The Short Shelf Life of Clothes

Six years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Why Vegetables Are Better Than Clothes“. The bottom line: unlike vegetables, which go bad and induce you to throw them out before they overstay their welcome, clothes have no way of reminding you that they are past their expiration date.

I had a vivid reminder of this fact recently. I had been invited to a friend’s wedding, so I tried on all of my nice dresses to see what looked good. As you may recall, I lost 40 pounds in 2014, so I had no idea what dresses of mine were still suitable.

Due to my weight fluctuation, I had gotten rid of most of my dressy clothes over the years. There is one outfit from 1998 which I held on to in the hope that one day it would fit again. I also had some dresses I had purchased at various weights and worn in recent years.

Here’s what I discovered when I started trying on my treasures. The good news: the outfit from 1998 fit! The bad news: it was so out of style that I knew I would never wear it again. It is slated for donation.

Little Black Dress

My little black dress

The dress I purchased a few years ago in an effort to jazz up my wardrobe — which still has the tags on it — also fit. But it was too form-fitting for me and I did not want to spend the evening focused on holding in my stomach. That, too, is slated for donation. (Funny coincidence: when I got to the wedding, I discovered that another wedding guest was wearing that very dress!)

I tried on my go-to dress for the past 10 years, which has always been flattering regardless of how much I weighed. It was laughably too big! I did an internet search on that brand name, and was surprised to find that it was still being sold. So I ordered it — four sizes smaller!

I had a couple of other options in my closet which had their pluses and minuses, but in the end, I wore the smaller version of my old favorite.

Here is what I learned from this exercise:

  • Don’t hold on to clothes that don’t fit you anymore. Even if they fit you again one day, they will be out of date.
  • Don’t buy clothes that aren’t your style. There is a reason why you don’t already wear that type of clothes.
  • Once you decide you aren’t going to wear something anymore, donate it as soon as possible to make space in your closet.
  • You can’t go wrong in a little black dress — if it fits.


  1. io light on January 24, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Really excellent advice. I have about 8 semi-formal little black dresses, one in two sizes. I need to edit a bit more!

  2. Sharon Lowenheim on January 24, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Having fewer clothes makes it so much easier to decide what to wear!

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