Shopping Hits & Misses, J. Crew Edition

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j crew spring summer 2020 review

Right now I am on a spending… I wouldn’t say freeze but a serious reduction. With so many brands coming out with concerning business practices I am hesitant. I am looking to work with what I have, and when I do need to shop, to do some research before I spend a dime. But in the past few months, I have made some clothing purchases and wanted to consolidate the reviews for you.  Today's post is dedicated to the online orders I've made at J. Crew, and whether they were hits or misses.

As soon as I heard J. Crew filed for bankruptcy, I placed an order, and then I placed another one and a few weeks later, another one. Sure, J. Crew has been disappointing in the past decade with questionable style, ridiculous prices, and lacking quality they were known for. They really missed the boat by not extending their size range sooner and clinging to their Jenna Lyons heyday. But J. Crew is my closet ride or die. It started Junior year of college; my roommate Julia had a closet full of J. Crew and I loved her effortless prep school/devil may care style. She had a roll-neck sweater from J. Crew I often borrowed and wore over my white oxford and a black pleated skirt with Doc Martens. I felt guilty borrowing it so often, so when I saved up enough from my part-time job, I snagged a copy of the catalog from the sorority house mailroom and made my first of likely over a hundred orders from J. Crew. When I was preppy, when I was corporate, when I was funky, when I was flirty, there was J. Crew part of that wardrobe.  Some of my most memorable pieces of clothing in the past 25 years have been from J. Crew. I couldn’t give up on J. Crew, I had to place some orders and hope I could do my part to keep this ship upright. So what I ordered and my thoughts:

jcrew best buys


J. Crew Striped Boatneck T-Shirt: XL

I just reviewed this shirt in Thursday's blog post reviewing the best Breton striped shirts I've owned that are still for sale.  If you didn't read that post, spoiler alert, I like this shirt.  It's nothing life-changing but it's a good weight, good color, good enough shape and good price ($39.50 without any of J. Crew's constant sales) that it keeps me from purchasing more.  This isn't the first time I've bought this shirt and likely won't be the last as I wear this shirt often and it needs to be retired every year or so.  A good example of why I want J. Crew to survive. HIT

j. crew striped boatneck
Wearing the J. Crew Striped Boatneck and the 5″ Chino Shorts

J. Crew 5″ Stretch Chino Short: 14

These shorts are also an item from J. Crew I have purchased in the past and likely will purchase again in the future.  When I was in my 20s and 30s, I found a 3″ short to be perfect for my 5'3″ frame.  And then I turned 40 and 3″ felt like a bikini bottom.  I needed more length to prevent chub rub but I also felt more length looked better on my current body.  The thing is, chino shorts don't seem to be made for my shape.  I think my booty is too round for them, it causes them to bunch weirdly at my crotch and they are often too snug on my thighs.  But J. Crew shorts work for me.  I also have this style and like them for throwing over a swimsuit or hanging out at home. Even though I am petite, I choose regular which gives more length in the rise which equals more room for a tummy as well as a booty.  I also size up, again offering more room everywhere.  Shorts look better hanging a bit low, even if you have the equivalent with long pants and they look smarter in a different size.  These shorts wash up great, they weather in the way you wish chino shorts to do – maybe get a bit faded or soft but still structured without any rolling or stretching.  This year I chose a navy short, though all the colors they have are good.  They fit the same as they did last year, and similar fabric.  HIT

Wearing the J. Crew Tiered Maxi Dress

J. Crew Tiered Maxi Dress in Ratti® Jardin Floral Print: 14

I've reviewed this dress several times before and even included it in my at home capsule wardrobe but I figured I might as well consolidate my spring/summer J. Crew reviews in this post. I love this dress.  Like, it makes me happier than any other item in my closet.  The straps are a little long so for now until the tailor is open, I have them safety pinned to the right length with them uncrossed, so I can wear the dress with a standard bra (a balconette does best because it doesn't have the scoop of fabric coming up from the cup to the strap which may show).  The straps are adjustable and can be crossed if you desire.  The dress has no stretch and the bodice is about the size of my bust and lined so it can hold my breasts up separate from my torso.  While I won't be comfortable heading out on the town braless, it does enough that not only do I look decent when I am at home, it also keeps my breasts from sticking to my ribcage in the heat and humidity (no bra in the photo above).  The dress has a cotton voile lining and pockets deep enough for all your stuff.  I am 5'3″ and the dress just grazes the top of my feet meaning I can wear it with flat sandals or barefoot without it dragging.  I've washed it twice and while it will wrinkle up a bit since it's cotton, it doesn't become a shriveled mess and a garment steamer can get it right pretty quickly. It's NOT cheap, but because I bought it I haven't bought any other dresses for the season.  If this print isn't your thing, it also comes in a stripe and if you'd like it a bit more glam, it comes in taffeta in this print and these solid colors. HIT

