What makes an orphan an orphan?

I loved Angie's recent post about orphans, which prompted me to have a good look at a few things that I don't think are getting enough wear.

To be honest, although I moan about struggling to style the contents of my diverse and eclectic wardrobe, there isn't really much dead wood in there, and luckily I haven't made too many mistakes in the last few years.

For the most part, the orphans at the moment are either things that were in circulation and have dropped out of favour, or things that have some practical pitfalls that I didn't identify before I started wearing them. There are also one or two very nice things that for some reason look wrong every time I put them on.

For instance, in the first category right now are three pairs of shoes and a leather jacket in various shades of brown which I used to wear with grey, green, navy or purple. I don't quite know what to make of this, except that I'm not wearing this colour combination very much any more and I should probably hang onto them until I find another palette to make them work.

The second category are mainly statement pieces in refined materials that I worry about ruining - velvet, silk etc, or things that would get a lot more wear if I were less panicked about wearing them on the bike.

The third is almost impossible to pin down. I have two jackets that I like very much but something about the styling is just plain weird. I wish I could be more specific. Perhaps I should post pictures so you can all tell me.

What about you ladies? What orphans your orphans? 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Tania replied 6 years ago

    In my case, it is sheer numbers.  I don't own that many clothing items and am in the process of filling in gaps.  At this point, I'm trying to purchase an outfit at a time, or the still-needed components of an outfit.  This past fall, I purchased a few items that had to work with pretty much everything else I purchased, so the capsule mindset is helping. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    (1)  Nothing to wear with it.  (2)  Bought it for my "fantasy" life (not my real life).  Buying for my fantasy life results in clothes in my closet that still have tags on them.  I know exactly why I bought them too.  I genuinely thought I would wear them when I bought them.  The truth is that I don't really feel like my authentic self in them and can't bear to bring them out of the closet.  Do I keep them?  Yes.  I still believe!!

  • abc replied 6 years ago

    pictures would help but based on your descriptions the level of orphan-ness going on in your closet would be 3, 1, 2 - as in the group 3 sounds hte most like orphans, 1s could be, but weren't at one time.  And 2s don't seem like orphans to me, they're workable, but not funcitonal for your real life now (and biking).
    I agree with Sterling's definitions.

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    Skirts and dresses that I can't wear with opaque tights are easy to get orphaned because I need a sheer hose-shoe combination to work and that's harder to do.
    Some dressy items are not so much orphaned as sitting on the bench because of the imaginary life in which I have more events to attend than IRL. Heels that most people would not consider too high for everyday but are a stretch for me can get orphaned, even it a bootie or comfortable shoe, if they don't fit the everyday work "persona" and I  feel too prancy or conspicuous in them.
    I hear you on color palette--some things I thought I'd find a mate or match for miss the wear window, or for when I can't find "my" colors and don't listen to the little inner voice and buy a color that may turn out to be harsh or draining, then it goes unworn, but usually it's in a good fabric so I have a hard time letting go.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    This is a great question, Approprio. I've done a bit of thinking/ watching of my closet this season and have come up with a few categories, similar to yours. 

    1. Things I wore a lot previously and loved but seem to have tired of -- possibly only temporarily. Often these are "statement" type items for me. 

    2. Things that are not working because of a different weather pattern than usual, or because they are slightly out of season. Our weather determines so much! Some winters, I need cashmere in layers and lots of it! Other winters, I barely wear it at all. Some summers, I can hardly stand to wear any thing, it's so hot! Other summers, I need to layer in knits. And sometimes I will think an item is an orphan...and be all ready to get rid of it...only to find that it is an absolute workhorse when the weather conditions change a bit. I have a pair of patterned pants that fall into this category. They have numerous problems (length, they stretch out, etc.) yet they are exactly the right things for a certain temperature range and I love the pattern on them. They are regularly orphaned all year -- except for a 4 week window when I wear them a lot. 

    3. Things that turn out to be too dressy for my casual life. My style preferences veer toward the polished and dressy -- but my actual lifestyle makes dressy a lot harder to manage. Sometimes buying "dressy" works . If I can figure out a way to casualize the item, then it hits my sweet spot and gets worn a lot! Blazers fall into this category -- I wear with denim and feel fine. I do the reverse with skirts and dresses -- wear them with sneakers, boots, denim jackets. And that's great for me. But sometimes I forget and buy things that are just too hard for me to casualize. Like heeled winter boots. Sigh. 

    4. Things that turn out to have fit or comfort issues I didn't recognize on purchase. It happens to all of us. The best we can do is keep it to a minimum. I  tend to let go of these items after a couple of tries. No point in hanging on. 

    5. Special occasion wear. I need it, but I don't wear it often. So it goes for long stretches of time not getting a lot of use. 

