Today’s post introduces a new category on the blog, in which I share my “keep or return” decision process with items I’ve purchased. In some keep or return posts, I will already have reached a decision, but I’ll break it down for you. In other instances, like today, I’ll still be wrestling with what to do, so I’ll lay out the pros and cons and hopefully gain clarity through that process. I also welcome your input, as I’m sure some of you have contended with similar decisions and will have good points to share.
I’ve been pondering what to do about a particular item over the past couple of weeks. It’s not usually this difficult for me to decide whether or not to return something. Buying too many items contributes to my oversized wardrobe much more so than an unwillingness to let things go (although I do struggle when it comes to purging pants and shoes).
Usually, if I have any doubts about what to do, I try on the piece in question and trust my instincts when I look in my full-length mirror. Failing that initial clarity, I’ll revisit any unworn items as their return deadline looms, at which point I can usually reach a conclusion without too much deliberation. This time, however, none of that has worked – and I’m still as confused as ever!
Outlining My Dilemma
Here’s my dilemma, starting with a bit of background explanation… I’ve always liked the look of puffer vests. I’ve shared my love of wearing a “third piece” in order to look more put-together, and I think a puffer vest can uplevel a simple long-sleeved top and athletic pants ensemble (which is something I often wear). They also look great with jeans and booties, which I wear frequently during the cooler months.
Despite my admiration of puffer vests, I’ve struggled with finding one that’s suitable for me. I had one once a few years back, but I didn’t hold on to it for very long because it was too short for my tall frame and ended in a less-than-flattering spot. Another fit challenge is that when a vest fits me well at the bottom, it often gapes open under the arms. I’ve tried on countless puffer vests over the years, but a good fit eluded me… until this year. I wasn’t even particularly shopping for a vest, but I came upon a “Holy Grail” option by chance.
As those who have been reading for a while know, I’m a big fan of Athleta, as they offer tall sizes in most pieces and their styles work well for my casual lifestyle. When I tried on their Whisper Featherless Vest in the store, I was excited at the prospect of finally finding a puffer vest that was suitable for my shape. And as luck would have it, someone had returned a tall size to the store, so I didn’t even have to wait for an online order to be delivered to my home. After using some rewards points and a store discount, I happily left the store with my “white whale” item in tow.
I love so many things about the Whisper Featherless Vest: the length, the high-low design (longer in the back than the front), the gathering in the back for a more fitted silhouette, and the diagonal square quilted pattern. I also like that it’s comfortable and not bulky, as well as the fact that the collar can be folded down if desired. Additionally, it has a two-way zipper for a better fit when the wearer is seated. It’s not your basic puffer vest, which is what I love about it. Although it’s a casual piece, I still think it’s in line with my “style guideposts” of dramatic, polished, and elegant (in as much as a puffer vest can be elegant, anyway!).
Here’s a look at a couple of outfit possibilities for the vest (from the Athleta website). I often wear joggers, so I could definitely see myself wearing ensembles similar to these.
The Crux of the Matter…
That all sounds just great, doesn’t it? But the truth is that I purchased the vest a month and a half ago and I have yet to wear it! Athleta switched to a sixty-day return policy, so I need to decide fairly soon if I want to keep the vest or return it to the store. When I think about why I haven’t worn the vest, here’s what I’ve come up with…
When it’s cold outside (for where I live – it’s all relative…), a vest doesn’t provide sufficient warmth by itself. My arms get cold more so than my torso area, so I often need to wear more than just a top on the cooler days. That means that I would need to add another layer over the vest in order to be warm enough. I could definitely do that, but my usual habit is to just wear a top and a jacket. I have a few “fashion vests” (dressier styles) that I enjoy wearing, but my pattern with those is to wait for days that are a bit warmer so I won’t need an additional layer. Here’s a look at my current vest collection (not including the puffer), as well as some old outfit photos for how I’ve styled two of them:
With the longer vests, I can’t really wear a jacket over them because the length clashes (the vest is longer than the jacket/coat), but I do sometimes wear a jacket over the two shorter vests. I could do the same with the puffer vest, but there’s another explanation for why I haven’t worn it. As I’ve written about previously, my wardrobe is basically divided into at-home items (which are also worn when I go on walks) and out-and-about items. Some of the pieces I own fit into both categories, and the puffer vest would be part of that group of “crossover” items. It’s versatile in that it works well with both my joggers and my jeans/pants.
