#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.

*

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.

Style mood board: me-me-me!

Let me set the stage for you! Many people browse others’ content to find fashion inspiration; that’s the whole premise of Pinterest, including mine. However, as I’ve been editing drastically reducing my digital photo archives, I’ve got an heretical idea: I’ll do a style mood board of my own materials, ideas I’d like to go back to instead of trying out what other people are doing. Yes, very self-involved but also reafirming and comforting!

I did run into the problem of disentangling the memories, the photo (light, colors, posture) and particular garments… but Pinteresting – and all fashion inspo in general – has the same issue. We evaluate the overall feel of a fashion editorial, not every garments on its own merits. And the notion of style is about combinations not pieces. It’s garments by other garments by adornments by activities by ‘audience’, etc. etc. And my ‘conclusions’ are also more about mood than garments.

In case you have a couple of hours to spare and want to do something similar, these were my steps:

1. I went through my old photos starting with the older ones and copied (copy, don’t move! whatever photo system you have, you want the originals to stay in their place) into a separate folder all those that spark fashion joy. Treat it like scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram and ‘like’ the ones that inspire you style-wise! I ended up with 50 or so photos from 2005 to 2011. I consciously chose not to deal with the most recent ones, that’s what the rest of this blog is for.

2. Then I tried to find commonalities between the photos and key words for the common themes. And the winners are:

Wavy hair

Artsy

Defiant

Cozy winters

3. The rest was just formatting the photos to the same sizes, making them into collages by key word and then trying to figure out the reasons for their salience…

Wavy hair

This one needs a background explanation, because it’s not a purely aesthetic choice, it’s a mystery and an ongoing tension! My natural hair color is ash blonde, but I’ve been dyeing it different shades of red since I was 11, first with synthetic dyes and then with henna since 17 or 18. The length has fluctuated between none (hah!) and half-back, mostly being around shoulders. The texture has fluctuated between straight and wavy but always very thin. I have a child’s nose and a child’s hair, yes.

My go-to hairstyle for the last few years has been a modified french braid from ear to ear followed by a normal braid that’s either just hanging or is pinned up to complete the circle. I came up with it when looking for an easy way to (a) keep hair away from neck, (b) not to gather the bulk of my hair at the nape as that is the last thing you want for inverted yoga postures, (c) do something more stable than the messy bun which in my case is a ridiculously small thing that keeps unraveling, (d) find a ‘do I can sleep with in Barcelona’s summer, (e) gracefully gather even dirty hair, (f) not to tire my scalp (f*ck ponytails!). An additional advantage is that it looks like I made and effort while actually I have it down to few minutes and then don’t have to think about it until the end of the day. Very practical and adult.

Yet when you look at the pictures that have moved my heart’s strings, I clearly long for my rebelious, uncommbed, wavy locks. I know that there are selection bias at play – those are the extra good hair days! And the causality is unclear as so many variables have changed since then: age, stress, food, water, air, shampoo, combing practices… so I wouldn’t even know how to go back to having such hair, yet I love the look:

Artsy and defiant (yes, those go together)

While I still dress quite differently than my peers and have done so since my early adolescence, I do have a feeling that I’m settling down… and it bothers me. So a great share of my inspo photos are capturing a more daring way of dressing.

There are lifestyle dictates, such as that pretty much everything has to be bicycle safe to be used on working days (this mostly restricts headpieces and skirt length). There are bodily whims such as my earlobes deciding that they will inflame with anyhting but pharmacy baby studs. And there are my more mature standards of comfort: no pinching waists, no tugging pants, no uncomfortable underwear, no chocking necklaces, and no street-sweeping hems.

But when I look back, of course it’s the ‘craziest’ outfits (and the occasional shaved eyebrow) that I appreciate the most and would like to go back to. It’s the feeling that I’m not pushing the fashion conformity enough, that I could do more to actively remind myself that clothing is means of expression and not to blend in (OK, you could, if need be) or to serve as an unpaid billboard (you really shouldn’t).

(I have a huge flower that few people would pick even for their wedding day on my head as I’m drafting this, though. So maybe I’m doing my mission alright on this London-Paris train surrounded by ultra-casual tourist wear and people in business suits. Also, there are enough garments that I did wear but wouldn’t want to go back to, my toy princess crown period in 2005 being just one of them.)

Curiously enough, my narrative is that pop feminism set me free. The message that I could do whatever made sense for me and that pleasing others was optional was a permission to experiment with dressing up to my heart’s content and not for anybody else. There were fails and occasional succumbing to (percieved) peer pressure (because at that age we are all so anxious about ourselves that other people barely enter our field of vision) but I felt like dressing true to myself most of the time.

I clearly have an underlying issue of having to stand out in a crowd, even if then I have to provide proof of not being as superficial and self-involved as it may seem. I now think that my loudest acting out coincided with my most normal dressing, but both could be just side-effects of being a teenager. Even though I abandoned the idea of becoming an artists at 15 – I might get back to it when I’m around 70 – dressing is one of the aspects of my life where I can be flaunting my (perceived and desired) creativity and extravagance. So far it has been a constant need and doesn’t seemt o be going anywhere.

