My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

Thank you so much to everyone who weighed in on the “keep or return” decision that I introduced in my last post! As I knew would be the case, I received a lot of thought-provoking feedback from readers. The comments were mixed, which added to my confusion at first, but the blessing of time and consideration helped me to gain clarity. Finally, after going back and forth a few times between keeping the Athleta Whisper Featherless Vest or returning it to the store, I reached a decision that brought me peace.

reaching clarity on keep or return decision

In today’s post, I’ll share the excellent points presented by commenters about my specific situation, as well as in regards to return deliberations in general. I’ll break down the key feedback into several sections:

  • Questions and considerations for making the keep/return decision
  • Arguments for keeping the vest
  • Arguments for returning the vest

After I go through all of that, I’ll let you know what I decided and why. I’ll close the post with some general suggestions from readers that can help all of us when we’re pondering whether to keep an item or return it. Many of these tips can also assist us when we’re cleaning out our closets and determining what should stay and what should go. I hope you enjoy this post and find it beneficial when working through any wardrobe confusion you may have.

Questions to Ask and Things to Consider

Multiple readers suggested questions to ask myself and points to consider in reaching a decision regarding the vest.  Some of them followed up their questions with either a story or supporting information that was also helpful. All of this gave me some powerful food for thought to assist in my reaching a conclusion.

I’ll come back to some of these questions and considerations later in the post when I reveal my decision, but first let’s delve into them:

  • “Does the vest “spark joy” a la Marie Kondo?”
  • “Is the vest representative of a fantasy life you wish you had?” The reader who asked this question mentioned that many of us are guilty of buying for such “fantasy lives” because we envision ourselves looking current, hip, put-together, slimmer, etc., with “the right pieces.”
  • “Could your love of vests be satisfied by sticking to the types and styles you already own that work for you? The idea of a ‘puffer’ may appeal, but the practicalities render it unsuitable for your particular needs. However, the styles of vests you already have may offer you the aesthetic you’re looking for, but in a more useful way.”
  • “Are you thinking of this vest as an indoor/outdoor layering piece or as outerwear?” This commenter stated that she loves to wear quilted/puffy vests as indoor layering pieces in the winter and covers them up with a coat when she ventures outdoors.
  • “When you say that a vest doesn’t keep you warm enough outside, have you actually tried a puffy vest for this?” This reader pointed out that puffer vests are worlds different from the four lightweight vests I already own in terms of warmth. In her experience, keeping her torso toasty in mild winter weather provides enough overall warmth. She recommended that I test out the vest at home to see how much it actually warms me up to get a better idea of its usefulness in my life.
  • “I think you need to give it a ‘test drive’ for an outing and for a stay-at-home outfit. I personally love wearing a vest for extra warmth indoors.”

All of these questions and suggestions helped me a lot in reaching my end conclusion about the vest. However, the arguments for either keeping it or returning it took me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride while I pondered my eventual decision.

Arguments for Keeping the Vest

Although this was the minority opinion, I did receive some good support for holding on to the puffer vest. I’ve summarized all of the “pro-vest” arguments below, some of which have been edited for either clarity or brevity (the same is true for the rest of the comments included in this post).

