I review the items in my closet on a regular basis and purge what’s no longer working for me. Sometimes I do a major review of my entire wardrobe (a “closet audit”), while other times I’ll just go through one small section of pieces. In addition to letting go of anything that no longer fits my body, lifestyle, or personal style aesthetic, I also find it helpful to highlight why I’m passing things on.
In today’s post, I review twelve items that I’ve passed on during the early months of this year. These aren’t all my 2023 closet castoffs, but they’re a representative group from which important lessons can be gleaned. I’ll show photos of the purged items and let you know what led me to removing them from my wardrobe.
At the end of the post, I’ll encapsulate the key lessons from the twelve castoffs reviewed. I’ve found that making notes of the reasons for my purged pieces helps me to both know better and do better, but I haven’t been engaging in this practice consistently. Periodically writing posts such as this one can help to drive critical shopping and sartorial lessons home for me, plus I also hope it helps to provide you with some “aha moments,” too.
Purged Item Overview
Here’s a look at the twelve closet items that I’ll be covering today, followed by some basic information about them. In the next section, I’ll share my individual reasons for purging each piece.
Broken down by category, here’s what we’re looking at:
- 2 short-sleeved tops
- 1 long-sleeved top
- 2 cardigans
- 1 vest
- 4 pairs of cropped pants
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of shoes
When Items Were Purchased
The purged items were purchased between 2015 and 2022, as shown below:
- 2015: 2 items (vest and jeans)
- 2019: 1 item (red cropped pants)
- 2020: 3 items (black cropped pants, black shoes, striped tee)
- 2021: 4 items (floral blouse, striped cardigan, chambray cropped pants, blue cardigan)
- 2022: 2 items (olive cropped pants, pink waffle top)
Full-Price Vs. On Sale
Because I’ve noticed that I often make more purchasing mistakes when I buy things on sale, I like to include that information in my purged item reviews. Buying things final sale, as with resale purchases and end-of-season sales can be especially problematic, which is one reason why I now mostly avoid that type of shopping. Unfortunately, however, I hadn’t fully learned my lesson with some of the pieces covered in this post. I’ll share more about where I bought the items when I cover them individually, but shown below is a breakdown of full-priced vs. sales purchases.
Individual Item Reviews – Purged Items 1-3:
I’ll now 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 photos of the items in groups of three as I delve into my purging rationale.
Black Floral Cabi Blouse
I purchased this top at a Cabi end-of-season sale, at which all pieces are at least 50% off and many of them are discounted even further. This blouse was priced at just $20, which is part of why I bought it. However, I was also interested in it because I primarily wear knit tops and I wanted to mix things up a bit. I’m not usually a big fan of florals, but since this one was grounded in black, it was more appealing to me.
It’s not apparent from the photo, but the sleeves on this blouse were kind of an odd shape and style. Additionally, it was a pullover rather than a button-front style. I think that if it had been a button-front, it might have worked better for me, as I could have worn it open like a jacket over a tank top. Ultimately, this top ended up being a risky purchase that didn’t pay off. It just never felt like “me” when I put it on. Somehow it felt too feminine and conservative for my personal style. The fabric was also a bit scratchy and not very comfortable. This is an example of a “deal” that really wasn’t one after all.
Black Gap Ruched-Hem Hiking Pants
Although these pants were labelled “hiking pants,” I didn’t intend to use them for that purpose. When I go on walks or hikes, I generally wear full-length pants, so I thought I would use these pants for out-and-about purposes during the summer months. I liked the ruched-hem detail, and the pants were available in tall sizes (I’m grateful for all the Gap company brands for that reason), so the hem hit me at a good spot on my legs.
Of course, there was a problem or else these pants wouldn’t be among my closet castoffs, right? The problem was in regards to the fabrication, which was a sort of “ripstop” material. There was no stretch to the pants, which is usually not my preference, but that wasn’t the main issue. The primary problem with the pants was that they made a “rustling” noise when I walked. My thighs don’t even rub together (one benefit to having wider hips), but the swishing sound was still quite annoying. I’m not sure how the pants would be appropriate for hiking, but maybe a lot of other women are less perturbed by their clothes making noise than I am.
