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I *hate* it when they make me think about clothing. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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I *hate* it when they make me think about clothing. [Jul. 18th, 2010|11:37 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Don't get me wrong: sometimes I like thinking about clothing. But I don't like being made to think about clothing. I like having more or less default options for daily wear for whatever weather and being able to put those on and go about my business if nothing in particular is going on.

For the last few summers, my summer default has been a Nusa Rollover skirt from Athleta and a T-shirt. Done and done. Various colors. Hurrah. I wear other things. But if I just want to get dressed in something comfortable and decent-looking that will wash well, that is how I do it. This extends reasonably well into spring and fall with addition of tights and extension of shirt sleeves, so many of those of you who have seen me at all have seen me in one of these skirts. They are not the sort of skirts for which people will accost you on the street, squealing over the cuteness. They are fairly plain cotton knit skirts. One will not get arrested for indecent exposure in these skirts. One will not have to fuss about pulling them down when one gets out of a car. If one's friend's kid spills on them--if one spills on them oneself--they will wash well.

Until now.

The most recent batch I ordered were clearly of a different fabric, lighter weight and clingier. I frowned but wore them anyway. And after two or three washings in cold water, I went to put on the Sangria colored one yesterday.

It had two holes in the middle of the fabric. Just holes. Not even by the seam. Not where you could have stuck your finger through pulling the skirt on. The fabric, after two or three washings in cold water and wearings not at all strenuously around the house and possibly out to a restaurant, had developed holes.

I wrote to Athleta customer service, and they sent me a helpy* e-mail response about how I could pay $6 for a return or exchange. Golly! I could pay an additional $6 to have another skirt made of the same shoddy material? Or I could have my money back, less $6 for the privilege of dealing with them? I have written back to ask how this is customer-friendly, since it is in no way my fault that they have decided to make their skirts out of tacky crap. I may have phrased it more tactfully than that. But I have long been a fan of Athleta clothing like Athleta Nusa Rollover skirts, and have sung their praises here and elsewhere, and I am really not at all pleased with this development, because one of the main things I liked about their clothing was durability. They claim to cater to active women; active women do not have the time to pull out a garment and discover that the thing they bought just last month has already given up the ghost and they will need to run to the UPS store to spend money on exchanging it. That is not the kind of running active women want to do.


*Helpy, adj.: the quality of sounding like one is being helpful without actually providing any help whatsoever. Thanks, matociquala, for this genuinely helpful word.

Update: They have offered to waive the shipping for a replacement or give me a full refund since it was their screwup. Which is reasonable; I just hope the quality gets back up again so I can keep using them.

[User Picture]From: dancinghorse
2010-07-18 04:44 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder about the Taliban, I really do.

I am noticing that active clothing for women is progressively harder to find. It's getting shoddier, flimsier, and the fabrics are just junk--while the prices have gone up-up-up. Contrast this with men's clothing, which is made far more sturdily of far better fabrics (and more of them, men being as a rule larger and all) and costs considerably less.

The subtext of this makes me very, very annoyed.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-18 04:58 pm (UTC)
And the thing is, Athleta had been a counterexample to this. A voice crying out in the wilderness. Or something.

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From: swan_tower
2010-07-18 05:12 pm (UTC)

I hate crap like that. I hate discovering that a reliable brand has gone down the drain. I hate the way nobody seems to care about durability any more, and I hate the subtext that you're not really active, you're just "active," meaning you want to seem sporty without engaging in anything vaguely strenuous. And I really, really hate crappy customer service.

Helpy indeed. Good word, bad behavior. Boo on Athleta!
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2010-07-18 05:26 pm (UTC)
I hate the subtext that you're not really active, you're just "active," meaning you want to seem sporty without engaging in anything vaguely strenuous.

