5 clothing items I’m not sure spark joy, and meh, I’m keeping them anyway

Plus one I finally gave up on, and two for which I need your opinion

Maybe it was the blank slate of a new year. Perhaps it was the dreary weather keeping us cooped inside. Or, blame that Marie Kondo Netflix show everyone pretended they loved.

But one day at the beginning of this year, I took visual inventory of the overstuffed bookshelves in my office, and wondered, “What the hell are all these books and do I care about any of them?”

Having never read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and barely making it through Episode 1 of the Netflix show, this was my “spark joy” equivalent.

I spent the subsequent afternoon sorting through and carting 50 books to our building “library,” a mishmash of weird, wonderful, and often outdated tomes piled just inside our parking garage (it’s like a free book bazaar that is kind of an eyesore, but everyone puts up with it because you occasionally find something great). And whaddya know—miracle of miracles! The bookshelves looked great! So fresh! So clean! My workplace productivity increased by 50000%!

The office clean out spurred a similar one for our hallway closet, previously a mess of folding chairs, Christmas ornaments, and an avalanche of those never-used nylon grocery sacks. My favorite discovery in that black hole was two fishing rods last used by Joe in 2007, on his first and last fishing trip to Lake Tahoe. We certainly sparked joy reminiscing about how his fishing buddy had spent 40 minutes readying the line, only for Joe to attempt his inaugural cast and tangle the entire thing so as to be unusable.

No one has offered to take him fishing since.

But while the whole Marie Kondo method—or its basics, at least—has worked in virtually every other space in our house, I’ve never attempted it with the clothing in my closet.

Why? Because I don’t trust it to keep me from doing something I’ll regret.

Like, what if the pursuit of joy had resulted in giving away the knee-length, wide-rib, tie-waist J.Crew sweater cardigan I’ve owned since—get this1999? Procured during the fall of my sophomore year of high school (let that sink in for a minute), it was my autumnal topper of choice when I’d run out the front door of my house and hop into my friend Kat’s puttering, beat up Chevy Blazer, inevitably off to the Gateway movie theater where after, I’d call my mom on a payphone to tell her we were going to T.G.I. Fridays.

Over the years, that cardigan landed atop a giveaway pile more than once. It languished in my closet during college; it almost didn’t make the move with us to New York in 2013. But I adored its thick, warm, chunky weave. So even when it was absurdly out of style, I could never let it go. Lo and behold, enough time passed, and long cardigans became a thing again. I bought a similar piece from Everlane a few years ago, and as much as I love it (the material is very soft), I reach for my vintage one more.

And so during a recent closet clean out—and to be clear, they do happen often—I made peace with my purging instincts, mentally tagging a few items I’ll never part with. They (mostly) do not bring me joy at present, they are taking up needed space, and I haven’t worn four of these items in YEARS. And yet, here they are, in all their never-gonna-give-you-up glory:

Ready for this? I wore this dress on the first day of my senior year. Of high school. In 2001. I photographed it on a hanger because on the rare occasion it’s warm enough to wear, it also requires three days at the gym and an all-vegan diet a week before. No matter—it’s such a classic silhouette I refuse to part with it. Contemporaries? Kinda. If you Google “black button front collar dress,” there are similar styles, but none I like as much as this one. I love you forever, my LBD baby you’ll always be.

 

Have I worn boots of this height in the last three years? No. The over-the-knee trend arrived, and swept me and my entire winter budget allocation away with it. But we all agree there is a forever-place for tall boots in one’s closet, right? Though when their time arrives once more, I suspect they’ll take some getting used to, like when we inevitably all give in to wearing low-rise jeans again.

 

This dress is Neiman Marcus circa late 1960s, and it belonged to my grandmother. She saved it for over 50 years and gave it to me shortly before we moved to New York. I was wearing it when the late Bill Cunningham photographed me on my way to that Veuve Cliquot Polo Match thing that happens every May. (Much like Joe’s first fishing trip, that was definitely a one time thing.) It is rare that I wear it (I have done so only twice) and it’s not even really my style (“neutral” is, uhhh…not a word I would associate with it). But I can never, ever give it away. In other news, that necklace has since sparked whatever the opposite of joy is.

 

My cubicle days resulted in a plethora of short cardigans, all in various colors, textures, and materials. Many have been culled from the collection over the last 7 years, but there are three holdouts I just can’t seem to part with, even though I never wear them (and honestly, my body was not made for the current trend of wearing them buttoned up, like this). But if my 20-year old J.Crew sweater cardigan was any indication, wearing these unbuttoned—maybe even over a matching shell—is in my future, right? And, in keeping with the theme of clothes I still have from high school, there is one light purple, wool-silk blend cardigan from Banana Republic circa 2002 I don as loungewear around the house. It is in perfect condition despite being 17 years old. Can we bring back the J.Crew and BR quality of yesteryear, please?

