I Tried Amazon Prime Wardrobe and Here's What Happened
Earlier this year, Amazon rolled out yet another benefit for Prime members: Prime Wardrobe, which allows shoppers to try anywhere from three to eight items — clothing, shoes, handbags, and jewelry among them — without paying a cent up front. Keep (and pay for) only what you like, send back what you don't. Sounds appealing, right? I thought so, but it turns out the service isn't without its drawbacks. Here's what I found out during my first time using Prime Wardrobe.
Well-known clothing subscription services like Stitch Fix and Nordstrom's Trunk Club charge users a recurring fee to receive a certain number of hand-picked items each month. Then you can wear them and send them back once you're ready, or purchase an item at a discount. Prime Wardrobe is a bit different. There's no stylist to pick your clothing — that's all up to you — and you have just a week to try on what you get. At that point, you'll be charged only for what you've kept. There are no discounts if you purchase items, but there's also no fee beyond your normal Prime membership, either.
Yes, Amazon makes a ton of its own brands available through Prime Wardrobe. They include women's labels Lark & Ro and Daily Ritual, men's labels Good Threads and Buttoned Down, and Spotted Zebra for kids. But there were also familiar names including Calvin Klein, Guess, Levi's, Columbia, Lacoste, and Adidas. There's a "shop by brand" option if you're label-centric.
Amazon attempts to make shopping through Prime Wardrobe easier by grouping clothing by style ("romantic," "sporty," or "boho," for instance) as well as occasion. In addition, there are seasonally inspired collections. For instance, while I shopped, I could browse Western-inspired clothing or a collection made up of fall hues. This could be helpful for anyone who needs a little inspiration or wants a complete, pulled-together outfit.
Amazon may be the 800-pound gorilla of the e-commerce world, but that doesn't mean you'll have millions of garments at your disposal when you use Prime Wardrobe. While I hunted for a fall jacket, I had a relatively modest 231 trench coats, rain coats, and anoraks to choose from in my size. I only had 72 black cocktail dresses to browse, too. That may sound like a lot, but consider this: Macy's carries close to four times that amount of black cocktail dresses in my size.
While I browsed Prime Wardrobe, I found an adorable Lucky Brand top that I was eager to try. But once I selected my size, the Prime Wardrobe option disappeared, and it was only available from third-party sellers at double the price. After I investigated further, I saw that only extra-small and extra-large sizes were available through Prime Wardrobe. The same thing happened with a Lark & Ro sheath dress — Prime Wardrobe had one size up and one size down, but not the one I needed. Minimize your disappointment by using the "shop by size" option on the left menu once you click into a specific clothing category. That way, you won't be shown a cute pair of jeans that's available in every size but yours.
I had the same issue with items that come in different colors or styles. For instance, as I eyed a pair of leather booties that came in more than three dozen colors, just one color was available for Prime Wardrobe shoppers to try. Granted, you could always order the item, confirm that it fits, then return it and re-buy the color or style you want without Prime Wardrobe, but that certainly robs the service of some of its much-touted convenience.
I rarely pay full price for clothing. At the mall, I'll wait for big sales — or better yet, clearance — but you'll find me more often at discounters like T.J. Maxx and Marshall's. As I shopped for ankle boots using Prime Wardrobe, most options were well north of $100 — not a price I'll typically pay unless I'm investing in something I'll wear for years. Compounding the frustration: Amazon's price ranges. I found a pair of Franco Sarto boots that I liked, and while some colors or sizes were as cheap as $31, in my size, they were $119. Searching by price didn't help much. Even if I specified an upper limit of $75, I'd still be shown boots that were quite a bit more expensive as long as one size or style (ever the one I needed, of course) squeaked in under that number.
What better way for Amazon to showcase its fledgling clothing brands than by undercutting the name-brand competition on price? Lark & Ro offered work-ready dresses starting around a modest $40, while Daily Ritual's casual leggings, tees, sweatshirts and other staples were priced under $30. Even cheaper: Basics from Amazon Essentials (think a sweater for $18 or even chinos for just $20).
At least a couple times, I debated whether to try a pricey item, only to see that it was also available as a regular Amazon Prime buy for significantly cheaper. For instance, I was tempted by a pair of $140 Aravon women's boots, but as I weighed whether to put them in my Prime Wardrobe cart, I saw that I could get them through regular Prime for $73. Say what? The same thing happened with a pair of JAG skinny jeans. Through Prime Wardrobe, they were $80, even though they'd be only $56 through regular Prime. Given that you could just buy the clothing for the cheaper price and return it using Amazon's regular free return policy, Prime Wardrobe doesn't make much sense in these situations.
This may be my biggest beef with Prime Wardrobe. Considering the name, I figured I'd be getting the biggest benefit of Amazon Prime — free two-day shipping — when I used the service. Nope. Yes, shipping is still free, but I was surprised at checkout to see that it would take as much as a full week to receive my items (it ended up taking six days). So if you need something quickly, buying with regular Amazon Prime, not Prime Wardrobe, is still your best bet.
My Prime Wardrobe order was dropped at my door in a specially marked box with an easy-to-open perforated strip. Inside, each garment was in its own plastic bag, and there was a small pamphlet that reminded me how long I had to try on my items and how I could return what I didn't want. It also contained the return shipping label that I'd slap back on the box when I shipped back the rejects. All in all, it was the Amazon experience in a nutshell: no frills, but practical.
Aside from a somewhat beat-up shoe box, there was little sign that the items I'd received might have been tried on repeatedly in homes around the country. I was most curious about items from Amazon's brands, so I ordered a few to assess their quality. A Lark & Ro poncho had a pleasantly weighty feel and a nice drape, but for the price, $99, I'd expect nothing less. A $28 terry cotton Daily Ritual sweatshirt was pleasantly soft and well-designed, with side slits and a feminine fit. The Amazon Basics workout T-shirts were a bit too thin and clingy, but the quality was on par for what I'd expect for $9 a pop.
Though I ordered the maximum Prime Wardrobe allows, eight items, I kept only one thing: A $30 pair of boyfriend jeans. While most of the items I ordered did fit, they didn't necessarily flatter. The $74 little black dress from Anne Klein? More matronly in person than in the pictures. The $99 Lark & Ro poncho? Try as I might, I just don't think I'm a poncho person. And while I liked the $140 Cole Haan booties, I didn't love them — and I'd really need to love them to keep them at that price.
Once I was through with my personal fashion show, I went back to my Amazon account and marked what I'd be keeping and what I'd be returning. I sighed with relief as I watched my total drop from a potential $517 to just over $32. Then I folded up all the rejects, put them back in the box, and sealed it up. I didn't even need to go searching for packing tape, as Amazon includes an adhesive strip on the box. I slapped the return shipping label over the original one, then dropped it off at the UPS store the next day.
Going forward, I can envision using Prime Wardrobe when I need something particular, like a special-occasion dress, a pair of shoes, or even a good sports bra. Then I can order several sizes or styles in one go, boosting my chances of success before I have to set food in a store. But otherwise, I'll probably stick to my normal spins through T.J. Maxx or Nordstrom Rack. Prices are lower, I know immediately whether something is available in a certain size or style, and for me, it's just more fun to browse in person.
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