Just as a sidenote, I retain (twenty years on? no, twenty-five) the sense of shock from the one time I went shopping with a female friend for her new swimming costume. It seemed ... not unreasonable to go to the swimwear dept. Except that there was nothing there that she could actually, y'know, swim in; it was all beachwear bikinis that would fail instantly at the drag of water. Eventually we went to the till and asked. "Oh," they said blankly. "No, not here. You'll have to go to Sports for that..."
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From: thoughtdancer
2010-07-18 05:28 pm (UTC)
I know the feeling. I was a fan of Eddie Bauer, especially because they had the same styles in larger women's sizes and because, as both a men's and women's place, they didn't get away with shoddy fabric for women's clothing--the sort of thing that I've seen happen often when there's only women's clothes for sale at a store. (Really, go to the fabrics and assess them: pretty regularly, the women's only places are thinner, or poorly dyed, or rougher.

Anyhow, Eddie Bauer wasn't doing that, which made me happy. And then, about three months before they entered bankruptcy, they started to play games with sizes and seams. Suddenly, the same garment with the same SKU, is smaller (I could place one up against the other), and the seams are less sturdy. And yes, the fabric is getting thinner on those items that are not the same SKU as the prior season's. So, I'm going to have to hunt for a new clothing store. *sigh*
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[User Picture]From: von_krag
2010-07-18 07:45 pm (UTC)
I used both EB & LLBean for real clothing and field gear until the early 80's then IMO both went yuppy and their products failed the use test.
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[User Picture]From: tinymich
2010-07-18 05:38 pm (UTC)
Hi Mrissa -- I'm a bit of a lurker (have seen you on Peg Kerr's entries :-) ) -- but one who frequently shops online at the Gap family of stores, and is desirous of being helpful.

I don't know whether you are phone-averse, but if you are not, it might be worth calling in to Gap/Athleta customer service? I work with a phone center in an unrelated industry and have often remarked to myself when on the phone with Gap, "Self, they run a good operation. The reps are pleasant and empowered and seem to genuinely want to do what they can to make you happy. What lessons can we steal from these guys?"

Perhaps if you could get someone on the phone and explain that it is Not Done for skirts to develop holes in them after a mere 3 washings, and that you are Very Fond of your other Nusa Rollover skirts which have stood up to dozens of washings and have recommended them to others, but these seem to have been, how shall we say, a bit of an aberration, and you would hate to think that this is now reflective of the quality of Athleta products...

...I would not be surprised if they would not, for instance, GLADLY mail you a prepaid shipping label to return or exchange your skirts. (They have done this for me before.) If the item is defective, which you should point out in no uncertain terms, that is certainly the least they can do.

It would be a bit more of a stretch, but it is possible that a particularly knowledgeable associate might be able to respond, if you were to ask which other skirts were made of fabric similar to the OLD Nusa skirts, "I do know what you mean, the new Nusa skirts ARE stretchier, but the Cotton Virtue skirt is made of sturdier fabric and has a similar fit."

All that is to say, if you are up to it, perhaps you might consider giving them a call? It might be interesting to see what results.

I hope this has been helpful! (As opposed to helpy, with which I am also unfortunately familiar.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-18 07:59 pm (UTC)
I do hate the phone, but it might be worth it. We'll see whether I get any response to my second e-mail.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2010-07-18 06:00 pm (UTC)
Heh - you just made *me* think about clothing - though, I hasten to add, in an entirely good or at least necessary way. Between reading your first paragraph and reading the rest of this, I switched clothes from washer to dryer and fixed the hem on my good black slacks.

I am sorry to hear that Athleta's quality has gone down and that they haven't been genuinely helpful - particularly sorry, because I'm wondering if this isn't just a fluke but rather a result of being taken over by Gap. The whole reason I liked mail-order stores was being able to get better quality than I could usually find in the mall - not to mention, in Athleta's case, being able to find clothing that catered to both athletic women's lives and their bodies.

