Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WHAT'S THE DIFF? LOCAL STYLIST VS. ONLINE STYLIST


By now, you've read about my experiences (here and here) with two online styling services, Stitch Fix and Trunk Club.  You may have even had your own experiences with one of these companies (or another similar one).  If you've ever thought you might benefit from hiring a personal stylist, you might wonder why--or if--you should hire a local stylist over one of these online services.  After all, a local stylist will generally charge you per hour, and an online service will cost you nothing but the clothes you buy.  I'm admittedly biased, but in my opinion, these two types of services are totally different animals, meant to serve totally different purposes, both having to do with clothing.  I'm going to attempt to outline my thoughts.

Photo by Sandy Swagger Photography

Who should use an online styling service?

  • Are you a person who loves getting new clothes every now and then, who is comfortable describing her personal style likes and dislikes, and who loves surprises?  This service is for you!
  • Do you love trying on new items and mixing and matching them with things you have in your closet to get the most bang for your buck?  This service is for you!
  • When you try on clothes, do you know what cuts and fabrics flatter your figure most?  Are you generally comfortable making a decision about whether or not to keep something without consulting a friend or expert?  This service is for you!
  • Do you need just a few things to spice up your wardrobe, but otherwise feel pretty good about what's in your closet?  This service is for you!

Photo by Sandy Swagger Photography


Who should hire a local personal stylist?

  • Do you look in your closet most mornings feeling like you have very little from which to choose, even though you may have lots in there?  Is creating head-to-toe looks a challenge for you?  Hire a local stylist!
  • Are you in a bit of a slump because you've gained or lost weight or because your body has changed with age?  Could you benefit from working with someone who can help you learn how to dress this new body to its full potential?  Hire a local stylist!
  • Have you recently had a "life shift" (new baby, kids back to school, new job, retirement) and need some helping learning how to dress the part?  Hire a local stylist!
  • Do you need someone to give you some suggestions on whether to keep or toss items in your closet that you've been hanging on to?  Would you like someone to take it to a consignment store or donation bin for you when it's all over?  Hire a local stylist!
  • Do you hate shopping and/or have no time for it and want to establish a relationship with a person who knows your measurements, sizes, preferences, budget, personality, job, and who can go multiple places to find great additions to your wardrobe?  Hire a local stylist!  (OK, this one sounds like a horn tooter, and it is.  But it's also true.)

I'm sure you're catching my drift.  Even with a detailed questionnaire and a phone call ahead of time, it's hard for someone to understand your needs and preferences from afar.  A local stylist will take time to get to know what you're looking for.  Her proximity will usually allow her to come to your house and spend time with you looking at the things you have.  Any new pieces she suggests or purchases for you will work in the wardrobe you already have.  And perhaps the biggest difference is that a local stylist may determine you don't need to add much of anything to your current wardrobe.  My clients are always shocked by all of the combinations and "new" outfits we create during a Wardrobe Revival.

Having said that, I have recommended, and will continue to recommend online styling services to clients after the Wardrobe Revival.  Once they've gotten a grasp on their personal style, sometimes they are excited to branch out and get a few new pieces, with or without my help.

Finally, I imagine that lots of folks who read fashion blogs are into fashion and feel confident enough in their personal style to enjoy an online service.  It's always fun to find a package at your door, isn't it?!

So, are these two types of services similar?  In my opinion, they are not.  Are they mutually exclusive?  Absolutely not!  Have FUN with fashion!!

Do you agree with my thoughts?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.

As a personal stylist in Richmond, VA, I strive to make wardrobe choices clear and easy for women who are short on time, overwhelmed by their closets, or transitioning from one period of life to another.  Let's connect!  


Friday, August 12, 2016

TRUNK CLUB: A PERSONAL STYLIST'S EXPERIENCE

Happy Friday!  If you didn't read my last post, now's the time!  This is Part 2 of a 3-parter about my experience with a couple of online styling services.  My last post was about Stitch Fix, and today I'm going to give you my thoughts about Trunk Club.

