Monday, September 29, 2014

An Experiment with Stitch Fix, an Online Styling Company

Last spring, a reader had asked us to look into online styling companies, specifically, Stitch Fix, see how it worked, and maybe 'experience' it and write a post.  I told her that I would in the fall.  
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Well, it's fall, so here I go. About a month ago, I took the "scary" step of signing up for a 'delivery' and completed an online 'Style Profile'.  Here's how this online styling company works:
  • You fill out an online style questionnaire called your 'Style Profile'.  They asked a TON of questions - sizing, style, brand, pricing, item preferences.  For example, I said that I wasn't interested in them sending dresses, but tops, pants, and accessories were ok. And I wasn't into bohemian style.  And, and, and.  And I included a link to one of my my Pinterest pages for their review.
  • You then schedule a delivery (monthly, every other month) - mine was for September 25.  5 items are sent and the client has 3 days to decide what, if anything, to keep; everything else must be sent back in an enclosed, pre-paid, US Postal Service bag.  You are charged a $20 style fee, which is applied to anything you keep.
Sound good?  I have to be honest, I kind of forgot about signing up until this email arrived:
Egad!  It was on it's way.  So on September 25th, this is what I found at my door.
It's a tinier box that I would have expected, especially since it contained 5 items.  Let's look inside.  I was happy to see the 'rules' printed on the box - I needed to refresh my memory!
There was a packet of information on why the items were picked, and how to style them.  I loved the information and the personalization.

I loved the styling cards, detailing how to wear each piece.
And then, I unwrapped the items.  The Alec Split Neck Mixed Material blouse was fun and different (like), but the fit wasn't great and I didn't love the material (boo).
The Watercolor Zip blouse was WAY too young for me, and the Meg Chiffon trim silk blouse was a wrinkled mess.  Neither were going to stay.
The Bar Necklace was fine, but the chain was about 14" long, and looked weird on my neck.
But, the Liverpool Pull-on Skinny Ponte Pants were pretty fabulous.  The material was great, they fit well, and they really 'sucked you in', if you know what I mean (wink).  They are staying!  Interestingly, the Liverpool Jeans Company (maker of the ponte pants) is carried online at Amazon, Dillards, Lord and Taylor, and Nordstrom.  In stores, apparently Bloomingdales carries the line along with a host of smaller boutiques (in the Boston area that is).  This pair has a tag that claims they were designed exclusively for Stitch Fix.
After assessing everything, I went online to say what I was keeping, and what I wasn't.
The ponte pants were $98, from which the $20 styling fee was taken, resulting in a final charge of $78.  Not bad.   The other 4 items are snug in the return envelope and will head back to Stitch Fix tomorrow.  (If I were to keep all 5 items, I would have received a 25% of discount on the entire 'fix'.)

Overall, it's a very interesting experience.  I went back to my Style Profile after 'checking out' online and tweaked my preferences to better fit my style personality.  My next 'fix' is scheduled for November 20th.  I'm curious to see how my adjustments to the Style Profile will play out as well as how what I kept versus what I returned will adjust the algorithm of what was sent to me.  Stay tuned. ~ JH
Unless noted, all images from Jennifer Houston.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

W2WW Around Town, News Flash, AND Cheap & Cheerful - Lou & Grey at Natick Mall

We really couldn't pick a category for this one so you KNOW our find has got to be GOOD.  And it is!  Lisa and I, both separately, wandered into a new store in the Natick Mall, Lou & Grey.  Located next to Ann Taylor and across from Madewell, it looked cool.  Tons of neutral colors (which TOTALLY appeals to me!).
Image from Jennifer Houston.
After wandering around and making a pile for the dressing room, I began to talk to the store manager.  She told me that Lou & Grey is an Ann Taylor company (in fact, their e-commerce site is a tab within the Ann Taylor Loft site), but with it's own designer. The Natick store was the second 'brick and mortar' store (first in Westport, CT) in the country.  

Humm, new and different?!?! Everything Lisa and I LOVE.  According to their website, "This is a clothing label born out of instinct.  We noticed women no longer want to choose between style and comfort, work or weekend wear - so we created an edited line of easy, texture-rich essentials for every day."

BINGO.  And guess what's even better?!  The price point!  The most expensive item I can find online is a jacket for $89.50.  I tried on a couple of things and ended up with 2 tops.  The first top is a doubleface, longsleeve t-shirt.  $39.50.  Will look great in early fall with white jeans.  
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The other top is a grey, cotton sweater (not found online) that I'm wearing right now, as I type this.  Great weight for this time of year, soft, with a split hem. $59.50.  With my white jeans, brogues, and a scarf - I'm updated and ready to go.

