My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

Several posts ago, I confessed to owning far too many cardigans and feeling overwhelmed by overduplication in that area of my wardrobe. In my last essay, I revealed that I opted to purge nine of my cardigans after doing try-ons and analysis. I showed photos of the purged cardigans and outlined my reasons for letting each of them go. In today’s post – part two, I highlight the lessons I learned from going through that difficult but rewarding wardrobe decluttering exercise.

lessons learned from mistake purchases

Do a “Post-Mortem” After Letting Things Go

While it feels great to downsize a packed closet, I don’t think we should stop there. We have a better chance of learning from our mistakes if we do a “post-mortem” analysis following our decluttering efforts. When we don’t pause to consider our motivations for letting go of closet pieces, we may be prone to repeating our shopping missteps.

Of course, not all of the items we release from our wardrobes represent purchasing errors. Sometimes we pass things on because they’ve become worn out, or because they no longer fit our bodies, lifestyles, or personal style aesthetics. If a particular closet piece has served us well, we may be sad to see it go, but we won’t feel the guilt that’s often present with garments we shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

When poor fit – be it physically, practically, or stylistically –  is a factor in why something gets purged, the guilt may or may not be there. It depends in large part on whether we believe the disconnect was our fault. Although it’s common to feel that we should have known better, in truth we can’t always predict changes that may transpire in our lives, bodies, or minds. After all, who could have predicted the events of 2020?!

I believe it’s helpful to keep a running list of our purged closet pieces during each given year. Maintaining this list doesn’t need to be a time-consuming endeavor. You can simply jot down each item’s description, along with a brief note as to why you’re letting it go (e.g., “It’s worn out, “It no longer fits me,” “I don’t like the style anymore,” etc.).

If a style issue is your reason for discarding a closet piece, it’s beneficial to be a bit more descriptive than the simple phrases mentioned above. Here are a couple of questions to help you formulate your thoughts:

  • Why don’t I like this item any longer?
  • Which specific aspects of the style are no longer a match for me?

My last post, which highlighted my reasons for letting go of nine cardigans, represents a good illustration of what a closet purge post-mortem might look like (although yours doesn’t need to be as lengthy and involved as mine!). Your reasons for passing things on may differ from mine, but hopefully my examples will spark your thought process regarding why you’re not wearing certain pieces – and why it might be time to let them go.

Common Threads

In part one of this series, I spelled out why I let go of each individual cardigan, but I also discovered some common threads woven throughout my narrative.  I don’t believe most of these themes are specific to me and my situation, which is why I’m dedicating this post to sharing them with you. I suspect that you’ll resonate with one or more of my common threads, which may help you gain a better understanding for why some of your purchases aren’t working out. Alternatively, you might realize that you previously made some of these mistakes but don’t anymore. If the latter is true, you should give yourself credit for having learned from the error of your former ways.

Patterns may become evident even when we’re purging items from multiple wardrobe categories (as opposed to just one area, like my cardigans). The same issues with color, style, fit, or silhouette may show up among tops, bottoms, layering pieces, and even shoes and accessories. Keep your eyes – and your mind – open to see what patterns you notice as you’re letting things go. Clarifying common threads can help you carry lessons forward into future shopping experiences.

Below I recap the six common threads that I noticed while analyzing my cardigans and compiling my last post.

Lesson One – “A Lot Going On” Doesn’t Work for Me

I do best with minimalist styles with few “bells and whistles.” If there’s a lot going on with a garment in terms of features and embellishments, I tend not to be happy wearing it.

As one example, both the wide shawl collar and the deep side pockets on the Athleta Pranayama wraps were problematic for me. The collar was fussy and required repeated adjustment to stay in place, and the pockets poked out at the bottom. The latter is often an issue for me with my wider hips, especially with pants that have side pockets, but the wrap’s pockets behaved in a similar manner.