I don't have a good sad or grumpy icon, but if I did I'd be using it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-18 07:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, the timing on being taken over by Gap struck me as possibly non-coincidental also.
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[User Picture]From: cakmpls
2010-07-18 07:27 pm (UTC)
If they have anything that would please you: I have never had a bad experience with Deva. pameladean has also been a fan of their clothes. They aren't cheap, but hoo-boy, are they well made and long-wearing.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-18 08:03 pm (UTC)
Deva all seems to not quite on for my body type at the moment--if I wear things that are that unfitted/drapey, I tend to get lots of questions about impending babies, which is not the best thing for someone who would at some point like to have one and doesn't get to try just yet for health reasons. But I'm glad they have been consistently well-made; consistency in that department is a very good thing to have out there for my friends.
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[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-07-18 09:03 pm (UTC)
I grind my teeth in sympathetic frustration, having lost count of the brands I've given up on. In the spirit of Internet helpiness, I've had good luck with Land's End bathing suits--I wore one of their "sport tankinis" until I stopped fitting into it. It had a pocket! I haven't managed to wear out any of the other things I've bought from them either, and if you wait long enough, their sale prices are quite good.
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From: swan_tower
2010-07-18 09:40 pm (UTC)
. . . fascinating. I went to look at their page, because I was curious what their "tankinis" looked like -- and saw that the search-limiter sidebar, in addition to sizes and colors and things like that, included an option for "anxiety zones."

On the one hand, feh, feeding body-image issues. On the other hand, weirdly yay, for labeling those issues in a way that makes no bones about what they are. I'm not sure what I think about this.
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2010-07-18 09:09 pm (UTC)
Seconding the comment that this is also the case for men's clothing - not that this makes it less appalling. My general motto now is that if, by some chance, I find a garment that meets my (admittedly pretty severe) standards for clothing, I had better buy several of them, because the next time I try to buy them, they will either not exist at all or they will now suck.

I've found that often, but not always, buying clothes on the web or by mail-order is the solution to this problem - that many makers essentially say, "Oh, you want THAT old stuff! We still make that, we just don't devote shelf space to it." (Others will just give you a confused look because they don't understand any shopping criteria other than newness. And, alas, it seems like there is not much economic incentive for manfacturers to build in durability.)

I'll also say that as soon as Gap gets their hands on anything it goes to hell. Once upon a time I could find good Gap clothes every blue moon; although never the same thing twice. Now I go in there and I'm shockingly unimpressed with their entire stock every time.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2010-07-19 01:58 am (UTC)
I had better buy several of them, because the next time I try to buy them, they will either not exist at all or they will now suck.


my beloved Lands End shoes that I had four pairs of in size 6.5 ... suddenly they started making them too small. 6.5 was too small! All of a sudden! After 10 years! So damn weird. So now I wish I'd stocked up, because of course, the 7s are too big.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2010-07-19 02:36 am (UTC)
I have nothing useful to add here, since I have no advice and saying "gosh, that sucks" is not exactly news to you. But I am amused that we have the same taste in skirts! I have two cotton knit skirts (one navy, one purple) in the exact same style that I practically live in during the summer. I've been wearing one or the other almost every day for the last month and a half! I got mine at Old Navy, though. I'm not entirely sure what it says about the state of the world when Old Navy is putting out more durable product than a women's sports' clothing store, but I'm sure it's worrying.
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[User Picture]From: minnehaha
2010-07-19 07:39 am (UTC)

other interpretations exist

"Helpy" exists in my records from October 2002, coinage credited to my younger sister. She, and I, and others who have used it have not given it any ironic meaning, however, and I doubt I will change this knowing others have take up doing so.

Sorry about the cheapness of the clothes. That's a drag.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-19 10:57 am (UTC)

Re: other interpretations exist

In 2002, I don't think "truthy" (a la Stephen Colbert) existed to have parallel coinages, so I'm not surprised that "helpy" was sincere in your circles when your sister came up with it then, even aside from there being no particular reason for it not to be.
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