The lowdown on using StitchFix, Le Tote, MM.LaFleur and Trunk Club.
I wasn’t dressed for success.
Early in 2017, I returned to full-time work after seven years as a freelancer. I had spent years writing away in yoga pants and t-shirts of questionable provenance, and I badly needed a wardrobe refresh.
The problem: I hate shopping. So I turned to four clothing subscription box services whose ads punctuated my social media feeds: StitchFix, Le Tote, MM.LaFleur and Trunk Club. These services promise a boxful of clothes, sized and styled perfectly to your specifications, delivered to your doorstep for either a monthly or a per-delivery fee ranging from $20 per shipment to $59 per month (plus the cost of clothes).
I fired up my computer and filled out the services’ style questionnaires or, in the case of Trunk Club, messaged an actual person, with my many specifications. StitchFix, Le Tote and MM.LaFleur’s questionnaires took 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Trunk Club’s chat with a real stylist took a bit longer. William, my stylist, asked me about my preferred inseam length, how I style the clothes I have, and how I like my tops to fit.
From each service, I requested items only in black, grey, ivory or white, pink, red, and, an occasional blue, and items that worked with the rest of my “work uniform,” which includes black pants, flats and a blazer or cardigan or a dress, flats and a blazer or cardigan.
Here’s what happened.
StitchFix, the most widely-known of these services, offered a nice range of products in each shipment, but its offerings were a little trendy for me, even after I asked for more “conservative” items of my stylist. The colorblock dress they sent me was far too short for the office; the open drape cardigan, far too casual. Of all the items in my shipments — I tried this service more than once — I kept three: a black French terry blazer by Tart ($128), a black and white silk Henley blouse by 41 Hawthorne ($88) and a black and white hi-lo top by French Connection ($88), all of which have found steady rotation in my wardrobe. I am still a Stitch Fix subscriber, but I do not have another “Fix” scheduled.
How it works: You receive five items for a $20 styling fee that is credited toward your purchase. The average item is $55, but you can specify your ideal price range for items in various categories. Stitch Fix offerings are decent in quality. Many pieces are polyester. You have three days to decide what to keep and what to return. You receive 25% discount off of your entire purchase if you purchase all five pieces.
Le Tote is a closet rental service, that also allows monthly subscribers to purchase items after use. Le Tote’s inventory is small, and you add items to your “closet” for your shipment, so there are no surprises in your delivery. Le Tote didn’t remove the hassle of choosing clothes, and although I did eventually purchase a heather grey rolled-cuff jacket by Noir ($68), a pleated neck top by Vince Camuto ($55) and an aqua statement necklace by Ava ($14), I cancelled my subscription within the month. The company’s proprietary algorithm just didn’t get me.
How it works: For $59 per month, you receive three clothing items and two accessories per tote, and you can receive an unlimited number of totes per month. Designer products are generally 20% to 80% off retail, and quality varies from brand to brand. You are only charged for what you keep.
MM.LaFleur, an independent clothing line, carries offerings for the formal workplace. I really wanted to like this service — their pieces are timeless and several friends have served as brand ambassadors — but their clothing were far too overpriced for polyester, machine-washable office separates. That being said, they sent me six items that fit my specifications, their customer service was excellent and I communicated with an actual stylist! I ultimately bought a red blouse — the Didion 3.0 Top ($165) — but I overpaid for it. I am still a MM.LaFleur subscriber, but I do not have another “Bento” scheduled.
How it works: Your first Bento Box — dresses, separates and accessories for a week at the office — is completely free; subsequent boxes are charged a $25 styling fee credited towards your purchase. Prices range from $110 (for tops) to $595 (for dresses), but the quality is excellent. You have four days to decide what to keep.
Trunk Club was acquired by Nordstrom in 2014, and the service offers the department store’s unparalleled customer service. Trunk Club gave me what I needed — workhorse workwear, including shoes, at discounted prices from Nordstrom’s inventory, such as a blue jersey midi dress by Topshop ($33), a pink ruffle hem cardigan by Hinge ($35.40) and burgundy suede ballet flats by Caslon ($53.56). When, a few weeks later, I found an item that I purchased to be defective — pewter loafers by Franco Sarto ($98.95) — Trunk Club offered a full refund, no questions asked. I am still a Trunk Club subscriber, and I will probably stick with this service.
How it works: You receive up to 10 items for a $25 styling fee —waived for Nordstrom cardholders — that is credited toward your purchase. Trunk Club advertises that most of their inventory is in the $100 to $300 range, but no single piece I was sent exceeded $100. Here, too, quality varies by brand. You are sent a preview of items in your trunk, which you can approve or amend. You have five days to decide what to keep and what to return.
Bottom line: Ultimately, I liked Trunk Club the best; it hit my style and budget. If I worked in a trendier workplace, I might opt for Stitch Fix — many of my friends who work in New York City media, for example, swear by Stitch Fix — and if I worked in a bank, law firm or Capitol Hill, I might opt for the more formal, more classic MM.LaFleur. I’ve told William, my Trunk Club stylist, that I would like a spring and fall “Trunk” in 2018.
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