Although I sometimes do major closet reviews and get rid of a lot of items, that’s not what usually happens for me. In most instances, I decide to get rid of pieces a bit at a time as I either wear them or attempt to wear them. Sometimes I put something on and immediately realize that it’s past its time in my closet – or was never right for me. In other cases, I wear an item out of the house and feel unhappy in it for one reason or another. Perhaps it’s fussy and requires a lot of adjustment throughout the day, or maybe I just feel frumpy or untrue to my current style aesthetic. No matter what the reason, I’ve learned to more fully trust my instincts and pass something on if I just don’t feel good in it.
In today’s post, I review six items that I’ve recently decided to either donate or sell. I’ll show you the pieces and share the reasons why I’ve opted to let them go. The general theme of this post is that the little things matter! If I look at the pictures of my castoffs, they still appeal to me, but there’s at least one small detail in each of them that made them an overall fail. I’m highlighting these reasons here today for two reasons:
- First, I want to make sure that I internalize and remember garment details that don’t work for me so that I can avoid future errors.
- Second, I’d like to help you consider what types of clothing characteristics lead to your closet items becoming wardrobe benchwarmers.
We’d all like to make better choices and save money, so I hope my reviewing my castoffs will help to increase your awareness so you’ll shop better and smarter.
The Six Items
Before I delve into my recent castoffs one by one, I’d like to present a brief overview of them. First, here’s a picture of the items:
Broken down by item category, here’s what we’re looking at:
- 2 tops
- 1 jacket
- 1 skirt
- 1 dress
- 1 pair of jeans
Next, let’s review when the garments shown above were purchased:
- 2017: 1 item (skirt)
- 2018: 1 item (jeans)
- 2019: 1 item (dress)
- 2020: 1 item (red top)
- 2021: 2 items (striped top and hoodie)
Finally, let’s look at whether or not the items were purchased on sale, as those types of purchases can tend to be problematic (due to the “sales goggles” phenomenon). Here’s how that breaks down:
- 2 items were purchased at full price (jeans and dress)
- 1 item was bought at a discount store (skirt – from TJ Maxx)
- 2 items were purchased on sale (striped top and hoodie)
- 1 item was bought at an end of season “final sale” (red top – from CAbi)
Many of us are more prone to “settle” when the price is low, and we tend to overlook important details when we feel like we’re getting a “deal.” That was definitely the case for me with some of the pieces I’m covering today. I don’t think I would have bought most of them at regular price, and I would have returned those items that were purchased online sight unseen.
Individual Item Reviews
Now I’m going to review the purged items one by one and tell you my specific reasons for letting them go. To make it easier for you to follow along, I’ll show a picture of the garment I’m reviewing directly above my commentary.
Purged Item #1 – Burgundy and Black Striped Top
I bought this top in July 2021, on sale from Macy’s. I ordered it online, so I wasn’t able to touch the fabric or try it on prior to purchasing it. However, the price was right (under $20) and I’d been wanting to find a top in this specific colorway. In addition to the top including two of my staple colors, I also loved the alternating stripes, which I felt made the garment more interesting. I thought it would be a good “special” standalone top for the warmer months of the year.
All of that sounds great, but there are two important reasons why I’ve opted to pass the top on. Most critically, the fabric was kind of stiff and wasn’t as comfortable as I’d hoped. It was a cotton/polyester blend, which can definitely vary in terms of feel. The other detail that led me to pass the top on was that it had epaulette detailing at the top. Since I already have broad shoulders, details in that area tend to have a widening effect that I don’t like.
Clearly, I should have returned the top after it arrived, and I probably shouldn’t have ordered it in the first place given the epaulettes (although they were barely visible on the product page and weren’t mentioned in the description). But I allowed myself to be “dazzled” by the color scheme and the unique stripe pattern. I wore the top just once and couldn’t wait to take it off when I got home. Not only was the fabric a bit scratchy, but the top was fussy and didn’t stay in place. I held on to it in my holding zone for months, as I felt guilty and stupid for not returning it. I mean, how long have I been writing about this stuff now?!
In the end, however, I had to remember the sunk cost fallacy and the fact that the money had already been spent and couldn’t be recovered. The best I could do was learn from my mistake and perhaps help to save some of you from making similar errors. At the end of this post, I’ll encapsulate the lessons I learned from all of the purged items that I’m covering today, but there are at least two or three lessons from this one alone.