I’m often fine with collars and pockets, but it’s usually better if they’re smaller and/or stiffer in construction or are set in a more flattering way. I don’t dismiss collars or pockets outright, but I know that I need to be careful with these features and remember which specific details don’t work for me (i.e., slant-style pockets are most often a “miss”).

too much going on

There was just too much going on with these cardigans for me!

Lesson Two – Loving the Color of an Item Isn’t Enough.

Some of my favorite hues are represented among my castoff cardigans:  berry, deep red, burgundy, cinnamon, and cool navy. However, if a garment has style or fit issues, it doesn’t matter how amazing and stunning its color is. I’m just not going to wear something that I don’t feel good in, regardless of how much the color makes my heart sing. There will be plenty of other items down the line in colors that I love, so I need to pass up problematic pieces in the store (or return them as soon as possible).

color isn't enough

I loved the colors of these cardigans, but that wasn’t enough for make these good purchases! 

Lesson Three – Loving the Print of an Item Also Isn’t Enough.

The prints were my main reason for purchasing the black and silver striped cardigan and cream snake print cardigan. But even though I loved the metallic stripes on the black J. Jill cardigan, that wasn’t enough to counteract the fit issue of the deep side slits. And although snake print was both trendy and cool last year (and still is), the cream base of the White House Black Market cardigan washed me out.

The prints on both of these garments couldn’t “rescue” them and make them work for me. Lesson learned: don’t overlook clear fit and flattery issues with a garment just because it has a trendy, fun, or unusual print.

a great print isn't enough

I love stripes and snake print, but these cardigans were still “misses.”

Lesson Four – Too Many Similar Pieces Leads to “Splitting Wears.”

When we buy too many pieces that occupy the exact same wardrobe category, it creates several problems. We often go shopping because we want to add variety and excitement to our closets, but we won’t accomplish that if we keep reaching for the same types of items over and over again in the stores (or online).

Additionally, when a person owns too many similar garments (or accessories), they end up doing what stylist Bridgette Raes calls “splitting wears.” Bridgette has written about this phenomenon many times on her blog, including in this excellent post. In brief, if you’re splitting wears, it means that you have multiple items in your closet that basically serve the same purpose. If you own too many similar pieces and don’t have enough occasions to wear them all, you end up diluting the value of each item. You also end up having fewer style options and less wardrobe variety.

If I would have kept the black J. Jill cardigan/jacket pictured below (on the far left), it would have “split wears” with several other black toppers already in my closet (on the right). The J. Jill piece was just too similar to multiple other garments that I already owned. Had the J. Jill cardigan/jacket been in another one of my favorite colors instead of black, it would likely still be in my closet, as the fit and silhouette were flattering and in line with my style aesthetic.

We have to learn to realize when we have enough of a particular type of item so we’ll then stop shopping for such pieces. This isn’t always easy to discern because we all have distinct needs, and it can prudent to own several similar pieces if one wears them all regularly. But with how infrequently I even put on out-and-about outfits these days, I’m glad I realized that I have little justification for yet another long black topper in my wardrobe.

too many similar pieces and splitting wears

When we have too many similar pieces, we can end up “splitting our wears.”

Lesson Five – Be Aware of Details that Throw Off the Fit of a Garment.

Such problem details will vary from person to person, as we’re all shaped differently and have our own unique proportions. For me, garment features that can be problematic include deep side slits, flaring out in the hip area, and narrowing below the hips.

problematic details

All of these cardigans included details that were problematic for me. 

When it comes to toppers, I do best with a straight fit that’s roughly the same basic width from top to bottom. I like my toppers to have some shaping in the torso area, but not so much down in the hip region (if a garment extends that far down). Smaller side slits in some toppers can work for me, but the long (10 inches!) slits in the J. Jill cardigans were a deal-breaker.

I need to evaluate potentially problematic features like side slits on a case-by-case basis, but I mostly try to stay away from them. When side slits might work for me is when there’s more “substance” overall to a garment (i.e., a thicker fabric or more tailoring).

Lesson Six – Don’t Buy Multiples of a Wardrobe Category Within a Short Timeframe.

