Eileen Fisher gets a bad rap

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For a long time, I thought of this brand as specializing in boxily-cut garments favored by lady psychiatrists of a certain age, but I realize that this was an unfair assessment, both of lady psychiatrists and Eileen Fisher. The truth is, a lot of these clothes are just what I like—comfortable classics, slightly tweaked (and most everything comes in extended sizes as well as petites). It’s possible that as I myself have aged, the boxy cut looks more appealing to me, but I also think Fisher’s silhouettes are more sophisticated than they were in previous years. This puffer, for instance, looks as chic as it does cozy.

And yes, this stand collar jacket also comes in black, but of course I’m all excited about the yellow.

A Peruvian organic cotton cotton sweater with a great funnel neckline.

This washed linen jacket is a spring piece and a little light for the weather we’re having on the east coast, but perhaps it might appeal to one of you Californians? It seems to be the perfect weight for L.A.-wear.

A recycled cashmere top that also comes in a number of good colors.

A pretty-damn-perfect nylon hooded jacket for spring rain showers.

This gorgeous alpaca coat is not cheap but it is on sale.

These ponte pants look like a pair of stylish little trousers, but they’re built for comfort.

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64 Thoughts on Eileen Fisher gets a bad rap
    Susan D.
    28 Mar 2022
    10:53pm

    I have worn Eileen Fisher clothing for some years–but no more. For the last several years, her designs have been boringly boxy and dull in color-not to mention unflattering. Not even the models pictured on her website look good in the clothing. I used to be able to find many pieces to buy and I wore them constantly. My most recent foray into the Dallas store was disappointing. There was not a single piece I wanted to try on.

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    melsybelsy
    8 Feb 2022
    11:24am

    I love that you posted this Kim. I started busting out the EF in my late 30’s – the clean aesthetic sings to me. I do think you have to try on her things 1000x over to make sure the drape is just so or it looks very off / can make you look much larger than you are. I am hippy and short waisted and the box top stuff looks horrid on me, but the midi skirts and longer knit tops are wonderful. I make the annual pilgrimage to the Woodbury Commons factory store and always clean up. On my last trip I got THE BEST knit sweater dress – perfect with chunky boots for winter dress up. I think I have to investigate the stand collar jacket now.

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    E E Deere
    8 Feb 2022
    11:24am

    Thanks for giving Eileen Fisher reconsideration. I find that this brand’s fabrics are good quality, they tend to hold their shape and hold their color a lot longer than many other brands. Love the puffer you found.

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    InDesign
    8 Feb 2022
    10:59am

    Incredible. In what is presumably a sponsored post, you manage to serve up the same old tired stereotype about Eileen Fisher, walk it back slightly, but leave the sexist “lady psychiatrist” intact throughout. I will never understand why grown women participate in this kind of bitchiness.

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      Viajera
      8 Feb 2022
      12:11pm

      I don’t see anything wrong with someone being a “lady psychiatrist.” Are you sure you aren’t reading in something that isn’t actually there? I am no expert in fashion ad targeting, but it did always seem to me as if EF were targeted at older women with means who don’t like tight clothing. And I fail to find *that* offensive either. Rich people need clothes too. Who cares? It’s just clothing. Certainly I see no call for the B word. Anyway, I hope the rest of your day goes better.

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        carlene
        8 Feb 2022
        1:33pm

        Well, that was an… unusual take. Is that you, Eileen?

        I can’t remember what my lady psychiatrist wore, to be honest, but she always had cute sandals on & a killer pedicure, even in winter. (I was not great with eye contact).

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          carlene
          8 Feb 2022
          1:34pm

          (My last comment was meant for InDesign)

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      Sarah J
      8 Feb 2022
      11:54am

      Actually, InDesign, it’s your comment that’s kinda bitchy. Kim is clearly praising EF and admitted her previous unfair take on the brand right off the top. If you know Eileen Fisher at all, you should know exactly what she’s talking about, even if you’re too woke to admit it.

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      Kim France
      8 Feb 2022
      11:13am

      This isn’t a sponsored post. I don’t do sponsored posts. And if I did, they’d be labeled as such. As far as being mean to lady psychiatrists, I’m pretty sure I made it clear that I knew that was an unfair generalization.

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        Sharona
        8 Feb 2022
        6:37pm

        What’s the difference between a lady psychiatrist and a psychiatrist?

