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Hell yes, Eileen Fisher

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Eileen Fisher has been on my mind for a couple of reasons lately. Mostly because of that recent (and curious) New Yorker profile of Fisher by Janet Malcolm a few weeks back, but also because people keep asking me about the line, and even sending links to various pieces with notes that read: This is cool, right? Cool is not a word typically associated with Eileen Fisher, but it’s the word that keeps popping up. And I’d say that, based on this boss cashmere poncho that I spied on their website the other day, I’m inclined to agree.

What’s your take on the brand, guys? I’m curious.


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Posted on October 7th, 2013 59 Comments

59 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    I have one dress from EF from a few years ago that I love–gray boiled wool and fitted. But mostly I hate the brand. It is too baggy and too crunchy. Plus they really do not truly have any small sizes. It’s all huge and looks horrible unless you are tall and big boned. And even then why would you want to dress like a weird viking? It all looks like a sack. Give me Theory or Marc Jacobs or even J Crew over this over-priced junk any day. And that NYer profile!!!! Unbelievable. EF sounds like a total nightmare to work with. Or just know in general. That mushy-speak of hers would drive just about anyone insane. I hope her poor employees are well-paid. Or have a giant ass bottle of tequila hidden in their desks.

    • Jo says:

      Hmm… I can’t comment on the article as I have not read it/had access to it, but I have a friend who worked for the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute and loved it (in general, it seemed like a great work environment). Also, since she had a 50% discount and early access to sample sales, she wears a lot of Eileen Fisher, is in her 20s and looks totally fabulous in it. While they definitely market towards older women, the knits are really great quality and look good on people of all ages.

      In general I respect Eileen Fishers commitment to doing good in an industry where most are just trying to make the highest profit while exploiting workers without giving back in any way. The clothes are expensive but you get what you pay for.

  2. Tara says:

    Curious is definitely the right word for that New Yorker profile. There’s something about EF that makes you feel like you’ve admitted you’re old, but I generally like the look I see in advertisements. I tend to wear neutral basics and use shoes and jewelry to make any statements, so I like that about it. I’ve never even tried anything on though, so have no idea how it would actually work for me.

  3. Heather says:

    Totally have mixed feelings about EF. I’m finding myself drawn to the clothes lately…and am not sure if this is because I am getting older (gulp) or beacuse the clothes are getting cooler. Love the poncho.

  4. Lisak says:

    For those of us who ARE tall (5’11”), big-boned gals, I like it. Some of us are actually a size 12 at their skinny weight. Over-priced, though, yes.

    • Suz says:

      Ha 🙂 Very true. I like that its not skewed small like most quality brands. In my family the women (except me) are quite tall and bigger framed so that most brands are not going to work even at skinny. Some of us have shoulders and breasts.

  5. c.w. says:

    I have some EF pieces in my wardrobe. I’m 5’2″ and slim and although most of her pieces are on the large size and I can end up looking like an elderly aunt of the Olsen Twins on their baggier days she also has some pieces that fit me beautifully. I bought her ankle zip skinny knit pants and they are awesome. Her 3/4 sleeve silk t-shirts are lovely and I have a knit jersey dress that I’ve worn tons and every time I do people ask me about it because of the beautiful cut. The clothes are very simple and plain which can be a turn off, but, for me, I’d rather wear fairly simple cuts of clothing (because I’m small and can be overwhelmed) and pair simple that clothing with super cool shoes and nifty jewelry. But that’s me.

  6. Sara says:

    In theory, I like the line’s earth tones, natural fibers and designed, but not trendy style. About two years ago, they came out with a style of cords that are the best pants I have ever owned. They are somehow both elegant and slightly rustic – perfect for my business casual academic job. They have a highish waist that manages to look chic and not momsy, have slim but not skinny legs and are fitted, but not tight. They look good with any top, be it tight or baggy, sweatshirt or silk. I bought them in three colors and get compliments every time I wear them. These pants were my first experience with the line and I was so excited that there would be more items as magical as these cords. But, I’ve checked back and haven’t seen anything else like them on the EF website or in the stores since. The items available now don’t work for me. The tops are often too big and swoopy and the pants a bit too baggy, so for me, I guess the line is just hit or miss.

  7. Caroline says:

    As a rule Eileen Fisher generally makes me depressed..I don’t want to look like a retired psychotherapist who as given up and opted for the mumu and elastic waist band pants..
    However that said , I’ve either taken my first step toward menopause or that’s a great poncho..cause I think I might have to buy it..

