Review :: Amazon Echo Look

I’ll start this post by saying the Amazon Echo Look is on mega-sale right now for just $50 bones. I bought it for $100 (half of the suggested price of $200 that I don’t think they’ll ever, ever raise it to) and LOVE it - so grabbing it for half of half is an even better deal right now! Not sponsored and all that bologna. Okay - moving on.

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I picked up the Amazon Echo Look during the Prime Day sale this year. I honestly wasn’t sure what I’d do with it or if I’d even use it, but the promo video looked cool and I figured it might be a great way to keep track of outfits on the days that I couldn’t be bothered to blog. As you’ve probably seen over the past few months, it HAS helped with that - I love how easy it is to say “Echo, take a photo!” and then head out the door in the morning.

So what does it DO? Basically, you perch Echo Look somewhere in your house and it uses its Amazon brains to take a photo of your outfit whenever you ask it to. It stores them all in the Echo Look app, where it build recommendations, collections, and helps you choose between outfits.

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The app organizes your outfits by day and month, but you can also filter them by color for quick searching. It does a fairly good job of filtering, although I did a test with red and while it caught all of the outfits that were red, it included a few that had no red at all.

It also makes recommendations based on your top colors for the month! It’s really cool seeing stats about what you’ve worn over the month and learn more about how you use your wardrobe.

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Whenever you take an outfit photo, Echo takes notes on the weather and gives you personalized recommendations to go with the pieces you’re wearing.

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Echo also creates collections for you based on the weather or season, and it tries to guess if outfits are dressy or casual to create collections as well. The more you log, the more options you have to go back and look for outfit inspiration!

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One of the cool features is the Style Check, where you can pit two outfits against each other and Echo’s AI will tell you which one is more flattering based on fit, accessories, or color. If you don’t like what the machine says, you can ask the community (aka real people) to vote instead. I’ve found that 90% of the time it gets it right, though!

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This particular outfit I put on I was annoyed with how the shirt fit under the dress, so I ended up taking it off and putting on the vest instead. According to Echo’s technology, it actually liked my second version better and said “the combination of pieces” was more flattering.

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I personally like the blurring feature that Echo uses (they call it “Pop”) because I can hide piles of junk behind me or open closet doors. It’s not perfect, but it does the trick. You can edit that out, as well as edit the brightness/warmth/saturation/etc right inside of the app. The attached flash actually does a great job of lighting evenly (I’m usually blind for a few minutes after), but I positioned mine so that I face windows for some extra light.

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For the best results, I recommend placing Echo at your chest or higher for the most flattering photos. I mounted mine on a Gorillapod and put it on top of my full-length mirror, which I think makes me look much leaner. I also experimented with a few positions around my house for the best backdrop - you want minimal “junk” so it’s not too distracting, and the photos look best when there’s a little distance between you and the background. The photos I’ve seen that look best are in empty, white rooms, but I actually live in my house so that’s not an option. The Echo does come with mounting plates if you want to hang it on the wall in your closet, hall, or even garage. I’ve found that my #OOTD mirror is perfect because I’m checking it anyway before I walk out, so I can just tell her to snap a photo and I’m on my way.

Oh, and if you have multiple Alexas in your house, you might want to change her trigger word. We have an Echo Dot in the bedroom and she got really huffy when I said, “Alexa, take a photo!” and said she couldn’t do that. I changed the Look’s word to be “Echo” so she’s the only one that takes that command and it’s worked like a charm.

So you may be wondering - who on earth would want this thing? It’s a very niche product, I will admit. It’s a great gift for fashionistas, outfit cataloguers, capsule wardrobers, and tech queens. Personally, I love it because it’s given me a second set of eyes; I often check my photo if I’m not sure about an outfit just to see how it really looks on me, and I use the style check often when I can’t get an outfit quite right. I also love looking back over the month and seeing which pieces I repeated often, and sometimes draw inspo from old outfits when I can’t be bothered to put together something new.

All in all, the Echo Look is a bit of a gimmick. Amazon is clearly using it to appeal to the fashion crowd, hoping they’ll sell some shopping addicts things through recommendations. I’m interested to see how they continue to adapt and grow the technology, though. Being able to tag items, see what you’re wearing the most, and further customizing recommendations for shopping all are features I’d like to see in the future.

Any other Echo Look users out there? I’d love to know what you think! If you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them. Also, make sure you check out the #EchoLook hashtag on Instagram to see how other fashionistas are using theirs.