        I think that as Gs OACA (readers, not just you, Kim) we’re not far enough from being called a girl doctor, a lady shrink, an authoress, all that, to throw the gendered diminishments around. Maybe Gen Z (let’s see how their professional and earnings life works out) , but not us. Not when we’ve at three lady Supreme Court justices and 24 Senatorettes and less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

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      Abigail
      8 Feb 2022
      7:06pm

      Lady psychiatrist here. No offense taken. I grew to love EF after I got over my own stereotypes – my lady lady doctor friend agrees (female obgyn). I will refrain from analyzing anyone else based on their comments and perhaps misplaced anger. 🙂

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      Tanya
      8 Feb 2022
      1:38pm

      The only bitchiness I’m wondering about is yours, InDesign.

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      Praleen
      8 Feb 2022
      6:22pm

      I actually believe that your interpretation is infinitely more troublesome. Full of irritating language and a lack of understanding.

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        Praleen
        8 Feb 2022
        6:23pm

        Meant for InDesign

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    Eloise
    8 Feb 2022
    10:49am

    I am very drawn to both of those hooded jackets and the yellow one may end up – at a minimum – hanging in my cart for a bit. “Pricey” but….

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      Eloise
      8 Feb 2022
      11:21am

      The 15 percent off “welcome to a mailing list I’ll unsubscribe to as soon as I place an order because I have no willpower” promotion pushed the jacket and a mustard terry hoodie you didn’t feature out of my cart and on the way. (Hoping you still get credit if I used your link plus the promo code.)

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        Kim France
        8 Feb 2022
        11:32am

        I do! Thanks, Eloise!

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    E
    8 Feb 2022
    12:31pm

    My husband calls my EF my lesbian art teacher clothes. (and my danskos) I agree w Kim completely, it was not offensive. Hope mines not either.
    Have a great day ladies, happy shopping.

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    Erica
    8 Feb 2022
    10:46am

    Thank you for this! I LOVE EF–she’s got a great business model, uses sustainable material, and the clothing lasts. To say nothing of being comfortable.

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    Lesley Porcelli
    8 Feb 2022
    10:46am

    Eileen Fisher has become #wardrobegoals for me, but it runs into trouble with my other wardrobe goal which is to not default to black, black, black (or other drab neutrals) all the time. I need Eileen Fisher to have a baby with Marimekko or Pee Wee Herman or something.

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      Erica
      8 Feb 2022
      10:48am

      A EF x Marimekko collab would be AMAZING!

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        Eloise
        8 Feb 2022
        10:51am

        YES!! I’d (almost) forgo food for a week for all things EF x Marimekko!

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          Lesley
          8 Feb 2022
          11:44am

          Same! To be fair, the more I thought about it, real Marimekko stuff has a lot in common with EF (good drapes, $$$) which is why the only Marimekko I own is through the Uniqlo collabs. So maybe I can amend this to say EF and Marimekko should collab together with Uniqlo.

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            Eloise
            8 Feb 2022
            11:55am

            The only Marimekko I own is a PERFECT Adidas hoodie recommended by Kim late last year, but I still almost dream of the comforter my dad wouldn’t let me buy to bring to college. He said it would get destroyed in a year and was probably right. (The dad-sanctioned one from JC Penney lasted forever – I *may* have intentionally sacrificed it as part of a fairly recent “cleaning up the painting the garage mess” so that I could get a new spare bedroom blanket! It was ANCIENT – as am I….

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              Lisa
              9 Feb 2022
              10:32am

              My sister and I drove (from suburban NJ) to Bloomingdales in NYC to get my Marimekko comforter for college back in 1982. It was pure Thelma and Louise and totally worth it. I have two perfect scarves from visits to Marimekko stores while in Europe. Other than that, it’s the Uniqlo collab. I agree about Marimekko – EF – Uniqlo dream collab. Would that we could collectively manifest it…

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              Viajera
              8 Feb 2022
              4:10pm

              I predict, someone will snag it at the thrift shop and re-sell it online. And why not?? Good for you for de-cluttering. I totally need to do that too. I am unlike all these other people who had extra free time from the virus. Nope. Still a slob …

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      Mouse
      9 Feb 2022
      7:12am

      I would totally be there for it.

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    LI
    9 Feb 2022
    11:44am

    I really enjoy your unique, deep and insightful take on fashion and the humor! Thanks.

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    JB
    9 Feb 2022
    8:05am

    EF has never had a bad rap as far as I know. I enjoy her system clothing for wrinkle-less work travel and have for at least 10 yrs. Her sweaters are easy. I also enjoy her boots and espadrilles . I don’t like everything but that can be said about every brand.

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      yvrjanice
      9 Feb 2022
      12:39pm

      Eileen Fisher’s shoes are amazing and worth every cent. They are usually very well cushioned which makes them extremely comfortable. My 27 year old daughter is always trying to steal them.

