Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: An introduction to the Gwynnie Bee fashion subscription service

"Something for me?"

Note: There are referral links to Gwynnie Bee in this post. Like all subscribers, if I refer a friend to the service through my link who becomes a paying member, I get a free garment upgrade.  Otherwise, though, this is an unsolicited and uncompensated review.

Like many people who are trying to lose weight, I have been keeping a tight range on my clothing expenditures. There's no point in spending a lot of money for clothes that I am planning to "undergrow." There are a couple of problems with this strategy, though.

First, I have been trying to lose the same 20 pounds for the last 6-7 years. There was no way I could completely avoid buying clothes, so I was buying "good enough" clothes most of the time.  This means stuff like t-shirts and stuff from the clearance rack. Plus, I often have to dress up for work events, so I have been wearing the same things over and over. I have to be careful about what I choose to buy because I will be wearing it a lot.

I always feel better about myself when I'm wearing something cute and new. The few times I have splurged on something cute and worn it to an event, people notice and compliment me. That feels great. And I believe that it is important to this weight-loss process, not to mention to my general sanity, to feel good about myself. I was a bit of a fashionista in high school and early college, using money from my part-time jobs to buy cute and fun clothes. I don't have an unlimited clothing budget or unlimited closet space, and it would feel wasteful to me to buy a bunch of clothes and not wear them, but I am getting so tired of feeling frumpy and boring.

I'm currently trying a free trial month of Gwynnie Bee, a fashion subscription service that seems like it could be a solution for a lot of my clothing woes.  The tagline is "Clothing without commitment," because it allows subscribers to have a huge virtual closet of clothing.  It operates a bit like Netflix -- subscribers choose from different plans (and prices) depending on how many items they want to have out at a time.  Subscribers browse the collection, select items that they like, select their size (based on size charts for each brand) and put them in their closet. Once a minimum number of items are "closeted," new members are sent a box with their first items, depending on the plan they chose. Currently the service is available only for plus sizes, though there are plans to expand to more sizes.  I originally hadn't thought that I could participate, because I wear misses' sizes, but for the purposes of this service, that means sizes 10-32.  I currently wear a 12-14 and at my very smallest adult size, I could sometimes squeeze into an 8, so I could participate in this service even at my goal weight.

I chose a three-item plan, and I just got my first three items in the mail yesterday.  The box came with a personal note from a Gwynnie Bee staffer and special prepaid blue envelopes for returning items when I want to exchange them for something new.  They handle all the laundering, so I don't even have to wash or dry-clean them. In fact, what made me want to try the service was Emily's post about conference fashion. She said she was able to send her clothes back right from the conference when she was done wearing them, which seems amazingly convenient for travel (something I do quite a bit). The prepaid envelopes can be placed in blue United States Postal Service blue collection boxes, or dropped off at a post office. Though I had to give my credit card number for the free month, I won't be charged unless I fail to return an item or if I decide to continue after the trial period.

Bye, pretty dress! I hope we meet again.
The clothes arrived looking brand-new, with special tags indicating care instructions (in case I decided to launder anything myself). They were all high-quality items I had chosen myself. I tried everything on right away and found that the gorgeous black-and-white graphic wrap dress didn't fit right -- I was sent an XL but apparently needed the L in this item. I loved the dress I thought about ways to make it work, but then I remembered that I could just send it back and get something else.  It seemed like a good way to see how well the service worked for me. I indicated in my closet that I was returning it unworn so that Gwynnie Bee can start the process of sending me a new item.  I also made sure to recloset it as a Large so that I could potentially get it back again in a size that fits.  There is a place for private feedback directly to the company and also for users to share reviews with other subscribers. I did both.  I then dropped it off at my post office, though I could have just sent it from a mailbox two blocks from my house. Because the packages are tracked, I could be sent an item while the old one is still on its way back, and I wanted to see what I would get next.