Black Halogen Menswear Vest
This item is one of the few covered today that actually got a lot of wear. I first purchased the vest back in 2015 (at full-price), and I wore it frequently during the first few years. It never hit me at the best spot because of my height, but that didn’t bother me until my shape changed with menopause. It was also too small for me for several years, but I kept it in my “holding zone” because it had once been a closet favorite.
After I lost weight last year, I brought the vest back into my closet. However, I only wore it once and wasn’t very happy with it when I had it on. I don’t like that it hits me at the widest part of my hips and flares out somewhat at the bottom. I’m not sure if it had the flare issue back when it was a favorite, but I might just be pickier about that sort of thing now. I still like the idea of a menswear vest, but this wasn’t the right one for 2023 Debbie. I still have two longer black vests that I enjoy wearing, but I’d be open to purchasing another menswear-inspired vest if I find one that’s more flattering on my figure.
Purged Items 4-6:
Black Vince Camuto Peep-toe Booties
I’m not sure whether to call these booties or sandals, but I bought them in early 2020 (before the pandemic) at a consignment store. Although peep-toe footwear is no longer on the cutting edge of fashion, I still really like the look of this style. Not long after I purchased the shoes, the whole world shut down and I didn’t wear out-and-about clothes or shoes for months on end. When I finally started to get dressed in nicer outfits to leave my home again, I tried to wear these shoes, but I found them to be too “clompy,” plus the heel was too high for my current foot situation.
I still love the look of high heels. Most of the shoes I wear have some sort of a heel, as that’s just what I prefer to wear. However, I’ve learned that I need to keep heel heights to two inches or lower now, and the heel on these shoes was more like three inches. I put them on with multiple outfits, but I ultimately opted to wear a lower-heeled option every single time. I just don’t have many occasions that don’t require much walking, so I have no need for a heavy shoe with a heel height that’s outside of my comfort zone.
Black-and-White Chevron Striped Chico’s Cardigan
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know about my affinity for stripes and black-and-white pieces. So, when I saw this sweater in an ad on a website, I was quick to click on the link and place an order (I’m not sure I observed “the power pause,” which is always a good rule of thumb to follow when shopping). When I received the cardigan, I liked it at first. After all, what’s not to like about stripes and black and white, especially for a “cardigan junkie” like me.
I wore the cardigan a few times, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. I came to realize that the widening of the stripes towards the bottom of the garment had a widening effect on my body in an area where I’m already self-conscious about my girth. I also didn’t love the fabric, which I’m coming to realize is a big reason for purging a lot of pieces from my closet. I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the feel of certain materials on my skin, and this isn’t always apparent when I first try something on. I need to pay closer attention to the fabrics that don’t work for me so I can avoid them when shopping.
Black-and-White Striped Old Navy Scoop-neck Tee
This is another purged item that received a lot of wear and probably exceeded the thirty-wear benchmark. I mostly wore it when lounging at home, and I also owned several V-neck versions of this top that were sadly discontinued. The V-necks were much better on me, as they weren’t as low-cut as the scoop-neck option. I’ve found that because of the shape of my body, a lot of tops tend to be more low-cut on me than on other women. In fact, I almost always need to shorten the straps on tank tops and sleeveless dresses.
Because this top was inexpensive (and probably also on sale), I decided to keep it instead of returning it to the store, but I never felt comfortable with how low the neckline was. That’s why I only wore it at home, but it ultimately ended up becoming stretched out, or maybe it just fit me differently after I lost weight. The low neckline morphed into an obscenely low neckline, so the top ended up in my donate bag.
Purged Items 7-9:
Chambray J. Crew Cropped Pants
I bought these pants after seeing them on a blogger who I believed was around my size. She’s two inches shorter than me, but based upon her pictures and the sizes she referenced, I thought the pants would fit me. I made the big mistake of buying them final sale, which I never should have done! If I could have easily returned the pants if the sizing was off, it wouldn’t have been that much of a risk to be influenced by an influencer.
When the pants arrived, they were probably a size too big on me! I guess my body dysmorphia (and maybe the blogger’s Photoshopping) deceived me into believing I was larger than I actually was. The pants didn’t have the easy, slouchy look shown on the model; they just looked baggy and sloppy. I tried having them taken in, thereby “throwing good money after bad” (mistake number two!), but I never liked the way they looked. I held on to them for a while out of guilt, but I finally passed them on this year because they were now more like two or three sizes too big for me. Big lessons learned here!
