Tuesday, November 1, 2011

J.Crew Keynote Dress in Super 120's - Review

After purchasing and returning the Super 120's Emmaleigh dress because the peacock color was too green for my taste, I was happy to see the Keynote dress in deep lagoon.  As always, click on any of the IRL photos for supersize view.


The color is such a pretty blue and the neckline seems work-appropriate all on its own.


Looks divine, yes?  


A closeup of the pleating at the neckline.  The color IRL is close to what I saw online, it's a beautiful shade of blue.  Let's take a look inside, shall we?


First of all, the copy says the dress is fully-lined.  It isn't.  As you can see from this view of the back, inside-out, the sleeves are not lined and they are raglan sleeves so the absence of lining is not inconsequential.  There is ribbon trim partially along the neckline and I was not happy to see that "feature".  J.Crew started using the ribbon trim to edge the waistbands in their pencil skirts a couple of years ago and the technique is vastly inferior to a properly tailored waistband.


A view of the front, inside-out, the sleeves are not lined and the ribbon trim used at the back of the neck ends near the shoulder.  I wonder if the facing fabric at the neckline on the front of the sleeves will roll out of place.  It didn't feel itchy right away when I tried it on but I'm sure that the unlined wool would irritate my skin before long.


Taking a closer look, the zipper is not sewn in straight, the lining is stitched crooked and it doesn't meet properly at the hook/eye closure. 


From the outside it is a lot more obvious that the zipper is askew.  The edge of the ribbon is visible at the neckline as well.


I folded the dress so I could take a photo of the sleeve stitching on each side.  The invisible hem stitching is very loose and where each sleeve meets the lining the stitching ends just before the join.  It's not even finished or tied off, it just ends.


The hem of the dress is also not completely stitched, ending here about an inch before the back vent.  I see a fallen hem in the future for this dress.

For reference, here is the inside back of my stretch flannel Banquette dress and you can see that it is fully lined, even the cap sleeves.   


The zipper is perfect as well, and it is a side zipper, which is more difficult.

I really had high hopes for the Keynote dress but unfortunately it does not live up to my expectations and I'll be returning it.  I've reached my tolerance for anything less than perfection and at this point I won't be buying any more J.Crew suiting.  Given the shortcuts in design and shoddy construction I will look elsewhere or make do with what I currently have.  


What are your thoughts on the dress?  Would the imperfections be a dealbreaker for you or do you think I'm overly critical?  Have you tried any J.Crew suiting this season?

43 comments:

  1. How disappointing.
    The JCrew suiting dresses have always been so nice. I have a couple and they are very well made. I have the banquette and the Carlyle, I don't wear them often but it's nice to have them.
    Too bad the quality has tanked on this one. That zipper! Loose threads!
    This is a good tutorial on how we should be examining clothes. Thanks for the review!

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  2. Excellent review. The comparison with the Banquette makes the flaws of the Keynote obvious. I agree, if you know that there is better out there, you should not settle. But so many retailers have taken the cheap route! Even designer items may not necessarily be 'better'. Shoppers really have to look around to find true quality. Thank you for the review!

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  3. Awesome review! ITA with dinster - the construction of the Keynote is poor enough on its own, but compared to the Banquette, you'd think it was a Factory item or something. As long as there are JCA's out there with older (read: better made) items, there will be always be good comparison points to current items. Watch out, Dear Leader!

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  4. Maybe you just got a defective one? They can't all be sewed crooked, can they?

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  5. Wow, that zipper is really bad. Don't they quality check anything anymore? I have the Jane suiting dress and it's really well-made. It was a bit of a splurge for me that I justified because the gorgeous emerald green color lets me wear it for weddings and parties too. When I think about how things are made now, it was so worth the money then.

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  6. This is a really valuable post, thank you for taking the trouble to photograph and compare with an older dress.

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  7. Oooh, this is bad. Boo jcrew!

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  8. Fabulous review -- thank you!!

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  9. Southern Belle Ph.D.November 1, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    XOXO, Thank you so very much for the excellent review. I always respect your opinion as you are a very detail-oriented person. I am growing so very weary of the quality issues and wonder if/when they will be corrected. Please let us know if you are able to find some items which meet your expectations. They may be items in which others would also share an interest.

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  11. Thanks xoxo, this is very helpful and very disappointing. I think it would be great if you could send an email to dear Mickey providing link to your blog and asking if this is what 'obsessed with quality' means.

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  12. That dress is finished like a High School Home Ec project. The area around the hook-and-eye closure??? What a disappointment. I have some of J.Crew's suiting pieces and I've never seen the quality drop so low. I love the fit of the Emmaleigh dress and it looks like I'd better buy a few more colors before all of their dresses look like this.

    @ ajc: Oh snap. E-mailing the post link to Dear Leader is an excellent idea.