I purchased too many cardigans late last year and early this year. I didn’t intend to keep all of them, but it was still overkill and led to my feeling overwhelmed and confused about which pieces to keep and which to return. I tend to get “tunnel vision” with my shopping, such that I key in on a particular type of item to buy. This behavior can lead to my buying too much within a short timeframe.

I’d be better off purchasing just one or two pieces within a given category (e.g., cardigans, tops, pants, or whatever) and integrating them fully into my wardrobe before shopping for other such items. In doing so, I might learn that the new additions are enough so that I can stop buying within that category. Alternatively, I might discover a specific wardrobe gap that I want to fill, which would lead to more targeted and appropriate purchasing.

Since my theme for 2021 is “less,” buying fewer pieces overall is my goal. Most of the cardigans featured in this two-part series were purchased last year, but I did make the mistake of buying the black J. Jill cardi/jacket relatively recently. I didn’t actually need it – and it wouldn’t have added true variety or versatility to my wardrobe, so I’m glad I didn’t remove the tags and wear it. I need to do better with maintaining and adhering to a focused shopping priorities list. When I’ve done so in the past, my purchasing was more targeted and I made fewer mistakes overall.

Conclusion

I’m glad I took the time to evaluate all of my cardigans, as it allowed me to determine which ones were never going to serve a valuable place in my wardrobe. I’m also happy that I reflected on why I decided to let those castoffs go, so I could discern patterns and learn from my mistakes. Yes, this process was time-consuming, but I feel that it was well worth doing.

Of course, it would have been better not to have bought so many cardigans in the first place! Old habits die hard and, for me, shopping is often a means of dealing with stress (and we all know how stressful the past year has been!).  I’m working on practicing better coping mechanisms, improved impulse control, and more directed purchasing.

Sometimes my shopping behavior feels like three steps forward and two steps back, which can be quite frustrating. However, I’m pleased to report that I’m course-correcting more often, making better overall choices for myself, and not holding on to mistake purchases as much as I used to. Yes, it can be annoying and time-consuming to manage returns, but I’d rather return something for a refund than have to either donate or sell it because it didn’t work out for me.

I hope you found this two-part analysis of my cardigan downsizing process both interesting and informative. The types of items that you remove from your closet, as well as your reasons for doing so, will of course be different from mine. The lessons you learn from the process may diverge from my lessons as well. But sometimes reading through another person’s evaluation will spark “aha moments” that can benefit the reader. Hopefully that was the case for you with this series!

I wish you the best with your own wardrobe management process, and I welcome any thoughts or insights you’d like to share related to today’s post.

30 thoughts on “Cardigan Downsizing Debrief – Part Two

  1. Jenn says:

    A list of discards that include a “post mortem” sounds like a great idea to me. What better way to refresh our memory of our mistakes and learn from them? Or, as you pointed out, remember items that added value to our lives at one time… until they didn’t.

    As I read your post, I couldn’t help but think about a top I’d just ordered, similar in style to two other tops that I love of the same brand, but all in vastly different patterns. Acquiring a new one will definitely split my wearings. So I went on to read the post you linked us to by Bridgette Raes. Afterward, I felt somewhat reassured, as I wore the two tops I already own on repeat last summer, and I hope to venture out more often this summer.

    Like you, I don’t like a lot of bells and whistles. I’m all about subtlety when it comes to details. And I try (and yet still sometimes fail) to always consider color, fit, and style when trying on a potential new piece. I think those words might have come from Brenda Kinsel?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Your new top seems like it WILL add value to your life rather than just splitting wears, Jenn. Since you wore the other two tops often last summer, it makes sense to buy another. You’re also being wise to only purchase ONE new top, as opposed to a BUNCH of them (like I did with the cardigans – sigh…). Fingers crossed that we will indeed be able to venture out more this coming summer!

      Brenda Kinsel will live on through all of the great wisdom she imparted through her writing over the years. It’s definitely wise to consider color, fit, and style when trying on potential new pieces. We can’t pay attention to only one of these things, no matter how much that aspect might call to us. I’ve bought well-fitting pieces in styles that I loved, but the color was off. Guess how often I actually wore those items? That same is true for the other characteristics alone. It ALL has to work, and I need to remember that (we all do)!

