Closet Orphans: What, Why, and How to Deal

Already Pretty outfit featuring Odille ruffle skirt

Above, you’ll see an outfit from last summer featuring a pink, ruffly skirt that I bought at Anthropologie in 2005. I saw that skirt on the rack, keeled over from object lust, picked myself up off the shop floor, and forked over $80 for it quite willingly. And although I’ve hung onto it for six years, there’s a reason that I’m using a photo from LAST summer to show it to you: By and large, this skirt qualifies as a closet orphan.

What is a closet orphan?

“Closet orphan” is a term that I picked up from Angie, but I think we define it slightly differently. To me, a closet orphan is an item that you love, but that proves very difficult to pair with other items. It seldom gets worn because it doesn’t play nicely within the context of outfits. It just hangs there, lonely and sad, languishing away while your wardrobe workhorses get worn again and again.

Why do we end up with closet orphans in our wardrobes?

If you’ve got closet orphans, they likely worked their way into your wardrobes via one of the following insidious methods of infiltration:

  • They were once part of a set or an outfit purchased all at once, but the other components have been outgrown, lost, or donated.
  • They represent a past style or body shape or emotional state, and you just can’t bear to part with them. Even though the rest of your closet has moved on.
  • They were SO PRETTY that you couldn’t resist buying them. Even though they really don’t work within your established personal style.

In working with makeover clients, I find that last one to be the most common. It can be very difficult to remember that there’s a difference between, “I adore that item” and “I adore that item because it would work for me.” Major retail culprits? Anthropologie and Modcloth. Bless them both, they’re packed to the gills with gorgeous, fun, funky, completely lovely garments … but very few of those garments are versatile or easy to style. So they get purchased in the heat of the moment, worn a time or two, and then relegated to the back corner of the closet.

How do we deal with closet orphans?

Unlike many style experts, I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that clothes that have gone unworn for X number of months should be donated. Certainly works for some, but is not a rule that applies to all women. Clothes can go unworn for many reasons and just chucking them after some arbitrary expiration date can be downright wasteful. Closet orphans actually present opportunities to stretch your creative wings and push your stylistic boundaries. Here are some steps you can take to understand your underutilized items and work toward assimilating them into everyday wear.

Revisit why you love the item: Closet orphans sometimes reflect your “imaginary self.” You may be extremely active and need to wear washable knits, but own a frilly dry-clean-only silk blouse because you admire and adore that delicate, ethereal aesthetic. You may have a carefully cultivated wardrobe of warm neutrals, but own a blazingly hot pink pencil skirt because the color just makes you happy. You bought that item for a reason, hung onto it for a reason. What is that reason?

Define why it’s a difficult piece: Is it an unusual cut or color? Does it fit differently than most of your clothing? Did you purchase it as part of an outfit, and now that the other items are gone you can’t imagine it worn without them? Is it delicate? Too sexy or flashy for everyday wear? Pinpoint what makes your closet orphan so ornery. If you don’t know why you don’t wear it, you’ll never figure out how you can wear it.

Find your orphan some siblings: Unless your closet orphan is something like a pair of leather chaps or rainbow-striped legwarmers – something that both clashes with your personal style AND has limited application – it can be paired and worn with other garments that you already own. It can! I swear! Pull your orphan from its corner, and haul out anything else that has a prayer of working with it. Clothing, shoes, accessories, you name it. Just pile it all on the bed and take a look. Find similar colors, complementary textures, patterns that play nicely together. Start by building three to five outfits around your orphan, and make sure to deploy them within a month or two. Once you’ve greased the wheels, you’ll be amazed by how easily you work that once-troublesome item into outfits.

Do you have closet orphans? Did they weasel their way into your wardrobe by one of the three methods described above? If not, how’d they get in there? Think any of these suggestions for making them work will help you bring them back into the fold?

  • http://eekachinski.blogspot.com eek

    I adore that skirt! You should definitely heed your own advice and wear it more ;)

    Super post – I know I have more than 1 or 2 closet orphans that I need to learn to style!