Photo via TrunkClub.com (NOT my box)

A Quick Overview

Trunk Club, which used to be a men's clothing service and was acquired by Nordstrom in 2014, now serves both men and women.  The way they operate is very similar to Stitch Fix.  You complete and online questionnaire, work with one of their personal stylists, receive a box of clothes, keep what you want and return what you don't.   Unlike Stitch Fix, Trunk Club does not charge you a fee, and there is no discount incentive to keep everything they send.  Trunk Club offers clothing from higher-end, contemporary designers that you would see in Nordstrom, such as Joie, Vince, Rebecca Minkoff, and Theory, so their price per item is quite a bit higher than Stitch Fix.  Trunk Club sends you 10 items to try, and you have 10 days to make a decision and send back what you don't want (free shipping and return shipping).

The Questionnaire

The Trunk Club questionnaire was far less detailed than the Stitch Fix questionnaire, which puzzled me at first.  Then I realized that after you answer a few introductory questions, your stylist will actually reach out to you to determine if you'd rather chat on the phone or via email to go into a little more depth.  I chose the email route, mainly because it's hard for me to carry on an uninterrupted conversation this summer with kids at home!  The questions she emailed me asked for much more detail, and most of the questions were open-ended, whereas a good number of the Stitch Fix questions were more "multiple choice."  I did disclose to my stylist that I am a personal stylist, and I wonder if that had any effect on what she chose to send.  I guess I could just ask her;)

My Trunk

The very day that we returned from the beach, I received an email from my stylist with a personal note ("hope you had fun at the beach") and a preview of what would be in my trunk.  There were descriptions and pictures, and I had the opportunity to say "yea" or "nay" to all of it.  I nixed 5 of the 10 items in the preview--a couple of things because they didn't appeal to me and a couple more because I had similar pieces in my wardrobe.  I totally understand why they do the preview, but honestly, I would rather skip that step and just be surprised.  Having said that, when the trunk arrived, my stylist had replaced those 5 nixed pieces with 5 more!  Surprise!!  And once I received my trunk, I received an email with some styling suggestions.  I prefer the cards that Stitch Fix sends, but I love that they give you a little help!  Here's what I got:

Vince Camuto Pants, Splendid Tank, Topshop Blazer, Corso Como Pumps (and my son)

I really do like how this all looks together, but I have black pumps, cropped black pants (yes, even ones with a flared leg), a couple of black blazers (yes, even a long one--though not this long), and a black tank.

Corso Como Pumps

These are lovely, but a little boring for my non-coporate lifestyle.  I already have a pair of pointy black pumps that I can dress up for a cocktail party or wear with jeans out to dinner, which are really the only times I would wear them.

Vince Tank

Vince Tank

I LOOOVE this top.  I like the shape, the slits on the side (which you can't see), and the neckline.  It fit like a dream; however, it was really sheer and required a camisole and, more deal-breakingly, it cost nearly $200...for a white tank top.

Rebecca Minkoff Bag

This bag is perfect.  I love the size, the sturdy shoulder strap, the lack of hardware, and the addition of the fun tassels.  But guess what?!?  I already have a basic black bag.  Can't justify $300 for another.

Equipment/Kate Moss Oversize Blouse

Equipment/Kate Moss Oversize Blouse

This animal print is really fun, especially with the addition of the polka dot bow!  You can remove the bow altogether, too, if you're not feeling it.  It's intended to be oversize, but it overwhelmed me a bit, even with very skinny pants.

Rails Button-down

Rails top styled with my own skirt.   

Meh...I have better.

Cupcakes and Cashmere Top

I love the pattern and the neckline!  It's adorable now and would go right into fall with the addition of a sweater or jacket.  It's weirdly cropped in front, with an elastic seam around the bottom.  As long as I'm not raising my arms, I'm not showing skin.

Stan Smith Sneakers

These are cute and uber-trendy.  But I think we can all agree that I'm too old, not cool enough, and my feet are too big.  I need to stick with a darker color for casual sneaks.  Maybe I need some black Converse.  I saw some at Marshall's yesterday!