PS - this is not sponsored, I definitely spent $100 bucks on this thing, but I don’t regret it because

~ * bLoGcOnTeNt ~ *

The one where I let an app dress me for a week

I've written before about the eternal struggle of getting ready in the morning. When I worked in advertising, I felt the need to put a little effort into my look since I was occasionally client-facing. Now that I'm tucked away in a cubicle in startup world, my look has further evolved into more of what I like to think of as "effortless." Effortless in the sense that, I put on jeans and a tee and that's as much effort as you're going to get.

Enter: Cladwell. I got an email from their founder announcing their new "outfits" app and loved the concept - each day, the app serves up three outfit combinations based on the weather and what you've tagged as part of your closet.

Unlike other closet curation apps like StyleBook (which I have used for years and also not used for years), you don't have to take pictures of your clothing to add it to your closet, Instead, Cladwell has curated 100s of articles of clothing and shoes to represent what's in your closet. They're not all going to be an exact match, but when "patterned blouse" pops up in my suggestions, I just choose from the 3 blouses I have that match that description. My "tie front blouse" is actually short sleeved. I know what it means. I use each piece as a suggestion, not a bible.

So I decided to do an experiment and let the app dress me for a week. I'll detail what I learned at the bottom, but here's what Cladwell served up for seven days of outfits:

Monday: Sunny, H 81‎°  L 50‎° 

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Today's outfit just took note of the high, which was looking to be a rather warm afternoon. However, my office tends to be pretty cold and it was breezy this morning, so I threw on a jacket over the suggested outfit of the day. See? I'm already improvising.

Top, Elizabeth & Clark // Pants, Old Navy // Shoes, Zara (similar)

Tuesday: Sunny, H 85‎°  L 65‎° 

I didn't really need a jacket today, but I liked the idea of this outfit and thought it looked cute. The bomber was actually useful during office hours, but I shed it for the evening when we went to a baseball game.

Jacket, StitchFix (similar) // Tee, Loft // Jeans, Express // Shoes, Adidas

Wednesday: H 72‎°  L 62‎° with Surprise Rain

Maybe the forecast said rain and I wasn't listening while getting ready, but today's shoes were not prepared for torrential downpour! I was fine most of the day (which I'm guessing the app was betting on), but the rain rolled in at 5 pm just in time for me to take off my taupe suede and walk barefoot to the car. No cute photos today, but the shoes were saved.

Shirt, H&M // Jeans, Banana Republic // Shoes, Steve Madden 

Thursday: Rainy, H 68‎° L 60‎° 

More pigtails for a cloudy, rainy, gross day. I actually worked from home this day, so I just snapped a quick pic before heading to the radio station to record. 

Sweater, Forever 21 (love this thing, on sale for $10!) // Jeans, JustFab // Flats, Gucci

Friday: Sunny, H 89‎°  L 80‎° 

Thanks to the humidity to the days before, Friday was steeeeamy. I stepped it up when deciding between my three outfits and went with a skirt. I had an event later that evening I changed into a dress for, so these shoes were able to do double duty.

Tee, H&M // Skirt, JustFab // Wedges, Forever 21 (similar)

Saturday: Sunny, H 80‎°  L 68‎° 

Another gorgeous weekend in the books. This is one of my favorite dresses to just throw on and go, so I almost ALWAYS wear it when the app suggests. Didn't really need the jacket during the day, but it got cooler and windy when we were patio'ing and it turned out to be a great thing to have.

Dress, Calson // Jacket, Gap // Wedges, JustFab

Sunday, Partly Sunny, H 84‎°  L 70‎° 

Definitely starting to feel more summery in the Natural State now that June is almost here, so I let it flow a bit for the weekend in a camisole, ripped jeans and wedges while we ran our typical downtown errands. 

Top, Loft // Jeans, JustFab // Wedges, Gianni Bini (similar)

So how did it go?

This was both a fun and interesting challenge. Since Cladwell is new, they definitely have a few things to work on - some of which they've already made changes to since I started working on this post. One of the main requests on their iOS App reviews is definitely more items - they've already added at least 100 more since releasing, and have a special form you can fill out to ask for specific items. I've got a request in for overalls.

They've also added the option to "refresh" an outfit directly from the suggestion each day, so if you like the general idea of an outfit but not a particular piece, you'll get new suggestions. You can also reset your three options for the day completely, or choose a particular item from your closet and see outfits with just that piece. Another pro I forgot to mention in the list? You can log these outfits and see stats on how often you wear what's in your closet. Of course, this doesn't really help if you're not wearing that exact combination for the day.