 

I have a few different sweaters that when purchased were just, you know, sweaters, and these days would be merch’d as “cropped.” Translation: they now look great with high waisted jeans. I bought my favorite among them—a silk cashmere, thin-ribbed V-neck sweater from J.Crew—in 2003. It’s very fitted and on my particular body hits right at the natural waist. It bid its time during the late aughts and early 2010s, waiting for the day when like the waistlines of denim it could rise from the ashes. I can’t tell you how many times it was thrown into a giveaway pile, only to be retrieved at the last moment. I like to think it was the Ghost of Fashion Future, planting the seed of regret, so I wouldn’t donate such a treasure. Well over 15 years old, it blows my mind that this puppy has no pilling and is still in excellent condition. Rediscovered at some point last year, it’s been my favorite to pair with boyfriend jeans and demi bootcuts.

//

Then there are the items that have been KonMaried and for which I have zero regret.

Things I gave up on and will never regret abandoning

A faux fur vest. Purchased circa 2015 , never worn, recently offloaded at a thrift shop. Two lessons: a) do not buy things just because everyone else has them, and b) you will never be a faux fur vest kind of woman.

Oh, and also:

Items I’m thinking about breaking up with

How does everyone feel about short booties with a rounded almond toe, kinda like this? Are these still a thing (recent obsessive Nordstrom reviews seem to indicate they are)? And if they’re not, will they circle back into our lives, once the point and square toe trend passes? Asking for two friends—both of whom are currently gathering dust on the floor of my closet.

Also, polling you guys and don’t freak out: who has sold or donated their wedding dress?


So yes, I basically just wrote an entire post about how I wear clothes I have had for twenty years. I’m ok with it. What I want to know is, what are the items you’re holding on to, despite being unworn, not in style, total joy-suckers, et al?

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17 Comments

  1. Amanda wrote:

    I had that same exact BR button down dress and wore it to my high school graduation in 2002. At least you help on to the good stuff; I have an old cotton Henley I stole from my cousin back in college. It’s over 17 years old, but I constantly find myself putting it on after I get off work on a weekly basis… Back to the dress, hold onto it forever. I’ve been on a long quest to find it again.

    13 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Victoria wrote:

      OMG no way!!!! Yes, I remember buying it early that summer, probably around the time you graduated. I was so excited to wear it in August on the first day of school. For some reason, everyone would dress up. I will definitely hold on to it forever and if I ever see it on eBay or something I’ll send it your way :)

      13 Mar 2019 · Reply
  2. Erica wrote:

    I thought I was the only one that couldn’t get into Marie Kondo’s book or series! And I truly do love to clean out our closets. I own those Sam Edelman booties and have worn them maybe once each of the last two winters, but I can’t seem to get rid of them yet. I do have a few J. Crew tippi sweaters and cardigans that I rarely wear, but also can’t part with them. I’m impressed you’ve held onto these items, some for 20+ years. The oldest item I have is 10 years – a J. Crew Lady Day coat that I don’t seem myself parting with.

    P.S. Is that Julia with you in the polo photo??
    P.P.S I donated my wedding dress to a woman that makes them into gowns for little babies that she donates to a local hospital.

    13 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Victoria wrote:

      I mean who the hell wants to sit around watching other people go through their stuff?! Yeah so those booties—I have those and then a similar (slightly higher heeled) pair from Madewell. I can’t tell if they’re just not my style and I was only into both because of trends a few years ago…or if they’re classics that just don’t happen to be as trendy at the moment.

      As impressive as it is that I’ve had some of these items for so long, I get depressed thinking about all the amazing late 90s/early 2000s J.Crew stuff I DID allow to escape. Total regret!

      Yes, that is Julia with me in the photo! A bunch of us went together that day. It is one of my fave memories with her! For the wedding dress—I’m very conflicted. I can’t see myself ever passing it down or doing anything with it so it’s literally just sitting in a giant box in my closet…

      13 Mar 2019 · Reply
  3. Kaia wrote:

    Love this! I have a skirt from Gap (mini, plaid, wool) from 2003 (??) that my grandma bought me on a shopping trip because I BEGGED for it. I wore it maybe twice that year (it was too short for school dress code, and I could never figure out the tights situation because it was a brown, baby blue & pink plaid). For whatever reason, it survived through college, schlepped back and forth each summer/fall, made it into my closets in every single apartment (your girl has donated SO MANY CLOTHES over the years), and yet, for whatever reason, I’ve been unable to part with it. Now that my grandma has passed, it reminds me of our back to school shopping trips, terrible clogs that she would let me purchase even though my mom hated them, and our classic diner lunches afterwards. Will I ever wear it again? Who knows, but maybe plaid mini skirts will come back around, and I’ll be the cool mom?

    PS-I finally donated my round-toed boots like yours because I realized the reason I never wore them was they were flat? I have a pair with a chunky heel from Madewell that I still wear all the time. I think they are just your style, or they’re not–my best friend wears hers daily.

