Thursday, January 15, 2015

Third Time's A Charm? A Review of the Time I Told Stitch Fix To "Surprise Me"

Note:  I am not endorsed or renumerated by Stitch Fix in any way.  This post is only for me to express my opinion and share my experience.  However, if you are interested in trying Stitch Fix yourself, I do request that you use this link, which will give me a 25% referral discount on future orders. Stitch Fix did not provide me with this link in exchange for posting about them on this blog.  All customers receive a referral link when signing on and if you decide to use the service, they will provide you with one as well.

I don't need new clothes right now.  Thanks to a few well-targeted shopping trips, a gift certificate to ModCloth, and a very fruitful session with Keaton Row,  I would say I'm all set for clothes. I didn't need to order another Stitch Fix* box. 

But when does shopping ever have anything to do with need?  I don't consider myself a recreational shopper, but I do love clothes.  I love looking at clothes.  I love acquiring the perfect clothes.  New clothes don't solve anything, but they can provide me with a bit of fun and cheer.

Let's face it, I need some fun and cheer.  It's the dead of winter.  Activity is limited for me due to surgery.  I am not going on vacation until July.  I'm getting fat again.  I want something to look forward to.  Stitch Fix fits the bill.  I can enjoy the anticipation of a nice surprise and possibly have a few new clothes, that I don't need, but might still enjoy.

I admit I'm becoming less optimistic about Stitch Fix than I was when I first signed on.  My first two boxes were a bit disappointing.  I received boxes of great clothes that mostly didn't fit. If you spend time on the Stitch Fix blogosphere, you will see women who were once die-hard fans becoming disenchanted with the service or first-time users who were devastated at the horrid choices the stylists made.

There seem to be three major issues that women have with Stitch Fix:

1.  Price.   Stitch Fix is not a discounter.  They are a regular retail service with a unique gimmick.  They charge MSRP for all of their clothes plus a styling fee.  This doesn't sit well with bargain-minded shoppers.  If you usually shop at Target and Old Navy and H&M, you will find Stitch Fix to be expensive.  My concern is more about finding quality, flattering, clothes that I really love and I'm willing to pay for them within reason.  I find the low-end retail stores sell clothes that don't fit or flatter me well.  If I want to bargain shop, I gravitate toward places like Bolton's or Marhsalls where they sell overstocks of better brands at a discount.  (I do occasionally buy very basic items at Kohl's though.)  Many Stitch Fix bloggers are budget-minded mothers who really don't want to pay Stitch Fix prices.

There was recently a big scandal where one customer received a pair of shorts that mistakenly had a tag attached from Nordstrom Rack. The tag showed a significantly lower price from what was on the Stitch Fix invoice. This was all over the Internet for a while.  Stitch Fix was very apologetic and now claims that if you find the same item at a lower price, they will match that cost Still I think a lot of women are suspicious. 

2.  Sizes.When you fill out your profile, they ask you for your height, weight, and bra size, but not much else.  They don't ask for measurements, which might help a stylist make a call about a certain manufacturer's sizing parameters.  Size has always been a big issue for me.  I have a hard body to fit in the first place and have sent back more clothing due to size than for any other reason. 

One particular sizing sticking point is that until recently they carried no specialty sizes.  They don't carry plus sizes.  Size 14 is their biggest size and their inventory for the larger sizes isn't as good. Some larger women feel slighted by this.  Oddly enough, with only a couple of exceptions, I see many larger women on the blogs feeling happy with their fixes.  If you are exactly a size 14, you might be happy with your fix.

My problem has always been their lack of petite sizing.  I wasn't bothered at first since they are a start-up and were still building their inventory, but then one day I was shopping in the petite department of Nordstrom and saw a few of the brands that Stitch Fix sells on the Nordstrom petite racks.  Obviously their brands make petite clothing, so why not order those sizes for their inventory?  However, they have recently added petite clothes to their inventory and it is now part of the style profile.

3.  Style.  Sometimes the stylist just gets you.  Sometimes she doesn't.  I think the stylists who sent me my last two boxes did a fine job of picking clothes I would like.  Not every woman is so lucky.  It's true that if you look through the Stitch Fix review blogs, you do see a lot of the same items.  This leads many women to believe they send you whatever they need to get rid of.  I think some women just have a hard time conveying what they like.  I have looked at style Pin boards and had a hard time pinpointing just what type of look the woman is going for.  Styling someone online isn't easy and some people seem to be better at it than others.

Since I had nothing I needed in mind this time, I told the stylist, "Surprise me."  I said I just wanted to be cheered up in the middle of winter. My priority was cozy winter clothes that I could wear for a casual weekend dinner out with my husband, but I wouldn't mind something for work, and a pair of jeans.  I knew I was setting myself up for a box of clothes that were sitting unwanted in the inventory room for the past 6 months.

What kind of surprise did I receive?

Megan was my stylist again.  That was hopeful.  She did pretty well the last time.

