#whatiwore 2018w28 + Sunday links

A random update: By the end of this week I was so fed up with my hair, the heat, the PhD and life in general that recurring to a feminine classic of going to a hairdresser seemed like a very good idea. I showed her this 2012 photo (July 17, btw, 6 years ago almost to a day):

There is wisdom in folk clichés, indeed. The hairdresser did this and I couldn’t be happier:

And now some material to chill your brain with incoming info:

George Monbiot on how memory bias and changing baselines – among other obstacles – prevent us from grasping climate change and mass extinctions: In Memoriam.

Archana is back! And she brings heart warming tales about composting, too.

Has it been a week or so since you added a new item it your list of environmental worries? Ha, here you have a new one: low hanging ozone. Yes, we love it when it’s in the stratosphere but – turns out! – not so much in the troposphere. And I had already put ozone under my very short list of ‘environmental fuckups humans actually reverted‘… while that is still true, it’s not the end of the story of us and ozone.

Is Online or In-Store Shopping More Eco-Friendly? based mainly in this paper by Dimitri Weideli: Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping… Main message? It depends! Jen focuses on the driving associated with in-store shopping vs. deliveries which – isolated from everything else and assuming that the person doesn’t move their car to browse previously or to do sth else instead – are more efficient in route planning. However, there are so many other issues that are hard to assess (and Weideli tries to estimate it): which mode uses more packaging (because the store wares did came wrapped in something to the store but probably less than when they package one item for shipping), which one has a better carbon footprint (things have been already shipped in bulk to your high street or the super special lip balm from New Zealand; but what about if it’s responsibly made in New Zealand and the high street stuff is much worse in their production practices)?

Here is his break-down of CO2 emissions assuming that it is either online or in-store and not the person who went through all the stores in their city (by car!) and then ordered online, and that the product is the same (which in sustainable fashion niches it tends *not* to be):

So, if you like the in-store experience, don’t drive there! If you like shopping on-line, don’t ask for a speedy shipping and insist on the least packaging possible. And they better make it recyclable if not compostable. Or, even better, just stop shopping!

What I was writing about a year ago: Garment makers and fixers, I salute you.

Another old post you might enjoy: Vision-building for your wardrobe.

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Do you ever struggle with shopping decisions due to multiple considerations: aesthetics, ethics, CO2, distance? Which of those seal the deal for you?

After 6 months of the big spreadsheet

This is a bit more complex than the first big spreadsheet report three months ago, because now I’ve covered winter and spring weather up to the beggining of the hot-hot summer. It’s cumulative instead of capsule-ish (but the capsule is dead) and garments appropriate for milder weather are bound to have more wears in total. Yet it still is a clear reflection of the functionality of my wardrobe (and of babysteps towards #100wears). The astonishing part even for me is that in these six months I have worn it all at least once! Boom. The ~40 garment wardrobe (~50 including shoes) works and might be the optimal one!

So here you have the wardrobe heroes by categories in 2018 so far with the number of wears in parenthesis:

Layers

Most worn: Julie’s cardigan (45).

Runner-ups: The red flea sweater (41) and my mom’s Zara hand-me-down trench (39).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The floral courduroy bolero (2) – it’s fancy and in Rīga, works very well (although takes it slightly over the top) with the HnM sweetheart dress, but not casual enough for every day even by my very lax standards.

Dresses

Most worn: The second-hand kaftan (16).

Runner-ups: My mom’s dark blue silk dress (15) and my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (15).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The HnM sweetheart dress (3) – again, it’s a party garment and lives in Rīga so that I would have a mainstay for all family celebrations and opera. Feels like a bit of a waste but I’ve had it since 2008, so it has to be somewhere in vicinity of those #30wears. Also, this February I finally found a nice way to dress it down a bit, this.

Tops

Most worn: The demon t-shirt still wins (40). This is weird, because I don’t have a feeling that I’ve worn it that much. Here, a proof that my memory and perception of frequency of wear cannot be trusted!

Runner-ups: The swap Forever 21 t-shirt (26) and my mom’s lace undershirt (23).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The WAG top (5) – Throughout these months I still hadn’t finished the beige skirt, so the only combination was with the set skirt which is (I finally have to admit it) very uncomfortable. Here, finally I have a combination issue! I have a top that can be worn only with (now) two bottoms which themselves are not that easy to wear, and that clearly doesn’t help to boost their wears. Ugh. At the end I should probably admit that the African set was a rather stupid impulse buy…

Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (42), still.

Runner-ups: Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (32) and Amoralle leggings (30).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Blanco paisley pants (1) – they live in Rīga and mostly serve as lounge wear decent enough to also head out in them. I had them in Barcelona last summer and didn’t enjoy them that much either. If I’d be spending any summer time in Rīga this year, they’d probably get their wears, but that’s not happening, not in 2018.

Footwear

Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (78) still, obviously.

Runner-ups: Veja Wata (43) and Veja Arcade (41).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Nokian Hai wellingtons (1) – they live in Rīga and are rainboots. I keep wondering if bringing them to Barcelona could be a good idea…

Adornments

Most worn: Jēkabs necklace (24). It had been in my heirlom stash for years and I decided to give it a spin. Turns out I really like it!

Runner-ups: The red wooden necklace (18) and the bird and flower headband (12).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The flower ball headband (6) – I rescued it from the Rīga wardrobe and we had a great time together in London, but then in Barcelona I find it hard to wear. And the bicycle-headband incompatibility (the wind!) doesn’t help.