  2. Vildy says:

    Lesson number six is one I really need to discipline myself about. I become smitten with a certain type of item thinking that *now* this is what I want to wear more of. I’ve bought close to a dozen shirts, both solid and stripe, in the last month or two. It’s true that my warm weather wardrobe is far smaller than my cold weather wardrobe – and I’m a continual evaluator and purger. And I don’t wear leisure/at home clothes, except a small core to sleep in. I dress everyday as if I’m going somewhere and I’ve been doing that for years. Plus, I like wovens instead of knits for hot humid weather. Still, a dozen new (to me) shirts is a whole lot.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That’s a great practice to dress everyday as if you’re going somewhere, Vildy! I’m not there, but I’ve at least moved to wearing something that I’m fine to walk around the neighborhood in, as I like to take short walks to take a break and enjoy some fresh air. Yes, a dozen new shirts is a lot, but I’ve been there myself many times! I can get on “kicks” during which I’m focused on buying a particular type of item. Lesson 6 may be the most difficult one for me, too! It can lead to overwhelm, as well as wardrobe waste (and churn). Many of us would do well to “slow our roll,” but discipline can be hard…

      1. Vildy says:

        I think it was Mo who addressed this need for newness and variety by deciding to limit herself to something like one dark, one light, one pattern. I’ve remembered that idea for years but obviously haven’t abided by it. I’ll tell ya, I’m very impressed by those folks like you, my hubby, our “kid”, my friends who all can fix on what exactly they do and don’t like, will and will not wear. After your great write up of the wardrobe course you took from Everyday Style, I tried it. Unusual for me to be willing to spend money what with all the terrific free advice out there. I floundered over the idea of wanting to look like A Style Word. Went right down the rabbit hole. I’m usually very experimental plus I do my own alterations – my husband terms it “remanufacturing to your specifications”. I can’t really tell about an item until I can wear it “properly” – that is, until it gets to actually wearable. I haven’t got “the vision thing”. And yet, the volunteer ladies in the church thrifts where I’ve shopped for more than a decade will often exclaim, “We *knew* you’d like that.”
        And my friend’s hubby will say about certain items from a years long clothing swap a group of us participate in and that gets funneled through my friend first, that they are *me* and dang if he isn’t right.

        1. Vildy says:

          You know, I see the correlation now. I don’t need to know my style in order to want to communicate it but instead to help focus and limit acquisition. So at those times that I come to feel I do know something, that’s when I will overbuy! (not ordinarily to the extent of the shirt purchases) So for me limiting acquisition might work better as a purely going by the numbers strategy. A lightbulb moment.

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          Yes, I remember that wonderful post from Mo, Vildy! She had such excellent insights and I wish she were still blogging. Thank you for reminding me of that great advice for limiting ourselves to one dark, one light, and one pattern within a category. When I was trying to follow that rule (before I forgot about it), I amended it to one dark, one BRIGHT, and one pattern because I don’t really wear light colors, although I’m starting to a bit since I transitioned my hair color.

          I’m sorry that you didn’t find the Everyday Style course as helpful as I did, but nothing will ever be great for everyone. I resonate with what you wrote about not being able to decide about an item until you can wear it properly. I alter so many of my clothes (rather, I have them altered – I wish I could do it myself like you do!) and once I get the alterations done, I can’t return them. I’m doing better at only have simpler, more straightforward tailoring done and leaving things that need more in the stores.

          Your later comment about limiting acquisition is brilliant. I once had a “rule” that I couldn’t buy something new in a category until I had worn everything I already have within that category. I think I should put that rule/guideline back in place because I do the same thing as you – overbuying when I feel like I know something. Thanks for sharing your lightbulb moment, as it helped me to remember one that I previously had and then abandoned. Good luck to you!