  • Astrid replied 6 years ago

    For me it's mostly one or more of these reasons:

    -wrong color, so nothing works with it
    -wrong silhouette/cut so it doesn't work seamlessly with my other items
    -fit issues that weren't noticeable at first
    -not my style or too out there for me to be comfortable wearing it

  • Meredith replied 6 years ago

    I'd say mine are orphans because of Sterling's point #1. I don't usually buy things that are orphans from the moment they enter my closet. Rather, perfectly good things become orphans when their partners wear out and are discarded and never replaced.

  • kkards replied 6 years ago

    for me orphans are usally created becuase i fail to follow angie's 2nd rule...step two of the test is to try on the item in the outfit combinations you imagined and make sure that it has earned a spot in your wardrobe. 
    i image that X will work with A, B and C. but then IRL if sort of works with A, and doesn't work with B or C.

  • replied 6 years ago

    I want to add one thing about orphans.  I don't consider an item orphaned if it is not being worn as a consequence of the weather.  I believe that weather changes and that those items will see wear when the time comes.  

    in my mind, an orphan is a piece that I purchased that is never worn and will never be worn because it doesn't work in my wardrobe or for my lifestyle.  

  • replied 6 years ago

    I agree with Sterling about the weather factor. For me an orphan is more often than not a result of something not fitting right and feeling uncomfortable, followed secondly by something that doesn't play well  with other items in my wardrobe.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Ditto to what Sterling said. My closet orphans are just that. They never leave the closet. They are my buying mistakes or are things that used to get worn but no longer interest me.

  • Gaylene replied 6 years ago

    Something that is better off in someone else's closet than mine.

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    I agree with kkards and how helpful Angie's rule was, plus I now look for even more than 3 things--or, the right 3 things, or just exactly "what does it do for me". I used to think I could tell this from the item itself and I've learned I have to put it through its paces. Of course the better I am at being PPP, the less times it doesn't work at home, but it's still surprising how I can be fooled--in-store lighting, limited back views, and often, trying on with footwear or vice versa, trying shoes or boots on with pants and finding the hems fighting with the footwear or something.

  • gradfashionista replied 6 years ago

    My orphans are those items that I like, but that don't fit into my daily dress code. In one instance, the item has special sleeves that would get crushed by a blazer. In another instance, the item is on the shorter side and for dressy occasions. I'm going to hang on to them, though, because my lifestyle will change next year.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Oh -- I should clarify. I completely agree with Sterling and the rest of you that an item not being worn because the weather is not suitable isn't a true orphan. 

    It's just that it can FEEL like an orphan, or make me feel obscurely guilty, just hanging there -- until and unless I consider carefully when it is needed. I have this problem with not really wanting to admit that my weather is as unpredictable/ extreme as it is. And I'm seriously at risk of editing out those items I'm not wearing after a few months. This is why I have to store my out of season clothing, otherwise I would get rid of all of it in its off-season! 

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    Apart from weather and social event factors, I am quite moody. As in sometimes I am just not in the mood for a certain piece for a while. 

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    I have just put a bunch of belts in the give away bag. I'd gotten them for coats I no longer have. They just don't go with anything. One of them was taupe. I have nothing in my closet now that's taupe. I'm out of my organic phase ;)

  • approprio replied 6 years ago

    Lots to think about here, and interesting that there's so much variety in cause and definition.

    kkards, I hear you! I'm definitely a proponent of the 3-ways-to-style rule, and I've been using it for a long time now. I'm not so good on the returns policy, suffice to say it doesn't fit with my acquisition strategy (outlets, second hand, sewing etc)

    Suz, that's a fantastic breakdown. What you say about dressy pieces, echoed by gradfashionista and unfrumped rings very true. I recognise this problem because my impulses are more dressy than my environment. But as long as it doesn't sacrifice comfort and practicality, I'm as comfortable in a skirt or dress as I am in skinny jeans, so I tend to just go with it. 

    Sterling, that moment when something doesn't work with anything else in the wardrobe is an issue, and I'm curious about how this might happen. I like what Meredith and rachylou said about items about loosing their families, and that's definitely true of some of my orphans here. 

    Shevia's moods and phases are another trigger. I think this is responsible for the most problems, because times change and style develops. I'm always looking for new things to do with old things and I can't always find them.

    Astrid, I'm in awe that you have such a handle on the style, colours and silhouettes you want to wear. I'm actually a little bit jealous :P I have the impression Tania's heading in the same direction.

    Diane, fit is something I won't compromise on. Or rather, I wouldn't except my weight's been fluctuating lately. 

    Gaylene, you might just win the thread with that comment. Sometimes you just need to pass it on, which is exactly what I need to do with the items in #3, which abc identified as the real orphans, a bit like bettycrocker's items that never leave the wardrobe.

    Thanks all for the feedback, and sorry if I missed anyone in the roundup!

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