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Have has your wardrobe fared in these first six months of 2018? Do you think you have worn all that you have? Have you tried any kind of wardrobe tracking? Are you anywhere close the optimal wardrobe?

#whatiwore 2018w27 + Sunday links

A random update: I’m still working on incorporating the #memade beige skirt into my everyday life. So far I’m accepting that it crumples *a lot* and that the hem will soon need a dye job to cover the bike oil stains. Yeah, I know, my wish not to save garments for special occasions take through a lot and only the true heroes persist, like so:


And even in 30ºC heat, the little gray cells need to be fed:

Just a reminder on why you don’t want to partake in the fast fashion July sales: Low Wages, Violence Against Women Continues in Indian Garment Factories.

A few long reads on revolutionary attempts? I’ve Jacobin mag‘s got you covered: Ralph Miliband’s 1990 essay on Counter-Hegemonic Struggles; How Beautiful It Was on May’68; and just to inspire to think out of the box – There’s More Than One Way to Strike the Boss.

And this: A Woman’s Work: Home Economics* (*I Took Woodworking Instead) – Carolita Johnson tallies the costs and benefits of love and cohabitation as a woman artist living in a patriarchy.

What I was writing about a year ago: How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 first half money talk.

Another old post you might enjoy: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough.

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Have you had an experience of making or acquiring something beautiful and then struggling into making it work in your life exactly because it’s so special? What did you do? Did you accept that it will lose its luster and use it anyway or did you save it for special occasions?

2018 first half money talk, or how expensive an ethical wardrobe is?

Money is the typical contention point of ethical fashion, because price is, of course, fast fashion’s forte. And once we have accepted that 5€ t-shirts are possible, how do you convince people that it has to be 30 at least? The fact that most online pushers of sustainable fashion either make it, distribute it or receive it for free to review it plug it in doesn’t help either.

So to be the change you want to be in the world tell where at least my money goes while following my list of priorities in wardrobe detoxing, here you have the first half of 2017 and the second half, and this post is about last six months, January to June 2018. You have a full list above and more details below, from most euros spent to least.

Learning to sew ≈ the beige skirt: 214.20 €.

This is a bit contentious, yes, as I could say that all money spent on me learning to sew is an investment in valuable skills but the spreadsheet doesn’t lie. Making this one skirt took me a lot of time, money and frustration, and although I didn’t even buy the main material – it was a give-away from Julie’s stash – turning that piece of lyocell a skirt cost me more than 200 €.

Although this might not have been the most rational way to spend my money as I could have found something good enough to serve as an alternative bottom for the WAG top in one of the swaps (0 €) or by exploring all local second hand shops (certainly less than 200 €), I have learnt things on the way.

(1) Sewing is hard. Even when done by professionals and on an industrial assembly line, every stitch is a conscious effort. That brings us back to the ultra-cheap garments and asking how is that possible as the skill involved is not trivial…

(2) I lack precision. It is true that I had picked a tricky fabric to work with but even so, precision is a non-cognitive skill I have to work on.

(3) There are many ways how learning to sew can be a slippery slope towards a more abundant wardrobes and more clutter at home. I’ve already started accumulating projects for unclear future, having fantasies about fixing suboptimal garments instead of letting go of them and desire to buy notions that I might need eventually. Self-control, being in touch with reality, and focusing on upcycling/fixing/working with our own deadstocks instead of purchasing new.

Verdict: Not efficient but I’m learning a new skill.

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Veja Wata Pierre: 74.95 €.

I’ve already complained about my footwear problem: I found the optimal model and then Veja stopped producing it. So Wata is a rather meh replacement. I had to get rid of both pairs of Taua I had because they looked to sad, so a replacement was warranted but didn’t really make me happy: too big, too much rubber, took longer to break in. I will shred through them, of course – they’ve got 51 wears already and they arrived in May –  but the amount of joy is not the same. It is possible, though, that I will get another pair when these ones dies, Veja is the best option I have found.

Verdict: Needed, not 100% happy.

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Taller Mil•límetre silver earrings: 60 €.

My splurging-loving side and my reasonable side made a deal that – after all the investment I made in the beige skirt – I wouldn’t buy a new outfit but could get a pair of dark massive earrings to pull it together. Worked out very well for that night and I’m happy to have found that workshop (a great place for Barcelona-made jewellery, a shop run and stocked by three talentd girls), but I just don’t wear earrings so much anymore, so we’ll see. Maybe return to earring will be my autumn project, because these babies need their #100wears too.

Verdict: A whim I now have to wear again, again and again.

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Lauma Tuxedo bra x 2: 49.90 €.

Lauma is a legend in Latvian social imagination supporting Latvian women’s breasts since 1971, and, after finding one model I’m happy with (and they call it their ‘classic’ line so I hope it will be available forever), I’ve just decided to get a couple of those every year and be done with it. The model is Tuxedo (but of course!) in black and these are the only two dress bras I have + a sports bra. From now on this will be my New Year’s ritual in Rīga: buying two new of these in early January, sending to textile trash the previous two, and not thinking about bras until next January. They have no additional credentials in sustainability, but I’ve decided that it’s OK for me now.

Verdict: Needed. Satisfied. Will go back for more.

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Toni Pons Montgri: 29.95 €.

