Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Writing Helpful Customer Reviews

writing helpful product reviews

Reader Andrea e-mailed me this question:

Just wondering if you’ve ever done a post on how to write helpful product reviews for clothing or makeup sites? I do a lot of shopping online, and finding a helpful review for an item I’m considering is so great — I’ve noticed more and more women include many of their measurements which really helps to give a good idea of how a piece will fit. Makeup is a bit more subjective, I realize, since color perception can vary (as does how one describes one’s own coloring). But I still see so many “reviews” that are along the lines of “Wow! This is a great sweater! I love it!” So. Not. Helpful.

Confession: I have found many customer reviews to be helpful and informative, but have never written one myself. I KNOW! For shame. My excuse is that I just plain forget to do it. And also that very few things I buy either dazzle me with their superior quality or anger me with their shoddy workmanship, so I seldom feel motivated to share my feedback on vendor sites. However, like Andrea, I am able to scan through the online reviews I see and dismiss the ones that I know won’t be helpful. So here are a few tips from a consumer of customer reviews:

Be specific

Seems obvious, I know, but it’s ever so important. Just saying something didn’t fit or wasn’t made well doesn’t give other customers any idea of WHY. Tell them it didn’t fit because the arms are cut narrow, or that it wasn’t made well as evidenced by pilling under the armpits and frayed seams. Explain what you loved or hated and give detailed reasons. While it’s true that a string of 50, “I love these pants!” reviews may sway a few potential buyers, it’s not the meaty information most of us are hoping for.

Tell a bit about yourself

Some feedback forms request personal information, which may seem invasive, but I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful. Anthropologie’s reviews include age range, height, body type, and style, all of which tell you if the person writing the review is similar in shape and preferences to you. If you’re not asked, tell anyway. A dress that fits poorly on a narrow, straight figure might look smashing on a curvy one. And if you say something looks too old or young to you, the reader needs some context – meaning, how old YOU are. And if you’re not asked, definitely mention if you’re petite, tall, very long- or short-waisted, or in possession of other traits that consistently affect fit.

If you are a regular, mention comparisons

Some of the “quality has really gone down in the past X years” comments can be a bit grating, especially if you’re new to a brand. On the other hand if a line typically runs true to size but a particular garment or shoe is really off, that can be good to know. Saying something like, “I usually take a size 20 from this brand, but in this dress I needed a 22 because it’s cut small across the shoulders” can be incredibly helpful to another customer.

Wait, wash, wear, review

For some reason, lots of Zappos reviewers feel compelled to review their shoes before they’ve been worn for more than 45 seconds. And since I’ve admitted to having virtually no memory capacity for writing reviews myself, I understand the instinct: Do it now, don’t forget. But especially with shoes – which often need breaking-in or can seem comfy initially but be torturous after a few hours’ wear – reviewing after  several uses will be most helpful. Honestly, this goes for clothes, too. How does it wash? So glad it fits, but does the fabric wrinkle after an hour of wear? The most helpful reviews are from folks who’ve worn, washed, and worn again.

Mention any differences from the photos

Tricky, right? Especially when it comes to colors, which can look drastically different from monitor to monitor. But, for instance, say a patterned dress has a long sash that just looks like ruching in the photo. If your dress arrived in the mail and you were surprised as heck by this detail, mention that in the review. In all likelihood, someone else will make the same visual error.

And that’s all I’ve got! Who out there is consistent about writing online reviews? Do you find that the reviews for certain brands are more helpful than others? What else would you add to this list of tips?

Screen cap from Boden

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Reader Request: Rut vs. Signature

 

signature style or rut 2

Reader Brenda sent me this fantastic question:

I’ve been considering the difference between a style rut vs. developing a signature look. I’ve read, for example, that Anna Wintor routinely wears a variation on a sheath dress. She’s found what works and sticks with it. Is that a signature or a rut?

I sew a lot of my clothes and have a standard fit & flare dress pattern that I use. I vary the fabric, color, sleeve length and details, and neckline shape, and I get compliments from people. Now there’s a niggling in the back of my head that I’m in a rut, but the competing thought is that this is working for me. I’d love your thoughts on this!

Seriously, isn’t that a good one? As a person who loves being eclectic, I hadn’t given it a ton of thought before Brenda posted the question, but here are my initial thoughts:

How do you feel about it?

This is the main point of differentiation, if you ask me. A rut feels bad, boring, frustrating, and difficult to get out of. You’re in a rut if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and cannot think of anything else you’d rather wear. A signature feels natural, aligned with your inner vision of yourself, freeing, serene. You’ve developed a signature if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and feel pulled-together and perfectly like yourself.

Does it suit you?

