Years ago, I tried out Stitch Fix and experienced multiple rounds of disappointment. If you read those posts, you’d probably be surprised to hear that I tried another clothes subscription service. Then my sister, who’s transitioning from scrubs to business clothes in her career, told me about Le Tote. There were a few significant differences that drew me in:
- It is a clothes “rental” service with the option to buy. So you can really try things on before you commit to purchasing them. You can keep your tote and wear things as many times as you choose before deciding.
- The clothes are offered at a discount price. They are gently used, but not showing signs of wear. To me it is no different from being the person to buy something after 20 people tried it on in the dressing room. Lee mentioned that they have seasonal clearance sales where you can get items at really low prices.
- The clothes seemed more “middle of the road” than what I saw from Stitch Fix. There are way more open weave, shark bite, split back items than I would like, but there are staples too.
- You see what you are getting before they send it and can swap items out if needed. You can choose from other items (provided your size is available) for up to 48 hours before confirming your tote.
The downside? Le Tote is $59 a month for 3 clothing items and 2 accessories or $69 for 4 clothing items. That’s at least triple the $20 “styling fee” that Stitch Fix charged. I understand why. You are paying to “rent” the clothes which they are also responsible for laundering (yep, that’s right – send ’em back “dirty”). And you can have as many totes as you can process in a month. If you send back your totes promptly, you might fit 4 totes into a month. If you’re able to wear everything in your tote, that would be an outfit or two a week. Or, if you got one tote you loved, you could keep it for the month and get lots of use out of those great pieces.
They have a referral program so Lee referred me for one free Tote. Because I don’t wear a lot of accessories, I opted for the $69 option with 4 clothing items. You can keep that tote for 14 days – then you must decide if you’re canceling or starting your paid subscription. Since I stayed with the service, she got $25 credit on her account the first time my account was charged.
When it comes to “styling your tote” I am fairly certain they use only an algorithm and not human input. The moment I finished signing up, I got an email saying my tote was ready for me to confirm. I wish I had thought to take a screenshot. My first thought when I saw the items they’d picked out was “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me?” I can’t remember all 4 items, but there was a cardigan (the one sweater style I specified I did NOT want) and a light, breezy maxi dress (I don’t care how mild October was, it’s still fall in Maine). Thank goodness for the swap feature! It took me a while to find 4 things in stock that I wanted, especially as the weather had finally started to get down to “seasonally” cool temperatures.
Sadly, the first item was an instant disappointment. The Noir Geometric Stripe Blouse (M) had looked like a pretty basic choice, to be honest, but I thought it’d be a nice switch from plain or pinstriped button downs. But as soon as I touched it? ICK! It felt like stiff and scratchy crepe paper, like the fabric of a shirt your memè would wear. I am a bit of a texture freak so that basically negated this one right off the bat. To be a good sport, I tried it on and … it looked a bit memè too – loose and a bit big around the hips. (For those not raised in a Francophone culture, memè = grandma.)
Next came the Hayes Cargo Pocket Jacket (M). I had just lost my fall fleece the week before and I was thinking it’d be awesome to have a coat to use while I searched for a permanent replacement. This was not that coat. As happens on so many clothing items for me, the arms were way too short. It might have been feasible on a shirt (call it 3/4 sleeve and move on) but not on a fall jacket. It was also so tight across the shoulders that I almost thought I’d have a “fat man in a little coat” Chris Farley moment when I put it on. Strike two.
Thankfully, things picked up a little bit with the last two items. When I first put the Hayes Loose Textured Ribbed Sweater (M)I thought I might have had a winner. The arms were longer than I needed, which is a novel thing for me. And, unlike every sweater Stitch Fix sent, it was actually warm. No cold zippers or open weaves. As I walked around the house to try it out, I realized it was actually a bit too big. The medium had been recommended based on my measurements but it was looser than I liked in the neck and body. Not horrible, but enough to make me think I’d prefer the next size down.
And finally, the Noir Zipper Detail Pants. Apparently the difference between pants and a legging is just the thickness in material because I would have called these a legging if I’d seen them in a store. They pulled on, were form fitting from top to bottom, and had no pockets. The zippers were purely decorative and, thankfully, cloth backed so that I didn’t have metal rubbing my thighs. The zippers made the top of the pants feel a little stiff when I walked around, but they were flattering enough that I decided I would wear them to work that Friday. I knew they weren’t a style I’d add to my closet but even a basic girl like me likes to play dress up every once and a while.
Tote #1 Verdict – 1 item worn, 4 items returned.
The second tote was better from the get-go. They created it from my “closet” and I only had to swap one thing out. No unpleasant fabric surprises and everything fit. First off, the Hayes Plaid Boyfriend Shirt (S). I took a risk and went with a Small on this one even though Le Tote recommended a Medium. I knew that “boyfriend” cut = loose fit and on me, too loose = droopy. My instincts were right, it was loose without being sloppy. The sleeves weren’t long enough unrolled but since this shirt was clearly meant to be worn with sleeves rolled, I wasn’t too concerned by it. I wore it out to my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. (The fitting choice of occasion only struck me as I typed it out, ha.) It was comfortable and warm enough for an indoor restaurant setting.
