The Clothes that Got Away

I still think about a black cropped jumpsuit I tried on early last year. I was at a Macy's in Los Angeles looking for an outfit to wear for a TV shoot I had scheduled the next day, when I spotted this on the rack and decided to try it on, too. It was definitely not something I could wear for the TV thing, but it caught my eye and I figured it couldn't hurt to see what it would look like on me.

Except that it did hurt because it fit perfectly, and yet I could not buy it.

I mean, I could technically have bought it, but it was about $200, which is too much for just a casual impulse purchase. And it wasn't right for the event, or even the season. (I was in LA where it would have been fine, but would have been useless in the blustery, snowy situation happening back home in NYC.)

That didn't stop me from keeping that jumpsuit in my hands for at least two hours, bringing it back and forth from the sales floor to the dressing room with each new batch of appropriate outfits I found, trying it on a second, third, and possibly even fourth time.

Then I left it. And I immediately regretted it.

That night in my hotel room, I sat on my bed eating room service dinner and trying in vain to find the jumpsuit online. I even tried checking at the Macy's in Herald Square when I got back home, but they didn't have it.

This wasn't the first time this happened. Over the years, I've regretted walking away from a few items. My most devastating memory is of a vintage Hermes bag I spotted at an estate sale in Washington, DC, during my senior year of college. It was unfortunately already in another woman's hand and she was haggling with the woman running the sale. She kept saying she wouldn't pay more than $65 for it and the other woman kept telling her it was Hermes, and I had been so tempted to jump in and say "I'll pay $165!" The customer wore the woman down and scored the Hermes bag for $65 while I watched, equal parts paralyzed and horrified at what I had just witnessed.

I shared this jumpsuit picture on my Instagram story a few days ago, and got dozens of responses from friends and followers that have their own clothing regrets. One friend can't stop thinking about a pair of boots she tried on while traveling in Germany 20 years ago. Another regrets the red dress she returned to a TJMaxx rack because the checkout line was too long. (I missed out on a buttery-soft Marc Jacobs bag at a different TJ Maxx for the same reason; clearly I have a problem with pulling the trigger on designer purses.) I heard stories about leather jackets, thrift store t-shirts, black stilettos, and even one woman who said she will never get over having picked her second choice wedding dress because it was a little bit cheaper than the one she really wanted.

Part of me wonders if the regret comes from imagining what could have been. In my mind, those purses and dresses and jumpsuits are perfect. I think about them when trying to find something to wear. I tell myself lies like, "if only I'd bought that jumpsuit, I could have worn that today..." ignoring the dozens of already wonderful items I already own. Items which themselves seemed perfect on the day I brought them home.

I ignore the likely truth that perhaps in real life the bag would have been too heavy, the jumpsuit too thin, or the boots too tight. Those are the kinds of flaws that only reveal themselves once you've had a chance to live with the piece a bit. Absent that opportunity, they will forever exist in a perfect fantasy of what could have been. They'll forever remain the clothes that got away.

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