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I went to a private shopping session at J.Crew and trying on clothes inside an actual dressing room is the closest I've felt to normal during the pandemic

I went to a private shopping session at J.Crew and trying on clothes inside an actual dressing room is the closest I've felt to normal during the pandemic
  • J.Crew recently began offering 30-minute private shopping sessions at its stores during off-hours amid the pandemic to assist shoppers looking for extra styling help and allow them to use the normally closed fitting rooms.
  • Though private shopping sessions are not something I usually do, I tried one out for the sake of journalism — and ultimately felt the closest to a state of pre-pandemic normalcy since the outbreak started.

While most apparel retailers around the country may be reopened for business, you likely won't be able to try on clothing in a dressing room anytime soon — that is, unless you schedule a private shopping session at J.Crew.

The company recently began opening up its stores before and after business hours to shoppers looking for one-on-one styling assistance, with the ability to try things on in an actual dressing room rather than your apartment. The program allows J.Crew fans to schedule an appointment online at their nearest store and indulge in a 30-minute shopping experience that for just a moment might make you feel like it's 2019 again.

Though New York City reopened non-essential retail stores at the end of June, I've mostly refrained from visiting stores unless I absolutely have to. However, after visiting Saks Fifth Avenue's eerie and unsettling reopening last month for a story, I decided it was time to give brick-and-mortar shopping another try. I'm also not a huge fan of summer, and I was in dire need of some warm weather clothing to beat the stifling heat.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. The store felt very safe and clean, and the stylist I worked with was lovely and incredibly helpful. I even left with a pair of shorts — which considering how much normally I hate shorts, was huge.

Here's a closer look at what it was like attending a private shopping session at J.Crew.

I started by visiting the J.Crew website to schedule my personal shopping session.

I started by visiting the J.Crew website to schedule my personal shopping session.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The site lists the company's currently safety protocols for shopping during the coronavirus outbreak, and explains that it is operating under limited hours and offering curbside pickup.

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First, it asked me to find my closest store. Lucky for me, there's one not far from me in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.

First, it asked me to find my closest store. Lucky for me, there's one not far from me in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Though J.Crew filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and announced it plans to close eight stores, the company assured shoppers at the time that business was expected to operate as usual as it undergoes a financial restructuring process.

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Once I selected a store location, I was asked to select a time slot either before 11 a.m. when it opens or after 6 p.m. when it closes. I also provided a brief description of what I was in the market for: summer clothing.

Once I selected a store location, I was asked to select a time slot either before 11 a.m. when it opens or after 6 p.m. when it closes. I also provided a brief description of what I was in the market for: summer clothing.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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I received a confirmation email within one day that my appointment was on the books, followed by a phone call from a J.Crew stylist named Iliana who asked a few questions about what I was looking for and sizing.

I received a confirmation email within one day that my appointment was on the books, followed by a phone call from a J.Crew stylist named Iliana who asked a few questions about what I was looking for and sizing.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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On Friday morning, I made my way to J.Crew on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg with my mask and hand sanitizer in tow. Though I was somewhat ambivalent prior to this moment, I found myself suddenly very excited for the opportunity to shop (somewhat) normally again.

On Friday morning, I made my way to J.Crew on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg with my mask and hand sanitizer in tow. Though I was somewhat ambivalent prior to this moment, I found myself suddenly very excited for the opportunity to shop (somewhat) normally again.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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When I got there, the doors will still locked and street signs were stowed away. The store is currently open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and limited to 10 shoppers at a time.

When I got there, the doors will still locked and street signs were stowed away. The store is currently open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and limited to 10 shoppers at a time.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider

I knocked gingerly on the glass and told the kind man who greeted me that I had a private styling appointment, which, for someone who never does this type of thing, felt very bourgeoisie.

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Upon walking in, the first thing I noticed were the several informational signs about safe shopping.

Upon walking in, the first thing I noticed were the several informational signs about safe shopping.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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I felt comforted by their prominence.

I felt comforted by their prominence.
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Another coronavirus safety sign.

