Cancel Your Clothing Subscription Box. Love, Me

Real talk about clothing subscription boxes by Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen

I’ve been there. I’ve stood in front of my closet and hated every single thing on the hangers. That has been worn so many times if I have to wear it again I’ll scream. That shirt emphasizes my stomach. I wore that last time I saw these people. Those pants give me diaper butt by noon. That dress needs Spanx and if I have to try to wiggle on Spanx today I’ll scream. Nothing matches, nothing fits, I just wish I could wave a wand and have a new wardrobe. I wish I was rich and had a personal stylist on call. I wish I had time to go shopping. I wish when I went shopping I knew what I wanted, what I need, what would look good on me.

And then as though our wishes were heard, on the scene came subscription clothing boxes. For a small fee each month, a stylist would read our survey, look at our Pinterest, read our desires to look like Audrey Hepburn or Katharine Hepburn or Michelle Obama or Michelle Williams and hand-pick items in our size and within our budget and deliver them to our front door. They would provide styling tips and motivational words to help us get dressed each morning with a smile. They would even offer a discount if we bought every item they chose for us.

The thing is, that wish didn’t come true. Unlike a real stylist you hire, communicate with directly, and focuses on you, these subscription boxes offer algorithm-chosen house brands with a crazy markup. You ask for clothes to wear to work and get cold shoulders and backless dresses. You gained weight but still receive items in your previous size. Receiving the box at your front door is like Christmas, but opening the box is like opening that homemade sweater from Aunt Gladys with one sleeve longer than the other. Suddenly a gift meant to make you feel special makes you feel guilty and bad.

This weekend on Instagram Stories, I shared the latest I received from a clothing subscription box. I know my personal style, I know my body, I do this for a living. I’ve filled out the survey and updated it regularly. I share a TON of feedback, super specific with brand names, style icons, fashion terms and trends. Since fashion is my profession, I’ve upped the budget for each type of item that could come in my box and let them know I am interested in designer pieces. I’ve shared links to my blog, my Instagram, and my Pinterest. This is my 12th box with this company, which means 11 times before I have provided detailed feedback on what worked and what didn’t.

Nothing worked.

“I’m sorry your last few [subscription boxes] haven’t quite been your style; thanks for letting me know that you prefer brighter colors and glam, wow-worthy statement pieces. I’m hoping [this month’s subscription box] fits the bill! I see that you’re a fan of the wide leg silhouette, so I got you started with these soft wide leg jeans in crisp white to brighten your spring wardrobe. Wear them with the mesh detail blouse for a pop of color, then top with a classic denim jacket or a neutral open cardigan, and complete the look with cork wedges. The white jeans also look fab with the bright cobalt blouse; accessorize with nude pointed toe heels to make your legs go on for miles. For a casual dinner out, try the dress with the magenta jacket for a pop of color. Enjoy!”

The blouse was a beautiful color, but a silhouette more appropriate for the office, and I work from home. It was a transparent cheap poly blend and priced at almost $70. As I shared on Instagram Stories, this was the kind of top I’d find a steal for $18 at TJ Maxx, but not something I’d look forward to wearing and surely not something I’d pay that much for.

The jeans were from a trendy designer brand, well made, and $168. I have repeatedly shared in my subscription box style profile that I am petite and need petite pants and jeans, yet these were regular length. And the regular length of these cropped wide leg jeans ended up at this awkward length on my body. Not bad, but not a keeper at $68 let alone $168.

The dress looked like a win in the box. I love stripes and appreciated the heavier weight fabric. However, on my body, it was another story. It had this weird wrap skirt that gave an asymmetrical hemline and the two pieces only connected at the waist and hem. This meant when you sat the top layer buckled, leaving a gap between the layers and depending on how I sat, exposed my crotch. While the fabric would be great for work thanks to its weight, the style and hemline were definitely only right for weekends and that fabric was too heavy for a Maryland summer. It was also almost $70.

The camisole was a dark green with blush pink polka-dots and retailed for $58. It was double-layered for opacity and had a sheer green stripe along the neckline for interest. It fit well, it looked better on. It’s the kind of thing that I would be so happy it fit I’d justify it. A fun cami, I can throw it under a blazer or cardigan or my denim jacket. I could wear it alone with white jeans. It would be cute with leather front leggings and a long cardigan. But honestly, I’d find the only thing it goes with is my denim jacket, which already goes with 50 other things. Very likely if I kept it a year from now I’d end up donating it, unworn, tags still attached.

And there is nothing glam about a bubble gum pink denim jacket with the hem cut off. Unless you are my daughter’s age and shopping at Justice, there is no purpose for such an item in anyone’s closet.

