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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at J.Crew

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Anyone who has shopped at a major online retailer knows it can be hard to figure out where to begin. There are lots of options that all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that products from any given brand are not created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than other things. With its classic button-downs and boxers (and its near-constant sales), J.Crew is one of those brands. It can be dizzying to shop J.Crew’s entire selection — especially now with its new head of women’s design, Olympia Gayot, and men’s creative director, Brendon Babenzien, making their marks — but we’ve done the difficult job for you, rounding up the best J.Crew items featured in our archives, including pajamas favored by Ottessa Moshfegh and pants that are a “foil to relaxed chinos from Polo Ralph Lauren.”

Women’s tops

J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck
$20
$20

The Tissue Turtleneck just might be the J.Crew item we’ve written about most — it’s been recommended by many stylish people, including brand owners, fashion designers, and Strategist staffers over the years. “It’s so light on the skin, like a well-worn T-shirt,” says our writer Ambar Pardilla, who crowned the top our best black turtleneck and notes that the cotton material is sturdy enough to pull over her head without any fear of ripping. Author Mary H.K. Choi goes as far as to declare the Tissue Turtleneck superior to all other turtlenecks for being non-clingy and making an excellent base layer — and our former writer Chloe Anello claims it’s the “only black turtleneck worth buying.”

If you prefer a chunkier knit turtleneck, try this one that our senior editor Hilary Reid bought recently. She’s been interested in the brand’s return to “’90s-catalogue-era-looking styles,” and says that this one feels right out of a “coastal scene from 1998.” The cotton sweater has a chunkier feel that’s ideal for winter-to-spring transitional weather — and the boxy, slightly longer shape, Reid notes, is “Toteme-esque.”

Staying in J.Crew’s sweater section, there’s lots to sort through — but the brand’s cashmere in particular has been recommended to us over and over again. When we consulted with five J.Crew retail associates about what to buy (and what to skip) from the brand, they all told us the cashmere is worth the splurge (and also that it’s often on sale). Anello, who happens to be a former J.Crew salesperson, also gives it her stamp of approval, saying she still owns years-old sweaters from the company. Another fan is Titilola Sogunro, the blogger behind Titi’s Passion, who recommends this Classic-Fit Crewneck Sweater in particular. “It’s a best seller for good reason,” she says, adding that she appreciates the array of color options, including neon flamingo, holiday red, and jungle green.

J.Crew Oversize Cashmere Wrap
$140
$140

J.Crew’s cashmere selection extends beyond sweaters. We heard about this oversize wrap from author Diksha Basu, who told us that she always travels with a shawl and that after much shawl-shopping trial and error, this one turned out to be the perfect size and weight. The material is “almost like muslin but in a way that seems like magic,” according to Basu, who adds that despite its lightness, the cashmere is “not flimsy at all.” It has endured hand-sanitizer spills; her children’s sticky, apple-juice-slicked fingers; and a dusting of Goldfish crumbs. Her husband has taken a liking to it, too: “He borrowed it the other night to wear as an oversize scarf and looked as dashing in it as I do,” says Basu.

For a breezy option from the brand, try this gauzy button-down shirt, which made our lists of the best white button-downs and the best button-downs for bigger busts. It comes endorsed by blogger Rachel Richardson, who raves about the fit, saying it offers enough room in the chest without being too oversize. She likes to tie the ends together to create a crop or tuck it in on one side.

J.Crew is also known for its blazers, like this fitted number style influencer Alison Rogel owns. “Its sleek look and popped collar will add a sense of preppy sophistication to your closet,” she says. Rogel throws it over a turtleneck (we can picture it over our beloved Tissue Turtleneck …), cropped trousers, and loafers. While Rogel bought the tailored piece in the tall cut to fit her six-foot-one frame, it also comes in petite and standard sizes.

From $347

And for colder days: Try this cocoon coat recommended by stylist Cindy Conroy. It’s made from J.Crew’s stadium-cloth wool, which is produced in an Italian mill, and Conroy calls its warmth “off the charts.” And there’s “no Michelin Man here,” she says, pointing to its sleek silhouette. Conroy’s tip is to fold down the dramatic standing collar to make the coat resemble more of a wrap jacket.

Women’s bottoms

A good pair of corduroy pants can be hard to find, but this pair is a reliable standby for Anello. She told us that her high school had a strict “no denim” rule, so she looked to J.Crew’s cords as a stylish alternative — and years later, she still wears them. “They’re slim cut and fit well yet don’t feel bulky or heavy,” says Anello.

If you’re searching for something a bit more polished, try this pair of work pants, which the J.Crew retail associates we spoke with swear by. Many purchase the flattering trousers and wear them during their shifts — and there are plenty of cuts and fabric combinations to choose from, including cropped, full-length, and high-rise, in black, khaki, and other neutral tones that pair well with a white button-down.

J.Crew also makes tights, like this control-top-panel pair that go for a fraction of the price of Spanx and Sheertex shapewear and are a favorite of fashion editor Dena Silver. She calls this pair a “godsend” for its “waist-cinching band” and “blackest black” hue.

Women’s pajamas

This pair of crisp cotton pajamas is a favorite of author and self-professed pajama obsessive Ottessa Moshfegh, who named them as one of the things she can’t live without. She’s not alone in her love for the pair: They were crowned the best cotton pajamas in our sleepwear guide after rave reviews from Reid, who appreciates their “slight air of formality,” and contributor Hermione Hoby, who compares them to a set Daniel Day-Lewis wears in Phantom Thread. (For a little luxury: Get these monogrammed for an extra $10.)

