J. Crew: Ahead of the curve

J. Crew "Heidi" dress
J. Crew now offer a selection of items in sizes up to 20 (and XXL), as well as the new 000 in case you have a 23-inch waist. 

I wish my friend Lorie had known of this luscious beet-red chiffon dress in a 20, on sale, when desperately looking for a party dress last month. 

In addition to their new size diversity, I'd like to see J. Crew offer a specific collection for more mature bodies than their lissome models.

It's not that we necessarily need larger sizes, but most of us seek a skirt longer than 16 or 18 inches, dresses with sleeves, trousers with waist-height waists. It would be handy to find them in one 'room' on the site.


Gap (then headed by J. Crew's current CEO, Mickey Drexler) failed in that market with Forth & Towne, but they were a decade too early for the demographic, did not have a web store, and were hampered by Gap's insistence on lower price points.

J. Crew could produce exclusive items for the collection, and showcase easy pieces such as the clothes Lauren Hutton's modeled for them over the years.


For fall, these pieces would look especially estimable on grown women:


Regent blazer
I'm not a devotée of unstructured jackets; those of us over 50 tend toward a little nature-given spread, and just-enough tailoring mitigates that, without reading uptight. In tart red, this one makes me smile. 


Pointelle cashmere V-neck


V-necks can look butch, but this is womanly, with rows of openwork edging at the vee and a blush colour to soften neutrals. It's fit is described 'relaxed' which means it will likely not have the high, tight armhole of some J. Crew knits.

Double-serged wool pencil skirt




A classic made with deft details. The slightly weightier wool should make this hang well and caress the thigh. Regular length is 23 1/2 inches and Tall is 25 inches, for joy! And maroon—I have not seen that noble colour offered in decades. The colour looks marvelous with grey, black, many greens and blues (robin's egg blue is especially felicitous) and reds-to-pinks. The rescue from yet another black skirt.

Feeling cheeky? Check it out in heather chartreuse.


We also like boots in which we can charge about, with some protection from the pavement. Too many have paper-thin soles that are barely adequate on even summery sandals. The union of fine and functional: Dix tab ankle boots.




Described as a cross between a cowboy boot and a moto, these look like Blundstones that went to finishing school. Lined with leather, a nice touch overlooked in boots over twice the price.  


Those picks are pretty quiet, so a perfect backdrop for scarves and jewelry, but also...with it all, Ray-Ban mirror-lens aviators:




Put them on and look instantly cool: you know you can. I might have to replace the pair left in an airline seat pocket, flying back from San Francisco in 1981.

24 comments

une femme said...

I have to second the recommendation for that Regent blazer. It's a fabulous cut, longer and more fitted than the "schoolboy" and very flattering, even on big-busted shorties like me. I picked up the one in pinstripe during one of the promotional discounts.

une femme said...

Oh, and I'm still angry with Gap for not giving Forth & Towne a chance. They opened and closed within 9 months or so. The store near me was always *packed* (with shoppers) and I found so many great things there.

Kristien62 said...

I had forgotten about Forth and Towne and agree with you. They should try again. I wandered the mall on a rainy day and can honestly say that nothing attracted me. Shoddy workmanship and styles that might not even look good on a 30 year-old body were discouraging.

Maggie said...

I second everything you've written about age-appropriate styling. It would be fabulous if these retailers paid some attention to us. I was told by a saleswoman in Talbots that things are the way we are because our demographic doesn't spend much money on clothes compared to younger women. We just might spend more money if there were more to buy!

Carol said...

"Blundstones that went to finishing school" gave me my morning chuckle. Great post - thanks!

Madame Là-bas said...

There are many curvier women of "a certain age" and the clothing styled for the young just doesn't cut it. Our mall has no shops with clothing suitable for 62 year old me and my mother who is an active healthy 82 has no choice whatsoever. Hopefully, J. Crew is successful with their new offerings.

Patricia said...

I was going to say the same thing as Carol!

Wendelah said...

