Anchors aweigh - une femme d'un certain âge

Anchors aweigh

I don’t know how the Totally Wrong Sweater survived my last closet purge. It was one of those items I’d purchased at tremendous markdown, thinking it would be a Classic™ because of the color and style (camel, v-neck cashmere). It was “good on paper” but never fit quite right: too long, too tight across the hips, but I’d kept it year after year. The only thing it did fit was an aspirational mental image of myself. Evertime I put it on, I’d take it off within a few minutes, refold it, and put it back on the high shelf with the cedar blocks. And then I’d think about how I needed to lose weight.

Last night, I pulled this sweater down off the shelf again and put it on, thinking it would be a comfortable and cozy choice for lounging at home. Immediately, I could feel the snugness around my hips. I looked in the mirror, and really took note of just how badly this sweater fit, how frumpy it made me look (and feel !!), and the tangible drag it had on my mood and self-image. I took it off, folded it up, and put it in my to-be-donated pile.

Do you have any of those deadweight items still lurking in your closet? What holds you back from getting rid of them?

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  1. December 15, 2009 / 1:32 pm

    “good on paper” but never fit quite right: too long, too tight across the hips, but I’d kept it year after year.

    Ay, I’ve had so many of these (and need to purge still more) in my closet! My first big purge my girlfriend had to do with me b/c I needed someone to say “Yes, honey, it MIGHT fit if you lost weight, but it’s not appropriate to wear now!” I had things in my closet that were over 20 years old! Waiting for some fantasy moment…

    I find it takes me time to get used to the idea of getting rid of clothes so over the past 6 months I’ve been reducing the closet by things that I feel comfortable with putting in a garbage bag that lives on the bottom of the closet floor. If a month passes and I don’t miss the items, I donate them. If I find I can’t live without an item, I keep it. I keep very few items.

    A month later I’m suddenly able to start anew; considering purging things that the month before seemed Very Important that I keep. The emotional attachment we have to these relics of the past is quite powerful.

    I’m losing weight lately so I’m trying to purge pretty relentlessly but it’s difficult. It’s interesting how many of these relics in the light of day are revealed to be less than flattering. I used to be a very hard size to fit (Clothes designers have come a long way, baby!) so I think I had a tendency to just buy things that fit my body.

  2. aaonce
    December 15, 2009 / 2:40 pm

    I think what makes a questionable item survive a closet purge, is the thought that we may not have yet exhausted the possibilities an item represents. When your friend came over and assisted you with packing for Paris, she pulled items out of your own closet that you mentioned you wouldn’t necessarily have considered packing/bringing along. Perhaps the temptation to hold onto an item is because we think, we haven’t yet found that magic combination of wardrobe pairings that will (as Tim Gunn says) “make it work”. I think your intention was good, your item was purchased as a chic item to lounge the house in–but as soon as you realized it wasn’t actually meeting your own evolving criteria (it had to feel good AND make you look good) it had to go! Good for you for parting with it. I think it would have really been considered “aspirational” if you had continued to hold onto it.

  3. December 15, 2009 / 3:33 pm

    It’s way harder to purge a Hermes jacket (made me look like a very upscale prison matron) than a Talbot’s tee! If I let what I paid for the item into my calculation it stays waaaay too long. Good for you, and someone might blog about her incredible find.

  4. December 15, 2009 / 3:34 pm

    Yes, you describe this process very well, and I immediately think of a few items. Usually, the resistance is because of my guilt at having “wasted” money on the item or my stubborn conviction that wearing it should eventually match some picture in my mind. I’ve been getting better at purging, though, perhaps as I’ve got better at shopping. Now that I’m getting better at knowing what works, I’m giving myself a bit more permission to acknowledge mistakes made in my less savvy past. Plus, I rationalize, the sooner I get the garment back out in circulation, the sooner it’s likely to earn its keep in the universe, making someone happy, somewhere.

  5. December 15, 2009 / 4:09 pm

    I just can’ bring myself to let go of clothes that I paid a lot for, whether they fit me or not. And God knows I’m never going to be 30 pounds thinner.
    Maybe after Xmas, when I have some time I will take a serious look at my closet and edit some of these pieces. Maybe even sell some on BHB!

  6. December 15, 2009 / 5:23 pm

    There are definitely ‘why do I still have this?’ items in my closet. Your pre-Paris purge inspired me to do something similar, and I have begun putting aside those things which are good quality but just.not.right for me. Some, such as the silk sheath and jacket I wore for my younger daughter’s baptism, will never fit me again, but have sentimental value and that makes it hard to part with them.

  7. December 15, 2009 / 10:15 pm

    Funny you mention this! I too have a camel v-neck cashmere sweater, bought on sale that makes me feel fat and frumpy! I haven’t decided to donate it yet, but it only gets worn in the house. (my house is freezing)

    It is basically a soft around he house sweatshirt for me at this point. And the reason I can laugh at those “must have classics” lists, because on paper i would seem to be a good thing – but in practice = ugh. Like the “classic trench” some classics are just not for me.

    I always feel better after donating the “not quites”.