I finally bought the classic – Julio Iglesias – espadrille in ecru for my KonMari consulting work. I needed something unassuming, clean-looking and practical enough. They are sturdy looking, made in Spain and sworn to be vegan (there’s a little leather-looking tag at the back, but I’ll assume it’s plastic if they say so). I wear them only for KonMari sessions in order to keep them clean, so the #100wears desire has a whole different level of aspiration attached to this pair.

Verdict: I think I found the exactly the right thing for the intended use. Score. And I was espadrille-curious for a long time.

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Repairing the Muroexe boots: 7.50 €.

The little plastic Muroexe boots with the most dangerous sole needed a fix. I’m still ambivalent about these boots, so fixing them was a passive-agressive act of standing by my early 2017 decision of getting them. Yes, they are vegan and made in Spain which is not the case for all of their designs, but they have ended up being smelly (it is a closed plastic boot and my feet smell in those conditions even if I wear them only during my commute) and, what is even more perversely interesting, talk about creators inability to understand winter. These have 0 grip making them inappropriate for wet weather and prone to have you rolling down the stairs (that happened to me in December and I’ll have a grudge forever). And coming apart after 30 or so wears just added insult to injury. Of course, the local cobbler was happy to pour glue at them, and I’m resisting all those design flaws! Until something clearly better comes around, I’m sticking with these. I live in Barcelona, after all, I don’t really need winter boots anyway.

Verdict: Résistance! But of course.

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The spreadsheet says that only 30% of my wardrobe spending in last six months has been strictly necessary, while another 49% had the added benefit of learning a long-desired skill. The only true whim was the earrings, but I’ll work on giving them many more wears and I’m consoled by having supported local girl artists.

What have been your wardrobe investments in last half a year? Do you have a fashion budget or do you move in intuitive ways? Which fashion spending is yours: the truly rational based in need, the capricious stemming from ‘oh so beautiful’ or the one looking for added value (what else apart from the garment do you get, who made it, who benefited)? Have you ever found yourself making the added value excuses of ‘I didn’t really need this but at least it from the little local shop / responsibly made’?

#whatiwore 2018w26 + Sunday links

Here, memento mori:

What strike me most when learning about Kate Spade? On the positive note, the ‘just go and do (although you have very limited knowledge about the job)’ message. On the other, I didn’t know that it’s possible to give up the rights not only to all your intellectual property but also to your own name. Scary shit. For a context: 10 Minutes with Kate Spade, the Person; Kate and Andy Spade on NPR’s How I Built This; American Fashion Designer Kate Spade Dead at 55; Kate Spade’s Legacy Was Bringing Color and Quirk to Fashion + The Fashion Industry is Exclusive, Should We Expect its Coverage to Be Any Different? + Kering is Shuttering Tomas Maier’s Brand But His Trademark Lives On (And That’s Important).

After my take on body positivity, here you have two other bits: Body Positivity Is a Scam and Active ways to cultivate positive body image.

And bits about coherence in fashion (thanks to The Fashion Law ♥): When Is It Okay for Brands to Get Political? Ask Noah and Paris Fashion Week’s Front Rows Speak to Fashion’s Complicated Stance on #MeToo.

What I was writing about a year ago: #30wears and 18 months of counting.

Another old post you might enjoy: Get to know your fibers (and stop cutting the tags).

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As you can see, my outfits vary less in summer. I guess that’s because of lack of layering pieces. Have you had any adventures with outfit repetition, like having to explain it anybody that it’s OK? Do you think that people actually notice outfit repetition?

#whatiwore 2018w25 + Sunday links

Feed the brain (and keep it hydrated, too):

After the glitter shit, want another new environmental worry? Great, I give you *light*. Can Reducing Light Pollution Help Pollinators?

When recycling is a (low-key) crime, and how inefficient the donation system is unless stuff is sent abroad – Here’s What Really Happens to Your Used Clothes: How what you donate in the United States gets smuggled into Mexico.

And from a person trying to – still! – figure out what I think about the Academia, here you have some William Deresiewicz: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education and Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.

One of my head explosion moment regarding garment manufacturing was that there is no garment-with-seams machines – I can’t find the link now, sorry – in a sense that it all (except the seamless knitted pieces) needs human expertise and touch to properly construct garments. Well, 3D printing is changing some of that: Robots Are Making Gucci’s $650 Sneakers, Balenciaga’s Runway Jackets.

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What do you think, what will be the next true revolution in fashion technology? Large scale 3D printing? Mass composting? Or just a coat of durable finishing à la Ghost in the Shell? My favorite 20th century ones are first nylon stockings being so durable Dupont had to rethink the whole thing to sell more than a pair per person (i.e. redesigned priming sheerness over strength) and the t-shirt – an undergarment! – becoming socially accepted as an ‘essential’.

Body positivity, the average user’s guide

This is a story about a never-ending road towards body positivity (including fat positivity but not only that) in a world where we are all damaged goods when it comes to our own bodies, a brainwashed civilization unable to appreciate everything our bodies do for us. I’ll do my best not to relive my traumas again in this post, I’m still busy healing them. Throughout this post I’m talking about a very mild case of body dismorphia and societal pressures felt while inhabiting still a very – in the statistical sense – ‘normal’ body, I am aware that life at other configurations of body shape, color, ability, sexual identity among other traits are very different, and I eagerly read when other people share their body stories but they are not mine to re-imagine and retell. Here I will try to capture what has let me be so much more happy with my body now than in any other moment since I gained aesthetic consciousness of it at around 8 or so.