  8. Sisty says:

    Some clever fashion writer once described the Eileen Fisher look as “I’ve given up sex and have completely devoted myself to the co-op” (paraphrased). That was a few years back. When I was younger and skinner, I looked good in those somewhat shapeless silk pullovers. now that i’m older and heavier I look dumpy in those, but good in some of her other designs, like s cocoon-shaped black sleeveless dress I wear very often, a shapely (as opposed to boxy) cardigan with a peplum, and believe it or not, harem pants.

    Agreed that she come across in the article as a total whack job, but a fairly benign one. She’s not Donald trump or Leona Helmsley. Oh, look at the time — I’m overdue at the co-op!

  9. Tamara says:

    I have a friend who says EF is the uniform for upper west side therapists. Also great as an alternative to maternity clothes. All in all for the price I’d rather be wearing DVF, Maje, or Theory.

  10. Natalie says:

    Their advertising this season has been much more convincing. I’ve found myself stopping to look more than once. But at 5’4″ (too short) with a job at a non-profit (too poor), I’ve opted not to find out if their clothes are suddenly fabulous this season.

  11. Nancy says:

    An acquaintance of mine refers to Eileen Fisher as “Forever 49.”

  12. Dana says:

    Eileen Fisher used to be my secret. I am a size 4/6 and their PS size was perfect. Some of the items they came out with were incredibly cool, deconstructed, and perfect for travel. Their fabrics are amazing.

    Unfortunately I have lost weight and am now a 2/4, and all of her stuff is too big now. They also switched to numbered sizing which I can’t decipher.

    If you love her stuff it can be found very reasonably priced on eBay.

  13. Linden says:

    Sometimes I’ve bought EF pieces at a discount off eBay and had them altered to fit better. When I was shopping yesterday I noticed that everything in the EF winter line is just way too long for someone of average height. Tunics that fit my bust come down past the top of my knee, and the A-line shapes do me no favors. Also, $178 for a short-sleeved t-shirt? It is to laugh.

  14. Emily says:

    In my early 40s, I had some health problems and gained weight and felt frumpy. I was so depressed trying to fit into my cute clothes that I donated/sold the cute ones and went nuts on Eileen Fisher. What I loved was the quality, the wash-and-wear, the ease of putting together an outfit, and packing for travel. But my whole family–teens and significant other–all said, Oh, God, please no more. You look old.
    And even with my weight gain, I was, in EF, an XS-S size, which says something about the shapelessness of the clothes. So, my health got better, I lost some of my weight and got fit, and am back wearing more interesting clothes. But I still sometimes long for the GRR-ANIMALS simplicity of EF. ANd I bought that poncho, too. It’s the best for plane rides where I wear it with skinny jeans and motorcycle boots. I’d consider EF more regularly, especially for basics, if she made more shapely clothes, with more knee length skirts. I mean, I don’t do super-revealing or tight clothes, but neither am I seeking to swim in fabric.

  15. Caryn says:

    For those of us plus-sized, it is unusual to find any clothing line who is accommodating. I have bought a few EF pieces recently (only on sale) and my aging anarchist punk rock self is happy to have pieces of quality that are also unusual or at least not dowdy. Not all of it fits right, or hits where I need it to hit, but there is a skirt I wear so often I wish I had bought two.

    Thanks for the eBay tip.

    I don’t care where I buy things if they fit and are decent quality.

    My challenge with EF is that the stores that carry plus sizes don’t have everything and ordering online requires a sprint to return in-store or paying postage to send back.

  16. Meg says:

    I like her clothes because they’re well-made and can make good wardrobe staples. The prices are crazy, but I’m fortunate to have Nordstrom Rack nearby. I bought a lovely cardigan for my sister at 80% off (which I nearly kept for myself) and she loves it. The knit is varied, the front is wavy and drapes beautifully. Her college-aged daughters like it too, which leads me to believe it’s not too un-cool. I’ll continue to look for her label at the Rack…during their clearance sale :o)

  17. Tea says:

    Can’t do it. Buying Eileen Fisher makes me feel frumpy no matter how chic the item. It’s a mental thing, but I can’t get over it.

