Shopping: J. Crew Zebra Silk Blouse


I’ve recently gotten into silk, particularly silk button-up shirts. They’re easier to layer than a stiff cotton shirt, incredibly warm, and don’t trap your sweat in the way shirts made of synthetic fabrics do. They are a bit fussier to care for, as many claim to be dry  clean only or advise you to dry clean them, instead of tossing them in the wash or gently hand washing them. But, here’s a thing I’ve learned over the years: you can, for the most part, get away with washing silk. Use cold water and avoid the dryer and things should be fine. If you’re really cautious, you can hand wash, using a fancy detergent designed just for silks. I also iron my silk shirts, which might horrify some people. But, really silk isn’t always a delicate fabric. It can take some wear and tear, sometimes.

All this brings me to a recent purchase: the classic silk blouse in zebra print from J.Crew. J.Crew’s silk blouses are a bit different this year from styles the brand has made in the past. The blouses have a wide, wide fit and are really long. I’m in a regular length here and it’s grazing the top of my thighs. The sleeves are rolled up because they are a bit blousy. Not quite puffy shirt from Seinfeld blousy but close enough that I won’t wear them full length.

The zebras up close.
The zebras up close.

J.Crew’s been doing some fun prints in silk this season, too, as evidenced by the kind of strange zebra pattern on this blouse. It looks a bit abstract from a distance, but up close you can clearly see that it’s zebras.

Slightly interesting fit and pattern don’t really make up for the construction of the shirt, though. The silk itself has a strange hand. It’s a bit stiff and crinkly. A peek at the inside seams reveals not carefully concealed French seams, but a serged edge. Dammit. At least the fabric isn’t shiny and at least no one will know about those serged seams, unless I tell them. Which I just did. Hm.

The shirt’s lack of quality comes at time when J.Crew has reported losing millions on its women’s line. I can’t help but think that the store’s apparent dash to the bottom is playing some role in that. The original retail price of the zebra blouse (and similar styles) was $128. I paid slightly more than $50 for it. In the few weeks since it was released and the time I purchased it, the shirt was marked down about 60%. That’s just crazy. It suggests the retailer is marking up prices so much that it can bear to lose that 60% or is taking a big loss on everything it sells (because almost everything makes it to the sale section at some point).

J. Crew, it’ s your job to convince me that it’s worth it to drop more than $100 on a shirt. Don’t price your stuff at a level that only a few people will buy it at (people who have enough money not to care about sales or people who just don’t get how retail works these days). Make better stuff, price it at a point that makes sense, and use more than crazy markdowns to make your clothing look appealing.

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