Price List

The Verdict

Back it all went.  I blame part of this on myself.  I'm a shopper!  My stylist had no way of knowing how much of this mimics what I already own.  I did tell her that I like to keep things classic, but I also told her that I like to add some edge and trend to my outfits.  Many of these pieces are so basic that either they border on boring, or I would assume most people (especially personal stylists) already have similar items in their closets.  The rest just wasn't enticing enough for the cost.  Whereas with Stitch Fix I had to carefully consider what I might keep and whether or not I'd regret returning the rest, there was no question I would ship all 10 of these items back.  

My Takeaways

1.  Just like I said about my Stitch Fix experience, this was fun!!
2.  Just like I said about my Stitch Fix experience, I love the anticipating of getting new clothes shipped to my house.  Or really any mail, for that matter!
3.  Again, the style questionnaire and follow-up questions were gathering great information, but it could be hard for their target audience to be able to explain their personal style preferences in writing.
4.  I am familiar with all of the brands that were sent in this shipment, and I generally like their respective aesthetics, but even if I had a completely empty closet, it would have been hard for me to stomach paying full price for most of these items.
5.  I probably should have been a little more specific about what I was looking for, which might have bridged the gap between "totally age appropriate" and "way too trendy."
6.  I haven't decided if I'll try it again.  I think I'll get in touch with my stylist to discuss it.

Have you tried Trunk Club?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for Part 3 of this discussion, when I give you my take on the differences between using an online stylist service and hiring a local stylist (and possibly how they could be used in tandem.)  






Tuesday, August 9, 2016

STITCH FIX: A PERSONAL STYLIST'S EXPERIENCE

Photo via StitchFix.com

As you may have guessed from the title, I joined Stitch Fix!  I heard so many people talk about it (good and bad), and I've also had several clients who have joined, so I wanted to find out for myself what it was all about.

I know there are other online personal styling services out there, and I thought it would be good to experience more than one, so I chose to try out Trunk Club, a Nordstrom Company.

I want to give you lots of great information without getting too boring and snoozy (but bear with me...it's more than I usually write), so I'm going to break it into a few different posts.  As of now, I can foresee 3 posts:

Post 1.  My experience with Stitch Fix (this post)
Post 2.  My experience with Trunk Club
Post 3.  A quick recap and comparison of the two services, and some information on the differences between using this type of online service and hiring a local personal stylist.

A Quick Overview

If you don't know about Stitch Fix, I'll give you a quick overview of how it works, but I'll leave it to you to explore their website for more details.  If you need or want some new clothes, but you don't have time to go out hunting for them, StitchFix will set you up with a stylist who, for a $20 fee, will choose 5 pieces for you, based on your answers to a style questionnaire.  The average cost per piece is $55 (though my average was a little higher).  Once you receive your "Fix," you have 3 days to try everything on and determine what you want to keep and what you want to return.  If you keep all 5 pieces, you will get a 25% discount on your entire purchase.  If you keep anything at all, your $20 fee is applied to your total.  If you send it all back, you're out your $20.  You may get on a schedule to receive a Fix once a week, once a month, etc.  Alternatively, you can just hop online and request a Fix when you need one.  It's all very flexible and convenient.

The Questionnaire

The "Style Profile" lets you answer questions about what types of pieces you'd like to receive (cocktail, casual, business, etc.), as well as what your personal style tastes are and how you like your clothes to fit.  It, of course, also asks for your sizes.  Finally, you're asked about your job (which I listed as "fashion," so they didn't really know that I'm a personal stylist) and your social media handles.  They really encourage you to link to your Pinterest account so that your stylist can get an idea of your general aesthetic, in addition to specific Stitch Fix pieces you've seen on other people that interest you.  I chose not to share that information with them this time around, but I may go back in and add that later.


My Fix

I completed the Style Profile just before going on vacation, so I asked them to please deliver it on the day I returned.  I got notification a few days before my return that delivery had been attempted.  Knowing I only had a 3-day turnaround, I gave them a call to make sure they weren't counting those vacation days against me.  They were very quick to respond and super-flexible with me on the return date.