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    CD
    9 Feb 2022
    9:45am

    I like EF as a responsible company trying to reduce waste through its gently used program and using older clothes and fabric to create new items, but for someone tall and thin, the pants are always too short and the tops boxy and shapeless, making me feel anything but well-put together. But everyone is different. As the earlier commenter said, you must try them on to decide if they reflect the best about you.

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    mlinky
    11 Feb 2022
    4:42pm

    I loved EF when I was in my 20’s, and 40 years later I still do. They are classic basics.

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    Marisa
    10 Feb 2022
    10:19pm

    My newly retired elementary-school teacher has worn Eileen Fisher almost exclusively for almost 30 years. No joke. My sister and I used to make fun of her but in the last few years we’ve been stealing random pieces out of her closet – linen shift dresses, boxy sweaters…..What is happening?!

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    Carlene
    9 Feb 2022
    9:57pm

    I remember that. Menocore.

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    DaKu
    8 Feb 2022
    12:44pm

    A lot to like about Eileen Fisher! Great fabrics, they wear and wash well, and they’re great for travel (remember travel?). Pro tip: Once you know your size and style, it’s VERY easy to get extremely lightly worn pieces for much less than retail on ebay and other sites.

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    MaryAlice
    9 Feb 2022
    11:28am

    As a seamstress I appreciate the beautiful fabrics and construction of Eileen Fisher clothes – clearly made to be worn and loved for years – but the loose, boxy cuts and mostly somber colors do nothing for me, and I don’t feel my best in them.

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    Darcy
    8 Feb 2022
    7:17pm

    A few years ago someone said she thought I was a therapist based on how I dressed, which is NOT COOL because I am a designer and would prefer to look like what I am, rather than what I am not. It was a cold bucket of water but there you have it. Anyway, I tell you that bit because relatedly, Eileen Fisher’s clothes mostly look dull, dull, dull on me that’s why I don’t wear them. (Also because, apparently, I’ve already got one foot in the mental health industry door as it is.) SMH.

    Thank you for the clarification re sponsored posts, Kim.

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    cla
    9 Feb 2022
    7:16am

    Enjoying the dialogues here.
    I have loved EF since I was in my twenties. Her fabric choices are
    sumptuous and her commitment to sustainable design is outstanding. Right close in lower Westchester-Irvington is her lab store and up the street a RENEW shop,
    where the sell recycled (donated) clothing for reduced
    prices + a FABULOUS collection of mindfully mended clothing.
    Her jumpsuits are also gorgeous-and honestly, I think the timelessness of her clothing trump GOACA fan favorite Nili Lotan.

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    Mouse
    9 Feb 2022
    7:10am

    I began wearing EF in my late 20s and am now 61. The brand goes through periodic changes as to idea/fit. There was a period where the fit was clearly trying to appeal to what they thought younger women would like; those were my least favorite clothes as I love being in a shapeless sack. 🙂 But seriously, my EF clothes-esp. the older ones– are the ones I wear most, hold up best, have the best fabrics. There is slight variety of merch in their live stores; my favorite is Northampton MA which always has a back area with unusual pieces. Lady psychiatrist meets bohemian academic. I’m just a pair of “whimsical” earrings away from Lady Academic…..

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      JM
      10 Feb 2022
      1:51pm

      That brief era when EF tried to do clothes for “younger” women was my favorite funnily enough! It was the only time when the clothes fit me. I still have several pieces purchased during that blip because they do last. Quality! But now their (beautiful) stuff is mostly a no-go. I have to force myself not to go in the shop because no matter what I can’t let go of the fantasy that some day, I’ll find just the right voluminous, elegant camel or maybe pale gray wool cape that will make me look 5’11 and fierce. And I’ll tell myself this new $500 cape may not look right in the dressing room, but once I get home and add some 5 inch heeled boots it will all be better and magically work. Nope.

      I am cracking up about lady psychiatrist–EF totally was that. Also, You can call me Lady Anything it will make me laugh. In a good way.

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    Lisa S.
    8 Feb 2022
    8:53pm

    Nearly ten years ago, Janet Malcolm wrote a profile of Eileen Fisher and her company for the New Yorker, “Nobody’s Looking at You: Eileen Fisher and the Art of Understatement” (September 23, 2013) and she wrote what I would argue is one of the best descriptions of the Eileen Fisher vibe:

    “There is a wish shared by women who consider themselves serious that the clothes they wear look as if they were heedlessly flung on rather than anxiously selected. The clothes of Eileen Fisher seem to have been designed with the fulfillment of that wish in mind. Words like “simple” and “tasteful” and colors like black and gray come to mind along with images of women of a certain age and class—professors, editors, psychotherapists, lawyers, administrators—for whom the hiding of vanity is an inner necessity.”