Item 1: Brixon Ivy Roselin Lace Overlay Blouse in cobalt
Price: $68

I was a little annoyed when I first saw this.  I had asked for cozy winter clothes and she sent me a light, short-sleeved blouse.

It was hard to resist though.  I loved the color.  It's definitely one of my signature colors.  I also loved the lace - very appealing to my girly side.  I can wear it under cardigans and jackets in the winter and it will still work in the warmer months by itself.
I modeled it here with a warm weather work look with a pencil skirt, a belt, and peeptoes.  There is no denying this top is "me". 

Status: Kept

Items #2: Peppercorn Arron Boucle` Zip Jacket in black and red
Price: $98

I really did love both the color and style of this jacket.  I know I would have gotten a lot of use out of it, but it was just a bit tight in the arms and across the stomach.   I gained some weight since my surgery as I can't work out much.  I just started a new program this week to take some of it off, but I can't justify paying $98 for something that doesn't quite fit right in hopes that I might lose the weight.  I could get away with wearing it tight, but for that price, I'll pass.

I dressed it up anyway.  I tried it with black pants and booties.  Even Kevin liked it and was sad when I said I was returning it.

Status: Returned

Item #3: Skies Are Blue Pike Crochet Trim Top in gray and white
Price: $64

This was one of those items I knew wouldn't work right out of the bag.  It was pretty, but way too lightweight.  It's yet another top that belongs to another season.  Additionally, it's just plain sheer. The sleeves and shoulders are see-through, letting the world see my bra intentionally.  The rest of the top isn't meant to be sheer, but you can see through it pretty well regardless.  For a $64 blouse, it seemed awfully cheap.

Seeing this with dress pants and some fun shoes almost makes me wish it had been more substantial. I'm pointing to the main reason I'm not keeping it.

Status: Returned

Items #3 & 4:
Olive & Oak Ashlyn Heathered Knit Top in burgundy
Kut From The Kloth Aberdine Ankle Length Straight Leg Jeans
Price of Top: $68
Price of Jeans: $78

If I had been looking for something cute, dressy, and flattering, I would have sent this top right back.  The color is great on me, but the style is just kind of meh.  However for this fix, it was exactly what I was looking for.  It is a cozy casual top that goes perfectly with jeans when I just want something to throw on for Casual Friday at work or Saturday night at the Diner.  Once I saw the photo, I found it flattered me more than I initially gave it credit for.

As for the jeans, once I put them on I had trouble taking them off.  They say the length is a 27" ankle length, but it seems longer than that.  I don't care that they're longer.  I like that they cover my ankles.  That way I don't have to worry about people seeing my socks (important in the winter when colorful warm socks that might not match the rest of my out are covering my feet).  I like the straight leg (I'm so not into flares or bootcut) too.  They also just fit really nicely.  Like so many other women out there, I have such a hard time finding jeans that fit.  They aren't cheap, but they aren't ridiculously pricey either (the very idea of paying more than $100 for a mere pair of jeans makes me break out in hives).  They might even be just a tad large, which will cause an issue if I do lose the weight, but right now, I love that they don't strangle me the way last year's jeans do.

 Status: Kept and Kept!

Three out of five is pretty good.  This is not my favorite Fix in terms of what was sent, but it was definitely my most successful one.  Will I be doing Stitch Fix again any time soon?  Probably not.  I don't need more clothes right now and I have been sufficiently cheered up.  I think that come spring when I need a seasonal wardrobe refresher, I will be consulting with Rebecca instead of getting more Stitch Fix boxes.  I might use Stitch Fix again to help me outfit my cruise vacation in July.  Maybe I will ask Rebecca to help me with that too.  May the best stylist win!

*If you have not been following my blog  - or anyone else's for that matter, I'll give you a refresher on what Stitch Fix is.  It's a personal styling service.  You sign up and fill out a profile stating your likes and dislikes in terms of colors and styles.  You pay a $20 styling fee and they send you a box of clothes.  Each box has 5 items and a prepaid envelope.  You try it on, decide if you like it, and have 3 days to send it back.  The $20 styling fee is applied to anything you purchase and you only pay for the clothes you keep.  If you buy all 5 items, there is a 25% discount.  If you buy nothing, you lose the $20.  If you like surprises and don't like to shop, or don't have time to shop, it's a pretty good service. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Goals 2015

I don't like to make New Year's resolutions.  Resolve is a very inflexible word, and it can make you feel like a failure if you don't make that resolution happen in a given time period.  I prefer to use the word goal.  In 2015 I have goals I would like to strive for.  I will forgive myself if I don't achieve them all, but if I do make a resolution of any kind, it will only be to make the effort.