Odessa 1995, I was the bubba on the left just having a really good time and pretty oblivious to bodies.

And even more absurd is the fact that, despite not having any experience of being properly fat, I have so much trauma around this shit. I have experienced very little direct body shaming, but I did the rest of the job myself with a little help from the popculture, thank you very much. I was prone to adolescent idiocy moments like observing that ‘my tights wobble in shorts’ and then taking around 15 years to wear short again, Barcelona summer made me. But now adolescence is over, and either (a) at least in my circles, Spaniards are less judgemental than Latvians, (b) my social circles are better selected now than 15 years ago, or (c) I’m getting immune to this crap. So I’m ready to impart advice:

1. Become an engineer, see function!

You might have been looking for the wrong shapes all along. Somebody told us that small, tall, young and willowy was where it’s at and here we are. But think about evolution! Think about primates! Think about what bodies are for! Your genes are probably a couple of hundreds (if not thousands) years off in their expression, but they are doing what they can. Try to see your body in connection with your ancestors, that’s the inheritance, the family trunk full of treasures that made sense way back. I’ve had to admit that my body is not made for gender bending, androgynous play and being willowy. It’s the opposite, just what my fertile peasant grand-grandmothers needed to live, work, and, yes, marry well and survive all those pregnancies. Wide back and shoulders to carry water from the well, firewood from the forest, and potatoes from the field. Strong tights and calves to keep walking all day long from one farm errand to another. Wide feet to keep my bare feet grounded in places that even now don’t have asphalt. A round belly to grow babies in and downward looking breasts to feed them. Such waste to have it all on me, from an evolutionary point of view, as the use is pretty limited, but that’s my trunk. Here, my best selfie ever (2016):

2. Become a historian, do your research!

Women’s bodies also have fashions, get to know those. The click-bait places are full of ‘the ideal woman through ages’ videos and there is an abundance of more serious materials too. For an extra level, try to explain the trends, i.e. fat when most people were starving, pale skin when only the leisurely classes didn’t spend the day outside followed by appreciation of tan when people started to spend most of their time in factories and offices, or the abundant meatiness of the 1950’s sex symbols following the Great Depression and WWII. And these trends move fast: I’ve seen supermodels, heroin chic, and Kardashian butt being all the rage since I am alive and that hasn’t been so many years. Assume that this – as bell-bottoms, platform shoes or millennial pink – will also pass. Maybe Rubens will have a revival and cellulite will be the next big thing! A girl can dream.

Although taking into account that only the scarce commodity can be truly valued, I’d suggest not giving a fuck as a more sustainable and reality-based alternative in comparison for waiting for the cellulite trend.

3. Become an art historian, de-earth women who chose to become icons instead of becoming pretty!

There are stories of rebellion and ‘fuck pretty’ for all tastes, including those that wanted to be part of the game and learnt that extravagant also works (hello, Diana Vreeland) and those that knew that she needed more than being recognized for her looks (hello, young Georgia O’Keeffe), because striking stays when the youthful beauty is gone. Frida Kahlo is a bit overused for coasters and pins by now, but always a good place to start. You have Wikipedia for days: Nina Simone, Iris Apfel, Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth I, etc. etc. And for some gore and to remember that for a long time religion was the only reasonable alternative to the three Ks of domesticity, you have the stories of Joan of Arc, Agatha of Sicily, Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Ávila (those two actually succeeded at the whole thing) to begin with. And I’m sure you have a handful of local examples to add to this list, let me know in the comments!

4. Become a fly on the wall. Observe!

Relax! Look at real people instead of billboards. A ride in public transit, especially in a day of ‘wear shorts or die’ will do much more for your body confidence than a fashion magazine. The same goes for a day at the beach or gym showers. And I don’t mean it in a ‘you are so much better than’ way. Nope, it’s just bodies going places, and cellulite or upper arm flap is completely irrelevant Try to practice observing bodies without judging them: the shapes, the sizes, the little things nobody has had time for. Among strangers or friends, I love to notice half-shaven legs, undone nail polish, blood stains that never came out, droopy shoulders, early wrinkles, and all the rolls, rolls, rolls. As The Killers asked ten years ago, ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’

5. Use your body! Preferably, naked.

There is a great piece about this point exactly in Caitlin Moran‘s new book ‘How to be Famous’ (see the quote above). It almost boils down to the old cliché of nobody having a low self esteem at the moment of orgasm, but in a classier and more ample way. If you are truly present while using your body – in sports, traffic, crafts, dancing, sex – you are not likely to be thinking about it. Again, function trumps aesthetic, or at least we seem to lack bandwidth to process both at the same time. If you treat your body as tool for self expression (and life in general), the criteria are very different than if the body is an aesthetic commodity. In this sedentary world moving the body might require an effort, but only in movement it shows its magic.

The note about nakedness is not random, though. As most bodies we see are printed or digital, they are far removed from actual bodily experiences – they are plastic or cardboard, heavily airbrushed and sanitized. They don’t sweat, bleed or have random hairs sprouting out of unsuspected places. So hanging around – at least – with your own naked body creates counter-images of living, breathing, warm bodies being the norm. We have to hack our brain back to recognizing the true us as the baseline, not some painted lady on the billboard.

