Newest Review: ... much. The dressing rooms... ah the dressing rooms. They are divine. No dust bunnies, no cold ugly overhead lighting or gaping sheets. Th... more
Tweedy Treasures for a Tog Hound
Member Name: venice105
Date: 11/12/12, updated on 11/12/12 (202 review reads)
Advantages: Pretty, unusual prints, durable clothing
Disadvantages: Steep prices, smugness
Please note I am reviewing White Stuff the shop as well as the website (not sure why only the website is listed?). If I should add a new category? Not sure as they are selling the same products - anyway here is my review!
White Stuff is a clothing shop with a doozy of a misnomer. Not many of the clothes are white, and even if they were white the White Stuff deities would never name them as such - they would be called pure cloud or daisy dreamscape or something far more exciting. And they would cost £60 and come with a cute note and a bracelet to make you feel that bit more clever about shopping there.
White Stuff is a place I initially dismissed as an overpriced, yummy mummy-type shop. But with their quirky, faux vintage prints and jersey wool blends, I couldn't help but have an occasional snoop. With time I have come to realise they are a bit more intriguing than some others of their ilk. They are, in effect, the indie record store of retail clothing for the over 30 female. You walk in and feel magically young, but not like you are trying to be hip. The clothes have a fairly ageless preppy appeal. They remind me a bit of the American brand J.Crew, way back before it started thinking of itself as high fashion. They are largely stupidly priced, in response to Fat Face I presume, which sells similar but not quite as pricey stuff - yet not quite as silly as Boden. They are the kind of prices that make you wince a bit, but the garments are so pretty and comfy and cosy looking that you might, if you are a certain type of delusional shopaholic, start trying to justify them as "investment pieces".
The store makes you want to linger, there is no blaring music a la Topshop, just some gentle surf folk-type rock playing at just the right level. The sales assistants are generally laid back and don't pester you much. The dressing rooms... ah the dressing rooms. They are divine. No dust bunnies, no cold ugly overhead lighting or gaping sheets. They are just spacious enough, warm but not too warm. I could happily move in. These people know what they are doing. I needed another size in a dress I was trying on but was dubious about them having it as it was the last one on the sale rack. The kindly assistant nipped into the back room et voila - my size had magically appeared from behind the Cath Kidston-esque cowboy print curtain. This is just the kind of thing that happens in the magic land of White Stuff.
It doesn't hurt that the clothes, by and large, fit well. They tend to favour empire or smock cuts, but somehow they are not cut too baggy, either. Even the fitted clothes tend to skim rather than stick to any lumps or bumps. The knits are all cosy and pretty and practical. Fabrics are earthy, not man made. Things are normally sewn and finished to a high standard. The colours are largely in the muted to pastel range, nothing too garish or bright generally although there is the occasional pop of crimson or cerulean. The dresses and tunic-y things are that rare breed of vestment that can be dressed up or down. You can be comfortable and look smart which is no easy feat. It may not be high fashion, and truth be told the more drawn I am to the shop the more I do feel any efforts to be in any way sartorially hip dwindling ever smaller.
You realise that the White Stuff brand is pretty formidable when you venture onto the website. It is not just a website, nay, but a quaint village of sorts, where a pretty but relatively human looking group of folk gather to have cocktail parties and walks on the beach. They seem to live on some Hebridean type island/small village where everyone is terribly well dressed and presumably drinking mulled wine and playing gin rummy whilst the kids do their homework. Sure, it is an obvious spiel, but it is done well and the attention to ludicrous and entertaining detail in the naming of the clothes is something that dorks like me take great zeal in. I am a total marketing sucker. If you put the words "heritage" and "carpenter" in front of something, I believe it to be somehow intrinsically more trustworthy and durable. The men's current line includes a range called "gentlemen's relish", if you can believe that. I think someone at h.q. is taking the pistachio.
They appear to be a charitable lot and have several "what makes us happy" videos and pictures of dogs and inventive competitions. I may just win a trip to Lapland, now wouldn't that be nice? Then I could get myself that Clementine knit, that would go nicely with the reindeer...Standard delivery on their website is usually £3.95 but until Dec.17th they are offering it free which is jolly good of them. Returns are free or can be made in some but not all stores, so a B- there. In further seasonal news, they have a section devoted to "festive fillers" at the moment, which includes how to make the perfect snowball (cocktail) and ideas for your holiday wardrobe which is a bit presumptious really! Also are couple of bloggy deals by some posh birds. Which isn't terribly useful in my opinion but I guess interesting for those at a loss as to what goes with what.
The clothes are reviewed on site which is always handy, with hearts in lieu of stars. Each user review has a profile with a politely competitive list of what makes Jemima or Eloise tick. Popular pastimes include the usual children, theatre and reading but there also intriguingly seems to be a collection of farmyard pet enthusiasts. I envision them in their wellies and Fairisle knits, mucking out Herbert the micro pig's stall. I mock, but this is just another clever clogs aspect of the brand creating a homely, personal feel on the site to make their customers feel less like a number and more part of some mad, woolly tunic wearing sorority.
The sales are sometimes email invite only which is a bit annoying if you forget to walk around with vouchers like me. A high street chain maintaining such an air of exclusivity is laughable and bold in this economy but more power to them I guess. The aspirational smugness of it all is no doubt off putting, but what can a girl do with a dwindling selection of high street shops that cater to my needs?
I will let you in on a little secret - Ebay is a veritable treasure trove of often unworn White Stuff stuff. Presumably clotheshorses like me who realise their re-sell value. I acquired a (new with tags!) brown and teal corduroy skirt last week for peanuts, very Miss Jean Brodie let me tell you. The husband was a bit perplexed by my new fixation. White Stuff actually has lovely clothes for men of a certain age, they are not too trendy and only occasionally dandyish. But I'd only ever get my husband into something if it was a gift, he would recoil at the prices and probably moan the jumpers were itchy. Why can't he just sit in the corner and look pretty like the White Stuff model?
Well truth be told I am writing this review as the last minutes of the sale are dwindling as a means of distraction. I mustn't dally; the cherry pie tunic and wandering typewriter dress are calling my name. Should you feel inclined to part with a pretty wad of cash in exchange for something that looks nice with a country cottage and a golden retriever, there is no doubt a White Stuff in your vicinity. The website is quite user friendly although I did read a few complaints about it crashing during sales. Keep Calm and Shop on. A friendly White Stuff employee will be waiting for you with mince pies and wine should you tire of the Primark Christmas tussle.
Summary: A clothing shop for the aspirational set that also happens to do nice stuff