    As I get further into my Girl of a Certain Age years, I find it most appealing to join what Malcolm called “a cult of the interestingly plain.” It’s not necessarily a hiding of vanity so much as it is a reconfiguring of which aesthetics matter to me and why they appeal.

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      Betsy Palmer
      9 Feb 2022
      9:30am

      Brilliant take.

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      Koyuki
      9 Feb 2022
      10:08am

      I always remember that article largely because of the incisive and dispiriting observation: “if you walk along the street and look at what women are wearing, you have to laugh at the disparity between the effort that goes into shopping for clothes and the effect this effort achieves.”

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      Wendela
      9 Feb 2022
      1:34am

      (Replying to Lisa S): it’s not an inner necessity for women in “serious” professions to hide their vanity—it has been (historically) an external necessity if you wanted to be taken seriously in a number of male dominated fields. Women who looked like they cared too much about clothes and vanity were not taken seriously and it hurt them professionally. EF clothes walked that line, with good quality clothes that could look good without detracting from gravitas. I think that’s all changing and that there is starting to be room for serious women to wear what they want, but I wanted to comment on that note about “inner necessity”—that just isn’t accurate for women in many professions, at least a decade or more back. I’m glad that is changing some. (Enjoyed the post, Kim!)

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        Lisa S.
        9 Feb 2022
        5:40pm

        For Wendela: I do wonder how much of Malcolm’s generational experiences/biases she brought to her story’s framing — and regional considerations as well. After an adulthood on the west coast, it’s been so apparent that there are different unspoken rules about presentation and professionalism.

        I’m tech-adjacent and what’s been interesting to watch in the nearly-ten-years since this story came out is how the gradual infusion of women in the tech pipeline up to the c-suite has changed the parameters on what’s acceptable to wear.

        I love it when I’m watching a keynote presentation at an industry event and someone in her 40s comes striding out in a leather jacket and skinnies and Maison Margiela shoes; the day a security professional came out in a sheath and fishnets was just a delight. The women are not doing “the men wear t-shirts and sneakers, so I do too,” they’re defining their own power dressing and I’m fascinated by what silhouettes and pieces read as power.

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    Rosemarie
    8 Feb 2022
    3:28pm

    I cracked up when reading your post and then, when I came here to share my cracks, I see there’s a brouhaha. Bah. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Psychiatrist, lesbian art teacher, suburban doyenne. EF has a certain vibe–a positive attribute and a liability–yet nonetheless makes some items that can transcend those labels and are simply good. I’m now curious to see a new angle in their cuts. I first bought a couple of EF things in my late 20s/ early 30s (a touch early, perhaps, ahem) because I liked the origin story and the notion of a system. One purchased item was a highly textured boucle sweater in an olive green/piss green combo that reminded me of the sofa my grandparents had on their enclosed porch in the mid-’70s. (Clothing as memory tribute.) Anyway, her use of vibrant color, texture, and that system appealed. These images reveal less boxy inclinations, a good thing. Will check it out and thanks.

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    KHD
    8 Feb 2022
    5:54pm

    I, too, recently got a couple of EF pieces for the reasons you post. I do wonder if it is just the combo of age, wanting comfort, and having the money to buy their stuff that just happens to come together in one’s 50s…

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    Eloise
    8 Feb 2022
    3:59pm

    Ok, so I need you to take back your praise of EF. Quickly. I just ordered a second round and am STILL debating the nylon hooded jacket — I mean, it’s fleece lined…..if the yellow one doesn’t work I may give it a try. Me and my way more “lesbian art teacher than lady psychiatrist” style may need an intervention.

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    Sandy K
    8 Feb 2022
    4:21pm

    EF also has a resale section where you can buy gently used items and still be covered with returns.

    https://www.eileenfisherrenew.com/

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    Bobby
    8 Feb 2022
    6:49pm

    Kim — re your podcast yesterday. I have ridiculously sensitive skin — the Drunk Elephant facial was way too much for me — I’ve been using the Dennis Gross pads with great results. They come in 3 strengths. Extra, regular and extra gentle, I use the extra gentle, you may want to give them a try when you run out of the Drunk Elephant and see which you like better. Just you know,, FYI….