Purged Item #2 – Black and White Print Skirt
I bought this skirt back in 2017 and have worn it a number of times in the interim. However, it was never quite long enough for my tall frame and that always bothered me. I would usually pull it down below my waist (I always wore it with an untucked top, as in the 2017 outfit photo above) to try to get some extra length, but it didn’t usually stay in place that way, so I had to keep adjusting it throughout the day. Additionally, the waistline being positioned lower gave me a “muffin top,” which bothered me even though it wasn’t really visible under my untucked top.
Garments not being long enough for me is a very common problem. Not many items are offered in tall sizes, and sometimes I just get weary of searching for regular-sized pieces that are sufficiently long, so I end up settling in terms of length. In the case of this skirt, I loved the print and knew it would pair well with many of my tops. But the too-short length ended up being a deal-breaker in the long run.
Purged Item #3 – Purple Space-dye Zip Hoodie
I purchased this hoodie online from J. Jill in February 2021. I was looking for more colorful and interesting jackets to wear on my frequent walks (something other than my basic black), and I loved the color and print. The jacket was on deep sale and the fit was good in most respects. However, as is very often the case, the sleeves weren’t long enough for my “gorilla arms.”
J. Jill offers tall sizes, but they sell out quickly, especially in their athletic wear. Additionally, their pieces tend to run large and their tall line starts with size small, which is sometimes too big for me. This jacket was a regular size small, but the small tall would have been perfect in this instance. Since that wasn’t available, I decided to keep the standard size small. That was the wrong decision, as I found myself pulling the sleeves down every time I wore the hoodie (which was probably seven or eight times).
I tried stretching the sleeve length when the item was wet, but because there was so much spandex in the hoodie, the sleeves basically just bounced back to their normal length. After the last time I wore this garment and was uncomfortable with the sleeve length, I decided to pass it on. I have plenty of jackets that work well for me, so why keep struggling to make something work that just doesn’t? But now I know that if the sleeves are too short, I need to either leave the item in the store or return it promptly (in the case of an online order).
Purged Item #4 – Mid-Wash Straight-Leg Jeans
I’ve had these jeans for a while, as I bought them back in 2018. I wore them multiple times, so they weren’t necessarily a bad purchase. In fact, I considered holding on to them when I recently reviewed the contents of my “holding zone” box. They still fit me well overall, but there’s one main issue with them that led to my decision to pass them on.
The jeans were listed as “mid-rise” in their item description, but they now seem more like a low-rise to me. Perhaps I’ve gradually come to embrace the more recent migration to higher-rise jeans and pants that end around one’s true waistline. These jeans stop about two inches below my waist, and my mid-section is not as slim as it once was. Consequently, I feel emotionally uncomfortable wearing them, as I have a bit of a “muffin top” in them. Even if my top covers my midsection, I still feel better wearing pants that come up a bit higher.
I didn’t mind the rise of these jeans so much when I first bought them, but my body has changed and so have my preferences. While it’s difficult for me to find jeans that fit well and are long enough for me, I’d rather own just a few pairs of jeans that tick all of the boxes than hold on to some near-misses that I’ll never feel truly fab wearing.
Purged Item #5 – Red Short-Sleeved Tee
I bought this top at an end-of-season sale in early 2020. I didn’t have much occasion to wear it that year, as the pandemic started shortly thereafter and I was mostly “sheltered in place” at home for many months (as most of us were). Although it’s referenced as a “tee,” the fabrication reads dressier, so it wasn’t something I really wanted to wear for my at-home casual days. I did wear it a few times during 2021 when I ventured out more often, but I never wanted to wear it without a topper due to the cut of the sleeves.
The top has a cap sleeve, which isn’t all that flattering on my aging arms. Although I work out basically the same amount as I have for years (if not more), I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone after menopause, so my arms aren’t as firm as they once were. Thus, I now need to pay increased attention to sleeve types and lengths if I want to feel comfortable (emotionally) in what I’m wearing. I actually find sleeveless tops more flattering now than cap sleeves, as the latter draws more attention to my upper arms.
I loved the color, feel, and overall fit of this top, but the sleeves ended up being a deal-breaker for me. I don’t want to own tops that must be worn with a topper, as there are too many days when the temperatures rise (or my internal temperature rises). I need to be able to remove my topper and still feel good in what I’m wearing. I have another red short-sleeved top that works better for me, so I’ve opted to pass this one on.
Purged Item #6 – Teal Sleeveless Dress
The final item I’m reviewing today is a sleeveless dress that I purchased from Nordstrom in 2019. I loved the color of this dress and thought it would be a nice option to wear on a hot summer day. I did wear it a few times, including to meet a friend for a coffee and some shopping that September (as shown in the photo above when I was trying on my friend’s lovely moto jacket!). But when it came down to it, I never felt truly comfortable (again, emotionally, which is very important) wearing the dress due to the tiered bottom.