Dark-Wash Lucky Straight-Leg Jeans
I liked this style of jeans so much that I bought them in three different sizes over the years to help me get dressed during menopause-related weight fluctuations and bloating issues. For a long time, Lucky Brand was my go-to for jeans, but they sadly no longer offer longer inseams in most of their denim styles (for either women or men, which means my husband loses out, too). I wore this jean style for a long time across different weights, and all three sizes were worn many times.
The jeans shown above (the smallest of the three sizes) were in my holding zone for years because they were too tight. But when I was able to wear them again, I realized that I now prefer a higher rise. The waistband on these jeans hit me about two inches below my bellybutton, which is just too low for me now. I now like my pant and jean waistbands to hit me at around the bellybutton, which I think is considered more of a high rise. I don’t like the ultra-high rises that have become popular over the past few years, but I definitely prefer a higher rise than I used to, which is why I decided to purge these jeans from my closet. FYI, the other two pairs had already been purged due to being worn out, which is usually the best reason for jettisoning an item.
Olive Old Navy Cropped Pants
I mentioned under the last entry that I now like a higher rise, but not this high. I liked the idea of these pants because it’s difficult for me to find pant options that aren’t either denim or black. I also liked the low sale price at which these pants were offered. Those were my reasons for keeping a pair of pants that came up much too high on my short torso. They may not look that high-rise on the model, but they were on me. I also wasn’t a big fan of the fabric, which was 100% cotton with little “give” to it.
I wish I wouldn’t have passed the return deadline on these pants, but Old Navy has reduced their return window to 30 days in recent years. So, I need to remember to be cognizant of that fact when I order from this brand in the future. I usually do returns almost immediately after receiving online orders, but those “maybe” purchases are the ones that can come back and bite me.
A good rule of thumb is that if something isn’t a “hell, yes,” it should be a no. I’m not out that much money on these deep-sale pants, but I wish I would have returned them when I had the chance. Fortunately, I now own a pair of olive cropped pants, which I acquired from Athleta back in March (their Brooklyn ankle pants, which are a style that works great on my body and is available in tall sizes).
Purged Items 10-12:
Dark Pink Athleta Waffle Top
I love a good waffle top, which is a staple at-home item for me during the cooler months. My favorite style is the lounge Henley from Tommy John (I recommend sizing up if you order this, especially if you like a more relaxed fit like I do), but I also own styles from other brands. This pink waffle top from Athleta was soft and comfortable, but there were two issues with it that I allowed myself to overlook due to the low sale price (see a pattern here?). It was too low-cut and also had a curved hem, which is one of my wardrobe don’ts. I purchased this top in early 2022, so I should have for sure known better!
Sometimes it takes repeating a mistake multiple times before we finally get it, but I now avoid tops with curved hems (and side slits, another “don’t” for me) like the plague. I also steer away from anything that’s too low-cut. Part of why I like Henley styles so much is that the wearer can button or unbutton as much as desired to create the look they want. I also like crewneck styles, so long as the neckline isn’t too high. I’ve learned that no matter how much I might love a color, pattern, or fabrication, if the other details of a top are “off,” it needs to be a no. This top was perhaps the final curved-hem top that I ever purchased, so I thank it for driving home the lesson not to buy pieces with that detail in the future.
Red Athleta Cropped Pants
The black version of these pants was my favorite summer bottom during 2019 through 2021. When I saw the red colorway on offer, I was quick to buy them, as almost all my pants were pretty boring at the time. More tall options have become available recently in colors besides black and shades of denim, but I had trouble finding such alternatives even just a few years ago. I liked these pants and wore them multiple times, even though the red was more in the “tomato” family than in the blue-red shade that I prefer.
My main reason for purging these pants was that they were just too big for me, and I didn’t see myself being excited to reach for them if they were to fit me again. If they were just a size too large, I might have held on to them, but they were more like two sizes too big, plus I didn’t love the color enough to keep them. I now own the aforementioned Athleta Brooklyn ankle pants in several non-neutral colors, so that area of my wardrobe is well-represented now, at least in terms of cropped pants.
