Friday, August 4, 2017

My First (and Probably Only) Fashion Blog: The Pros and Cons of Stitch Fix

The boxes are cute!
Let’s talk about Stitch Fix. Yeah, I signed up for it. You probably know what it is, but if you don’t, it’s a service where you receive a regular shipment of five clothing items that have been especially selected for you… after you have told them your measurements and sizes and likes and dislikes and such. If you like the clothes, you buy them; if you don’t, you send them back.

Lots of people do it – a woman I work with LOVES it, and she always looks great! My friend Molly, who’s a fashion blogger, reviews all her shipments piece by piece. She generally has a good experience. But you know what? I don’t think it’s for me.

I swear those black jeans
made my thighs look
like giant hams!
To be honest, I’ve only received two shipments, so maybe I’m not being fair to “the Fix”… The first shipment was a total bust… Here’s my review (and since it was in March, I can't photograph myself trying each piece on as other reviewers do – or even give you specific brand names!):

1. A pair of skinny black jeans full of spandex—Okay, I have huge thighs, and this made them look like ginormous hams. Seriously, I looked like female Porky Pig! No thanks.

2. A dark color-block sleeveless dress—It was a really thick jersey, so I’m guessing it was for winter? But why sleeveless for winter? It was too fitted to be a jumper, so guess I was supposed to constantly wear a jacket with it? Also, since it was so fitted, it served to draw a big arrow to each of my prominent saddlebags (outer thigh fat). Again, no.

I kept this top, but $38?
3. A dark, plaid straight skirt—it was dark tan and black, a very small check, made sort of like a jean skirt. I actually liked it, but the straight skirt… did I mention I have enormous saddlebags? Those babies poked right outa that thing!

4. A black and white 3/4 sleeve striped t-shirt with peach trim at the neck and sleeves—Although I like a 3/4 sleeve and a black and white stripe, I just didn’t like this top. Maybe it was the peach trim? It just looked kinda nerdy.

5. A short sleeved top that’s grey jersey in the front and a crepe-y black material with tiny white flowers on a back that was slightly longer than the front. This was actually a cute top, and the only piece I kept. I might not have, though, if I hadn’t already paid 20 bucks for the shipment. 

See that’s how it works is, each shipment is $20, but if you buy something, they take that $20 out of it. Which brings me to the first reason that SF is not for me—the cost. The $20 is not bad, but the price of each item of clothing, while not so expensive in the grand scheme of things, is more than I would normally pay*.

Because I do love clothes, but I just don’t have that much to spend on them. I wish I could remember how much each of these pieces cost but I just don’t—I do remember that the top I bought was $38. For a t-shirt.I know that, in general, you get what you pay for quality-wise, but for me to pay the prices of their clothes, I want something I absolutely LOVE.
I LOVED these jeans,
but they don't look like
this on ME!

Anyway, I sent most of the shipment back. I told my “stylist” why I didn’t like the items—not to be a bitch, but because I think it’s helpful to them so that the next shipment will be better…? And it did help! The second shipment was pretty good!

1. A pair of faded, torn boyfriend jeans—loved them. Needed jeans. They’re a little big, but I like a loose jean. I can always wear a belt!

2. A black and white patterned long-sleeved t-shirt dress. Although I had some questions (Why send a long sleeved dress in summer? Don't they know I live in the south?), I loved it. It fit great. AND it was as comfortable as pajamas!

3. A pair of sweet low-top red sneakers. Super cute.

4. A black 3/4 sleeve jersey top with shoulder cut-outs. It was really cute, had nice pleats in the front but I just am NOT into the shoulder cut-out fad. It needs to run its course, seriously.

5. A halter style top that looked gray, but was a very tiny black and white stripe. The cord around the neck was braided fabric. Loved it! Unfortunately, a 55-year-old woman who is a 32DDD doesn’t need to be NOT wearing a bra. And I’ve never met a strapless bra that could keep the girls up comfortably.