  • It looks like a modern addition to your wardrobe and would be cute over long-sleeve T-shirts, as well as lightweight long-sleeve sweaters. Perfect for a casual lifestyle.”
  • The vest is a classic style that will have its uses over the years for travel, etc.” (This reader followed up that “pro” argument with a bit of a caveat, though: “… but it may not be in as regular rotation as more frequently worn pieces. If that doesn’t bother you, keep it.”)
  • “I would keep it because I know that in keeping an item that I felt was so perfect in every way, it would satisfy my cravings and stave the continual search.”
  • You’ve searched for perhaps years for the right vest and rejected countless others. Why would you want to get rid of the one you finally found – a beautifully designed one, at that – that ticks all the boxes?”
  • If you have always wanted one and it meets every requirement, just accept that you won’t wear it very often, but finally buying one frees up the ‘decision fatigue’ that we can get while shopping.”
  • If this is a variation of an out and about outfit, then keep it for that and therefore expand the silhouette choice of what you wear on those typical occasions. If this puffer vest look is something you have always liked on others, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy it in real life on yourself, giving your eye a bit of time to adjust. Are you a puffer vest person? You won’t really know until you put in enough practice to make it more second nature and eliminate the over-scrutinizing.”
  • The fact that you didn’t mention not liking how the vest looked on you is a huge sign to me that you probably have found your holy grail puffy vest, since people concerned about looking slim often struggle with the silhouette.”
  • I’ve successfully worn a vest to work when I wanted to add another layer but didn’t want my arms to feel constricted. I wore the vest over a long-sleeved tee to dress it up.”
  • My personal take on outerwear is that I don’t hold it to the same “how often will I wear it?” standard as I do normal clothing. It tends to last a long time so the cost-per-wear (CPW) is chipped away at over a longer period. I also like to have all my bases covered with outerwear so that when I do take that trip or experience the type of weather for which a piece is suited, I have one that I like on hand. I don’t get the same low CPW with outerwear as with normal clothing, but that’s okay with me because comfort outdoors is key and worth paying for.”

Arguments for Returning the Vest

The prevailing opinion among readers was that I should return the vest, and lots of compelling arguments were presented. Some reasons for returning the vest were mentioned by more than one commenter, but I’ve distilled the main points in the bullets below.

  • Puffer vests add weight around the torso and make most people look bigger, even if it’s a slimline vest. If you wear a coat or jacket over the vest, the effect will be even bulkier.”
  • If it’s cold enough to wear a puffer, then your arms will be colder than your body, even with a long-sleeved top. If your arms are warm enough in just a top, then why do you need the puffer?”
  • The vest is a specialty item that may not be in regular wardrobe rotation. If you’d rather the items you own be in regular rotation, return it.”
  • “I think you answered your question in the text when you mentioned your style guideposts of dramatic, polished, and elegant. It seems that you feel that a puffer vest, by its very nature, is never going to meet your style guidelines.”
  • That is probably the best puffer you will ever get and ticks all the boxes, but maybe it’s for the fantasy you. I know lots of people love to layer, but I’ve realized I’m not one of them. Sometimes clothes are great for someone else but not for your life.”
  • The only arguments you seem to give for keeping the vest relate to fear: fear of missing out (FOMO) or fear of regret.”
  • After reading this piece, I agree with your conclusion that you are maybe ‘not a puffer vest person’. Besides, as you point out, you already have enough more suitable vests that better suit your climate, lifestyle, and style criteria. So, I conclude that you should return the puffer vest.”
  • Return it. It’s one of those ‘good in theory’ items that doesn’t work for your actual life. It’s not an ‘ideal/fantasy life’ piece for me, but it sounds like it fills that category for you…you can let it go.”
  • The most telling part is the fact that it’s been weeks and you haven’t worn the vest. Normally we would be excited to wear our new pieces, unless we are buying pre- or post-season.”
  • “If you haven’t reached for it in the six weeks when the weather was cooler, you most likely won’t wear it during the upcoming California summer. Why keep it for a year in the hope that you’ll want to wear it then? It’s not the last puffer vest in the world!”
  • I have a vest in a similar length that I bought at Talbots and I hardly wear it. I own five fleece/quilted vests, so it’s not a case of my not liking vests; it’s that the longer length is hard to wear. I wear the shorter vests all the time as kind of a semi-sweater when working from home. The longer vest is too long to sit in all day and, as you point out, you need to wear a hoodie under it if it’s really cold. I say shop around and see if you can find a regular length vest for a tall/long body.”
  • In the photos of vests you’ve liked, none of them have a collar. The quilted vest does and I think that limits its wear. The collar is too outdoor-ish and bulky to wear around indoors.”

