Life Lessons, Or Finding The Perfect Sweater

October 16, 2013

I was 13 when I got my first job working at the local General Store. I felt like the world was at my fingertips – that is, if the world was the nearby shopping mall.

This was the year of Britney, “Save the Last Dance” and Jennifer Love Hewitt — and I felt invincible in my sartorial choices. I was impervious to my parents’ attempts to influence my decisions. I had Teen Vogue delivered to my doorstep and basked in my power of choice. My catchphrase and unassailable defense that year was, “But I bought it with my own money!”

My misguided attempts at self-expression didn’t end there. I navigated (and survived) a severe awkward phase; the sweatpants, tank top and braces phase; a stage influenced by the punk/emo band du jour; the t-shirts with quirky catchphrases stage and the quintessential teeny tiny skirt phase.

For years, I tried new combinations, “it” colors and various cuts. I added giant hoop earrings, chokers, furry coats and a barrage of jewel-toned beaded bracelets. Looking back, it seems like everything made its way in, and out, of my closet until suddenly, it didn’t.

The seasons hottest colors and latest cuts were slowly replaced by a whirl of black, and more black, a couple neutrals, bulky sweaters, four of the perfect chambray shirts and a lot of army green outwear. I would sooner return home from shopping empty-handed, or with two of the only pair of boyfriend jeans I would ever need, than the jeweled top I would never wear out.

My taste and sense of style had evolved to reflect intelligent consumerism and conscious style versus jumping from trend to trend. And I discovered what retailers and brands would help me cultivate my own cartoon outfit – a phrase inspired by cartoon characters always wearing the same outfit. The phrase came to life because my college roommates and I realized every outfit we wore seemed to look the same whether wearing a favorite sweater three days in a row, or choosing to wear a different cream, chunky, knit.

The elusive sweater/vest combination.

The elusive sweater/vest combination.

This fall, I had my eyes set on the perfect transition piece for my latest cartoon outfit – a hunter green, quilted camo vest from J.Crew, a major source of my style inspiration and one of my go-to retailers.

While searching for my newest treasure – and no surprise, I was sticking to my penchant for green outerwear – I was suddenly taken with the sweater J.Crew’s stylists had paired with my Excursion Vest. It was perfect. Feminine, black, white, chunky and looked great with denim and my new addition. It was perfect and exactly what I knew I wanted, an updated cartoon outfit for fall.

Much to my disappointment, the retailer’s online marketing and e-commerce strategy didn’t match the savvy of its stylists. The could-have-been cartoon sweater was nowhere to be found. And no number of page refreshes would make an option to “shop the model’s look” appear on the page. I was disappointed, and confused. How could a retailer, known for combining impeccable runway-worthy pieces and everyday staples, ignore an opportunity to capitalize on its stylists’ keen eye?

Sadly, I still can’t piece it together – the strategy or the outfit. But I hope someone at J.Crew wakes up and realizes that no matter how well the look is styled or the pieces paired, if I can’t find the product, it won’t make it into in my closet – or my cartoon outfit.