One big con for me is that their algorithm is still learning, so sometimes it'll suggest shorts mid-week when I'm supposed to be at the office, or a shift dress and heels on a Saturday. I hope to see them continue to tweak, and then offer further specialization to outfits as well. I think it would be a SUPER powerful app if you could customize it to your own needs - say, business casual outfits only for M-Th or only showing outfits with flats. If they develop a honed filtering system that helps you get the most out of your closet, and not just the outfit suggestions, this will be a home run.

The app is $4.99 / month currently, with a three day trial so you can give it a shot. It's definitely aimed at those who want to do the whole "capsule wardrobe made easy" thing, but taking the thinking part out of getting ready in the morning may be worth it in the long run! Let me know what you think if you try the app - this is a non-sponsored post, so I'd love to hear honest reviews from those of you who have tried and how you're making it work (or not) with your lifestyle.

UPDATE: I got this comment from Cladwell on some upcoming features and the exact item thing and thought I would share: Just so you know, now you CAN choose a specific item that you want to wear. Click that item in your closet, hit "show outfits" and then on each outfit it curates, there are three dots in the bottom right corner of each outfit. Click that, and hit "log this outfit" (So, more control that way). Yay! 
Also, we here you on some of your other cons! We are creating a new update where you can "categorize" your closet so that you can have different wardrobes for work vs. weekend. 
You'll also be able to edit outfits in the new update, so stay tuned!! That way, if you don't like the outfits you get or maybe want to swap out different shoes, you have more control. 

Weight and Wardrobe (and the floral pants that almost weren't)

Blogging is such a small window into what someone's day actually looks like. For instance, you would never know from looking at these outfit photos that I had a melt down this morning over the simplest thing: what to wear. This is the story of how a pair of pants almost made me call in sick and quit life for the day.

Top, Catherine Malandrino (similar). Pants, Banana Republic (s/o online so lol the exchange anyway). Shoes, Kate Spade (similar). Bag, Coach (mine's the Phoebe - new kid on the block is the Edie). Necklace, Stella & Dot.

I ordered this pair of pants from Banana a few weeks ago, in an 8R because they didn't have the 8P. They were too long and a little too tight, honestly. I exchanged them for a 10P thinking I could use the extra room, and then I wouldn't have to have them hemmed. LITTLE DID I KNOW that Banana subscribes to the school of "Petite = Tiny" and not "Petite = Short." It's frustrating for a short curvy girl out there, and I got up this morning thinking I'd just slip these on and be-bop out of the house. Instead, I was met with a muffin top that almost felt WORSE than the smaller but regular size and all sorts of pulling and stretching in crotch and booty region.

At this point, I get a little annoyed, but figure Spanx might do their magic and help me out a little. I squeeze myself into my sausage roll shorts that, because of said short problem, can come up fully over my boobs, and slip the pants back on. It's better. It's not great, but the crotch issues are resolved and I can get them fully zipped and buttoned without feeling too uncomfortable. I've made enough progress to deem myself ready to continue getting dressed. My husband can see I'm fretting a bit and makes the mistake of saying, "I don't understand why you buy this stuff online, why don't you go to the store and try it on?"

My darling husband is a very logical thinker. Most men don't understand that buying things for girls is radically different than buying for a man. So in his head, saying this was just plain sense. He didn't know that Banana quit selling petites in store so I had no option. He didn't know that I'd already exchanged them up one size. He did not know the storm he had stepped into.

Now I'm a human disaster. I pull the pants off violently and throw them across the room with my best dramatic flare. I spout off a string of sentences about how hard it is for a short curvy girl this day in age and how he'd never understand since he wasn't burdened with child bearing hips and then go sit in the closet, wearing nothing more than Spanx and a bra, and stare at my clothes. This feeling of hopelessness washes over me as I realize I have LITERALLY nothing to wear. I start to cry.

Poor husband did not know he was coming into a closet with a crying woman, laying on the ground in Spanx and a bra. He did his best "there, there" for me and said, "Don't cry! You have plenty of clothes to wear! There's so much stuff in here!" to which I wail, "Nothing fits but SWEATPANTS!"

At this point he panics and starts singing "YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL!" ala James Blunt to calm me down while patting me on the back like an animal you're afraid may bite. It doesn't help. He has to go to work and hightails it out of there as I yell, "CAN YOU CALL IN FAT TO WORK? IS THAT A THING?" It's now 8:45 a.m. and I'm still just in my Spanx rolling around like a beached whale in the closet. My dog comes in to make sure I'm still alive, then crawls under my skirt rack to hide from the low morale in the room.

