What is the deal with clothing subscription boxes?

The latest trend in shopping with an eye toward personal style is clothing subscription boxes. Over the last few years a handful of niche businesses has evolved into a popular way to buy clothing and accessories for the whole family.

The latest trend in shopping with an eye toward personal style is clothing subscription boxes. Over the last few years a handful of niche businesses has evolved into a popular way to buy clothing and accessories for the whole family. They claim to save customers time and money but increase their style game. Potential customers take an online quiz to determine their personal style and then are matched with a personal stylist to make specific clothing picks.

Some services let you make changes to what the stylist offers. Some let you chat with your stylist about more specific preferences than what the online profile asks about. Across the industry you’ll find a range of high-end brands, popular well-known brands, formal wear, athletic clothes, casual wear, and shoes and other accessories. They cover a wide range of costs, too, so most shoppers can find a service that works with their budget.

Who Uses Clothing Subscriptions?

Some people want to upgrade their wardrobe. They may be bored with their current style and looking for a change. Some people just graduated college and are entering the workforce or are starting a new job so want more professional clothing. Others may be looking at the dating scene and want to look a little more put together.

Other people love to find the latest trends and experiment with new looks. Sometimes they’re looking for new outfits to take on vacation or wear for a special occasion but need expert style advice to help pick out the best clothes. Clothing subscriptions can be a low-risk way to have some fashion adventures.

Clothing subscriptions satisfy customers who are too busy to shop or simply hate going to the mall, or who find online shopping overwhelming because of the endless choices and inconvenient return policies.

Certain subscription services cater specifically to customers who need special occasion outfits or wardrobes. They can provide clothing for a formal event, a business presentation, or even a vacation.

How Do Clothing Subscriptions Work?

There are several different types of subscriptions and memberships:

  • Try-before-you-buy services are one of the most popular types because you receive a box of several items to try on at home and only pay for what you decide to keep. You send back everything else. There’s less commitment with these services because you’re not obligated to keep anything, however, they generally charge a stylist fee of around $20. If you keep any items, the fee is applied to your final charge. If you send everything back, the company keeps the styling fee. Items that you keep and pay for often come at a discounted price.
  • Other services send clothes that are meant to be kept. There are no returns unless you need to exchange something for a different size. With these services you need to be willing to experiment with new styles since you’re committed to keeping the clothing. These services have a flat fee and send a different number of items depending on which of their plans you choose. They generally have a low-cost plan with two or three items that retail for twice as much as the cost of the plan.
  • Clothing rental services send you clothes to wear that you then either send back or purchase. These are great services for formal gowns that will only be worn once or for a vacation wardrobe if you’re traveling to a climate that you don’t live in. Some also offer maternity clothing and they are also a great choice for people losing weight and don’t want to buy new clothes for a changing body size. Some specifically deal with formal wear that you rent for a weekend and others offer a variety of different kinds of clothing to rent for varying amounts of time. Rental services often charge an insurance fee on top of the rental fee.
  • Some shopping sites offer monthly memberships for free shipping and exclusive deals for a fee. These are great if you love a specific brand that you buy often enough to save more money than the monthly fee costs.

Within all the different services there are perks that make each one appealing to different customers. Some services only feature women’s clothing while some only feature menswear, but some feature both and even include children’s clothing. Sizes vary across all the services so it’s important to find one that offers the size you need. Most of the women’s clothing sites offer sizes from petite through plus and some offer maternity wear. Most of the menswear sites include a selection of big and tall sizes but some have more options than others. Some menswear sites also offer sizes small enough for preteen and teenage boys.

There are subscription services that specialize in professional business suits for men and women and others that specialize in athletic wear. Some only include items from their own brands but also include discounts on clothing from their sales website. Some have brick-and-mortar stores where subscription customers may go to personally pick out the clothes they’d like that month, meeting with stylists in person to help them. Some offer custom-made suits and tailoring at their brick-and-mortar stores, as well, for subscription members.

The Bottom Line

From people who love to shop to those who don’t but need or want a few trendy pieces, there is a clothing subscription service that suits every need. Some people order a box to have new outfits for a vacation and some customers rent bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride dresses for weddings. Others like to update their wardrobe with a new job or other life-changing event. Some people simply love new clothes and are eager to try the latest fashions without wanting to commit to the costs of retail shopping. Some sites specifically only offer shoes and others only offer women’s undergarments. From the gym to the boardroom, from the playground to your home office, there’s likely a clothing subscription service that fits your needs and your budget.

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