J. Crew Paper-Bag Pant in Chambray: 14

I have been wearing the heck out of my Athleta jeans because they are lightweight and loose and relaxed.  They look cute with a striped tee and a pair of silver Birkenstocks, they look cool with a graphic tee, blazer, and white loafers.  They're summer jeans, and I was thinking this would be a fun alternative to them.  I wear my Universal Standard paperbag waist pants a lot, so I felt the style would work.  And maybe these chambray pants would have worked if the chambray was a bit lighter in weight, and if they had petite.  The color is like my Lee tapered stonewash jeans from middle school, needing to be a bit lighter or a bit darker or a bit something to look more modern.  The fabric is thinner, but stiffer than my Athleta jeans so they sort of ballooned on me.  And because they aren't petite, they were a bit too long to look right with sneakers or Birkenstocks and the rise was too long, giving my a dumpy rear view.  Good idea, but would be way better in a fabric like linen or Tencel and with petite (and while we're at it, tall) options. MISS

J. Crew Boyfriend Sweatshirt in Magic Rinse Cotton: XL

I have reviewed this sweatshirt as well in previous blog posts.  Since reviewing it, it has become my absolute favorite sweatshirt.  It's a nice lightweight sweatshirt, good for when the A/C feels a bit too cool after sitting in front of your computer or on the couch for an hour, and if there's an evening breeze.  I thought Brilliant Sunset would be a rich orange color, but it's more like a soft mango.  No worries, it's still pretty, has washed up great, and is soft and comfy and boxy and not too long to wear with shorts.  The XL is perfect for a relaxed vibe, if I wanted to wear it out and about with jeans I think a size smaller would look more polished while still being comfy. HIT

J. Crew Long Parke Blazer in Washed Chambray: 14

I am trying really hard to shop for the here and now, and not what I think I will want to wear once we're fully into our new normal.  But sometimes, I dream of silk pajama pants and a graphic tee and a few gold chains and a blazer like this for brunch and shopping and meetings and travel. I also thought this blazer would look chic with white jeans and the Breton striped top above.  And the blazer does look just like the photo.  It is unlined, a nice chambray wash with cool white stitching, doesn't look cheap.  But I'm like a 14.5 with J. Crew, and while this fits, it's a bit snug across the shoulders and doesn't go in at the right place at my waist and those two details make it hang a bit weird.  I have the Parke Blazer in 16 and had it tailored to fit and it's awesome, but it required extensive and expensive tailoring to make it awesome.  I will pay that for a suit, I won't for a chambray blazer.  It just felt like I would have to work too hard to make this blazer work, and without seeing anything concrete on the horizon where I'd wear it, I decided to return it.  But it makes me want something similar at some point. MISS

J. Crew Cropped Hoodie in Vintage Cotton Terry: XL

I love this hoodie.  I've worn it a lot and featured it in my stay at home capsule wardrobe.  And then my husband laundered it with something dark and it came out of it a bit muted.  And then he thought it was my daughter's and put it in her drawer and she found it and has hardly taken it off since.  And while it was cute on me, it has become part of her uniform and the XL yet cropped style looks all cute on her gangly tween self. And the new color isn't happy making like it was so… now my kid has my hoodie.  That being said, this hoodie doesn't shrink, it's lightweight and soft, and I enjoyed it very much for a few weeks. HIT

j crew super soft sweater
Wearing the J. Crew Oversized Crewneck Sweater in Supersoft Yarn with Old Navy joggers

J. Crew Oversized Crewneck Sweater in Supersoft Yarn: Large

This sweater was not needed, but was bought when I was feeling all nostalgic about J. Crew.  I got it in the Bright Rose color which is a cherry hibiscus pinky red color with almost a neon undertone.  And it is super soft, and oversized but not bulky.  It has been machine washed twice and line dried and looks almost new.  It's super cozy and comfortable and comforting without looking schlubby.  I think a Large would fit a size 14 no problem and could even be a good fit for a size 16, especially if petite. I've half-tucked it into white jeans and worn it with slipper socks and my Soma leggings.  I don't regret the purchase at all and know it will be worn a lot this coming fall and winter. HIT

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A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Based in part o some of your blogs, I decided a Breton too was a staple my wardrobe needed and just ordered the one featured here!

