Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

This is a follow-on to my March 19th wardrobe over-duplication post, in which I confessed to owning too many cardigans. After writing that essay, I completed the five-step process I devised for dealing with a problem wardrobe category (click here and scroll down for the steps). Doing this allowed me to make clear determinations on the fate of most of my cardigans.

Out of the “sea of cardigans” hanging in my closet, I decided to pass on nine. A few additional “maybes” have been set aside to be worn as soon as possible, which is step five of my process. I’ll likely do an update on the maybes in a future post, as I’ll determine their fate after I wear them. The focus of today’s essay, however, is on the cardigans I’ve opted to purge from my closet, which are pictured below:

nine purged cardigans

I recently purged these nine cardigans from my wardrobe.

Fortunately, I was able to return five of the above cardigans for a refund (I’ll share which ones later in this post), as they were all purchased fairly recently and were still within their return timeframe. I plan to sell three others that had never been worn, two of which still had their sales tags affixed. The one remaining cardigan will be donated, as it was worn multiple times and is in less than pristine condition.

Why I Passed on the Nine Cardigans

Since nine isn’t an overly large and unwieldy number, I’ll go through my purged cardigans one by one and share my reasons for letting them go. I hope that reading through this closet decluttering “post-mortem” of sorts will help you with your future wardrobe downsizing efforts. You’ll likely relate to at least some of my motivations for passing on the cardigans, as many purchasing mistakes are common among shoppers.

To prevent you from having to scroll back up to the photo of my cardigan castoffs, I’ll show them in groups of three below as I delve into my purging rationale.

Purged Cardigans 1-3:

purged cardigans 1-3

Berry Athleta Pranayama wrap

I own a black version of this wrap that’s been a closet favorite for several years, particularly during the summer months. It coordinates well with most of my outfits, and it’s comfortable and flattering. When I saw this newly-offered pink color, I was instantly drawn to it.

Unfortunately, however, this wrap didn’t fit the same as the black one. The length is a few inches shorter, which created a silhouette that was less flattering on my body. The bottom of the cardigan also “belled” out, and the deep side pockets poked out slightly. Additionally, I found the shawl collar to be somewhat fussy, which isn’t the case with the black version for some reason.

All in all, the pink wrap just wasn’t the same as the black one (maybe they “updated” the design?), and loving the color wasn’t a good enough reason for me to keep it. Fortunately, since I’d purchased it not long ago and the tag was still attached, I was able to return it for a refund.

Black J. Jill button-front jacket

This is called a jacket, but it reads more like a long cardigan in terms of its fabrication and appearance. I bought it on sale in early March while returning an online purchase to the store. It’s a nice piece, but it was just too similar to several garments that I already own. Since it ticked the same box as multiple other items in my closet, it wouldn’t have added much value or versatility to my wardrobe.

If it were another color, it might have been a “keeper,” but I just don’t need more black toppers at this point. In fact, I shouldn’t add any more of them at all unless I come across something so unique and different that it doesn’t occupy the same place in my wardrobe as what I already have.

Black J. Jill striped long cardigan

This was a sale purchase from right before the pandemic started (which feels like five years ago, but it’s really been just over a year). I was drawn to the elegant lines of this cardigan, as well as its subtle silver metallic stripes.

I love the way it looks on the model, but it didn’t fit me in quite the same way. It’s not noticeable in the image above, but there are large slits/vents on both sides of the cardigan. That’s not a flattering detail on my specific body shape, as it adds visual width in the hip area. I fare better with garments that are cut straight across, like the button-front jacket mentioned above.

I thought about potentially asking my tailor to sew the side vents shut, but the cardigan might have been too tight at the bottom as a result. Since I’d never worn this item and couldn’t return it, I have listed for sale to see if I can recoup at least a portion of my investment. The tag is no longer attached (I think I took it off when I planned to wear the cardigan but never did), so I’ve listed it as “new without tags” and will hope for the best.

Purged Cardigans 4-6:

purged cardigans 4-6

Off-white snakeskin print WHBM cardigan

This was another pre-pandemic purchase, made when snakeskin was having a major “moment” in the fashion world. I love the way this piece looks against the model’s dark skin, but it washed me out with my pale skin and grayish hair. I fell in love with the idea of this cardigan, but it ultimately didn’t work for me.

