Why I Like J.Crew Mercantile More Than J.Crew

Why I like J.Crew Mercantile more than J.Crew

J.Crew Mercantile, also known as J.Crew Factory, is light years superior to the original J.Crew store in its current form. I’ll go so far as to say that the factory store is what J.Crew should have been all along.

Remember when J.Crew was the pinnacle of aspirational shopping? At least it was for me. Back in my youth, during the blissful time between wrapping up college and being out on my own for a few years, I thought success was being able to walk into a J.Crew and buy whatever I please.  The store was airy, organized, and filled with colorful preppy loveliness. My heart fluttered every time I walked past a chambray button down, with perfectly rolled sleeves, on a wooden hanger. I told myself I would be able to shop there with abandon one day, and not have to make a beeline to the sale rack like I had to do at the time.

And then things started to change. Price points skyrocketed while the quality plummeted and offerings became less and less wearable. The store I once longed to shop at had become irrelevant. Ironically, by the time I was able to afford to shop there, there was nothing for me to buy. I found my way to Nordstrom, and that was where I’ve done most of my shopping over the years.

Now and then I would stop back into J.Crew, thinking maybe I could find something, with no luck. Gone was the store that wasn’t crazy expensive, but not cheap either. There were no better basics, no classic white button down, simple pencil skirt, or a cute top for the weekend. Just a bunch of overpriced ugliness.

Then, a few years ago, I stumbled into a J.Crew Factory and walked out with bags filled with easy, classic staples.

Let’s have an aside about “factory” stores. Back in the day, there were outlets, which would sell the extra stock, overbuys and slightly flawed merchandise of their parent store. These stores did amazingly well. Over time, the outlet, or factory store evolved, and retailers went from selling additional and previous season merchandise to manufacturing inventory specifically for the outlet.

So what the heck is Mercantile? Well, as my daughter Maddie would say, “Fun fact mom!” J.Crew Mercantile is a J.Crew factory store not in an outlet mall. In my case, my J.Crew Mercantile is located in an outside part of a traditional mall, next to Whole Foods. It’s a strategic way to have a brick and mortar in a higher end location, rather than a typical outlet mall. Mercantile has the same merchandise as Factory, just a different name.

In the end, J.Crew Factory is making wearable, affordable classics, and fun, chic, updated pieces, just like J.Crew did in my youth. When they originally came out with the Factory/Mercantile concept, the differentiation was that they would offer the same J.Crew style, at better prices, and that J.Crew would provide better quality, exclusive collaborations, and styles. One could argue that the better quality never showed up.

Mercantile has become my first stop for many wardrobe needs. Need a new shirt for a party this weekend? Or a quick basics refresher at the beginning of the season? I stop at Mercantile and never leave without a few fantastic buys.

Let’s break down their best categories:

Business Casual Options at J.Crew MercantileSweater, $19.50; Skirt, $32; Dress, $40; Sandal, $90; Flat, $54; Pant, $35

Mercantile has some fantastic business casual separates. When I started to pull pieces for this post, I had a dozen favorites in each category. I narrowed it down to the best of the best, here are my favorites:

Short Sleeve Sweater: Need a short sleeve basic top for work? Here it is. It comes in an array of colors, perfect for wearing on its own, under a blazer or over a light blouse for a fun layer. Big thanks to Lauren for sending me the link to this a few weeks back – it’s a fantastic layer. $19.50

Skirt: A polka dot skirt (that works great with the above short sleeve sweater) is ideal for low key days in the office. $32

Dress: We all know my love for a sheath dress. Zip this up and be out the door in minutes. $40.00

Sandal: A block heel sandal, with a heel my ladies who love height will enjoy, goes with everything. $90.00

Flat: This highly commutable flat can be worn all day long. $54.00

Pant: Wide leg mid rise trousers look lovely with a fitted blouse, boatneck top, or a one-button blazer. Hem for flats or wear with wedges. This cheerful red adds just the right pop of color. $35.00

Weekend Prep at J.Crew MercantilePeplum Tank, $30; Dress, $35; Fringe Tank, $25; Chambray, $40; Bag, $33; Shorts, $17

Preppy style on off days is my jam.  I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve made many stops in Mercantile for a weekend outfit when my clothes are in the dry cleaner, and I know nothing is clean at home.

Peplum Tank: With straight leg ankle pants this looks finished without being fussy.  $30.00

Dress:  Raise your hand if you love a tee shirt dress!  You get a whole outfit in one piece. Great if you’re looking for a shorts alternative.  $35.00

Fringe Tank:  I recently picked this up and wore it on an especially humid day wit these Joie ankle pants.  Loved it.  $25.00

Chambray:  This off the shoulder top looks lovely on, especially with crisp white jeans.  $40.00

Bag: How about this bag?  It’s ideal for lugging your gear to and from the pool.  $35.00

Modern Accessories at J.Crew MercantileChevron Necklace, $20; Crystal Necklace, $20; Bracelet, $12; Sunglasses, $15; Clutch, $41; Scarf, $6

You can’t walk out of Mercantile without grabbing a necklace or an accessory. They’re good and well priced.

Sunglasses: Chic style aside, for the price, grab a few and keep them on hand when you inevitably lose one. $15.00

Scarf: Bright and poppy and a little retro, you can tie this traditionally, in your hair, or around your bag. $6.00

Crystal Necklace: I layer these necklaces into just about every outfit. You can’t beat the price. $20.00

Chevron Necklace: Will help elongate your look and fill in necklines beautifully. $20.00

Bracelet: Love the look of a stacked bracelet. Add this to your mix for a modern look. $12.00

Clutch: A neutral clutch with a twist. This cork-like bag will go with everything while adding style and dimension. $41

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

  1. Thanks for this post. I did not have a clue that the clothes were manufactured especially for this store. And you are 100% right, they have the basics at prices that make the trip worth it. I always stop if I have time and always find the t-shirt, necklace or sweater that’s been missing from my basics’ wardrobe.

  2. Agreed! Thanks for the great post. It was you who turned me to J. Crew Mercantile/Factory and I consistently turn there again and again (along with Nordstrom). These finds are great basics. Thanks for all you do to educate those of us with little time to think about fashion, quality pieces, and keeping it clean and conservative.

    Busy Mom

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