An Open Letter to J. Crew. How Did This Happen?

Dear J. Crew:

It saddened me to read about your filing for bankruptcy. It downright confused me as well.  For many decades, I’ve been a loyal customer.  My love for you goes way back—even before your flagship store! In fact, I remember the early days –when you were a mail-order company!  Oh, how I looked forward to receiving your catalogs back in the day before on-line shopping.

Ahhh. Those old-school J. Crew Catalogs.  Even as the stores started popping up, the catalog was still around!

I would eagerly choose what I wanted, write out a check, place my order form along with said check in an envelope, apply a stamp, walk to the mailbox and patiently wait for that package to arrive.  And I was never disappointed.

Items like the iconic roll-neck sweater. I had this in olive green!

And then it happened.  That flagship store opened up in the South Street Seaport.  A few blocks from where I worked.  Who cares that I was pregnant at the time?  I could enter the hallowed entrance of the brick building and peruse the available clothing to wear for after I gave birth!

The location of the J. Crew store down at the South Street Seaport.  I remember those days fondly!

For decades I have never left your side.  Your clothing spoke to me.  You personified everything my mother told me to look for in apparel.  The cut. The style. The workmanship. The price.  The bonding on sweaters. Yeah. You had it all.

And might I add that all three of my kids wear J. Crew.  They grew up with the brand!

Sure. There were seasons and years that I was a bit “meh” and worse and I do believe that was the beginning of the end.  It started with the Jenna Lyons years.

This is Jenna Lyons Style.  On most of us, this would look atrocious. And that freaking pigeon-toed pose drives me up a wall.  But seriously, each individual piece could work but not together.  Those jeans would be horrific on the majority of us.  And this is where J. Crew faulted. The brand tried to sell one woman’s style!

Look—I’m not disrespecting the stylish Jenna.  But you simply cannot rebuild a brand around one person’s style.  An example is that fabulous denim and taffeta combination she wore to the Met Gala some years back.  Yeah. She looked wonderful.  But guess what?  Not everyone would look good in that. Not all of us are blessed with her enviously lean frame.  A good number of us have curves and a few pounds to get rid of.  We would not look a fraction as good as Jenna!!

This ensemble is adorable. To carry it off you need to be lean. Very lean. You can’t eat three meals a day. You cannot eat a bag of corn chips on a Saturday night.  It works for Jenna Lyons like nobody’s business. It would not work on the majority of women.  But those shoes…….

Somewhere along the line, you grew a bit removed from your loyal customers.  Yes. We all love the classics with a bit of an edge. And we all love to add our personal style to those classics. But you can veer too far off course.

…and even the stylish, iconic, Jenna had fails. This is awful on every level….

..and again. These looks aren’t made for “everywoman”.  J. Crew strayed too far…

You should have used more Lauren Hutton.  She speaks to a wider range of women.

Let’s hear it for Lauren!  And what she’s wearing!

And you got a little to pricey with the merch.  A Whit Tori Dress for almost $500?  Why are you selling brands other than J. Crew?  Why a dress so pricey?  You aren’t a luxury brand.  You are a bridge brand—somewhere between lower, affordable fashion and the higher.  Own it.  Be who you started out to be in the days of Arthur Cinader, your founder.

j.crew: whit® tori dress for women, right side, view zoomed

Whit Tori Dress is on the J. Crew site for $468. Come on. You wonder why you filed for bankruptcy?  And that dress is so frumpy with those shoes…

Don’t get me wrong. I still love you.  My wardrobe is 90 percent J. Crew with J. Crew Factory thrown in.  But I’m angry and sad and full of mixed emotions of your bankruptcy filing.  I don’t want you to fold.  Rather, I beg you to take a step back. Reassess.

J. Crew Number 2 Pencil Skirt and Tippi Sweater. A classic combo.

J. Crew Factory dress. A study in comfort!  And a hellalot less pricey than that Whit Tori frock!

More Tippi–the sweater I live in and have for years!

J. Crew plaid ankle pants and Dulci pumps from years back!

Another Tippi Sweater and Anyday Pant–similar to the great yet discontinued Pixie Pant!

Bring back the damned Schoolboy blazer!  Sure, J. Crew Factory sells one now but it isn’t the same as the original!  Bring back the Pixie Pant! Luckily I have multiples of both but how much longer will they last?

One of four Navy Schoolboy blazers I own.  One can never have too much of a good thing–especially if it is doscontinued!

The great original J. Crew Pixie Pant..

And I’m still wearing mine!

Remember that your core customer has aged but still loves classic clothing. We know what we like and what looks good on us.  We are secure in our being.  Please come back!



Catherine Lartigue

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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29 Responses to An Open Letter to J. Crew. How Did This Happen?

