Build a better wardrobe with Trunk Club, Nordstrom's online personal styling service

Julianne Ross, CNN Underscored
Thu May 9, 2019

Online shopping can help you avoid long lines and ghastly dressing room lighting, but it still can't pick out what actually looks good on you. Trunk Club, an online personal shopping service from Nordstrom, seeks to take the guesswork out of buying clothes by pairing you with a stylist, who hand-picks outfits based on your tastes and sends them directly to your door.

There are a lot of online personal styling services these days, which can be a great option for those who struggle to find things they love to wear or simply don't have time to shop. But Trunk Club seeks to differentiate itself through its high level of personalization and quality offerings; you'll talk to a real live stylist throughout the process, and Trunk Club's time-tested brands are all pulled from Nordstrom's extensive inventory.

How does it work?

Signing up for Trunk Club is free. First, you'll fill out a short questionnaire to give stylists a sense of your tastes. Questions cover things like your typical weekday style — whether you trend business casual or live in yoga pants — any colors and patterns you avoid, how high you like your jeans, and so forth. You can to talk to your designated stylist as much as you want, either via the phone or the company's online messenger service, to work through your preferences in more detail.

Trunk Club will email you a list of the six to 10 items in your "trunk" two days before sending the actual clothes, giving you a chance to swap sizes or colors, leave your stylist notes, or nix anything you know isn't going to work. Clothes are then shipped to your door for free within four to six business days. You'll have five days after the clothes arrive to try everything on. Buy only what you love, and send back the rest (via free UPS pickup, a prepaid shipping label, or in person at any Nordstrom store). There's a nonrefundable $25 styling fee per trunk (waived for Nordstrom cardholders), but this is credited toward any items you decide to keep.

You can request to receive trunks at certain intervals (monthly or seasonally), but note that this isn't a subscription service. That's good news for those of us who don't necessarily want another recurring cost to keep track of. Instead, you can reach out for a new trunk on your own schedule — whether it's time for a seasonal wardrobe refresh or you've got a specific event coming up.

You can keep working with the same stylist for each trunk, but if that person's not nailing it, you can also request a new one.

The offerings

Nordstrom's inventory spans everything from T-shirts to ball gowns and will suit a variety of budgets, though items in general do tend to be pricier than those offered by similar shopping services (such as the popular Stitch Fix). Of course, Trunk Club is pulling from a selection of trusted, higher-end brands. The company says that "wardrobe staples such as tees, denim, and sweaters" typically run in the $40-$300 range, while "workwear essentials and more formal clothes start around $200."

Pieces skew toward the classic end of the style spectrum, with frequent picks from brands like J. Crew, Theory, Splendid, Madewell and Paige for women; Bonobos, James Perse, Eton and Ted Baker for men. The company also makes an effort toward inclusive sizing, with petite, plus, big and tall, and maternity options.

In-person styling

Trunk Club also has six brick-and-mortar locations — in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington — where you can meet a stylist for a face-to-face styling session. The clubhouses are tastefully decorated and feature a complimentary bar "complete with craft beer, wine, champagne, and spirits" to make the process relaxed, enjoyable, and as unlike a crowded department store as possible. While this obviously lacks the convenience factor of online shopping, this level of personal attention sets Trunk Club further apart from its competitors.

Who will like Trunk Club best?

Trunk Club will work especially well for those with higher clothing budgets and a love for classic style. If you're already a Nordstrom aficionado, the service is a no-brainer. The $25 styling fee is waived when you use your Nordstrom credit or debit card, and all Trunk Club purchases count toward your regular Nordstrom rewards account. The company also recently launched "You Pick," a feature that lets users add up to three items of your choice to each trunk from a list of curated basics and accessories (think socks, underwear, jewelry and ties).

While some might bristle at the concept of having a stranger shop for them, there's definitely something to be said for handing the reins over to a professional. Regardless of whether you love everything in your trunk, Trunk Club offers a fun way to learn more about your own style and try things you might otherwise never pick out for yourself.