    2. Catherine Burch Graham says:

      Good for you, Vildy. I have been living in the athleisure wear made insanely popular by the pandemic and just recently felt a hankering to dress more like my pre-pandemic self. That means mostly causal dresses. This true feeling of spring prompted me to go a bit crazy with spending the last two weeks, and I’ll be digging myself out of that hole for the next few weeks. Unfortunately, I gained weight during the pandemic and need to get out and walk in that athleisure wear – NOT just wear it inside on the couch. 😉

      1. Vildy says:

        I really miss walking. We live in a somewhat dangerous neighborhood so walking can be chancy – both hubby and I have been mugged, hubby bad enough that they had to call an ambulance and he had a concussion. I have neighbor
        friends who had warned me about carrying a purse and sure enough I was mugged for my purse. In any case, I don’t
        want to be given any guff for walking around without a mask and I don’t want to be going for walks with a mask. It
        makes me feel hot and wrecks my downward peripheral vision and my depth perception is already a little bit wonky.

        Unlike lots of folks, I lost about 11 pounds during the lockdown because I was in the mood to change my diet. However, it has now been creeping back because the pandemic atmosphere has been driving me nuts and I feel
        stir crazy.

        I don’t shop much at retail so don’t encounter the problem of being excited to see what is new in from a brand but
        I am definitely partial to certain brands and have to remind myself that like most things in life brands are not
        static. They change designers, suppliers. I’m always reading comments online where people lament that some
        brand is not what it was.

        1. Mugged? Concussion? I’m SO sorry, Vildy. Knock on wood…nothing like that has ever happened to me and our neighborhood was borderline for a long time!

        2. Vildy says:

          Thank you! You know those pie charts where you figure out how many clothes to correspond to segments of your life.
          Well, one of mine is definitely trying to blend in so I don’t look like a well off woman in from the suburbs to buy drugs and therefore having cash on me. The first thing the police said to my husband when they came was “what are you
          doing in this neighborhood” He was catching a bus around the corner from us, in order to get to work. He told them
          he’d lived here for more than 30 years.

          People are often buying for a fantasy lifestyle but my fantasy would be to be able to walk down the street wearing whatever I pleased. Around here, if you are wearing a skirt you are often mistaken for a prostitute. Going to a local market with a grocery shopping cart and wearing a skirt, not a mini, guy on a bicycle pulls next to me, “You working?” Told him I was old enough to be his grandmother.

          When our son attended a magnet school for the arts a couple neighborhoods over they had a strictly enforced uniform dress code. The principle called in the girls who were wearing skirts in hot humid weather and begged them to wear shorts, even though against the dress code. She said that when she drove in in the mornings they were dressed like the prostitutes and she was afraid for them.

        3. Debbie Roes says:

          Wow, Vildy! You and your husband have been through some harrowing experiences! I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you. It must be terrible to live in a neighborhood for so many years and see it change and become less safe. Being able to go for walks near where I live is really important to me and I would be very sad not to be able to do it safely. I don’t wear a mask when I go for a walk, but we mostly go in the evenings and to places where there are few people and we can avoid being near anyone.

          Congrats on being one of the few people to lose weight over the course of the past year! I feel fortunate to have pretty much stayed the same despite my frequent baking escapades. I totally understand feeling stir crazy, but I also know that I’m lucky to live in a temperate climate and to not be worried about getting mugged when I leave my house!

          Your comment about brands changing is right on. I’m often sad to see quality going downhill with some of my previous mainstay brands. I wish I could shop secondhand more often, but since I’m extremely sensitive to fragrance, I can’t do it. I’ve tried to remove the smell of laundry detergent, fabric softeners, or perfume, and often it just won’t come out. 😦

          I appreciate your sharing so much about your experience on this post. I only wish that you didn’t have to deal with some of what you do in your neighborhood.