I somehow manage to pick myself up and put on THESE SAME STUPID PANTS. I am a glutton for punishment. After eating a Chobani Flip (Peanut Butter Dream is the jam) and doing my hair and makeup, I somehow manage to pull myself together and leave the house.

The fact is, I've gained a lot of weight. Several pant sizes. I'm not sure if it's the stress of work or just not having the time to devote to my fitness and food that I used to, or worse...the dreaded post-30 metabolism. It's likely a combination of all three and as someone who has a blog entirely devoted to clothes, it's really hard when you gain weight.

30 lbs heavy is a lot to carry on a little frame. Most of the time people say, "Oh you don't look like you've gained weight!" and things like that to be positive and helpful, but it doesn't make those shorts from last summer fit over these thunder thighs. It probably seems like I'm buying new things every week...because I am. Nothing fits. I've sized up in jeans, pants, bras, and shirts just trying to feel comfortable in my own skin, accepting myself at this weight and thinking, "Oh, it'll come off when I'm ready to really work for it." So far, it hasn't.

The incredibly stressful part of weight gain and wardrobe is the fight between acceptance and losing. How long will I be this weight? There's a stack of 27s and 28s in my closet mocking me. Leggings season is over, so I had to come to terms with buying up a size or two so I had something to wear NOW, not "if when."  I think the hardest thing for me to come to terms with the fact that the weight loss wouldn't happen overnight, and I wanted to feel comfortable in what I wore today. Every time you squeeze into a pair of jeans that's too tight, it's a confidence buster. It reminds you of what you've gained. When you put on a pair that fits, at whatever number that may be, you don't think about them any more. It's worth it to invest a little in yourself at the size you are, not the size you want to be.

Honestly, I yoyo up and down so much that I like to keep a bit of a size range in pants and jeans, just so I don't have to re-buy in case of gain or loss.

A few other tips for weight and wardrobe? Whether it's loss or gain, these could come in handy:

  1. Out of sight, out of mind. You don't have to get rid of your shirts with tiny armholes or skinny pants, especially if they're nice, classics, or you truly love them. Fold them up and pack them away in a bin for a later day. If you do lose weight, they'll be there waiting for you as a tiny victory.
  2. That being said, don't feel like you have to "cling" to your skinny things. I held on to 3-4 suits I'd bought when I worked at The Limited in teensy size 2s that I wanted to keep "Just in case." Then my mom pointed out that if I lost weight and needed a suit, I probably wouldn't go back to them. I'd want something new that made me feel spectacular. If it's something you can't see yourself wearing on the other side, or something that could easily be replaced, go ahead and let it go.
  3. It's just a number. This is ironic to me, since I sat crying in the closet about how I'd have to go up to a TWELVE in these pants if I exchanged them yet again, but it's good to have the mindset that sometimes, you're a large at Forever 21 even if you're a 0 at LOFT.
  4.  Shop at LOFT. Their sizes are so vanity that it's actually a bit of a confidence booster.
  5. Invest in the things that always fit. If you don't feel like you can buy clothes at your current weight but still want a little something for yourself, splurge on shoes, bags, and jewelry. When you focus on other parts of your wardrobe that aren't size-specific, you can feel like you're getting an update that will ALWAYS be the right size.
  6. The little things do wonders. Feeling down? Putting on red lipstick actually does help. Wash your hair. Do a facemask. Honestly, I've found so much peace in controlling the parts of my life that are easier to manage, like hair and makeup, that it's easier to cope with the ones that feel out of my hands.
  7. Get to know your shape at every size. This includes knowing how you carry your weight. For me, I tend to be a similar shape at all weights because it distributes evenly all over. So while I might not want to show off my arms, I know that I still have a good hip to waist proportion that I can play up to look thinner.
  8. Do your best. Girl, it's hard. We're all just trying to conquer the world out there, so don't be too hard on yourself. Fact is, most people probably WON'T notice a few more pounds. You are your worst critic. Updating your wardrobe to things you feel good in is part of the confidence factor, but it's important to love and take care of yourself at every size, and not let your weight define you. Since turning 30, I'm more comfortable in my skin than ever, even on the days that there's nothing to wear but sweatpants.

Anyone else feeling me on weight and wardrobe? What are some of YOUR favorite pick-me-ups when you realize you've eaten too many Kalteen bars?