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Old Navy Is Low-key Good Now

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When I was 16, I worked a summer as a sales associate at Old Navy. Since one of my professed interests at the time was "shopping," my mom suggested I try working retail to see how the 100% cotton sausage was made. Back then, Old Navy was still hocking Performance Fleece and Surplus Pants to the masses via kicky commercials starring "The Old Navy Lady" and Magic The Dog. (Both are now deceased, but did you know the former, Carrie Donovan, was a fashion editor at Vogue?)

Here’s what I remember: Old Navy sucked. Sure, I had a short attention span and haphazard folding technique, but the clothes on the racks seemed just as listless as I was. Thick, floppy ribbed-cotton tees. Carpenter jeans in "Husky" Denim. Fourth of July hoodies withering on August sale racks. It was depressing. This was not why I got into "shopping."

When school started, I gave notice, returning infrequently over the years. It was a decent place to buy socks, keychains, Secret Santa presents for people I didn’t know very well — but not much else.

Here’s what I remember: Old Navy sucked.... Then, everything changed.

Then, everything changed.

Now I am an #AdultWoman, and recently, I had time to kill before dance cardio, so I wandered into the Old Navy flagship at 18th Street and 6th Avenue. Perhaps it was of my own free will, perhaps I’d been subliminally persuaded by their slew of ads featuring au courant comedy stars. Regardless: I was blown away. Instead of sad garbage, the store was full of clothes, bags, shoes, and jewelry that could’ve easily passed for designer. And if there’s anything I love in this life, it’s a dupe.


Here’s what they have: Simple, flattering silhouettes in easy-to-launder fabrics. (Old Navy could ostensibly change their name to No Dry Cleaning.) You want linen cocoon dresses? Sure. Sweatshirts emblazoned with French nonsense? Mais, oui! Madewellian chambray? Uh-huh. What about Clare V-esque crossbody bags, Sleepy Jones-y PJ’s, or activewear leggings that whisper Outdoor Voices? Yes, yes, and yes.

Additionally, Old Navy is the perfect place to make Denim Mistakes™. Experimenting with uber-trendy Light-Wash High-Waisted Cropped Flares (say that five times fast) could have been a $265 remorse nightmare for me. Instead, they were a $35 triumph. Old Navy allows you to mitigate the risk of wearing silly pants with minimal financial loss! What an investment strategy! Suck it, Schwab!

Their jewelry is not sold online at the moment, so you’ll have to follow in my footsteps to cull their racks of sweet Catbird-ish ring sets and earring packs.

Here’s what you won’t find: Edgy design details. Some pieces have nice embroidery or pleating details, but it’s all fairly understated. Hardly anything in the store is backless or strapless. Dresses are opaque or fully lined, and even their breezy tulip-back tops are cut so you can wear a bra without it showing. Also absent: Tailoring. Most Old Navy waistlines are elastic, drawstring, or non-existent — but in the summer, do... you... really... care?

Leather at Old Navy is trés faux, but the styling is en pointe. Handbags and totes are sturdy, in clean, minimal shapes. There aren’t a lot of mid-size purses; Old Navy bags are either "Phone-Wallet-Keys" tiny or "My-Whole-Life’s-In-Here" huge. A highlight is their selection of summer sandals — the most mortal of shoes, especially in the city. Come mid-July, when I’ll inevitably find myself cobbling a broken strap with Scotch Tape so I can hobble home, I’ll be glad I bought a backup pair of pleather gladiators (for less than a single Loeffler Randall.)


Old Navy has a long mired reputation as a temple of "accessible fashion," which is the politically correct way to say "cheap shi*t," and I half-agree. Old Navy is definitely cheap — their near-constant stream of discount codes and promotions takes care of that — but the clothes are nowhere near as shabbily constructed or flammable as say, Forever21 or ASOS.

Is everything in Old Navy a perfect designer dupe? Hard no. I passed on many a wrinkly rayon dress and a tank top that squealed, "Viva La Brunch." Sizing was frustrating; the difference between two could mean acres of stretch jersey. Eyelet pieces that looked frothy on the rack looked frumpy in the fitting room.

"Old Navy: More Than Just Gap’s Brother-Who-Still-Lives-At-Home!"

Still, I was thrilled to rediscover Old Navy because their stuff is washable, affordable, and adorable. Sure, they aren’t "statement" clothes,but they’re definitely "compelling supporting paragraph" clothes!

Now that I’m back in Old Navy’s employ as Unpaid Self-Appointed Spokesperson, I’ve been trying out some fresh slogans:

"Old Navy: More Than Just Gap’s Brother-Who-Still-Lives-At-Home!"

"Old Navy: A Basic Brand (That Has Really Good Basics!)"

Have I converted you yet?