Because another one of my wardrobe bucket list items is to pare down my holding zone to just one box (number 18) and I have a lot of pants stored away in case I regain some of the lost weight, I’m being more and more discerning each time I go through the boxes. As I keep the weight off, it’s also getting easier for me to let more things go, but I’m still keeping my favorites for now.
Cobalt J. Jill Button Cardigan
The final item I’m covering today is this cardigan in one of my longtime favorite colors. In fact, the beautiful color was my main reason for purchasing this piece, as my previous cobalt cardigan had to be purged in 2020 after becoming overly pilled (sadly, it wasn’t a good quality piece and didn’t last long). One thing I’ve noticed is that the longer I struggle to find an item on my shopping priorities list, the less discerning I can sometimes become. I felt the “hole” in my closet from not owning a cobalt cardigan, so when I found this one that seemed to be of good quality, I opted to buy it.
The cardigan was of good quality, but the fit could have been better. I like the look of a lot of J. Jill pieces, but their tops and toppers often don’t fit my body type well (conversely, I’ve had good luck with their pants and jeans). Many J. Jill tops and toppers have more of an A-line shape, and I think they design more for apple and rectangle shaped women (I don’t like the shape names, but they are descriptive). I carry any excess weight in my hips and thighs, so I don’t need additional fabric in the midsection, which is why the fit on many J. Jill pieces is “off” for me.
I wore this cardigan a few times, but I never loved it. In addition to the A-line shape (which I could have potentially had altered to fit me better), the length was a bit in the “no man’s land” territory, even in the tall size. Another issue with J. Jill is that their tall sizing starts with size small, which is more like a medium in other brands. Their fits are very generous (not as much in the pants, in which I typically wear my standard size), so I wish they carried extra-small tall. But that wouldn’t have made this cardigan a closet favorite, though, because the length would have still been off even if the body was more fitted. I’m planning to list this cardigan on eBay, as it’s in like-new condition.
Key Lessons from these Closet Castoffs
As you read through this post, I’m sure you were able to identify the mistakes I made in purchasing many of the items covered. While several of the pieces were worn often and earned their keep in my wardrobe, the bulk of them were rarely or never worn and shouldn’t have been bought. I highlighted my mistakes under each item, but I’ll also briefly encapsulate them here to better drive the points home.
Below are the key lessons that I learned from this group of twelve closet castoffs. I’m mostly phrasing them in the second person, but I’m telling myself as much (or more) than I’m telling you here!
- Don’t buy anything on sale that you wouldn’t purchase at full price! You won’t love an item any more if it’s “a deal,” so be careful when buying with those “sales goggles” on. I didn’t become a woman who loves floral blouses just because I found one for a very low price.
- Be very careful of “final sale” items. Such pieces need to be absolutely perfect because there’s no going back. They’re yours for good once you click “buy” or hand over your credit card, so try to be as certain as you can that you will actually wear them.
- Pay close attention to all the details of an item. You may love the color, pattern, style, or fabric, but do you love everything about a garment enough to want to wear it often? If the color isn’t quite right, the waistline is either too low or too high, or the style is a bit “off,” put the item back or don’t add it to your online cart. One or more details were off on almost all the pieces covered in today’s post, and I could have avoided wasting money if I just considered more carefully what does and doesn’t work for me. I’ll delve into specific details in the other lessons below, but I wanted to share this overarching lesson first.
- Consider neckline preferences and modesty issues. Be sure to try bending over and sitting down when trying on tops, as necklines can become lower-cut with movement. If you feel a bit self-conscious with a lower neckline, pass it up. Yes, you can wear a camisole under it, but consider carefully if you would actually do that before you buy a top that’s too low-cut. Also, if you feel that crewneck tops either highlight your larger bust or make you look “blocky,” look for a different neckline (especially if you don’t want to always wear a scarf or a long necklace to mitigate the issue).
- A pant rise can make or break an item. I got rid of a pair of jeans because of a too-low rise, and I purged a pair of pants because of a too-high rise. It may not seem to be of utmost importance when you’re standing in a fitting room, but when you sit or bend down, you might expose too much or feel very uncomfortable with a waistline digging into your midsection. Don’t compromise when it comes to pant rises, or you might end up with a wardrobe “benchwarmer” that will soon be purged from your closet.
