Tagged: fashion

Stitch Fix Blind, Can an Online Personal Stylist Work for a Visually Impaired Shopper?

I’m a blind woman with an interest in fashion and personal style. I rely on others for visual feedback on color and to some extent fit, and for demystifying what I read about fashion trends. I feel like I’ve spent the last year asking friends, “What’s the deal with this yoga pant thing, anyway?” When I kept seeing ads for the Stitch Fix service, and a couple of my blind friends had tried it out, I decided to give it a go. Here’s my experience after two “Fixes”, and some notes on how to use the service as a blind person.

What is Stitch Fix?

Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service for women. You fill out an online style profile, and a stylist selects five clothing and accessory items which are shipped to you. You have three days to try on the clothes, after which you keep and purchase what you like, and send back the rest in a prepaid envelope. You pay a $20 styling fee for each Fix, but if you buy one or more of the pieces, it goes toward your purchase. If you keep all five pieces, there’s a 25% discount.

Why I Decided to Try Stitch Fix

Maybe you’ve had a moment like this, an exasperated “I hate everything I have to wear,” moment. For the last few years, I have lacked that magical unicorn of shopping partners, that one friend who can flip through sales racks and thrift store isles, finding that one top that she tells you she would never wear, but you should really try, and it ends up being the shirt you get the most compliments on whenever you wear it. I have local friends who will go to the mall with me, answer my questions on style and color as best they can, but my friends who really relish the shopping experience now live far away. I have a few looks I enjoy, leggings and sweater dresses, jeans and flowy tops, but I wanted to increase my confidence in my professional wardrobe, and have some outfits that felt “Put together” without a lot of guess work.

Accessing the Stitch Fix Site

When I first tried to set up my profile on the Stitch Fix site, I thought I would be thwarted by accessibility issues. With my PC screen reader of choice, while images were labeled with descriptions detailed enough to suggest someone had thought about accessibility, nonstandard controls had been used for form fields, and I couldn’t complete basic steps like selecting my dress size. A friend suggested I try the iPhone app instead, and that experience was much better. I was able to complete the entire style profile, though it’s a lot of questions all on one screen, and sometimes the Voiceover focus would jump to another part of the profile requiring much scrolling on my part to find my place again. I also tried accessing my style profile on the Mac, and found that to be a fairly straight forward experience as well. Anyone who uses a screen reader knows that our user experience can very vastly when apps are updated or site designs are changed, but at time of writing, Stitch Fix is usable on iOS and Mac, though I wouldn’t call it a gold star experience. If anyone from Stitch Fix is reading, I’d love to talk in more detail about how the site and app could be better for visually impaired users.

Pinterest and Instagram and Style Cards, Oh My!

To some extent, the ways in which you interact with your Stitch Fix stylist are visual, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to convey enough about my preferences via the written section of the style profile. You are encouraged to link to Instagram and Pinterest profiles as a way of showing your stylist what you like. As I don’t find either of these services to be workable for me, I did my best to describe my body type, clothing preferences, and lifestyle in the profile, and hoped for the best.

The other visual aspect of the process is the stylist note and style cards. With each box, your stylist sends you a handwritten card, which bubbles with enthusiasm for the clothes within, but also provides some suggestions on how to wear the pieces, and what else in your closet they might go with. There are also cards with illustrations of some style ideas for the pieces. With each Fix, I’ve needed to have a friend read me this information, and describe the color of the clothing. While I imagine a hand written note is a lovely touch for most shoppers, I’d love to have the option to receive this information in an email. So given these caveats, how did the service actually work for me?

My First Fix

When I opened my first Fix and ran my hand over the articles of clothing wrapped in tissue paper, I was thrilled. I had told my stylist I loved soft fabrics and interesting textures, and the neatly folded garments in my box were a lovely mix of both. There was a soft tweedy jacket, a luxuriously soft stretchy top, an airy feeling blouse, a pair of boyfriend jeans, and a twisty metal bracelet. However, when I tried things on, I was less thrilled. The blouse and jacket didn’t fit my body shape, the lovely soft shirt was a drab dark color, and the jeans were more distressed than I prefer. I was disappointed, because I liked the clothes, and unlike a trip to the store, I couldn’t just quickly try another size or similar style. Instead, I gave detailed feedback during the checkout process to explain what didn’t work for me. For the pieces that didn’t fit my body, I explained exactly how the fit was wrong for me. For the pieces I had preference issues with, I detailed those as well. I felt a little awkward being that critical to my sweet stylist with her hand written bubbly notes and all, but hoped it would lead to a better second Fix. Then I waited a month or so and tried again.

My Second Fix

For my second Fix, I wrote a note to my stylist with some requests. You can do this when you schedule a Fix. I requested some specific items: dark jeans, a blazer, and colorful tops for spring. And, that’s exactly what I received, that and a very strange necklace, but more on that in a minute. The tops were both soft and comfortable, but in styles I might not have thought to select on my own, which is one of the plusses of using a personal stylist. When I tried the items on, almost everything fit perfectly. I really felt that my stylist had listened to my fit feedback from the first Fix. Everything also went quite well together. Both tops matched the blazer, and of course everything matched the jeans. Sadly, the jeans were very long, and I decided to return them. The other 3 pieces were exactly what I had hoped for, and I’m feeling confident about wearing them to some professional events I have coming up.

And then there was the necklace…A heavy bib made of big, round, bright beads. The friend looking at the clothes with me agreed that it might be nice for someone, but definitely not for me. This made me realize the importance of being very specific with my stylist. I had included a line about liking chunky jewelry. For me, this meant sturdy pieces, maybe with a little punk undertone. The necklace was chunky, but in a totally different way. Time to hone that style profile a little more.

Will I Try it Again?

Despite the access issues I mentioned, I’ll continue to use Stitch Fix every now and then to give my wardrobe a boost. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, use my referral link to get a small discount on your first order. If you’re blind or visually impaired, know that there may be some accessibility bumps along the way, and you may need to recruit a friend in person or via Facetime to gather the information on the style cards, but it’s a fun way to learn a little more about fashion. And if your first Fix doesn’t go well, I’d suggest giving it at least one more try. The feedback loop with your stylist is one way this service really stands out from other types of online shopping. Have you used Stitch Fix? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

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