The Seven Stages of Stitch Fix

All across the country, a strange fever has taken hold of thousands of women. Perhaps you’re box editedinfected yourself. You probably at least know somebody exhibiting the symptoms: obsessively browsing blogs and Pinterest boards, frequently referring to “my stylist” and uninhibitedly squealing with joy when a cardboard box sporting a blue and brown logo appears at the front door. Be careful! This fever is highly contagious. In fact, I guarantee that if you get anywhere close to it, you will succumb. But, on the other hand, you will be cute and well-dressed because, of course, I’m talking about Stitch Fix, the online fashion subscription service that’s taking over the blogosphere. Katrina Lake, 31, is the founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based company that’s causing heart palpitations and swooning in everybody from hardened business analysts to young moms who just want to wear something besides yoga pants and baby food. And women like me. (Note to husband John Pitts: There’s nothing for you to see here. Nothing at all. Just move along.) I don’t know why I like Stitch Fix so much. I clothes editedcertainly admire Lake’s entrepreneurial mix of statistical algorithms and personalized service. I’m in awe of Stitch Fix’s successful and seemingly effortless marketing strategies. I like Stitch Fix’s casually chic and trendily classic aesthetic. But mainly I just sort of uninhibitedly squeal with joy with a box of adorably cute clothes THAT I DIDN’T HAVE TO PICK OUT MYSELF shows up at my door. I can’t explain how much fun that is. Perhaps I need to get out more. In the spirit of rational thought and scientific research, however, I have identified the Seven Stages of Stitch Fix. Check to see where you are on the spectrum:

  1. You’ve filled out your style profile (mine revealed that I am not glamorous, edgy or bohemian — who knew?), loaded up your Stitch Fix Pinterest board and scheduled your Fix. You immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.
  2. While you wait, you check out other Stitch Fix reviews and start to obsess. Will you get that lovely Daniel Rainn heart-print top? Has somebody else scored with the Paper Moon black-and-white dress you pinned months ago? Are there any Collective Concepts Split Neck Embroidered Sweater left in your size? It’s shopping porn at its best.
  3. Finally, your Fix has shipped. You know you can click on the checkout button and view your invoice, which has descriptions of what’s headed your way. Should you peek? And if you do, should you find photos to match those descriptions? Decisions, decisions …
  4. It’s here! Your Fix arrives. You savor the moment of DSCN3108 editedopening the box and unwrapping the goodies inside because, really, when else does somebody choose things specifically for you and mail them just to you? (The answer is “not often.”)
  5. You ooh and ahh over the colors and the fabrics. Yes! You can wear that skirt to work tomorrow. You can wear that dress to the wedding in a couple of weeks. And those pair of jeans will be your go-to weekend wear. You study the styling cards. You start making outfits in your head. The possibilities are unlimited …
  6. Well, at least they are until you try your clothes on. Just like in stores, sometimes what looks good on the hanger (or in the box) doesn’t make the cut when it’s on you. Sometimes the sizing’s off. Sometimes the cut isn’t flattering. Sometimes your budget isn’t Stitch Fix-friendly. But, really, that’s beside the point. One piece or none or all five — doesn’t matter what you keep. Because you’ve had the Stitch Fix experience, and you’re ready for more.
  7. So you put your send-backs in the prepaid envelope, pop it in the mailbox, tweak your Style Profile, write a sweet and helpful note to your stylist, schedule your next Fix and immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.

Want to try it? Stitch Fix has not paid me to write this post, but the company does give its customers credit toward purchases when they refer new customers. So click here to sign up, and then when you’re a happy Stitch Fix customer you can get credits yourself. Brilliant!

A Penney Saved?

                                               Because I’m a dedicated and enthusiastic shopper investigative fashion reporter, today I delayed my usual weekday routine of getting home from work and plopping down on the couch in my PJs. Instead, just for you all, I went shopping covered the breaking fashion news of new pricing at JCPenney. All day I’d been hearing and reading  about JCP ditching multiple sales and discounts for a simpler three-tiered pricing schedule, and I wanted to see for myself. I expected to find crowds of curious shoppers eager to check out this new approach — and maybe that was true at some JCPenney stores. But not at mine. You pretty much could hear the crickets chirping at the JCP I visited … along with laughter and animated conversation coming from the employees, who were having way too much fun talking to get distracted by mere customers. I have to admit that I’m not a JCP fan and I didn’t see anything on my recon run that would change my mind. But in the pursuit of truth and justice and possible bargain buys, I’ll keep looking. Just for you.