Oh, and – when taking a break among all that movement – take all the selfies in the world! I’d say that the greatest benefit of digital photography has been giving the tools of instant and infinite self-portrait to the people. Selfies have helped us all to discover that, while some are more photogenic than others, the great majority of us have a couple of great angles in the right light, and that great part of the airbrushed commercial photos we see around are due to – after make-up, styling and before photoshopping – about taking enough pictures until some came out nice. Of course it’s narcissistic, but in a world which puts us down for not being pretty enough while bombarding us with images of supposed perfection of others, knowing that the magic of one stunning photo is usually having taken 200 of them is power. I cling to the idea that my first digital camera did almost as much for me as my first pop feminist books did. If I was able to make ‘pretty’ out of myself, I didn’t rely on anybody else to do it. Ha, and be careful about putting naked pictures on the internets. Here, have some of mine instead (Berlin 2008):

6. Experiment with the limits of patriarchy in beauty.

Play a little truth or dare with yourself and body/beauty standards. First of all, there is already probably a bunch of supposedly ‘essential’ beauty routines you are not doing. How do I know? Because there are so many of them that nobody could possibly have time for them all! Make a list of every Cosmopolitan advice you are not following: painting the toenails? daily face/body/hair masks? curling your eyelashes? waxing your forearms? permanent make-up? permanent hair removal? hair transplants? magical pills for better skin? hockey mask with pink lights for acne treatment (that exists, btw)? If you do any of these or any else, that’s fine. My point is that the options and their combinations greatly exceeds our numbers.

So keeping in mind that there is no universal beauty list beyond the very basics of some soap and maybe cleaning under your nails, you get to decide and shake it up a bit. My minimalist-bias go towards reducing instead of adding, so I suggest looking at your routines and asking ‘do I enjoy this?’, ‘what does it do for me?’ and ‘why am I doing this?’. Allow for trial and error, it’s an experiment.

My personal recent ‘transgressions’ include: the above-mentioned short wearing (yay); trying to stop using a lip balm (nay, doesn’t work for me); replacing facial cream with almond oil (yay); and giving up yoga classes because those didn’t spark joy anymore – I was more attached to wanting to be the person who does yoga than actually enjoying the practice.

Older and established choices include: wearing my nails short and unpainted; wearing only flat shoes; not wearing trousers; getting a haircut only once a year; doing a diy hair dye with henna once a month; having a wax every seven weeks; not wearing make-up… Each of these was a process of ‘let me see how can I twist this’. For example, I tried not removing body hair at all just to realize that I am not comfortable living like that, unfortunately. So a compromise I’ve devised is to allow for a lot of time between waxes so that I actually get to live with some hair before they are stripped off again. While politically I would be on the side of ‘if it gets too bushy, you can trim’, I played with the external standards to find out where my current limits are. Remember that all that shit is arbitrary and relax! The same goes for experimental dressing and letting go of ‘no horizontal stripes’ type of prejudice – check and re-check that your limits are truly yours. And have fun with glitter and curling iron meanwhile!

7. Practice compassion for those in the first line of combat.

Some people’s value – measured in income – actually depend on their looks. People get dragged through the yellow press, shamed, and contractually obliged to lose or gain weight, hair, tan, etc. Imagine the exhaustion! Having come of age when Britney Spears was a thing and then not again when she couldn’t maintain the appearances, having read about Amanda Palmer switching to crowd funding and self editing because of record label considering her fat, Pink being dragged through media because of the same shit, Jennifer Lawrence being a ‘fat actress’ for the contemporary Hollywood, you know what? Thank goodness my life is not like that.

No wonder there is a great demand for celebrity ‘stolen’ swimsuit photos – we all crave a confirmation that they are ‘wrong’ too. The chastising ‘how dares she not to be airbrushed!’ remarks and evil indulgence in those photos is the only passive aggressive ‘revenge’ that people have when reminded that we are being tricked all along. Obviously, that doesn’t change anything for anybody: the celebrities keep being tightly controlled by the masses willing to believe in their perfection and that 10 sit-ups a day will give the same for everybody who persists.

And when you think that people talking up about this stuff is celebrities doing alright, remember all those that just have to swallow the insults while doing the jobs where one *has* to be pretty, feminine, helpful, and not threatening: flight attendants, secretaries, waitresses… Or those arts/sports where eating disorders and communal hard-core body policing seems to come with the discipline. Yuck!

8. Carefully select food for your brain.

This one consists of two parts, one being media and other the everyday interactions. Fill your feeds with truly fat people. Knowing is not enough, our brains need to see things again and again to file them under ‘typical’, and, taking into account how many idealized and airbrushed bodies you have seen by now (because all the corporate dollars have been channeled into making sure you see all those), we need *a lot* of other pictures to counteract that. Depending on the stage of healing you are at, side effects might include: (a) de-stigmatizing the word ‘fat’ and reminding you that it is just a noun or adjective, not a crushing insult unless we make it so, (b) realizing that the fantasy world of ‘I’ll get thin / get a boob job / nose job / six pack and then I’ll be…’ doesn’t work that way, except for very few cases, (c) discovering the variety contained by the plus size and body positivity universe, especially the tensions around body shapes of most plus size models and plus size fashion representing mostly a slightly overweight, tall, long-legged, hourglass figure, (d) confirm that confidence and believing it is the key to sexiness (and all other -nesses, too), if that’s what you are going for. And try to cut out the toxic crap: hours on tumblr will do you much good while beauty pageants, talk shows that body-police, mainstream series, TV advertisement, and women’s magazines will put new images we are already sick of in your head.