I was personally offended by receiving such items in my subscription box. But if this wasn’t my profession, I think instead I would feel bad about myself. Clothing that doesn’t fit and flatter, styles that don’t work with my personality or lifestyle. Prices that seem too high for the quality. Is it me? Did I not explain myself well enough in the profile? This is a successful company and I know many of my friends, family, and coworkers who use and love this service. My body must be weird. I must be too needy, my expectations too high, my needs too unusual. I've spoken to many of you who have agreed, clothing subscription boxes feed on our insecurities and we often keep the contents not because we like them but because we feel guilty and/or defeated.

You decide to return everything from the box.  The next day you stand in front of your wardrobe and hate everything and grab that cobalt cheap polyester blouse from the box you haven't yet taped up to return.  Or you grab that green and pink cami that doesn’t really go with anything but you wear it under your black blazer or your denim jacket and feel great because you’re getting a high off the newness and maybe someone compliments you on looking so nice in that pretty color. Or maybe all your jeans are dirty so you wear those jeans even though they’re too expensive and a weird length but you make them work and with some blush and lipstick and someone in the office says you’re bold for wearing white jeans and you look great so you’re envisioning in your head 500 ways to wear these pricey jeans to justify keeping them.  And well, might as well keep the denim jacket since it's cheaper to keep it all and then you don't have to deal with returns.

Two weeks later, you pull that cobalt blouse out of the closet and put it on and realize it’s too big and you can see your bra right through it. You try to make it work with a cami and a French tuck and when you go to the bathroom later that day and catch your reflection under the fluorescent lights you realize it looks like a sheer polyester tarp and you want to burn it immediately but you have a client meeting in an hour and you’re meeting friends for dinner immediately after work and Sharon always takes the worst selfies and plasters them all over Facebook and Instagram and there you will be grinning from ear to ear with red eye and a shiny face in a bright blue camping tarp. That night you shove that top into the hamper and when it comes out of the wash it goes straight into the back of the closet where it will reside until the next time you get all Marie Kondo on your wardrobe or the next time you haven’t done laundry and are desperate for something… ANYTHING to wear to work so you’re not late or naked.

And then the next month the process repeats with a new subscription box of sadness.

My friends, these subscription boxes are not doing you any favors. It doesn’t make shopping easier because the majority of the items that arrive aren’t what you want or need. They aren’t saving you money because usually, the things you keep from each box are the things that look the best on, not the things you actually require in your wardrobe. They aren’t saving you time because you likely spend more on waffling in front of your closet, tucking and draping and styling to try to make items work… and then there’s the packing up, the visit to the post office, the feedback form, the scrolling through the survey to see what you did to cause such a wrong box to arrive on your doorstep. And the biggest issue is that subscription boxes rob you of confidence and style.

I get the appeal. Shopping is hard. It’s time-consuming and demoralizing and frustrating. No one wants to spend a beautiful spring weekend in a fitting room or taping up boxes of clothes to return. But you deserve better than a box of sadness arriving on your doorstep each month.

If clothing subscription boxes work for you, that is AWESOME and I am thrilled! I know they must work for some because it is a billion-dollar industry. But if they do not work, know you are not at fault, and you are not alone.

My goal with Wardrobe Oxygen is to simplify the shopping process. And I realize there is room for improvement. Not all of you live near a mall, not all of you can afford the brands I feature, not all the brands I feature offer your size, not all the styles I wear fit your aesthetic of lifestyle. While I won’t change my personal style, I am going to make a concerted effort to offer more sizes, more price points, and expand my retailer selection. I hope that by doing this you will see fashion doesn’t have to be so complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating and that you already have it in you to look good, feel good, and make good decisions. You deserve better than that cheap polyester blouse or ill-fitting knit dress in the subscription box and I will do my best to arm you with the tools and resources to create a wardrobe you deserve.

Note: I have used several clothing subscription programs in the past and currently receive one for free from the brand.  You will see many looks in my archives that include items from clothing subscription boxes and many rave reviews.  I understand the allure of such boxes, and you can sometimes receive gems. But over the years I have realized the issues with clothing subscription boxes and cannot continue to recommend them in good conscience.  

82 Comments

  1. Pat
    April 2, 2019 / 3:42 pm

    Alison, first of all this post was hilarious! Secondly, I could have written it because it so closely mirrored my experience with a plus-size subscription box company that shall not be named. I tried 3 boxes and each was an epic fail. I am 52, but every box came with cheap clothes better suited to an 82 year old who weighs 40 pounds more than me (well, at least I learned that I am not as big as I thought). I, too, ended up keeping a (wayyyy overpriced) skirt I didn’t want just because it fit. Never again…well, at least not with that company.

