Should I let a computer tell me what to wear? Ah, why the hell not!?
I’m a plus sized person that shops in the “women’s” category. If I haven’t already made this abundantly clear, shopping for plus size clothing is a minefield.
One problem is that clothes are often “junior’s” size (read, 2-6 sizes smaller than typical “women’s”) or designed by people who just… don’t understand plus sized bodies.
The Bezosian answer to a commerce website that is really, really hard to sift through: charge people to do it for them!
Another problem? Actually sorting the dreck from the gold. Finding the lost treasure of actually plus sized clothing on the internet.
Amazon is a perpetrator of this problem. But can they potentially also be a solution (for $5 a month)? Maybe so. Enter Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe, the Bezosian answer to a commerce website that is really, really hard to sift through: charge people to do it for them!
It works a little like this: you sign up and receive a list of “styled” picks (for “women’s” styles only). You then select which ones you want shipped to you. Upon arrival, you have 7 days to try them on and either keep them or return them (for free! With a reusable box!) If you keep them, your card is then charged for the cart price. I’m not sure if they will put a hold on my card for the total cost once the items ship, but that’s pretty common practice for these types of subscriptions.
To sign up, you use the Prime app (this is unavailable on desktop. For… reasons?) to take a pretty robust style quiz that asks you about your style preferences, from overall look and brands you already like to sizing (available to US 0-24) and type of clothing you’re interesting in getting styled for. This process will be familiar to anyone who has tried a subscription box like ipsy or Wantable. Since I’m assuming no actual human person is in any way involved with the selections (in spite of their insistence that people ARE involved), this is basically building your SEO keywords for the algorithm bot to do its thing. Apparently, it’s supposed to be boolean as heck, because the quiz includes things to avoid, like animal prints or orange.
Once the quiz is finished (and once you’ve forked over $5), it promises to have your picks ready “in a few days,” which seems to give credence to the notion that maybe, possibly, there’s somehow a human involved.
I got my “personal shopper picks” the next day. Definitely just algorithms. Maybe Mechanical Turk.
I got hipped to the program via Safiya Nygaard’s YouTube channel. Her picks were surprisingly tame, with pieces falling in the white, black and grey color scheme; even though her wardrobe is filled with black pieces, it felt surprisingly muted.
And girl, same.
I completely get the “appeal to the most possible people” tactic, but three of my picks were basic jeans with ripped details. That’s…
Since the program piggybacks off of Prime Wardrobe, I’m assuming that all of the picks come from that pool of styles. Amazon’s selection there for plus sized women’s styles isn’t exactly massive – really, we’re talking a handful of styles from a few brands (some of which I’ve absolutely never heard of).
We’ll talk about what I did choose to get when I receive the package, but let’s talk about what I already just don’t love. And it’s a lot.
You can set how much you “typically spend” on clothing by category. I poked the least expensive option for every category. The options are $25, $50, $100, $150 and $200+. Almost all of the pieces I was styled for were around $47, though a couple went over $50. To be fair, a couple pieces were also under $25, which is a nice surprise.
It styled me for one pair of shoes (as it did for Sofiya), which was kinda a bummer considering that it threw THREE pairs of jeans at me out of ten-ish slots. I’d be open to seeing more picks if they added in shoes, and maybe even handbags? But then again, they were some basic black flats for $40 and honey, no. It just seems like this is one place where the algorithm could’ve really dazzled me.
It styled me for three tops that were mostly white and very heavy on the peasant blouse look. I did check that I like boho and didn’t tell it I didn’t want “neutrals” (because, wow, vague) but that’s a lesson for next time.
Another thing I really dislike is the time frame we’re dealing with. You sign up, get your picks “in a few days” then make your selections. Those don’t ship out for another seven days. You then have seven days to buy or return. Your next styling is available on the day of your next billing.
Having the option of getting two stylings for the $5 would feel way more substantial.
That’s right. You get one styling per month. Even though it’s basically Google for picking outfits. And possibly a person who randomly jams the “sure, that’s good enough” button.
Having the option of getting two stylings for the $5 would feel way more substantial. If you’re the sort who accepts all the clothes recommended, two stylings could be overwhelming. But for someone like me who said “nu-uh” to all but three pieces, it feels like a real let-down.
But I suspect that at least for plus sizes, the pool of styles available just isn’t big enough to support two picks per month.
I’ll definitely be better informed to make a decision when I get my picks in the mail (eta February 25th) but right now, I’m thinking I might cancel before my next “curation”. It’s already introduced me to three brands that I didn’t know about, and I’m about to curate them for you (tomorrow!)
Take that, Bezos.