Shopping for clothing is a lot like dating. In both, the lack of opportunities to come across perfection (or even acceptability) in person compels a lot of people to search online. Sometimes, something seems so promising until, in person, you discover it’s not as pictured. You can waste a lot of time trying on and ultimately finding nothing that feels like a good fit. Sure, you can settle for something that’s not ideal, but it will never be quite right. My biggest problem with both shopping and dating has always been that I become so focused on a specific attribute or two that it blinds me to any other possibility.
I’m not a big fan of buying clothing online, but since I’m even less a fan of shopping for clothing in stores, I decided to surrender my shopping neuroses to someone else, and give Stitch Fix a try. Stitch Fix is a company that takes an inventory of your preferences and sizes, and sends you a box of clothing based on your input. You try the clothes on, keep what you like, and send the rest back.
With no commitment to buy, I eagerly filled out my style profile, detailing my needs, wants, sizes, and style. I couldn’t wait to get my first box (called a Fix), which I just knew would be precisely everything that had been missing in all previous shopping adventures. With my style profile, along with the style pictures I’d rated from “Love it” to “Hate it,” why wouldn’t my stylist, Aimee, know exactly what I wanted? I was sure that if there were any details I’d left out, Aimee would be able to take what information I’d given her, and, between reading my mind and making logical assumptions, she’d be able to fill in the blanks just fine.
My lovely little box arrived, practically vibrating, “Open me.” With the mixed anticipation one might feel just before a blind date (“How will it go? Do I look all right? Will this be a total waste of time?”) I opened it. Inside was my little bundle of items, lovingly wrapped in pristine white tissue, bound and sealed with a sky-blue band. I carefully took out the five items that might have the power to change my life. The basic concepts were there, and the styles were very “boho,” (my basic “style,” they’d determined). Alas, they had been billed as having “a great personality,” but I wasn’t attracted to them enough to give them a go.
After the folks at Stitch Fix discovered I wasn’t keeping any of the items, they sent me a “What’s wrong?” email. “Help us improve your next Fix!” I could have said, “You took this too seriously. I was just having a little fun,” but that seemed a little cruel. I was tempted to say, “Don’t worry, It’s not you, it’s me.” But I knew that wasn’t the truth.
Since I didn’t want to hurt my stylist’s feelings, I tried to be gentle with my feedback.
“The shirt was pretty, but I’m just not looking for shirts right now.” (“You’re great, but I’m just not looking for a relationship right now.”) Benign but unhelpful feedback on each item.
Though I was disappointed with my first Fix, I decided to give Stitch Fix another chance. I felt I’d left enough feedback for Aimee without crushing her, to get it right the next time.
When “Fix” number two arrived, I was sure that this one would be the one. I opened the lovely little box. I could see that Aimee was trying harder, but she still wasn’t getting me. I was a little more satisfied, though – I decided to keep a shirt. Maybe Stitch Fix just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be fully satisfied, not just a little positive. Realistically, though, could one truly expect a totally wonderful experience from something that started online?
But I couldn’t make a clean break. My next email from Stitch Fix reeled me in by informing me that if I scheduled a Fix before July 4, I would be entered to win a $2,000 Fix. So…What could It hurt to schedule one more before I cut the cord?
Following my Fix scheduling, Stitch Fix sent me another email. “How To Make Sure You Get the Best Fix, Ever” (or something to that effect). No doubt, they were dropping me a hint. This time, I actually read it carefully, and it occurred to me that the advice sounded like what you would do to succeed at a human relationship. For example:
- Be clear about what you want. Not just “kind of clear,” but crystal clear. Say exactly what you want. I was never going to get closer to my dream Fix by saying, “I want, you know, some summery clothes.”
Aimee still wasn’t going to have a clue what I wanted, because I wasn’t asking for it.
- When you don’t like something, be clear about that, too. Negative feedback doesn’t have to be harsh, but if you want it to be effective instead of just amounting to complaining, be clear on what’s not working. “The jeans were too loose, and not my style. Can you please send some skinny jeans, size 6, next time?”
- Likewise, when your partner licks your ear because he thinks it turns you on, but you actually hate it, how will he know if you don’t let him know? (Just for the record, I like having my ear licked.) He’ll continue trying to turn you on by licking your ear.
- Give praise when you love something. “I LOVED the cut of that dress. Please send more like that!” (“I LOVE it when you lick my ear! Please do that again!”)
- Don’t keep something unless you love it and expect to keep enjoying it, at least for the foreseeable future. Staying with something, anything (anyone), just to avoid hurt feelings, or just because it’s what’s in front of you, doesn’t benefit anyone.
- When something is no longer working for you, let it go. Why keep a pair of jeans you’ve outgrown? Why keep a relationship you’ve outgrown?
Ok, maybe it’s a little shallow to compare shopping for an outfit to the complexities of love, but I’m happy to report that after applying these principles to my Fixes, Aimee and I are improving our relationship.