I'll have to check out their new, online offerings. A size twenty might fit me. Not that I need or even want more structured clothes, not even at sixty. I have to look like myself. I can't change who I am--or how I dress--this late in life. I don't wear pencil skirts or long tailored jackets, though I admire those who do. I've never heard anyone else describe v-necks as "butch." I don't think they read that way on me anyway, and it's my most flattering neckline to be sure. As a plus size elder, I do wish there were more choices available for people our age, in every style and size. But I have to defend the size 000. It sounds tiny but I think this is due to massive size inflation. Here's why I think that: at age 20 my measurements were 34-24-36. I was not anorexic. I had a healthy appetite. My biggest problem then was that I barely filled a B-cup. I don't remember what my measurements were in 1980, when I got married, but I wore a size 10, occasionally an 8 or a 12, depending on the label. At 135 lb., I was not considered tiny. In fact, my darling mother was constantly urging me to diet. So I can well imagine there would be a need for size 000 today.

frugalscholar said...

What do you think of that new company Halsbrook?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, and am surprised that marketing-savvy J. Crew hasn't figured out how to create a sophisticated over-40 online boutique by now. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting for those pieces that will do my ordinary 60-something petite body a favor. When I do find something (most recently a short, structured Isabel Marant jacket in a beautiful vaporous blue with gold buttons--and a silk lining!)it makes all the difference. But it took much searching, figuring and estimating where the listed measurements would hit on my frame. An online shop that would take into account an older woman's need for sleeves, longer skirts, less nipped-in waists, high-quality tailoring, natural fibers, and flattering colors would make a fortune, I think.

But then, I thought that elegant, sophisticated Mirabella was sure to be a huge fashion mag success, too, and it went under. What gives, I wonder?

C.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, and am surprised that marketing-savvy J. Crew hasn't figured out how to create a sophisticated over-40 online boutique by now. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting for those pieces that will do my ordinary 60-something petite body a favor. When I do find something (most recently a short, structured Isabel Marant jacket in a beautiful vaporous blue with gold buttons--and a silk lining!)it makes all the difference. But it took much searching, figuring and estimating where the listed measurements would hit on my frame. An online shop that would take into account an older woman's need for sleeves, longer skirts, less nipped-in waists, high-quality tailoring, natural fibers, and flattering colors would make a fortune, I think.

But then, I thought that elegant, sophisticated Mirabella was sure to be a huge fashion mag success, too, and it went under. What gives, I wonder?

C.

Anonymous said...

Sorry ladies, this upsizing on J Crews part is there to target the huge number of young women that are not slim. It's probably hitting 40%. It has nothing to do with selling clothes to older women. In fact if indeed older women started buying J Crew en masse it would be seen as a negative thing and they would discourage them.

One difference between younger women now and back in the day is that today's young women will wear unflattering clothing that is fashionable no matter how bad it looks. Like sleeveless dresses with massive arms for example. We would carefully try to disguise our flaws and work around them.

Women over 45 actually buy more clothing online than any other demographic so people who think they don't buy clothing are incorrect. They buy where nobody knows how old they are.

Anonymous said...

We need to leave J Crew to the kids and search out and do business with companies that cater to older women. Many are not in the U.S. For example I found a shoe company that caters to the problem older woman often have - bunions. Beautiful bunion shoes? Only a French woman would have thought of that.

Its called www.carolinemacaron.com and when I first found them I thought it was the holy grail.

Duchesse said...

unefemme: I'm eager to see you in it!
Kristien62 and Mme Là-bas: I have practically nonexistent luck with mall stores.

Wendelah: I said •can• look butch; Why?B/c in same colour a man typically wears such as navy or camel, and the same depth of v-neck, nothing indicates it is a feminine garment.

C.: Mirabella and Lear's, miss them! No merchant can seem to figure out whether women past 60 have money or don't, will spend it or not. Like you, I pull together bits and pieces.

Online boutiques like Halsbrook and aggregators like 1010 Park Place intend to serve this market.

Anon@12:50: How exactly do you think they would discourage us? I have an image of Mickey Drexler pounding on Lori's door and saying, "YOU! Give it BACK!"

I in fact wrote "It's not that we necessarily need larger sizes..." and haven't seen that indicated in the comments save Wendeleh's. It is true that North American women are getting bigger; the average weight for American women (age 20-74) increased by almost 25 lbs from 1960 to 2002. (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/healthcare/a/tallbutfat.htm)

Anon@12:57: I buy French clothes online, but shoes from a European shoe store is the last frontier as fit has to be precise and postage is costly.

