Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why so much J. Crew?

Jenna Lyons of J. Crew
Fashion-forward, but not classic
image from here
My mother teases me that whenever she asks what store something I'm wearing is from, my answer has a very high probability of being "J. Crew."

It may be due in part to a holdover from boarding school when we all got excited the days our J. Crew catalogs showed up in our mailboxes. It was a favorite brand among the girls at my school -- being teenagers who did not have access to much shopping, the J. Crew catalog was a welcome opportunity to moon over non-dress code items.

The J. Crew catalog arrival would start with one girl walking to class with it mixed into her pile of books. Noticed immediately, this was followed by a small rush to the mailboxes, and several more girls adding it to their stack of books. The process would repeat itself until nearly everyone had their catalog in hand just a period or two later. There were many days our algebra teacher would have to remind us to close the catalogs and pay attention to the new concept he was teaching. Such is the excitement of boarding school -- the catalog may not have compared to a visit from the boys at our brother school, but its arrival was up there on the list.

At the time, J. Crew had a more classic style, and the quality was such that I still wear many pieces from my pre-teen and teenage years. J. Crew used to be preppy, but it has moved into a more fashion-forward area. It does not offer classic pieces the brand is known for and one can count on being available year after year, with the only changes to those pieces being improvements on the quality or functionality. This requirement, as pinpointed by the ever-perceptive Muffy Aldrich here, is one of the things that make J. Crew a non-preppy label.

But preppy or not, I certainly do own a good deal of J. Crew. The label does not make up a large percentage of my clothing, but it is a solid one, and most of my "fun" pieces are from J. Crew. Considering that my style is rather preppy for city living and I pay attention to quality, this is an oddity about my wardrobe. I'm chalking it up to years of a fondness for J. Crew adding up, as most of it is not at all new.

Looking at my "collection" more carefully, I noticed that it is half full of classic style pieces, and the other half consists of pieces which have some preppy elements, but include something that makes them not preppy. The nearly neon pink of a dress, the over-sized style of a pearl necklace, and the heels that are just a little too high and just a little too skinny to be able to run in, are all examples of this non-preppy half.

The funny thing is, if I look at which pieces I wear the most, every one falls into the classic category, not the fashionable / trendy category. Although I love it, I've worn the oversize pearl necklace just a handful of times in the last year. I am drawn to the pared-down style of the heels, but find myself reaching for the ones that allow me to move more freely. The nearly neon pink dress is a great color for my skin, but I've worn it twice, and both times felt the dress was shouting.

When I do wear these pieces, I pair them with classic elements, because tempering them feels more natural to me. (I recently tried on the trend of shorts with heels, and while the outfit looked great, I felt incredibly uncomfortable, and changed before leaving the house. No blazer, sweater set, or pearls were going to offer enough balance to make me feel like myself.)

I may not give up my J. Crew habit, but I'm glad my mother's tease drew my attention to my purchasing choices. It made me realize how much more cost per wear I get out of the classic pieces I own, and has made me more conscience of every new purchase as well. I do think it's high time I focus on a higher percentage of classic and quality items from other labels.

...But I'm certain J. Crew will continue to be mixed in. After all, I do still feel a tingle of a familiar thrill when my J. Crew catalog appears in my current, New York City, mailbox.

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