    • April 2, 2019 / 8:46 pm

      I’m so sorry you had that experience 🙁

  2. March 31, 2019 / 3:01 pm

    Looooove this post. I sent it to a few of my clients who had tried subscription boxes in the past and found themselves dissatisfied! I’ve never tried them personally (even though, as a stylist, I actually hate shopping for myself) because I’ve seen so many women talk about getting bizarre items that aren’t at all what they asked for.

  3. Heidi Corning
    March 28, 2019 / 7:38 pm

    I’m so glad you said that! I didn’t like very much from my subscription boxes and they would never send things I asked for, like long sleeves and heavier fabrics in the winter.

  4. Barbara Lawson
    March 27, 2019 / 5:17 pm

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve often wondered if the subscription clothing services were any good. This answers every question I had. My thought was I’d be hard to fit … I have similar body style as you. If I was willowy and tall it might be a different story. Thanks for your in depth analysis of this kind of shopping.

    • Charlee Sterling
      March 28, 2019 / 2:02 pm

      This is so close to my experiences with subscription boxes — I am a much better stylist for me than a computer algorithm, and you are too!

  5. March 27, 2019 / 12:37 pm

    I have to admit i have been tempted to try them, but living in Panama makes it difficult to return what i do not want to keep-
    This was a really good reality check on how we behave sometimes when it comes to our closets and these types of services, thank you Ally.

  6. Bonnie Mann
    March 27, 2019 / 9:28 am

    This matches my experience exactly. I no longer have any subscription boxes. I will say that even though you and I have very different styles you have become my stylist. Your honest evaluation of clothing brands have guided me to new clothing brands where I make my own choices based on my own style. So thank you for that.

  7. Susan
    March 27, 2019 / 5:14 am

    I appreciate your honesty at a time when influencers all seem to be for sale. Things have gone too far when everyone is featuring those $500 sneakers that look like they need to be replaced bc they are so beat up-pretty insane. I have friends who like subscription boxes but I agree that the value is terrible and they might be better suited to those who don’t enjoy fashion/shopping. I’d much rather have a wardrobe of good quality basics and add some variety by using a clothing rental service…I love Rent the Runway and have found it helps decrease shopping while keeping enough variety in my wardrobe to keep things interesting. Happy to hear you will be adding some brand variety, I stopped reading for awhile bc of too much Cabi and Chico’s.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:18 am

      This blog is my business and I need to pay my bills. Chico’s and cabi partner with me and pay a fair rate and offer clothing the majority of my readers like. A lot of brands do not partner with me because I don’t play the traditional influencer game. Because cabi and Chico’s respect me because I choose to not play the game is why I work with them even more. A lot of the bigger brands expect influencers to write glowing posts and model their clothes on Instagram just for a free sweater (and expect full rights to the images too). There’s a lot behind the scenes that readers don’t know which causes certain brands to be featured and others not. Featuring new brands will be a cost out of my pocket that very likely will not reap a reward but I want to add as much variety as I can.

    • Christy
      March 30, 2019 / 8:57 am

      Agreed!

  8. Stephanie
    March 26, 2019 / 5:50 pm

    *cackles* This is like the better written version of my last experience with a subscription box—the very popular one with the light teal boxes. My last box was an *absolute disaster,* so I returned everything, only to discover a few days later that one of the shiny poly type tops I had kept from a previous box had a big old hole in the side seam! And I spent $30 on it! Anyway, your writing made me laugh, I totally agree with the message of it (it’s not me, it’s the clothes), and you’ve convinced me to gleefully cancel my subscription without dwelling on the sunk costs.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:23 am

      Don’t let subscriptions guilt you into sticking around. And yeah, one of my poly tops from one of these subscription programs totally fell apart with the first washing!

  9. E E Deere
    March 26, 2019 / 5:19 pm

    This is such a refreshing post. Thank you for your candor. Algorithm-based clothing is usually a disaster for me: quality is never conisdered. I’d love your input on shopping independently instead.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:25 am

      Happy to offer that. There are plenty of posts in the archives but I will be discussing this topic more in the future too!

  10. Michaelann Jundt
    March 26, 2019 / 3:15 pm

    I have not tried a subscription box — almost 6′ tall, wear an 18W when they aren’t too short — but often feel like I am missing out on something amazing. so THANK YOU for this honest review and reminder that we do not need more things in our fashion lives that make us feel lesser. You are great. and I love that you remind us that we are great.

  11. Jennifer
    March 26, 2019 / 3:01 pm

    I cancelled a subscription box service after 3 months. But I have subscribed to a service that, for $8.95 a month, sends a virtual box: a site with 6-7 choices that you can order independently, and the monthly fee is credited towards any purchases. I like it because it’s geared to “ethical” fashion brands. It’s too soon to tell if this will be a success for me. This first month’s selection reflected my survey responses and my pinterest board. Maybe this service will be better because their costs are so much lower, and they can put more money into human curation.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:28 am

      That sounds like a great alternative!

