By Jennifer Merritt
Updated Apr 07, 2016 @ 7:15 am
Closet LEAD
Credit: Getty Images

As the working mom of an almost two-year-old, my wardrobe was in deep disarray. (Priorities.) Not only had some of my go-to pieces been ruined by things like permanent marker and supposedly washable paint, my post-pregnancy body had changed so much that nothing fit right anymore. Too, I never seemed to find time to actually shop.

Then, an email announcing Keaton Row's new virtual styling service landed in my inbox. (Full disclosure: Time Inc., which owns InStyle, is an investor in Keaton Row.) If nothing else, the Internet is the world’s great equalizer, putting high-touch services once only available to the rich and famous in the hands of the hoi polloi—think personal chefs (hello Kitchensurfing), personal trainers (what up Kayla Itsines) and to varying degrees of investment, personal stylists.

As a former user of a few of the virtual styling services available on the market today, I was immediately intrigued. Keaton Row's new offering of a 90-minute virtual styling session, during which a designated stylist works with you to revamp your work or weekend wardrobe, sounded perfect for my busy life; plus the idea of having a stylist "assigned" to me, who would get to know my deepest wardrobe desires, was in stark contrast to what I had experienced in the past. Consider me signed up.

How It Works
Keaton Row was founded in 2012 by Cheryl Han and Elenor Mak, two sartorially savvy Harvard Business School classmates also frustrated by their lack of time to shop. The service pairs clients with a virtual stylist who shares her style preferences, and who will put together shoppable head-to-toe looks available through Keaton Row’s own site or one of its preferred retailers. With its Capsule Edit offering, $75 gets you a 90-minute virtual sit-down with a stylist who will work with you to revamp either your work or off-duty wardrobe. In advance of the meeting, you’ll be asked to fill out a quick quiz on your style, and pick out 30 pieces of clothing, accessories, and shoes from your closet that you’d like help styling (or even, as in my case, help finally throwing away, but more on that in a bit). After the virtual edit is complete, you’ll receive a lookbook full of items you need to perfect your wardrobe, plus suggestions on how to style the pieces with the ones you already own.

Getting Started
After a few getting-to-know you lookbook flirtations via email, receiving a notification that I had a new message from my stylist, Caroline, was met with the girlish giddiness akin to getting a text from a crush: Oooh, I can’t wait to see what she’s put in my lookbook this time! She really gets me. And she did—mostly, I’m sure, thanks to the aforementioned quiz that asked things like what wardrobe essentials I already owned and which brands I currently favor.

For the actual edit, Caroline and I set a date via Google Hangout (Skype and FaceTime options are also available, as well as a $300 in-home closet edit for clients based in New York City). Given that our office dress code is more laid-back than most, I opted for the weekend edit. As asked, I laid out roughly 30 pieces in advance that were a combination of things I’d wear every day if I could and others I wasn’t so sure why, exactly, were still in my closet. (If nothing else, I am fiercely loyal, even to my clothes.) Caroline and I walked through each item, putting the pieces into Marie Kondo-like piles to keep and to toss. Thankfully, she was just as excited as I was about a recent cocoon coat purchase and adored my faux leather pants as if they were her own. Likewise, she told me things that were a little tough to hear: “That vest looks a little dated,” she said politely at my offering of a black number I knew I was holding onto more for sentimental value than anything else. Too, when I admitted my denim jacket was purchased over 10 years ago, her response was, “Hey, no judgment.” And truly, there wasn’t, just the suggestion of maybe updating with a more modern cut.

What I Thought
Like any good therapy session, the exercise showed some holes in my wardrobe (how have I lived this long without a classic white button-down?) and helped me identify my weaknesses (a clear fear of prints and color). Caroline put together a lookbook that addressed those issues, which promptly cleared out my bank account. Keaton Row’s philosophy is that you invest in pieces and brands that are going to last a while, so very little of what they recommend purchasing is under $100. (Pictured, below, clockwise from top left: Cooper & Ella tank, $115;; Loeffler Randall espadrilles, $225;; James Jeans blazer, $290;; Tylho silk blouse, $99;; Loeffler Randall rain boots, $195;

Keaton Row EMBED
Credit: Sarah Balch for

My Keaton Row-specific purchases arrived within days (and stylishly wrapped). Shipping is free, and Keaton Row provides you with a return shipping label. I would (and, in fact, already have) recommend the Capsule Edit to anyone looking to refresh her wardrobe, or even just looking for a fun new shopping experience. Not only was Caroline prompt with her responses to my email questions (she’d often answer within three hours), but, as a former buyer, she clearly knew the littlest details of the brands she was recommending I buy—for instance, when a pair of shoes I wanted wasn’t available in my usual half size, she said I should size up since the brand tends to run small.

I also appreciate the fact that Caroline would remain my stylist for any future requests I may have. As mentioned earlier, I’ve tried other virtual styling services in the past but with each one I was paired with someone new each time, which now seems like such an epic waste of time. Of her relationships with her clients, Caroline told me, “some clients I talk to every other day,” while others she’ll maintain throughout the year and be available to them “when they’re ready,” making for a truly no-pressure situation.

And, it’s just plain fun. Who can't find time for that?