Review: Banana Republic Issa Collection

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's been a week since Banana Republic unveiled the Issa collection. While I'm not a massive fan of Issa, I was nonetheless excited to add a few wrap dresses to my collection of work attire. Here is my quick review of the line.
First impression.
I didn't manage to get to the store until after work on the day of the launch (August 8th) and most of the collection was still available in multiple sizes. There were no large throngs of people pushing and shoving each other while trying to grab everything and anything in sight. There was plenty to choose from, even the well publicized Princess Kate dress was still available in the blue.
I quite liked most of the prints. My favorite was the red/purple dot print and the coral print on the kimono dress. I wasn't particularly impressed with the zebra print on the other dresses as it was made up of actual little zebras (not something I would want to wear).

I personally would have also liked a but more variety. While the dresses are what Issa is known for would it have hurt them to include a pair of pants or a skirt?? Also, I felt that the accessories were really rather bland looking. I wouldn't spend money on that envelope clutch or the canvas tote as I could get something far nicer somewhere else.

As many of the other reviewers have said the materials were somewhat disappointing, especially the rayon/ lyocell/ cotton/ spandex mix used for the Kate dress. The material felt thin and looked wrinkled and cheap on the hanger (and on for that matter).
The red/purple dot dress was made of just rayon and felt heavier and more substantial. Same goes for the red zebra kimono dress. The sleeveless olive zebra dress was also made of a thicker fabric but didn't feel quite as luxurious to me. The cardigans were actually made of a silk blend fabric, so definitely your best bet in terms of quality.

The wrap dresses, I will happily say fit nicely. The wrap tie detail is infinitely forgiving and can accommodate different sizes. I'm relatively petite with small shoulders, a larger bust, small waist and round bottom. I tried the Regular S and while the XS was obviously the better fit, I could definitely get away with wrapping the S tightly in the waist to make it work for me.

Size XS
Size S
When you look at the above pictures you can see that the S is just slightly too wide in the shoulder and a little bit longer than the XS.

As for length in general, I'm just under 5'4" and the S was just slightly too long on me (mid knee), the XS hit above the knee which I find much more flattering (especially on shorter girls). 
On a side note, the chest area was well covered so I would definitely not worry about showing too much skin at the top while wearing these dresses. 

I was really interested in buying the Petite sizes but thanks to Banana Republic's ineptness (I will explain below) I was unable to get my hands on the Petite dresses that I wanted. I did try the Princess Kate wrap dresses in a Petite XS and felt it fit great but not significantly different from the Regular XS (except maybe in length).

I was somewhat disappointed in how the Coral Kimono dress fit. I ended up trying the size 0 and it felt large and lumpy in the chest. In addition, I felt that the large sleeves swallowed me and did nothing for my petite frame.

Kimono Dress, Size 0
Olive Zebra Dress, Size 00P

I tried the Olive Zebra dress in 00P and it fit perfectly. This is the one dress that definitely needs to be tightly fitted in the waist to give you a nice feminine shape. Aside from that. I wasn't in love with the fabric and felt that the color washed me out a little.

Shopping experience.
I'm usually happy with Banana Republic but not this time. I ended up ordering 3 dresses online (2 Petite sizes and 1 Regular) the morning of the launch just to receive an email more than 2 days later stating that 2 out of my 3 items were unavailable (both of the Petites). I was not impressed by how long it took them to notify me, especially because most of the dresses had sold out online by the time I found out my order was cancelled. And while Banana Republic did offer me a 10% off coupon, it was only valid online so I couldn't use it in store this past weekend when I was trying to track down the items that I wasn't able to get online.

Last thoughts.
Generally I thought the collaboration was a success, although I felt the price tag was a little steep for the materials used. While I purchased 3 dresses in total, I ended up keeping only 1 - the red/purple dot wrap dress. If you were only looking to buy one thing from the collection, that is the dress I would recommend. It works great with different body shapes and hides a multitude of sins. It looks vibrant and can be dressed up or down and worn with tights or bare legs. Plus the fabric feels sturdy and has good weight.

Overall collection grade 7/10.

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