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    Karin
    14 Feb 2022
    4:20pm

    Kim, I think EF clothes look more appealing to you than years ago, because we’ve all gotten used to boxy, drop-shoulder, shapeless tops and dresses as the new standard due to fast fashion. Clothes that are loose and boxy can be whipped out faster than clothes with, say, set-in sleeves and bust darts.

    I’ve always liked EF and envisioned myself as a woman of a certain age wearing her brand but once I actually got to that age and bought some pieces, I found them unflattering IRL. I still admire the aesthetic in theory, though.

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    Lisa
    9 Feb 2022
    1:18pm

    Re: EF and size inclusivity – the brand is NOT inclusive of big feet. Nothing over a size 10. I’m a size 11 and feel really bitter when I look at the lovely footwear. It’s not ruining my day or anything, but honestly wish they would correct this oversight. It does give me insight into how “plus sized” bodies have felt for ages…no fun to be left out.

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      Lori
      9 Feb 2022
      11:30pm

      I have an old pair of EF size-11 black suede ankle boots, which are great!

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      Rebecca
      9 Feb 2022
      7:36pm

      I’m a size 11 and have bought several pairs of EF shoes over the years. They’re great!

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        Lisa
        11 Feb 2022
        10:17am

        Did they stop making size 11? I have searched high and low – good to know that it’s a possibility (or was?).

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          Lisa
          11 Feb 2022
          10:21am

          Ugh. Maybe time to get the brain checked. I swear I had scoured the internet – it could be that I’m cross-pollinating this idea with the fact that Garnet Hill hadn’t sold size 11’s for a long time. ay ay ay. But hey, now I can buy EF shoes!

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    Eloise
    9 Feb 2022
    7:15pm

    Ok, not that anyone will see this but here is my review of my initial EF order (boots and long sleeve tee are supposed to arrive tomorrow). The stand collar jacket – which is way more “mustard-y” than it looks in the photo above – didn’t thrill me, but a big part of that may be because it is (literally, as in “swish, crinkle, swish, crinkle, hear I come”) LOUD and a bit too “mom windbreaker” for me, but the stupid expensive but apparently well made mustard hoodie I threw in at the last minute appears to be a splurgy keeper. I’m 5′ 2″ and slender-ish and the “PP” is perfectly oversized . https://www.eileenfisher.com/organic-cotton-french-terry-hooded-top-s2aeb-t5675-mustardseed#colorid=3775

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      Eloise
      10 Feb 2022
      4:13pm

      Thoughts on Order Number 2: “Eh, nicely made shoes and shirt but…. Guess I should have quit when I was ahead.” Do like the hoodie that came yesterday a ton, though.

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    Sienna Spencer-Markles
    9 Feb 2022
    12:25pm

    Hi Kim! Great post! I’m 43 and I love me some EF (on sale at Nordstrom!). I have several pants, skirts, and jackets and also my favorite summer wedge sandals in both brown and black. EF = quality, simplicity, chic, comfort. Thanks!

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    Susie Q
    9 Feb 2022
    12:05pm

    It was either in Into The Gloss or Man Repeller a few years ago that one of the younger writers was going on and on about Eileen Fisher and called it ‘Momcore’ and how amazing it was. And I said “only because you are young enough that wearing it looks like a choice, vs those of us who feel like our moms when we wear it”. EF, Chicos, J Jill are the boxy shapes and comfy clothes my (very stylish, but still, she’s in her 80s) mom wears. Add artsy, ‘interesting’ jewelry and the stereotype is true. Wear what you like, I won’t be doing it myself.

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      Jax
      13 Feb 2022
      9:25pm

      Well said, Susie Q. I have the kind of body shape that EF generally never flatters — whether in my 20s or in my 40s, pre- or post-pregnancy. It looks great on lankier, longer, less busty frames.

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    licia
    8 Feb 2022
    1:26pm

    EF “size-inclusive” – not. EF thinks that petite women over a size PL don’t exist.

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    cw
    8 Feb 2022
    1:35pm

    I have some EF garments in my closet that I’ve worn for ten years or more. Her clothes LAST. I agree with MelsyBelsy about trying her garments on––sometimes the drape is off in my size. EF also has a “renew” program where they take gently worn clothes back and sell them again. I believe they give you money for this, but I can’t remember the details. No doubt the info is online somewhere. I appreciate their effort to keep clothes out of landfills. Excellent post, Kim!

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      Kiki
      10 Feb 2022
      3:31pm

      Trying on EF clothes is a must. My closet has items in medium, large and xl because depending on the garment shape, fabric drape, and design, going up or down a size will give an entirely different fit. Makes the difference between feeling chic and feeling schlumpy.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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