      2. Debbie Roes says:

        I’ve felt that same sort of hankering in recent months, Catherine, after being totally fine with athleisure for months. Many people gained weight during the pandemic, so you’re not alone, and I think we all deserve to have things to wear that we feel good in like the casual dresses that you bought. As you know, I tend to overbuy my favorites as well. Moderation can be challenging, but after the year we’ve all been through, I don’t think any of us should beat ourselves up for shopping. Instead, we should just learn from our experiences and mistakes and vow to do better. In the meantime, enjoy those new dresses!

  3. Maggie says:

    Great post! I could identify with a lot of this. I wondered this morning if you have ever considered an alternative to the cardigan? You have the height to carry a poncho sweater or ruana. I have been looking at zip hoodies by LOGO Lori Goldstein on QVC as an alternative to my usual cashmere or fleece. I still need something with a little warmth. I always found jackets hard to fit but I have a gray wool moto from Anthropologie and a fleece moto from Isaac Mizrahi on QVC that I love but I have to balance my bottom have out to not look top-heavy.

    I miss Brenda Kinsel.

    1. Maggie says:

      FYI – I don’t know if you have ever read “Always in Style with Color Me Beautiful : Your Shape Your Style” by Doris Pooser She was the first person to talk about scale and also helped me identify my body shape (Soft Straight) that helped me work with the lines of my body instead of against them. It is an old book – you can get used copies on Amazon and other places – but I have yet to see anyone address those topics as well as she did.

      (My favorite quote at the moment is, “When nothing goes right, go left!”)

      🙂

      1. Margarita Garcia-Otero says:

        wanted to add Kimono here…

      2. Vildy says:

        Maggie, thanks for mentioning the Pooser book. I had it once and bought it again on the strength of your recommendation. I remembered quite a bit of it. I’ve just read it through again.
        I feel like a soft straight, too. The traditional advice for hourglass, inverted triangle, etc just doesn’t really do it for me. I’m less interested in figure flattery but intensely interested in clothing proportions one to another and to oneself as well. I think she gets to this much more simply and succinctly than Kibbe. I did some of the measurements again, too. I always thought of myself as a thick boned person but according to her system I’m plain old medium, if that, and my jaw length is actually fine boned. I’m relearning a lot from this re-read.

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your suggestions, Maggie. I hadn’t thought about ponchos or ruanas, but I have tried lots of jackets and kimonos (thanks for that suggestion, Margarita), which are both challenging in terms of fit and flattery on my frame. I LOVE moto jackets, but they almost never fit me properly, sadly. If they fit my shoulders (broad) and at the hem, they’re almost always very big in the torso area. I won’t give up on jackets, though, even if they mostly don’t work out for me. I think my love of cardigans at least partially relates to their being so easy to fit on me.

      I haven’t read the book you mentioned, but it sounds very interesting. I will check it out! I never have the problem of looking top-heavy, but I can look bottom-heavy sometimes, even though I’m technically an hourglass shape rather than a pear.

      Great quote!

  4. Murphy says:

    I have definitely made a lot of mistakes because of numbers 2 and 3 on your list – I get seduced by a pretty color or pattern and forget about everything else! I have gotten better though – a couple of years ago I adopted the rule that I can’t buy something only because I like the color: it also has to have a flattering fit AND there has to be someplace in my actual life where I could wear it. Now I’m working on another downfall that is not on your list: I tend to buy things (especially tops and toppers) just because they are new items from one of my go-to favorite brands. But of course, many of such items don’t pass the « fit, flatter, and have someplace to wear it » tests! This is a work in progress for me…

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Murphy! Yes, mistakes number 2 and 3 are big ones for a lot of us, as colors and patterns can be so enticing. I like your rule about not buying something just because of the color. Your other downfall related to brands is probably common as well. I can latch onto certain brands sometimes, too, and I have to be careful not to buy things just because I liked their offerings in the past. As for somewhere to wear an item, I’ve always liked Bridgette Raes’ question to her clients, “Where are you going in that?” My husband even asks me that sometimes when I express a love for something that isn’t a fit for my lifestyle. It helps to remember that we can sometimes admire a piece without having to own it. I remember Jill Chivers related that to visiting an art gallery and not wanting/needing to own the artwork.