  12. Amy S
    March 26, 2019 / 3:00 pm

    I went back to a subscription service earlier this year in the hopes of grabbing a few new items to supplement what I already had for an upcoming work meeting. I specified that I was looking for clothes for work and requested pants, preferably black, definitely with pockets, and even noted some of the items currently on their website that I liked. I got a pair of navy pants one time and a pair of grey pants the next, neither had pockets. I sent everything back. What was supposed to help with stress at a busy time only made it worse in the end.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:28 am

      Sadly you’re not alone with that experience.

  13. Jennifer Mitchell
    March 26, 2019 / 1:48 pm

    I have had reasonable luck with Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, but I had a Nordstrom Card prior to trying the service, and therefore don’t have to pay a styling fee, which make a big difference for me mentally – I’m not out anything if I don’t like anything in the box. It did take a couple of shipments to get on the same page with my stylist, although some of that was me learning to communicate my preferences as I learned what I do and don’t like. (Just because I like the way a sleeve looks doesn’t mean I like actually wearing it!) It also helped that I used to live in a city where there is an a Trunk Club location and I was able to go in and meet with my stylist in person, so she could see how things did or didn’t fit me, rather than me trying to describe fit issues via email. I now live in a city without a Nordstrom, so I plan to continue requesting Trunks periodically, as I find that simpler than ordering a bunch of things and having them come in multiple shipments that then have to be returned.

    I’ve not been a fan of what I got from Stitch Fix or Dia, although Dia was the better of the two for me.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:30 am

      I too have had the best luck with Trunk Club. I like that I can have a running conversation with my stylist, not just feedback that can’t exceed X characters. I’ve also used it not to send me outfits but specific things. I’m looking for dressy camisoles, for wide width sandals, for straight leg dark wash jeans. They can do the work and may pick things different that what I may have looked at scrolling through Nordstrom.

  14. Seema
    March 26, 2019 / 1:42 pm

    Long time reader (2006?), first time commenter. On the surface, there is no reason for me to follow this blog. You and I are different ages, different sizes, have different wardrobe needs, different style aesthetics – but I still keep coming back because I love the way you write. Your posts and reviews are so refreshing and honest (hard to find in the fashion blog world in 2019), I hope that never changes.

    • Michaelann Jundt
      March 26, 2019 / 3:18 pm

      Ditto!

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:31 am

      Wow, thank you so much Seema. I’m honored! <3

  15. March 26, 2019 / 12:16 pm

    I’ve never subscribed to any of those boxes but it was always something that seemed interesting to me. I was always reluctant to them though because I always need to try things on first before buying them because most of the time, they don’t look good on me. That’s also the reason why I rarely shop online. It’s nice to see an honest opinion on those subscription boxes because now I definitely don’t want one.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:35 am

      Not all online shopping is terrible, and a lot of brands are improving the process. For example, Universal Standard, Everlane, and a few other retailers are showcasing clothing on a variety of sizes and shapes of models. As a petite curvy woman, this makes it so much easier to narrow down which things to order. But yeah, with most subscription boxes you don’t even see what you’re getting and there’s no reference for how it looks on other people. And no requests either.

  16. Karen
    March 26, 2019 / 11:33 am

    Powerfully put, Alison.

  17. Laura
    March 26, 2019 / 10:43 am

    Personally offended? I don’t understand that strong of a reaction. All of the pieces you showed in photos were pretty decent – maybe not exactly perfect, but close enough you might have tried them on in store or ordered them online to try out. In my mind that’s as close as you can expect a subscription box to get.

    But I’ve never had a subscription to one of those services. I have done Gwynnie Bee, which of course lets you choose the items you want to try. But they’ve had less and less that’s really delighted me as time goes by, and their processing times get slower and slower. I suspect that there’s an economic challenge with all of these services. They’re no longer being subsidized by venture capital, so they need to figure out how to make a profit, but the margins are so small that they’re having to raise prices, get items specially made for them at a lower price, or both, and replace their human ‘stylists’ with algorithms.

    • Chris
      March 27, 2019 / 4:50 am

      Laura,

      I think she was offended because she put considerable thought and time into giving detailed feedback that seemed to be completely ignored.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:45 am

      A strong reaction because this is the 12th time they have gotten is completely wrong, and each time costs at least $20 for that lack of understanding. I don’t believe in wasting my money on close enough, that’s how we end up hating our closets and becoming frustrated with ourselves, spending more than we need, owning more than we need. We deserve better for our hard-earned money and all the time we put into feedback, surveys, polls, and such to try to get it right.