Random Thoughts …

… from a cluttered mind:

  • This TV season is so full of gems that our DVR can’t catch a break. If you’re not watching “Community,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Rec,” “Castle” and “Prime Suspect,” then you are missing out. Not to mention perennial favorites such as “The Office,” “Survivor” and “Amazing Race.” And this is even before “Cougar Town” and “30 Rock” come back. On the other hand, perhaps this is why I never can find the time to finish start the great American novel.
  • Saving money doesn’t always save money. For instance, my debit-card-pinching Scrooge-like sensible and financially-savvy husband instituted a crazy and unworkable spending ban thought that we should perhaps maybe reign in the spending for a while. “I’ll show him,” I snarled to myself. Fair enough. However, saving money is relative. Take Worcestershire sauce. In our house, fall signals the arrival of Chex-Mix Season and it was time to make that all-important first test batch. Mindful of my husband’s Draconian desire to save money the budget, I carefully collected the necessary ingredients. And since you can’t scrimp on the stars of the show — you know you always can tell when somebody uses generics — I made up the difference on the supporting cast. That’s how I ended up with a huge bottle of store-brand Worcestershire sauce that was 2.3 cents cheaper per serving than the small bottle big-name brand I usually buy — until I got home and dropped the bottle on the kitchen floor and tons of watery salty fishy liquid went everywhere and the bargain buy turned out to cost me $9.46 to make up for the lost first bottle, the small-but-expensive replacement bottle, the half-roll of paper towels used in clean-up and the emotional toll on our four cats who spent the remainder of the evening frantically trying to find the anchovies they knew had been there.
  • A Grove-going Ole Miss fan confirmed my suspicions that most Grove-going Ole Miss fans are more interested in the Grove-going than the actual football game. And given their season so far this year, you can’t really blame them.
  • Do people actually wear this stuff? In a T.J. Maxx checkout line,  (Note to Husband: I was there to return things. Really. That is all. Promise. Could I help it if that black Kenneth Cole jacket literally jumped into my cart and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer?), I noticed  posters of outfits that were supposed, I guess, to inspire us style-wise. One look was a pair of bright pink tights, a black satin ruffled micro-mini skirt and an off-the-shoulder gray jersey sweatshirt. The other look was short red-plaid shorts, a patterned sleeveless blouse and a big furry vest — reminiscent of what got Anthony Ryan booted from “Project Runway.” What I really think happened is that the editors and marketing folks got together and said, “Let’s test our power by convincing our customers to buy and wear the most god-awful things we can think of.” (Maniacal evil laugh.) But guess what, people? IT DIDN’T WORK!!!! I thwarted your dastardly plan by buying the Kenneth Cole jacket instead, plus two dresses, a pair of shoes and this really great saucepan I think I probably will need sometime. See???? You cannot influence my spending at all. Take that!!!!!!!
  • My husband and I failed our house’s intelligence test the other day when we had to call the builder for instructions on how to access the windows so we could clean them. Which means I’m embarrassed about not being able to figure out how our windows work as well as living in the house for almost a year before getting around to washing them.

Black is Slimming — In Fact, It’s Practically Invisible

It’s been cool here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi these past few mornings — sort of like fall might actually be here, after all. We’re paying attention to frost warnings, unpacking football-game blankets a couple of weeks early and flicking the heat on … just to make sure it’s working, you know.  We — OK, me — even have rooted around in the dark corners of our closets to retrieve those jackets and sweaters that migrated to the depths during those long 100-degrees-plus summer days. But I came up empty. I knew what I was looking for: A lightweight but warm and snuggly black fleece jacket that fits perfectly over T-shirts. I knew I had one. And possibly two. Or maybe three. No luck, though. Were they hiding? Had they jumped ship and sailed out of the house in bags destined for give-away? Or yard sales? Had a daughter borrowed them and they never found their way back home? So many possible answers! But still no lightweight and warm snuggly black fleece jacket. So I turned to my trusty you-can-find-whatever-you-need shopping destination: T.J. Maxx. And of course I found the exact jacket I was looking for. At a price less than what I typically spend at Starbucks. So I brought my new jacket home, cut off the tags and hung it up in my closet in the designated “lightweight jacket” section — where of course I discovered two other practically identical jackets. One still with the tags. This may be why my husband will often look in my closet and shake his head and say, “I used to have money. Then I got married.” But I have three or possibly four lightweight but warm black fleece jackets. So there.

