FeaturesTop Stories

Clothing Subscription, Anyone?

Online service allows customers get boxes of clothing in the mail. They try out and return the items they don’t like

By Christine Green

A sample of the box clients receive from Stitch Fix. The company has one of the most popular clothing subscription services currently available.
A sample of the box clients receive from Stitch Fix. The company has one of the most popular clothing subscription services currently available.

Work, family, appointments, errands — when does a busy person really have time to fit in clothes shopping?

Let’s face it, shopping can be a real pain. Everything from driving to the mall only to have to find a parking spot, then searching packed clothing racks for the right size, and then — cue existential dread — having to try items on under the harsh and not-so-flattering glare of fluorescent lights in a tiny department store dressing room.

Shoppers everywhere often wish they could just skip the whole rigmarole.

The good news? Now they can — with a host of online clothes shopping options that takes the hassle out of looking great at work or at play.

What is it & Who is it for?

Clothing subscription boxes are all the rage these days, but what does “subscribing” to a clothing box even mean?

It means shopping from home usually with the aid of remote stylist. Your stylist picks out a selection of clothing items, so you can try them on in your own home. Return what you don’t like at no charge and purchase what you do like.

Different companies offer different timing options. Some clothing boxes come on demand while others come at regular intervals depending on your needs. Most services charge a styling fee starting around $20 that can, in many cases, be applied to any purchases you make from your box.

Jessie Stein worked for three years at Stitch Fix (stitchfix.com), one of the most popular clothing subscription services currently available. Stein was a personal stylist then worked as a styling team leader. She said that her clients were from a variety of demographics and genders and, in terms of age, ranged from children up to adults in their 70s and 80s. People in their 50s and 60s often wanted stylish professional options for work and customers in their retirement years came to Stitch Fix for a fun style update go with their new retirement lifestyle.

Professor Melissa Brown, 61 of Brockport, teaches psychology at SUNY Brockport. Brown was tired of shopping at brick and mortar stores for all the reasons listed above. A stylish colleague turned her on to Stitch Fix.

“They whole point of this is that I don’t have to go to the mall. What is amazing is that the clothes always fit.”

One of Brown’s favorite Stitch Fix purchases is a mauve dress that came in one of her boxes which she gets every few months. She wore the long, flowing dress on a champagne cruise on the Hudson and it made her feel comfortable and pretty.

“Perfect strangers were telling me how beautiful my dress was. They [Stitch Fix] have my number! They get me. There is always something I want.”

Brown also loves that in addition to clothing she also gets pieces of jewelry, purses and jackets. Customers can also choose to receive shoes with their box. Brown has a particular style and fit of shoes she likes so opted out of getting shoes.

Stein said that Stitch Fix and other, similar companies are so popular right now because people are seeking personal service and help while they shop. Online retailers are great, but there is often little to no help choosing style or fit. And while service at a mall or stand-alone clothing store may be friendly it is rarely truly personal these days.

“Stitch Fix is really appealing because it has all the ease of modern retail,” noted Stein. “But it also brings in the personalization where you have a relationship with the person who styles you.”

Stitch Fix isn’t the only option, of course. A quick internet search will result in a myriad of subscription choices including the popular Trunk Club (trunkclub.com). Its styling fee is $25 and customers can get a preview of what is in their box before it arrives. Frank and Oak (frankandoak.com) focuses on eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable clothes, and many of its clothes are made with organic and recyclable materials. Dia & Co. (dia.com) caters specifically to women in the plus size market (sizes 14-32). They also have an option for an active wear subscription.

Clothing Rentals

Another hot subscription box styling option is rental clothing. Some customers want new, on-trend outfits but don’t want to pack their closet with clothes they may only wear once or twice. Others want a special outfit for an event, but they don’t want to pay the high price for something they may never wear again.

“We hear time and time again that people are tired of wearing the same outfits on repeat, but are hesitant to try new styles or trends outside of their comfort zone,” said Le Tote (letote.com) Chief Merchandising Officer Ruth Hartman.

“Fashion rental is a fabulous way to refresh and enhance your wardrobe, as it allows you to choose the items and styles you want to wear now, with the flexibility to swap them out for other pieces later. Le Tote specifically offers the benefit of convenience, so you can try, rent, or buy clothes when and where you want to.”

Le Tote subscriptions start at $75 a month. Subscribers can try out fun brands such as Kate Spade, Rebecca Minkoff or Calvin Klein, among others. And, if a customer likes their rentals there is an option to buy at a discount off of the normal retail price. Membership fees also cover dry cleaning and sterilization.

Gwynnie Bee (Gwynniebee.com) is another clothing rental service offering sizes 0-32. They started as a service for sizes 10-32 but began offering a wider range of sizes in January 2018. Rent the Runway (renttherunway.com) is one of the more high-end rental services with its “Unlimited” plan costing $159 a month. But if you want to wear exclusive brands such as Diane von Furstenberg, Gucci or Oscar de la Renta, this is the go-to subscription. Customers can rent red carpet-ready dresses, bridal gowns and cocktail wear in addition to more everyday professional and casual looks.

Beyond Clothes

There are also subscription boxes on the market for make-up, underwear, shoes and jewelry. But why stop at clothes? There are subscription boxes for tea, toys, books, candles, pet toys, coffee and more. And all of it can be purchased from the comfort of your couch.

Stitch Fix really has changed Brown’s shopping habits, and she was all too happy to say good-bye to the hassles of cramped dressing rooms and impersonal customer service.

“I don’t go to the mall,” said Brown with a smile. “This is pretty much where I get my clothes now.”

Photo: SUNY Brockport professor Melissa Brown, 61, with clothing she bought online through a clothing subscription company, stitchfix.com. “They whole point of this is that I don’t have to go to the mall. What is amazing is that the clothes always fit,” she says.