I kept this knit dress because
when I HAVE to go to the
office, I like to be comfy.
So out of this box (and they do come in a cute little box), I kept the jeans and the dress—together they were about $150.00. And I would have bought them if I had seen them in a store and had the patience to try them on… In that way, it was actually a huge help! Because of my crazy shape, I absolutely LOATHE trying on jeans (seriously it makes me cry!), so having a great pair sent right to my mailbox was totally worth it. The shoes were super cute, but $65? Plus I have a bunch of pairs of similarly-styled sneakers already… just couldn’t justify it. 

Okay, so I just contradicted myself by saying that it as worth it to have a pair of perfect jeans sent directly to me. But here's the second and more important thing… Stitch Fix has this Facebook game where they show you a bunch of photos of items and you give them thumbs up or thumbs down, and I realized today that I gave a thumbs down to 9 out of 10 of their items… Because their stuff is modern and trendy, and not what my style is… which is just too hard to nail down. 

I don’t want skinny pants (or ANY pants now that I have my great pair of jeans) or anything strapless or with spaghetti straps or cut-out shoulders… or roll-tab sleeves, blazers or cardigans or cowl necks or scarves – please, please no scarves! I don’t like bubble-gummy colors or pastels—too nerdy (unless the shape is kinda retro); I don’t like wedge or clunky heels...

Things I like:
Black coat with faux fur
and ribbon trim (H&M $50)
and Catskill Mountain
moccasins boots
What DO I like? I like cute retro dresses with empire waists, or of the “fit and flare” variety, stuff that isn’t too tight, long shirts/short dresses I can wear with black leggings… I like classic colors like black, white, gray, red, hot pink, khaki and more black… classic materials like blue and black denim, seersucker, madras, white eyelet, gingham, tweed and tartan plaids … classic pieces like pea coats, denim jackets, fisherman sweaters, black turtlenecks, white eyelet tops, oversized men’s rugby shirts, striped French sailor tops, kilts, Doc Martens, checkerboard Vans, black or white high-top Chuck Taylors, gladiator sandals, cowboy boots, Geiger boiled wool jackets… 

I also love funky pieces like my handmade boots from Catskill Mountain Moccasins and my "Red Queen Battle Coat"with striped lining. I like well-placed details like ribbons, ankle straps and kitten heels, lace, pleats, lacings, pretty buttons, contrasting trim, and nautical or military styling… 

I will wear almost anything if it's black, and to keep things interesting, I like to mix classic pieces with edgy finds. I wear cute dresses with Chuck Taylors, skirts with band T-shirts and I don't mind admitting that I buy clothes from (among other places) Target, Hot Topic, Brooks Brothers and... my husband's closet.

I’m a Mod, a rocker, a punk, a New Romantic, a steampunk – slightly retro, slightly gothic, very slightly preppy... and a curvy, weird, mutton-dressed-as-lamb, 55-year-old mom who works in an office three days a week. And I know all that stuff together is the opposite of something that is likely to come in a box—no matter how cute—from someone I’ve never met!

*It says on the SF web site that the average price for their pieces is $55.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Some Odd, End-of-Summer Ponderings about Art and Heaven

It's been a good summer!
Okay, y’all, I’m starting to get bummed… the summer is slipping away so fast and fall will be bearing down on us before we know it. So, like, it’s this week, then next week we’re on vacation, and then … SCHOOL!! I mean, what the heck?! I realize that it’s a luxury that I have summers “off” – that is, I don’t have to go to my office at the Duke Chronicle, but… why does this delicious break have to go by so fast? 

Okay, now I’ve got that off my newly-lifted chest (bras on sale at Nordstrom – through Sunday, August 6!)… We’ve had a pretty good summer… Bill’s been to some great camps, one of which was Chapel Hill’s Movie Makers camp. At this camp, the kids in each group confer on a plot, act in and film a movie, which the staff edits. The movies are then shown at the historic Varsity Theatre downtown. 

Our Bill at his premiere
Bill’s group concocted an action/adventure opus featuring a government plot to turn high school kids into super warriors. Since his group was older kids, it was well done—for a film that went from concept to completion in a week. It had a decent plot and some pretty good fight scenes. We were so proud of him and my heart leaped every time he appeared on the screen!! 

