On Making it Work (and when to give up)

tim gunn make it work
I said it before, but it bears repeating…
 
It’s not worth it to “make it work.”

The other day I wore this skirt. While it looked cute in the photos, and even in my full-length mirror, it wasn’t a good choice for me. A tad shorter than I feel comfortable wearing, and a very lightweight fabric meant I spent the entire day with my arms pressed against my thighs trying to prevent a Marilyn moment. It was so bad, that I hobbled from my office to Ann Taylor a block away so I could sneak into their fitting room and change into a dress that had arrived in the mail earlier in the day. The dress I changed into was a maxi and too long, but I felt better carrying my skirt like a wedding dress train as I hopped Metro trains, than chancing a show of my skivvies during a breezy rush hour.

not going to make it work

Most of my comments from that post are lost in cyberspace due to a bug with my commenting system, but I had a good dozen comments, and even a few tweets, Facebook comments and emails offering suggestions on how to make the skirt work for me. Wear it with tights. Add a band of fabric to the hem to make it longer and weigh it down. Save it for when I have lost 10 pounds for that will make it longer on my body.

The thing is… I don’t want to make it work. Making it work makes sense when you’re in the 11th hour of a Project Runway challenge. It makes sense if the only skirt in my closet is this one and I have an event to go to in an hour where the dress code is Skirts Only. It makes sense if it was a gift from my husband’s grandmother and she asked to see me in it for her 90th birthday party. There’s no other reason why I should try to make a garment work.

If a garment doesn’t work, it doesn’t deserve real estate in your closet. 

Stop trying to make it work with belts and tights and control garments and half-baked DIY projects. All that effort does is make the same not-quite-right garment not-quite-right, but now decked out with opaque tights, a skinny belt, and a weird band of fabric that sort of ruins the flow of the piece. This isn’t to say that with a bit of sewing skill one could turn trash into treasure. What I’m saying is if a piece isn’t right and you don’t have the creativity, skill, and desire to make it right… get rid of it.

It’s better to have fewer pieces in your closet than a wardrobe of things that require effort to make them passable. This isn’t just that skirt that is a hair too short, it’s also the top that pulls at your shoulders, the dress that can only work with a strapless backless bra (and you don’t own a strapless backless bra), the dress that looked smashing 10 pounds ago but now looks like a potato sack, that other dress that looked great 10 pounds and 10 years ago but now looks like Saran Wrap, the blouse that is a bit too sheer but looks frumpy with a camisole, the pants that are cute except for wrinkling in the first minute of wearing and the fact that they give you camel toe.

Donate them. Sell them. Swap them. I don’t care what you do with them, but I beg of you, get rid of them and stop trying to make them work.

I thank you all for your amazing, caring, and creative suggestions. You women amaze me on a daily basis with your resourcefulness, knowledge, and heart. However, you will not see me in that skirt again. I really could make it work, and for a moment I considered keeping it and wearing it come fall with super opaque tights and a fitted turtleneck. And then I realized that it meant this skirt could ONLY be worn with super opaque tights, and it still would be short enough to cause a Marilyn moment on a breezy day. Enough to make the item too difficult to deserve to be in my closet. I’m not going to make it work, and because I care about you and your personal style, I hope you won’t either.

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39 Comments

  1. crtfly
    January 1, 2013 / 3:18 am

    Allie,

    First of all, Happy New Year to you, Karl/Carl and Em.

    I do most of my clothes shopping online. I have become usually accurate at selecting the correct size and something I will truly like based on brand and experience. However, sometimes I miscalculate. This time I decided to try a fabric and colors I don’t usually buy. The items (blazers) looked good online and in the paper catalog.

    Well, I received them today. They are fairly well made and fit. So what’s the problem? I don’t like the fabrics or the colors. The colors would even be fine if they were in a different fabric and texture. I was going to try to “make them work” because it is a bit of a hassle to return them and I think I have to somehow accept my bad choices.

    Then I remembered this post of yours. How freeing! I don’t like the blazers, I would not ever be happy wearing them, and they just aren’t me. They are going back Wed. Thank you Allie for showing me your well thought out logic and for giving me permission to get rid of clothes that frankly, I hate!

  2. A.
    April 26, 2012 / 5:01 pm

    i’m a little late in the game for this post (i’ve been on vacation), but last week i finally had this same moment with a summer dress that i loved the pattern on, but nothing else. i brought it with me on my vacation and was so uncomfortable in it for the 3 hours i wore it that i changed into something else the second i was around my suitcase again.

    it was too short, too flimsy, too low in the back, and had too big of arm holes and constantly showed my bra. i have no idea why i kept it for so long, other than i kept thinking that i could “make it work.” but who wants to wear a cardigan in the summer to cover up gaping arm holes and a low back? why would i bother going through the hassle of finding a nice, coordinating fabric to sew to the bottom to lengthen it when i can find a nicer, more suitable-all-around dress in the same amount of time? i got home and tossed it into my donation pile.

    oddly, the dress made it through a massive closet clean-out several weeks ago because my boyfriend managed to convince me that i could make it work. it wasn’t until he saw me actually wearing it that he understood my frustrations with it.

