As a woman of a certain age (i.e., mid-twenties), it’s hard to escape from ModCloth. Or at least that’s been my experience. Its ads are plastered all over my Facebook homepage, its pins are scattered throughout my Pinterest dashboard, its tweets and tumblr posts are retweeted and reposted, and its devotees seem to be everywhere.
I’ve been a ModCloth evangelist in my day. I’ve recommended the site to friends, subscribed to the newsletter, and, of course, bought stuff. I spent a good deal of my college years in ModCloth ensembles. As an indie type with occasional vintagey leanings, it’s never been difficult for me to find items there that satisfy my particular style(s). I have a certain little black Lovely Day dress bought there that makes me feel incredibly sexy every time I put it on. I get it.
But there has always been a common theme with my ModCloth purchases, save for the Lovely Day dress (which I only ever wear once or twice a year): they disintegrate. Or break. Or fall apart. Or pill and wear like crazy. Or don’t fit like they’re supposed to. I’ll admit, in my lust for all things kitschy and quirky, I may have occasionally purchased sizes or styles that don’t work with my frame, but that’s no excuse for low quality and poor construction. And that’s exactly what ModCloth is: cute cheap(ish) crappy stuff.
A few examples from over the years:
- A navy ruffle-front cardigan that developed a hole in the armpit within a few months.
- A pale blue off-the-shoulder dress that came with loose threads flying from all of the seams.
- A pair of (not inexpensive) faux-leather riding boots that developed literal holes in the heels by the end of their first winter.
- A pair of patterned tights that were running by the end of their first day on the job.
- A sweater billed as “supersoft” that had the texture of bargain-bin toilet paper.
And, most egregiously (and still hanging around in my closet, and I know, I know, I should have returned them, but I still have some delusional hopes of fixing them): a pair of adorable blue suede flats that broke within forty five minutes of my putting them on for the first time. At that point, all I had done with them was walk outside my apartment, climb onto the bus, sit for a twenty-minute bus ride, walk into my office, and sit down at my desk. This was obviously just way too much for the shoes.
After the blue suede shoes incident, which was only a few months ago, I swore I was done. No more being drawn in by clever punny names. No more swooning over pretty patterns and cutesy descriptions. There are better things to buy, I decided, and better places to buy them. No more ModCloth.
I’m hardly the first person to have had these types of encounters with ModCloth. It’s never uncommon, browsing the site (especially the sale section), to run across multiple items with more negative reviews than positive ones. A quick Google search dug up plenty of shoppers who had taken their disappointment off-site:
- ModCloth, I Love You. So Why Do You Suck?
- ModCloth Might Be Ripping You Off
- Who’s Screwing Who?
- 46% Rating on SiteJabber
- ModCloth Complaints Board (not on the actual ModCloth website)
Of course, people who have paid money for a product and are disappointed tend to be more vocal than those who have positive experiences, and you can find negative opinions about almost everything on the Internet. And not all of this is necessarily the fault of ModCloth itself (although employer reviews by current and former employees aren’t the best, either—one describes the company as “a sinking ship”). ModCloth is not a designer or a manufacturer: it sources items from other companies, which does put a welcome focus on smaller designers.
But even though they don’t make them, why would a company sell such terrible products? Well, because they look good, and people will buy them. It’s clear that the company tends to privilege cute and (relatively) cheap over quality. There’s no accountability here, no visible structure in place to ensure that the products being sold are of decent quality and that all of those women paying $64.99 for a sundress are actually going to get a sundress worth $64.99 (and don’t just go to Forever 21 to get the same thing for $29.99). Even on the company’s About Us page, there is no statement of responsibility.
This lack of accountability extends beyond the quality of the products sold, and into those products’ origins. Because ModCloth is a retailer, they aren’t responsible for sourcing materials and overseeing production. That’s the designer’s job; ModCloth deals only with the sale of the final product. But nowhere, or at least nowhere publicly visible, does the company declare any codes of conduct for its designers regarding supply chains, manufacturing, or materials used. And it makes sense, when you think about it: if you’re buying a lacy floral black-and-cream party dress for $44.99 (down from $64.99), it’s a fair bet that a) the materials aren’t going to be of the best quality, which means they probably aren’t going to be particularly earth-friendly, and b) the person who made that dress and sewed those lacy flowers (or, more likely, ran the machine that sewed those lacy flowers) probably didn’t get paid a whole lot.