What I Decided and Why

I told you there were a lot of great arguments on either side! Shortly after I published this post, my husband and I had company from out of town for over a week, so the decision was tabled until a few days ago. That actually ended up being a good thing because I was able to read the feedback and “percolate” on it for a while. As I mentioned earlier, I went back and forth several times about what to do. At one point, I felt positive that I would keep the vest and I actually almost wore it one day. But something held me back from doing so and, upon further reflection, I did a 180-degree turn around and ultimately decided to return the vest to the store. I have now made the return and am at piece with my decision.

What ultimately clinched my return decision were the following points:

1.  I only liked the way the vest looked when it was zipped up.

I’ve noticed that most women who wear puffer vests wear them unzipped, but I thought the visual effect of the Whisper Featherless Vest was too bulky and unflattering on me in that state. I didn’t feel that way about the vest when it was zipped up, but I don’t think I would have been happy wearing it unzipped.

I enjoy having the option of wearing my toppers either open or closed, so I usually only purchase pieces that are versatile in that manner. Most of the model photos on the Athleta website show the vest zipped up, so that’s probably how it looks best on most people.

2.  I was afraid that the bulky collar wouldn’t stay down when folded over.

One of the commenters mentioned that the vest’s collar looked “outdoor-ish and bulky,” and I agree with that assessment. She also pointed out that my existing vests don’t have collars. That’s not exactly true, as most of them have small collars, but they’re not nearly as bulky as the one on the puffer vest. I don’t think I would be happy wearing the collar up for indoor use, which is often the setting in which I would be wearing the vest.

3.  The vest has limited usefulness in my life.

As I stated in my “keep or return” post, it’s usually too warm where I live to wear a puffer vest on my walks, and I don’t wear athleisure type clothing all that often when I go out and about otherwise (I usually reserve such pieces for at home and walking). I also tend to feel the cold in my extremities more than in my torso, so I would likely have to wear a jacket or coat over the vest when outdoors on cooler days. There wouldn’t be that many opportunities for me to showcase the vest in my outfits.

The reader who suggested that I find a tall version of a standard-length vest had a good point. She stated that she wears those types of vests as indoor layering pieces often, which might work for me as well. I agreed with her sentiment that the Athleta vest is probably too long to sit around in while working from home. It’s really more of an outdoor piece, and I don’t think I would wear it very often in my current climate. I’d be okay with it not being a “wardrobe workhorse,” but I wouldn’t feel good about only wearing it only once or twice a year, which I fear might have been the case.

4.  My current vests are more in line with my style guideposts.

I probably don’t need any additional vests because I already own four that fulfill my desire to wear that type of “third piece” for some outfit variety. My existing vests more specifically check off the “dramatic, polished, and elegant” boxes, so I think I’ll just stick with those for now. I have several puffer jackets that I wear often for my cool weather walks, especially in the evenings. Those are a better fit for my lifestyle needs, as they keep my entire upper body warm, including my arms.

At least for the foreseeable future, I’ll leave the puffer vests for others to wear and enjoy. Since I returned the Athleta vest, I’ve encountered at least a handful of women wearing these types of vests.  I still like the look overall, but not necessarily for me. If I feel drawn toward puffer vests again in the fall, I may pursue the idea of finding a shorter style in a tall size. I’ve tried on many of the shorter styles in standard lengths, but they always seem to hit me in the wrong place. A similar style in a tall length may have possibility, though. If I do opt to purchase such a vest in the future, I’ll buy an inexpensive option and make sure that I’m comfortable wearing it indoors and unzipped.  But it’s possible that I may have ruled puffer vests out after all of this deliberation… we shall see!

