Thursday, January 31, 2013

Searching, Searching

I'm talking discoverability today, but not book discoverability, although that's a sizzling-hot topic among writers. 

We accept that book-buying behavior has changed because we only have to look at our own habits to know it's true. Ten years ago, most of us would have balked at the thought of browsing for books online. We wanted to hold books in our hands, sniff them, skim the contents, and study the cover art. Today, we still want to do all of those things, but we're also hooked on the convenience of online buying and have learned to appreciate algorithms that suggest new titles based on past purchases. Speaking of suggesting new titles, in-person personal recommendations, presumably from friends, co-workers, bookstore personnel, librarians and others continue to be the top driver of book sales.

But we're not discussing book discoverability today. I've got a burning question and need answers.

How do you find clothes that fit well and make you look good?

Once upon a time, I'd have trekked to the mall and whiled away a Saturday afternoon trying on clothes. These days, I lack the desire and free hours for an afternoon of clothes shopping. When I do venture to the mall, it's to buy something on an as-needed basis, which rachets up the stress level and almost guarantees failure.

To complicate matters, I'm a woman of "a certain age" and cuts, lengths, and colors that once flattered no longer do. I'm also losing weight and reluctant to pay big bucks for clothes that may (I hope!) not fit in six months.

The Internet is a shopping mecca, but it's hard to determine fit, the feel of a fabric, and its color and drape. A book buyer who shops online may be disappointed with the actual rendering of a book cover, but that disappointment won't propel her to return the book. A red shirt that skews orange when the buyer hoped for true red will go back.

Catalogue shopping is convenient but presents the same roadblocks as Internet shopping. With both, it can be a hassle to repackage and ship back garments that don't fit.

If we’re lucky, sisters/friends/coworkers/exercise buddies will offer store names, the names of favorite saleswomen, and will urge us to try on their recent purchases. "Just try it, and I promise I'll shut up." If we admire garments worn by our most forthcoming pals, they'll tell us where they got them. Helpful!

Just as publishers and authors experiment with ways to get books into the hands of readers who will appreciate them, clothing manufacturers, Internet companies, and retailers are looking to match garments with the appropriate wearers. 

Gwynnie Bee is one such matching service. It bills itself as the Netflix of clothes. Instead of sending subscribers two DVD's at a time, it sends out two items of clothing. When a piece is returned, the next in the customer's virtual closet or queue is sent out. (Disclosure: I am not compensated by Gwynnie Bee for this post. Indeed, I've paid the company's subscription fees for three months and may subscribe for a fourth.) The company's concept fascinates me because it introduces subscribers to clothing manufacturers who may be new to them and encourages the trying of different styles while minimizing financial risk. (The subscription isn't cheap, but neither are the mistakes in my real closet.) 

Three days ago, I received a Gwynnie Bee item that surprised me in a good way. It looked great on me. I'm not bragging; I'm saying, Maybe it's not all downhill from here. Would I have picked the garment out of a catalogue or an online site? Nope. I put it in my queue/virtual closet only because a dress from the same manufacturer had fit well. The looks-good-on-me garment spurred me to go to the manufacturer's website where I found the item on sale and ordered it in two colors. Score! Score!

I'd like to tell you every garment I've received from Gwynnie Bee looked at least okay on me, but some were duds. Then again, I've taken clothes into fitting rooms and discovered they looked better on hangers than on me. Also, although the company says its clothes are for women size ten on up, I'd say it suits size twelve and up. Petite women and very tall women may not find enough garments to make a subscription worthwhile. 

The Gwynnie Bee concept excels at assisting with/enabling discoverability. In addition to the one manufacturer whose clothes I ordered, I've bookmarked the websites of two others. Once I've crawled out of my clothing rut, however, I plan to cancel my subscription. In other words, Gwynnie Bee will do a good job and subsequently lose my business. 

Life is so unfair.

Answer my burning question, please: How do you find clothes that fit well and make you look good?


Coleen Patrick said...