  • http://catspajamas-dogstuxedos.blogspot.com/ coffeeaddict

    Brillit post! Absolutely brilliant! I love the term closet orphan, it’s so self explanatory. And I also love your step by step instructions on tackling the issue off reintegrating this items into daily wear.
    I have a few closet orphans, most fall under the third category. A few under the second. I have no plan to wear these or donate or sell, maybe save them in a box in the attic so that my daughter, if I have one, can benefit from it? Something I always longed my mother would have done with her clothes.

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    Heck, my entire wardrobe is made up of closet orphans. Well, except for the plain colored knitwear. That gets worn regularly. I have a crapload of stuff that is there because “it’s so pretty” and a few items that are there because they once fit and I loved them. I have done a better job of wearing orphans since I started blogging, but I still have to make myself do it.

  • Bunny

    Another reason for orphans may be that they don’t fit just right and we’re too lazy to alter them. I have a couple of tops that turned out to be too long – all I have to do is hem them up. Your blog has encouraged me to get off my butt & take care of it!

  • Lori

    Oh, Anthropologie has caused a few closet orphans at my house too! I will take your suggestions and try to work them into my regular rotation. I love the way you styled your orphan here!

    • Courtney

      Sigh. Yep, here too. I have one especially pretty sweater that, when on, makes me look like a box. It’s a great color, has an interesting collar, fits, but I can’t figure out what to pair it with.

  • http://hal.cyondays.com Loren

    Sales! I always talk myself into ‘closet orphans’ during clearance sales. Because my personal philosophy is that the amount I pay for it is the minimum number of times I will wear it. (An 80$ dress needs to be worn at least 80 times, a 2$ skirt 2 times.) So I pick up a funky skirt and think ‘Will I wear this 5$ worth?’ and I almost always think ‘Yes!’ Then I don’t know what to wear it with. I like branching out my style a little, and the way I dress on weekends vs. work varies wildly. I’ve got a couple new pieces right now that I’ve NO idea how to wear, but I look forward to figuring them out.

    • Laura

      Brilliant! This is my method with shoes. I’ve definitely worn my flat sort-of-gray boots $65 worth of times.

  • http://modaforademoda.blogspot.com/ Fer

    funny running into this article today, because on Tuesday I got to wear my “orphanest” closet item ever, and I was really thinking about it a lot. it’s a red polyester button-down shirt with big white stars all over it. and the reason I don’t wear it more frequently is not because it’s flashy (I don’t mind wearing things that really catch people’s attention), but because it doesn’t fit me the way it did 15 years ago, when I bought it. and also because it gets really hot, too (polyester is terrible). still, I have so many fond memories of it that I don’t think I’ll ever let it go.

    what I’ve been thinking about doing is layering it, so that I can wear it open or half-open (it is tight in the chest area, but the rest of the torso is kind of ok). but even it remains an orphan for the rest of my life, I really don’t care, because I’ve got enough love for it anyway :)

  • http://chitchat.overcaffeinated.com/ Theressa

    First of all Sal… that skirt and the entire outfit is adorable! I hope you pull that skirt out a lot this spring and summer because I think it could be very versatile.

    My orphans come from one of two sources: (1) it was cheap or on sale so I figured I’d give it a try or (2) I loved it so much that I couldn’t resist and would find a place to wear it.

    I think I’m getting better about wearing my closet orphans these days (as best I can given that my wardrobe is much to big IMO). The only thing is I find myself drawn to more potential orphans (ie: unique or less practical items) because I am getting such a kick of wearing these underutilized items.

  • http://healthymamarama.blogspot.com Kristen

    I do have orphans, but didn’t really think of them as that until reading your post. Most are either things I loved, things that were on sale that I thought would go with my staples, or things I wear very rarely (like a dress to a wedding). I’ve weeded out most of the things I don’t wear at all and am left with a pretty versatile selection. Most of my orphans are shoes that I don’t want to part with now — I’ve been relying on comfortable stylish shoes by clarks, tsubo, etc., instead of pretty shoes that pinch and hurt.

  • http://catholicicing.blogspot.com Lacy

    I am the mother of 3 kids ages 5 and under. I have recently lost a bunch of my “baby weight” and taken more of in interest in fashion, but I find myself buying a lot of closet orphans. I am buying things that I love and that fit my body style, but I never seem to find occasions “good enough” for my new clothes. Sometimes it’s ok to wear a great top, even if I’m only going to the grocery store or library, and I need to remember that!

