This Week I Love …

Talbots.

My relationship with this store has been rocky, to say the least. I spent most of my life believing that Talbots was stocked with nautical-themed, slightly stodgy gear that would age me by several decades. And honestly? I think that in years past, that might actually have been the case. But recently, this vendor has done an amazing job of modernizing its offerings and injecting a few key trends into its stock, all the while remaining true to its classic, quality roots.

I have sung the praises of Talbots jeans for ages, as I find them to be comfortable, durable, and high-waisted enough to work on my figure. I’ve also started shopping there for jackets, print pants, and loads of other goodies, but allow me to explain a few of the more general reasons I support this vendor:

They offer a variety of sizes

Talbots offers regular, plus, petite, tall, and plus-petite sizes. Now, they don’t offer every single garment in all of those size runs, but they create and sell a respectable offering in each. Do you know how few vendors make petite plus garments? If you’re a petite plus-sized woman, I’m sure you do. It’s such a relief to know that, no matter her size or shape, I can point a client to Talbots for some classic duds.

They attempt diversity in their catalogs

I am sure this will be a controversial point, but still: Talbots catalogs feature plus sized models, older models, and models of color. (Far fewer of the latter in the latest round of catalogs, unfortunately.) Plus models and straight models share photos and spreads. As far as I can tell, they’re the only major U.S. mall vendor to do any of this, and it makes me so happy to see a gorgeous woman over 50 smiling away next to a young gal. Now, the plus sized models are on the slim/hourglassy end, and there’s seldom more than two women of color per catalog. From what I can tell, they’ve got one mature model for all photo shoots. It’s not perfect, by any stretch, but damn, it’s sure a hell of a lot better than every other catalog that lands in my mailbox.

They have gorgeous plus-sized suiting

It was actually a makeover client of mine who taught me this, and the lesson has stuck. Rich fabrics, quality lining, and most pieces up to size 24. And, bless them, a decent variety of colors and cuts year-round.

They always stock several pant fits

Some stores will occasionally throw a “curvy” option into the mix, then revert to a very narrow range of rises and styles. Talbots doesn’t do anything truly low-rise, but they offer high and high-ish rises that accomodate many heights, torsos, and builds. It’s so nice to have high-rise pant options that feel sleek and work-appropriate.

Their takes on trends are wearable

I’m a trend lover, and typically do loads of research before settling on my ideal iteration of a trend. I’ve been amazed by how well Talbots has been able to latch onto hot styles and transform them in to classic, adorable, and wearable items. Bold prints, vibrant colors, and quirky styles are rendered fun and flattering by their designers year after year. I never would’ve guessed that a super cute pair of skinny floral pants would hail from Talbots.

Image via Star and Style.

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  • And they have an outlet store close to where I live where they have 75% off close-out sales. I don’t buy brand-new clothing often, but the prices in this particular store can be cheaper than my local thrift.

  • We don’t have a Talbots in St. Cloud, but I like what you’ve shown of theirs. I do tend to try on anything Talbots that I see at GoodWill in my size, if I like it. I know the quality is excellent.

    Your post reminds me of my feelings about JCPenney’s lately. Have you SEEN what Penney’s has been up to? They remodeled the St. Cloud, MN store and it is now the nicest store we have. It’s very modern and stylish and easy to navigate and never over-stuffed like so many department stores. I love their catalogs and much of their clothing too. They are like a cheaper Talbots, I think. I heard the new CEO came from Apple so it makes sense. I love their new direction, and the fact that Ellen is their spokesperson right now.

    • Sal

      I have heard such great things about JCPenney’s from readers, but am yet to hit one up! I will soon, promise.

      • Anna

        Not to hijack this Talbot’s thread, but I can’t resist responding to the remarks about JCPenney. JCP has that lovely new presentation, that attractive face to the world, but their interest rate on credit purchases is extremely high. One could even call it predatory. I called to ask for a lower rate and was told that (1) my rate was the same as everyone else’s and (2) JCP “did not have the option” of lowering it. My response, calmly and courteously expressed, was that I had the option of choosing where to shop, and I would exercise that option.

        • Since I don’t ever use credit cards, this isn’t an issue for me I guess. I never shop if I don’t have the cash, which does limit me in a very good way.

        • GingerR

          did you try asking Kohl’s to lower their rate?

