Monday, April 25, 2016

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40

If having a personal clothing stylist sounds good to you, give it a try!  

What is Stitch Fix?

For those who haven't yet heard about it, Stich Fix is a subscription-based clothing stylist service. A Stitch Fix clothing stylist chooses and sends clothing back to a subscriber based on her given online profile.  The subscriber can pay for the items she receives that she likes.  She sends back, at no cost, the items she doesn't like, letting the stylist know which items she likes or dislikes, and why.  Those notes back to the stylist help each Stitch Fix order get a little closer to perfection.

Why I Tried Stitch Fix

Because I've been a bit frumpy lately (more on that later), like for the past several years, my gift to myself for my 40th birthday was a commitment to a monthly Stitch Fix. It's a little outside my comfort zone to spend much money on clothing, but after so many years of thrifting, I think it's time. I'm also a little nervous about letting someone who doesn't know me very well pick out my clothes, but I think it's time for that, too.  I think.

What I've Noticed about Stitch Fix

1. There is an opportunity for the stylist to get to know me, and I get to know me.

In addition to creating the initial profile on the Stitch Fix site, a subscriber can also choose to share with the stylist other social media clues, like a Linkedin profile and Pinterest boards. Although it's optional for subscribers, I did take advantage of sharing my social media accounts for Pinterest and LinkedIn.  I made notes, both positive and negative, on the Pinterest items I added to my board called "Stitch Fix." Additionally, I created clothing sets using Polyvore, and I shared those to my "Stitch Fix" board, too.  This helped me learn what styles I really like, what might look good on my frame, and the kinds of things I should look for when I do venture out to go shopping.

Subsequently, I became overly obsessed with Pinterest and with how I dress.  I know it was "overly" because I was thinking about clothing instead of paying attention to the real people around me. This realization made me remember why I got frumpy in the first place: Frumpy is comfy, and the best way to chill out around the people who surround me is in comfy clothes that I don't have to worry about adjusting or maintaining.  I also like clothes that make me look thin, but I will settle for clothes that do not make me look pregnant.

2. The first "Fix" is usually "blah."

I read the observation on several other reviews that the first batch of items the stylist sends is generally not perfect.  I would suspect this is because the stylist hasn't gotten to know a subscriber very well by the time a first fix is sent out.  This was definitely true for me, as well.  I felt as through the stylist had perhaps not looked at the copious postings I had made to Pinterest or hadn't really read my initial notes, or perhaps that I was too old to be using the service: For example, I specifically stated how much I hate stretch denim or low-cut pants, and the first thing I pulled out of the box was a pair of super-stretchy, distressed, low cut jeans that were very short on me.  I returned everything with friendly notes, and I am going to try one more time.

That said, when I shared what had been sent with my husband, he immediately recognized that the items were in no way something I would generally wear, and he noted that maybe the clothes the stylists have to choose from aren't even in the wheelhouse of my likes or personality.  That got me thinking about my "likes and personality," and even how the people who know me best think of how I dress; not strangers, but the people who know me best (and love me anyway).  In other words, if I were an "Apples to Apples" noun card, on which adjective would I get played?  Would it be on frumpy or something else?

3. Shopping got easier.

As I mentioned in point #1, the time I spent obsessing over Pinterest pins about women's fashion made shopping a lot easier.  I knew the sorts of things I wanted to look for when I stepped into the Goodwill and Value Village thrift stores; that's right, the thrift stores.  What did I take home from said thrift stores?  The same kinds of clothes I've been wearing for 40 years: one pair of long, wide-leg denim trousers (non-stretch, Ralph Lauren), one short sleeve, vintage western-cut shirt from the men's department (with pink, pillow-ticking type stripes), and a bright, heather blue cardigan. It was easy to find these items because I had been thinking about what I like, and it was easy to walk out with them because I had donated two boxes of clothes I no longer was wearing.  Most of those donated clothes had been purchased at the same two thrift stores.  A rotating wardrobe!

Final Thoughts on Stitch Fix

So, if shopping got easier, and signing up for Stitch Fix only got me obsessing about clothes and a failed first fix, "why," you might ask, am I trying again (as stated in point #2)?  I'm going to give the service another try because I think there's more to learn about myself, and I might get some neat clothes out of the deal, really.  After all, when I went shopping, I left with the same things I've been wearing for 40 years, for Pete's sake.  I think it's time to try something new.  I think.

Scratch That Last - Addendum Regarding the Second "Fix"

I've now received and returned every item in my second "fix."  Although I clearly stated in my notes back from the last box that I will not wear stretch denim, I do not want hand wash or dry clean only clothes, and I prefer natural fabrics and materials, I received hand wash Rayon tops, skinny jeans, and some cheaply made earrings.  To be fair, it's a different stylist, and she made it clear she looked at my Pins, so she was trying.  Also, a few minutes after I left the Stitch Fix Web site, I received an email letting me know that since the first two boxes were not to my liking, the third styling fee would be waived for me if I tried one more time.  There were additional questions for me to answer about my preferred silhouette and styles.  I think it's a wonderful marketing and customer service advantage, so I answered the questions and agreed to one more go. I'm fairly certain the third time will not be a charm, but I will try.