    • gues

      I agree with Lacy 100%. I have a dozen or so nice tops (think silky fabric, unusual patterns, etc), but when I consider wearing them I think this occasion isn’t “good enough” to justify wearing whatever X piece is because I will have to wash it, might stain it, might be “too fancy,” etc. And I pull out a Target t-shirt and jeans. It takes a lot of internal dialogue and debate to convince myself that the occasion merits the “special” or “nice” piece of clothing.

    • hellotampon

      I don’t have kids and I still had to learn to convince myself to wear nice things rather than “save” them for a special occasion. I’m 26 but I’ve always been pretty introverted- not the type to go out to bars and clubs. I used to feel like if I dressed up in something cute just to go grocery shopping or hang out at a friend’s house then I was “wasting” that outfit (as though I couldn’t wear it more than once). Then when something did come along that gave me an excuse to dress in something nicer than jeans and a sweater I would feel all weird about being overdressed or outside of my comfort zone. NOW what used to be wardrobe orphans for me IS my comfort zone.

      My job requires me to wear scrubs, and one day I figured, why not dress nicely for school and errands, even if no one else does? I’m “saving them” for nothing. I don’t have a raring social life, which is fine with me. What ISN’T fine with me is letting nice clothes sit around in my closet for no good reason.

      • Michelle

        Hallelujah!
        Letting nice clothes sit around in my wardrobe for no good reason isn’t fine with me either.
        I’ve had loads of comments about looking “nice” “flash” or “dressed-up” over the last couple of months (I work as a soil scientist) but I don’t care. I have a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes and I’m damned well gonna wear ‘em (praise be for lab coats!)

        • Lindsay

          I will add a “me too” here. I started “dressing up” to go to work and on the weekends a few months ago because I finally decided I should look nice because I wanted to… I have gotten some strange looks and “why are you all dressed up?” queries from t-shirt-and-jeans-dressed mostly-male-engineer co-workers but I don’t really care anymore. I am dressing up because it is fun for me and why do I need to save my cute outfit for an occasion? It is Thursday! That is excuse enough for me to wear what I like. :)

          • Cyberme

            Me too, me too! I am so done with dressing down so as not to offend anyone! Let’s see, wasn’t it Marianne Williamson who said “Who am I NOT to shine?… My playing small doesn’t serve the world…. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around me.” For the record, I’m paraphrasing here.

            I’ve been redefining my style over the past couple of years and adding some nicer, dressier items… softening up my ‘look’ and intentionally looking for companions for the orphans; though I still don’t know what to do with the cream hand knit wool skirt from South America with a fringe and brown llama’s marching around the hemline, but I LOVE it. I’ve had it for hmm…. twenty-eight years!!! It’s only been worn a few times, and not as stylishly as I’d like. Okay, it’s coming back out of the closet tonight and I am going to make it my mission to find (or make) it’s companions this winter.

            Loving your blog Sally.

  • Veronica

    I definitely have a few closet orphans. When I buy something I usually immediately wear it, weather permitting. My problem is that I buy things, I try not to but sometimes can’t help it, lol for when I lose the baby weight. I do eventually lose it but slower than I’d like. There are 2 items in my closet that still have the tags on them and I have had them for at least 2-3 years. I know that’s crazy but I love the style and look of them.

  • leslie

    Sal that skirt is great on you. Have you ever thought of pairing it with a brown or charcoal crew neck cashmere t? (either long or short sleeved) and a single piece of bold jewelry. I think the juxtaposition could be really neat and might appeal to your edgier side. Love your blog.