Lisa picked up a pair of pants which she claims to LOVE. These twill drawstring pants are the epitome of style and comfort.  And $59.50.
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While paying for my purchases, I chatted a bit more with the manager.  Not only do they have clothing, but have small home goods (think hostess gifts) and jewelry by American designers.  I loved the trays of jewelry laying around and the candles, books, and pillows mixed in with the clothing.
Images from Jennifer Houston.
For a little more information on the company, you can check out this Boston Globe article from September 17th.  Lisa and I highly recommend that you check out this store; it's going to become a go-to for us. ~ JH

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Text Conversation #6

This happened 2 days ago.
Image from Jennifer Houston.
Yes, I have one convert from the September Obsession post!  The Caelyn shoe by Ugg is Lisa's choice - and they apparently have fur in the toe-box, making these a great choice for winter! ~ JH

Monday, September 22, 2014 want a fun and functional overnight bag.

Here's a great question we got from a reader this week:

"I'm looking for a new overnight bag - not a mini-suitcase but more of a duffel type bag - nice enough to bring on work trips."

Clearly, the L.L. Bean canvas bag is not going to do.  When I travel, I have a bag for just about every contingency.  For a long, 10-day European, souvenir-heavy trip, we bring what's affectionally called "the body bags" that would hold a small child.  For a 5 days or under, out comes the large-wheeled Samonsite.  For a 3 or so days in the New York when I might be traveling by train, enter the small-wheeled Tumi.  For one or two days, when I travel exceedingly light - my husband would raise an eyebrow to "light" - I turn to my trusty Longchamp La Pliage.  It's lightweight, folds up,  and holds a bundle.

Reader, consider this when choosing a bag:
  • Nylon is lighter. If I'm not wheeling, then I want something that doesn't add weight. Nylon with leather trim fits the bill.  If weight isn't a concern, then all leather is a luxurious choice.
  • Shoulder Strap.  Preferably detachable so I can sling it over my shoulder or remove and carry as a satchel.
  • Outside pockets.  Makes compartmentalizing so easy and keeps tickets, lip balm, etc. within easy reach.  A huge plus if you're cramped in the window seat and your bag is under the seat.
  • Since the bag will be heavily used for business travel, I'd recommend sticking with trusted brands known for luggage and travel gear.
We are looking for something a littler more stylish and substantial for business trips.   Tumi and travel are synonymous. The Tumi Dublin WeekenderEverett Essential Tote, and the Cortina Boarding Tote are all pretty spiffy.  I'm loving the outside pockets and detachable shoulder strap.  Black is expected but consider another neutral color, like Gray or Garnet, to add pop to what will certainly be a dark outfit.
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From Longchamp, the Baxinyl is a true duffle with yummy leather trim.
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Come hither you gorgeous, all-leather Cavalier, also from Longchamp.
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Perhaps one of the best known and trusted brands known for luggage and travel gear is Hartman.   Hartman's Winged Weekender is an elegant choice.  The two-toned leather is a classic that will go with any outfit.
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Finally, Bric's Bojola Duffle is dreamy.  It comes in a rainbow of colors and while the winter white is not the most practical, it is simply divine.
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We hope that helps!  Now, time to plot the next weekend trip! ~ LB

Thursday, September 18, 2014's Fall 2014: Shearling

Never mind that I'm still wearing shorts and t-shirts, trying to squeeze the last out of my favorite summer duds.   I've found a reason to stash summer and embrace fall.  Vince.  Shearling. Coat. To. Die. For.  Totally gorgeous and chic.  I would wear this with every single item in my closet.  Given the hefty price tag, I'm looking around for other options.  Exhibit A - Vince shearling coat.
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This is the season of shearling.  You'll see it everywhere from earmuffs to socks, but I'm sticking to outerwear.  Shearling is a skin from a recently sheared sheep or lamb that has been tanned and dressed with the wool left on.  It has a suede surface on one side and a clipped fur surface on the other. Shearling can be made from real sheepskin or from synthetic fibers. Real shearling breathes and is more flexible than synthetic shearling however, synthetic can look fabulous and is "PC" if you're a vegan.