I shop for clothes on an as needed basis too. A lot of times I buy something that is not exactly the right thing and then it goes back. I kind of have a uniform in my daily life. In cooler weather I wear the same black pants. I have 3 pairs of the same brand so I will always have one at the ready. I'd love it if someone could tell me the perfect thing to wear, other than black pants or jeans. Same thing you're looking for. So I'm no help! :)

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Pat, I feel your pain! I hate going to the mall, so I go to Kohl's and take my daughter because she got my share of fashion sense along with my own. She buys clothes from online shops if they have enough reviews to give her a good idea of how the sizes run. Amazon sometimes offers free shipping on returns near the holidays - I bought her a swimsuit (that she picked out) that way!

Lark Howard said...

Come with me, Pat, clothes shopping is one of my skill sets.

I'm a touchy-feely shopper with a hard to fit figure so I never buy online. Trial and error is just a fact of life for me and even clothes by my favorite designers don't always fit or flatter.

I love the early January and July sales at the better stores and boutiques because I can stock up on pieces with better quality cut and fabrics without breaking the bank. Then I go for months without shopping at all. If I have to find something last minute, I always spend too much for something I don't love.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Gah, Coleen, I, too, have multiple pairs of the same black slacks. You don't happen to wear black ballet flats as part of your uniform, do you? Every time I go into a shoe store, no matter what I went in there to get, I walk out with black ballet flats. Then again, they go with the black slacks.

You're a help in that I know I'm not alone.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Thanks for the empathy, Jennette. Isn't your daughter nice to shop with you! Then again, I seem to remember you going to a fancy clothing store in Paris for and with her. She owes you for that one.

I, too, read reviews, and they help. Your daughter's wise, isn't she?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

You may regret that generous offer, Lark, because I'm going to take you up on it. You always look great.

Last-minute shopping's the worst.

Lark Howard said...

Call me any time, Pat. It'll be fun to catch up while we find you things you feel fabulous in!

Karen McFarland said...

Oh Pat, I used to love shopping and now I shop like a guy. lol. I go in, get what I need and leave. Here's what's frustrating. I think you and I are about the same age. We are the equivalent of being a tween as far as age and clothing is concerned. And I am petite. So I can wear most anything, yet I am now cautious about buying clothing that may appear too young for me. And I do not fit into clothing at Chicos. But then, thats where my mother shops. I don't know what the answer is. Sounds like you found some kind of solution. Good for you Pat! The right clothing does make you feel better about yourself! May the force be with you my friend! :)

Emma Burcart said...

Pat, I wish you could learn to love shopping! I think it is the most fun research ever. And the truth is it takes a lot of research to figure out what you like and what looks good on you. But, I do have to say that I don't like that you are calling yourself "a certain age". Shopping for clothes isn't about following rules for what you are supposed to wear because of your age. You can be chic and sexy at any age (over 21, I think. Teens dressing too sexy bothers me.) You also have to learn what fits your body best. I have hips and a butt, so that's what I fit for. Then I get the waist or the length altered. Surprisingly, my go-to store for nice pants is Express. They fit well and are actually quality pants. If you can get a friend to go with you, that would be best and make it more fun, too. I do not get online clothes shopping at all. There is no way to try it on and it takes away from the joy of shopping. Then again, I love spending time in book stores, too. :)

Sheila Seabrook said...

I'm back ... I tried to leave a comment last night, Pat, but it kept disappearing. I'm not sure if Blogger was up to something or if it's a result of the fingerprints SOMEONE has been leaving on my iPad so that the screen doesn't respond to my taps. :) But now I've forgotten what I wanted to add to the conversation, so I'll just say that you know how I feel about clothes shopping. And I totally am in love with your solution! said...

I share the pain! I keep complaining I need clothes, but don't seem to have the stamina to find a day to hit the streets. But internet shopping for clothes just doesn't sit with me... I need to touch and feel things.

Louise Behiel said...

I am so with you. It's a pain in the butt to shop - everything seems to be geared to younger women as opposed to those of us of a certain age. I'll take a look at this. often these services aren't available in Canada.