9. Help liberate others’ brain (at least don’t add crap to it).

OK, so once you have have your power place built up on the internets (I have a tumblr partially dedicated to this and a Pinterest board to go back to when the day is dark) and your brain is high on #fatgirlsdoingthings, now your job as the secret avenger of the body shamers begin. All that toxic talk, all that damage we inflict on ourselves and others. It takes so little, only a subtle eye roll or a nuance in tone in ‘oh, that’s what you are wearing?!’ It is about control, fitting in, guilt, and equaling fat with a character flaw, and making sure everybody knows they are not photoshop perfect. Self-depreciation is the norm, kind of pre-emptive strike at ourselves.

I’ve adopted a strategy to be very blasé when anybody tries to discuss my body, especially when people do the ‘oh, you so thin today!’ bullshit. I won’t allow anybody to police my fat or feet or anything else I’m happily doing – faking incomprehension is my favorite way of challenging that, makes assholes name *their* issues – or try to buy me over with sweet talk. Even when people clearly mean the best, I try to softly switch those remarks towards them, because commenting on others people’s bodies without a good reason (a medical emergency, for example) is never about other people. It hurts me profoundly to think about all the direct attacks people get if they are… well, not even, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés would put it, in the wrong nest, just in a normal family where body policing is what people do, mostly among females and mostly with the best intentions of wishing acceptance and desirability upon their daughters and granddaughters, transferring the survival strategies they have learnt.

And from that follows the self-depreciation stuff you’ll have to deal with, especially as the above-mentioned ‘compliments’ tend to have the following structure of ‘Oh, you so x, me so not x’ that tries to trick you into responding with at least ‘Of course you’re x, we are all amazing here!’ and preferably, as body-confidence is frowned upon, one-upping into a self-hating tirade along the lines of ‘Naah, me the fattest ugliest troll ever, you the pretty princess’. And that spiral can go on – and downwards! – for years… I tend to respond with something between ‘babe, quit the bullshit’ and ‘stop talking shit about my friends, be nice to your body, after all the hard work it does for you’. Try to figure out if the person is just engaging in a familiar ritual, a game you just don’t want to play anymore, or is this an occasion to sit down and truly talk about it. You will meet plenty of people who are deaf to such conversation, so accept that your capacity to change them stops at making it clear that you are out of the body shaming game, planting the little seed of doubt, and reassuring that you will be there if they ever want to talk about it.

And for people raising little people, may the force be with you, because, despite all your body positivity work, feminist pedagogy, and unconditional love, they are bound to bring home all the toxic crap, and it will be your job to hold their hand and explain what patriarchy and unattainable beauty standards are about. This stuff is powerful with thousands of years of history and all the current big money behind, so, please join the resistance! We really need you.

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Obviously, there are better days and ones when the fat demons come back, but at least now we have an argument instead of a dismissive monologue. I have my safe places: that Pinterest board, the swimming pool, an intimate lube, and just plain spite of ‘nope, I refuse to be ordered around by stupid ideas, I have a great and functional body and I shall cherish it’.

How do you fight against the shame monsters, be they human or ghosts in your head? Do you have key songs, playlists, movies, books, fridge magnets with inspirational quotes? What do you tell yourself to get over the body shaming moments? And what do you say to others trying to do that to you?

#whatiwore 2018w24 + Sunday links

And brain food for all:

If you are not a worshiper of Kate Fletcher, here you have a brief taste of her take on sustainability in fashion – Usership: Fashion Beyond Consumerism + this beautiful urban intervention, a Haberdashemergency.

The sticky stuff around wish to eat healthy and an eating disorder easily endorsed by others: The Problem With ‘Clean Eating’ In Eating Disorder Recovery, Disordered Eating and Consumption in the Intentional Living Movement, and Clean is for Underwear, not Food.

And how (post)colonialism slows down fashion emerging off the official fashion capitals: Bridging the Gap Between Africa’s Burgeoning Fashion Brands and the Global Market.

And on links between race, school furbishing, and academic achievement: Staying Cool as Social Policy.

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What interesting things have you read this week? New and unexpected unintended consequences stuff I should know about?

Train travel long distance in Europe

If you have read this blog at least since March (1, 2, 3) or talked to me lately about traveling, you will know that in April I planned to do some some international train travel which I had to cancel due to French rail worker strike. However, in the beginning of June I did an even more ambitious route than the initially planned Barcelona-Paris -London-Paris-Barcelona. Ha! I did Barcelona-Lyon-Brussels-London-Paris-Barcelona instead.

This wasn’t my first time crossing borders in a train, though. I started at 7 doing Rīga-Odessa-Kiev-Rīga with my mom in a slow train where she convinced that trains were the best places to sleep, provided that we are talking coaches with compartments shared among 4 or less persons, having your own little shelf with a proper bedding and when the train is not a high speed one. It was 1995 and former Soviet Union, so seeing the tracks when going to bathroom was normal. As an adult I’ve done the very short Brussels-Rotterdam-Brussels, Brussels-London-Brussels, Brussels-Paris-Brussels trips and the overnight Moscow-Rīga (17h) we did for fun in 2012.
I’ve also crossed Spain and Poland by train but that was not complicated either, except that time I got confused when part of the train bound for Bilbao was left in Valladolid. They do the same in Paris-Montpellier-Barcelona train: half of it stays in Montpellier, so you want to be in the right coach when that happens.