Cozy (winters)

Climate conditions bodies. I am convinced that we learn to regulate temperatures according to the climate we grow up in, so… I miss proper winters! Salamanca still had enough cold for me (~ 5ºC on average between December and February), but Barcelona just doesn’t have any for my standards + it’s the stupid combination of cold at home and warm outside that drives me mad. The same way as Spaniards treat winter and cold weather as an annoying emergency, there is a part in me that loves it. The bundling up, the careful thinking through what layers to put on and in what order, and the smug satisfaction when managing to put together a good looking winter outfit that works both with your coat and without. I miss proper layering. I miss cold rosy cheeks. And I miss the collective milieu when being warm and cozy trumps everything else. (Barcelona has that in summer heat: all other standards of decency and formality get lowered to favour weather-appropriate clothing and sweat stains are not frowned upon.) I miss my big scarves and winter boots, all the cocooning. And, yes, insert a joke about Latvian summers and all of us having a winter coat, a spring coat, and a summer coat. It took me years to learn no to take a layer with me ‘in case it gets cold’. It doesn’t.

An additional coziness note about trousers: yes, I used to have and wear them a lot! Something switched, though, and I haven’t been serious about getting a pair since more than five years ago. Many of these photos made me think how I used to wear jeans and feel both comfy and cool. Maybe the desire to wear them will come back someday.

On a closing note, this exercise did remind me of three particular types of garments that I would like to get back to (September Swap, I’m looking at you!): (1) what I called my Mucha dresses – floral, dropped waist, bare shoulders, and short; (2) a dark turtleneck, could be with a subtle print or plain; (3) a jersey bodycon. These were the paragons of comfort and feeling awesome at the same time.

*

What would be the major fashion inspiration themes from your past? Has your style ben consistent or are you changing? Can you see yourself going back to wearing garments similar to those you had when teenager? Or did you never stopped wearing them?

#whatiwore 2018w22 + Sunday links

And now for the little gray cells:

On making one more country better for women and our reproductive rights, and celebrating the activism that lead to this change (also because I have had pleasure to meet Stephanie on several occasions): “It Was ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Type Stuff:” An Exclusive Conversation With Irish Abortion Rights Activist Stephanie Lord.

While clicking around Brit+Co (I know, a weird place to be clicking around, but Stephanie’s interview was there), I also found this: Two Neighbors: Israeli and Palestinian Women Create a Pathway to Peace Through Fashion. Obviously, small scale economical projects won’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it’s a cute story anyway, and a smart sales point, too.

Modest fashion keeps coming up in my feeds, so How the Hijab Has Grown into a Fashion Industry of its Own.

And to remind you why cotton is not among the best fiber crops when it comes to the current industrial practices, here is one reason: Your Cotton T-Shirts Are Likely Linked to Forced Labor.

As I’m finishing my PhD thesis, this a reminder for my current self: Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

*

What are your current reminder to self? Any go-to resources for restoring the inner balance you would like to share?

Book review: Second Skin by India Flint

Reading has been an important part of my life since I understood the superpowers it conferred and proceeded to read through the whole local children’s library in the 1990s. And since I got hooked on minimalism and sustainability in 2014, great part of my readings have been around these topics, both on-line and off.

Second Skin: Choosing and Caring for Textiles and Clothing (Murdoch books 2011) by India Flint came my way through Julie who had talked about it for ages and had brought it along for the Fix it! workshop. She kindly lent me her copy and I dove into a very different sustainable fashion book than I had got used to.

And maybe that’s my already squared mind, but was very grateful that I had previously read the sustainable fashion books of the Kate Fletcher circle (1, 2, and especially 3) which – while much more prone to being out of date as fashion industry practices are a moving target, especially when it comes to sustainability claims and attempts in last ten years or so – give a comprehensive overview of the life cycle of garments in late capitalism and the efforts to make it more sustainable and ethical. Flint’s stuff is a labor of love, and the most gorgeous book I’ve read in a long-long time, but that’s the thing: she is not a sustainable fashion scholar or industry insider, she’s a fiber artist, a maker, a natural dyer, a radical mender…

So, I’ll give you reasons to read this one…

It’s a beautiful artifact! The illustrations and text are weaved together into a work of art. There is no way this can be made Kindle-friendly because it shouldn’t be.

Herstory! Flint traces her family history through a lineage of women who knew how to make and mend for their families, both for festivities and during duress, throughout her childhood’s amazement of the magic of stitching and up to her daughter’s textile projects. Also, of course, I’m biased because – surprise, surprise! – it’s WW2 Latvia that her grandmother escaped from, sewing machine in hand.