Even when I was dyeing my hair, many shades of white weren’t flattering on me, even though I’m technically a “Winter” under seasonal color theory. I tried putting on a bright top underneath the cardigan, but I still mostly saw the off-white shade of the top layer – and there wasn’t enough bright lipstick (or a bright mask during this pandemic era) to rescue me from the extreme pallor effect. It’s too bad, but now I know better than to buy something in this shade ever again. The tag was still attached to this piece, so hopefully I’ll be able to sell it for a decent price.

Dark red Halogen long open cardigan

I bought this cardigan during last summer’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It was a beautiful color (and one that suits me well, unlike the last piece), and the fabric was soft and felt good against my skin. Unfortunately, however, the weight of the fabric was flimsy and the cardigan just sort of flopped around without any structure of substance. The length was also in “No Man’s Land” territory on me – too long to be a standard-length cardigan and too short to be considered a duster.

I hadn’t worn this cardigan during the six-plus months since its purchase, which revealed how I truly felt about it. I don’t have many opportunities to wear “out-and-about” garments these days, but there have been occasions when I could have worn the cardigan and chose not to. Nordstrom recently marked these cardigans down to just under the anniversary sale price, so I returned mine and hope it was quickly snapped up by someone who’ll love it in a way that I just didn’t.

Burgundy J. Jill long cardigan

This cardigan was the same size and style as the black striped one I wrote about above – and the issues with it were just as I described for that garment. You can see the deep side vents at the bottom right of the stock photo and how they would flare open with movement (the model must have been in motion when the photo was snapped). This effect led to an unflattering silhouette in my hip area that bothered me, even though my husband didn’t really notice it.

As with the red Halogen cardigan above, I never wore it. I tried to wear it a few times, but I ultimately chose a different topper instead. When we repeatedly fail to reach for something that we could wear, that’s a good sign that we don’t love it. I wish I would have returned this item within J. Jill’s return window, but since its tag is still attached, it will hopefully sell for a reasonable price on eBay or Poshmark.

Purged Cardigans 7-9:

purged cardigans 7-9

Dried cinnamon Athleta Pranayama wrap

I purchased this same exact cardigan for my mom last fall and wished I’d bought one for myself as well, so I was happy to find it on sale earlier this year. I love this deep autumn hue and think it looks “rich” when paired with black or black-and-white print garments. But as with the berry version I highlighted above, it didn’t hit me in the most flattering place and “belled” out at the bottom.

It seems as if Athleta may have changed the design of this wrap since I purchased my black one back in 2017. I know to stay away from this design in the future, as it’s not flattering on my shape. I suit straighter or more tailored silhouettes, which are also more in line with my style preferences. Perhaps I’ll find another cinnamon-hued top or topper, but I’m glad I opted to return this one.

Fuchsia Chris and Carol waterfall cardigan

I purchased this cardigan, along with a cobalt version of the same style (I told you I have a cardigan “addiction”!), in June 2019 during a daytrip to Palm Springs. A boutique there showcased a large rack of these cardigans in various colors, all on sale at bargain-basement prices. I wore both cardigans multiple times that summer, but they pilled easily and started to look “ratty” in short order. Since I wore the cobalt version more frequently, I already passed that one on last year due to its poor condition. The fuchsia one lasted a bit longer, as I didn’t wear my out-and-about clothes much last year, but it was high time for that one to go, too.

We often get what we pay for when it comes to clothing quality. It can be difficult to discern how well an item will hold up when we’re standing in a store considering a purchase. That said, tissue-thin garments like these cardigans tend to be fragile and not last very long, regardless of their fabric composition and how they’re made. Another issue with this cardigan is that I don’t love the waterfall front style so much anymore and now prefer a straighter silhouette. I plan to avoid drapey and fussy necklines moving forward.

It’s not a good idea to buy multiples of a given style, at least not until we’re sure the item in question is of good quality and will be worn frequently enough to justify a duplicate purchase. Even then, it’s best to limit multiples to just two in most cases, in order to avoid too much “sameness” and boredom.

