Is Reformation Worth the Hype?

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A few weeks ago, I read a New York Times article about Reformation, a so-called shopping sojourn for “cool girls.” That’s the kind of descriptor I typically scoff at — are “cool girls” just code for “women with credit cards?”

But I hate to ridicule something until I’ve had a chance to see it myself.

The Reformation in Soho, 23 Howard Street
The Reformation in Soho, 23 Howard Street

The unassuming Soho storefront has a starkly stylish look befitting a boutique that’s attracted a cadre of young celebrities, from Taylor Swift to Rihanna. The place seems on the cusp of contradiction — the wire hangers scream “industrial chic,” while the actual clothes seem more “feminine funhouse.” The sales associates were as aloof and distant as any lunchroom clique — but on the plus side, they didn’t care if you tried on 30 items without buying a single thing.

If this place were a font, it would be sans serif — but all caps.

Most racks are grouped by color. Maroon and navy were my big favorites recently.
Most racks are grouped by color. The maroon and navy sections were my big favorites.

Reformation is best known for two things: its dresses and its eco-conscious under-pinnings. Let’s tackle the latter first: Reformation unofficial motto is “killer clothes that don’t kill the environment.” That means a lot of the label’s clothes are created from reclaimed fabrics or repurposed vintage garments.

I dig the concept, but not necessarily the execution.

The tags make for great reading.
The tags make for great bathroom reading.

Let’s take a look at some of the labels inside the clothes. I haven’t seen this much writing on a label since my first bottle of Dr. Bronners.

The “do-not-dry-clean-EVER” label on the right reminds me of the half-baked paranoia that permeated the anti-vaccination movement. (Please note that organic cleaning is fine — it’s just more expensive.)

But I have more beef with the label on the left — the one that shrugs its shoulders and says, “Sorry, don’t know what this blouse is made from.” Is this blouse silk? Polyester? Cotton? Who knows?! This is the clothing equivalent of a hot dog — you just don’t know what it’s made out of.

A highly educated consumer may be able to figure it out by touching the fabric — but what about mere mortals who aren’t blessed with high sensitivity to fabric origins? Or god forbid, you just want to shop online?

But let’s get to the good stuff: the dresses.

Reformation is famous for its dresses.
Reformation is famous for its dresses.

Reformation’s hype about its dresses is well-deserved. My favorites were deceptively simple (like this or this). But while the dresses lacked bells and whistles (no J.Lo sequins, no twee screen-printed horse silhouettes), they dresses were extremely flattering. Thanks to my consignment collection, I’ve worn many designer dresses, but few made me feel as confident as the Reformation dresses. It was remarkable, and I understand why these dresses commend a cult following.

Not everything was so successful.

Not my favorite looks.
Not my favorite looks.

The vintage jeans on offer are baggy and enormous, just like the Levis I wore in 7th grade. I passed. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I wore something virtually identical to the upper-left outfit for the entirety of 1996.)

The vintage coats and dresses were another disappointing part of the Reformation inventory. The leather jackets were blousy and too-baggy. Vintage sweatshirts were stamped with cringe-worthy, ironic platitudes like “Bill Murray.” (Seriously, no.)

The vintage furs were gutted, stripped and slapped onto scuffed denim jackets. The red vintage dress in the upper-right was lovely on the hanger, but Halloween-esque within the confines of the dressing room. (It’s a flamingo croquet mallet away from being a Queen of Hearts costume.)

Price-wise, the place is more expensive than the mall and less expensive than a designer boutique. Often, the prices seem too steep for the synthetic materials being used. Personally, I’m not wild about paying more than $300 for a polyester dress — but if it were silk, I wouldn’t think twice.

But perhaps that’s part of Reformation’s plan for world domination. Yes, you’re stuck paying top-dollar for a synthetic gown — but at least you can machine-wash it.

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Have you shopped at Reformation? What did you think?

  • Tiffani Shelton

    WARNING: DO NOT BUY FROM REFORMATION. I am a military member that was serving out of state when I received my 2 dresses totaling ~$700dresses that took >1wk to receive. When I returned I tried the dresses on and they didn’t fit correctly so I immediately sent them back at about the 32day after purchase mark but only 3 weeks from when I received them at my residence. >30days later I get a response via email from Reformation informing me they shipped the dresses back and would not accept the return. I understand policy, however, circumstances occur in life where a company in which u spend thousands of dollars should have better customer service.