Many of us get stuck in ruts wearing garments or outfits that are more easy than appealing: Jeans and a tee, trousers and a cardigan, the same style of dress. They’re on-hand, they fit, they’re comfortable, they’re washable. We may wear them constantly even though they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Part of the rut is identifying that your routines aren’t necessarily working for your figure or style, and feeling helpless to change. A signature, on the other hand, is a style or garment that you gravitate toward or even collect specifically because you love how it works for you. You’ve actively chosen it because it suits you and made it central to your personal style.

Do you employ variations on your theme?

Our girl A.W. is definitely a fan of the sheath, but she mixes up her choices. We see cap sleeves, half sleeves, no sleeves. Colors and neutrals. She definitely gravitates toward prints, but there are a few solids in her closet, too. And she varies her accessories: Sometimes there’s a belt or necklace, she switches out her watch occasionally, and gorgeous and varied shoes. If she were in a rut, she would probably stick to a single sleeve style and palette, and style her sheaths the same way every time.

Do you mix in other options?

Naturally, if you wear the exact same thing every day, you’re in uniform territory. And nothing wrong with that, especially if you FEEL great in your uniform. If you wear extremely slight variations on the same combinations every day and never introduce other outfits or styles – and especially if doing this makes you feel trapped, bored, or stuck, as mentioned above – that is more of a rut situation. But if you have a style of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace that is your sartorial touchstone but still occasionally wear and enjoy wearing other styles of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace, you’ve likely developed a signature.

That’s my take, anyway. What are your thoughts? What do YOU see as differentiating a style rut from a style signature?

Images courtesy E Online, Style Bistro, Upscale Hype

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Reader Request: Discarded Wardrobe Staples

Reader Alex left this question in a comment:

What are some of the things (type of garment, silhouette, color pairing, anything!) you have moved away from that you never would have thought you’d factor out of your wardrobe? If you felt so inclined to structure a post around a few of them and perhaps some of your reasoning why–although I imagine a lot of the explanation would boil down to “my style evolved and I found myself more interested in x, y, and z instead of a, b, and c”–I know I would be fascinated!

A great question, and there are more possible answers than I could tackle in a single post! But here are some highlights:

Wide belts

wide belts

Oh I sure did love me some wide belts, back in the day. Obis were trendy when I started blogging, and I thrifted and bought up quite a collection of wraps and other 3-inch-plus belts. And I hung onto a few and still trot them out on occasion:

grdresssuzu_outfit1

But overall, they take a backseat to my 2″ and skinnier options. I’m not terribly short waisted, but I’m on the short end of balanced. And I don’t have a big bust, but I do have pronounced hips. All this means that a big, wide expanse of belt can make me look a bit like my boobs are sitting on top of my hips. It’s a fun, retro set of proportions to play with, but I play with it less frequently now than I once did.

Embellished skirts

embellished skirts

The first time I picked up a Boden catalog, I knew I was in trouble and it was the embellished skirts that got me. I loved them, coveted them, and lived in them for several years. But eventually they stopped going into rotation and got pushed to the back of my closet. Printed skirts I still love, but skirts with embroidery and embellishment feel overly fussy to me at this point. They can be tricky to style since they’re detailed and eye-catching on their own, and mine felt both a bit twee for my evolving style and less-than-versatile. I still buy Boden, but I go for the unembellished now.

Mary Janes

mary janes

For ages, I wore my Tsubo Acreas in constant rotation. They were comfy and a little edgy with their slanted strap, and I just adored them. I had several other Mary Jane pairs that got some play, too, but the Acreas were the main. I still have them, still wear them a bit, but have moved more toward traditional pumps and ballet flats when it comes to non-boot shoes. Again, it comes down to versatility. Mary Janes are playful and fun, but don’t feel as classic and sophisticated as pumps to me. I also like a lower vamp for a longer leg line, but the main reason is the feel. Pumps feel more like “me” now than Mary Janes do.

Boleros

boleros

I used to feel like enhancing my bust was a good practice to balance out my hips, and relied on curved-hem boleros to help me out. They brought the attention up on my frame, hit just a bit above my natural waist, and made me feel a bit more busty. Then I got a proper bra fitting. And with bras that work on my figure, my silhouette changed drastically. So the super-padded bras got eighty-sixed, and the boleros stopped getting worn as often. I still have a few, and more in the cropped cardigan realm – both of which are great for vintage-y looks – but they take a backseat to traditional cardigans and blazers now.

There are others, but those four are the main categories that come to mind. As Alex pointed out, most of it comes down to the natural shifts of personal style, but some of these pieces have figure-flattery priority shifts that caused them to fall out of favor.

Who else can list off a few pieces that were once wardrobe staples, and now get very little wear? Any idea why they’re getting neglected? Has your style changed? Your figure? Your flattery priorities?

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