    13 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Victoria wrote:

      One of my earliest “why did I do that” giveaway items was a black puffer vest from The Gap that my grandmother bought me while on a trip to London circa 1997. Can you believe that?! Puffers like that weren’t really a thing yet and I didn’t get it, so I gave it away in early high school. OMG how much I regret it. So I totally get your mini skirt connection. And for what it’s worth, your particular mini sounds really cute!

      I agree with you on the boots. It’s not that they’re necessarily out of style, I just don’t know if they were ever really MY style, as much as I wore them frequently a few years ago! I think I am more into the point toe with a mid-height heel, just given my petite stature!

      14 Mar 2019 · Reply
  4. Jenn wrote:

    I had no idea those ankle boots were even out of style, haha! I wear mine all of the time and even had my super old Sam Edelman booties with fringe resoled and reheeled. I’ve just never come across anything I like more. Maybe they are just “my” style. I have a few J.Crew sweaters circa 1999 as well but from the men’s department. My high school bestie was big into oversized sweaters so I jumped on the bandwagon. They still wear well. I also have a dress from Express that I bought for a fancy date in college. It’s straight out of the 1970’s with its flared sleeves and boho print and gets major compliments every time I wear it. You’re right, the quality back then was something else. I mean, my junior high tee shirts that I can’t part with and have been worn a bazillion times are still holding it together! I’m with you too on the show. I watched the first episode and had no desire for more. Maybe because we do a purge like that of everything once a quarter? It wasn’t that earth shattering!

    13 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Victoria wrote:

      Ahh! I didn’t mean to make it seem like they were unfashionable! It’s like I said to Kaia above—I kind of suspect maybe they were never truly my style, despite their popularity and my willingness to wear them a few years ago!

      Ain’t no shame in the J.Crew mens game! I actually recently gave away a striped rollneck sweater from a very early Crewcuts-for-boys line (it was the largest size they offered and fit!)—but the color wasn’t my thing anymore.

      Speaking of Express, I once had this light purple suede mini skirt from there, purchased for like 70% off, and it was my pride and joy throughout high school and early college. I wish I still had it…though to be fair, I think it went to Goodwill because my hips could no longer fit in it. #womanhood

      And also, re: quality, get this: I have my elementary school t-shirt from KINDERGARTEN, and it still fits. At the time, all they had was a boy’s XL, so now it just fits me like an adult small (and on the rare occasion I wear it, with its 80s colors and fonts, it reads as a vintage tee I picked up at a thrift shop). I cannot believe that t-shirt is still intact THIRTY YEARS LATER.

      14 Mar 2019 · Reply
  5. naveen wrote:

    So much yes to the part about shrunken cardigans. It was definitely A Thing back in the day and I don’t want to part with mine. Also the boots – here in Toronto, everyone is still wearing them!

    14 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Victoria wrote:

      I know! I just can’t seem to get rid of them!!!

      14 Mar 2019 · Reply
  6. Elisse wrote:

    I love that you have stuff from 20 years ago. Basically the opposite of fast fashion. When clothes are made good quality they really can last that long! I have some shirts from high school that I can’t part with either and even though some I rarely if ever wear, a few are still things I wear to this day.

    14 Mar 2019 · Reply
  7. Michelle wrote:

    Oh the cardigans! I wear them over the matching shell and have for years. #29goingon92 I have Jcrew ones from years ago and purchased a new one a few months ago since my black was fading. The new one was total crap and I am so glad that I just keep all my old Jcrew. I am so disappointed in the quality of clothing now. I literally have to purchase a duplicate of some of my favorite clothing pieces for when they will give out within a year or so.
    Also I almost bought the San Edelman boots about 10 times because they always look cute on other people but I honestly have no idea what I would ever wear them with so I think it’s a pretty good indication they are not now and were never my style.

    17 Mar 2019 · Reply
  8. Sonya wrote:

    Oohh, I am with you on the tall boots thing, I have two pairs left that I feel like I should take to my cobbler to keep them in good shape, but I have not worn them at all this 2018-2019 winter. I’ve become a bootie wearer instead. In regards to to your short bootie, rounded almond toe question, mine are all like that. I wear them all the time. I have 2 pairs of black ones and one pair of grey ones.

    20 Mar 2019 · Reply
    • Sonya wrote:

      Also! That vibrant vintage dress looks fantastic on you. I’m an neutral girl for every day, but when I dress up, I like a bold color

      20 Mar 2019 · Reply
  9. Beatrice wrote:

    Okay, I love this, I feel like so many people have been doing videos/posts on how they’ve been implementing Marie Kondo’s methods but not many people are talking about the stuff that they just can’t seem to get rid of, hahaha. I recently did some cleaning out and I just glanced at my closet and I honestly don’t think there’s anything in there like that! For some reason I just love getting rid of things, so I don’t really struggle with making the decision, haha. It feels so nice now to have such a simple closet!

    20 Mar 2019 · Reply
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