I have an hourglass shape with pear tendencies. Although I don’t like comparing myself to a piece of fruit, I do tend to carry any excess weight in the hip and thigh area. The fact that the teal dress was loose-fitting in the midsection and had tiers that began just below the low hip made it not the best shape for me. The effect is magnified when a topper is added to the outfit, as in the picture above. The dress didn’t look terrible on me, but it wasn’t my best look, either.
If the dress had only one tier at the bottom instead of two, it would have been more flattering on me, as the eye wouldn’t have been drawn to my hips quite as much. Some women like to accentuate their curvier hips, which is totally fine, but that’s not my objective. I prefer to wear clothes that kind of “glide” over that area, while drawing more attention to my upper body and waistline, which is still relatively narrow for my age. A wrap-style dress or one with some type of detailing at the waist is a much better look for me, and I also like to wear dresses that have a streamlined fit without actually being tailored. “Sack” or sheath dresses don’t work well for me, and empire-waist styles also tend to be unflattering (I purged one of those last year).
Lessons from My Purged Items
Now that I’ve reviewed the six purged items, I’d like to encapsulate my lessons learned from all of them. Listing what I’ve learned from the pieces that I’ve passed on will hopefully help me to avoid making the same types of mistakes in the future, and I hope it will be helpful to you, too. Sometimes it can take us a few go-arounds before we stop revisiting our purchasing errors, but eventually we should start to think twice and just say no to certain types of items. Some lessons are particularly hard won (hello, sales goggles…), but if we keep working at becoming better shoppers, we’ll eventually get there.
Here’s a bulleted list of the lessons I learned from the closet cast-offs covered in today’s post:
- The small details matter! If there’s a detail on an item that you don’t like or isn’t flattering to your shape, either don’t buy it or return it if it was ordered online. Shoulder epaulettes, cap sleeves, and tiered skirts are unflattering on my particular figure, so I need to be mindful not to purchase garments that include such features. For you, it will likely be something entirely different, but it pays off to identify the seemingly minor details that can make something a “no-go.”
- Don’t settle in terms of fabrication! If a garment feels uncomfortable or scratchy on our bodies, we won’t like wearing it. Although I loved the colors and pattern on the striped top, the scratchy and fussy fabric was a deal-breaker that should have caused me to make an immediate return. Lesson (hopefully) learned!
- Don’t compromise when it comes to fit! Poor fit was an issue with several of the items in this post. In terms of the skirt, if it had been two or three inches longer, I’m sure it would still be in my closet and worn regularly. But the too-short length made me feel frumpy, and pulling the skirt down to “fake” an appropriate length just made me feel uncomfortable. Likewise, the jeans being too low-rise led me to feel uneasy and self-conscious wearing them. This was less of an issue when I purchased the jeans back in 2018, but our bodies and preferences change and what we wear should shift accordingly.
- Take off the sales goggles! If you wouldn’t pay full price for something, in most cases you shouldn’t buy it on sale, either. There can be exceptions to this rule (i.e., designer items that you might not otherwise be able to afford), but it’s always helpful to at least ask yourself if you would be willing to pay full price. If I had done that with most of the pieces covered today, they wouldn’t have ended up in my closet, and I would have saved a lot of time, money, and guilty feelings.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in, if you’d like.
- Did you notice any additional lessons that I might have missed from the items that I reviewed today?
- What lessons have you learned from pieces that you’ve recently purged from your closet?
- What types of clothes, shoes, and accessories do you plan not to buy again as a result of what you’ve learned?
Please feel free to either answer these questions or share any other thoughts you have after reading today’s post. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend!
16 thoughts on “Six Items I Recently Purged from My Closet – and Why”
Thanks for an interesting article.
I’ve thought about the purple hoodie. I had similar issues with my husband’s and daughter’s garments, as sleeves became too short. My alterations lady suggested to elongate them by adding a piece from the haberdasher’s. I have no idea what’s it called in English, it’s stitched to the sleeves and bottoms to keep the opening narrow. It worked well, especially for my husband.
I have high instep and have learned the hard way which types of shoes and sandals in particular to avoid. Today I purged a pair of black sandals I worn only few times. I thought I wouldn’t make the same mistake again, as I had bad experience with similar ones before. I think I was fooled by the low heel, as similar ones were higher heeled. I believed low heel would work. The key feature was in the toe area, which I haven’t realized until now.
Thanks for the tip about lengthening sleeves, Jelena. I actually have done something like that with other types of jackets in the past, but I think it would be hard to do it with the hoodie because of the fabric and print. I’ll keep it in mind for the future, though, as I had forgotten about that option.
