There’s a lot that sucks about shopping for clothes online — you can’t judge fit, you can’t feel the material, and there’s no way of telling whether or not a few items from different stores will actually coalesce into an outfit that looks good. But, if you’re wrapped up in juggling a family and a job, or shooting from one freelance gig to another (to another, to another, to another), going on a proper shopping expedition to find outfits that are more than just passable can seem impossible.
It’s a shame, because putting together the perfect outfit can be like figuring out a puzzle, and it’s so satisfying when you get it right. It can also be functional, especially for anyone trying to break into an industry or career (the fairness of needing to do that can be debated!). It’s led some companies, perhaps most famously Stitch Fix, to offer curated boxes of items tailored to their customers.
Allume, a startup that launched last October, is taking a different approach by calling back to a much older concept — the personal shopper. It starts like a lot of other services, with you taking a quick style quiz that Allume uses to pair you up with one of their stylists. From there, things get more personal — you’ll actually get to schedule an appointment with that stylist, a 15-minute window where you can discuss over text messages exactly what you’re hoping to get and for what occasion, plus any other information that can help the stylist get a sense of how clothes usually fit you.
Stylists then get to shopping, which is a really open process — Allume doesn’t stock any clothes themselves, so you’re not limited to what they have on-hand. Instead, stylists can shop at most any store online, putting together several items in a lookbook that will include about three outfits. They’ll send you the lookbook back, then you can give feedback and either choose to buy some of the items or send the stylist shopping again.
If you do buy something, there’s always a chance that the fit isn’t going to be right. One of the less convenient bits about Allume is that the customer is responsible tor returns, but the company doesn’t leave you adrift. They offer assistance if returns are necessary, and they only work with retailers that have pretty loose return policies.