          • Anna

            GingerR, I have never shopped at Kohl’s. Is that a recommendation?
            Thanks!

        • Anonymous

          Most, if not all, store credit cards are outsourced to banks. You need to call the bank/card servicer on the back of your card. The store does not control the interest rate or terms of credit on the card at all.

  • Linda

    Oh, yes – I am a regular petite and I get a great fit at Talbots – I have lots of their blazers and cardigans, a couple pants, skirts, dresses and blouses. And just about all of my shorts are from Talbots. I can’t wear bermudas with my short legs and don’t like super short shorts. Talbots always has that perfect 5 to 7 inch inseam that I’m looking for.

  • Viva Talbots. Such a life-saver for big professional girls.

  • Linda

    They have things I want to like, sometimes, but when I try them on, they still seem to be cut for a more WASPy, straighter-hipped figure (than mine, anyway).

    • Isabelle

      That is so weird. I always feel like they’re cutting for someone with a lot more hips than I have, plus a littler waist. I would love to wear Talbots pants, but I can buy them in my straight size, an equivalent plus size and a straight size larger, and they will all be either too tight or gi-normously baggy. It makes me so sad. But their shirts are really nice.

  • Like Cheryl mentioned, the brick and mortar Outlet is the best! I generally only have to decide between petite and regular in the dresses simply for length. I love the classic pieces I can count on daily intermixed with bright patterned cardigans and spot on fitting dress slacks. LOVE LOVE LOVE Talbots!

  • AF

    Sally, I’m curious to hear if you’ve tried any of Talbots shoes, and if so, what you think of them?

    • Sal

      AF, I’ve been sorely tempted by many a pair! I have some tall boots from Talbots from about two years back, and they’re great quality. They’re a height and width that isn’t super flattering on my legs, so they haven’t gotten a lot of airtime (I think this might be the only post that shows them: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/03/casual-outfit-roundup-week-of-march-13-2011.html), but the leather is supple, the heel sturdy, and overall construction is great.

      Can’t weigh in on heels and sandals, though. Anyone else care to share opinions about Talbots shoes?

      • T.

        I bought a pair of heels from Talbots 10 years ago. I normally cannot wear heels at all (I mean NEVER), but these are so comfortable I can wear them for 12 hours straight no problem. I save them for special occasions when I absolutely must wear heels, which isn’t often, so they’ve lasted me a good long time, and being Talbots, they aren’t so dated as to look like they are 10-years-old fashion.

        • Linda

          Oh, I forgot shoes – I picked up several on clearance last year. Two pointy toe pumps, platform slingbacks, and platform lace ups. Leather upper AND leather soles. All very comfortable and well made. I would highly recommend their shoes.

  • EvieFoo

    Love Talbots! Their last catalog featured a section with their own employees modeling the clothes – it was so refreshing to see REAL women and to see how the clothes look on someone more like me. Talbots can be a bit pricey but their sales are great. I signed up for their e-newsletter and am notified prior to all sales – some are online only discounts. Check it out!

  • Hooray for the changes at Talbots. (I have one of their skirts on in my Visible Monday post, and I love it). I agree, Sal, that they’re trying to use diversity in their models. One request: make more items hand washable, cause a lot of us Don’t Do Dry Cleaning.

  • Anne

    I worked for Talbots during the mid nineties; during the height of the grunge era. At that point I was in my late 20’s and the clothes did not appeal to me in the least. I did recognize that the clothes were very good quality. After the birth of my second son I really struggled for a few years to get back to pre-baby shape. Talbot’s clothes were the only brand that fit me consistently and looked good. I think in the last 4 or 5 years they have made huge strides to become current. I love looking at the catalogs where they use non-models as models. I find myself lately saving my Talbot’s catalogs and dog-earing the pages. I think they really produce really well designed dresses. Unfortunately, I am just about sized out of their clothes these days. They really cut their clothes big.

  • Margo

    Talbots is a go-to place for me for updated basics.Their Curvy fit pants are perfect on me. But I have always found that their sizing isn’t consistent — sometimes a small swamps me, sometimes my arms can’t fit in the sleeves of a size small top. And I particularly find that Talbots tops — be they sweaters, tanks, tees — are no friend to the short-waisted. All that said, their service and quality bring me back each season to see if I can find a new, great foundation piece.

