From top to bottom: Bean's Washed Oxford Shirt; Bean's Premium Double L Polo; Double L Cotton Sweaters
One might think there are quite a few classic items in the L.L.Bean Spring Women's 2010 catalog. Long-time shoppers might especially believe this, thinking nothing of re-ordering their seemingly trusty staples from years past. However, many items have been redesigned in the last few years And these changes are not good.
Here are four items that epitomize this trend. All four items look like they should exactly fit the classic bill. But they all now have many subtle, and not so subtle, things that knock them from their previous "classic" mantle.
Premium Double L Long Sleeve Polos (a review): L.L. Bean had offered a perfectly good (but not perfect) polo shirt, The Original Double L Polo. But then, in Spring 2009, they made changes and are now calling it the Premium Double L Polo.
On first glance it seems fine. But upon wearing, one immediately notices many of the changes. Despite claiming they do not shrink, they lose an inch in length after the first washing.
The fabric, which has now been treated for wrinkles and fading, pilling and shrinking, doesn't even feel like cotton anymore. It feels more like a synthetic mesh. (The softness of the cotton was one of the highlights of the Original Double L Polo.)
They have made the overall fit too tight, even for a fairly thin person. This is especially true in the sleeves.
On top of that, old styling problems have not been fixed. The collar is still too 1/4 inch too tall and one inch too long. The cuffs are still hemmed (not knit as they give the Men's). The tennis tail is still wrong, with the back needing to be longer than the front. The top edge of the collar still has somewhat of a raised texture all around the edge; it should be plain as possible. The placket, thankfully, has only two buttons, but it is still too narrow.
The style is in the details - the collar (in green) is 1/4 inch too tall compared to the ideal Ralph Lauren Polo
Bright Navy is the best color. Bright Elm is acceptable, if a little muddy (Glen Green would have been much better). They also should have added Warm Pink to the line-up.
Double L Cotton Cable Crewneck Sweater (a review):
First, the good news. The cables are a good width and they did a nice job with the fabric and weave.
Now the mitigating news. The neck opening should have been smaller so a collar can look better under it. They made the sweater too long, especially since it appears to be more narrow through the chest (amazingly, the chest measurement in this season's Extra Large is the same as the chest measurement of a Medium from a few years back).
Bean's Classic Chinos (a review):
These chinos are not very classic. L.L. Bean had close to perfect chinos which sat slightly below the waist with good deep pockets that were quite flattering. Then (in Spring 2009 ) they altered the style, kept the name, and made them worse. They now sit below the waist with a short zipper and have shallow pockets.
They still offer them in the great Stone. But the only other khaki color is Deep Khaki which is too dark.
(They do make what looks to be tasteful, although on the "cute" side, embroidered shorts and skirts. Both are available in an attractive Navy and Glen Green.)
These are the now discontinued Classic Chinos, with the slightly below-the-waist fit, which should be brought back.
Cotton Oxford Shirt (a review):
The best thing one can say about this shirt is that they got the blue right in the stripe with the color China Blue. Also they do have an appropriate number of buttons on the front placket (7). The fabric is right, and does not have the treated feel.
They also got a few things wrong. Actually, they got six things wrong.
1. It is missing both a split back yoke and a back box pleat. It is not uncommon to have one of these missing but rarely both. They did put a locker-loop on which is a nice touch, but not enough.
2. The sleeves are too short. Further, the cuffs do not fasten tightly enough (the version before the recent re-design had two button cuffs). They do have gauntlet buttons, but the sleeve plackets are too short.
3. The overall body length is too short, and the tails need to have a deeper curve.
4. They should have just left off the front chest pocket. Women's shirts have less space on the chest for pockets anyway and this pocket shape is much too square.
5. The pointed ends of the collar are also too square. They should have more of a point.
6. The buttons need be just a tad smaller.
L.L. Bean has the passionate following of many. But they risk all of that when they add new items outside of their heritage, phase out their classics, and most frustrating, subvert the quality and details in many of their existing favorites.