Picture this: A Saturday afternoon in suburban, New Jersey. A working mother schleps a four-year-old to a mall in search of a new pair of sneakers for him (because: growth spurt) and a few summer blouses for herself.
In this one-hour mall trip there were three major meltdowns — and only one of them was from the four year old. And, of course, those easy breezy summer tops? Never happened.
Suffice it to say: Working moms have very little spare time and the last thing many of us want to do with the extra hours at our disposal is search through endless racks of clothing with “Mommy can I get [insert any toy within eyesight here]” playing on repeat in the background.
When I was invited to take Nordstrom’s personal styling service Trunk Club for a spin this week, I hardly expected it to be an answer to my time-strapped prayers. For one — with college funds needing to be started and daycare and after-hours babysitters to be paid — who has money for a personal stylist? The very idea sounded like something straight out of “The Stepford Wives.”
But, alas, Nordstrom — which has long been known for its emphasis on service — may have been on to something when it acquired Trunk Club in 2014 (at the time it was just a men’s shopping service).
The program, which offers in-person and online shopping options, has six physical spaces — or Clubhouses — in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York City. To use it — online or at a Clubhouse — there is just a $25 styling charge, which is nonrefundable but goes towards your final purchase.
For New Yorkers, the Clubhouse is the only physical space for women to shop the department store’s buzzed about Anniversary Sale. (Nordstrom opened its first men’s store in the city in April and plans to open the adjacent women’s space in fall 2019).
I was one of the lucky people that got first dibs on shopping the mega sale — slated to begin on July 20.
Ahead of my visit to the New York Trunk Club, I received an email introducing me to my personal stylist Lindsay along with a link to fill out some details about my wardrobe budget, sizing-and-fit preference and style. This part was more challenging than I expected. Other than frantically pulling a pair of pants and a top from my closet every morning — or a dress with comfy flats when I need to mix things up — I rarely think about my personal style.
In this case, instead of asking me to describe my fashion taste, Trunk Club compiled several looks — each including some variation of a blouse, a skirt, pants, a bag and shoes — and asked me whether or not I liked either of them. It was helpful to not have to describe my fashion sense in words but I sometimes got hung up on giving a “yay” or “nay” to a look in its totality when I loved one or two pieces but wasn’t too keen on other elements.
Nevertheless — back to the whole time crunch thing — the whole questionnaire took less than five minutes to complete.
Then, I was ready to head to the Clubhouse.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Lindsay, who gave me a seven-minute tour of the space (yes, I’m obsessed with time) and offered me an iced-coffee at the in-house bar.
The first thing that struck me was that it felt like a home — each room set up similarly to a personal living room or bedroom. That’s probably because this Clubhouse — on the corner of 51st Street and Madison Ave. — was part of the Villard mansions built in 1885.
Here’s why the homey set up is important: Part of the reason my Saturday mall trip was so dreadful was that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my free-range child in a shopping center full of strangers. If, for a split second, I attempted to look at an item on a clothing rack, he would dart toward some shiny object.
At the Clubhouse — which has seven floors of living-room-style fitting rooms along with more than 50 stylists on tap — there is very little risk of stranger danger should I need to bring my son with me. At the time I visited — 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday — a few of the rooms were occupied, each by a stylist and a shopper. But, the doors were closed and the feeling was very private. Also, there’s a concierge servicing the entrance — leaving little concern that hoards of people could gain access.
When I made my way to the fitting room with Lindsay, there was a rack of pre-selected clothing waiting on me — a few dresses and pants, a skirt, about three pairs of jeans, three tops and two winter coats.
Immediately, I adored the coats — one, a reversible Rag & Bone wrap style in tan and gray that retails for $795 but is on sale for $530. The other was a darling Mackage overcoat in a parochial pattern with an original price of $750 and a sale tab of $500.
The dresses, however, weren’t quite my speed. I couldn’t be sure if this was due to my troubles with nailing down my personal style via the questionnaire or the fact that I’m not much of a dress girl to begin with. (Or, rather, I’m extremely particular about the cut and fit of dresses.) I concluded that if I used the service on a continual basis, I’d probably give my stylist a better indication of the kinds of dresses I go for when I do opt for one.
Lindsay also asked me on the spot if there were any personal qualms I had about dressing and when I mentioned that I tend to shy away from skirts and dresses — because I don’t always find them flattering on my body type — she pulled a few additional pieces from their massive storage room to accommodate me. Ultimately, I landed on a few looks I really loved — including, dare I say it, a beautiful green floral Halogen skirt (original price is $69, sale price is $46) with a white blouse that I probably would never have noticed in a mall.
The whole thing took less than an hour and left me asking “What have I been doing with my life all along?”
FYI: this service is open to anyone and if you who prefer to shop at home, a stylist can select 10-15 items in sync with your style and budget and send them to you by mail. You have five days to try on the clothing and only pay for the items you want.
Here’s to happier shopping.