I am a sucker for subscription boxes and I love buying things if I don’t have to go to the mall to do so. Since exercise clothes are pretty much all I wear now, given that teaching fitness is one job and working from home is another, I decided this year that I really needed to try fytso and sweatstyle. Both are subscription-based services that send you a box of “curated” items based on a profile you fill out. Generally it’s clothes, though fytso also does sneakers.
If you’re on a budget, which I always am, fytso is going to be more your speed, as they do more mainstream brands, like Reebok and Adidas. After you fill out your profile, you get an email with your preview, which has five items in it.
These emails are pretty internet 1.0, with photos of the items pasted in that are not clickable (except to the image itself, not to a site with sizing info or anything like that) or zoomable. You are not given the price of individual items, but your “stylist” lets you know the total for all the items. They also give you vague names for the items, like “blue shirt,” so that even though you know it’s Reebok, you can’t really search for the item through google because you lack the precise name or style number. This is obviously because they didn’t want me to do what I did, which is check for the price individually on the site, since it’s not like it’s difficult to find that brand everywhere. And from my searching, it seemed like it was cheaper to buy some of the stuff elsewhere.
You are given the chance to “replace” and ask for some things to be changed out, which is very nice, but at that point they still don’t tell you the individual prices. IF you push because all you want is one particular pair of capris, then they’ll tell you, but it’s really like pulling teeth. Then, once you decide what you want, they add it to your cart and then you go in and actually do the purchasing like a regular e-commerce site.
I purchased a pair of capris my first time around, and since then I’ve gotten rid of them because they really didn’t fit around my butt. Not fytso’s fault, but I should have known better because I should have been more aggressive about my reverse image search on Google.
My second preview, I was going to purchase something but then I had the unexpected need for brand new tires, so I emailed and said I wasn’t going to be able to purchase that month. The stylist wrote back and said, “No problem! I’ll email you next month if that’s okay.” I said, “Yep! Thanks.” And then I never got another email from them again, so that’s how fytso works. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So then I went to sweatstyle. I completely understand that lots of people cannot afford high-end clothing, and I certainly can’t without hefty discounts. But exercise clothes are my work uniform, so it’s really like shopping at Ann Taylor is for other people. If you are middle class or higher, the best thing you can do for yourself is buy more expensive, higher quality stuff that lasts longer.* So I’ve been buying better brands of clothing when I see them on sale or when I get points or free items or whatever. (I am really, really good at shopping if I don’t have to do it in person around middle schoolers at the mall. I regularly get about $150 worth of items at Sephora for like $10 because I’m baller at combining coupons and getting samples and shit. I’ll help you anytime you want.) Anyway.
So I was happy to try sweatstyle. They get major points because they actually send you items and let you try them on and just keep what you want. This also means that, like stitchfix**, they charge you a styling fee that is applied towards your purchase. Or you just eat the $20 if you don’t like anything.
Sweatstyle has a very extensive profile, which is great. They also include a letter from your stylist about why things were chosen, which is cute, and it shows that they actually read your profile. But, as I learned, it doesn’t mean they actually understand how bodies that differ from supermodels’ actually look or fit into clothes. I got a backless shirt, which is ridiculous, because people who have to wear bras cannot wear backless shirts. I said this when I returned it (your return sheet asks you to give reasons), and then I got literally the EXACT same shirt in a different color in my next box. I also got a lot of sleeveless items, which do not work when you have large breasts, because it means half of your bra is exposed, not just your pits. Also, even for my consideration of quality (always think COST PER WEAR, not COST PER ITEM–again, if you’re middle or upper class and can afford to spend wisely), a lot of the items in the box were just unattainably expensive and didn’t seem worth it – $180 for a jacket I’ll wear while jogging two days out of the year? Nah. (Also, shows they don’t look at your address when they choose your items. Arizonans are not in need of a ton of cold weather items. One lasts us years.) In the end, I chose one item each from my first two boxes, not because I was IN LOVE, but because I liked them enough and did not want to lose $20. I wear them, but I was not exactly ecstatic, and they’re not my favorite items in my dresser, just fine ones.
My third box I just had to return without picking anything, because even the stuff that was cute did not fit quite right, and I just could not validate how wildly expensive they were in my current unstable financial situation, so I thought it was better to lose $20 than buy an ill-fitting item I would end up hating and lose $75. I will be canceling my membership and sending them a link to this review.
Here’s the thing. You can run your business any way you like. You can do whatever you want. You can give as many or as few fucks as you choose. BUT–
It would be nice if you didn’t claim to be something you’re not. Subscription boxes like these are constantly talking about how new and different and innovative they are, how they’re doing something that women really need, and the implication is that they’re targeting someone who has been missed by normal commerce. That’s a lie. Fytso, Sweatstyle, Stitch Fix, etc – they’re all targeting upper-middle-class women with disposable income and the measurement ratios of the so-called “average” woman (which is a lie, but that’s not the point). They might be smaller, fancy brands that you can’t find in the mall (at least in the case of Sweatstyle), but that doesn’t mean they’re brands that do anything that brands more easily found online, on Rue La La, or at shmancier malls, don’t do. They all cater to the same type of person, and they all leave out fat women, curvy women***, trans women, and short women. Again, run your business any way you want, but don’t call yourself cool or innovative when you’re the status quo.
Always, but especially in the days of social media, any group that is marginalized or underserved sticks together. We talk. Gluten-free people, for example, spread the word about places that cater to us and actually know what gluten is. A lot. Don’t want to serve us? Fine. You could be making a lot more money, because you’d be getting a ton more customers.
Those of us
with larger breasts who actually know how breasts work, no matter our size, talk. If there are companies that acknowledge that we have bodies, we tell each other. Ergo, if you actually made clothes that are designed for literally anyone who is not totally flat-chested, you would actually make more money because we would tell each other about it and then tell you to shut up and take our money. Companies like fytso and sweatstyle are not only smug when they don’t deserve to be, but they’re also shooting themselves in the foot by not trying to hit an untapped, underserved market that is absolutely desperate to spend our money.
So I’m done with both of these boxes. If anyone has tried other subscription boxes that don’t suck, please do let me know. If you wear a size 10 or higher, my friend Kelly really liked Dia & Co. But as for me, I’m still looking.
*If you are poor, you cannot do this because poverty is expensive and cyclical, and I get that, and vote Bernie Sanders, please, because no other candidates give any shits about you, I promise.
**I do not recommend for the same reason I will not be recommending sweatstyle, so keep reading.
***let’s talk some other time about how “fat” and “curvy” are not the same thing and shouldn’t be used as such.