I got home on a Sunday, and the next day, the box was (re)delivered.  Here's what it contained:


I was really excited when I opened this box!  This stuff looks right up my alley.  Let's break it down.

41Hawthorn Queensland Dolman Jersey Top - $48

Oooh, 3 pieces in one outfit, and I love them all!  Maybe I'll be keeping all 5 pieces and getting that 25% discount!!  This black top fit me perfectly, and while we all know I don't need another black top, I really love how it drapes.  I could dress it up or down.  And at $48, it's a pretty affordable addition to my wardrobe.

Bancroft Dante Cut Out Metal Oval Layered Necklace - $32

I really love how this necklace looks with the outfit, but I was a little disappointed that it isn't adjustable.  The length is the length.  And this perforated metal look was really big a few years ago.  I wonder if it'll be out of style soon.  Nevertheless, I don't have anything like it, it's versatile, and it's definitely reasonably priced.

Henry & Belle Reggie Skinny Jean - $149 (I think??)

Can we please discuss these jeans and how good they make my butt look?  We don't have to talk about it for long.  I love the all-over dark wash, making it easy to dress them up for date night.  They were SUPER comfortable, too.  They are not without fault, though.  While I like them rolled up, they are way too long to wear unrolled, which negates the perk of dressing them up.  I also felt like I was hiking them up a bunch at the waist, just for this photo shoot.  Finally, if I'm being honest, I already own at least one or two very similar pairs.

Skies are Blue Biosca Crochet Detail Top - $58

This top is really cute, though it's not something I would normally pick out for myself.  I love the floral crochet detail!  It's hard to tell from this picture, but it's a really pretty bright pink/peach color, and it's lined and seems well-made.  It's perfect to wear right now with shorts or a skirt, and it will definitely work right into fall with ...


...a leather jacket and booties:)  I'm not head over heels, but I'm starting to convince myself that I could probably keep and wear all 5 pieces and get the 25% discount.  And now, for the last piece:

Gilli Jessie Knit Maxi Dress - $74

Womp Womp Womp :(  Not cute.  (The double arm in the picture is my daughter posing behind me!)  I love the color and the detail under the bust, but I felt a little pregnant and wider than usual in this.  The back was a little snug for my liking.  The material is also pretty thin, making it difficult to disguise any rolling and shaking happening under there.


The Verdict

The maxi dress wasn't awful, but I won't wear it.  I decided to send it back, and since I wouldn't qualify for the discount, I decided to send back that peach top, too.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't need the jeans or the necklace either, so they went back in the box.

But I didn't want to waste my $20 fee, and since I really do love the black top, that was my one and only keeper from my first Fix.

My Takeaways

1.  This was fun!
2.  I love getting new clothes shipped (for free) to my house!  I was really pleased with most of what my stylist picked for me.  I'm second-guessing having sent some of it back, but I think I made the right decision.
3.  The style questionnaire was pretty easy for me to complete, but I imagine if you really don't know how to describe your personal style, it would be pretty tough.  I also imagine that some folks might not know if the should keep something or send it back.  People who need help with their wardrobe often like to get a second opinion, but..
4.  I love that they send you a card with some styling suggestions for each piece.
5.  STITCH FIX, ARE YOU READING THIS???  I think they would be smart to offer some sort of sliding or weighted discount.  Currently, you need to keep all 5 pieces to get a 25% discount; otherwise, no discount for you!  I definitely considered keeping a couple of things I was on the fence about, just because of the discount.  Is that a healthy spending practice?  Maybe not, but it's also not an unusual spending practice.  If they offered a 20% discount for keeping 4 pieces, 15% for keeping 3, etc., I would have kept 4 pieces instead of one.  Just a thought, Stitch Fix.
6.  I'll probably try it again.

Have you tried Stitch Fix?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion, when I give you the skinny on Trunk Club.  But give me a couple of days to recover from this post!

As a personal stylist in Richmond, VA, I strive to make wardrobe choices clear and easy for women who are short on time, overwhelmed by their closets, or transitioning from one period of life to another.  Let's connect!