  18. Daphne says:

    The long wool crepe cardigans, while shapeless on the hangar, look fantastic belted over skinny pants and travel flawlessly. As do the machine washable silk basics. Overall the design seems to be getting a little more interesting but everything still runs big. That profile rang false; can anyone be that vague and flaky and still build a brand like EF? Made me sorry for the designers who actually have to work for her.

  19. ew says:

    wow. such vehement reactions over a clothing line!
    Seriously EF has traditionally been a conservation stalwart. Not EVERYONE wants to or needs to trot around in latest and greatest style of the moment, nor do they desire to dress as though they thought there was a way to appear to still be 35 despite having a better body at 49 than than most 30 year olds.
    That said, EF line has become much more contemporary over the last few seasons. The quality of the fabrics and treatment of the workers demands the high prices. FOr comparison, I find Vince and Rag and Bone very similar in approach and quality but much much higher priced. So really, isn’t it all just a matter of bias?
    Love the poncho though. Ditto on the ‘runs big’ comment but hey its not like its a BigDeal anyway.

    • Gail says:

      I actually bought my first EF piece last year (I am approaching 49, so that’s probably why). I got a screaming deal for the dress at Nordstrom Rack, but have been dissapointed because after a few washings the jersey material is completely pilled. I followed the washing directions on the tag, too, but it looks like crap! So much for high quality! If I had paid the original $250 for the dress that it was priced at I would have actually gone back to the store and made a big stink.

    • CC says:

      This seems a touch defensive. Personally I don’t see much overlap between Rag and Bone and Vince and Eileen Fisher; at a minimum, the first two brands have arguably much more consistent sizing.

      My mother bought me a dress at Eileen Fisher which was much too large for me – a medium (I’m 5’6″ and about a 2-4). I returned it for a merino sleeveless collared vest, in grey, which is a bit Vince/Inhabit-like, and I like it, but had to get the smallest size, PS or PXS or whatever, and it’s still a bit big.

    • Sara says:

      @EW: My take is that the only “vehement reaction” has been yours. I appreciate the range of comments and opinions that this blog elicits and hope they keep coming. As a woman of a certain age, I’ve learned that I really don’t want to be silenced, or to silence others. There’s room for it all.

      • ew says:

        seriously? Referring to the comments that fall into the ‘EF is for the fat, old, shapeless, and my favorite – sexless upper west side therapist’ category. These are not condemnable offenses, and its weird to assign such gross generalizations to the wearers of an apparel line.

      • Viajera says:

        I think you two are having a misunderstanding. I don’t think EW was referring to Sara.

        I agree some of the comments might seem harsh if someone who wears EF felt that they were directed at her — however, I don’t think that was anyone’s intention.

  20. Turner says:

    If you stick to certain dark pieces and buy the smallest size possible it can look basically like the same kind of items from Helmut Lang. Maybe this is more telling re HL these days but there you go.

  21. Dianne says:

    Some stuff is great, some stuff is meh, and all of it its too expensive! I have a few EF pieces bought at the “outlet” store that used to be in Nyack. Linen. I wear them every summer. I call it elegant rich hippie. As for the runs big issue, well I run big as well so it always fits, though doesn’t always flatter.

    On the whole, I say yes, but only on sale.

  22. Michelle says:

    I can only comment on the New Yorker profile, which I thought was odd and a little pointless, not to mention unnecessarily mean. I realize that to an outsider a lot of companies have a corporate culture and lexicon that can be spoof-worthy, but Eileen Fisher’s workplace at least seems like a positive place for female employees(unlike most other corporate environments). Also — what was Janet Malcolm’s obsession with the outdoor cat?

    • janet says:

      Agreed. I think the profile was odd and biased, more because of the writer than anything else. Malcolm’s issue with the cat was pretty off base.

  23. joannawnyc says:

    I have never tried EF at all, although I keep meaning to get something on sale. It seems like the uniform of women who can afford to spend money on not caring what they look like. I suspect I am too short-waisted for much of it.

    As for the NYer profile, wtF was up with that? It made me think that Janet Malcolm has gone insane.

  24. Diane says:

    I too have a love/hate relationship with EF but over the years have learned to curb my inclination to wear their baggy non-flattering silhouettes. As already noted they seem to be adding more body-con items to the roster — I got their “lantern” skirt a while back — it is fun while also being age appropriate. I especially enjoy the quality of their textiles and construction. I also think EF is good for basics — some t-shirts in fun colors, comfy black wide-legged slacks for summer. What I don’t like is that the sizing seems all over the place and I never end up wearing the same size — it is totally unreliable and depends so much on the style, cut, etc.