  3. A.
    April 26, 2012 / 1:01 pm

    i’m a little late in the game for this post (i’ve been on vacation), but last week i finally had this same moment with a summer dress that i loved the pattern on, but nothing else. i brought it with me on my vacation and was so uncomfortable in it for the 3 hours i wore it that i changed into something else the second i was around my suitcase again.

    it was too short, too flimsy, too low in the back, and had too big of arm holes and constantly showed my bra. i have no idea why i kept it for so long, other than i kept thinking that i could “make it work.” but who wants to wear a cardigan in the summer to cover up gaping arm holes and a low back? why would i bother going through the hassle of finding a nice, coordinating fabric to sew to the bottom to lengthen it when i can find a nicer, more suitable-all-around dress in the same amount of time? i got home and tossed it into my donation pile.

    oddly, the dress made it through a massive closet clean-out several weeks ago because my boyfriend managed to convince me that i could make it work. it wasn’t until he saw me actually wearing it that he understood my frustrations with it.

  4. April 21, 2012 / 7:06 am

    I love this post. I have quite a few things that are just too short/too tight/too weird to ever work except for in that ONE outfit.. I think they’ll have to go. 😉

  5. April 21, 2012 / 3:06 am

    I love this post. I have quite a few things that are just too short/too tight/too weird to ever work except for in that ONE outfit.. I think they’ll have to go. 😉

  6. kathy
    April 19, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    This is a great post! Thank you for it. You are truly an inspiration in so many ways.

  7. kathy
    April 19, 2012 / 11:11 am

    This is a great post! Thank you for it. You are truly an inspiration in so many ways.

  8. Cat
    April 19, 2012 / 2:35 pm

    Repeat after me, the closet cleanout chant:

    When in DOUBT
     toss it OUT!

    🙂

  9. Cat
    April 19, 2012 / 10:35 am

    Repeat after me, the closet cleanout chant:

    When in DOUBT
     toss it OUT!

    🙂

  10. April 19, 2012 / 1:08 pm

    Thank you! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to revive an outfit buy buying accessories for it, or trying to find a color that went with it, or a jacket that went with it – what a waste of time. I recently lost some weight and am looking at my ‘too large’ tops thinking ‘well … they could still work’ when all I really want to do is pitch them because they remind me of how my body was then. So off to the consignment store they go, whoo hoo!

  11. April 19, 2012 / 9:08 am

    Thank you! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to revive an outfit buy buying accessories for it, or trying to find a color that went with it, or a jacket that went with it – what a waste of time. I recently lost some weight and am looking at my ‘too large’ tops thinking ‘well … they could still work’ when all I really want to do is pitch them because they remind me of how my body was then. So off to the consignment store they go, whoo hoo!

  12. Monique
    April 19, 2012 / 5:24 am

    Great post, how much for the skirt?:-)

  13. Anonymous
    April 19, 2012 / 2:19 am

    Excellent advice!

  14. April 19, 2012 / 1:53 am

    This post was just the push I needed.  In 30 minutes, I filled four giant shopping bags with stuff for Goodwill — and they weren’t even close calls.  My closet is still overfull, but so much better and more manageable.  Thanks so much.  (And if we were the same size, I’d be asking to buy that skirt of yours!)

  15. April 18, 2012 / 9:53 pm

    This post was just the push I needed.  In 30 minutes, I filled four giant shopping bags with stuff for Goodwill — and they weren’t even close calls.  My closet is still overfull, but so much better and more manageable.  Thanks so much.  (And if we were the same size, I’d be asking to buy that skirt of yours!)

  16. crtfly
    April 18, 2012 / 11:08 pm

    Allie,

    You are so very wise! As a person who tends towards being a hoarder, I need to read your message every day. Or maybe several times a day! I think I am going to make signs and put them on my wall in my closet at home and in my office at work.

    There is so much interest in your skirt that I wouldn’t be surprised if you could sell it ASAP.

    Chris

  17. crtfly
    April 18, 2012 / 7:08 pm

    Allie,

    You are so very wise! As a person who tends towards being a hoarder, I need to read your message every day. Or maybe several times a day! I think I am going to make signs and put them on my wall in my closet at home and in my office at work.

    There is so much interest in your skirt that I wouldn’t be surprised if you could sell it ASAP.

    I am thinking that your words apply to other items besides clothes: tools, kitchen gadgets, decorative objects, etc.

    Chris

  18. Melissa
    April 18, 2012 / 9:54 pm

    All that being said ( and point well taken ) you still took a fab pic! I love the leather and floral and you just looked so put together! Too bad it didn’t translate into real life! 

