Analyzing why certain wardrobe items don’t work for us is one of the most helpful things we can do to improve our future shopping. We usually buy clothing with great intentions and believe that we’ll love and wear our new acquisitions for years to come, but that doesn’t always end up happening. When we opt to pass something on, it serves us well to take a few moments to jot down our reasons for letting the item go. If we commit to this practice, over time we tend to notice patterns that can help us avoid future mistakes. When we know better, we often do better – or at least we have more “ammunition” for doing so.
In today’s post, I evaluate twelve purchases from 2020 that didn’t end up working out for me. I share photos of the items, where they were purchased, why I bought them, and my reasons for letting them go. I also look at some common elements among these items in order to gain more insights about my purchases that fell flat. At the end of the post, I encapsulate the lessons I learned from the shopping mistakes I made last year.
A Look at the Items and Some General Information
Here’s a look at the twelve shopping mistakes I’m going to evaluate below:
These items can be broken down into the following categories:
- 2 jackets
- 2 cardigans
- 1 kimono
- 4 tops
- 3 pairs of pants
Half of these garments could be classified as “out-and-about” pieces, while the other half were bought to be worn at home or while exercising. I still have many of these items in my possession, but I managed to sell four of them, and I’m hoping to sell two others soon. I haven’t decided what to do with the remaining items, but I definitely wouldn’t purchase any of them again today if I were faced with that option. It’s highly likely that most will be gone before the end of the year, but I might try to wear a couple of them in different ways than originally intended (i.e., for sleep).
Digging a Bit Deeper…
Let’s look at some of the other characteristics of my mistake items, as they may hold clues as to why they didn’t work for me and what I might want to avoid in the future.
Where They Were Purchased
- 3 items were purchased at an in-person retail store (White House Black Market, J. Jill, and Athleta – all places where I’ve successfully shopped multiple times in the past).
- 6 items were purchased from an online retailer (Cabi, Lands’ End, Gap, Nordstrom, and Old Navy – I regularly buy from all of these retailers except for Lands’ End).
- 3 items were resale purchases (1 in person, 1 on Poshmark, and 1 on eBay).
With the exception of one item (the black Cabi Maestro jacket), all of my mistake purchases were low-priced and many of them were on sale. I don’t think I paid more than $40 for any of these pieces, and several of them were under $20. As many of us know, sales shopping can be either a blessing or a curse. If we take advantage of a sale in order to buy something that we truly need, that’s great, but much of the time, we’re buying things simply because they’re on sale.
An item is only a “bargain” if we end up wearing it regularly. Otherwise, we may end up passing on those “It only cost…” garments with their tags still attached, especially if they were purchased “final sale” or if their return deadline has passed. I’ll delve more into the issue of sales shopping later on in this post.
Reasons for Letting Things Go
I’ll address my specific reasons for letting each item go shortly, but I thought it would be interesting to present a general breakdown first:
- 3 of the items had color-related issues.
- 4 garments had fit issues.
- 3 pieces weren’t flattering on my particular shape.
- 2 items were purged for other reasons (a style that I decided to try but ultimately didn’t like; not being able to remove laundry detergent odor from a resale purchase).
The Specific Items
Now I’ll review each of my mistake purchases one by one and state my reasons for passing them on. So that you don’t have to scroll back up to the top to see all of the garments in question, I’ll picture them in groups of three as I review them.
Items 1 – 3
- Black Cabi Maestro Jacket – For the past few years, I’ve attended Cabi shows at a friend’s house twice a year, but the shows turned virtual last year because of Covid. This jacket was actually a replacement for another item I had originally ordered that didn’t work out. I loved the idea of this jacket, but in reality, the sleeves were a bit too short and the fit was somewhat off. I should have returned it, but I was embarrassed to have to “bother” the sales rep again (Cabi is a direct sales brand that customers purchase through individual “stylists” – returns are also processed through those reps). I thought that maybe I could make it work, but when I fully realized that wasn’t going to happen, the return deadline (only 30 days) had passed. Fortunately, I was able to recoup about half of my losses by selling this jacket on eBay, but it was still an expensive mistake!