  8. Marsi
    December 15, 2009 / 2:45 pm

    I don’t think camel would be a good color for you at all, so you made the right move to divest yourself of the sweater. Camel is too close to the coloring of your complexion and hair. Not a color you’d want close to your face.

  9. December 15, 2009 / 11:06 pm

    You have no idea. I would say two things: Memories and You Never Know.

    However, I’m trying to work though the problem.

  10. Sal
    December 15, 2009 / 4:19 pm

    Just parted with one last night. A yellow Boden v-neck sweater that was too tight the day I bought it AND a horrific color on me. It got some red dye rubbed off on it from another sweater and I finally had my excuse to purge.

    For me, it’s layering. Clothes that fit badly can often serve as baselayers even if they look awful on their own. That’s what keeps me from getting rid of lots of ill-fitting stuff.

  11. metscan
    December 15, 2009 / 4:53 pm

    I share a walk- in closet with my husband and I see everything I/we have at a glance and know it by heart. This is easy, because I have so little. I´m a hasty buyer; I must have it per moment and if/when I have bought something not thinking clearly ( this does happen to me too often ), because I fear the article will not there waiting for me for the next time, and if I have ripped the labels off, so that it can´t be returned, I try my luck and offer it to my daughters. Often, the older one is delighted to receive something for free from me, we have a similar taste and our age gap is not that huge. Next I try to sell it on our local `e-bay´or donate it asap. I´m into feng shui/ minimalism concerning clothes too 😉

  12. Katriona
    December 16, 2009 / 1:20 am

    If , like me, you hate to give really nice clothing away to strangers, you can have a swap party with close but variously shaped friends–everybody brings the pieces they really like but can’t fit properly . The one rule is you can’t bring anything of your own back home… whatever’s left goes to the Sally Ann after everyone’s gone.

  13. December 16, 2009 / 3:12 am

    I have a few leather purses that should have slunk away in shame long ago. I justify keeping them by using them when I go to thrifts, and garage and estate sales. I so enjoy remembering where I wore them when they were in their glory. And like great racehorses, they deserve to retire still feeling useful.

  14. Sher
    December 15, 2009 / 7:42 pm

    I had a cream v neck sweater from NY&Co. so soft but everytime I put it on, It made me look like a ball. Tight at the waist, loose all around the tummy and tight up by the underarms. It fit, just shaped wrong.

  15. tiffany
    December 15, 2009 / 10:26 pm

    Ah yes, I’ve been doing some of that. Not that I have much to purge (ask Imogen!) but there were a few things – a pair of lovely charcoal wool pants that used to fit beautifully, but no longer do. I may weigh the same as I did at 30, but I’m just not the same shape! It’s a very freeing thing to give up those ‘one day’ garments – and it makes space for something that might make us feel good.

  16. December 16, 2009 / 7:01 am

    Hmmm….I don’t think I have anything I dislike. I have things that OTHER people dislike but screw them 🙂

  17. Lindy
    December 16, 2009 / 12:37 am

    I would agree that memories can contribute to keeping clothes. Also, the guilt of not yet getting your “money’s worth.”

    Most women don’t weed out their closets often enough. I would rather donate clothes while they are still in style, than have them sit unused in my closet. (Good karma, if you will… and don’t forget the tax donation.) I bring nicer things to a resale shop.

  18. December 16, 2009 / 5:15 pm

    True confession time. I have an 80’s jacket in the time capsule part of my closet that I can’t bear to part with. Let me describe it for you: Canary yellow leather…shoulders that any football player would yearn for…western style fringe that encircles it. Got the picture? If not, think of Big Bird. Now, you’ve got the idea. But, as laughable as it is now, it still moves with me from state to state. As Special so eloquently put it “The emotional attachment we have to these relics of the past is quite powerful.”

  19. LaurieAnn
    December 16, 2009 / 5:49 pm

    You hit the nail on the head Pseu when you spoke of fitting only your “aspirational image.” That’s the crux of the matter for me. My aspirational image of myself is so much more chic than what is needed for my reality.

    Clothing that I’ve worn a lot, no matter how expensive it was initially, is much easier for me to get rid of then those items I purchases which are close to working but are off in one or two aspects. These are the pieces which “should” work for my figure but just aren’t there. I keep thinking that I’ll take them to the tailor for a major overhaul but I never seem to get it done. I just need to suck it up and make that appointment at the consignment store.

  20. Westendall
    December 16, 2009 / 11:56 pm

    My husband and I are moving to an apartment with about half the space of our house where we have lived for 23 years. Nothing focuses the mind quite like packing to move. Now, if I put something on and it feels wrong, and I realize it has always felt wrong, out it goes to charity. Someone else will love it (they are all nice clothes) so why not make space for the rest of the clothes I really love and wear to hang more freely in the closet? Lord knows I have plenty more left.

  21. December 17, 2009 / 1:07 am


    1. Yes

    2. Because I think one day they will magically look good on me.

    So delusional!

  22. December 18, 2009 / 5:46 am

    I have a ton of stuff that needs to go. I hired an organizational expert to help me get rid of a lot of unnecessary “stuff” that has been weighing me down. Who knew throwing stuff away could be so liberating.

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