If you’re not in the market for a complete PJ set, try these boxers that also appear in our pajama-buying guide. The shorts are a cousin of the set above and fashioned from the same “end-on-end” cotton. These don’t look like a “bad Risky Business costume,” Anello assures us. Because the boxers don’t have an opening in the front and do have pockets, “they could easily be mistaken for a pair of thin, lightweight, cotton shorts.” She adds, “While they may not look like them, the shorts are exactly what you want from a boxer.” Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla also has a pair, describing the feel as “next to nothing,” so they’re ultra-comfortable for sleeping.

Women’s shoes and swim

J.Crew Winona Penny Loafers
$140
$140

Over in the shoe section, you’ll find a wide range of styles that changes by season — but this pair of penny loafers is an all-time classic. Stylist and content creator Jules Fox wears them three to four days a week and says the loafers are ideal for work and everyday wear: “You can elevate them but you can also dress them down,” Fox says. Plus, she didn’t get any blisters after the first wear, making them perfect “if you want a loafer that you can wear right away.”

From $128

For the balletcore curious, consider this modern-looking pair of flats. Content creator Isabella Ricci is a fan, noting that while she has sensitive feet and usually prefers sneakers, these are a comfortable alternative for dressier occasions — and they’re light enough to throw in her bag for a quick change. “They don’t take up a lot of space, and I’ll just put them on whenever I need to be wearing some nicer shoes,” Ricci says. She plays up the balletcore look by adding ribbons wrapped around the ankles: “It’s a way to have fun and customize them and get more out of them for your money,” she says.

J.Crew Ruched One-Shoulder One-Piece
From $48
From $48

J.Crew’s swimsuits, like this classic, ruched one-piece, are also a core part of the brand’s offerings. “Since the 1990s, J.Crew swimsuits have been known for their durability and stylish yet comfortable design,” our senior writer Liza Corsillo writes, adding that the pieces were a “status symbol” among the crowd of suburban tweens she grew up with. The reputation “still holds today,” she says — and this one-shoulder suit has a decidedly modern twist, thanks to built-in UPF 50 for sun protection.

Men’s tops

J.Crew Cashmere V-neck Sweater
$100
$100

Now to the men’s section. Not surprisingly, the men’s cashmere is also high-quality and relatively well priced — but somewhat surprisingly, J.Crew employees specifically highlighted the men’s selection for being thicker and even nicer quality than the women’s cashmere (plus, Chris Black’s a fan). This top, which appears in our guide to cashmere sweaters for men, is our favorite affordable V-neck because the neckline hits right at the collarbone and doesn’t dip too low. (J.Crew also makes a men’s crewneck, which comes in the same XS–XXL size range as the V-neck and is available in 16 different shades.)

If you’re searching for a lightweight T-shirt, look no further than this one that Queer Eye’s Tan France recommends. “If you ever see me in a plain T-shirt, it is probably the J.Crew Broken-in Tee,” he says. The “broken in” part of its name holds true, he told us, as “too many other T-shirts I’ve tried feel too box-fresh.” Instead, this one is immediately soft to the touch and fits him perfectly — though he sizes up so he can wear the shirt with a French tuck.

From $59

For something a bit dressier, here’s the very oxford shirt that rug dealer Mikael Kennedy got married in. It comes in four fits (classic, slim, slim untucked, and tall) and with classic details like a back pleat and locker loop. “They’re not disposable-feeling, but they don’t feel precious, either,” Kennedy says. Model Miles Garber (also the co-founder of candle company Hands) shares a similar sentiment, saying this button-down triples as an everyday staple and a “go-to suit shirt.” And Tim Melideo of the menswear blog Stay Classic credits the button-down for helping “transform my style and get me to really step it up.”

$70

There was a time when almost every well-dressed man that former Strategist staffer David Notis knew owned this work shirt. He first spotted it at a J.Crew in Soho “where the shirt immediately stood out among the sea of chambray and gingham,” he says. Notis, who describes himself as a tactile shopper, appreciated how the stitching, wash, and fabric “seemed like someone had turned a pair of Levi’s 501s into a shirt.” He adds, “When I wear it, I feel like I’m channeling some sort of ’90s Jay Leno dad energy but in a good way.” Since his initial encounter, he’s seen a “denim-shirt secret society” form around it, with former Strategist senior editor Anthony Rotunno and current Strategist style columnist Chris Black owning it as well.

And for another long-sleeved option, this happens to be the cotton henley that LPA designer Pia Baroncini steals from her husband’s closet. “I think they’re so chic,” she explains, adding that her taste runs to classic colors like white and navy (called “evening storm” and “dusty ivory,” respectively). It fits nicely oversize on Baroncini, too.

Men’s bottoms

“When I think chinos, I think of (the usually on sale) J.Crew,” Black says. He specifically name-checks the 484s as a slimmer-fit stretchy pant that isn’t too heavy, so “you’ll be fine in the warmer months.” Made of a cotton-and-elastane blend, the pair earned the lightweight title in our chinos buying guide as a “foil to the relaxed chinos from Polo Ralph Lauren.” Just take note from Black: “Make sure you style them right so you don’t look like a substitute teacher.”

J.Crew Cotton Boxers
From $10
From $10

These boxers are technically bottoms — and they’ve earned a spot on our men’s buying guide. Celebrity stylist Neil Cohen recommends this pair for its price and feel — and he wears them specifically for sleeping. They have a four-inch inseam, a traditional fly, and a cotton-covered waistband. Plus, you can choose from all sorts of colorful patterns.

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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at J.Crew