- Black Lands’ End Cropped Pants – I ordered these pants to wear for walks on warmer days (I don’t wear shorts due to the varicose and spider veins on my legs). I didn’t have much experience with Lands’ End, but after learning that they carry tall sizes, I decided to order a few things. These pants were the only item that I kept, and I should have returned them with the rest of the stuff. I seem to be in between sizes at Lands’ End, plus the pants weren’t all that flattering on my bottom-heavy body. I still have them in my “holding zone,” but I’ll probably pass them on during my next review of those items, which I plan to do within the next month or so.
- Black Print Chico’s Kimono – I bought this piece during my last visit to an in-person consignment store prior to the pandemic. I loved the colors and thought that maybe I might want to branch out from my usual cardigans to try something new. Unfortunately, kimonos just don’t look good on me and they don’t feel true to my style (perhaps too boho?). I felt matronly in this item and always ended up choosing something else to wear instead. I sold the kimono on eBay for at least as much as I paid for it, but of course that doesn’t include the time I spent on making that sale happen.
Items 4 – 6
- Black and White Striped Cabi Sporty Jacket – I took a chance and bought this jacket on Poshmark early on in the pandemic. I actually loved the jacket and it fit me well, but despite the fact that it was listed as “new without tags,” it still arrived smelling strongly of either laundry detergent or Febreze. I’m not sure if it wasn’t actually new or if it was perhaps stored in a box with recently laundered items. I should have opened a case with Poshmark to try to return the jacket, but I’m too much of a “people-pleaser” to do something like that. I tried to remove the odor through various means, but nothing worked (I’m very sensitive to fragrances). I resold the jacket on eBay for about the same price as I paid for it, but I went through a lot of hassle in the process, and I was sad not to be able to wear an item that I loved in all respects other than the scent. Since this unfortunate situation, I’ve only purchased shoes and accessories (jewelry, sunglasses) on resale sites. Used clothes are just too risky for me for me to buy unless I’m doing it in person.
- White Snakeskin Print WHBM Cardigan – This was another pre-pandemic purchase that was great in almost all respects. It fit me well, the material was soft, and I liked the snakeskin print. However, the pale color really washed me out. I kind of realized that at the time of purchase, but I thought that wearing a bright color under the cardigan would help to mitigate the fact that white isn’t my best shade (I really only wear it in prints that are dominated by another color). But since it’s a larger piece and anything underneath it didn’t show up all that well, that strategy didn’t work. I missed the return window during the whole pandemic chaos, but I sold the cardigan “new with tags” for a decent price on Poshmark (not as much as I paid for it, but not bad).
- Burgundy J. Jill Wearever Cardigan – Like the WHBM cardigan, I bought this one about a month before the pandemic lockdowns began. It was on sale for a relatively low price and I liked the color, but I failed to recognize that the deep side slits weren’t flattering on me. I guess a lot of women must like those side slits, as I see them on so many garments these days. Maybe they work well on “apple-shaped” bodies (not that any of us should be likened to types of fruit!), but I think they make my already curvy hips look larger. I considered having the side slits sewn shut, but I thought the cardigan might then be too tight at the bottom. This cardigan has been listed on both Poshmark and eBay for months, with little interest. I don’t think J. Jill is a brand that sells well on the resale sites, as I have another J. Jill item listed that also isn’t moving. I may just end up donating the cardigan, as I plan to stop all of my online clothing sales at the end of the year (I’ll do an update on that soon – my last one is here).
Items 7 – 9
- Fuchsia and Pink Striped Gap Tee – I bought this tee on sale because I loved the colors and the price was low. My size was not available, so I purchased the next size up, which was of course too large. I should have returned the tee to the store, but I neglected to do so within the return window. I’m usually quite diligent about doing my returns, but last year was a different year in so many respects. I thought that maybe I might wear this too-large tee for workouts or sleep, but I haven’t done so. I usually prefer more fitted tops for exercising, and I like to wear even looser-fitting garments to bed for the sake of comfort. This top is in the in-between zone, so I’m probably just going to pass it on.
- Gray and Tan Striped Cabi Asymmetrical Tee – I remembered trying this top on at one of the Cabi parties that I attended a couple of years ago. I thought that I had liked it, so when I saw a “new with tags” version available on eBay for a low price, I purchased it. Unfortunately, however, neither the colors nor the fit work well for me. I look washed out in this top and although I like asymmetry, this particular type of asymmetry isn’t flattering on my figure, as the shorter side hits right at my hips. Perhaps I was thinking of another top from a Cabi party? I’m going to list this top for sale shortly.