It’s not ModCloth’s doing if a product is made in a sweatshop through harmful chemical processes that endanger the health of workers and the environment. They don’t make those clothes; they only sell them. And statistically speaking, some of their stuff is, undoubtedly, sustainably sourced and produced. However, the company offers no statement regarding any vetting process for suppliers, no written policy indicating a commitment to retailing responsibly and sustainably made products.
You would think, if a company had such a policy, they’d publicize it. That would be a selling point, particularly for ModCloth’s target demographic of young creative indie types. So the lack of any such stated policy strongly suggests that there is no such policy. If it’s cute, ModCloth will sell it, regardless of where it came from or how good it is. They don’t even have a “green option,” as does Asos (below), or a sorting feature that will allow you to look only for sustainably-made collections.
I like to expect a little more than a season’s (or forty-five minutes’) wear from my clothes, and I like to feel good about wearing them. Hence my refrain: no more ModCloth.
You should never describe a problem without offering a solution. So where to shop, then? Where to find similarly cute dresses, cardigans and shoes? Where do we buy our indie-ish vintage-ish colorful quirky clothes?!
Fortunately, there are a lot of options better than ModCloth. Try these on for size (sorry)…
- Asos Green Room: dresses, skirts, tops, accessories, bags, bottoms, socks and tights, S-L, in varying price ranges.
- Serrv: unique fair trade and eco-friendly clothing, food and housewares. Clothing in sizes S-XL at prices comparable to ModCloth. I’m fortunate enough to have a brick-and-mortar Serrv in my city and it’s by far my favorite offline place to shop.
- Boden (USA site): UK-based department store filled to the brim with ethically made clothing, accessories, outerwear, and shoes, in a multitude of styles and sizes and at almost any price point. I love Boden. I love Boden so much. I just look at it all the time.
- Twice: secondhand clothing at super low prices, in all kinds of sizes. You can find designer stuff here, and shopping secondhand is always good for the environment (and your wallet 😀 )
- Diane Kennedy: Canadian sustainable fashion designer focusing on plus sizes. A lot of her vintage-inspired stuff is also available at Cherry Velvet, a plus size boutique offering “beauty from a bygone era.”
- Raven + Lilly: clothing, jewelry and accessories made by female artisans in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan and the U.S. at fair trade wages. Their stuff is gorgeous and effortless. Clothing in sizes S-L, at a higher price than ModCloth, but that money is going to give marginalized women access to fair income, healthcare and education.
- Bibico: UK-based maker of ethical clothing, shoes and accessories. International shipping is a flat £8, or ~$13 depending on exchange rates. Some of their stuff actually occasionally shows up on ModCloth. Sizes UK8-UK12.
- Annie Greenabelle: Another UK-based designer (with a similar shipping cost) that focuses on eco-friendly fabrics and ethical manufacturing. ModCloth-y prices, sizes 6-14.
- People Tree: UK again, sorry, but…so many dresses, so little time! Fair trade and environmentally responsible accessories, clothing and gifts. Some of their stuff is also for sale in the Asos Green Room.
Obviously, this is only a small sampling of the options available out there, and a few more places to shop can be found on my Where I Shop page. I know this post feels pretty hipsterish (“Look at me, not into this thing that everyone else thinks is cool!”), and I’m sorry for that. Let me be clear: ModCloth is not a Big Evil Corporation, and nobody is evil for shopping there. They do have cute stuff, and sometimes you can find good quality. The major problem I have, aside from the shoe thing (forty-five minutes! They lasted forty-five minutes!) is the lack of accountability; I don’t like putting something on my body when I don’t know where it came from and how it was made. ModCloth’s main selling point has always been its “uniqueness”—but why not be really unique, and escape the ModCloth bubble? Your clothes will last longer, your money will go farther, and you’ll feel better. And you won’t run into this horseshit: