I'm partial to the J. Crew catalog because of the "Jenna's picks" page

This past Tuesday I was at my weekly trivia date with a group of friends. One of my friends, usually brimming with hilarious stories from the past week, sat engrossed in the newest J. Crew catalog. When her silence was pointed out, she looked up and said, “I’ll talk in a minute; I just got this catalog and I need to see what our new styles are.”

This friend majored in textiles and is now a store manager at J. Crew. She’s given to saying things like “You have to feel our new rayon-silk-cashmere blend, it’s out of this world!” or “Cotton prices are on the rise, home-slice. Say goodbye to the days of t-shirts for $9.99!”

I’ve learned more about J. Crew’s brightly colored world from this friend than I ever expected to know. To sell the nicest clothing in the store, my friend acts almost as a walking model (which works because she’s adorable). As she put it, you don’t sell cashmere sweaters by wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This, apparently, is not a message that all of the Minnesota branches were familiar with, a fact made painfully clear in the New Yorker’s September profile of J. Crew’s CEO, in which he visits the J. Crew store just a block from my house and critiques it mercilessly. My friend was in a fit the week after that profile came out, worrying that if he had come to her store he wouldn’t have liked her. On the contrary, I argued, she seems exactly like the business-savvy and fashionable employee he would have picked out immediately to give him a sense of how her store was doing.

Work those curves, girl: Crystal Renn in J. Crew

Still perusing, my friend pointed out a few styles from this new catalog that she was excited about and gushed about the plus-sized model Crystal Renn, who was featured in the swimsuit section. When another friend asked if she would have to wear socks with sandals to work, as was shown in the pictures, my J. Crew friend rolled her eyes. “Probably. That’s the only way I’m gonna get ladies to buy our socks.”