    • Nicole
      March 31, 2019 / 8:38 am

      I agree with you about Gwynnie Bee. In the beginning they were amazing. Since they expanded their size range I don’t ckoset as much. I’m on my second stich fix box. Still not sure if I like it. I liked more from the current box than my first.

  18. Laurel
    March 26, 2019 / 9:49 am

    This is so true. I tried Stitch Fix some years back when it was a new hot thing. The only thing I loved was discovering Liverpool jeans. And I’ve since found the brand in multiple places at much cheaper prices. I did get one knit top I loved (the brand escapes me, but it was also available elsewhere) and it developed pin holes within the first season of wearing it. Big disappointment. I found most tops to be cheap poly and really unflattering, or grossly overpriced for what they were. So it’s been years and I don’t miss it.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:50 am

      I have to say thanks to StitchFix I found that DL1961 jeans fit me great. I never would have tried them if it weren’t for StitchFix!

  19. Nicole
    March 25, 2019 / 10:50 pm

    So I tried Trunk Club, and the results were a disaster. I lost weight recently and needed to replace my work pants. Following a friend’s lead, I found high-end items on Thread Up and added them to a Goody Box. I selected 9 items and their Stylist pulled a dress that had been on my favorites list to bring the count to 10. I paid $10 for shipping that would be put to anything I purchased. All 10 arrived and I kept 4, including a pair of wool Theory pants I paid $20 for and a nice pair of NYDJ capris in my new size for only $15 (I am wearing them right now on spring break) and a Chico’s denim jacket (that I also brought on vacation) for $20. I call that a win. So it’s not quite subscription, but I will try it again.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:52 am

      That sounds like a great alternative!

  20. Tala
    March 25, 2019 / 9:36 pm

    I LOLed because I have a hot pink denim jacket similar to that (and I am many times older than your daughter hahahaha). I got it at Goodwill for $3. It was a little oversized/boxy so I cut off the hem to crop it (a little different than that one, I curved the hem so it is shorter in the front and longer in the back) and distressed/abraded areas to tone down the sweetness. I love it. I wear it over white dresses or with black and white striped tees or with my grey sequined tank and wide legged black pants or my slouchy turtleneck sweater and cropped flared jeans. I briefly thought about not wearing it anymore after reading this post, but I put it on and thought nope, still think it is awesome. I love shopping and digging through thrift stores and clearance racks so subscription boxes sound like no fun to me. Plus I can sew, so I can often re-figure a lot of things to make them fit better or look more interesting. The best thing you can do with your wardrobe budget is to buy a sewing machine and some lessons.

    • March 27, 2019 / 9:57 am

      Tala, your jacket sounds amazing because it fits your personal style and it was personalized by you. I love it!

  21. Chris
    March 25, 2019 / 7:04 pm

    I wish I had extra money that I could blow on an experiment. I would like to sign up as if I were several different people. I’d use the same size and aesthetic. The only thing I would change is the age. I would ask for clothes for a person of 20, 35, 43, 55, 65 to see what they would send. If the size and the aesthetic for these 5 women is the same, then theoretically, the clothes boxes should be the same or close to the same.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:02 am

      I am so tempted to start another subscription with this company with the same exact style survey details but the only difference is saying I am 29 instead of 44. That would be a good experiment!

  22. Karen
    March 25, 2019 / 6:29 pm

    What an insightful post. Thanks for taking one for the team. When subscription boxes first came out, I have to admit the idea intrigued me but I knew I’d be a difficult-to-fit customer. At only 5′ tall and a size 14P/16P, I didn’t think a stylist who never saw me would ever get selections right. And it sounds like I’d be correct in that thinking. I’m finding petites are not so petite any more. A 29″ pant inseam may seem short to some, but I’d need to wear 3″+ heels and at 55, I’m not about to torture my feet in that way again.

    I little bit of info to pass on for the really short petites like myself, I’ve found some good, basic jeans with stretch at Kohls. The brand Sonoma Goods for Life offers petite sizes up to a 16 and have Petite and Petite Short lengths. Those petite short lengths have allowed me to have actual ankle jeans that do not bunch up at my ankle. And they are decently priced too. I stocked up on several pairs during a recent sale.

    • Anamarie
      March 25, 2019 / 8:20 pm

      I’m 5’ and size 14P – Trunk Club was so frustrating for me in terms of pants/jeans inseam. I constantly received either “ankle length (usually 3-4 inches past my actual ankle) or non-petite pants/jeans that were 6+” too long. I also had a lot of trouble with dresses. Most I received had zippers in the back that bunched strangely because the torso was too long. I also specified NO pastels, NO prints (I’m very picky about prints) and NO shoes with straps over the top of the foot, since I have screws in one foot and it can hurt to have straps over the top of my foot. It seemed like every trunk had one or more of the NO items. Basically, every trunk I received offended me! Canceled today!