Help with Keep/Return Decisions in General

Before I close this post, I want to share some of the feedback and tips readers gave that can be applied to all types of “keep or return” decisions, not just about the vest that I needed help with:

  • “Would you buy it at full price – or would you buy it again?”
  • “We often feel more regret over keeping something that doesn’t work for us vs. letting something go, especially if it was expensive.”
  • “You know when something is right. You don’t even question it – and you wear it.”
  • “Your response to other people’s feedback will help clarify things for you, but your initial gut response that you aren’t sure is usually right on, and you should return it.
  • “See how you feel when you say you’ll return it. If you immediately resist this suggestion, then you should keep it.”
  • “I think if you have considered not enjoying a piece, it means that you don’t! You can go back and forth a couple of times, but if you have that initial doubt, it seems to not be an item you’ll be comfortable with.”
  • “When we go shopping, my daughter often points out to me that I wouldn’t be hesitating if I knew the piece was the right choice for me. She says she can always tell from the ‘rapture’ in my eyes and my words if I really love and would cherish the item above everything else that I own in that category.”
  • “I think that when you put something on and do ‘the happy dance,’ you know you love it.” This reader told a story of when she tried on a dress and loved it so much that she didn’t even look at the price. Everything about it was perfect and it turned out to be “the dress of the summer” that she wore all the time.
  • “If I am resorting to a pros and cons list because I have doubts, then I already know deep down that the garment is not for me.”
  • Make a master list and keep it for when you are shopping. List all the activities you enjoy and list the clothes you are likely to wear for them. That way if an item of clothing is not on that list, it means you probably don’t need it.”
  • “We can often be torn between having found the perfect item based on a desire and the reality of it not fitting with our needs. Something can look good on paper without adding much value to our lives.”
  • “I have bought so many wrong things over the years thinking unconsciously that I will live the life of the ad. If this is the case, I would return the item in question.”
  • “Do you feel guilty about how much something cost?” One reader told a story about buying her first Kate Spade bag and feeling guilty for weeks while she debated whether or not to keep it. It took her a while to give herself “permission” to keep it and use it. Once she did that, she loved the bag and had no regrets.
  • “We can have items of beauty and joy in our wardrobes that may get worn less frequently but still have a rotational value over a period of years.”

Some of the above tips have been mentioned on this blog (or my former one) previously (by both me and in comments), but good advice bears repeating! I don’t even remember my own “words of wisdom” sometimes, so it helps to revisit some them… Feel free to offer any additional advice you have in the comments section below.

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7 thoughts on “Keep or Return Decision: Athleta Puffer Vest

  1. Congrats on making your decision, and thank you for the thoughtful analysis that you provided here. I love that you were able to hone in on your use cases for the item and identify the aspects that made this piece not right for you. Even though I was in the “keep it” camp after the first post, it’s clear from your thought process in this post that returning it was the right choice!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      All of the comments that I received from you and others on my last post were SO helpful, and that made my decision a lot easier once I had some time to ponder the words of wisdom that I received. I think that if I lived in a cooler climate, I might have opted to keep the vest, but the timeframe in which I might wear such a piece where I am is pretty short. I still might buy a puffer vest once day, but I definitely think it would be good to get a version that I would feel comfortable wearing open, since that’s how most women seem to wear them. The commenter who suggested that I hold out for a tall version of a standard length vest may be on to something, but for the time being, I’m happy that I opted to make the return before the return window closed.

  2. Sue says:

    Debbie, I found this post very enjoyable (and suspenseful) to read (and not because you returned the vest as I advised but because the post provided so much food for thought – the decision was not nearly as cut and dried as I had thought). I hope you do not take the lack of comments (so far?) as a lack of interest among your readers but perhaps instead as satisfaction from a happy resolution. Nice!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you felt this post gave you some food for thought, Sue. Usually my “keep or return” decisions are more straightforward and I may post about those, too, but I think this was a good one to start off the category with. Thanks for what you wrote about the lack of comments on this post. That’s a good way to look at it 🙂

  3. Vildy says:

    Peace and peace of mind is priceless. And it looks good on everyone. 😀

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Very well said, Vildy! I wholeheartedly agree.

    2. Nicely observed, Vildy!

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