The year was 1992. The event was black tie: the Carousel Ball hosted by the Steinert Society of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. The Curmudgeon was a new member of the board to draw young people to the symphony. A new attorney, he was dipping his toe into the world of culture.
I was at the age where I believed in the perfect dress. If I found a dress early in the hunting process, I’d back burner it. I always thought I could find something better if I just kept looking. I clearly had too much time on my hands, but that’s another story.
I went to a vintage shop hoping to find a late ’60s cocktail dress. My mom kept a few of hers and my older sister and I wore them to a couple of college parties. They were cool and different. The shop owner showed me a black dress and I nixed it. “You’re a young woman, but you act like an old one,” he said. “You have no sense of adventure.” Ouch.
He had a point. Insulted by his assessment, I went to Ann Taylor and bought a chiffon navy blue party dress like the white one Marilyn Monroe wore in “The Seven Year Itch.” Unlike Marilyn’s skirt which flew up on the sewer grate, mine stayed put. But I loved the way the pleated chiffon moved when I twirled. I needed to prove, at least to myself, that I wasn’t so stodgy after all.
Fast forward to today and I can’t stand clothes shopping. I might be inspired if I’ve got a special event like a wedding, but I don’t have the stamina or interest any more. I’ve got other things I’d rather do, like almost anything.
Enter fellow blogger Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50, who praised Stitch Fix in a recent post. She encouraged me to try it. I had nothing to lose, so I filled out the style questions, provided height and weight measurements and a credit card number.
Or . . .
I was raking the front lawn when the mailman pulled up and announced he had a package. I thought my son had ordered another item from AmazonPrime. Yes, please leave it on the porch. I continued raking until I spotted some lettering: Stitch Fix. I had almost forgotten about it. Besides, it wasn’t due to arrive for three days.
I was curious, but kept raking. I didn’t want to dash in and tear the box open like a 10-year-old. What if the stuff my personal stylist Kamryn picked was awful? What if she didn’t get my “look”? What if this was all a big mistake?
Besides, what could possibly be in a box that small? The box could wait with the junk mail, magazines and bills neatly rolled and fastened with an elastic. Three hours passed. I finally confronted the box when my friend Barbara dropped by. “Oh! I’ve always wanted to try this. Do you like it?”
“I have no idea,” I said. “This is the first time I’ve gotten it and I’m a little afraid to see what’s inside. Wanna open it with me?”
I put it on the counter and Barbara watched me open the box like a guest at a bridal shower. Let’s face it: it’s really boring watching a person open packages when you don’t have any. “Oh look,” I said. “Isn’t this necklace cute?” “And look at this dress! Let me go try it on and you can tell me what you think of it.”
Barbara was incredibly gracious as I opened my stash and paraded around the kitchen. She understood that I had paid for this thrill. Still, there’s huge joy in being surprised by what someone picks out for you. You’ve given them hints, yes, but you don’t know what’s in there. And that surprise quotient is priceless, particularly when you’re a mom who shops for everyone, including the dog.
I love surprises, and sadly they’re fewer and farther between as we age. Scratch that. We still get surprises, but they’re often the bad kind: the dog has cancer, the mammogram was bad, your kid was in a car crash, mom needs assisted living, or the guy you dated in college died. One of the toughest parts about aging is maintaining a positive outlook in the face of all the crap.
The genius of Stitch Fix is that the thrill of opening gifts never goes away. It’s in there somewhere, along with your dream of being a detective, writing the great American novel, or hiking the Appalachian Trail. More than the contents of the box, it’s that someone spent time looking for things for you. You feel noticed, special, worth it.
Another plus is having your own personal stylist. She has key details about you – you won’t wear beige or yellow and please don’t emphasize the butt – without all your hangups. One of the worst things about shopping is the self-editing, self-loathing and tendency to gravitate to the same things. We get anxious when we can’t find “our look,” but many times we’re in a style rut. I’ve been in one for about 20 years. Staying home with kids and scattered part-time jobs will do that.
Being the sporty type, I am guilty of walking around in leggings, yoga pants or skorts all day. My daughter recently asked, “Why are you always in athletic clothing?” I really had no explanation except that it’s comfortable and I’m too lazy to change.
My stylist Kamryn had no preconceived notions about me – I’m not comfortable with patterns and I think peasant tops look like maternity shirts on me. But having a stylist is validating. You think, “I can wear this because Kamryn says I can and she knows more about fashion.”
Here’s what I got: a tiered necklace, a gray and navy printed sleeveless sweater dress, a grayish halter top, a forest green peasant top with bell sleeves, and some embossed straight leg black pants. Best part: the cards suggesting various outfits. This is great if you’re not great at accessorizing like me.
Barbara liked everything and so did my 16-year-old daughter. We even played a little game where I asked Barbara to guess prices, and she aced it. I decided to buy the whole box, saving 25 percent.
Stitch Fix may not be for everyone, but I love it. I’ve only got one more hurdle and it’s a big one: breaking the news to The Curmudgeon. Today, he spotted the empty box in the kitchen.
“What are you sending?” he asked. “Nothing,” I replied. “OK, so you have a shipping box in here that’s not being sent to anyone or going anywhere.” “Yes,” that’s right.” Incredibly, he didn’t press it, so I won’t either. I’ve got a little time until my next shipment arrives in February.
At right: Nakamol Jenalyn Stone Layering Pendant. Great quality and the stone is beautiful. Total cost of box: $270.
I have not received any financial compensation for this review.