  • http://www.modlychic.com Katy

    LOL Closet Orphan is the perfect name for these items. I’ve found that often the Closet Orphans can be something that we like but isn’t necessarily our style. We buy it loving it and then get it home to realize nothing in our closet works for that piece. Sometimes the best thing to do is give it away to someone who does have that fashion personality and revel in the fact that it looks amazing on them! – Katy

  • http://dashingeccentric.blogspot.com/ tiny junco

    around here (me & family/friends) a lot of closet orphans get into the closet because ‘this is who i thought i was/was becoming’. (but it didn’t turn out to be the case.)

    this one is tricky because….we ARE changing constantly, and if your clothing reflects that so much the better. my best advice on this one is to not spend too much on clothing you’re buying from this motivation…anyone else have a better idea? steph

  • http://spontaneousgeneration.typepad.com/spontaneous-generation/ marisa

    oh man – that skirt would be so cute with just a plain chocolate brown or charcoal gray t-shirt (or thin, slim-fitting sweater). casual friday, you could wear it tomorrow!

  • http://spontaneousgeneration.typepad.com/spontaneous-generation/ marisa

    oh yeah, closet orphans? pretty much everything in my closet. i wear the stuff that gets stashed in drawers.

  • http://www.stylinstacy.com Stacy

    I have a beautiful boned and beaded jacket that I have worn all of one time. It is too dressy for most occassions, but I hold onto it and will continue to do so. Sometimes I just put it on to make myself happy. :)

  • T.

    My closet orphans tend to be clothing that are never appropriate for the weather where I live, or where the season for wearing them is very short (like two weeks in April). I have a couple of crocheted cardigans which I love, but they never get worn because they are not warm enough in the winter, but suddenly it’s too warm for them in the spring. I hang on to them because they are so pretty.

    • Eleanorjane

      What about wearing them over a layer of a fine gauge merino/ wool long sleeved top? (Plus as many warm silk or wool singlets as necessary – I love singlets in winter for unobtrustive warmth.)

  • Linda

    Wow, I LOVE that skirt. It would not be an orphan if it lived with me!

    My main orphans are tops that look good with jeans. On people who own and look good in jeans. Of whom I am not one. But shops are full of these because “everyone” has jeans, right? How can you have “nothing to wear” with an item that looks good with jeans?! So every now and then I accidentally buy one.

    Also, a few miscellaneous items such as an amazing monogrammed silk scarf that belonged to my great-grandfather. He wore it to the opera, but I rarely go to the opera and am not wearing men’s evening wear when I do. I wish you would come over and tell me how to utilize this!

    • Colleen

      Well, I am not Sally, but I am a dedicated scarf wearer with ideas :). Silk scarves can be very versatile! I wear mine as headbands, a bow around the neck, a belt, etc. If you think your grandfather would rather have his scarf preserved as an heirloom, by all means keep it in storage, but if you think he’d get a kick out of you finding creative ways to wear it, go for it! If it’s a small scarf you can also wear it as a pocket square in a vest or blazer, or tied around the handle of a purse for some flair.

  • JennyDC

    Yeah, Modcloth – I got two knit blazers from them. One I really like and will wear often, the other is a black with gray pinstripe jacket made of sort of lightly quilted cotton that I do like, but it might be a leeeetle too short – i don’t love what it does to my hips when I wear it with pants. But I missed the return deadline and really didn’t want store credit. I think it might work with skirts or dresses, will have to test that out.

    Both were bought in a fit of longing to look a bit more polished/edgy, but still be comfortable.

  • JB

    Every time I see that awesome skirt I imagine it would look good with that awesome asymmetrical sweater you got in Tasmania. Ever try that combination?

  • Laura

    I have two categories of closet orphans: the wardrobe of ‘teacher clothes’ that I don’t currently need (full of spectacular pencil skirts, slacks, button ups, etc), and my closet full of absolutely stunning dresses for special occasions I keep bailing on. I’m typically very uncomfortable at formal or semi-formal events, so I find excuses not to go if any present themselves, so my fabulous collection of dresses are relegated to art photo shoots for creative friends.

    However I have two formal weddings this summer/fall, and I will damned well be wearing at least two dresses.

    Pretty much anything in my dresser sees the light of day regularly, though I’ve noticed my style going from structured and tailored to loose and boho, so some of my former favorites are getting a little lonely…

  • http://sewtopia.blogspot.com/ Corinne

    Closet orphan, love that term. I don’t have as many as I used to but mostly these were items purchased for a specific event such as a wedding, a funeral, mandatory work fun event (not) Most of these were pricey so they are still here, growing roots. Some others just don’t go with much, like your skirt. However, I have discovered that when I pair that one unusable or odd piece with absolute basics it seems to blend well. For example, I have a delicious melon colored silk cardi with one button at the collar that just did not work with anything. Enter a winter white trouser and matching shell, and the color of this cardi is enhanced to a warm tone rather than brassy as with other colors. Now, that does limit its use but now I can add it to the rotation.