- Lengths and hemlines are very important. Pay close attention to where a top, topper, or bottom hits you. Is it at the widest part of your body? Are the pants not long enough to pair with heels? If pants are too long, they can always be hemmed, but make sure you’re willing to pay the extra money and take the time to do that. Also look at what type of hem is on an item? If you prefer straight hems on tops, as I do, steer clear of curved and slit hems. Sometimes side slits can be closed, but again make sure it looks easy to do and that you’re willing to pay the price.
- Fabrication is also very important. If a garment feels too stiff or a bit scratchy, leave it behind. If you like stretch (like I do) and it’s not included in a piece, consider whether or not you’ll like wearing it. If pants make noise when you walk, you’ll probably never be excited to wear them, especially for something like hiking! Designers often make questionable fabric choices, but we can vote with our dollars and hope they’ll do better in the future.
- Don’t buy shoes you can’t comfortably walk in. Who wants to own a bunch of “taxi shoes”? If you can’t comfortably walk a moderate distance in a pair of shoes, don’t purchase them – or return or purge them if you already own them. I loved the look of the black peep-toe booties, but I didn’t even like wearing them for a few minutes around my house. So, next!
- If you have gained or lost weight and maintain a “holding zone,” only keep items that you’d be excited to wear again. A lot of pieces we keep in a holding zone will never end up being worn again, but it’s okay to hold on to our favorites, at least for a while. If you feel just “ho-hum” about a garment, pass it on, as I did with my red cropped pants. Even if we have a lot of space, it’s better to donate an item while it’s still current enough for someone else to want to wear it.
Now that I’ve highlighted some of the pieces that I’ve jettisoned from my closet so far in 2023 – and why, I’d love to hear (read) your thoughts. Here are a few questions that might help you to formulate a comment, but feel free to weigh in however you’d like:
- What items have you purged from your closet over the past year?
- What were your reasons for getting rid of these items?
- What patterns have you noticed among your closet castoffs?
- What have been your biggest mistakes when shopping?
- Is sales shopping a problem for you? What about resale shopping? What are your personal “shopping goggles”?
- What changes have you made (or vow to make) after reviewing your purged items?
As always, thank you for reading, especially longer posts like this one. I never intend for my essays to get as lengthy as they sometimes do, but I don’t always feel it makes sense to split things up into multiple parts. I’ll still endeavor to publish shorter posts when I can, even though they don’t come as naturally to me.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to share how I’m doing with my 2023 wardrobe bucket list items (see HERE and HERE), and I’ll also give an update on how I feel about my gray hair transition a few years after I finally completed it. My gray hair posts are still among the most popular on the blog, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an update since my last essay on the topic was over four years ago! Stay tuned…
6 thoughts on “Early 2023 Closet Castoffs – and Why I Passed Them On”
I am definitely influenced by thinking that an item is on sale, rather than does it tick all my boxes, and therefore is worth paying full price for.
I am getting more disciplined about thinking of an item as part of a system, so that I’m ending up with less orphans.
I like what you said about “thinking of an item as part of a system,” Cathy. That’s a great way of looking at it! It’s so easy to get so excited about the price that we forget other important considerations. Hopefully we can all do better with that moving forward! Asking whether or not we’d be willing to pay full-price is a good way to start.
I’ve eliminated two items since your last post and noting reasons why. I’m also scheduled to get my colors done on Sunday. Hoping that will bring even more clarity to my wardrobe.
How exciting about getting your colors done, Jenn! I hope you report back on how it went and how it affects your wardrobe. Good for you for keeping track of WHY you purged the two items (and for purging the items). This post was a start of that for me, but I’m going to go back and make a list of everything I purged – and the reasons.
Great, helpful post, as usual, Debbie!
I love that you mention clothes specifically for tall women, say what you like or don’t like about them and where you bought them. Being tall myself, I really appreciate how hard it can be to find clothes that fit right.
I’m glad my comments about tall clothing have been helpful for you. It can be a lot of trial and error, so if my experiences can help others avoid some of that, I’m all for it. Of course, we all have different proportions and preferences, so our mileage may vary, but getting tips can definitely be a good starting point.
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