Closet Chronicals

Lessons Learned From Shopping Failures: Part 2

Continuing with last post, I have decided to write a series of posts about my own shopping failures, in hopes that readers can learn from my mistakes.

Promptly returned since it was way too sheer, and I should have realized it before I even bought it.

In today’s post, I’ll talk about a classic error that led me to discard quite a few item of clothing this past year. When do you keep an item and when do you return an item of clothing? Let’s discuss.

Lesson #2: Good Enough Is Not Good Enough

This lesson is pretty obvious to me now, having realized that I am more than just a little susceptible to the idea of “Meh. I guess it’s fine…” shopping mantra. The scenario usually plays out like so:

I receive a package of something I ordered online. I open the box and try on the garment. I think it is fine. I’m not thrilled by it in any way, but…

  1. It was really cheap, so I figure I might as well keep it.
  2. It doesn’t fit right, but I decide to keep it because I feel like I need it or can’t do better.
  3. I hesitate to keep it due to color/cut, but I decide to keep it because I think I will learn to love it one day.
  4. I calculate the cost of a return and realize I won’t get much money back for it. I think I’ll just use it around the house.

All the purchases I’ve kept due to the reason above have been donated since they just never worked for me. No matter what, they never sparked joy. One shirt in particular, an Oxford button up from UNIQLO, comes to mind. I wore it regularly all winter, but hated it every time I put it on. When the time came to discard items that didn’t spark joy, I was thrilled to get rid of it.

Darling Poets Dress 2
Recently returned Mata Traders dress. Love the cut, was Meh about the pattern. I decided to give myself a “wear it, or return it” ultimatum.

Let’s Talk Solutions:

Just return it!

Don’t fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy. Even if you have to pay for a return, it isn’t worth keeping something you aren’t likely to wear: if you don’t love it now, you won’t love it later. Yes, you invested time and money in selecting this particular garment, but really, looking at this item taking up space in your closet or making yourself wear it even when you obviously aren’t comfortable in it won’t make matters better.

The exception to the return rule might be when the return yield so very little money after factoring the cost of the return, but here you have a few options: You can find someone else in your life who might like the item and see what they say. Alternatively, you can donate it, but of course that doesn’t guarantee someone will purchase it. Best avoid buying  something cheap but dubious in the first place.

Know your measurements!

I think we would all like to avoid the hassle, environmental toll, and cost involved in making a return. One sure way I’ve been able to avoid that has been knowing my measurements. It’s not because I am particularly great at measuring myself- it’s because I looked at sizing charts for items I have and noted what fit well and what didn’t fit well. I also know that each company is going to have their own unique sizing chart.

When I hesitate or when things don’t seem right, I email the company and simply ask for their advice. It also helps me evaluate the customer service I’m likely to encounter if I do have an issue with an order. For example, recently I contacted Tradlands about their sizing chart because I wasn’t sure any of their shirt would fit me. They seemed too large. I got a prompt response, and now I just need to decide which shirt to purchase.

Decided to keep this shirt because it was cheap. Wore it exactly once, and then never wanted to wear it again.

Know your fabric preferences!

I have made a conscious decision to never wear polyester again. I’ve also decided that any shirts made of Pima cotton and Modal is going to pill on me immediately, and like there’s no tomorrow. I know light colored linen is likely to be too sheer for my taste. These are the rules that guide my purchasing decisions. Before considering any item at all, I read the fabric content and estimate how I’ll care for it and how it might hold up.

I’m not afraid of hand washing my clothes on a regular basis, so silk and cashmere are not an issue for me. I’ve even been brave enough to wash my Hermès silks. The key is to look at what you’ve already got, figure out the fabrics you like, and really think about your garment care no-noes. Will you hand wash clothes regularly? Are you going to lay clothes flat to dry? If the answer is no, don’t buy it or keep it.

The “wear it, or return it” ultimatum

Is as simple as it sounds. If you hesitate to keep something, decide when you intend to wear it. When the event/day arrives, if you decide not to wear it then it certainly didn’t spark any joy and should be returned. That’s my rule. Nothing says “don’t keep it!” quite like looking at the garment and refusing to wear it.

See Part 1 of this series here, and a post about my plan to avoid shopping failure in the future here.

Do you keep clothes you don’t like? Why? What have you done to avoid it? Please share in the comments below. 


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