Though the dress I returned would have been my favorite if it fit, the other two items are really fun.  I will probably keep them long enough to wear each one a couple of times.  The first is an orange tank with a fabric belt, which would look great under a cardigan or a jacket. The other is a dress I would never have bought for myself, but wanted to try because it looks fun. It's much different than the styles I usually wear, but I think it will be fun to wear for a casual summer event. Of course I had to do a little photo shoot. I created a Flickr set for my Gwynnie Bee looks. The white cardigan, capris, and shoes pictured are my own.

So are there any drawbacks to Gwynnie Bee? I hesitated at first because if I ever cancel, I won't have anything to show for my subscription fees. If I had spent that money on clothes, I would still have the clothes. My husband actually talked me into trying it, because the subscription fee is relatively low to always have something new to wear.  Also, I can change the sizes on the clothes in my virtual closet as my own size changes.  Obviously nothing can be custom-fitted, and I don't get to try anything on until it is sent to me.  The only other drawback is that I don't get to choose what is sent to me -- I could be sent anything from my closet. I might think the black-and-white tank in my closet would look really cute with the pink skirt, but I may never get them at the same time to wear them together. This service is not for someone who wants to have a tight control on her wardrobe, it's for people who are willing to take a little bit of a chance on some new things without a lot of commitment.  The closet includes dresses, skirts, tops, cardigans, and blazers -- no pants, jeans, or shorts. That makes sense since those items are the hardest to size without trying on. That means I will still need to keep a stock of basic pieces in my real-life closet. The Gwynnie Bee clothes are just a supplement to add variety.

That all seems okay to me. I have always felt like I was lacking cute tops and special-occasion clothes. There are enough items in the collection that I can easily meet my minimums with only things I would love to try.  If I get sent something that doesn't work, I can always send it back and get something else. If I get something I really love and want to save it for a special occasion coming up, I can keep it as long as I am a subscriber.  There is also the possibility of buying something from the collection if you really love it and want to keep it. I'm enjoying choosing items that are a little out of my comfort zone, since I can try them and send them back if I don't love the way they look on me. I also selected a lot of dresses, since they are a complete outfit on their own or with a basic cardigan.

Like I said, I'm in the middle of a free trial month. Gwynnie Bee offers this as a no-risk way to see what you think about the collection.  If you want to try it out, go to the site and browse the collection, then request an invite for your own free month. You will get an email with instructions on how to start your trial.

I am expecting to stay on for a while. Maybe when I get to my goal weight, I'll feel like building a new wardrobe, but until then, it will be nice to rotate pieces in and out of my existing one.

Update on October 9, 2014: Gwynnie Bee is no longer offering a free trial month.


  1. Great review Jen! I would be up for trying something like that in the UK.
    You look fab in the outfits and can I add, your skin is so gorgeous!

    1. Thanks! It does seem like someone should duplicate this there, as I am sure there is lots of fab London fashion you could enjoy.

      The skin is partly good makeup/good lighting. I'm wearing Urban Decay's Naked foundation --it has nice coverage without feeling or looking heavy. Also, Benefit Dallas powder as blush/bronzer.

  2. You look awesome! You're totally right on with the pros and cons. People get most disappointed when they realize they don't get to pick exactly what they want, when they want it. If you can go with the flow and be open to different items, it's much more enjoyable.

    1. Thanks, and thanks for introducing me to this service. I wore the orange tank and capris to the office today and got complimented on the top.

  3. You can actually email them if you want something specific, although there's a chance it won't be available. I think they also said that at some point there will be a way to prioritize your closet, which would be great. Their customer service is amazing, and they really do listen to your feedback. They also accept suggestions for the collection, so if you want to try things, send them an email! (I love to window shop and do it a lot, hehe.)

    1. There is also now the option to buy something you have instead of sending it back -- at a substantial discount. I asked today about an item I have and I was surprised at how great the price was.

  4. You look great!! Quick question though, when they send you a package do the at home pictures update to pictures of what they are sending? Mine are just 3 flowers even though I have enough in my closet for them to send my package.

    1. Yes, as soon as they ship it appears in your closet and you can track the package.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07