    (And to echo the earlier commenter’s note about JC Penney: Some pretty cool “now” looks at astonishingly low prices. The dresses department? Wow. The service? Wow. An employee called SEVEN stores to find an item in my size … without my asking her to do it. Lost your receipt? They can look up your purchase as long as you have the credit card you used.)

  • paisleyapron

    I haven’t shopped at Talbots in years because although their quality was outstanding, I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t frumpy on me. I am quite glad to hear they’ve updated their look!

  • Amy

    I will be looking for a Talbot’s now! I’ve always avoided it, putting it in the same category as Coldwater Creek. A little fancier than that, but still in the more mature lady category. I’m definitely in that age where I can easily dress way too young or way too old if I’m not paying attention.

    I have to second JCPenney’s. I have found a lot of cute stuff there lately at very good prices. I used to go to Kohl’s for that combo, but dear lord their prices have skyrocketed lately.

  • Lorena

    It always seemed Talbots was for old people, that’s how I had labeled in my head.
    Now, I have a few of their items and it’s either I’ve become old or they are really stepping it up… I like to think its the latter.

  • Jenny

    I shopped at Talbots as much as I could afford to for quite some time, but I always found them hit-or-miss seasonally. Sometimes I’d want to buy one of everything, and sometimes nothing would appeal. Lately, for consistent, classic (and washable, as Patti says!) clothing, I tend to like Lands End and Lands End Canvas better.

  • R.S.

    Talbot’s jackets are great. For this season, I got their version of the nautical-striped knit blazer. It fits incredibly well, and is so comfortable. It also looks a lot better than the heavier version I tried on at BR at the beginning of the season. I’m now worried I won’t get to wear it much more – I’m in Texas and it will hit 90 degress today.

    • Rachel HB

      I agree completely about the jackets. I have several that I’ve thrifted and wear constantly. Can’t really afford much of their stuff full price, but I am currently in the market for a new suit and it’s good to know that they carry tall sizes…!

  • GingerR

    As a Curvy girl I think that Talbot’s isn’t the only retailer to have jumped on the multiple fit bandwagon. Almost any larger retailer – Gap, Penny’s, Kohl’s, Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, Nordstrom- and their supplier brands has branched into different cuts of bottoms.

    They dont’ always have every story fully stocked, but if they’re online you’re just a few clicks away.

    I have noticed that the special cuts are not always offered in the trendest offerings. So if you want floral pants you may not find them in three different rises. Standard workhorses – black, gray, denim- are available from most retailers.

  • StPeteMom

    I am excited to hear this. I have always thought their clothes looked like they were made for thin, wealthy women on vacation (and I am none of these) I will have to check them out again.

  • Tara

    I agree that Talbot’s has high-quality clothes, but I find the fits and styles are usually a bit to matronly for my taste. I go in an browse regularly as there is one close to my neighborhood Anthro, but I never find anything that doesn’t seem better suited for my mother. However, I try to avoid suits at all costs. If I were in the market for a suit, I would browse Talbots, but I would likely end up at Banana.

  • Tara

    too, not to. Ergh. I HATE that!

  • I like their online stuff okay, the online dress selection is adorable, but they tend to be one of those stores that don’t carry smaller than a 4 in stores. This may have changed, it’s certainly not a place I wander into these days, but that was always my biggest problem trying to shop in certain stores.

    Also it may be a biased thing, but my grandmother used to shop at Talbots when I was a tween so it still “feels” like an older lady place.

  • Dee

    Mixed feelings on Talbots. Years ago, when I was in my 20s and 30s I pretty much loved their clothes but could not afford them except on sale. Then I went through some years that I could not find anything there I really loved, except basic black pants. Then I was back to buying lots of their clothes, particularly printed crop pants — popular about 7- 8 years ago. Then just a couple years ago they remodeled their stores and I found the new look of the stores a turn off — sterile and cold. I do think they have changed their demographic, trying to appeal to a younger,hip crowd, which is fine, and probably essential to staying alive in this economy, but, alas, I am no longer young and hip…LOL! I do shop at their stores and outlet store from time to time still. I like their pants and cardigans probably the most. Dresses and blazers are nice but too pricey for me generally.