This is what overnight travel Moscow-Rīga looks like in a 2-berth compartment. Very cutesy and sentimental! By the way, this slow but tranquil option but in a more luxurious compartments is known to be the favorite way to travel by some Russian celebrities with links to Rīga; makes sense: you get a no hassle and almost no disturbances travel packed together with a trip down the memory lane. The border guards that wake you up to look at you passport in the middle of the night not pictured:

Horrified by my last year’s 23 flights and 17 of the year before, and knowing that some options exist, I did my best and below you have a long list of the pros and cons of long distance train travel according to me. These are, obviously, restricted by external factors such as distances and your closeness to a railway hub. For example, I’m not planing to go to Latvia by train anytime soon, as around 1500km of train travel per day seems to be my limit with current speeds, it’s twice that to Rīga, and several day train trips with multiple uncoordinated layovers is not in my wish list (something like Barcelona-Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Warsaw-Vilnius-Rīga). The other is personal preferences, those, well, to each her own!

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(My) reasons to take train long distance:

Significantly lower CO2 emissions.

Time *seems* better spent as you are in movement for a bigger proportion of the journey. Because the airport waiting times are just soul crushing…

Though vistas still fly by, at ~300 km/h of high speed railway you appreciate distances better than at the ~1000 km/h of the commercial planes. In my book that’s a good thing – distance is not a trivial thing and being mindful about it is a nice added value. For example, now my knowledge that Paris-London distance is less than half of Paris-Barcelona is a very real experience. And, yes, I am aware that in both cases those mentioned are top speeds and that the reality is often lower, especially for the high speed railway lines with many stops.

As Eurostar advertised in its beginnings, train normally takes you to actual places that have the same name as your destination. Even more, as railway is much older, most of the big stations are pretty central. No disrespect to people living in Prat, Charleroi, Nyköping or Luton, but these are not the places I was going to.

While we are now used to airlines policing our bodies and stuff (remember, the 100ml restriction has been there since 2006, not forever), the trains are a much freer world. Depending on a station and type of train, there might be a bag scan, but that’s it. Nobody controls how much stuff you are carrying and if any of that is liquid.

The most heart-breaking example of what the liquid restrictions have to done to us was at the Eurostar check-in in Brussels Midi. There are recycling bins before security and passport control there, and there was a bunch of half-full drink bottles, water and soft drinks. I already got scared that for some reason Eurostar has adopted the airline liquid rules, and asked the security staff. Clearly enjoying themselves, they explained that people just did that without being asked. Sad.

So bring your own water, and, if you are willing to suspend your water taste criteria in favor of reducing all the stupid bottled water waste, get a filter bottle and drink some bathroom water. Mine is a Bobble, I’ve had it for five months without changing the filter yet because I only use it for travel as we have a nic etasting water fountain in the office. I have to admit that the filter bottle is not as comfy to use as any normal vessel as you actually have to push the water through the filter and – as all normal plastic bottles – it’s not insulated, so you are bound to drink your water the same temperature as the ambient. I have made my mind though: I am easily disgusted by the common public water (chlorine!), so I prefer to push mine through a filter, even if it’s warm. In any case, hydration is important, please take care of yourself even if that means purchasing overpriced plastic bottles of water!

And bringing your own food is normal and expected, and snacking is great! Bring sandwiches, sturdy salads (read about how pros do it here) and fruit, snacks, it all helps. My basics are granny smith apples, cherry tomatoes, carrots, pistachios, dark chocolate and then whatever else that seems like a good idea. On the other hand, there is such thing as a ‘restaurant-vagon’ or at least a bar section in all trains (significantly cooler in older and slower trains, of course). Moving around freely is OK when in train, serendipitous encounters might happen, and it’s a way of escaping your seat-mate if need be.

On the other end of hydrating and travel nutrition we have the bathroom issue. Just to keep it short: have paper tissues just in case, liquid hand sanitizer (regardless of what you think about harsh chemicals, I think that they are very good idea for travel, including dealing with toilet seats) and small change for those places (French train stations!) that think that taking money for access to bathroom is a good thing.

Space! There is significantly more leg space! For real. And only two seats together, so you will need to climb over a maximum of one person (those who have been stuck in the 6-seat mid-row on a trans-continental flight and then in a lap of a complete stranger mid-way through your gymnastics towards toilet know what I mean). Also, if traveling in a small group, you can get the 4-seat 2-facing-2 table to have some quality time of conversations, meals, and games. For example, Spanish railway actually give you cheaper tickets if you book the whole 4-seats because few people want to share those with strangers.

And plugs. There are plugs. The number depends on a train model (one per every two seats in most trains I took), but still much better than none. So non-online computer work is a real option from the moment you get into your seat until the moment the train stops in your station. None of the ‘all big electronics have to be safely stored in the overhead lockers’. And the unified EU no-roaming-fees zone will take care of your data needs, although access to those fluctuated across my itinerary.

Less crowded. I see two reasons for it. First, not all of these are full. For example, my Barcelona-Lyon coach was pretty sparsely populated. Second, even when full, there are just fewer people in one coach and that gives breathing space. Yes, a train is a chain of coaches, I know, but the feeling is different sharing a closed space with 2 seats by 2 sides by 11 to 15 rows = [44; 60] than by 3 x 2 x 30 (or a bit more) ~ 180 on commercial median distance flights. My Paris-Barcelona train was a double-decker, having 88 or so passengers per coach but divided in two spaces.

(My) obstacles to take train long distance:

It is more expensive. The only exceptions might be the very short ones like the Belgium-Netherlands ones. All those I took this time were more expensive than low-fare flying. Like twice as expensive.

