My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

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:

three loved but returned items

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

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

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

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.

Your Thoughts?

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.

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28 thoughts on “Items That I Loved… But Ultimately Returned

  1. Sue says:

    I completely recognise all these reasons for rejecting clothes and shoes that I love the look of. Other reasons for me are that the item is too similar to something I already own (it would not add anythying new to my wardrobe) or that it is not similar enough (it would not fit in). Guidelines like these really help me keep my wardrobe under control.

    P.S. I have a cheap jar of odourless coconut oil from a Turkish supermarket (it turns to white solid fat below about 25°C [78°F]). I occasionally put a smidgen on my fingertips to smooth over dry ends of my hair. My hair looks a bit wet for a day but a shampoo and condition the day after leaves my hair bouncy and glossy for weeks.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for the hair tip, Sue. It seems like coconut oil has a lot of wonderful uses. Great point about not buying items that are too similar to what we already own. That’s a common mistake that many of us make. Of course, it can be beneficial to have back-ups of some pieces, but it’s all too easy to take that too far. I agree that it’s also a good idea not to buy “outliers” that become “projects.” If one has to buy a bunch of additional new items to make something work, it’s probably best left in the store!

      1. Do not buy outliers that become projects. Good advice, well-stated!

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          This one has helped me a lot, but I need to make sure I remember it!

  2. Gail says:

    John Frieda Frizz Ease Secret Weapon Touch-up Creme!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Gail! I’ll check it out.

  3. NATALIE K says:

    Gail is so right about John Fieda!! Works like magic!! They also have a spray product that I use!!! I try really hard to leave pieces behind that don’t work for my lifestyle!! This includes all pants!! I only wear below-the-knee skirts and longer!!! I am very happy with this decision I made 20 years ago or more!!! I’m trying to leave behind too many dress blouse because I find I just don’t wear them that much!! I would love to but I’ve changed with age!! I also love winter white but I no longer wear it from head to toe as I did when younger!! I love angora sweaters but I leave those but I wouldn’t be upset to have a full on cashmere sweater!!! We change with age and I’ve had to learn this!! Plus, I live in the desert so cold weather clothing isn’t worn as much here even though I love sweaters & cardigans!!!! I must buy for my lifestyle!!! This has been difficult for me to learn over the years but I do it now to be happy with my wardrobe!!!! I’m glad to know you’ve learned this as well!!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for seconding Gail’s John Frieda recommendation, Natalie, and for sharing your thoughts on what you no longer buy and wear. It can be difficult to give up buying items that we used to love, but as our lifestyles change, so must our wardrobes. That’s great that you’ve embraced skirts and they’re working well for you. I’m sure it makes your life easier to just wear skirts these days. It seems like you know well what works for your life now and are shopping wisely. It can be hard not to buy things we like, but if we know they have no real place in our lives, passing them up (or returning them like I did) is the right thing to do.

  4. Ah yes, all the gorgeous heels. I just have to say nope to them all and move on – I don’t even try them on. Heels are for admiration only…they’re not real shoes for me!

    I agree with Sue that something too similar to something I already own and doesn’t add anything new to my wardrobe is a big one for me, and I think this is one of the hardest lessons to learn…because the item can literally tick *every single box* for you and it still just doesn’t make sense given what you already own. It’s funny because once you have dialed in your style, you may be making fewer mistakes in buying things that don’t work for you, but you might still find yourself attracted to the same kinds of “very your style” items over and over again. And then it’s easy to accumulate too many similar things and start splitting your wears.

    I have to be careful with boots because I live somewhere that is boots season almost 6 months a year, so it’s easy to be like “oh sure, of course I could use another pair of boots.” But leather boots are expensive, so to get a good cost per wear takes years and requires wearing a smaller number of pairs more frequently. So even a pair of boots that fits, looks great, is my style, is comfortable, and is different from what I already own…it really probably doesn’t make sense right now given the several pairs of boots I already have that are in good condition. I have (by my standards) a relatively small collection of mostly really nice quality boots, and while that doesn’t offer a ton of versatility, it does mean that I am wearing good quality boots every day, which is great. I haven’t been able to apply this logic to the rest of my wardrobe though 🙂