  • I love Talbots for all the reasons you have listed. I particularly love their pants. As a size 14/16 I often sit at the edge of sizes carried in other stores. It is so nice to have options and selections that fit. And that I know I can wear for years. And the revamp over the past couple of years has brought in some more modern styles. They are now on my regular list of shops to check out.

  • BethyLB

    I’ve had a similar eye-opening experience at Talbots. For years, I assumed too-old, way-too-small, and walked by. Then a few months ago, I was rounding out my professional wardrobe and found myself inside. I can only describe it as a treasure trove. Clothing that actually fit, suited my style, and helpful employees. I found my white whale there: a dark denim skirt that, again, actually fit. Not just pretended to fit, or good-enough fit, either. It’s now a staple, and I will definitely be heading to Talbots again.

  • JB

    The transformation probably started before this, but I remember noticing the “new” Talbots when photographs started circulating of Michelle Obama wearing their clothes, right after she became first lady.

  • I have to agree with you Sal – I’ve been SHOCKED by how adorable many of their pieces are lately. Plus, one more reason to love them: they have great sales.

  • Miss T

    Gosh, I hate to be the only Talbots nay-sayer, but my first and only experience with them (a couple months ago) was not good. First, I ordered a pair of pants based on my measurements and the garment measurements. I felt very confident that I ordered the right size based on that. When I got the pants, they were marked as the size I ordered, but two of me could have fit in them — they were huge. I estimate maybe 3 to 4 sizes bigger that what I wear. I checked the measurements and they didn’t match at all. When I looked to return them, I noticed that the pants were sent from an individual Talbots store in Florida (?), not from a central Talbots warehouse. There were no return instructions in the package other than to return them to the store for credit only. The receipt/packing slip was also from the particular Talbots in Florida, not from Talbots catalog or warehouse. I’m in California, and I’m not conveniently close to any Talbot’s store (probably why I have never shopped there). I went to their website to see if there was another way to return/exchange and saw that in the 2 weeks between ordering my pants and receiving them, that they had sold out, so no exchange was possible. Then when I inquired with customer service, they said that the pants were on sale and not returnable. There IS *very* fine print on the website that states this sale merchandise being final policy, but gosh, it’s not prominent or noticeable at all, and I would not have ordered the pants if I knew they couldn’t be returned. But, because I didn’t pay a lot for them, I decided to just break the negative karma and give them to charity. There’s only so much shagging around I’m willing to do for $36. However, I don’t think I’ll be ordering from them again.

    • I’m an unredeemed Talbot’s lover for a million reasons, and I just wanted to reply to Miss T. The item coming from the store is a new practice, and I think actually they’re going to an individual store because they are out of stock in the warehouse (or wherever they ship from). It’s true the item doesn’t have the same return info in the package, but I always thought of it as extra service. Not all of their sale items are Final Sale, but they do indicate when they are final pretty clearly. I have two Talbot’s stores (and an outlet) pretty close to me, so I sympathize that returning to the store isn’t convenient for everyone.

      The sizing HAS really changed over the years. I could never wear their pants in the past, the rise was way too long, but the changes they’ve made have added lower rise options. Their sizes keep getting bigger too – I’m a couple sizes smaller now in their lines, and I haven’t lost that much weight!

      All things considered, I think they have the best quality around, especially when so many store’s clothing seems to be made SO POORLY. I appreciate that while they have gotten more stylish they haven’t abandoned their quality.

  • Oh, Talbots, I wish I knew how to quit you! It’s absolutely true that they’ve upped their game. Talbots is an old friend of mine after growing up in New England. Now that I live in New Zealand, keeping myself in Talbots is a delicate dance of eBay, well-timed sales (their international shipping has a reasonable ROI), and visiting their outlets when I’m in the U.S. The Orange/Milford CT outlet is the bomb.

  • Claudia

    Big fan of Talbots, too. Great quality.

  • Robert

    I wasn’t a big fan of Talbots untill about a year ago. They now carry a wider range of sizes and more colors to choose from. Which i love!
    As a size 14/16 i find myself between sizes,and department stores didn’t always carry it in my size. I was surprise to find Talbots actually had pants that fit. Since then i bought a few pairs of pants and skirts.

