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What are the best subscription boxes? TODAY producers put them to the test

TODAY producers try some top subscription boxes across four major categories and share their experiences.
/ Source: TODAY

Subscription boxes can make life a whole lot easier — there's no need to go to the store, you can try on clothes at home and an expert can help coordinate your picks. It can be a great way to try new things and many services give you the option of renting items for a limited time or buying pieces you love for a discounted price.

A few TODAY producers gave some of the top subscription box options on the market a try, and let us know how they felt about the experience.

For women:

For just $100 each season, subscribers to this box get more than $400 worth of items. Boxes can include everything from clothes to accessories to makeup to some exclusive bonus goodies.

"I really liked the accessories that came in the box, but wish there were more!" our tester, Phoebe, said. "A few of the items included were an SPF, an eyebrow-setting gel and a beauty bundle that included an eye balm, mascara and a hydrating serum."

While she liked the items she received, she hoped for more of Zoe's signature fashion picks.

"It almost seemed more of a box of beauty than a box of style," she said. "For a product coming from a designer and stylist like Rachel Zoe, I wish the items were more fashion or style based."

subscription boxes
Our tester enjoyed the box, but wished there were more fashion pieces than beauty products.TODAY

Other women's subscription boxes:

While not quite available yet, Nuuly will start operating in 2019. Users will be able to rent six items at a time for $88, and the products will come from up-and-coming designers, preexisting labels and Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters brands. The site also promises access to "one-of-a-kind vintage finds."

This brand sends a box full of hand-selected items for work based on your personal style and preferences. It's not quite a subscription box since you can request as many or as few boxes as you'd like, whenever you want. Separates start at $75 and dresses at $145 with free returns. You can also browse and buy items individually!

Workouts can be hard, but getting dressed for the gym doesn't have to be. Just fill out a profile that includes information about your workout routines and style preferences and they'll send you activewear that best fits those descriptions. Once you receive your box, you'll have five days to decide what you want to keep. The $25 shipment fee will be credited toward your purchase.

Start with a survey about your budget, style and office dress code. Their team of stylists will put together five pieces that meet your qualifications and the $20 fee will be credited toward your purchase if you buy three or more items (shipping and returns are free).

For men:

The process starts by creating a style profile that includes information about your fit, style and budget. The subscription box's website says that the more they know, the better — so be as specific as you can! Next, you'll talk to a real stylist in real time on their site or app to provide more guidance when it comes to their selections.

You'll then get a preview of what's in the trunk and 48 hours to approve or change options. The rest is up to you! You can keep what you want, and the $25 styling fee will be credited toward your purchase. The fee is waived if you use a Nordstrom credit or debit card.

"I hate shopping but always need new clothes so this was a good option," our tester, Brandon, said. "I also realized the company knew me better than I knew myself because after initially balking at a shirt they sent me, I tried it on and actually loved it."

subscription boxes
Trunk Club is associated with Nordstrom department stores.TODAY

Other men's subscription options:

Upgrade your attire with Tie Bar — a subscription box that focuses on sending new ties or socks. Choose whether you'd like to receive six or 12 items (boxes will come every three months) and provide some more detail, like whether you want bow ties, skinny ties, neck ties or extra-long ties.

Subscription options range from $45 to $259.

Frank and Oak is a more traditional option where expert stylists work with the site's algorithm to help pick the best clothes for you. The picks are drawn from high-quality, eco-conscious options, and you can fine-tune the final shipment. Take a week to decide what you want to keep, and send back whatever isn't working for you. The $25 styling fee only applies if you return the entire box.

If you're a big watch collector, this subscription box is for you. Each month, you'll receive a brand-new watch that's guaranteed to be worth at least five times more than your subscription fee (which ranges from $30 a month to $300, depending on your budget and preferences). With a wide variety of styles and a mystery element, you'll be surprised with every box.

Never run out of the basics again with this simple subscription service from Basic Man. For $19.99 a month, get a new set of T-shirts, socks and boxer-briefs — all you have to do is pick the sizes.