In the meantime, does anyone have any recommendations for a Stitch Fix alternative?  Please share in the comments!

Want to read more about my complicated relationship with my clothes?  Try

Project 333 Math: Making My Own Rules  

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Denotative and Connotative Meaning in the Poetry of Denise Levertov

From "Of Being" by Denise Levertov

Both the denotative and connotative meanings of words are of the utmost importance to poets, most of whom dedicate their lives to finding not just the right words, but the exact words to express their ideas as specifically and concretely as possible.  

Denise Levertov is no exception. In fact, her poetry relies upon her readers' dedication to investigating each carefully chosen word's definitions and associations.

Murray Bodo speaks of her use of words in the essay, "Denise Levertov: A Memoir and Appreciation." Bodo states, "She seldom spoke glibly. It was as if she were searching for the right word to emerge as she went along, much as she said a poem proceeds—organically word by word, image by image, line by line" (n.d.).  Armed with this knowledge of her proficiency with words and the expectations she has of her readers, those readers can begin the process of analyzing her poems one word at a time.

Analysis of Denise Levertov's "Of Being"


In "Of Being," there is one word in particular that requires an exploration of its denotative meaning, its dictionary definition: "ineluctable."  Although it is similar in meaning to "inevitable," "inexorable," "unavoidable," or "unpreventable," its very subtle difference in meaning opens up the poem for better interpretation.

Diagram a poem for a better understanding of its grammatical structure.
"Inevitable" implies that future consequences, results, or effects cannot be avoided.  "Inexorable" implies there is, much like the continuous tense, something happening in the continuous present, an action that cannot be stopped or prevented.

"Ineluctable," the word Levertov chooses in "Of Being," implies there is a fact that cannot be denied. 

If readers replace, much like in algebraic equations, "a fact that cannot be denied" for "ineluctable" in the poem, the truncated clause, with each subject paired with the predicate, reads:

This shimmering of wind in the blue leaves is a fact that cannot be denied.
This flood of stillness widening the lake of sky is a fact that cannot be denied.
This need to dance is a fact that cannot be denied.
This need to kneel is a fact that cannot be denied.
This mystery is a fact that cannot be denied.

These are undeniable facts, she says.  She doesn't say they are effects, consequences, results, or actions.  Because of the exact use of the exact word "ineluctable," she refers to this list as facts, undeniable facts.


Review patterns of words to review connotations.
In addition to carefully examining denotative meanings of words in poems, like "ineluctable," readers should also examine connotative meanings, or the culturally or socially defined emotional associations of words.

Connotative word associations or feelings often appear in patterns. In "Of Being," such a pattern appears with the words "looming," "suffering," and "fear."

When analyzing word connotations, which are generally either in some way positive or in some way negative, some are difficult to interpret, and some are quite obvious.  In this instance, the negative emotions associated with "looming," "suffering," and "fear," are easy to notice.  This doesn't mean, however, that they were not carefully chosen.  When we think of "looming," we may feel a sort of oppression from above or from around a corner, just out of sight. We think of a predator, while we are the prey.  This connotative meaning reiterates the idea of "peripheral vision" that appears later in the clause.  The idea that suffering and fear wait just out of sight, ready to pounce like predators, is exceptionally important; important enough to be indicated twice.

Yet, she tells us, even though these predators wait for us, for a moment there is beauty:

This shimmering of wind in the blue leaves is a fact that cannot be denied.
This flood of stillness widening the lake of sky is a fact that cannot be denied.
This need to dance is a fact that cannot be denied.
This need to kneel is a fact that cannot be denied.
This mystery is a fact that cannot be denied.

In the face of "fear" and "suffering," "happiness" appears, even if "provisional," as she states in the first lines of the poem.  In the face of "looming presences," "happiness" appears.


In poetry, using the exact words matters.  It is the task of a careful reader to scrutinize and research the meanings of words while formulating an interpretation.


Bodo, M. (n.d.). Denise Levertov: A memoir and appreciation. Image, 27. Retrieved from

Levertov, D. (1997). Of Being. In E.V. Roberts & H. E. Jacobs (Eds.), Literature: an introduction to reading and writing (8th ed.), (pp. 480). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Want to read more about analyzing poetry?  Try

Diagramming Mina Loy's "Letters of the Unliving"
Ars Poetica: When a Poet's Fly is More Than a Fly
The Shoe as Image in the Poetry of Amy Lowell and Charles Simic

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.