But this isn’t about that … see, the camp also had a younger group of kids making an action/adventure film. And their movie… well, it was… what you might expect from a bunch of kids ages 6-10! Their plot had something to do with a gang of black-clad villains who poison a town’s coffee supply and a gang of meddling kids who suss out the plot… Did I mention that each gang included one or two kids in a dog or cat costume with lines like “meow” or “grrrr”...?

It was a hilariously fun, cute little mess! And I know the parents LOVED seeing their kids in their celluloid creation, cos that’s how parents are! I should know! Anyway, I’m not sure why, but seeing this little cinematic treat caused me to ponder some weird questions… 

1. DOES GOD THINK OUR ART IS “CUTE”? Some of the art that humans create is so beautiful and subtle it makes, as the Rolling Stones say, “a grown man cry.” Just last night we were at a show of the Punch Brothers… all of whom are fantastic, innovative musicians… And Chris Thile, their mandolin player, is in a class all by himself. I’ve written about him and his genius here, and if you want to watch him go to town on his mini-axe, click here. Anyway, after a particularly complex bit of noodling at the show last night a man yelled out “WHAAAAAAT?????!!!!” – complete with deeply incredulous upswing at the end of the word. Bill and I thought that was particularly hilarious… although we kinda knew what the shouter meant! 

Because human beings are capable of producing some stunning works of creativity, meaning and emotion… but you know how God is so completely above us all? For instance, in Isaiah 55 it says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And in one of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

So if I take these statements to be true, does that mean that even our most perfect and fulfilling pieces of art look like a child’s doodle to Him? Does Citizen Kane look like a caper movie with kids in animal costumes? Do Chris Thile’s mandolin solos sound like a preschooler plinking on a toy ukulele to Him? Does The Starry Night look like scribbles to our Father? Does the most subtle and insightful stand-up comedy act seem like clumsy clownishness?

I know this is a weird question and I honestly don’t know the answer… But I do know that God loves His children like crazy… So it follows, then, that He loves our art—dotes on our attempts to create things that have meaning and beauty and speak of our hearts’ yearning for Him. As the First and Best Creator, He is our Role Model in the Sky when it comes to making stuff, and I think He loves it when we follow His lead.

2. IS THERE ART IN HEAVEN? And if there is… how GREAT is it going to be when we see it, hear the songs, etc.? Will we even be able to contain ourselves laughing at the jokes? Will we say, “WHAAAAAAT???!!!” Or will we stand in awe, saying as Job did when confronted with God’s grandeur: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” 

A pretty piece of God's art
that I posted this spring.
Or … is EARTH AND ALL CREATION God’s art? The music of the spheres, the fruited plains and the purple mountains majesty, etc…? I mean there’s a reason that the best pics on social media are nature pics. You should see the ones my friend Holden posts from his walks in the woods. Talk about ART! 

Or maybe HEAVEN ITSELF is God’s finest work of art, and art is our attempt to bring some of it down here? I mean, even dark art that speaks of the human condition offers a contrast to a way that things should be?

Well, the Revelation of St. John says there’s singing in heaven, so maybe the first thing is true. Or maybe it’s all true—ie. 1. there’s art in heaven, 2. earth and all creation are heaven’s art, and 3. heaven is God's ultimate work of art. 

Stoner-philosopher Doug Forcett
I guess I won’t know the answer to these odd questions until I am there… which kind of reminds me of an incident on that show The Good Place in which Ted Danson tells a new arrival to “the good place” that each of the world religions got the reality of the afterlife about 5% right… and that the only person who came close was a stoner named Doug Forcett, who, while high on mushrooms, guessed it about 92% correct. (Haha - I’ll have what HE’S having!)

Of course, as a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the best information we have on the afterlife and heaven and what have you… but that doesn’t mean we really know what’s in store for us! And I like to think whatever right ideas we may have are about 5% of how great it’s going to be!