Navy chenille Matty M. cardigan

With some of the pieces above, the color was the main draw; in this case, it was the fabric. When I put this cardigan on, it felt like I was being hugged by a warm and cozy blanket. I also loved the deep, cool navy tone of this piece, which I ordered through Costco late last year.

When the cardigan arrived, I quickly tried it on over what I was wearing at the time. I initially thought it was a “winner,” but when I tried to include it in my out-and-about ensembles, it fell short. As you might notice in the picture, the cardigan curves inward slightly at the bottom, which resulted in a sort of “cupping” effect in my derriere region. As someone who carries any additional weight in that area, it’s not the best look for me. I love chenille, but this cardigan was ultimately a miss, and I’m glad I was able to return it.

Conclusion

There you have it…. I showed you the nine cardigans I decided to purge from my closet, and I shared my reasons for passing each of them on. In my next post – part two, I’ll summarize the six valuable lessons I learned from doing this closet decluttering exercise. Some of those lessons might also apply to you with your own wardrobes, so hopefully you’ll find that recap interesting and helpful.

As always, I welcome your comments regarding today’s post – and feel free to also share your thoughts about your own closet decluttering adventures. There’s a wealth of wisdom in this collective group, and I’m grateful when readers weigh in with what they’ve learned through their own personal experiences. I’m happy when we can contribute to each other’s education and growth.

11 thoughts on “Cardigan Downsizing Debrief – Part One

  1. Krissie says:

    Debbie, would you say some cardigans go out of fashion eventually? We are just going into winter here and sometime soon I will be doing a cardigan inventory list and cull. I love some even though they are years old but still in good condition and wearable in public. But Im a little afraid that someone will see one I am wearing and think….omg she must have bought that years ago! I know I def have a few that will have to leave as they are very worn or are cupping my bottom or just not me anymore. This was a most relevant essay, perfect timing!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think pretty much everything goes out of fashion eventually, Krissie, but if an item is very classic in style, it won’t be considered “out” for a long time. Very trendy pieces will date a lot quicker, and some styles end up not feeling as fresh after a while, which may be why I’m not “feeling” the waterfall cardigans any longer. I don’t tend to be overly concerned with being on the cutting edge of fashion, but I don’t want to look super dated, either. If retailers are still selling similar styles to your cardigans, that’s a good sign that no one is going to think you bought them many years ago. Good luck with your cardigan cull! I’m glad this essay was good timing for you.

  2. Maggie says:

    Hi Debbie,

    Thanks for the detailed assessments. I think it helps me to read what other people go through in their head while purging.
    I remember the stylist/designer Lori Goldstein on QVC saying that she always stretched out the bottom of her sweaters or would cut them up the sides.
    (I am guessing to get the shape she wanted.)

    I have a pullover cashmere sweater that has slits on the side which is great for layering but doesn’t keep my torso warm.
    I thought about sewing some zippers on the sides in a contrasting color to make it more functional.

    I think what I like about Ebay is if wear something out, I can usually find an exact replacement later.

    I remember reading a book on French women and colors and styles,that suits their body.

    (Interesting comments about the winter white print cardigan – I have a light colored pair of print girlfriend chinos.from Gap Outlet and have considered overdying them to get a better color.)

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      The book about French women sounds interesting, Maggie. If you remember the name of it, please share. Great idea to overdye your chinos. I guess I could do that with my cardigan, but I get nervous to try something like that for fear of messing it up! That’s great that you’re able to find exact replacements for your worn out pieces on eBay. I’m stalking a few pairs of shoes on eBay and Poshmark now… You sound like you’re handy with modifying your clothes. The zippers on the sides of your cashmere sweater would likely make it more functional and more stylish. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I like to read about other people’s clothing purging experiences, too.

  3. Maggie says:

    (Correction: I remember reading a book on French women and how they choose colors and styles,that suit their body instead of just following whatever is in fashion.)

  4. Jenn says:

    Good work, Debbie! And your reasons for removing those cardigans from your wardrobe are reasons I can relate to.
    By using your process, I happily removed two pairs of jeans from my wardrobe.