  5. Vildy says:

    Now, it’s not rare hat I edit out a lot of clothing at once and I do have reasons for each item but I tried your system of finding patterns or lessons. I wasn’t anywhere as succinct as you but I found the experience very valuable. I have about 4 or 5 tall kitchen trash bags to go out (depends on making them less heavy). Your Cardigans are my Blazers and Outerwear. I get the categories confused, too. If I wear a heavier blazer as outerwear, is it outerwear? If I wear a moto jacket or leather jacket as a third piece is it a “blazer”?

    I certainly don’t have bags full of blazers to go but between blazers, outerwear jackets, top jacket halves of pants or skirt outfits I have 13 in the bags. We have a dramatic difference in cold and hot weather seasons here and I always
    wonder how come my summer wardrobe has so much contrast and liveliness and my winter wardrobe is quite somber
    and, well, blunted. One thing I realized from this exercise is that my Miss Marple side, as my friend puts it, is at fault.
    Nobody wants to look at tweed in hot, humid weather. And all that tweed is most often “low energy”. I need to snap out of it and not add more of this for winter clothes. In the same category, I purged a marled lightweight cable sweater. I used to be very drawn to this, as a kind of tweediness. But if I start out with blurred garments, I end up with low or lowered energy visually.

    I’m also drawn to contrast binding – it’s a more vivid element after all – but in the end it bugs me because all the outlining of the garment makes me feel like a cartoon.

    I also realized that while I do wear autumn colors, particularly the more somber ones like mulberry or raisin, I like them monochromatically and don’t like them all mixed together in a patterned garment, like sweaters with tapestry embroidery or intarsia knitted florals. Before this, I used to say, “Oh, I wear that color and that color and….” And then the sweater jacket doesn’t get worn. I guess this is one of my versions of too much busyness. For some reason it’s
    just the autumn colors I react to this way. I’m a frequent pattern mixer and do wear a lot of pattern in summer.

    Another larger more general category I see I should avoid is heaviness. Sometimes this is just a visual perception but mostly it is about the actual weight of a garment. I feel restricted in a heavy garment even if there is actually plenty
    of room to move. I feel “encased”. So I got rid of a lot of things for this reason but am not venturing so far as to
    reconsider heavier leather jackets. The day may yet come. I have gotten rid of heavier sweaters, though. The funniest one, to me, is a visually ultra thick and heavy waist length dimensional knit black sweater with wide short sleeves. I can imagine how wonderful this would look on one of those beautiful young models with the fashionable sullen expressions lost in contemplation of what exact shade of gray she wants to repaint the walls in her minimalist flat… I look like a fullback who took up crochet.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found my process helpful, Vildy. Good for you for purging 4-5 bags of clothing! The labels for what’s a blazer and what’s outerwear can be challenging and vary from person to person. If I don’t take something off when I go indoors, I consider it a third piece rather than outerwear. I love your friend’s comment about your “Miss Marple side” – very evocative. It seems like you’ve gained some powerful insights from going through your clothes. Since many of us tend to be lower energy in winter anyway, we certainly don’t want our clothing to make that worse! Interesting that you like pattern mixing in summer but not in other seasons. You’re probably not alone in that. I know many people wear more color and pattern in the warmer months. As for “heaviness,” I don’t like to feel “encased” in my clothing, either! I got a chuckle out of your description of the black sweater and now it looks on the models vs. real life. So many ads (and Instagram photos, too, for that matter) are so aspirational and don’t translate to our daily lives. A lot of the effect has to do with poses, lighting, etc. And yes, things that look fabulous on the very young often don’t work on those of us who are older. But I doubt you look like a fullback in the sweater nonetheless!

  6. Katrina B says:

    Great lessons – very helpful! If only I could actually remember and follow them… I need to keep them all in mind for my hobbies, too, as I am always drawn to color and pattern and later find that I managed to collect a very mismatched group of things and nothing that will really work together for a project. But I do also swing back and forth between extremes, where some years I might buy every color I see, and other years, like 2019 (I guess that was the last time we all went to work in an office?), when I was very into the capsule concept and everything I bought was navy. I actually still have no interest in shopping or clothes but I expect it to come back with a vengeance, at some point in our worldwide recovery process.