If buyer is not within the EU, there is also the paperwork of getting your taxes and duty back. I'll do it for Eric Bompard cashmere (I know my size in the line, but occasionally change my mind) but am somehow reluctant for shoes.

I'm really happy you found your shoes!

Duchesse said...

frugal: Since I live in a large city I can get many of these clothes locally- if I wanted to pay, say $295 for a red Armani t-shirt, which I do not! As I see it, Halsbrook is a resource for women who don't have access, need this sort of thing, and will pay the price.

The pieces are very well-selected; fun to browse.

Mardel said...

Good for J Crew. But even in lines like J Crew, so many items don't really make it to my mall store, and I continually must resort to mail order.

Anonymous said...

Nice, but the current stuff is so juvenile--I wore "fit and flare" sleeveless dresses to dancing school when I was ten. Except for a couple of Claire McCardell-based shirtwaists (thankfully duplicated in early Donna Karen and late Anne Klein--the real Anne Klein), I have no desire to see these again. And I have trouble with prepubescent models. I understand models will be younger, but grown up would be nice.

As to discouraging us, haven't you heard about Abercrombie and Fitch or Lululemon--older or larger customers have been asked to leave the stores since they "don't fit the image." Both can go broke as far as I'm concerned.

But all attempts at marketing that recognize realistic sizing and the market demographics of women who will spend money on something that is right and flattering for them should be encouraged. Margot

Duchesse said...

Mardel: I've never liked J. Crew stores, they are harshly lit and generally uninviting. Even if I can get to a store I still prefer mail order. Maybe they are deliberately designed that way, like Starbucks, to get people in and out quickly.

Margot: I'm writing about J. Crew- have always felt welcome.

Merchants choose a given demographic; I'm not offended by that, but to suggest a prospective customer leave is absolutely abhorrent service. LuluLemon is in trouble financially; some predict it will crash by next year.

Susan said...

Anything with a V neck looks better on me than any other neckline! Butch? Perhaps word with a shirt underneath?

I agree with another poster that we should leave J Crew to the very young. I am not that impressed with their quality. Who needs high tight armholes?

And yes, I wear mostly sleeveless dresses at age 62--at least in warm weather. I'm not one to fret over imperfect body parts.

Great post as usual. A lot of meat here to discuss.

Duchesse said...

Susan: See my remark to Wendelah; a vee is my best neckline, too. Do the pieces shown in my post read "for the very young" to you? Re quality, mid-priced vendors seem to be wresting with consistency; a J. Crew cashmere tee I bought last winter, deeply on sale, is just fine.

I'm glad they're there, they are my go-to for not too expensive pieces to fill in a wardrobe, and the colours are often subtle and interesting.

Rita said...

There is a bias toward youth, maybe because many designers are young, and the young think EVERYONE wants to be young. Also, as a practical matter, the older we get, the more diverse we become, and more sure of our likes and dislikes. I think this makes mature shoppers pickier, so it may be easier to market to the younger people.

Susan said...

I think my comment about J. Crew being for the very young is more a comment about their cut (different from size range). And, I have not found their quality to be that great when I have browsed there. I'm sure there are pieces that are well made of good fabric, but I don't like shopping enough to try and find them.

I think we are not J. Crew's demographic group and I doubt that they are going to change their focus.

The blazer does not look too young and I am sure it would work for many in our age group. I don't have a need for such an item in my wardrobe, and even though some fit and tailoring might be flattering on me, it has never felt that way. It's just not a look I gravitate toward.

I would like to find a plain black cashmere cardigan that is reasonable in cost.

I guess i did not understand the comment about v necks looking butch.

Susan said...

I enjoyed this post--I don't want anyone to think differently due to my comments.

Duchesse said...

Rita: That's an interesting point, that mature shoppers are pickier. When I was young, there were times I just wanted something new, for example, for a date or party- and could not afford the best quality. Even then, though, I would hear my mother's voice, criticizing a hem that was bound to unravel. I ignored that voice to have something new, or the latest thing.

I wonder whether young shoppers still do that today?