  • ChiLibrarian

    I have a deep and abiding love for Talbots. Two words: Women Petites. Lots of stores offer plus sizes, but almost none offer women’s sizes in petites. Their quality is excellent. The first time I bought pants that I didn’t have to alter I nearly cheered. I love their skirts and own many. They have great belts and I just bought an on-trend necklace there that my colleague in her early 20s covets. Score!

  • The few times I’ve been in there, I’ve reeled at the prices. Very few things caught my eye and with price tags at $70 for plain shirts and $180 for pants…it struck me as an even pricier Ann Taylor which (while I love) I typically only buy from with coupons/sales.

  • Val C-MN

    I love Talbots! I started noticing them as an all-ages store when they did their big Linda Evangelista spokesperson campaign a few years ago – with her in cute leopard-print jackets/dusters. Then, I started browsing their catalog for wardrobe combinations/styling ideas.

    Almost 2 years ago, I stopped at a location near me and I visited a cute ruffled cashmere scarf until it was on one of their final sales (almost 50% off). I bought 2 of them. Now, I am 3 scarves and 2 cardigans later….will buy more in the future – one has to jump on those end of season clearance sales really quick before one’s size is all bought.

    What I liked about Talbots was that even though they had little plus sizes at that location, I could get them to order from online or another store for me, pay them, and they could get the item shipped to my home address for free in whatever plus size/color I needed (same concept applies at Coldwater Creek).

    As far as some stores being considered as “older” consumer stores, I believe that it depends on the cut of the garments, the print, and just good old imagination/experimentation to turn just about any garment into something appropriate for one’s age. I have gone into Coldwater Creek with a 60-ish friend and easily found cute cardigans, tanks, scarves, and moto-style/mandarin style jackets for my 30-ish self. It was just a matter of trying that garment on me and styling it to fit me versus styling that garment to fit my older friend. (Same concept I use for jewelry or accessories – I “make it work” to have my own concept/spin on the piece.)

    For JCP, I have been a big consumer of theirs since I was a tall plus-size teen and that was one of the only resources then for cute tall and plus-size garments. My only main issue these days with JCP is that the “jackets” buyer needs to bring more color options for the plus sizes. I have plenty of black jackets; I prefer color ones instead. Over the years, I have noticed fewer jacket color options in the stores and online. Overall, they make quality clothes that I have had for years.

    • cathy

      I’m 59, 5ft. 130lbs and for years loaded up with st.john’s bay and cabin creek tops, turtlenecks and cotton no spandex high-rise pants at jcpenney. this year, they cut out those 2 brands. now i’ll rarely if ever, have need to buy anything at jcpenny again, unless they get those 2 cotton, roomy, non-spandex, high-rise brands back agin!

  • Sarah

    I agree that their styling has improved and I like the variety of models. Sadly, the pants are always too short for me, and the jackets too boxy. But the catalogues give me ideas…

  • I am a Talbots fan. Most of my clothing comes from thrifts, but a high number of the items I buy originated at Talbots. This attests to how well the clothing holds up!

  • Jen

    I’m late to this post, but have to jump in! I recently (last week) had a suit emergency. Job interview on Thursday and on Wednesday evening went to pull out my suit and discovered my pants were missing! (how does this even happen?!) I dashed to my familiar stores to grab a new suit and was so frustrated. I’m petite-ish (5’4″) and curvy. I need a 16 jacket and 18 pant. No one (and I mean NO ONE) stocked what I needed. I was running the length and breadth of the mall, dragging my poor son along the way, and near tears because closing time was near. I hadn’t ever set foot inside Talbots-assuming always it was pricy and a bit to stuffy for me. But the girl at Ann Taylor sent me their way. As soon as I walked in the manager shooed me into a fitting room (probably because I was quite literally in tears and looked crazy) and brought in three suits in my perfect petite size. It was amazing. I did cry some more. Only because the suit was beautiful and fit so well. She styled it with a bright pink blouse and jewelry that was so me. And it didn’t cost an arm and a leg either! To top it off, on my way out she hugged me and wished me luck for the interview. On Sunday my husband and I stopped back in for me to shop some more for some summer casual items. I have found a new love! (clearance items of course!!)

  • Celeloriel

    I adore Talbots. I buy from them CONSTANTLY. My boyfriend teases me about being addicted. Their careerwear drapes and fits better than the options I can find at Lane Bryant.