  1. Susan says:

    I totally agree Catherine!!!! I loved the old J Crew, but in the last few years, the prices went up and the quality went down. And I do believe they cater to smaller sizes. I’m sorry they filed: I was hoping with Lyons gone they would revert to their old style. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!!!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Susan. Even my husband is flummoxed at the skyrocketing prices. That’s why I buy on sale and the weird thing is J. Crew seems to be doing fine on sale items. It should be a wake up call. I just don’t get it! I’m STILL hoping they go back to the old styles! XOXOXOXO

  2. Anne M Bray says:

    Ha. I remember reading an interview with Jenna. She was commenting about the line when she started and the “horrible, dowdy” merino wool sets then for sale. I owned those and they were excellent quality and NOT expensive! Bad Jenna!
    The brand became so ridiculously expensive, and not sure why. The youngsters can’t afford it, us elders don’t like it/ can’t fit into it/ also find it too expensive. Lose, lose situation.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Anne. And therein lies the issue with J. Crew. They were throwing the classics out the window because Jenna didn’t like them! Those “dowdy” sets are timeless and classic! And that Whit Tori Dress that J. Crew is selling now is the dowdiest shit I’ve seen in a long time! I tell you, they need to take a giant step back! XOXOXOXO

  3. Suzi says:

    I never wore JCrew until I discovered the vintage v neck tee and a cropped, comfortable turtleneck. O M G When I read they were going into bankruptcy I made a huge tee shirt order. 😂

  4. cyndy Floor says:

    My thoughts, exactly – and for many years. I l also looked forward to the catalogs – bought things on sale, had them for years. My favorites were the big roll-neck sweaters and the chunky wool turtlenecks in crazy colors. Had them until I shrunk them – stupid me. But gave them to young teens so they lived on! I never had the blue blazer because I was “gifted” a St. Pat’s blue school blazer and wore it for 30 years. Can’t remember who it was – someone named Robin? Lived in a big house in Bay Shore down by Phyllis O’Brien so near the water? Hazy memories. Hope they come back for people like us that appreciates good – and timeless- design. Happy Mom’s Day! Cyndy

    • Catherine says:

      Cyndy. One of my biggest regrets was trashing my St. Pat’s blazer. I would wear it now if I A. had one and B. if it fit! I, too loved my roll-neck sweater and I have three re-issued chunky turtlenecks. Hmmmmmmmm perhaps it’s Bay Shore style! Happy Mom’s Day back atcha! XOXOXOXO

  5. Well said!

  6. Rena says:

    Well done! and these comments would apply to so many other brands that are struggling because they’ve become too specific in their quest to “fit” everyone.


    • Catherine says:

      Hi Rena. Exactly. I’ve been thinking of brands of the past that I absolutely loved that have folded. ie. Villager, Pappagallo, Capezio. Gay Gordon, Bobbi Brooks. Let us hope J. Crew is not next on that list! XOXOXO

  7. Dawn says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head re: J. Crew. Pehaps they will restructure and return to the true brand? Jenna was the “face” of the brand and what works for her wardrobe does not work for many. I did enjoy her mixture of classic style with sequins and the accessory lines. By the way, I still have that quadruple strand of pearls from J. Crew that you are wearing in one of your outfits. I always feel chic when I throw them on. Brava to YOU!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Dawn! I’m so glad to see that many agree with my thought process on this. The Powers-that-be really need to take a serious look at their loyal buyers and definitely return to the more classic days. Lyons definitely had a fantastic sense of style but it was HERS and not every-womans! LOL. Those pearls are one of the greatest buys–aren’t they?? XXOXOXO

  8. Maggie in Bryn Mawr says:

    Well said! Happy Mother’s Day. I have a possible money saving tip for you. Costco has a Peet’s brand Nespresso pods that are 1/2 the price of the Nespresso brand. I know you recently recd one. I have been going through expressions like no one’s business these days.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Maggie in Bryn Mawr! Do you go to the KOP Costco? I’ll definitely be on the lookout. I literally received a ton of Nespresso pods from my daughter Oona for Mother’s day but I’ll definitely check out the Peet’s brand. BTW, are you really in Bryn Mawr? Which J. Crew do you frequent? Suburban Square or KOP Mall! XOXOXOXOXO

      • Maggie says:

        Yes—KOP COSTCO. I double shot it so it was getting pricey. Yes- I live in Bryn Mawr right bear the theater. I was going to the J. Crew in Suburban Square which has shut down.

