Nestled in between the clothes that look horrific on you in the dressing room and never get purchased and the ones that work perfectly years after you’ve bought them is a group of very cagey items. These items may fit, but they don’t work. Unfortunately, you weren’t able to figure that out until after you’d worn and washed them a few times, and discovered how odd they look when mixed with other items from your closet. Because you understand your style, you know what you like, and you can tell when something fits well … but you occasionally fail to accurately gauge how well a new item will play with old items.
And occasionally a sweater that looks amazing in the store and works beautifully with your outfits will begin to pill uncontrollably after three washes, or reveal that it is knit in such a way that cat hairs weave themselves in and cannot be removed with any lint roller known to humankind. Occasionally a blazer that looked amazing with the jeans you wore in the fitting room ends up looking horrible with your actual work clothes. Making sure you can think of at least three outfits built around a potential purchase helps, as does bringing it home and immediately attempting to create those outfits. But frequently it takes time and experimentation and wear to know for sure.
And yes, some vendors will give you your money back or store credit even if something has been washed and worn dozens of times. But most won’t. Most won’t even accept something unless it has its tags and zero signs of wear. Which makes sense for retailers, but can bite consumers in the butt.
I would love a grace period, a trial run, a set amount of time to experiment with a new piece and make damned sure it really is worth my money. I would love to be able to rent clothing for a few weeks, and then turn them back in if they don’t work. Rent the Runway uses a rental structure, but is mainly limited to evening and formalwear. Closet Collective is almost there, but still not customizable enough. The Gwynnie Bee model is more what I’m envisioning – pay a flat monthly fee, pick some items, wear them for a while, send them back when/if you’re sure you don’t want them or purchase them to keep. (They meticulously clean worn clothes before putting them back into rotation, of course.) But the service is only offered for women who wear sizes 10 to 32 – which is, of course, amazing since women in that size range often have limited and/or boring choices available. But it also means it’s not available to everyone. And since it’s a subscription, it’s also limited in brands offered. I want the Gap and Nordstrom to do this. I want it universal.
Do I know how to make that happen? Nope. That’s why “half-baked” is part of this post title. This is a daydream of mine, something I chew on when I find myself donating a garment that I bought a month ago and failed to predict would be a problem child. I think about my style frequently and try to make informed, careful purchases. But since I can’t cart the entire contents of my closet with me whenever I try on clothes, I can’t always guess which items are cute and useful and which ones are just cute.
Do you ever find yourself stuck with nearly-new items that seemed like they’d work initially, but failed to really work with your wardrobe after several wears? How do you handle this? Would you try a clothing rental service? Think it could be helpful?