    At the top of my shopping spreadsheet, I have this quote in really big font because it helps remind me that it takes more than just ticking off all my boxes for an item to make sense to purchase:
    “We can’t own everything that COULD work for us.” It can feel like when you find a piece that works and is a price that you can afford, you should buy it! These things can be so hard to find! Scarcity mentality sets in and the buying begins. That’s a place where I have to slow down and take a deep breath and think about what I already have.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      You’re wise to not even try the high heels on, Sally. I usually don’t, either, but I sometimes have a weak moment. But you and Sue raised some excellent points about other types of items we shouldn’t buy (or should return if we did buy them). I agree that it’s common for us to keep finding items that tick the boxes and end up having far too many of a particular type of item in our closets (hello, cardigans!). We only have so many days to wear the items, and it can be overkill with having a large number of similar pieces. It’s good that you’ve learned your lesson with the boots. In time, hopefully that lesson will translate to other areas. I like the quote at the top of your shopping spreadsheet (and I should also have a shopping spreadsheet!). Very wise words from you here, as per usual.

      1. NATALIE K says:

        I simply must comment that I understand Sally about heels!!! I’m physically unable to wear heels since I was 45!! I’m 56 now! I was crushed!!!! My son had just flown off to college and I had been buying heels to go out with my husband for dates!!! Instead I found out I have parkinson’s…I was mostly crushed about not being able to wear heels which is funny now!!! I also ended up on a walker that year!! Tough year!!! Things are in a good routine now!! Our son has graduated with his Master’s and married his college sweetheart and we have 5 grandchildren!! I have a disease that won’t get better but the Lord is in control!! But, I still can’t wear beautiful heels but I now look for beautiful flats!!!! There are so many out there now!!! I must say since the day I cleaned all the heels out of my closet and it was empty so I sat in the closet and cried my heart out and my husband crawled in there with me to tell me he would buy me more shoes, it would be o.k.!! I have acquired a closet full of flats!!!! Gorgeous comfortable (& expensive but who cares) flats!!!

        1. Natalie K, yes, there are so many beautiful flats now. I’m glad you were able to make the transition from heels to flats without losing your love of a gorgeous shoe!

        2. NATALIE K says:

          Thank you!!!

        3. Debbie Roes says:

          You’re an inspiration, Natalie. I love your positive attitude in the face of dealing with a difficult disease. It sounds like your faith and the support of your loved ones helps a lot. I’m glad you have a good routine now, and I’m glad you’ve been able to find some beautiful flat shoes that you love. I understand the sadness about no longer being able to wear heels, but I’m happy that you’re enjoying your wonderful flats.

    2. NATALIE K says:

      Sally- Your so right!!! I own 4 good pairs of leather to the knee boots plus 3 pair of to the knee suede boot that I haven’t yet had time to wear!!! I’ve decided that I don’t need anymore boots living where the weather won’t be cold until after Thanksgiving and closer to Christmas!!! I do LOOOVE boots but I can spend that money on something else now!!!

  5. Katrina B says:

    Good for you for returning these items that you love but realize won’t work for you. As usual your analysis brings up a lot of good points and reminders for me.

    I have fallen for items just like those, but I haven’t been as good about letting them go! Perfect example is your lovely eyelash sweater – I have an acrylic/nylon cardigan that I love because it feels so soft and cozy, but my hair goes nuts whenever I even touch that cardigan. Not to mention I frequently give myself a shock when I touch a light switch or doorknob! I keep blaming it on my hair, or the dry air, but obviously the problem is the cardigan. I really need to get rid of it.

    While I’m on the topic of soft and cozy sweaters, what is a good fiber for people who can’t wear wool? Cotton works fine for nine months of the year here in the low desert, but when I get cold I want to wrap myself in something warm and fluffy. Thick polyester fleece is soft but can also cause the same static problem. I suppose some kind of cotton/synthetic blend might work.

    1. Maggie says:

      Hi Katrina,
      I wonder if the Barefoot Dreams line on QVC would work for you. It has rayon in it so that might help with static cling. The line is also available on Amazon. There might be a similar line on Amazon that has rayon in the fabric content – just search for a sweater with that fabric content.
      (I have seen some items from this line at the thrift store and it is certainly soft.)

      I wear cashmere and have bought off of Ebay but now I generally buy from Nordstrom Rack or the Real Real so I can return items if needed. (Generally, I buy one sweater a year.) There are also different lines of new cashmere such as Quince.