    1. Sorry I meant to say it’s a maxi dress, not skirt! Only the top part is buttoned (so no fear of the skirt flying open) plus it has buttoned long sleeved cuffs. I finally relented & ordered it (even with international shipping fees) so here’s hoping it’s good quality!

  2. Oh gosh, another clothing store going out of business. Who will we buy our clothes from?? I wonder who will buy them out? Hopefully they will keep the good things and improve the troubled areas.

  3. Great prices right now. I ordered the sweater in the same color as yours (it looks great on you!), the sundress in the floral print you have and in a stripe version. Again, the prices were great at 60% off. Love your blog. I’m a relatively new follower and I love your style and politics.

  4. Oh, I love that sweater it’s such a happy color. I’m late to the J. Crew fandom only discovering it in the last decade, but now it makes up a good 80% of my closet.

  5. I still remember getting my first J. Crew catalog with a cropped-hair Linda Evangelista in high school! I loved that clean, unfussy, irreverent prep iteration — it seemed much more modern and urbane that the suburban iteration of prep I grew up with, and the basics gave a young person the building blocks for a solid personal style. It’s no small exaggeration to say that J. Crew shaped my style preferences as a young woman. Even through the Jenna Lyons period with the blingy sparkle, the brand’s sense of confident mixing/juxtaposition in the name of individuality and comfort was there.

    But man, it’s been so stylistically incoherent and such a miss on quality for a while now. I’m sure part of that comes down to the damage the hedge funds did and part of that comes down to a failure in leadership for a decade — they didn’t think in terms of brand stewardship and they didn’t maintain the kind of culture where they had a deep bench of talent when the brand most needed to figure out what they stood for aesthetically and who their customer was.

    I miss old J. Crew.

    1. Lisa S- you summed up my life with J. Crew so well. I can remember when they were aspirational for me. At one point, most of my wardrobe was J. Crew. Then through the Jenna Lyons period, the staff acted like they were working at Prada (lol). I still purchased as that aesthetic was perfect for the job I had at the time. Over the last 5-7 years, the only J. Crew purchases I have kept are simple items like tee shirts and leggings. And only because they were super discounted. I did buy and keep one of the Parke blazers–but from eBay pre-owned. I have purchased some men’s items-my tall sons and husband like their PJ pants. Otherwise, I have stopped ordering. Despite Alison’s and other bloggers tempting me, I know I will be disappointed in the quality and fit for the price point.

  6. I’m not buying anything, but I appreciate your sentiments. I think I agree with LEU2500, below, that there’s little way for consumers to influence bankruptcy after a leveraged buyout. This just goes to show how divorced big retail is from consumers.

  7. Re J. Crew bankruptcy: they were teetering on the edge BEFORE the virus. Their problems trace back to a $3 billion leveraged buy out back in 2006. They only avoided bankruptcy in 2017 because they managed to get bond holders to agree to a debt swap.

    These leveraged buyouts are a scourge on the economy. Whenever a big company goes bankrupt, like a Toys R Us or Dress Barn for example, when I check out its history, there is a leveraged buy out.

    Honestly, I’m not certain it is possible for customers to keep these businesses afloat.

    1. Agreed, they were billions in debt for so long. And buyouts are terrible, I know I’m seeing all these ads for Dress Barn all over my Facebook and the clothes look more like FashionNova. It’s no longer about us customers when it comes to big businesses. Sigh.

  8. I love J Crew too! I live in AR & we only got our first J Crew store within the past 8 or 9 years, maybe? Before having a store here & before internet shopping, I made a point to visit J Crew’s whenever in a large city. Now I buy off & on throughout the year from them & have taken advantage of several of their sales during this pandemic. There’s a new favorite packable hat just waiting to go on a beach trip again one day! I’d just ordered a pair of their chambray/tencel pants (not the paper bag waist ones) right as my state started closing up, so I’ve not gotten to enjoy them yet. My favorite jean shorts came from there this spring & I’m wearing them almost daily (I love their straight leg/vintage style shorts & jeans)! Their small leather purses are another favorite; just got my 3rd one because the 50% off sale was too good to pass up. I’ve also got a pair of their chino shorts in the 7” style; maybe I’ll give the 5” a try next. You can count me in as another person who wants to see them make it!

    1. I figure these are pieces I’d wear whether or not J. Crew makes it. I’d buy them from whatever retailer. I know my purchases won’t save them, they’ve been in trouble for many years, but I just love the brand, even when they began to fail.

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