  25. mlinky says:

    Hit or miss. I have a few pieces of EF that are wardrobe staples. For example, I bought a fabulous black tank maxi that fits perfectly; nicely shaped but just skims the bouncy bits. Got it on sale for $100, and it has paid for itself many times over. OTOH, much of the line is just ugly and old.

  26. caro says:

    That was a very strange profile piece! But interesting. I loved how the women of EF struggled to define exactly How they did what they did even though they are clearly very successful at it.

  27. Cynthia says:

    I bought a glorious ink blue linen lantern skirt from Eileen Fisher and I love it and want to wear it every day. If you actually go to where the clothes live and touch them they are very tempting. Well made and great fabric textures.

  28. lizzie says:

    i love eileen fisher because it shows my head off. that is the point of living- our face, our smile, our eyes! and who wants to look like a christmas tree? especially now? what a relief to throw on some well fitting, well made clothes that help me focus on the important things in life…
    also, let us “normal” sized women have a few things we can buy?

  29. yunah says:

    -i read in nyt i think that EF means that you’re going gently into the night.
    -like almost everything else in clothes, EF can look great on tall thin women who know how to style it,
    -yes, the NY’er thing was odd, b/c you don’t really read too many portraits of man CEO/founders that go so personal.
    -and, yes kim, that poncho is kind of nice……

  30. A. says:

    I’m also plus-sized and close to a Nordstrom Rack, and have over the years accumulated a few EF pieces that really do their job well. I don’t buy them often, but when I do, they’re an instant favorite. EF head-to-toe is a tough look to pull off, but some of the shapes are so clean but interesting; they play well off other things. They’re dependable but open-ended enough not to be boring.
    Also, it’s not easy finding plus-size lines done with silk, wool, and cashmere.

  31. déjà pseu says:

    I make no secret of my love of Eileen Fisher clothing. Some, not all. There are different cuts that suit different bodies. That said, I’m very petite, and stick to the narrower, usually longer styles. (I’m 5’1″ and usually a size 4.) Their organic cotton skinny jeans fit and feel like a dream. I’ve had some of the basic pieces for *years.* Most are washable and they travel well. I think if you avoid the really Eskandar-esque voluminous stuff, you can build a really nice wardrobe of basics that works well with other lines like Helmut Lang, Alice + Olivia, Sandro, Vince, etc. Favorite piece this season is definitely the waxed cotton moto jacket. For those of us who are either petite or plus-sized, the options out their for good quality wardrobe basics are limited, and EF is one of the lines that’s addressing that need.

  32. Janet says:

    I have several EF sweaters I have bought when marked down several times. I like the occasional piece – the overall look is way too frumpy.

  33. Lynn in Tucson says:

    I thought it was just me! I often love the ads but can’t wear the clothes. At just shy of 5’6″ and a size 4-6, I get lost in them.

  34. msmezzo says:

    I have a closet full of Eileen Fisher….some of her sweaters I have had for 10 years, the asymmetrical cuts are amazing and the quality is wonderful. I am now addicted to her harem pants, which my husband hates, but I love them like a drug. I DON’T always like the quality, or how the fabrics hold up in the laundry, and the black silk jersey must be dry cleaned or it just looks bad after awhile. Every woman I know that wears EF looks effortlessly chic, not frumpy. Maybe we’re doing it wrong.

  35. tam in tampa says:

    I grapple with this. I’m 42 and have really gravitated toward EF, probably because I’m so sick of seeing women my age dress like strippers in Florida. I like EF because it’s easy to find, easy to travel in and most pieces are lightweight enough for hot weather. I also love the Garanamals nature of the line — I can put together an outfit and look coordinated. Yet I wonder whether I look old and frumpy.

    Oh, and I bought one of the new ponchos for a trip to the mountains. The poncho is awesome.

  36. Mimi says:

    I’ve never tried anything by EF on, nor have I wanted to. To me, it says, “I’m old and sexless, and I’ve let my body go.” The New Yorker profile convinced me that Eileen has style, and looks good in those clothes, but I can’t think of anyone else who does. It’s odd, because I like simplicity, minimalism and clean lines, but EF doesn’t speak to my preppy, tailored streak. The women in the ads look more granola than stylish.