- Lavender and White Tie-Dye Caslon Tee – This was the third tie-dye Caslon top that I purchased last year. The first two (navy and light blue) have been “winners” for me in my at-home wardrobe, but the fabric on this top isn’t as soft. I’m not sure why this is the case, as the fabric composition is exactly the same on the garment tags. I still have this tee and have worn it a few times, but I only really reach for it out of guilt, rather than because I truly want to wear it. I like the color and the print, but I prefer that my at-home tops are softer and more pliable. I should have returned the tee when I noticed the fabric discrepancy, but I neglected to do so, so this was a mistake purchase that will likely be donated soon.
Items 10 – 12
- Light Gray Marled Old Navy Fleece Joggers – This was another instance of purchasing an additional color of a pre-existing wardrobe workhorse item. I also own black and black space-dye versions of these joggers, which I wear at home during the cool weather season. I don’t typically wear lighter-colored bottoms, but these joggers are so comfortable and inexpensive that I decided to give the pale gray version a try. I actually don’t mind the light color in this instance, but the pockets on these joggers are outlined with a darker color thread, which I feel draws too much attention to my hips. I wish I would have pinpointed this issue before wearing the pants, but unfortunately I didn’t. I may still wear them with longer tops, as they’re soft and cozy, but if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have purchased these pants.
- Olive Athleta Metropolis Joggers – My reason for buying these pants can be encapsulated in two words: sales goggles. I found them on sale for a very low price shortly after stores opened up to shoppers once again last summer. I didn’t own any olive bottoms and I like the jogger silhouette, mostly for at-home wear. These joggers, however, are not a tall size, so they’re much shorter on me than on the model. I thought I might enjoy wearing them with wedge sandals for casual out-and-about activities, but I didn’t end up liking that look. Also, the fabric is a bit stiff and not very breathable in warmer weather. If the fit and length on me was similar to what’s shown above, I’d wear the pants at home and on walks, but they’re a “miss” because they’re just too short and aren’t very flattering.
- Red and Black Plaid Old Navy Fleece Top – I purchased this top last fall to wear at home. I loved the colors and the buffalo plaid print, and the fabric was very soft and comfortable. However, there were two issues with the top that made me not want to wear it again after its initial wearing. The large plaid pattern is unflattering in the bust area because of where the individual squares/stripes hit. I’m not super large-chested, but I don’t wear my most supportive bras at home (I eschew underwires for at-home wear). Even with my best bras, however, I didn’t like the way the top looked across my chest. Additionally, the curved hem hit me in an unflattering spot in the hip area. I prefer straight hems over curved ones, as I feel they’re more flattering with my wider hips. For some reason, almost all of Old Navy’s tops have curved hems. I would think it’s easier and cheaper to construct a straight hem, but perhaps I’m wrong. Either that or I’m in the minority about not liking curved hems (and side slits, too, as both features are extremely common these days). I’ve already purged this top from my wardrobe. It wasn’t expensive by any means, but it was still a mistake!
Lessons Learned from 2020 Mistake Purchases
In reading through my descriptions above, you may have identified a few repeating themes. I was aware of what some of my most common mistakes were before I sat down to write this post, but I’ve gained even more insights through this process. Fortunately, I’ve already stopped making most of the buying mistakes that I made last year, many of which I feel pretty stupid about today (but I can probably chalk at least some of it up to the pandemic and the related craziness). I’m going to encapsulate my lessons learned here to further inoculate myself from repeat errors – and perhaps help you to shop smarter as well.
1) I need to trust my instincts!
I usually have a good sense about whether or not an item works when I first try it on. If I find myself trying to convince myself to keep something, I should either not buy it or return it in the case of an online purchase. Blogger Derek Sivers has a rule that could be applied to this situation: “If you’re not saying ‘Hell Yeah!’ about something, say no.” Although he used this rule when considering personal commitments, I find that it works well with shopping as well. If I don’t feel confident and happy about a new purchase, I should return it!
2) Not wanting to deal with the hassle or embarrassment of a return is not a good reason to keep something.
I kept the Cabi jackets because I didn’t want to deal with facing the salesperson for a second return or initiating a potentially contentious Poshmark case. But my embarrassment ended up costing me a lot of money, as neither jacket worked out for me despite my telling myself that I could find a way to turn a miss into a hit. Yes, it would have been slightly uncomfortable to have to return a jacket that was already a replacement for something else, but as long as I was gracious and appreciative, it would have been fine. Likewise, I was well within my rights to return a jacket that was supposedly new but reeked of laundry detergent. Being too much of a people-pleaser not only cost me money, but it also had me feeling remorseful and resentful.
