Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Try-it-out Tuesday: learning from my closet orphans

       "Closet orphans are basically teaching moments waiting to happen. I mean, we loved them, we bought them, we longed to wear them … and yet we didn’t wear them. If we don’t examine what prompted those purchases and what prevented those wearings, are we not doomed to make those same mistakes again?"
           - Sally of Already Pretty, "What Closet Orphans Can Teach Us"

     I was so intrigued by Sally's post that I decided to dig through my donations bag and see what I can learn from my closet orphans, and to reconsider donating them. I hate the idea of wasting money by letting things go unworn, yet at the same time a well-curated closet is a worthy (and lofty) goal.

Strapless dress (tags still on, never worn)
Why I bought it: the colors and print are pretty.
 Why I didn't wear it: I've realized that strapless dresses may just not be my style (add in the fact that I'm still on the hunt for a strapless bra that doesn't inch down my rib cage). This is also shorter than I usually go for.

If I kept it, I might wear it like this:

Verdict: donated.

Why I bought it: It seemed like a cute and easy top to layer over leggings or skinnies on the weekend, and I liked the ties at the waist.

Why I didn't wear it: Hmm, not quite sure. I think it's too bare in the back for my personal preference.
Verdict: donated.

"Secret agent" dress

Why I bought it: It's cotton, it's a nice straight cut (no need to worry about your skirt flapping up), and it was a nice way to ease into dresses without going full-on girly. I call it my "secret agent dress" because my fourth-graders told me I looked like a police officer or agent when I wore it.
Why I didn't wear it much: I don't care for the sleeves or the stand-up collar (which I usually fold down).
 Verdict: I like the fit and fabric, so I will keep it for now. I'll wear it for work and see how I like it.

Butterfly-print dress

Why I bought it: I liked the print and colors and it seemed like a great work dress.
Why I didn't wear it much:  A big factor in my decision to order it from overstock.com was that it said this dress was washable. But after it arrived, I realized they had made a mistake - it's dry clean only.
Verdict: I like the fit and it's a bit more professional than most of my other dresses, so I will give it another try as work wear.

Ruffle jacket

Why I bought it: I liked the color and I wanted to experiment with ruffles.
Why I didn't wear it much: It's cotton and the ruffles are a pain to iron. I also don't like that the ruffles go around the collar. The husband also loathes it.
Verdict: donated.

Floral full skirt

Why I bought it: I wanted to experiment with the silhouette and the colors are underrepresented in my closet.
Why I didn't wear it: the full silhouette means the slightest breeze makes it fly up, and I hate that in a skirt. The print also made me think of wallpaper.
    I actually really like this skirt paired with the pink sweater. I put them together on a whim, but the mismatched pinks make me smile. And a pair of bike shorts would solve the floaty-skirt problem.
Verdict: Keep for now. Wear with bike shorts (duh, that took a while to figure out). 

Burnout tee
Why I bought it: I love t-shirts. This is the perfect balance between patterned and neutral. 
Why I didn't wear it much: It's sheer in certain spots, so it requires a camisole.
How I'd wear it now: Partially sheer tee + lace top = work-appropriate. Eureka!
Verdict: Keep.

 Rayon tee (never worn, tags still on)

Why I bought it: I liked the color and print and longer sleeve. 
Why I didn't wear it: It's dry clean only.
Verdict: Keep for now. Wear it for work and see how I like it.

Banana Republic silk top (hand-me-down, never worn)
Why it's been hanging around my closet for so long: It's silk! It's actually a really pretty color that I couldn't capture with the camera - somewhere between celadon and celery. 
Why I haven't worn it: the straps fall off my shoulders all the time. It's strangely long. 

Verdict: tempted to keep it and make it a DIY project - I think shortening the straps and moving them in just a bit would solve the fit issue. I could also hem it shorter. Alternatively, I could also add a (large) band of silk at the bottom and turn it into a color-block dress.

     This was fascinating to do! Some patterns that emerged: 
  •      I'm pretty good at picking and purchasing prints and colors I love.
  •     The problem with focusing on prints and colors is that sometimes I overlook collar/neckline and sleeve details. Once I start wearing something, however, I get particular about collars and sleeves, and this affects how often I wear the item.
  • I don't wear my dry-clean-only items too often. I want to make a conscious effort to wear the dry-clean items that I already have - some of them are really pretty. For future purchases, I need to keep in mind that I really don't get much use out of such items.
  • It's worth taking a second look at an item and restyling it. I enjoyed restyling the floral full skirt and burnout tee.  
  • While I donated only 3 of the 9 closet orphans examined, I'll be making an effort to welcome the remaining 6 items back into my closet by wearing them. I plan to revisit them in a few months and determine whether they can stay or need to be donated. 
Thinking about your own wardrobe, what is your favorite closet orphan? Tell me about it in the comments! :)


  1. Cute cute! I have a hard time finding a good strapless bra too.

  2. Amanda - the frustrating thing is that bras are not cheap! I try it on at the store with high hopes, then take it home only to realize that it's just like the other 3 strapless bras I own and doesn't stay in place. : \

  3. If you have trouble with strapless bras staying up, you may be wearing the wrong size. Your band size should correlate exactly to the measurement of your ribs right underneath your breasts. For example, my measurement underneath my breasts is 29 in. and the best fitting bra will be with a 30 in. (or possibly 28 in.) band.

  4. For the secret agent dress - remove the sleeves and you've got a gorgeous dress for summer and for wearing in winter with a long sleeved tee under it (I loathe cap sleeves, so this is a known working option). Absolutely right about shortening and moving the straps on the silk dress. Move them in at the back, it will look neater. You could also try gathering them with a brooch and not moving them at all.
    Also, if you're going to donate something because it is marked dryclean only, you've already written off your money. It's worth trying a handwash with a gentle soap. Blazers you can't generally do this because the shape is so important, but softer items quite often handle it well. The dry clean warning can be because of the fabric, the shape, the dye or even how long it may take to dry (heavy wool, anyone?).

  5. For choosing a better fitting strapless bra, head over to reddit.com/r/abrathatfits for advice on measuring yourself. The community is great and welcoming.

    For dry clean only items, if you are willing to take the risk, hand wash them in the sink using dr bronners soap, eucalan or even dishwashing liquid. I use dishwashing liquid for my delicates and have not had problems so far.

  6. love all these different outfit ideas. you look great in each!


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