styling cards with each clothing item (you might be able to see them hanging inside the garments in the photos above) that give you ideas for two different types of outfit you could create with each item. I think those are really useful.

In the end, I don't know if I will order another package. The first one was annoying, but the second one was fun. Still, I'm not sure it's worth the price for me.

Here's who I think this service is best suited to: (1) young and/or small and/or patient people with some disposable income who like to get surprises in the mail; or (2) people who find shopping and choosing clothing to be an overwhelming or frustrating experience. For the latter, it could be really nice and stress-free to fill out a profile and have some one else sort through the seemingly endless clothing options out there to find something you might like. It comes right to your house, and the whole process is very convenient. Personally, I love shopping for myself, so while getting a surprise was fun, I don't feel like I need help in that department.

I strongly suggest that you round up in the sizes in your profile, especially if you wear bigger sizes or are a Person With Boobs. The clothes I got were cut small. If you have any hesitation at all about what size to choose, go with the larger one. And think carefully about what styles you wear. If fringes and feathers and "tribal" patterns don't do it for you, just say no to "bohemian" even if there is something oddly appealing about the idea of it. (Am I projecting?) Finally, do contact customer service if you have any concerns. They are helpful.

If you decide to go for it, I'd love to hear how it works out for you. Or maybe you've already tried it? The service is still in beta, so go ahead and use my invite link to sign up, if you like. Hopefully you'll be like me and get off the waiting list in just a few days.

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