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yes, it can be hard to keep our lessons learned top of mind, Katrina. Even though I wrote a whole blog post about my lessons, I suspect I will still make these mistakes from time to time, but hopefully the increased awareness will decrease the shopping errors. I agree that many of our lessons related to buying clothing can also apply to other types of purchases. A friend read this post and told me that she related my lessons to her buying art supplies (she doesn’t have issues with buying too many clothes – lucky her!). It’s great that you don’t have an interest in shopping at the moment. I didn’t early on in the pandemic, but then it came back, probably due to anxiety (shopping is a big coping mechanism for me, as I’ve written about here). Capsule wardrobes can be helpful in many ways, but sometimes they can lead to buying MORE out of a desire for the PERFECT items or to have everything well-coordinated. Hopefully when your urge to shop returns, it will be moderate and manageable. I’m working to get back to that place. Moderation can be so challenging to achieve…

  7. Cardigans and tops are struggle areas for me. Not because I end up with things I don’t like/wear, but because I end up with too many things that I like. There are only so many days in a season! I definitely have the issue of wanting to buy something that matches something else; I order online and when it arrives, it doesn’t match, but it otherwise looks good on me and I like it. Then I end up keeping it because I don’t want to pay for return shipping and can justify it as a “good” item, but it doesn’t actually fit the need I have, so I keep looking. Lather, rinse, repeat, indeed. My other downfall is print skirts and print scarves, where I just fall in love with how they look and don’t think about how they will fit into my overall wardrobe.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I resonated with what you wrote, Sally. With some wardrobe categories – like cardigans, I find too many things I like, too. I think a lot of people who buy things online fail to do returns because of the hassle and expense. I try not to have to pay for shipping with online purchases and returns, but I know it can’t always be avoided (and is more common in other countries). What you wrote about falling in love with how a piece looks without considering how it fits into one’s overall wardrobe is a big problem for many people. I just heard on a podcast that before we buy anything, we should determine THREE ways we’re going to wear it with pieces we already own. I’m going to try to keep that in mind.

  8. RoseAG says:

    Great analysis!
    Loving the color or print has often lead me down the path of an item that looks great hanging in my closet but never leaves my closet.
    I also think #6 is wise. Even if you love every single multiple you buy, it leaves you open to exogenous events — pant waists rise/fall and now all your tops don’t work with them any more, you gain a few pounds and none of them look good. Better to acquire too many of one thing over a few years so they can last across fashion cycles. I get that people who hate to shop want to buy a lot of what they love so they don’t have to shop again anytime soon, but I don’t think that’s so much as issue with readers of this blog 🙂

    1. Vildy says:

      You’ve made a point that’s tremendously useful to me. I really *don’t* like to shop. I find all the decisiion-making stressful as well as the sensory bombardment: riot of colors, textures, music that stores play that interferes with my thinking speed, and in thrift stores the tumult of different eras of clothing juxtaposed willy nilly. I feel kind of battered.
      But I love clothes and style and have from a toddler. So this really explains why I might buy many examples of something at once – because I can feel done with shopping. I never realized that. Thank you.

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Great insights, Rose! I like what you wrote about “exogenous events” and how they can lead to a lot of our clothes not working well for us. It’s great that what you shared lead to a breakthrough for Vildy! That’s part of what’s so amazing about blog comments, as we can all help each other to learn and grow. I related to what you wrote, too. Even though I ostensibly love to shop, I also find making decisions about what to buy stressful. I think I mistakenly believe that if I buy multiples, I won’t have to shop again for “a long time” (the definition of which can vary a great deal from person to person). But in actuality, I am extremely picky and fickle about my clothes, so a lot of my items go back and then I am back “on the hunt” again. It can truly be exhausting. If I can stick to my rule #6, I would save myself a lot of grief!

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