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  13. Now I don't feel so bad about missing out on that dress. My size in the Lagoon was one of the first things to sell out when the 25% hit and I didn't pull the trigger fast enough. JC suiting dresses are a staple for me and I was glad to see one that wasn't too low-cut or too short. I wound up ordering the Memo dress instead, but it fit me poorly and I sent it back so quickly that I didn't take the time to check for construction problems.

    Personally I don't mind the ribbon band on the pencil skirts, as it decreases bulk, plus I always have to have my skirts altered at the waist so I don't have to worry about rolling. But using a ribbon instead of a proper facing really poses a risk that the "facing" will roll or gape. A real facing with understiching won't roll.

    Do they think they can get away with this because no one takes Home Ec any more?

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  14. Dani, talk about a letdown. The dress was the first of two 25% orders and I feel like I wasted the promo.

    The J.Crew suiting dresses I do have are all top-notch too. End of an era I suppose.

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  15. dinster, I know it's not just J.Crew that is cutting corners to save production costs. I scrutinize every piece of clothing, footwear and accessories before giving it a home in my closet. There is still quality out there and some J.Crew pieces are still good too, thank goodness.

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  16. silver_lining, good call, it does look like a factory item, or something. I suppose some people don't know the difference and are happy with what they see. You might not notice the issue with the zipper if you only looked at the front view.

    I don't like to be negative but I can't ignore quality issues, I have to let my fellow JCAs know.

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  17. I am sad to see how far the quality has fallen off recently. I used to tell my friends and family that Jcrew was the best quality and always worth the extra cost. I don't buy that myself anymore let alone try to sell it to someone else. I could see the unlined sleeves but its unreal that the zipper is off kilter and the stitching is unfinished.

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  18. For the price they are charging, this is disappointing. This is the kind of quality you might see at H & M on occasion, but we shouldn't be seeing it at J. Crew. If you plan to lodge a complaint, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say. Thanks for such a thorough review!

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  19. Anon @ 5:22, it could be that mine is defective and the rest may be fine but there should be better quality control. Whoever was sewing the dress could easily see the issue, if they choose to.

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  20. Baybaybay, I have the Jane dress too and it is so nice, really well-made. You made a good choice for a dress that can go to work in an office or out for an event.

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  21. Patricia, you're welcome. I am a stickler for details, especially if I have a complaint. I always feel I have to back it up.

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  22. audreys, thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

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  23. Southern Belle, I am tired of the quality issues too. With the economy as it is, maybe people will stop buying and quality will be improved or perhaps margins will be so slim that quality will be squeezed out even further.

    I do post on other brands from time-to-time and will continue to do that, maybe broaden my focus beyond mainly shoes.

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  24. ajc, I have emailed Millard Drexler twice with issues in the past and both times they were resolved quickly and beyond my satisfaction. In this case it could just be one defective dress as far as the zipper and sewing.

    I do not want a replacement dress since the sleeves are not lined and I'm very sensitive to wool. I'll return it and email my Personal Shopper about my quality concerns but I have read here and on JCA that others don't mind unlined wool or the ribbon edge so in that case it may be personal opinion.

    Maybe I'm afraid to become a serial complainer and that if I do have another serious issue that needs resolution, Mickey will just hit delete.

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  25. Whitney, I had the Emmaleigh dress in peacock and I didn't even both to check the workmanship because the color was too green. It was shipped to my hotel in Houston and I returned it to the Galleria store the next day. I hope they are still finished properly inside and I'll probably have my PS check and if so, maybe buy one in deep lagoon or mauve. I have two in superfine cotton and love them.

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  26. Hexicon, I was curious about the Memo dress and I'm disappointed to hear that the fit was off.

    My skirts with the ribbon waistbands do occasionally roll, depending on how long my workday lasts and my current waist size, which fluctuates back and forth every few weeks. If you're fortunate to have a narrow waist it likely won't be a problem.

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  27. Kathryn, it seems like there are still some quality items out there and some of the issues may be personal preference, like having a lining between wool and your skin. It's great we have the blogosphere and the weekly reviews on JCA to help us navigate through the product line.

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  28. Louise, I will let my PS know about it. I hope the defects are a "one off". The issue of the lining and ribbon edge could be considered my personal preferences. I have an ongoing dialogue with my PS regarding quality and J.Crew sometimes takes a different position than I do, which is totally their right. I complained about the lack of lining in wool pants and was told that the wool is soft and smooth and lining is not necessary. Fair enough, I'll voice my opinion with my wallet.

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  29. Thanks for the super detailed review. I will admit that sometimes I'll let things slide (at JC or elsewhere) if I'm crushing on a style or colour, but in this case, you have dresses from the recent-past to compare to, is just such a let down. I read in the "Lunch with Mickey" article that he's pleased since JC has returned to private hands that he won't have to answer to quarterly shareholder reviews, then he can concentrate on quality execution and designs. Hopefully in the next year or so the products reflect this change in the business model.

    When I was in school, I dreamt that someday I would be able to afford JC, as I had imagined that all their pieces would be well constructed, beautifully designed and will last for years...now?... (shakes head).