For kids:

After answering a quick questionnaire, you'll get a personalized set of clothing options for your kids. Pay a $10 service fee per child — which is credited back if you purchase from delivery — and then you'll only be charged for the items you choose to keep.

"In our house we just pick clothes for our boys, and don’t get their input," our tester, Matt, explained. "But this makes it kind of fun. They get to have some say, pick the colors and styles they like, and the best part is, there is no chance you’re going to have to deal with a tantrum in the middle of a crowded store."

subscription boxes
Subscription boxes could save you the headache of taking kids to the store. TODAY

Other kid subscription boxes:

For $65, Hello Bello will send "premium, plant-based products" straight to your door, eliminating the need to run out for diapers and personal care items. Each bundle includes seven packs of diapers (choose your own patterns and sizes!) and four packs of wipes. Your first bundle even includes a fun surprise!

This stylish brand will match you with real-life moms that will help you update your kids' closets. Start by taking the style quiz, and your stylist will choose eight to 12 items from boutique brands based on your selections. Keep what you love, and your $20 styling fee will be credited toward purchases if you buy two or more items. If you keep the whole box, you'll save 15% off the total.

Help your kids get some cool and colorful options with this subscription box. After taking the style quiz, you'll get a sneak peek at the box where you can make any changes you'd like. A few days later, the box will show up at your door. Send back what you want, keep what you love and remember that feedback will help your stylist create even more tailored boxes for your little ones.

Kids are always growing out of their shoes, so here's an option that can keep up with them. The monthly boxes can be skipped if you're not looking for something new at the moment; or if you are, just pick your favorite new styles and they'll be sent to you. The $29.95 fee can be used as a credit toward your purchase.

With celebrity fans and a curated collection of fashionable kids clothing and exclusive styles to pull from, your littles might just end up looking cooler than you! You get to choose how often a box is delivered (monthly, quarterly or on demand) and there's no obligation to buy, so you can keep what you like and send back the rest.

For maternity:

The maternity version of Rent the Runway has all the fashion, style and availability of their standard subscription, but with maternity options and sizes. Regular members can have up to four items a month and VIP members can have four items at a time that they can exchange whenever they want.

"I’m actually the one who told Jill about this one!" our tester, Allie, said. "I love this service because it allows me so many options I don’t necessarily have to keep as my bump keeps growing."

subscription boxes
The biggest problem with shopping for maternitywear is that you'll quickly outgrow your favorite styles, so why not rent or borrow options?TODAY

Other maternity subscription boxes:

With Le Tote, there's no stylist involved — you just pick the options you love (for $89 a month), and they'll ship them to you. Wear the items as much as you want, and then send them back when you're done. If you really love something, you can purchase it for up to 50% off the retail price.

There are also non-maternity options (for $79 a month), so you can keep shopping after the baby is born!

Stitch Fix has options for all three trimesters of pregnancy, plus postpartum. Start with non-maternity options that will grow with you, like flowy tops and "forgiving" bottoms for the first trimester, then segue into flattering, fun maternity styles for the second. End the third trimester on a high note with chic but comfortable options — and some fun pieces that are perfect for a shower or babymoon! — and then wrap up with postpartum pieces like comfy dresses.

You can request boxes as often as you'd like, buy what you want and send the rest back. No subscription is required to take full advantage of this box, but they will charge a $20 fee that will be credited toward purchases.

Forget buying one-time items that you won't be able to wear once baby is born and try renting designer pieces instead with this box. Browse the many options and borrow items by the month or buy them if you'd like. (You can also rent and then later buy an item for a discount; the fee depends on the item.) You can borrow more than one item at a time, or get a second size for just a small fee. Return your items when you're done, and see what you want to try next!

Start by sharing your style preferences to curate a box perfect for you. Once it arrives, try on the clothes, send back what doesn't quite work and keep what you love for as long as you want. That's right, you can send it back whenever you want! With unlimited exchanges, free dry cleaning and an option to buy clothes at a discounted price, this service is sure to keep your closet feeling fresh.

You can rent individual items, or get a three-item box for $69 a month or five items for $99 a month.