How to Salvage Your Gifts without Hurting Someone’s Feelings

In my ongoing quest to encourage people to shop efficiently and sustainably,  and to get rid of clothing you really don’t like or can’t use, I have come across a problem we have all faced at one time or another.

What do you do with clothing gifts that are not quite right?  That Nordstrom sweater or Lafayette 481 pants may be gorgeous but what if you get the feeling of something being a little off? Maybe the color is not good for you or it’s not really your style. And what do you do with gifts that don’t fit? Well, this is where I come in.

Everything can be altered to fit, as I point out in my article  Accomplishing the Impossible from 2015.

But how do you know if a garment is worth the cost of alterations? I have created a litmus test for making that decision. By the way, this test applies to online shopping as well. How many times have you ordered something online because it looks so good on the model but not so good on you?

Number one, do you like the garment? Just because Aunt Lydia gave it to you doesn’t mean you have to keep it.  If you look at it and cringe, get rid of it. Listen to your gut on this one. If you have doubts, there may be a good reason for not keeping it. Many websites offer free return shipping, but many do not. Maybe you can give it away instead of paying for shipping.

Number two, you’ve decided you like something about it, but does it fit? Sometimes, it’s an easy fix: a pant or sleeve that is too long, a hip that needs shaping. It may be worth checking with your tailor to see if it can be salvaged before you give up. Or check the above link to my article on impossible alterations.

A client recently brought me a beautiful silk blouse; it was a gift from her husband. They both loved the print and the hand of the fabric. Problem? It showed a bare midriff and the back neckline was too low for a normal bra. That’s  fine if you are 20 but this client was quite a bit older and felt a little exposed, not to mention the underwear problem.  It took many hours to recut and restyle the blouse, but it was worth it to the client because she and her husband loved the blouse.

Finished Blouse recut to hide the midriff.

Back View with raised neckline.

Number 3, does it fit in your wardrobe? Is it a dress you might only wear every five years for instance?  If it were me, I would keep it if I like it because you never know when you are going to need a dress for a wedding or funeral or other dress up occasions.

But if you are retired and you have a closet full of pants and blazers you wore when you were working but you really don’t need anymore, what do you do? Do you really need another pair of dress pants or work skirt? How many robes do you need when you already have several and you wear sweats anyway? It might be a beautiful robe but if it just sits in the closet, what good is it? It may be time to analyze your current lifestyle to see if your clothing still fits your personality.

Let’s say it is a separate. Do you have other separates to go with it, a skirt or pants to go with a top or vice versa? Do you have something in the right color and style? When shopping online, I always try to buy the recommended accessories so I know they will match.

If not, can you find a top or pants or jacket to go with it?  Yes, it will mean you’ll have to continue to shop so decide if the search is worth your time. Again, if it’s just going to sit in your closet because you don’t have the right garment to complete the outfit, what good is it?

What about accessories? I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled an outfit out of my closet only to realize I don’t have any shoes to go with it. Do you need a certain kind of belt to go with a skirt or pair of pants? Do you like the plain sweater or blouse but it needs some jewelry to make it pop?

If your garment has passed all the above tests, then it is totally worth the alterations costs because it will be something you can use repeatedly. If not, then pass it on. You can try a consignment shop. Donate it to your favorite charity thrift shop. Sell it on craigslist.

And you can always re-gift it. Just be careful not to give it to the person who gave it to you… or a mutual friend. That might be awkward, but you could always say you were being environmentally friendly!

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.
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