  19. Melissa
    April 18, 2012 / 5:53 pm

    All that being said ( and point well taken ) you still took a fab pic! I love the leather and floral and you just looked so put together! Too bad it didn’t translate into real life! 

  20. lorena
    April 18, 2012 / 8:56 pm

    Very well said ! 
    I am that person trying to make things work which is why sometimes I end up with awful outfits.
    I put myself through the pain of wearing things ONE MORE TIME before letting go….
    hoping that one more time I will find that magic moment where it’s just perfect.
    🙁

  21. lorena
    April 18, 2012 / 4:56 pm

    Very well said ! 
    I am that person trying to make things work which is why sometimes I end up with awful outfits.
    I put myself through the pain of wearing things ONE MORE TIME before letting go….
    hoping that one more time I will find that magic moment where it’s just perfect.
    🙁

  22. fashionforgiants
    April 18, 2012 / 7:43 pm

    Fabulous post!  I definitely needed the reminder that I don’t have to make a piece work.  Sometimes it just doesn’t, and that’s okay.

  23. fashionforgiants
    April 18, 2012 / 3:43 pm

    Fabulous post!  I definitely needed the reminder that I don’t have to make a piece work.  Sometimes it just doesn’t, and that’s okay.

  24. Une femme
    April 18, 2012 / 5:44 pm

    Good reminder!  I have a couple of skirts that I need to give up on. Lovely pieces, great colors, but when I keep thinking of what else I need to buy to make them work, that’s a sign from the universe.

  25. Une femme
    April 18, 2012 / 1:44 pm

    Good reminder!  I have a couple of skirts that I need to give up on. Lovely pieces, great colors, but when I keep thinking of what else I need to buy to make them work, that’s a sign from the universe.

  26. Sonia
    April 18, 2012 / 5:24 pm

    Bravo!  I agree with you 100% that if it doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time and effort to keep it in the closet until you think it’ll work again.  Now, if I can just justify my words with action; my closet runneth over with stuff that I’m trying to make work.  Thanks for the motivation!

  27. Sonia
    April 18, 2012 / 1:24 pm

    Bravo!  I agree with you 100% that if it doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time and effort to keep it in the closet until you think it’ll work again.  Now, if I can just justify my words with action; my closet runneth over with stuff that I’m trying to make work.  Thanks for the motivation!

  28. April 18, 2012 / 4:58 pm

    Great blog post, I really need to apply this to my wardrobe…

  29. Cali Clarke
    April 18, 2012 / 12:58 pm

    Great blog post, I really need to apply this to my wardrobe…

  30. Angelakmarvin
    April 18, 2012 / 4:52 pm

    Very wise point. I personally love the skirt and think you look lovely in it, but I totally hear you. And I am guilty of keeping things WAAAAY past their expiration dates, thinking that I can someday “make it work.” I think you’ve inspired me to clean out the ol’ closet a bit this evening…   🙂

  31. Angelakmarvin
    April 18, 2012 / 12:52 pm

    Very wise point. I personally love the skirt and think you look lovely in it, but I totally hear you. And I am guilty of keeping things WAAAAY past their expiration dates, thinking that I can someday “make it work.” I think you’ve inspired me to clean out the ol’ closet a bit this evening…   🙂

  32. April 18, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    Hear, hear. I will admit that I’m one of the folks who loved that skirt, but I’ve also been in the position of accidentally wearing things that just don’t work in my life, no matter how much I love them (the campus I work on is WINDY, y’all). I’ve made it a rule that if pieces don’t work out after a wear or two, I send ’em to Plato’s Closet/other consignment or just donate them. I’d rather someone else love them and rock them than have them take up extra real estate in my tiny closet.

  33. April 18, 2012 / 12:37 pm

    Hear, hear. I will admit that I’m one of the folks who loved that skirt, but I’ve also been in the position of accidentally wearing things that just don’t work in my life, no matter how much I love them (the campus I work on is WINDY, y’all). I’ve made it a rule that if pieces don’t work out after a wear or two, I send ’em to Plato’s Closet/other consignment or just donate them. I’d rather someone else love them and rock them than have them take up extra real estate in my tiny closet.

  34. DC Celine
    April 18, 2012 / 3:55 pm

    Brava! my dear, brava! And I will show this to H when he wrinkles his nose at me the next time I suggest I’m going to donate things that don’t work any longer, like he did last night.

  35. DC Celine
    April 18, 2012 / 11:55 am

    Brava! my dear, brava! And I will show this to H when he wrinkles his nose at me the next time I suggest I’m going to donate things that don’t work any longer, like he did last night.

  36. April 18, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    I definitely get your point and I keep saying that I’m not going to add things to my closet that have single wears – but I still love this skirt. LOL! 

  37. April 18, 2012 / 11:11 am

    I definitely get your point and I keep saying that I’m not going to add things to my closet that have single wears – but I still love this skirt. LOL! 

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