      Best of luck.

      1. Katrina B says:

        The Barefoot Dreams cardigans do look so soft! Thanks Maggie for the suggestion.

        1. Maggie says:

          You are welcome! I forgot to mention that Smartwool has a new line of tops. Some other lines at REI have a mix of merino wool and other fabrics. I haven’t tried them on but they felt very nice. I also saw merino wool socks mixed with Coolmax (called Coolerino socks) at Duluth Trading and they were VERY soft inside. They seem thicker than dress socks but not as thick as the men’s wool hiking socks that I normally wear so they might be a good option for everyday wear.

          Right now there is a sale but I am going to wait a bit and maybe buy one set in the near future to try out.

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          Thanks for these helpful suggestions, Maggie. I recently bought a merino wool blend top from Icebreaker that I don’t find itchy. Most of the time, I can’t wear wool, but that particular top works for me. The socks you mentioned sound great. I wish I lived near a Duluth Trading Company location, but I may have to try ordering online from them one day.

        3. Maggie says:

          I did buy a Mountain Hardware Women’s Monkey Fleece jacket quite a few years ago and I don’t seem to have a static problem with it here in Colorado. (The current version on the Mountain Hardware website is the Women’s Polartec High Loft Jacket.) The panels of stretch fleece to eliminate bulk in key areas and the fuzzy neck with the zipper guard can’t be beat! I wear a small and generally wear between a S or M in things.

      2. Debbie Roes says:

        Thanks for always offering great suggestions, Maggie! I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of readers with your recommendations.

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found my analysis helpful, Katrina. I’m sorry you have also dealt with static issues in sweaters. I agree with Natalie that the Barefoot Dreams cardigans are great. I wear them as robes, but they work to wear out and about, too. I can’t necessarily vouch for how warm they are because I don’t live in a cold place, but they’re worth a try. I haven’t had any static issues with my BFD cardigans. Good luck in finding a good replacement for your eyelash sweater!

  6. Sue says:

    For those of us who can no longer wear heels (or just prefer to pamper our feet), I would like to point out that you can still enjoy them. I too replaced most of my heels with more practical but luxurious flats. Still, I have kept a couple, including an 8 inch black suede peep-toe pair that I keep on display in one of my Ikea Bertby wall cabinets with glass door. I’ve never been able to walk in them (or even stand in them 😄). But they are lovely to look at, and I sometimes dress up in them: just so long as I don’t try to go anywhere, they’re fine!

    1. NATALIE K says:

      Yes!! Enjoyment as art!! I would be too tempted to want to wear them!!! I just enjoy looking at them in the stores!!!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      What a great and creative idea, Sue! I’m glad you found a way to still enjoy your lovely shoes. I can’t imagine trying to walk in an 8-inch pair of shoes, but they sound lovely based upon your description. I don’t know that I love any of my uncomfortable shoes enough to want to display them, but I hope your excellent suggestion will help some readers.

  7. Jenn says:

    I struggle not to buy blazers. In theory, I love them. But in real life, I don’t wear them. Not only do they not work with my casual lifestyle, they don’t really work with my personality either.

    I appreciate the tips for frizzy hair, as mine has always had that tendency. I just bought some of the Secret Weapon and so far, I really like it.

    I’m still working on wearing all my clothes at least once. I haven’t eliminated any other pieces since I last commented, but I did put two more in holding. I’ve worn all my jeans, all but one top, and most of my shoes, but I have several toppers to wear. That can be hard in Michigan when it’s mandatory coat season—which we are about to hit.

    I’m also still following my shopping “rules.” As a result of pausing (now eight days before buying), I’m making fewer mistakes and having relatively more success. (I’m not reporting to brag but to help keep me accountable.)

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m the same way with blazers, Jenn. I only wear the ones I have occasionally because my lifestyle is also very casual. That’s great that the Secret Weapon is working well for your hair. I haven’t bought it yet, but I’m going to try it out. You’re doing amazingly well with your “wear everything once” project. I will be writing about that soon. It’s simple, but mot easy (but it’s also very helpful). Pausing before buying always helps me. I don’t usually wait as long as 8 days, but a pause of at least a day or two has helped me to avoid overbuying and shopping mistakes. I never think you are bragging, so please keep reporting back. When we share what helps us, it’s beneficial to others. I wish you continued success!

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