      • March 27, 2019 / 9:59 am

        Oh that IS frustrating! I still use Trunk Club, but like I mentioned to another commenter, I don’t use it to create outfits but specific things. Most recently I asked for leather toes with a zip top, straps sturdy enough to carry a lot of weight, and in any color other than black. I ended up with a bag I love that I likely wouldn’t have found on my own. I also know there are just some terrible stylists who just don’t “get” it at all. I am sorry you had such an experience but glad you knew it wasn’t your fault!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:03 am

      Thanks for the tips on shopping Kohl’s!

  23. Charlene
    March 25, 2019 / 4:39 pm

    I completely agree with all you’ve said.!!! I feel so much better about canceling all my boxes because nothing ever worked. I’m 4’11 and I swear I NEVER received petite clothes even when I repeatedly asked for them. No … ankle length regular pants aren’t the same. At all! Subscriptions of sadness indeed. Thank you for making me feel better about myself and my body. Now if I could just find some dress pants that fit….
    Keep doing what you are doing because I appreciate it and learn so much from you ❤️

  24. Janice Q
    March 25, 2019 / 4:23 pm

    I was discussing box subscriptions with an acquaintance recently. She and her daughter wear the same size and her daughter’s box is full of cute things. She thinks the age factor immediately skewed the content choices. I agree with you on so many points. I received a few cute items the first time and kept them, but never again. The quality was bad and the prices were 3 times what you’d paid at Marshalls, or even on sale a a department store. That “styling fee “can be put to better use ladies!

  25. Cec
    March 25, 2019 / 3:52 pm

    I dropped all my beauty subscription boxes when I realized I kept getting the same junk (concealer colored lipsticks, sparkly nude eyeshadow, and boring black eyeliner, and gross perfumes) every single month no matter what feedback I gave or what I set my profile to. For the $10 a month I was spending I could save up and buy a few high end products I actually use.

    • Carolyn Graf
      March 25, 2019 / 8:57 pm

      YES! So many black eyeliners!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:07 am

      I think beauty subscriptions are more like stocking stuffers. It’s fun, but rarely will you find a new favorite product you’ll buy. It’s true that if you save up, you’d have $120/year to spend on exactly what you need or want.

  26. Anamarie
    March 25, 2019 / 1:35 pm

    Done! I have been feeling exactly the same- offended that my fourth “stylist” in less than a year kept sending me a crap selection. I decided I’m going to set up an appointment with a personal stylist at Nordstrom instead and give a try. One of my good friends does this and has had great success. She feels no pressure to buy anything, and doesn’t have to run all over the store to find what she needs.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:09 am

      I think that’s a great alternative. Do let me know how it works out for you!

  27. Mel
    March 25, 2019 / 1:22 pm

    Thank you for this. I have been considering trying a box service and I think you’ve changed my mind. I was going to suggest that maybe if you requested a different stylist, maybe it would work. But all the commenters having similar experiences changed my mind. Style is such a personal thing, and I suppose an art, not a science. And I had no idea the prices were so outrageous! Thanks for this honest, really helpful, post Alison. Love your blog.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:10 am

      Thanks so much Mel! I recommend over paying $20+ a month to save up and either hire a personal stylist or make an appointment with one at a store like Nordstrom that has a variety of brands and sizes. Maybe a better use of your time and money!

  28. Nicole Kowalski
    March 25, 2019 / 1:18 pm

    It seems as if these services have inherent ageism, sizeism, and shapeism built in, so I have never tried one. I always imagine a college age girl, thin, over 5’6’ is choosing things. Not to mention the model that starts with name brands, then moves to in house brands to increase the margins. No thanks!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:12 am

      I do think that is the issue. The clothes I received are what someone half my age may think is glam and edgy for a short, round mom.

  29. Ashley
    March 25, 2019 / 1:15 pm

    This is timely for me because I received a gift card for one of these subscription box services for Christmas… and now, three months later, I’m still trying to decide what to do about it. The gift giver keeps asking me how I’m liking the service and what I’ve bought, and I’m too embarrassed to tell her I haven’t used it at all yet. I moved last year, and now I’m living in a town with very few UPS stores and dropoff locations, and exactly none are anywhere near my home or work. My hours right now are crazy enough that I’m rarely available when any of the UPS stores are open, so I’ve actually racked up a substantial amount of Loft store credit because I can’t always return things within the refund window. Zappos and Nordstrom have become my favorite sites in terms of shopping because of their generous return policies.