In many cases, it takes more time. The Brussels-London (2h) and Paris-London (2’15h) seem to be among the exceptions, and so are the trains connecting Belgium and the Netherlands. But if you are covering longer distances or using slower trains, it will take significantly more time. So, apart from the few faster-than-flying itineraries, this is not an option for people in hurry. As the pink letters in London-St. Pancras claim, trains want their time with us:

Failure could be much harder to fix and more time-consuming. Especially because the connections are not formal, so nobody will reseat you in the next train if you just missed yours because of a delay or give you a hotel if you have to spend the night. Again, the probability of such desperate moments depends on your itinerary, and my feeling is that it’s mostly linked to industrial actions instead of tech failure. So do your research and err on a safe side, especially if people with reasonable power for industrial action are planning to strike (hi, France!).

The infrastructure and habitual uses are less homogeneous, hence more stressful for the traveller. The differences among airports are smaller than among train stations. Timing cultures, security checks, infrastructures vary a lot. And language is not English necessarily. There is much less baby sitting than in air travel: nobody will call your name throughout the station and, depending on the station, check if you are getting on the correct train! And you can lose your stop if you are not paying attention or sleeping. Connections are not formal, so you are the one responsible of being informed and alert.

Depending on train model and itinerary, and booking algorithms, you might end up being seated backwards. I was sitting like that on my Lyon-Brussels train and found it only mildly unpleasant, but I know that there are people who get truly sick with stuff like this and in a full train with all seats booked your only option would be an informal seat change with a flexible-enough stranger. Please, nobody talk about this to Ryanair, they could implement random – cheaper! – sitting backwards seats just to fuck with us.

Also, not necessarily pretty. You’ll be seeing this a lot:

You have to be able to deal with your luggage on your own. This is very important! While nobody cares how big your carry-on is the whole point is that it is an actual ‘carry-on’: you will have to move it on and off train, climb steps and put it in the luggage shelves, either together with others in one spot in the coach or on the shelf above your head. I had a typical size carry-on and a cross-body with my essentials, and even this way it was annoying at times to do all the steps and gymnastics. It is true that people with big bags looking helpless get assistance from staff or kind strangers, but that’s not something I would like to rely on, especially in French stations where in both cases – in Lyon and Paris-Lyon – the track was announced less than 10 minutes before departure resulting in mass hysteria and stampede. So follow my grandpa’s advice and always be able to comfortably carry your own stuff!

As you can imagine, my strategy was to plan for outfit repetition and carry very little. Most of the little cross-body was taken by my two cases for glasses, so my clothing and conference shoes, notebooks, books, laptop, grooming pouch, food and water bottle had to go into the carry-on. Apart from what I was wearing for travel (kaftan, sports bra, sneakers, cardigan + ‘just in case AC’ leggings), I took two dresses, a bra, a pair of formal shoes, extra underwear and socks. You can see all the outfits here and here. And this is my hotel wardrobe in Brussels, the things on shelves are drying after a sink-wash:

And more hand-wash drying in London. While I take extra pairs, I do not take enough to cover all days, so washing by hand is a routine. If my dad and Paul Krugman can do it, so can I! I heard Krugman telling about his book-tour sink hand-washing habits due to the ridiculous prices hotels charge for laundry on some youtube talk years ago and he’s been a role model since. My all-time favorite knickers both for comfort and the super-quick dry are Luva Huva Satin Frilly Knickers in black you see in this photo:

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Do you have any experiences with lower CO2 travel? What mode of transportation, where to and how did it go? Do any of the cons I mentioned that make it impossible to you: price, time, stress levels?

#whatiwore 2018w23 + Sunday links

Feed the gray cells, they deserve it:

The best thing on #MeToo and #NotAllMen I’ve read lately: The myth of the male bumbler.

Ever wanted to have another environmental issue to worry about? I give you… glitter! What’s The Problem With Glitter?

As North Korea is in the news, here you have a fashion link at least I had never thought about: What is Standing Between the West and “Made in North Korea” Clothing?, North Korea factories humming with ‘Made in China’ clothes, traders say and Your “made in China” clothes may actually have been made in North Korea.

And a bit of anthropologies and random links… First, I read a bit on quinceañera celebrations in Latinx communities: My Super Sweet 15. Then I went to look up the quinceañera Barbie, a commercialized twist of a symbolic tradition described in the Racked piece. And Mattel page sucked me into its magic up to discovering (a) that the 1985 Day-to-Night™ Barbie should be on the cover of my thesis and (b) that there is a Barbie fashion Instagram clearly aimed at my demographic. Creepy! And their attempts to brush off the toxic toy stigma by introducing the ‘fat’ Barbie and by always doubling down of how Mattel has always been feminist because of the ‘you can be anything’ discourse, although usually covering only the very feminized professions… So much material for research.

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I actually spent a lot of time on Mattel pages window shopping the special editions back at the dial internet days (~2000), so going down their rabbit hole felt very familiar. Do you have places like that on internet? And was has been your latest weird clicking chain of unsuspected degrees of separation?

Or the latest ethical consumption issue you hadn’t even heard about before? For me both glitter and North Korea – Made in China link were completely new. They kind of make sense if you start to think about it – like ‘oh, those are pieces of some foil, so probably petrol-derived hence microplastics’ and ‘oh, sure, they share border and actually trade’ – but had never come up until this week.