I have a high instep, too, as well as a high arch, which makes shoe shopping challenging (as you well know). Good for you for letting go of the uncomfortable shoes. It’s hard to know what shoes will work sometimes when we’re just doing limited walking around in a store. For me, the most tricky area is on top of my foot, especially with closed shoes. Shoes are often very snug in that area. Sometimes getting them stretched helps, but other times it’s just not enough. It’s good that you realize now where your trouble spot is, so now you’ll better be able to avoid the types of difficulties you experienced with the black sandals. I know it stings to get rid of something you only wore a few times, but the lesson you learned should serve you well for a long time.
You ‘re welcome. I’m sorry to hear it wouldn’t work for the purple hoodie.
You’re right about shoes and few steps at the shop are often not enough. I learned a long time ago that ancle straps were not for me, after a devastating proms-related shopping trip.
There was a link to YLF article on foot volume in one of your recent posts and I understood why that particular sandal design didn’t work for me and never would.
The concept of foot volume has been helpful to me, too. My feet are fairly narrow, but when you add in the high arches and high insteps, they’re pretty high volume. Realizing that helps me to better determine which shoes will and won’t work. Ankle straps are difficult for me, too, as I have bony ankles. If the placement is just right, they CAN work, but usually it’s a no-go.
Tomorrow I am returning two cashmere cardigans purchased recently at Soft Surroundings (online). I had been watching them for a couple of months, particularly the olive green shade. When the price went to $50 each (originally $180), I ordered.
When the cardigans arrived, I’ll admit I wasn’t 100% thrilled. They felt a little itchy and I wasn’t sure about the flyaway style. I hung them up in the closet on padded hangers to think about. Today I put one of the cardigans on with a short-sleeve T-shirt underneath. At first I thought I must have been mistaken about the itchiness. But within a few minutes I had to change clothes! I have never been able to wear wool against my skin, but I have always been able to wear cashmere. Recently, though, my skin seems a bit sensitive to it.
So, with a cedar chest full of cashmere sweaters and no need for more, I am returning these two cardigans and am vowing to stop purchasing more.
I have the same issues with wool as you do, Jo, and I’ve had the same experience with thinking something was okay only to be itching like crazy minutes later. I’m glad you figured out that returning the cardigans was the right thing to do before you took the tags off and wore them outside of your house. I think that if we’re not “thrilled” when an item arrives, it’s probably a good clue that we should return. I’ve heard the advice that if something isn’t a “hell, yes,” then it’s a no. While not everything we buy will necessarily “spark joy,” we should feel confident that it will fulfill its intended purpose well.
As for cashmere, I think it can vary a lot and some cashmere is itchier than others. I usually can’t wear cashmere, either, but if it’s a very high quality cashmere, it tends to feel softer. Some of the lower quality cashmeres may be blends, which contain other types of fibers, or the fibers may just be different someone. Anyway, I’m glad you dodged the bullet with the two sweaters! I’ve never ordered from Soft Surroundings, but I’ve been tempted. The shipping and return fees usually put me off, though.
Reading this essay made me realize one of the reasons I end up with items that aren’t quite right: I order online, I try it on and it’s OK, and I don’t want to spend the money on return postage. I have some kind of mental barrier there that makes it hard to pay for return postage, especially for one or two items, so I end up keeping them, thinking that they’ll do. That tells me I should be online shopping at places that have free returns.
I also am more likely to compromise on fit/details/etc. when I’ve purchased something to match/coordinate with other pieces. It’s like I’m eager to find the mate for this other item so if the color is right, I accept a piece that I really should reject.
Good realization, Sally! I have the same issue about paying for shipping and returns. I try to avoid both types of charges at all costs, but occasionally I will pay the price if I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a particular item. Being willing to do returns is very important, as I’ve “settled” far too often with clothes that were “off” in an important way. There are lots of places offering free returns now, so hopefully you’ll still be able to find what you need/want.
I relate to what you wrote in your second paragraph! It’s like we have a project/mission and we’re so eager to complete it that we settle. Basically, we need to be very vigilant about settling. I’m extremely picky, but if I had always honored my selectiveness, I would have made FAR fewer mistakes over the years. I’m getting there, but there is still work to be done…
These kinds of posts are so useful for me because they have taught me not to settle (although I still do at times, but I know I shouldn’t …). The items look fine (well not so much the teal dress by itself but on you with the jacket, it looks great) so it was educational to read what was wrong with them for you. It was a good reminder for me that all boxes need ticking. P.S. I can imagine that you settled for the tiers on the teal dress because the colour is so stunning on you, and I just adore that top you’re wearing with the skirt. It’s SO flattering, especially with those sleeves!