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  30. xoxo, this is the best product review I've ever read. Amazing. The inside shots were so helpful! Can't wait to read through the rest of your blog.

    Closet Crisis, ditto. I couldn't afford it in high school and now I'm always hesitant.

    Has anybody had any good/bad experiences with J.Crew cashmere in the past two years. I want a navy/cream striped turtleneck, but for that price I want it to last.

    :) Jen

    :) Jen

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  31. Excellent info, xoxo. I can only sew a button and am well aware that the grosgrain ribbon is a cost cutting measure. There are people out there that think it's cute. I'm not a fan. Awesome review!

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  32. CC, it's fine to let things slide if you're are comfortable with them and the price paid/your expectations of the item.

    I was coached on quality by my mother and J.Crew was always held up as an example of great quality. I hope they move back in that direction, it's getting to be a challenge to find the gems.

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  33. Jen, thanks for stopping by. I'm all about the details because the dress could look just fine in a photo snapped in front of the mirror but if you look further, there are issues.

    I have only a few pieces of J.Crew cashmere and they are all older. I'm very sensitive to wool, even cashmere, so I seldom wear it. The last sweater I bought pilled so badly my boobs looked like a couple of muppets by the end of the day. That was 2008 and the last cashmere I bought from J.Crew. Over on the Mothership there are reviews every Tuesday and cashmere is always a hot topic.

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  34. Hi Gigi, the ribbon was a big disappointment since it was part of the unlined sleeves IMO and is definitely all about cost. I'm not a fan either, so not cute.

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  35. Xoxo: I just took a close look at my black Emmaleigh dress in Super 120's, and the interior finishing is impeccable. Bought it at the Lenox Square B&M in early September, so maybe this season's run of them is safe. I plan to buy the peacock feather or the lagoon, and maybe also the navy since it's so hard to find dresses that fit my mis-matched top and bottom halves. Thank you so much for the wonderful in-depth review.

    @Jen: I received one of JC's shawl collar cashmere sweaters for Christmas last year and it's still in perfect shape. All of their sweaters used to be fabulous, but I agree with the general consensus that they have become really hit or miss, especially the blends.

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  36. Whitney, I am so glad to hear that the Emmaleigh dress is perfect. I have two in superfine cotton from 2009 and I love them, it is such a flattering dress.

    I may go back on my statement of not buying any more J.Crew suiting and pick up one more Emmaleigh dress this season. I love the deep lagoon color but I bought a Banquette dress in seaport blue on ebay recently so maybe will go with the mauve instead. I had the peacock and although the shade was gorgeous, it was darker green than I thought and it did not work on my complexion so I returned it.

    Thanks for chiming in on the cashmere question.

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  37. Not a Crew fan. I think their clothes are dull as a stump. From your photos (well done, those), it looks as tho they've switched to cheaper factories. I'd give up on Crew for good and spend your pennies at a dressmaker instead. You'll start setting trends instead of following them. Never settle for less than perfect!

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  38. Anonymous, I'm becoming less of a fan myself lately. There are still a few nice things though, I am not ready to totally jump ship.

    One thing I am not, is a trendsetter or follower, I'm all about the classics and don't stray very far from my "uniforms". I do expect perfection though, and this dress clearly did not even come close.

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  39. Excellent review. Love your attention to the details.

    I picked up the Emmaleigh dress in 120s this year, and i can say that even though the construction is nice, the 120s of years ago are far superior. The fabric was thicker, had a nice drape, and covered problem stops (at least mine). This year's rendition is thinner and tends not to disguise those lumps and bumps.

    In response to your post on the purple tweed pencil skirt, and speaking of quality, i returned mine the day after i received it. The quality was poor -- grosgrain ribbon waist band, only 7 percent wool, and a snag right out of the package.

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  40. Cleo, thanks for your opinion on this year's Emmaleigh dress. It's really too bad the quality has decreased so noticeably, so fast. For those of us with past year's versions of the same items, it's a real eye-opener.

    I didn't include a mention in my post but if you supersize the closeup neckline photo of the dress you can see that the fabric is a little bit fuzzy. The older super 120's was silky smooth so this is another indicator of cheaper fabric IMO. I didn't check if the dress covered my trouble spots well because I tried it on only to see if the color worked and didn't even zip it up all the way.

    I appreciate your comments on the purple tweed skirt. I am in love with the color but wow, it sounds bad, especially for the price! I wouldn't buy it, even on super sale.

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  41. I really like the blue dress, the color and shapes are just perfect that I think I could pass beyond the imperfections! Your have an awesome blog by the way and I am a new follower! Hope you will like my blog and follow back!

    Pop Culture&Fashion Magic

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  42. Sara, wecome! Regarding the dress, it is a beautiful color and the shape is quite flattering. Even if the dress may look OK now, the imperfections will affect the fit and wear over time. I could never settle for an item with such obvious flaws.

    I'm checking out your blog today.

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