Fashion???

Oh my cookies! Yup, these are actual pieces of clothing that I wore in the 1980s. And what’s worse is that I actually made them myself. When I was cleaning out closets for a yard sale recently, I found these stashed away … probably in an effort to forget. But it’s not my fault. As stay-at-home moms in the 1980s, my friends and I perfected our uniform of Laura Ashley jumpers, black stretchy stirrup pants and oversized Bedazzled T-shirts gathered on the side with hair scrunchies. Painful but true. And for some reason — I am not creative or crafty or in any way remotely talented artistic-wise — I became addicted to sewing. I made clothes for myself and my two daughters. I made clothes for their dolls. I made pillows and curtains and Halloween costumes. I think I convinced myself I was saving money, although anyone who’s ever wandered into a fabric store and come out minus the grocery-budget for the month recognizes that big fat lie. The collar has little bunnies on it, and I think I work it for Easter over a white blouse. The sweatshirt I have no excuse for. Why I would want to bedeck myself in a huge hot-pink sweatshirt decorated with buttons, bows and spools of thread, I have no idea. Please tell me some of y’all went through this phase, too.

Florence, Alabama

“Come on in. May we help you?” As soon as you push open the heavy wood and glass door and step onto the creaky floorboards, you know you’re someplace special. And that place is Wilson’s Fabrics in downtown Florence, Alabama, where northwest Alabama families have been coming for 61 years for everything from fabric for wedding dresses to emergency repair of buttons and hems. Robbie Wilson, 60, is closing the store his parents — his father was “The Tall Man with the Low Prices” — founded. At one time, the fabric business was good. From this first storefront, the Wilson family expanded their company into six stores across northwest Alabama. But after business peaked in the 1980s and ’90s (remember all those gorgeous handsmocked dresses we made back then?), the company had to close store after store until only this, the original, remained. Small local fabric shops are going the way of small local bookstores  — probably already have. “People don’t sew anymore,” said Robbie Wilson, smiling ruefully, when I went to pay my last respects at the shop earlier this week. The combination of readily available inexpensive ready-to-wear clothes and the steady rise of big box do-it-yourself chains such as Hobby Lobby and Jo Ann’s Fabrics didn’t help, either. Plus, downtown Florence took a major hit when the local family-owned department store sold out and then closed a few years ago. “But Florence is a vital and changing downtown,” Wilson said, ever optimistic. “It’s just going to go in a new direction, with new opportunities.” Someone has leased his store space and is opening a gift shop there, he added. But nothing will replace the antique cash register, the yellowing handwritten signs, the piles of fabrics and patterns in the back where you knew treasures lay hidden, just waiting to be unearthed. Like so many others, I have many Wilson’s memories. I remember chasing my brother under the fabric tables when we were little. Later, when my own children were little, I lovingly fingered fine cotton and browsed through smocking plates as I planned Easter outfits. And later still, when I worked at the newspaper office just a couple blocks away, I’d duck into Wilson’s for thread or ribbon or pins or whatever I needed for an ongoing project. Sigh. We’re going to miss you.

Packing

Whether I’m traveling on a 10-day vacation or an overnight stay at grandson Capt. Adorable’s house, I overpack. I can’t help it. It’s not that I’m a fashionista and I have to change clothes three times a day and always be perfectly and impeccably dressed. On the contrary, I’m pretty low maintenance and can even wear a pair of blue jeans, like, three days in a row. It’s just that I’m wishy-washy and notoriously indecisive and when I’m standing in my own closet it takes me many many minutes to figure out what to wear. So when I’m packing to go somewhere I have to plan for that. I mean, how do I know in advance what I might think that I want to wear? I have to include all the choices I would mull over so I can dilly-dally in front of my luggage  the same was I hem-and-haw in my closet at home. The result, of course, is that I end up with 2 1/2 tightly packed bags for a friend’s out–of-town wedding weekend, my husband as always brings along only a half-empty tote and I’m highly embarrassed when we stop on the way to visit another friend and she’s got everything she needs for a two-week tour of Italy tucked into A KID-SIZED BACKPACK. Read more in my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100604/NEWS/100609931, and share your packing tips. Please!!!