  37. radiogrl1 says:

    I have a cousin who works for them so I get her discount. That said, I have two pencil skirts I absolutely adore (gray and black), the black ankle-zip pants mentioned upthread, a perfect gray knit t-shirt dress, a black silk tank dress that I beat to death and it still looks amazing, a white linen summer dress…a bunch of other pieces, too.
    I like some of what she carries and find other pieces boring and yes, I wouldn’t have nearly as much if I didn’t get the discount.

  38. Viajera says:

    See, I would have never considered even trying any of it on (at the Rack, natch), but now maybe I will.

    Cause it sounds as if maybe EF lets the designers kind of do what they want, which is why they’re all over the map and therefore, perhaps, interesting.

    But lack of size consistency is just annoying. They should fix that. Still, you-all make me think it might be worth checking out. It’s hard to find lightweight fabric, even in LA. It’s too hot to wear most jeans in the summer here. And, cotton moto!!??? Where have you been all my life?

    My reaction to her ads is, “wow, what a pretty, skinny, tall model that is. Bet that would look like cr*p on me.” Perhaps I’m wrong though.

  39. Judi says:

    Oh, Kim, I love you (even more) for this post! I can’t believe how many people still think EF is frump-tastic…I’m a fairly stylish 50-year-old who, until last year, had a fairly high-up position in a fairly major NYC museum, and 90% of my wardrobe is EF. I started wearing her about 20 years ago, when I couldn’t afford Rei Kawakubo and the EF cuts were similar (no surprise, reading Janet Malcolm’s profile). I still have pieces that are more than 10 years old. Pretty much any time someone says, “What a great piece,” it’s EF. My latest passion: a shimmering silver linen skirt that is not at all psychotherapist grandma wear. And the cuts are great for hiding, er, age-related body issues. Sorry to go on and on–but really, EF has some of the best stuff around (that and J. Crew jeans; forever perfect). Tip: Check out this fall’s Switch boot…

  40. ramonaquimby says:

    Huh…I’m a 35 year old and would totally be on the EF bandwagon, but the quality seems pretty terrible, though from other commenters it seems this isn’t the case? I do think some of the stuff is cool (like that poncho!) in a slightly plainer Erica Tanov kind of a way. That plus most people my age aren’t going to be wearing it (yet) and because of my age/style it’s probably not going to look all that frumpy on me (yet). But…I went into the store on Madison Ave a few months ago and found it lacking…has it gone downhill or should give it another try? Seems to have so much potential but maybe I missed the boat.

  41. Kate says:

    I like the look of it, and the styling in pictures, and the fabric is always good… but the fit is always, always awful. Boxy. Frumpy. Hits at the exact wrong unflattering spot on the bod, bags out in a way precisely calculated to make me look my worst, oldest and most shapeless. I keep trying things on when I run across them, but so far EF is a big, much-too-expensive Hell No for me. (I should be all over it. I’m medium-sized and right in the thick of the forties, and have loved boxy shapeless clothes since the 80s… but so much no.)

  42. Abby says:

    I also found that article very odd, I wanted to talk about it with someone and am glad to read the comments here!

    I have always thought I didn’t have the right build for EF clothing (petite with curves), but I increasingly suspect that if I do some digging, I could find some comfortable building blocks.

    I struggle a lot with materials and comfort, thanks to some health things, but I’ve somehow felt like going to EF would be giving in/giving up. I probably need to get over that.

  43. Suz says:

    I am dipping a toe into eileen fisher….it really is a case by case thing, and it needs to be seen on a real body as the lanky model types seem to swim in her pieces. I don’t think I would ever buy an entire outfit, but some of her pieces do appeal – though I generally size down to avoid baggy. My biggest complaint is that I wish she would veer away from the dark charcoal. Everything I like seems to be in black (which I wear but am trying to diversify) and charcoal. If she offered more deep navy, green or dark browns – I would be dropping a lot more cash.

  44. Dana says:

    The EF ads have been catching my eye lately but when I see them in person they look frumpy so I don’t try them on.

  45. Mary Alice says:

    Weirdly, something about EIleen Fisher clothes enrages me. I don’t know why I have this visceral reaction – they feel apologetic to me, as though ladies our age feel the need to wear loose fitting clothing in mordant shades of grey and black and beige that are completely devoid of sexuality. They seem to attract a certain