When did J.Crew get cute?
Ever since college, I have lived in fear of J.Crew. This was not because the preppy retailer's clothes were ubiquituous on my college campus (although they were); rather, I was always spooked out beyond belief, because whenever I arrived in my new dorm room, there was a brand new J.Crew catalogue with my name on it waiting for me. It's like J.Crew knew where I was living before I did. J.Crew then fell on some hard times, but Mickey Drexler, the former head of Gap Inc., has since taken over and the company's sales have definitely rebounded. Still a bit afraid of the 'Crew, I've tried to ignore them as much as possible, but even though I was freaked out to see a catalogue in my mailbox last week, I decided to flip through it in the name of research. And I'm glad I did, because, damn, the clothes are cute. Gone are the random color names (moss, pond, etc.); and instead of shapless basics, J.Crew now offers modern, stylish takes on preppy classics. H&M it ain't, but that's exactly the point. And while I'm hesitant to order anything, for fear I'll get a new catalogue every week like I used to in college, I think I might just have to bite my tongue and get on with it. I love this Wellesley cable blazer, a kind of hybrid between the cable-knit cardigan and the blazer (Isli makes a similar version for $368). The beaded officer jacket is a little trendier (and more expensive), but the beading is adorable and helps to soften the military styling. I hate to say it, but it's almost better than anything Marc Jacobs could do. Speaking of Marc, this ballet flat reminds me of the quilted style he put out for fall--except I like this one way better, because it's a bit less trendy and more classic, meaning you can wear it for more than one season, without people saying, "Isn't that the Marc ballet flat from fall 2005?" Even the flannel-lined chino, a J.Crew classic, looks fresh to me--instead of a boring plaid, the flannel lining is a fun cherry print. I was also pleased to find that, just like they used to, J.Crew still offers $20 off your $100 order with a coupon from the catalogue. Because not only does J.Crew always know where I live, they also know I'm a sucker for coupons.

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