    One was a pair of skinny jeans I purchased at the Ann Taylor Outlet. They looked nice on, and I loved the wash and the fact that they did not have gold stitching. But they were not as well made as my other jeans, nor as comfortable. The latter was the deal-breaker. I have other jeans that don’t pain me to wear!

    The second pair came from J Crew. They’re a great shade of charcoal gray, but this particular straight jean is too baggy for me and makes me look frumpy.

    So, discomfort and baggy legs are some things I need to watch out for. I will keep wearing and evaluating my other jeans, but the only pair currently in question are a bit tight. I’m a couple of pounds over my desirable weight range. Two pounds can make a big difference for me (I’m 5’3”), so I’m holding on to those for now.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on letting go of the two pairs of jeans, Jenn! I’m pleased that my process helped you to do that. Thanks for sharing your reasons for purging the jeans. I have had similar situations myself over the years. I struggle with my jeans looking good but not being all that comfortable, so I can relate to what you wrote about the first pair. And I hate when I feel frumpy in jeans (or anything else). Great reasons for passing things on…

      I have the opposite problem as you with my jeans. Jeans are almost NEVER baggy in the legs on me and are instead often too tight (and if I size up, I just get serious gapping in the waist – sigh). Wearing and evaluating all of your jeans is a good way to go. Sometimes we’ll only know if something should stay or go after we’ve worn it for a full day or at least a few hours. It sounds reasonable to hang on to the one pair of jeans given that there’s just a couple of pounds standing in the way of their working for you. Hopefully you’ll be able to comfortably wear them again soon.

  5. Katrina B says:

    Wow, nine items in a single category is impressive! And how great to be able to return some of them. Definitely a point in favor of buying from well-known, quality brands and stores – you can often return things long after purchasing.

    I should probably follow Jenn’s example and go through my jeans. I keep the worn and ill-fitting ones for work in the garden, but they’re so uncomfortable that I end up not using them for that. Most of them are just taking up space.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I was pleased to be able to let go of so many cardigans, Katrina, but also upset with myself for having so many in the first place! It was a relief to be able to return two-thirds of them, and I hope the two I have listed for sale will sell soon. Jeans can be tough to get rid of sometimes. I know that I tend to hang on to mine longer than with other pieces, but if they’re uncomfortable, they really should go! Nothing will likely change to make us feel comfortable when wearing them, but I get the hesitancy. Good luck with the jeans downsizing!

  6. RoseAG says:

    Knit dresses are my Waterloo. When you mentioned the tell of buying them and not wearing them immediately I thought about the two dresses I never wore last Summer because I was at home all the time, and thennnn – the two dresses I’ve acquired this past Fall and Winter, that I haven’t worn yet either. One of them is in my sewing room beause I decided to alter it. Now that I think about it, there is another one I just ordered.
    I don’t have a cardigan problem, I do usually wear a cardigan with the dresses, but I’ve managed to keep those down to 4-5. White, black, blue, green, usually short button front styles that can be worn over the dress in the A/C. It’s the dresses that are the problem
    I think it’s aspirational. I’ll feel so feminine and lovely in these dresses.
    I don’t know if I”m going to get rid of them right away, I think we will be going back to work in the next 6 months and I may wear them more when I”m going places. But I will take the first step and stop buying them!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think we all have our “things,” Rose. And it’s good that you’ve identified WHY you keep buying dresses. A lot of us buy things for aspirational reasons; we may be searching for a feeling, trying to recapture a feeling, or embracing a feeling (like feeling feminine and lovely in dresses). Because life has been so different for most of us over the past year, it makes sense not to get rid of things just yet. The only things I would get rid of are items that you don’t see yourself wearing for reasons other than the pandemic and its associated life changes. If you don’t like something anymore or if it doesn’t fit (and isn’t likely to fit anytime soon, if ever), those are good reasons to pass things on. But as always, placing things into a “holding zone” for a period of time to see if you miss them is a good, conservative way to go. Good for you for taking the first step of not buying anymore knit dresses. It can be challenging and I still feel myself being drawn to cardigans, but we have to draw the line somewhere!

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