Another coronavirus safety sign.
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Aside from my visit to Saks Fifth Avenue in June and a recent trip to Target for post-moving essentials, this was the first time I had been inside a true apparel store. It felt strangely good.

Aside from my visit to Saks Fifth Avenue in June and a recent trip to Target for post-moving essentials, this was the first time I had been inside a true apparel store. It felt strangely good.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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Besides myself, there were only a handful of employees preparing the store for opening at 11 a.m.

Besides myself, there were only a handful of employees preparing the store for opening at 11 a.m.
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Though I knew I had some looks already waiting for me in the dressing room, I started by doing a lap around the store to remember what it felt like to actually physically go shopping for clothes.

Though I knew I had some looks already waiting for me in the dressing room, I started by doing a lap around the store to remember what it felt like to actually physically go shopping for clothes.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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Ooooh!

Ooooh!
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Ahhh!

Ahhh!
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Lucky me, I also happened to visit during a massive sale of 40% on all apparel items and an extra 70% (!) off on sale products.

Lucky me, I also happened to visit during a massive sale of 40% on all apparel items and an extra 70% (!) off on sale products.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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After completing my perimeter scan and grabbing a couple of items to try on, Iliana — the very kind stylist I spoke with on the phone earlier in the week — came to say hello and led me to the dressing room where she had compiled some personalized looks for me.

After completing my perimeter scan and grabbing a couple of items to try on, Iliana — the very kind stylist I spoke with on the phone earlier in the week — came to say hello and led me to the dressing room where she had compiled some personalized looks for me.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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For now, the fitting rooms are only open to those who schedule a private shopping appointment and are thoroughly cleaned before and after. I was also told that any clothing I tried on and did not purchase would be sanitized and quarantined in a separate room before returning to the floor.

For now, the fitting rooms are only open to those who schedule a private shopping appointment and are thoroughly cleaned before and after. I was also told that any clothing I tried on and did not purchase would be sanitized and quarantined in a separate room before returning to the floor.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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Here I am, masked up, and ready to try on some clothing inside an actual dressing room! What a concept!

Here I am, masked up, and ready to try on some clothing inside an actual dressing room! What a concept!
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I started with one of Iliana's picks — this dreamy extremely comfortable boho (and dare I say... cottagecore) style dress that I loved.

I started with one of Iliana's picks — this dreamy extremely comfortable boho (and dare I say... cottagecore) style dress that I loved.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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Despite the fact that I hate shorts, I also decided to go a little crazy and try on a pair and actually found some that I liked! A true private shopping miracle!

Despite the fact that I hate shorts, I also decided to go a little crazy and try on a pair and actually found some that I liked! A true private shopping miracle!
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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I left the dressing room with some promising contenders but decided to do one final lap around the store to soak in the experience and decide on my final selections.

I left the dressing room with some promising contenders but decided to do one final lap around the store to soak in the experience and decide on my final selections.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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As I made my way to the register, I saw a display of masks for sale, which I was told had just been restocked the day I arrived after selling out. J.Crew is among one of several retailers that started selling masks made from extra fabric during the pandemic.

As I made my way to the register, I saw a display of masks for sale, which I was told had just been restocked the day I arrived after selling out. J.Crew is among one of several retailers that started selling masks made from extra fabric during the pandemic.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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I ended up walking out with several summer staples at a true bargain of a price.

I ended up walking out with several summer staples at a true bargain of a price.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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As I made my way to the door just a bit after opening at 11, I saw that a couple of shoppers had started to trickle in.

As I made my way to the door just a bit after opening at 11, I saw that a couple of shoppers had started to trickle in.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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Ultimately, my visit to J.Crew's Williamsburg location was the closest thing I've felt to normalcy since the outbreak began. After months of writing on my bed in pajamas, I forgot how good it feels to look put-together.

Ultimately, my visit to J.Crew's Williamsburg location was the closest thing I've felt to normalcy since the outbreak began. After months of writing on my bed in pajamas, I forgot how good it feels to look put-together.
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
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