It wasn’t long ago that personal stylists were only for the rich and famous. Now, with online styling services like Stitch Fix, Trunk Club or Rent the Runway, even those on a limited budget can dress like a star.
Rent the Runway
A perfect solution for those like Michelle Walker of Amherst who hate to shop, Rent the Runway gives access to more than 350 designers and thousands of clothing pieces and accessories. Walker, a speech pathologist, has been a member of the Rent the Runway Unlimited Club for a year. For a monthly fee of $139, she can select three items on rotation and keep them as long as she likes — a weekend or several months. When she’s ready for a new piece, she can send one or all three back. Shipping is free, and Rent the Runway takes care of the dry cleaning.
“I can order less than 24 hours in advance, and it’s on my doorstep the next morning,” said Walker. (Note there is an extra fee for overnight delivery.)
Non-members can rent by the occasion and pay by the piece, which is usually much less than the cost to purchase.
Free back-up sizes can be included in your order, and for an additional $32.50, you can add another style.
Althea Luehrson of Buffalo recently joined Stitch Fix, a personalized shopping service that will customize a wardrobe to your own taste and budget. You begin by filling out a styling survey that asks questions like “What rise jeans do you prefer?” or “Are you curvy on your bottom half?” The more specific you get, the better the matches.
After completing your style profile, a personal stylist will choose clothing and accessories to match your budget, taste and lifestyle. Soon, a box with five hand-picked, personalized pieces will arrive at your door, including cards with styling tips. You’ll have a few days to try things on. Keep what you like and the rest can be returned in the provided postage-paid envelope. Keep all five and receive a 25 percent discount.
Luehrson says you never know what pieces you’ll receive and that opening your box “is like Christmas, it’s so much fun.” Not only is the service a convenience for Luehrson, a busy CEO, it also forces her out of her “clothing comfort zone.” She said many of her favorite items are ones she would never have chosen for herself. She paid $196 for her last five pieces.
Nancy Cox, a CPA from Hamburg, has been using Stitch Fix for the past two years to buy casual and work clothes. ”I started out monthly, but was buying too much, so I went to every other month,” Cox said. When she began to miss the more frequent shipments, she returned to the monthly program.
Cox says the quality of her items have all been excellent, and she’s recommended Stitch Fix to friends and has received nothing but positive feedback. The only downside is that on a few occasions her friends have received the same items.
Online styling services aren’t just for women — men can get style and shopping help from Trunk Club. After completing a style survey based on budget and style preferences, you’re connected with a live stylist, who hand-picks clothing and accessories you can review and approve online. About a week later, a “trunk” of options arrives at your doorway; keep and pay for what you like, and send back the rest. Shipping is free.
Trunk Club was acquired by Nordstrom in 2014, giving shoppers access to clothing similar in price and quality as that carried in the upscale department store. The company has recently expanded its services to women.
Barbara D. Lupica is a local freelance writer.