I’ve written quite a bit about the frustrating buy-and-return cycle that I often go through, especially when it comes to online shopping. Usually when I return an item, the most common reasons are that the fit was off or the website description wasn’t accurate. I usually don’t like the items that I’m taking back, so even though it’s a hassle to do the returns, I don’t experience any ambivalence or remorse over them.
However, there have been some instances when I’ve decided to return a garment or accessory that I actually loved. In these cases, other reasons were at play besides poor fit and an inaccurate item description. In today’s post, I’ll review three such items. I’ll share why I bought them in the first place, as well as why I later opted to return them to the store.
The Three Items
Pictured below are a pair of slide sandals, a duster cardigan, and a sleeveless midi dress that I returned within the past month:
Looking at the photos, you might think all of these pieces are in line with my style guideposts of dramatic, polished, and elegant. The cardigan might not as obviously dovetail with those words, but I fell in love with it when I saw it and felt it was very much accordance with my style aesthetic. I’ll explain more when I get to that particular item…
I’ll go through each loved but returned item one-by-one below, beginning with the shoes.
Black Studded Slide Sandals
Last month, I met a friend for lunch and she was wearing these sandals. I’m a sucker for black and anything that includes silver studs, so I was eager to learn the maker of the sandals and if they were still available. I was excited to find them in my size on a discount site, and I placed the order.
I wasn’t able to try on my friend’s sandals because she’s very petite and wears a much smaller shoe size than I do. It would have been like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to cram their big feet into her tiny glass slipper! The heel on the sandals appeared to be a bit on the high side, but I decided to give them a try anyway because we never know what will or won’t be comfortable on our feet. Plus, I was a bit blinded by my affinity for the studs.
When the shoes arrived, they fit perfectly! The top strap wasn’t even too tight, as can often be the case with my high instep. I loved the way the shoes looked on my feet, and I imagined how they would “edge up” some of my more classic and conservative outfits. They were definitely a dramatic piece that would help me to improve my style and better exemplify my style guideposts. My husband even loved the shoes when I showed them to him, so I was leaning toward keeping them.
But there was one big problem… The heel on the sandals was 3.5 inches high, which is a full inch taller than my usual comfort zone. They would have for sure been “taxi shoes,” and I had promised myself several years ago that I wouldn’t buy this type of footwear anymore. I could only really wear them out to dinner when I would basically just walk from the car to the table and back again. That’s not very practical, especially since I rarely go out for a meal and do nothing else either before or afterwards.
So, as sad as I was to part with these fabulous shoes, I packaged them up and sent them back to the retailer. I don’t regret my decision because I know I wouldn’t have worn them all that often despite my love of the aesthetic. I’ll continue to be on the lookout for a pair of studded shoes with a heel height that works for my middle-aged “fussy” feet.
Black “Eyelash” Duster Cardigan
I’m not a slave to fashion trends (as I clearly delineated in this recent post), but I do take advantage of the ones that excite me. One such trend is the “eyelash” knit garments that are currently all the rage. I saw this cardigan on a mannequin at Nordstrom and was instantly entranced. When I touched it and felt how soft and cozy the material was, I was sold. The store didn’t have my size in stock, so I placed an order for it.
When the cardigan arrived, it was very comfortable and I loved the dramatic look of the fuzzy knit. It wasn’t your basic cardigan, and I could see how it would add some flair to some of my basic ensembles. There was a big problem with it, though. The static cling was horrible! My hair stuck straight out after I put the cardigan on, and every time I touched my hair, the issue worsened (and this was just within the few minutes that I had it on). I noticed that the cardigan also had a snag on it, so I would have needed to exchange it for another version if I’d opted to keep it.
I often struggle with flyaway hair in the winter months, as my hair tends toward dryness despite my consistent use of moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. I haven’t found a great solution for this problem other than spritzing some hair spray on my hair or my brush every so often. If you have other suggestions for managing this problem, please let me know… But since I don’t want to look like I stuck my finger in a light socket while wearing the cardigan, I chose to return it. It’s lovely, but the synthetic material (nylon and acrylic) was problematic even though it was soft to the touch. Perhaps it’s just as well because I already have my fair share of black toppers.
Olive and Black Print Midi Dress
I listed this dress as a successful “wild card” purchase in my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale review post a few months ago. At the time, I mentioned that I likely wouldn’t wear it much because it skewed dressy and my life is very casual. Still, I thought it was a good buy because the price was relatively low (about $50) and it fit me well. However, every time I considered wearing the dress, I ultimately decided to wear another one of my dresses instead.
The high neckline on this dress looked lovely and dramatic without a topper, but when a topper was added, it ruined the look. I run cold and always carry a topper with me, even in the dead of summer. This dress isn’t really a summer piece, either. The color and fabrication (a crepe blend) make it more of a fall/winter item, so if I were to wear it, I’d invariably have to add a sweater or at least a wrap in order to keep warm. But whenever I tried that pairing, I didn’t like the look. The dress shined when my shoulders and arms were visible, but it looked kind of dull and conservative when there was little to no skin on display.
I thought the dress was a winner, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The last time I tried it on, I made the difficult decision to return it to the store. Yes, it was inexpensive and flattering on my hourglass figure, but it wasn’t practical for my lifestyle, so it was not a successful purchase after all. I do much better with knit dresses that skew more casual and can be worn for my typical warm weather activities, either with or without a topper. I have enough of those at the moment, so I’m set.
I loved all three of the pieces reviewed in this post. They all fit me well and were in line with my desired style statement. However, it’s not enough to love the color, pattern, fit, and aesthetic of an item. Our clothes, shoes, and accessories need to work for our own unique lives, and the sandals, cardigan, and dress reviewed above did not. The sandals were too high, the cardigan was too staticky, and the dress was too formal and seasonally inappropriate. Therefore, I made the right decision to return all three items despite the fact that I loved them in theory.
If you’ve purchased something and find that you’re not actually wearing it, it might be helpful to consider if perhaps you loved it in theory but it’s not useful in practice. Sometimes we just need to admire wardrobe items as if they were art pieces (as Jill Chivers wrote about in this excellent and thought-provoking post) and leave them in the store. There will always be more items for us to love, and many of them will work much better for our real-life activities.
Now I’d love to get your thoughts… Here are a few questions for you to consider:
- What items have you returned – or not bought in the first place – that you liked in theory but knew wouldn’t work for your life?
- What have you decided that you should just admire and walk on by?
- Has this changed over the years? Did the pandemic play a role in this change?
I welcome your insights and examples, as well as any other comments you have related to today’s essay.
Now for a bit of a “sneak peek” into some upcoming posts… With under two months left in the year, I’ll start doing some year-end reflections, including a look at my 2022 wardrobe “benchwarmers.” I’ll also debrief my packing for my trip to Tahoe (I was supposed to be gone now, but I postponed the trip due to weather issues) and share how I plan to address my wardrobe in the coming months based upon a few articles and videos that I recently read and watched. The year will be over before we know it, and I hope to get a good head start on better managing my wardrobe and shopping in 2023.