    I’m not particularly optimistic about the service based upon unboxing posts and videos I’ve seen on blogs, so honestly I haven’t been motivated to work on my profile. I don’t have any social media accounts and I don’t do Pinterest, so I can’t take shortcuts with those types of links. I’d just be relying on my communication with the company and the stylist to ensure I’m sent items that suit me. Posts like yours don’t really boost my faith in that process. So the gift card sits in my desk unused, and I’m feeling guilty and defeated without having even subscribed yet.

    Perhaps if things lighten up I’ll take a chance and maybe even get lucky with a piece or two. Or maybe there’s somewhere appropriate to donate the gift card.

    • Mary W
      March 25, 2019 / 1:38 pm

      If you like Zappos, check out their outlet store called 6pm.com . You can find some amazing prices there. Keep checking until you find something you like because they add things often. Also, https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/deal-of-the-day has great items.

      • March 27, 2019 / 10:08 am

        Both great resources, thanks Mary!

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:14 am

      Oh I’m so sorry a gift has left you feeling that way! Some of the programs offer versions for men or kids. I know StitchFix for Kids has been far more successful for our family than the regular program. And I have also heard that the first box is usually the best of the bunch, so maybe taking a try and knowing it’s not you it’s the program may prove successful!

  30. Susan
    March 25, 2019 / 11:57 am

    I too tried a subscription box and had horrible experience. I have up on them after three months of too big sizes rather than the petite I requested. And the prices were ridiculous! Could find almost the same at TJ for 1/10th the price. Besides Gwinney Bee, are there any worth the time and effort?

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:19 am

      My favorite of the bunch is Trunk Club, but I use it differently. Instead of saying I like modern classic styles and want to update my wardrobe for spring I get super specific. I am looking for leather tote bags for everyday that are big enough for my laptop but don’t have a laptop sleeve. Strong straps, not black, real leather, at least one interior pocket but not so many pockets I can’t use it as a tote. I’ve done this with a few things – jeans, blazers, camisoles and I’ve found my stylist finds things I would never consider that are often wins. I see it less as a stylist and more as a personal shopper. And for renting clothes like Gwynnie Bee, Rent the Runway Unlimited is a cool program http://bit.ly/2UcTQ3F and even Ann Taylor now has a clothing rental program https://www.infinitestylebyanntaylor.com

  31. Toni
    March 25, 2019 / 11:41 am

    Thanks for speaking out on this, even knowing that you may alienate some sponsors. Frustration and peer pressure delivered right to your doorstep? No thanks! My secretary is constantly coming in wearing some el cheapo garment and talking about how she is being moved “out of her fashion comfort zone” thanks to her subscription service. I don’t want to hurt her feelings but my goodness she could have gotten any of these unflattering garments at Target for probably half the price. But she feels like she is doing what the cool kids are doing.

    Fashion isn’t just about the garments, it’s about how the industry interacts with and manipulates the market. I appreciate that you address these issues just as much and as well as you do the garments themselves.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:20 am

      I did hesitate to share this post as I have done paid campaigns with clothing subscription programs in the past. And this isn’t about clothing rental programs like R2R or Gwynnie Bee. I also find Trunk Club to be different because you can use it for personal shopping in place of generic outfit styling. But I just think so many women are losing money and confidence with these programs I just couldn’t keep quiet.

  32. Carolyn Graf
    March 25, 2019 / 11:29 am

    As someone who is trying to go for quality not quantity, but not have a capsule wardrobe, I really appreciate this honest evaluation of this sort of service. I have never taken the plunge because of my changing body shape and size, I never felt confident in stating oh I wear a ABC size shirt and XYZ dress, etc. but I totally feel you on the pain of returning stuff via mail. I am sure part of their business model is the reliance that a certain percentage of subscribers never return anything.
    I am working too hard on editing my closet to allow boxes of random stuff to land on my front porch and that pink denim jacket w/ the insane hem proves that these boxes can be painfully random in regards to their contents.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:22 am

      Yeah, that pink jacket is SO not my style! This experience makes me more a fan of rental programs, where you don’t have to keep things, you’re not creating more waste, but you can expand your wardrobe for special situations or when transitioning between sizes.

  33. Monica
    March 25, 2019 / 11:25 am

    I can’t love this post enough! I’ve tried and failed with various boxes and always felt like I must be the problem. But hearing your experience validates my suspicion that there was no way a “stylist” ever read my comments or looked at my Pinterest. Clearly the algorithm for 40s, cusp-sized mom = pieces exclusively from the frumpy section.