Thanks for your kind words about the outfits I showed, Sue. You’re right that I settled regarding the tier details on the dress because I loved the color so much (and also wanted a new summer dress). Big mistake, as I didn’t end up wearing it much at all! I think the items I showed here are mostly in line with my style (tiers notwithstanding), but I really shouldn’t have compromised on the important details. I have to remember that there are plenty of clothes out there and it’s better to wait until something is an unreserved and emphatic YES!
Just wanted to let you know that you can have items shipped to a Sort Surroundings store for free if you are interested in ordering online. This is assuming you have a store near you. I have one about 5 miles away. I too am put off by the high shipping costs. It takes about a week or so for the item to get to the SS store. You can try it on there and return/exchange immediately, or you can take it home to try on there. When you pick up items at the store you are offered a 20% discount to use on anything in the store.
Thanks for the heads up, Jo, but unfortunately there are no Soft Surroundings stores anywhere close to where I live 😦 I wish there were, but no such luck, at least yet… It sounds like it’s a great situation for you, though, especially with the 20% discount you get when you pick things up at the store.
Hi Debbie, Very interesting post. I wonder if adding a knit cuff on the hoodie’s sleeves might have worked. I have long arms for my height so I can relate. I wonder if just taking the hem out on the sleeve and adding a velvet ribbon to lengthen the end would have worked. Also, on the maxi skirt, I suppose you could have removed the original waistband or ruching and added a wide elastic on the top. As for the tiered dress – that is a tough one. The style is kind of flowy boho look which does not seem to be your regular style. Even if you dyed it in black, it is still flowy.
I have let jeans go recently because of the lower rise and my muffin top. I suppose that I could wear a tank with a shaper to smooth out that section but I would rather be comfortable.
I did see a video on YouTube with Trinny yesterday where she talks about altering some items to suit her figure and lifestyle better. I found it very interesting. Still, some things are not worth the time or work to “save” them so it is just best to move on.
FYI – I have seen some very pretty silk print Chicos jackets and others in velvet on Ebay in the jewel tones that you prefer. (I like “CHICO’S Size 0 Women’s 100% Silk Colorful Butterfly Open Front Jacket Size S” but I don’t wear silk anymore and the colors are not my best colors. Somebody else could really rock it though!)
Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to make things work, Maggie. Even if I don’t use them, others might, and a lot of times we just don’t think of things. If the hoodie was a different type of fabric, adding the velvet ribbon might work, and I’ve done something similar with some woven pieces. But since the hoodie is stretchy, I would want the bottom part of the sleeves to be, too. Sometimes it’s too much trouble to try to make things work and it’s better to just move on. The decision can be tricky, but I’ve tried to “rescue” things too many times and it was like throwing good money after bad. That would definitely have been the case for the tiered dress, which is already gone, as is the skirt. You’re right that the flowy boho look isn’t really my style. Dyeing the dress black would have helped some, but not enough, and the color was the main thing that attracted me in the first place.
Like you, I would rather be comfortable than wear a shaper tank to try to smooth out a muffin top. Our preferences for rises and other garment features shift with time, and I now prefer higher rises (but not the ultra-high rises that have been trendy lately). I’ll have to check out the Trinny video. I used to watch her on the original “What Not to Wear.”
Thanks for the tip about the Chico’s jackets. Their sleeves usually aren’t long enough for me, but you never know… I do still love the jewel tones, but I’ve also come to appreciate some mid-toned pastels since I grew out my natural hair. It’s nice to feel like I have more color options now.
Thanks for this great post Debbie. As we are moving shortly and downsizing a bit, I did a major wardrobe purge today. I noticed that several items had arms that were slightly too short for my long arms and several that were an inch or two too short in the body for my liking. Also several jackets were too straight down the sides and looked too boxy. I prefer my jackets shaped down the sides. Over the years I have learned such a lot from your posts Debbie so I think I won’t make these mistakes again. Keep those tips coming.
Good for you for doing a wardrobe purge before you move, Jayne! Many people just move and take it all with them, but it feels good to let stuff go in advance. I have had the clothing fit issues that you wrote about many times! The sleeve length thing is a more recent lesson for me, and I’ve learned to just say no to borderline sleeves. I also used to take almost everything in at the sides, but I no longer want to pay so much money for alterations, so I’m trying to be pickier and hold out for a good fit off the rack more often (and to buy fewer items overall). I’m glad my blog posts have been helpful. Best wishes with your move!
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