1.  Get my body back. 

I made a huge accomplishment in 2013 when I went on the Lean Eating program and became very focused on how I ate.  I truly changed how I look as well.  I let myself go in the second half of 2014 as I was dealing with my hip injury and eventual surgery, as well as the new problems with my elbow.  I am joining a new eating program this year that is similar to Lean Eating, but without the extended commitment and the marketing gimmicks.  I am also going to make sure I am always exercising  -  even if it has to be within the limitations of my injuries.  If my elbow doesn't heal in the next few weeks, I will seek medical attention for it as well.

I want to look as hot as a funny-looking 45-year-old with a troll-shaped body can look on my cruise this summer!  The Ninja Goddess will return and rock that ship!

2.  Pursue a new job

My current job is dull and unchallenging.  I took this job because it was the only available job similar to the one I left. In the beginning I was happy just to have found a new job so quickly.  I had also hoped at the time it would be a move forward in my career.  It has barely been a lateral move.   I don't really feel I truly fit in here with my coworkers.  They act like a bunch of hard-partying frat house drunks and have all of the petty cliquishness of your average middle school.  I'm not accomplishing anything here and I just don't fit in.  I need to make an effort to look for something somewhere else.

3.  Let Go and Move On

I think just about anyone who knows me well would describe me as "stubborn".  However, stubborn isn't always a negative character trait.  One positive aspect of my stubbornness is that I'm tirelessly loyal.  I hold tightly to my friends and will always stand by them.

There does come a time when a friendship can wear out its usefulness.  I may not feel that way, but my friends sometimes do.  I will still cling tightly to my friends, despite their disinterested signals, always in denial that perhaps my friendship may not mean as much to them as it does to me.  When I finally accept that a friend is trying to cut me loose, my reaction is anger, bitterness, and long-held grudges.

Can I accept that friendships, like romantic partnerships, no matter how happy they once were, can drift apart as life takes people in different directions?  Can I accept that some friends may decide the positive qualities that attracted them to me in the first place have become overshadowed by what they perceive as my negative qualities?  Can I accept that sometimes friends grow apart as lives change?  Can I accept that even if I still truly enjoy the company of certain friends that they may not find my company so interesting anymore?

I think the time has come for me to start being more accepting.   I need to stop forcing close friendships on people who are more than happy to keep me at arms' length as Facebook acquaintances (and should I choose to minimize my time on Facebook, they don't mind not hearing from me at all).  If I ever cared about someone, I should allow him or her to go on with their lives and not feel tied to an obligation to me because I keep clinging.  I need to let friends go and let them decide how and when they want me in their lives instead of forcing my way there.

If you are reading this and thinking, "Are you talking about me?" my answer is, "I'm only talking about you if you want me to be talking about you."  If you still want me in your life, I am always here for you.  I will not turn my back on anyone.  However, if I have become more of an obligation than a friend, if you cringe every time you see my name in your email or on your phone, then I am giving you permission to walk away with no explanation owed to me.  I will hold no grudges.

4.  Find New People and Activities

This ties into my last goal.  I am letting go of the people in my life who don't want to be there.  I am also stuck in a season of inactivity and sloth.  It is time for me to pursue new groups and new hobbies.  I can't ride or dance.  What can I do with myself that doesn't involve food (see Goal #2)?  I need to seek out some like-minded people to talk to and spend time with.  I have been exploring and have found some groups that I feel might be a good fit for me.  In January I am attending a meeting of the Westchester Conservationists and in February I am attending a meeting of the Westchester Secular Humanists.  Maybe once I'm fully healed I will start exploring some of the outdoors-related meetups.

Random Thoughts

You are in Hell.  You can only read one book for all eternity. Your choices are Atlas Shrugged or the entire 50 Shades trilogy.  Which would you choose?

Sometimes I look at my scars from my surgery and I am amazed.  My hip was repaired and reconstructed through those two tiny incisions.  Medical science is pretty amazing isn't it?

There is something hypocritcal about right-wing fundamentalists who claim they reject climate change because they believe in science, but also insist the world is only 6,000 years old.   If science means anything at all to you, then you wouldn't be believing the world is only 6,000 years old.

Why are shows about pawn shops so popular?  What is the appeal?  I ask this as someone who does occasionally watch pawnbroker reality.  Why do they keep making so many of these shows and why do we watch them?  Is it the family conflict that seems inherent in the business?  Is it because we want to know the value of our own stuff?  Is it because it makes us feel better about ourselves that we are not so desperate as to need to sell our prized possessions to a pawn shop?

I miss riding so much.  I don't know how I can hold out another 4 months.  Sometimes I find myself walking down the street and just imagining I'm on a horse.  

Whenever I make frosting, I always need to use way more powdered sugar than the recipe tells me to.   Is this true for anyone else?

The Internet really needs to learn some new adjectives.  Have you ever noticed that everything interesting on the Internet is now "mind blowing"?  With so much mind-blowing information floating around the Internet, I am beginning to wonder why all of humanity isn't knee-deep in exploded brain tissue.  How about some new adjective - maybe ones that are a bit less hyperbolic?  Some suggestions:  Fascinating, devastating, thought-provoking, shocking, frightening, memorable.