3) Don’t buy resale clothing items online.
More often than not, said pieces have arrived smelling strongly of laundry detergent, Febreze, or perfume, which is a big problem for me. Although I’ve sometimes been able to remove the offending odors, it’s a major hassle and it isn’t worth the stress and the trouble. Buying used clothing in person can work, as I’m able to identify any odor issues on the spot, but I’m going to stay away from making such purchases online. I can still buy shoes and accessories on Poshmark or eBay, but even “new with tags” clothing purchases on such sites are too risky for me with my fragrance sensitivities.
4) Don’t buy items that almost work, no matter how low the price may be.
Many of the mistakes outlined in today’s post fit into this category. They ticked almost all of the boxes, but they failed to meet one or more of my most important criteria, whether it be color, fabric, fit, or styling details. In reviewing all twelve of the ill-advised purchases I wrote about here, virtually all of them could have been avoided had I adhered to this simple rule. Even if I love most everything about a piece, I’m not going to wear it if the color washes me out or if the side slits or curved hem accentuate my hips, so I need to either leave it in the store or return it post haste!
5) Beware of “sales goggles”!
A good adage to remember is not to buy anything on sale that we wouldn’t be willing to pay full price for. Sales can be a wonderful way to save money when buying items that we need and/or love. But they’re risky because far too many of us are willing to compromise our standards for a lower price. I did just that with many of the pieces pictured above, and I regret it. Something may cost “only $10,” but if we don’t end up wearing the item, we wasted that $10! Using “the power pause” can also go a long way toward helping us to avoid making ill-advised “sales goggles” purchases.
6) Be careful with “multiples.”
It can be difficult to find pieces that we love, so it can make sense to try to duplicate our success by buying a second – or third – color in a given style. But in many instances, we end up only wearing the first item. Among my 2020 shopping mistakes, there were two cases of buying an item in a third color: the Caslon tie-dye tees and the Old Navy joggers. I used to have a rule to only buy an item in two colors, and I still think that’s a good guideline to follow.
When purchasing a duplicate, it’s a good idea to wait and make sure that the original item wears and washes well. I have come to find out that the Old Navy joggers have a tendency to pill, and the Caslon tees stretch out and lose their shape easily. When one has just a single item with an issue, that’s a bummer, but the problem is compounded when multiples were purchased. We’re often afraid of missing out (that old FOMO…) if we don’t jump on buying multiples right away, but we can also lose out when we purchase things that have issues or that don’t end up being worn as often as we thought they’d be.
I learned a great deal through taking the time to analyze my 2020 mistake purchases, and I hope you also found this post interesting and informative. Although the shopping mistakes that you make may be very different from mine, sometimes reading about others’ foibles can help to clue us in on our own. While it’s a bit embarrassing for me to share that I’ve continued to make purchasing errors even after blogging about my wardrobe for many years, it’s worth doing so if it provides you with a few “aha moments.”
I’m no longer buying resale clothing online, and I’m making sure to pay closer attention to important details that can make or break a garment. I’m also being more mindful about both colors and fabric. The problems of “sales goggles” and buying “almost items” are proving more challenging to overcome, but writing this post has boosted my resolve to uphold my standards regardless of price. I also need to remember that less can be more when it comes to our wardrobes. It’s far better to have fewer items in our closets that all work well for us than to have a large wardrobe filled with lots of things that we merely settled for. Now, I’m probably going to have to come back and read this post every few months to remind myself of my own wise words!
Now I’d love for you to weigh in on your own mistake purchases, either recent or from a while back. Here are a few questions to help you gather your thoughts:
- What types of shopping mistakes do you typically make?
- What items do you wish you never would have bought?
- Are there any rules that you adhere to when shopping that help you to avoid purchasing errors?
- What words of wisdom can you share with me and your fellow readers?
I invite you to share the good, the bad, and the ugly here. You’re among friends (and you can always be anonymous if desired), and I don’t think there’s even one of us who has never made a purchasing error. It happens to all of us, even the most careful and seasoned shoppers. But perhaps we can help each other to make fewer mistakes by offering our tips and tricks here.