White Stuff review – a brand with renewed direction
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Today I’m focusing on a brand I haven’t covered before with a White Stuff review. I’ve had to think hard about why I’ve so rarely included their clothes on here and I think it’s because for a very long time I haven’t felt as if I’m their customer. However, a little while ago I was contacted by the new team there which I was thrilled to see now includes some great people I know who’ve moved over from other brands that we love at Midlifechic so they immediately had my attention. I know you enjoy hearing about what’s going on behind the scenes when a brand is rejuvenating so let me tell you what I’ve learned so far.
Like most retailers over the last couple of years, White Stuff has been prompted to spend some time refocusing. They’ve been looking at who they really want to see wearing their clothes – their current customer is older than most of us and she continues to be important to them because she’s grown with the brand. However they’re also keen to serve a new audience who they view by mindset rather than age.
I asked them to bring her to life for me and they explained that she’s independent, she knows her own mind – she wants to look stylish and feel as if she has her finger on the pulse but she values her individuality; she’s not a slave to trends or fashion. This kind of attitude crosses women of all age groups of course but White Stuff’s research has found that these characteristics are mostly found in midlifers. That absolutely makes sense to me because we know who we are and what we want. We like to be informed and recognise trends when we see them, perhaps incorporating them here and there to keep our wardrobes up to date, but on the whole we’re looking to build a capsule wardrobe that suits us and will last. So it was great when White Stuff said that their aim is to create.
So this season will see the very earliest of their new pieces starting to come through. They’ve been busy trying out new colour combinations and their plan is that season upon season their outfits will be buildable. Rather than introducing completely different colour schemes with every new collection, they’ll enable you to add new tonal pieces to the outfits you’ve already bought.
The other element that they’re working hard on is sustainability – so far they’ve achieved 60% sustainable sourcing in their ranges and they’re pledging that it will be 100% by the end of 2023 which is quicker than most retailers I know who are quoting 2025. Their swimwear is already made from a fibre constructed from 100% recycled materials (REPREVE) and the wool they use is certified by Responsible Wool Standards.
So I’d say that White Stuff is a brand that was perhaps a little jaded but it’s now been picked up by a team of good people and it will be interesting to watch it develop. I was keen to try some of the early pieces from their new direction and as I was on the site, I had a flashback to the brilliant White Stuff skirts I had when the boys were little. Do you remember when they did reversible pieces? They were a big hit in the school playground at the time. The idea was that you had two skirts or dresses for the price of one; in my reality it meant I could duck behind a bush and turn my skirt inside out when it was covered in mud or sticky fingerprints… which was often.
Obviously my bush ducking days are over but it strikes me that something like that would be great for travel capsules (just a nod to the archives White Stuff when you read this!). Oh and they used to merchandise them on a rail with great fitting plain t-shirts that picked out every colour in the print so that if you bought four different tees and two reversible skirts you’d built sixteen different outfits in the space of five minutes. I’ve dug out a very old photo of me wearing one to show you what I mean (we all had food poisoning on the last day of our holiday so nobody looks very happy… mind you Mr MC and I look like we had plenty of padding to sustain us!).
White Stuff review – try-on
When I asked you what you wanted more of on Midlifechic, a lot of you said you’d like inspiration for easy, relaxed weekend wear. As I looked through the White Stuff range for the first time in years it struck me that this really is their heartland. They do casual at the smarter end of the scale and I can already see the tonality in their ranges enabling you to build a capsule from a few mix and match pieces, almost like the old days. And before I show you the clothes, I should point out that the reason I’m publishing this on a Monday is because there’s 20% off sitewide for the next few days (excluding sale).
When my delivery arrived, I was struck by the weight and quality of the items I’d ordered. Not all of them are natural fabrics, even though the blends they’ve used feel as if they are. However the cotton, denim and lambswool clothes felt almost like vintage clothing which was reassuring. It made me realise how accustomed I’m becoming to lighter blends as so many retailers look for ways to manage their margins.
The Brief Encounter Heritage Centre
I’d begun to despair of ever being able to take these photos – storm Dudley was immediately followed by Eunice and then Franklin but then I remembered that we have the station where Brief Encounter was filmed not very far from us.
It’s still a working station but it’s a heritage centre too and luckily we were there on a day when there were no coach parties so we almost had the place to ourselves. And actually if you’re in the South Lakes / Morecambe Bay area it’s a great place to visit for a couple of hours, there’s a small railway museum, two brilliant tearooms including the original Trevor Howard / Celia Johnson rendezvous point and the snug of a local brewery too. Anyway let me show you the outfits and I’ll chat about it as I go along.
White Stuff review – SS22 outfit 1
So here, for once, I’m trying on something seasonally appropriate – a Spring outfit that actually kept me warm! At this time of year I’m always looking for a lighter coloured coat. I have a classic camel one but when we were in Manchester last weekend I noticed how ubiquitous they are – I guess everyone’s rummaging through their wardrobe for something that feels a little less wintery. So this one with its aqua blue tweed effect felt like just the thing for the next few months because let’s face it we’re likely to be wearing coats for at least another ten weeks yet. It’s intended to be a relaxed fit with dropped shoulders and so I sized down to a 10 for a neater effect and actually if that’s the look you prefer, a size 8 would bring the shoulder seams up and still fit perfectly well. It’s just a case of playing around with these things until you find what works best for your body’s structure.