  • http://spidersilkstockings.blogspot.com/ Cel

    Haha that’s such a perfect term for those items. I have, I must admit, quite a few closet orphans. One of them is a delicate, gauze white blouse with pink embroidered star bursts and pink sequins. It sounds horrible but it really is lovely, problem being I don’t know how to wear it without look costumed!

    • Eleanorjane

      Jeans, chinos, white jeans, dusty pink jeans? Plus some pretty, delicate jewellery. Sounds lovely, just wear it!

  • GingerR

    Your analysis is spot-on. I love to go to Anthropologie. I just have a terrible time integrating the dream the store sells with my wash-and-wear life!

    When I cull my closet if one item of a “set” makes it into the out-pile I put the rest of the set in with it. I draw the line at scarves, which I love and may wear with something else. Maybe the person shopping at Goodwill will be able to get some use out of it.

  • Eliza

    Right now my biggest problem is jewelry orphans! I live in a dorm, so I don’t like to have expensive/sentimental pieces laying around. Actually, the only piece of good jewelry I have here is my great-grandfather’s watch, which I wear everyday. The rest of what I have here is junk jewelry, pretty but obviously inexpensive. My problem is that when I put it on, it seems like either too much (I tend to wear a lot of dresses, so the wrong necklace can make me look like I’m headed to a party rather than class) or so insignificant I shouldn’t have bothered. I have a few pieces that usually work, but the majority of it seems unwearable.

  • http://www.myclosetshouldnotbescary.blogspot.com Scary Closet

    I’m actually wearing a closet orphan today. It’s a gorgeous fitted brown blazer I bought in 1997… with no matching components. And I’ve been searching for the perfect match ever since. However, I think it looks pretty good with a brown patterned dress. I THINK. I could be completely misguided!

  • http://melaniegracedesigns.blogspot.com/ Melanie

    I’ve been great about keeping my clothes pared down especially since I’ve been making my own line and have found that I almost always wear my own designs, but I’ve been totally burned on downsizing my shoes. The worst is when you finally decide to part w/ something and then live to regret it.
    I let go of a pair of amazing shoes I bought on a trip to NY when I was 16 but hadn’t worn for years, and as soon as they were gone I kept thinking of great ways I could have worn them. I even went back to the thrift store where I had donated them to see if I could buy them back but they were gone:(

  • http://sololisa.com lisa

    I have quite a few closet orphans! Mostly pairs of shoes and pretty dresses I couldn’t resist buying. They should start a support group to cope with the shameful neglect I’ve shown them. ;)

  • Tab

    I gasped when I saw that amazing skirt and I knew what it would look like in my closet! White t-shirt tucked in with my gladiator sandals. Haha.

    Have you tried pairing it with that military jacket you were having trouble styling? I THINK the colors would be good together though since I’m not seeing them next to each other I could be completely wrong! However a pair of tights and that jacket with a basic t-shirt under it could be a great transition outfit from winter to spring and then summer to fall.

  • Meredith

    Sal, slightly OT, but wondering if you had any interest in pulling out pieces from anywhere that you like for this spring/summer? I’m working with a postpartum body and wanting to love the ME that is ME RIGHT NOW and not the ME that is next year. So just wondering what your take is on what’s being offered now in the catalogs for warmer weather. (Because I hate seeing you in the cutest outfit EVER and then realizing you bought it long enough ago that it’s no longer available!) :) And I completely love everything about that DVF pink dress!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Gosh, Meredith, I’ll try … I do post links to what I’m wearing or similar items with each outfit post. Hope those help at least a little. Also if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stylistically lost, the mini-makover PDF might help: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/01/already-pretty-self-guided-mini-makeover.html

      I can’t say I’ve been impressed with most of what I’m seeing in catalogs and stores these days, but I’ll try to cook something up if I can!