    It’s one of the few catalogs that doesn’t raise my hopes and then dash them by showing only 2 items in my size (20-24, variable). They style the plus size model in a way that I feel is realistically achievable for me — even if I don’t have her truly amazing hair, I can sure wear a pink necklace with the black dress I buy from them and feel pretty.

  • Isabelle

    I’m absolutely willing to pay Talbots’ prices (especially given the sales) because frankly, our expectations have been messed up by Target/H&M cheap clothes. Sure, I can buy a shirt at Target – something that fits terribly, is made of scratchy or semi-sheer fabric and will come apart in a year. (Although every once in a blue moon, Target has a well-made garment, it’s true.) Or I can buckle down and buy a shirt at Talbots’ and it will last for years, plus have some resale value via Ebay, and it will fit and won’t itch or need a camisole underneath.

    Also, Talbots’ sizing is incredibly consistent on a day to day basis. True, they seem to have revised up twice in my life – once six or seven years ago and once recently – but they are still the only place in town where I can order a couple of shirts in the same size and be absolutely sure that both of them will fit. Unlike virtually everywhere else, I actually know my Talbots’ size.

    And last year I got a green pencil skirt embroidered with tiny bicycles. How sweet is that? Pretty sweet.

    (Regular sale items are returnable; final sale items are not. I got burned that way one time and had to Ebay my purchases. But again, now that I know my size, I don’t worry about this too much.)

  • Some of their styles can border on the matronly for me, but they’ve had some really cute stuff recently.

    As a chubby woman who is also short, their suits in petite plus sizes are wonderful. Talbot’s is the only retailer I have found from whom I can buy a suit that doesn’t require major alterations. The styles and quality are great, too.

  • Denise

    I love Talbots! Until their makeover, they were too conservative for me (not that I’m that fashion forward). My figure type and their former styles were not a good match – I don’t have a small waist compared to my hips (the opposite). But now their Signature pants style works really well for me. I appreciate the quality of their garments, costume jewelry, bags, scarves, etc., and am willing to pay a little more for that. The only thing I notice lately is that they don’t carry as many shoe styles in wide as they used to.

  • Cowgirl Lawyer

    I am a twenty something size 4 and I LOVE ME SOME TALBOTS. The store associates love that I love it, too. They are always so excited to have a “young person modeling” their clothes. Sadly, when share my Talbots love with other women my age, more often than not they reply with dismay. The pieces are consistently classic and high quality. Perhaps what I love most of all is that they make coordinating jackets to go with almost every skirt/pant–as a woman who must wear a suit frequently, I love having so many choices.

  • Louise Cavanaugh

    I am 57 years old and have been shopping at Talbots since I was in my 20s. While some of their past styles were a bit stodgy, I never had a problem finding clothes appropriate for my age. I absolutely LOVE Talbots! I am concerned, however, because Talbots is having major financial difficulties. I would love to set a date to have a flash mob shopping day where Talbots fans go to a local Talbots and buy something. I think even purchasing one item would be enough to give a boost to their financial situation. Anybody interested?

    • Cindy B

      Heck, yes! Sounds like a “shopportunity” to me!

  • Ally

    I’m a petite, mid 30 year old from Australia and ever since Talbots offered international delivery, I’ve been buying up a storm. I like the fact that Talbots offer nearly all of their clothes range in petite sizes and the price and quality is comparable to the high end department store fashion in Australia.

  • Dodgerknitter

    I’ve been a fan of Talbots for several years. They have updated their look lately and do have months where I just want one of everything. They are all good quality, last a long time and if there is ever an issue with something, there is absolutely no hassle returning something, even if worn. If you become a regular watcher of their we page and get on their mailing list, you get GREAT deals. I don’t think I’ve paid retail in two years and I have a closet full of their clothes. Thanks for the tip on the shoes. They have such cute ones and I’ve always wondered about comfort and quality. I shouldn’t have doubted!!

  • Cindy B

    Unfortunatley, ladies, it doesn’t look like Talbot’s will be around much longer, so if you love their clothes, I’d start buying them up right away. Shares traded for almost $26 five years ago, they now change hands for $2.50. Talbots made only $1 million last quarter on $275 million in revenue. The future isn’t looking too good for one of my favorite retailer’s. G*d knows I’ve done my part. I’ve had my Talbot’s charge since 1988. RIP, Talbot’s.