The boots are the lynchpin for all of the outfits that I’m going to show you because they worked with everything. I’ve been looking for a tan leather pair for a while but haven’t been able to find anything that didn’t have a very heavy track sole (I suspect the lug soles that we’ve grown used to over the past couple of years will be on their way out pretty soon). This pair had a hidden elasticated panel so they would fit any calf size and they were immediately comfortable, the sort of thing you’ll have in your wardrobe for years and years.
The jeans are a classic slim straight cut with an easy fit, I’m wearing a size 12 and although they were comfortable I could probably have gone down to a 10 so if you’re in between sizes, size down. They come in a dark wash too but as this was all about Spring it was the bright blue wash that appealed to me, a good way of having strong density of colour on your lower half that still works for the lighter months.
Underneath I was wearing a cable knit tank top, another piece that’s great for the months ahead – because surely it will start to get warmer soon. The cut is especially good if you have broad shoulders like I do because it helps to narrow them rather than extend them visually.
And underneath is what I would call one of White Stuff’s all time hero pieces, a long sleeve cotton tee, apparently ultra simple and yet it’s all in the cut and the quality of the cloth. A collar that sits. below the clavicles, a dipped hem and available in seven different colours but this bright blue is my favourite.
White Stuff review – SS22 outfit 2
And here with me taking over from the owner who was happy that we were taking photos but determined to keep out of the camera’s range! We paused for lunch of course and I can say that the food is superb, simple northern fayre but absolutely worth a detour. They’re open from 10am until 4pm and do breakfast, lunch, cake and roasts on Sundays too.
Anyway back to the outfits. In terms of trend there’s very little newness around this season, the only real adjustment is going to be the gradual move towards a more fitted silhouette. We’re moving away from the loose styles that have been around to accommodate lockdown waistlines towards a more streamlined look and that includes the mini taking over from the midi. I doubt I’ll wear a mini without tights in Summer but for now as you’ve already seen I’m really enjoying playing around with them. This organic cotton one comes to just above the knee and of course White Stuff do tights that tone with all of their collections. In fact the tights are one of my absolute favourite discoveries, they’re pure cotton, have great opacity and are really comfortable to wear.
It was a bit difficult to get the colour balance right on the camera under the electric lighting but the pink jumper does tone with the skirt. It’s a blend of alpaca, wool and synthetic and a couple of commenters on the WS site have said they found it itchy. My neck is relatively sensitive and I found it was fine but if you have extremely sensitive skin it might irritate you. It’s just gone into the sale so it’s a bargain.
White Stuff review – SS22 outfit 3
If you know the station you’ll spot that the clock made famous by the film is missing behind me in my next outfit photo. It was taken away for repair just before lockdown and isn’t back yet:
Here’s another outfit in Spring colours. It’s difficult to find tan coloured jeans but I really like the way they work with the boots for a colourblocking, leg-lengthening effect. They’d act as a neutral base to wear with lots of different colours and it’s always useful having skinnies in your wardrobe because they’re so easy to tuck into boots and wellies. These are cotton with stretch and are again a very comfortable fit, if you’re between sizes, size down.
It didn’t feel right to leave without trying the cakes and so we popped back to the cafe which had quietened down after the lunchtime rush. The jumper is bright and easy to wear with its slimming darker panel at the base. It has a split hem that’s lower at the back making it easy to tuck in if you want to wear it with skirts or wider legged jeans. It’s made from 79% lambswool and again I didn’t find it itchy although those with super-sensitive skin might.
So that’s my try-on for this White Stuff review – it’s the first time I’ve looked at them for at least ten years. The key things that struck me were the flattering tonal colour ranges, the quality and the fit. It’s good to know that they’re working hard on sustainability with some ambitious targets. I really like the fact that they have midlifers as a principle focus and that they’ve identified a niche within that segment for clothes that are more smart casual than completely casual. I’d say there’s a clear gap that Hush occupied before their takeover 2 years ago that somebody needs to fill. I wish them so much luck, they have some good people working there so let’s hope they can help to provide the well designed, timeless pieces that could be the real cornerstone of our capsule wardrobe.
As always this is your opportunity to tell them what you’re looking for from clothing ranges so if you have any constructive thoughts please add them to the comments. It might be memories of White Stuff pieces you really loved, thoughts about the brand over the last few years or pieces that you’re trying to find that nobody’s providing. In my case that’s jumpers with turtle necks that start at the clavicles and have raglan sleeves; simple bretons in heavy textured cotton with boatnecks; simple, soft boatneck merino jumpers and well designed t-shirts like the one in my old White Stuff photo above but in knitted cotton rather than plain jersey. So take the opportunity to talk to them while it’s here. And don’t forget that there’s 20% off all full priced pieces for the next few days so it’s a great time to try them out.