  9. DGGYST says:

    My wardrobe is mostly J crew as well. No one does classic feminine like them

  10. Audrey says:

    I’ve worn their clothes for decades and I too loved the catalogs, but my overall attraction to J Crew’s brand has declined in recent years. I hope they can survive and realign their strategy. I just placed an order in an effort to support them!
    Great post Cathe. Hope it finds its way to J Crew management!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Audrey! I just received a nice a-line skirt I purchased online from J. Crew Factory. It’s very well made.I hope this post makes it’s way to management too–our voice needs to be heard–especially since we’ve been shopping the brand for decades. We aren’t the “fly-by-night” customer. We are the loyalists! XOXOXOXOXO

  11. Juliet says:

    Sad, very sad – never had the opportunity to buy JCrew (and what the heck is it with a grown woman standing like a child needing orthopaedics – it’s wrong, very wrong and somewhat offensive as some people spend their lives in splints fighting to correct gait and posture, bring back standingsittingposing elegantly and not pigeon toed or legs splayed in the gynaecological manner…that way of standing makes me go “ick” and turn off no matter what, it is so fake and so twee and just hideous) but there is a huge market gap for classic clothing that will go well with other items and last and not date. May I also add there is a huge gap in our (UK) market for those things to be made in countries where the labour laws are just and people are not in sweatshop conditions churning out disposable fashion and at an appropriate price. What a shame that JCrew did not understand/hear their customers loyalty and reward them with appropriate reciprocity by valuing what they want – it all seems about chasing a small, niche group of fickle customers rather than real women with real bodies and real money these days. Rant over

    • Catherine says:

      Julie! Bang! You got it! First of all I’ve always been offended by that freakin’ pigeon-toed pose simply because I had a cousin who wore foot braces for years to correct her in-turned feet. WTF is a grown woman posing like that for? And a whole contingent of influencers pose that way. It’s inane! And I fear that the “classic” cuts and styles are going to disappear. J. Crew used to be very affordable decades back then it seemed overnight the price point skyrocketed. They are catering to a very fickle audience these days and I wish to hell they would return to days of yore! XOXOXOXO

      • vavashagwell says:

        Totally agree with you both. I also HATE it when these influencers do the ‘leg pop’. But the splayed leg pose is the absolute WORST.

  12. Cathe says:

    The minute I heard the news all I could think of was how you were going to react! My husband came home the day they made the announcement and asked if I’d heard the news. Guess he was worried about me. ALL my t shirts and shorts hanging in my closet are from J Crew. My drawers are filled with their sweaters, sweatshirts and sleep pants. Classics, that’s what the did best. WHY didn’t they stick with what they did best. Now what are we to do?

  13. Anne says:

    I was just waiting on you to sound off on J. Crew closing Catherine! I knew how upset you would be. Sorry. I will hold your hand 🖐 for a minute. So glad you have several of your favorites. Treat them gently! 😘

  14. vavashagwell says:

    I’m not surprised they are in financial trouble. Their quality has gone downhill and the prices went up. I never buy anything at J. Crew these days unless it’s on major sale. And I wasn’t fond of the Jenna Lyons era, either. I have a lot of old J.Crew and am treating it with great care because I think the days of yore are not going to return.

  15. Lisa says:

    First off, I LOVE your blog! I visit weekly and enjoy every post, your style and sense of humor are spot-on.

    I have been wearing JCrew since I discovered them 10 years ago right out of college. I felt like I had found MY PEOPLE. I loved (and still love) Jenna’s style, the way she combined fabrics and patterns, all the shine, I died for it. I compared their new offerings to their previous offerings and was impressed that they managed to pull in a younger generation during a time when there were hundreds of other options. I have to admit that pre-Jenna, I would not have considered JCrew, as they were a bit to classic for my taste. JCrew was not necessarily affordable for me, and still isn’t, but I shopped the sales and JCrew Factory (and Ebay-God bless it!) and was able to put together a work wardrobe that I felt truly reflected my style. When Jenna left I was heartbroken. I have now amassed many Tippi’s, tons of scarves, every Cece flat I can get my hands on, and a variety of statement necklaces. I treasure these pieces and consult the old magazines and Insta on new ways to style them. Their quality is superb and I know I don’t have to baby any of the items, although I am super careful with them.
    I was upset but not surprised to find out they had filed bankruptcy. My hope for them is that they can survive this whole ordeal. I would like to continue to see the great colors and prints, the quirky t’s, and the amazing sweaters and blazers. And of course, I would like for them to lower their price point as well. It’s bordering on laughable for many items these days.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for adding to the opinions (even though I’m just seeing this now!). Although Jenna wasn’t my favorite, its great to hear about those who loved her. Yeah. The only time I purchase J. Crew is on sale and the “original” prices are absolutely ridiculous. I’m hoping the company turns around and does some soul-searching. Coach did that and turned around from those cheesy “C”‘s to a step back to the “good” leather! Thanks again! XOXOXOXOXO

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