  • Lynne in Memphis

    I have a lot fewer orphans since I started reading your blog. You’ve inspired me to keep trying other pieces until something works. The latest is a marble knit dress that just needed a green jacket over it. I’ve worn it twice already. Thank you so much for the reminder to play with my clothes.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Woo hoo! I’m delighted to hear it, Lynne.

    • Anat

      Those are my thoughts exactly. I am finding myself using a bunch of things which I thought had gone out of rotation. This also means I am more open to picking up stuff at shops which I would have usually dismissed as not practical and will be difficult to match. For example just bought a maxi, ruffled patterned fuscia and purple skirt – which is so not my usual style, and I already have a few ideas what to wear it with…

  • http://impybat.blogspot.com Terri

    Oh, I totally have closet orphans, quite a few in fact. One of them is a black, slinky, halter-style dress that has these funky, shimmery dots incorporated into the fabric (not sequins). I think I was having a glam, 1970’s Blondie “Heart Of Glass” moment when I bought it. It still hasn’t been worn, but I’ll give it a shot, Sal. But probably after I’m done my crossing guard stint for the school year.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      But that dress would totally stop traffic! HAHAHAhahaha. Oh yes, we know it’s been a long day when I’m devolving into puns …

  • http://impybat.blogspot.com Terri

    Haha I know, right?! It most definitely would stop traffic. Who needs an oversized stop sign on a handle anyway!

  • http://14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com/ Salazar

    This post comes just in time because I was looking over my newly made-over closet and there are definitely some items in there that I couldn’t NOT buy but don’t know how to wear yet (like this 60’s drop-waist dress – http://14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/pp/ – it’s adorable, but might be a little too twee.) Anyway, now I’m inspired to try all of them out!

  • http://meganmaedaily.com/ Megan Mae

    Like someone mentioned above – I’m guilty of buying seasonally inappropriate things. I live somewhere where it goes from super hot to cold to super hot with little inbetween. So “jackets” rarely get worn as much as I hope to wear them, they are either too cold or too warm and get ditched halfway through the day.

    I’ve gotten better about planning more than one outfit before even buying something, but I’ve still got a few pieces floating around that could be paired up in new ways. The ‘toss everything on the bed’ method works pretty good. It finds new pairings simply by proximity.

  • http://www.madam0wl.blogspot.com madam0wl

    Great post. I agree with you 100% that we shouldn’t ditch these orphans just because they rarely get worn. Today I wore two orphans together (and blogged it), so that might be another way to deal with them… some closet orphans may have a quality that ties them together and could be worn in the same outfit for a combination that might not have occurred otherwise.

  • http://www.churchsexy.blogspot.com Caroline

    I’ve been going through my closet and forcing myself to wear my underused items (not necessarily orphans, but not earning their keep either). I’ve been amazed that once I start to figure out ways to remix them, by the time I do a blog summary I’ve got oodles more ideas. It’s not fun at first, and there are some outfits that really don’t work, but it does “grease the wheels”as you say.

  • http://www.missfashiondaily.blogspot.com candice

    I have a pair of Martin+Osa black knit skinny riding pants with zips at the ankles and in place of back pockets. I fell head over heels for these pants on the website, paid the 100.00 bucks and waited anxiously for them to arrive (this was two years ago).

    When I tried them on in the privacy of my bedroom I thought, “hey these are kind of cute” but then I tried wearing them in public. The problem is, they play up a big insecurity for me: large calves. So regardless of whether it was all in my head or not, I couldn’t shake the feeling that people were staring in dismay at my decision to wear skinny pants.

    After that, the pants found a new home in the top of my closet. However, after reading this post, I am definitely going to take your suggestion and put them on my bed with some shirts/tunics and see what I can come up with. Who knows, maybe there is a cute way to wear them that I’ve just never thought of. Thanks!

    -Candice

  • http://www.featherfactor.com featherfactor

    This was such a well written post – I totally have closet orphans, largely because I am just drawn to “pretty” pieces that will look good hanging in my closet…but not necessarily on me all the time. It’s something that I need to fix, but in the mean while I’ve found a name for them, at least! Love your blog.