    • March 27, 2019 / 10:23 am

      I do wonder how different my picks would be if I said I was 29 instead of 44…

  34. Victoria Whaley
    March 25, 2019 / 10:41 am

    For sure agree! Granted, I love shopping (especially for bargains!) and feel like most subscription boxes just take that joyful experience away from me. Also, I am fairly spoiled and have a world of retail accessible.

    But if I want a blouse with dubious opacity and re-wear-ability, I will buy it for $6.99 on a clearance rack or at TJMaxx! And I for sure need to try jeans on to make sure they are “keepers”.

  35. Dawn
    March 25, 2019 / 10:38 am

    I wouldn’t give up my Gwynnie Bee for anything, but I am the one picking the pieces. I am almost at 1000 pieces and 6 years in. I have never tried any other subscription box for clothing.

    • March 25, 2019 / 10:43 am

      I wouldn’t consider Gwynnie Bee to be the same thing, it’s more of a clothing rental and in place of a stylist you make the choices. I am a big Gwynnie Bee fan, I think it’s a very smart concept. Same with Rent The Runway Unlimited and other clothing rental programs!

  36. Kim
    March 25, 2019 / 10:29 am

    I agree on the subscription boxes, but I’m still happy with Gwynnie Bee, I found it through this blog and I’ve been a happy member for 7 years!

    • March 25, 2019 / 10:40 am

      What I love about Gwynnie Bee and programs like that is YOU are in control. You pick the clothing, the sizes, and you also have reviews from other members to help you make your decision. I think Gwynnie Bee is fantastic and it helped me out for many years trying to figure out how to dress my new shape!

  37. Alison
    March 25, 2019 / 9:50 am

    I am feeling grateful that I haven’t tried a subscription yet. I love your idea to expand which retailers you are showing here and will say that in my area Kohl’s is usually a comfortable pricepoint for me.

    • March 25, 2019 / 10:41 am

      Kohl’s is definitely on the list. I haven’t featured it as much as it deserves.

    • Nina
      March 26, 2019 / 10:21 am

      I really enjoyed your article. It took me years to cultivate a wardrobe that makes me happy. I am plus-sized, pear-shaped, and I work in an office five days a week. My work “uniform” is mostly fit-and-flare dresses from Calvin Klein, Talbots, and Cynthia Rowley. I try to vary the colors of the dresses but I stick to the fit-and-flare shape because it flatters my body. Once a week I’ll wear a skater skirt with tights and a blouse or a sweater. I wear skirts when I go out with my friends, even when I know the rest of my pals will be wearing jeans, because I feel more confident in a skater skirt with tights than I do in pants. I’ve built a wardrobe around this silhouette. I’ve been trying to add pants outfits for casual weekends. I’m still looking for the best fitting pants and tops that flatter. I follow fashion blogs to get new ideas and your blog is my favorite. I appreciate your honesty about how things fit and flatter, and how sometimes they don’t. It saves me time and shows me new items to try on myself. Thank you for sharing your honest feedback about these rental services. It’s a good reminder to me to continue to update my closet with things that fit well and make me feel good.

      • March 27, 2019 / 9:48 am

        I’m glad to be helpful, and I love how you know your style so well!

  38. Téa
    March 25, 2019 / 9:48 am

    Long time reader, first time commenter! I, too, had to “break-up” with my subscription box company for another reason. When I found a “brand” that fit my specific proportions, and tried to find other things by same brand, they were impossible to locate! Yes, the jeans I received were Kut from the Kloth and I knew my size, but cute, “boutique” style blouses seemed as though they were manufactured straight for the subscription box company…I LOVE your blog because you give info and ideas about brands I may not have heard of, that are ethical and not “fast fashion”…that I would actually be able to afford and locate in my retail desert. Thanks for all you do!

  39. Joannawnyc
    March 25, 2019 / 9:34 am

    Exactly.

  40. Ellen Greenway
    March 25, 2019 / 9:26 am

    Girl, you are so right about this! I did that same subscription for a year and a half. I was usually disappointed but on the rare occasions something seemed to work, I’d joyfully keep it. Then I rarely/never wore them.I am a bargain/sale shopper but would spend, spend, spend on those damn boxes! They really get the psychology of how to get you to spend money on truly random things! I don’t wear anything I purchased from that subscription box anymore, and have donated or sold – at a huge loss – all of it. I am not entirely without a sense of my own style, life, and what suits me and it stopped being fun after many months of explaining myself to those people and having them get it so wrong! I had a good stylist to start with but she disappeared at one point and the next ones sucked. The worst part was that, because I’m over 50, I started getting horrible, matronly, ugly, bland clothes, despite my efforts at Pinterest and essay writing. So insulting! I’m glad you’re calling this out, Allie!

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