Take #2 for the Hayes Loose Textured Ribbed Sweater (S). I knew I should have listened to my gut the first time around, this was a much better fit. And, much to my surprise, the sleeves were still long enough. I really thought going down a size would end up meaning exposed wrists, especially since they are the same brand who create the jacket from my first tote. As you can see in the photo, it wasn’t tight but was fitted enough so show my silhouette and the neck wasn’t quite so wide and sloppy. This time I wore it to the office and found it worked. An unobtrusive wardrobe staple with enough styling and contrast detail to keep it from being boring.
Next up comes an outfit for another casual Friday – Calvin Klein Mid-Rise Skinny Jean (28) with the BCBGeneration Checkerboard Sweater (S). The jeans were just what you’d expect – thinner denim fabric that fit in a “painted on” way. The inside of the fabric felt almost stiff, but it wasn’t something you notice when the pants are glued to you. Le Tote recommended the sweater be a size Small, which tells me that even if their tote “styling” is all computer, they are putting some human logic into their fit recommendations. It was a generous boxy cut and I would have been swimming in a medium. I can’t claim to understand the “sleeves that start way below your shoulder” trend but in this case it didn’t feel strange on my shoulders/upper arms and the styling was subtle enough that I liked it.
Tote #2 Verdict: 4 things worn, 4 things returned.
My first month started at the very end of October and, unlucky for Le Tote, I decided to implement a “no spend November” after taking a hard look at how much I’d been accumulating in “stuff” lately. If I hadn’t been on a spending diet, I most likely would have purchased the sweater and maybe the boyfriend shirt too. Their prices were reasonable ($32 & $38, respectively), they had a place in my wardrobe, and they fit well. The checkerboard sweater and skinny jeans weren’t in the running mostly because they were more money than I like to pay (I’m cheap).
Back to “their algorithm doesn’t get me” – none of the items in my “closet” were available and the system picked auto-selected total duds. And this time I did get a screenshot:
A mini-skirt, a vest, an off-the-shoulder blouse. The only reasonable thing is the athletic pants but it just so happens the athletic portion of my wardrobe is one of the main inspirations for “No Spend November.” Here’s the good thing about that whole Tote Swap feature – I had 48 hours to make my swaps and more items become available as other people returned their totes. I waited part of a day and was able to revamp my tote into something useful. I also decided to have a little fun – that’s part of the point of these things, isn’t it? So in addition to a warm work-appropriate top and a lighter work piece, I added a 3/4 sleeve full length maxi and a stylish jacket.
First, the cozy basic – Hayes Plaid Flannel (M) in blue and red. Other than the color being different than expected (it looked more like purple on my phone screen), this top delivered everything I expected. Soft, warm, solid straight forward cut and fit. As a bonus, didn’t seem to attract every little fawn hair when I gave Delta some love while I was wearing it. For those who have never lived with a Boxer or dog of similar coat type – that stuff sticks and weaves into everything! There may be a lot less than the double coated breeds, but it’s twice as hard to get rid of. With the churn of the holidays, I was a little slow in returning my tote, so I wore this top twice.
Then we have a two-fer. I had a short day in-office and it was warmer than usual outside, so I decided to “girl” and wear the Three Dots Side Slit Maxi (S) with the Max Studio Leatherette Moto Jacket (M). I found some black tights that I’m fairly certain I bought for a costume and the black flats I bought for a wedding and made it a full-girl outfit. My co-worker, a fellow tall woman and someone who frequently employs the work dress, loved the maxi. And so did I. It was soft, snug, flattering. I had to maneuver through some hem-minding since the split sides meant the back half hung low and might drag or get caught when I sat down.
The jacket was a fun prop but not entirely functional – not very warm and with very shallow “girl” pockets. If I were the type to have “looks cute but doesn’t do much” clothing in my wardrobe, it would have a place. But since I’m very functionally-focused, it was just a nice moment of playing dress up. I liked the outfit so much that I wore it for my bestie’s birthday dinner, this time with my boots.
Finally, the only disappointment in the box, the Noir Shoulder Color Block Top (S). The top’s material was about what I expected, the cut wasn’t all that flattering but not bad. The kiss of death was the arms. I tried a couple different poses to try to show you what was wrong, but none of them showed it clearly. The arms were tight. Not just a little, but “if my elbow is bent not quite 90 degrees, the fabric is cutting into my arms” tight. If you’re planning to wear the top while spending an entire workday at a computer, that is a non-starter. Le Tote’s recommended a small – it definitely would have been too big everywhere else if I’d worn the medium. Overall, this top and I just aren’t a match.
Tote #3 Verdict: 3 things worn, 4 things returned.
Overall Verdict for my first Le Tote month: It’s a fun game to play. I like the options a lot more than Stitch Fix. The tote swap feature means I am not stuck if their algorithm misses big time. The price is still a little high for my tastes. A helpful feature is that you can pause the service at any time – for a week, a month, or whenever you decide to start it back up again. I paused it before I was charged for my next month (today)… but just for a week. #NoSpendNovember*. I’ll be keeping my eye on their clearance sales. Maybe I can scoop up some of this month’s winners for 1/2 price.
This article contains my referral link - it will give you one free tote which you can keep for up to 14 days. I will receive a one-time $25 credit when you are charged for your first month (if you choose to continue with the service).
*Except I found the Three Dots dress on sale for 1/2 the price during Bloomingdale’s Cyber Monday and I caved. 27 days is close enough, right??