  • Gillian

    I have sort-of-orphans. I do have a lot of items that I mix and match, but I am drawn to ‘statement pieces’ and so have a lot of fairly bold items that look best on their own. For example I don’t love cluttering up most of my dresses with a lot of layers, so that calls for very specific weather in order to wear many of them. I think I am worried about decreasing what I perceive to be the specialness of the item if I don’t wear it exactly as I prefer it every time. But in reality that means a lot of them don’t get worn very much because I keep waiting for the exact right timing to wear the very particular outfit I had in mind.

  • http://mollyalone.tumblr.com Molly

    Hey Sally!

    I love your blog and I LOVE this post :)!
    I have many closet orphans but sometimes you just need to find the fearlessness that resides deep in your soul and just wear it! And wear it with pride!

    If you have a moment to check out my blog and tell me what you think, it would mean the WORLD to me!

    If not! I will continue to be an avid reader :)

    -Molly

  • Jane

    Mine is a lovely wool houndstooth jacket that I thrifted…it makes my waist and bust look fantastic. Unfortunately, the shoulders are quite padded, so I tend to only wear it when the boyfriend is around –his appreciation of it (he was actually the one who picked it out) generally serves to overcome my insecurity about whether it makes me look like a linebacker.

    For that matter, a lot of my closet orphans are things that I buy when I’m with the boyfriend. I try them on and feel fantastic when I have him as an appreciative audience; but then, without that audience there, I lose the confidence to wear them.

  • http://dailyclothesfix.blogspot.com/ Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    A brilliant post and some great advice. I find that rehanging things in my wardrobe sometimes helps to find partners for random pieces and ensure things get back into rotation.

  • Sara

    I have closet orphans because I don’t like to admit I was wrong so I hang on to an item that really doesn’t fit right or isn’t flattering so never gets worn. I don’t like to admit that I made a mistake when I bought it. For example – I have a dress that’s too short to wear to work and somewhat unflattering. I keep it because I don’t like to admit that I shouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I keep thinking I’ll eventually figure out a way to wear the item.

  • http://whomovedmybirkin.blogspot.com/ Cristina

    I remember lusting after that skirt! i didn’t buy it :( I also have a closet full of misfits. It has taken years to be able to wear them the way they should. Sometimes it just takes time and careful selection in new additions to your wardrobe and evolving your personal style and your misfits can shine! I also try not to throw anything away until I have worn it at least twice, unless it is a total bust then I try to return it-lol

  • http://the-new-professional.blogspot.com Angeline

    That skirt is amazing! I loooove it. Bummer that it’s a closet orphan. I usually just get rid of them after a while, or wear them on their own somehow (for dresses at least). Usually my clothes become orphans when they simply don’t fit but I can’t bear to give them away.

  • Lydia

    What a wonderfully written and really hillarious post. After reading this, I ran to the big bag waiting to be taken to the goodwill, and rescued a closet orphan (I felt so wrong for letting her go too soon…). Maybe I will give the skirt another go tomorrow.

    I aquire my closet orphans by buying something on sale, or buying something for my ‘imagined self’ — as in, will I really wear a charmeuse silk, pale green skirt for a picnic at the park? Nope, but maybe I shouldn’t limit myself and try it with other things. Thank you for reminding me to try out new combinations.

  • http://ohsaycanyousay.wordpress.com Cassie

    That outfit is adorable! How do you manage to uncover finds like this just lying around in your closet??

    Btw, your blog is by far my favorite style-esque blog, so I just nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award (see here: http://ohsaycanyousay.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/versatile-blogger-award/ ) . Thanks for the fun posts!

  • http://areasontobefabulous.blogspot.com Tiffany

    I love the “find it some siblings” suggestion- this is usually my approach to remixing anything. I take the item and go down the rack in my closet, piece by piece, testing it out with other colors, textures, patterns and proportions. The result is often a “eureka!” moment when I discover that two items I never considered together work as though they were made for one another.

    AWESOME post, I love the term “closet orphan” and your tips are super helpful

  • http://foofandfaff.blogspot.com/ Elise

    This is a great inspiring post, I’m sure I have plenty clothes in my wardrobe that don’t get a second look, shall get that sorted! :)

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  • mels

    I love these post….it helping me for sure ^_^

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