But I wouldn’t wear the vest to go on a walk, as I always wear short-sleeved tops for walking, and the vest only really looks good with long-sleeved tops. I wear short-sleeved tops on walks because I often get hot and need to remove my jacket for a while to cool off. If I lived in a cooler place (like where my family lives in the Lake Tahoe area), I’m sure I would wear long-sleeved tops for walks and not have to worry about overheating, but Southern California temperatures don’t generally dip all that low.
So, if I wouldn’t wear the puffer vest on a walk, I would only wear it for out-and-about occasions. I could see pairing it with an at-home ensemble and my nicer sneakers to run errands, and I even played with some outfit possibilities for such a purpose the other day. I felt great in those outfits, but will I actually choose to wear them all that often? I think I might not because I already have so few occasions for wearing my out-and-about clothing, and I usually choose to wear those pieces whenever I’m going somewhere that isn’t about exercising.
Now that I’ve laid that all out, I need to decide what to do about the vest. I could keep it and decide to just be okay with the fact that I likely won’t wear it a lot. It’s basically a “timeless” piece that I could own for years, so perhaps it would reach a decent cost-per-wear over time. I could definitely wear it when I visit my family in Tahoe, but I typically only go there once a year during the cooler months (I prefer the Tahoe summers). Or I could return it because it’s something that’s great in theory, but it doesn’t work particularly well for my lifestyle.
If I decide to return the vest but later regret my decision, I might get another opportunity to purchase it next fall/winter, as Athleta often repeats their styles in future years. However, this is the second year the vest was offered (as per the Athleta staff), so it might not come back for a third year. If that’s the case, I still might be able to find it on eBay or another resale site. It might even go on deep sale on Athleta’s website later this spring, but the likelihood of finding a tall small vest at that point is probably pretty low, as tall sizes tend to sell out quickly.
The truth is that I have plenty to wear, and I also own a number of jackets that serve well as third pieces with my casual outfits. I like the easy “put it on and go” aspect of the puffer vest, but I haven’t actually done that in the weeks since I purchased it. I think its best season is probably spring and fall, though, and spring only just started. It’s possible that I might start wearing it now that the temperatures will be more “in between.” But do I want to take a chance on my maybe wearing it and miss out on being able to get my money back?
The Whisper Featherless Vest was not an inexpensive piece, even with the discounts I received, so I don’t want to keep it and regret it. Maybe I’m just not a puffer vest person and I should instead enjoy the look on other people. Yes, I’ve wanted one for a long time, but perhaps I liked the idea of it more than the actual piece itself? I also don’t live in a true puffer vest climate, although it gets cooler here than a lot of people think. I do see people wearing puffer vests in San Diego, but the question is will I wear one here? That’s the $64,000 question that I need to answer soon!
I’ve belabored the points long enough in this post, so now I’d like to turn it over to you and get your thoughts.
- What do you think I should do about the vest?
- Are there questions or considerations that you thought of that I didn’t mention?
- Have you faced a similar “keep or return” dilemma? What helped you to make your decision?
- Do you like these types of posts? Would you also like to see similar “keep or purge” posts on the blog?
I appreciate any input that you have for me, whether it be questions or thoughts. I’d also love to hear your personal “keep or return” stories. We can all learn from each other’s challenges, dilemmas, mistakes, and regrets. Please feel free to share whatever thoughts you have about the topics in this post.