I love the tonal cream coat and sweater paired with leather or waxed leggings.  The fuzzy shearling is out there but the classic cream color and cut make it an elegant classic with a twist.
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Wow, love the combinations here of textured wool and leather trim in the coat and bag...but not worn together. That's a no no.
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We're seeing lots and lots of shearling lined vests.  Whether real or faux, it's a cool look for fall when you need a little extra layer.  Throw it over a heavy sweater for a warm, layered look. Pair with jeans and a big ole' scarf and you're done. 
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I purchased a white faux shearling vest with black leather trim last season and wear it  with all black.  When worn over the ubiquitous striped sweater and winter white trousers that I own hundreds of, the look gets much more interesting and fresh for fall. 
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Vest-with-a-column-of-white look.  The vest is the star, so keep it simple underneath.
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If you're looking for a little shearling love for your feet, j'adore these Ash booties.  They can be worn rolled down or up and have a hidden wedge.  Feet will be so warm and toasty and look amazingly stylish.  Must have!
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Another look from Elie Tahari, the Calder Shearling, that can be unzipped and folded to expose the shearling.
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Happy fall! ~ LB

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stepping a little out of our comfort zones.

Lisa and I teamed up this past Thursday for a fall shopping appointment at Saks in Boston with Claudine Eaton Lewis, personal shopper.  We've shopped with Claudine before, and every time she pulls us a little out of our comfort zone.   This time, Claudine set us up for Fall 2014!

One of the first things we tried on was this Elie Tahari blouse-detail cashmere sweater.  Not sure either of us would have pulled it off the rack.  While it wasn't a great fit for me, Lisa rocked it.  Over leather leggings or waxed jeans, I think it will become a work-horse for Lisa.  The back is pleated and totally cool.
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We've been guilty before of purchasing the same thing, and we are guilty again.  Several times over.  Egad.  We definitely have to call each other if we're at the same event.  First up?  Helmut Lang asymmetrical wool top. So cute, very flattering.  And we both had to get it.
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And I thought the top looked GREAT over these Helmut Lang bat wash leggings.  And I will wear these leggings a ton, tucked into boots, with drape-y sweaters, etc. So useful. 

And speaking of boots, the next find was really out of my comfort zone.  Originally, I went into the appointment wanting a pair of classic, black, heeled boots.  I actually don't own a pair (SHOCKING), and thought I needed to fill that big void.  Claudine said "Why?  Why not get something more hip, cooler, updated?".  Like these, Stuart Weitzman croc-embossed, knee-high boot?  At first, I balked. They are REALLY out of my comfort zone.  But I put them on.  With a dress.  With leggings.  And I thought, where have these been all my life?!?!

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When I looked to Lisa for confirmation, she stood silently.  I couldn't get a read on what she thought.  I thought, 'oh dear, she hates them' and thought back to the time in the early 2000s in New York when I was obsessed with grey, suede slouchy boots and Lisa wouldn't let me get a pair.  When I said that I thought I loved them, she smiled, and said 'YES'!  

These are the great moments when you realize what personal shopping is all about.  Claudine knows me, knows what I have, and likes to push me.  Had I walked by them on display in the shoe department, I would have kept going.  In fact, they aren't even on display because Saks Boston has about 3 pairs of them left.  She brought them out to me.  Made me try them on. And they were fabulous.

And I can't wait to wear them with this Vince dress, which is sweater on the front, and pleated silk on the back.  And Lisa bought it too.  I will be accessorizing it with the grey boots and a great scarf (a la Claudine).
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These are the highlights among our treasures.  While our wallets definitely came home a little lighter, there really is nothing like a good shop.  ~ JH

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 have a long, silk vest.

We love solving styling challenges and one of our readers posed a timely one, given that we're in fall transition and we're seeing a lot of looks with vests.  One of our readers needs help styling a long vest.  We rolled up our sleeves and dug in.
The Piece:  Brown silk vest.  Open on both sides with button closure in front.
The Challenge: How to style it for a fresh, modern look?
Images provided by reader.
All that's needed here is some simple styling to add some drama and keep it elegant.
  • Bottoms - Try a skinny silhouette underneath.  The unconstructed, whispy nature of the vest is begging for a minimal look.  Try tailored slim pants for a more elegant look.
  • Column of Color - Think of yourself as a column and dress head to toe in one color.  We like black a-la-Victoria Beckman (she'd look amaze in a paper bag) ....very basic.    (See below.)  Shake it up with brown in either a slightly lighter or darker shade . 
  • Casual - For more of a casual look, try try a skinny, longsleeve tee (Majestic is a great brand) underneath with skinny jeans in denim or white.  If long-sleeve is too much with it, try a sleeveless top underneath (like the black and white outfits below).
  • Shoes - On your feet, boots or booties are a MUST.  You need to be a few stories up to do justice to the look.
  • Loose - Do not button it up - let it flow lady.
  • Finish Touch - We like the minimal, no jewelry look but if you want a necklace, play on the length.  You could pair with a long necklace (Chan Luu or something from Anthropologie in earthy or golden tones). 
Check out the images below for inspiration!  Have fun with it and send us pics of how you styled it.  We'd love to see what you did with it. ~ LB
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