leopardtunic_outfit with text

I got a lovely e-mail from reader Corinne, who said:

Your book also made me realize that maybe the key to clarifying and strengthening my personal style was in my “orphans.” Practically everything else I’ve read says to get rid of them because they’re outliers. However, reading your book it occurred to me that perhaps it’s the rest of the closet is what should go quietly into the background.

Which, of course, made me unspeakably happy. And made me realize that 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?

Take the leopard print tunic shown above. I LOVE leopard print, and have the mindset that anything featuring this print is automatically classic. But this tunic is made from an extremely drapey and clingy material. It has an asymmetric neckline, which is very cool but a little limiting. It has wide sleeves and a boxy shape, which means it doesn’t layer well. And when I put it on with anything besides skinny jeans I feel a little bit too much like Peg Bundy. (Who is fabulous, but not one of my personal style icons.) Thus, this tunic has been worn once in the past year. As shown above. I’m not ready to give up on it just yet because I haven’t truly tried to style it in a variety of ways, but it has taught me the following lessons:

  • All things leopard print are not created equal
  • Wide sleeves SUCK when you’re a layering fan. Which I am.
  • Detailed necklines are also very limiting in the layering department.
  • Fibers that don’t wrinkle are convenient, but some of them cling. To everything.

I can honestly say that I’ve kept these things in mind as I’ve shopped in recent months.

I understand why style experts recommend jettisoning items that haven’t been worn in ages. They’re thinking, “If you haven’t worn it in two years, you probably aren’t gonna, so donate and move on.” And that’s certainly one way to operate. Stick to what you love and stick to what you know works well for you. But if you don’t pause to examine what motivated those dud purchases and ask yourself WHY those items are going unworn, you miss the chance to learn from your errors. Additionally, some items are more challenging to style but that doesn’t make them useless. Putting in the effort to build two or three outfits around your closet orphans can open up new worlds of creative dressing.

When you purge your closet, do you stop to ponder why your closet orphans have gone unworn? Have you saved any from donation that have gone into steady rotation?

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