If you ever wanted a little big push to appreciate natural fibers (and learn that cotton is not the best one by far) here you have it. Flint loves her linen, hemp, silk, and, especially, wool, and the whole book is a love letter to them. My special additional kudos for her suggestion that first textile making – felting – might be an unintended side-product of fucking. Also, the very sensible suggestion that people working with fire hazards should wear wool protective clothing. Cute! Be careful, though, with the power of suggestion: I had two episodes of a very suffocating synthetics-panic while reading the book and those were garments I had had for ages.

She is pushing the ugly mending revolution, and I love it! Flint is a great inspiration to let go of conventional notions of perfect dyeing and invisible mending. She advocates for visible layers of customization, appropriation, evolution, and it’s liberating.

Career inspiration! She is a great example of person just doing her thing and truly pushing the boundaries of what ethical fashion on an individual level can be. It’s authentic and it’s beautiful, and beyond the conventional notions of pretty at the same time which gives her work even more power.

And reasons not to start your sustainable fashion journey with this book!

The biggest one for me is that her life – that she implicitly sets as an example – is a very marginal anecdote. Yes, in her life wool is super sustainable and ethical because it comes from her own sheep, she travels the world in her overdyed and self-made uniform giving natural dyeing workshops and dyes in her hotel rooms (giving advice how to avoid smoke detectors, no less), and she has spent all her life developing the skills to be as sustainable and autonomous in her use of textiles as one can be. It’s inspirational and frustrating at the same time! While baby steps of the spirit of her work can be incorporated in our daily lives as urban, semi-formal people with limited skills, the position from which she is speaking is frankly unattainable unless you drop whatever else you are doing. (Well, Julie is an example of such switch, though, and is doing great!)

She has clear preferences and giving a comprehensive vision of the textile industry is not among her priorities. While her love for natural fibers is cute and makes perfect sense for her lifestyle, all synthetics get just written off as shit unworthy of even engaging with. Yes, it’s does not mend or natural dye well, but this generalized position ignores the fact that synthetics can be recycled back to their virgin quality if designing or at least sorting post-wear is done right with a fraction of energy required to make new and no water, and that we have a shitton of polyester and nylon laying around, so turning a blind eye to it is not a solution and, due to the nature of the material, not much can be done about it on an individual consumer level. Flint has this frontier woman flair of textile autonomy which is very attractive but could be as well from 100 years ago when we weren’t all drowning in cheap polyester.

The same ‘this is not an issue because I do it in my backyard’ logic is applied to ethics and animal products. While I don’t like to engage in wool and silk vegan debates, because they shift the focus away from more urgent issues, Flint brushes off any such concerns with a mix of ‘but if I can do it well, we all can’ in case of wool and leather (+ the leather is just meat industry by-product’ argument – 1, 2, 3) and an esoteric elevation of the ‘but we use plants’ argument that every vegan has heard too many times for silk (basically saying that silkworms are shit animals with no quality of life anyway) and coming this close to talking about natural cycles of everybody feeding everybody else in one way or another. As with fiber preferences, Flint’s views on animal agriculture and usage of parts of dead animals in human apparel is a bit too much Little House on the Prairie for my taste.

The repeated eye rolling about the notion of organic cotton. While admitting that labeling something organic has a narrow meaning that doesn’t include water use or posterior dyeing, Flint is baffled that a synthetically dyed garment with whatever trimmings (remember that 100% synthetic thread is the industry standard) would still be labeled as organic cotton. D-oh! It’s ‘organic cotton’, not ‘organic garment’, unfortunately, but that label does not lie.

And just an example of how unfortunately blasé I am about all the pollution that surrounds me (and I think you could use a first person plural there), my reaction to her synthetics dye outrage because skin is a large and absorbent organ was along the lines of ‘buah, not even everything I put inside me (stomach and intestinal linings are much more absorbent surfaces) is pesticide and other poison free, so…’ My bad, but I relativization is the only mental tactic that keeps me sane.

The radical mending that sound so well as a manifesto is hard! Even achieving a moderately acceptable level of reasonably functional fix requires skill. I’m learning it the hard way. The same goes for dyeing and garment-making described in this book. Coming from a person who has spent all her life playing with textiles, practices she describes meditative and empowering can get frustrating very quickly. With the additional rub that you’re failing at fugly mending…

So I suggest you read it when you have already covered the general textile and fashion industry basics, at least I’m happy that for me it happened in this order.

My takeaway inspirations (and caveats) are:
(a) to be more serious about phasing out the pure synthetics from my wardrobe and bringing in natural fibers (though I already failed at that miserably during the May swap),
(b) to take a second look at threads available at my local mercerías in an effort to move towards cotton ones (although I also have my mother’s sewing treasure box in Rīga with rainbow synthetic threads that could last me a lifetime; ugh the awful choices between ‘use up what you have’ and ‘purchase better’),
(c) to maybe dip my toes in some very basic avocado or onion skin dyeing for my stained whites… I’ll let you know!

What interesting sustainable fashion books have you read lately? Is there any one book that changed it all for you?

#whatiwore 2018w21 + Sunday links

And because the little gray friends need nom-noms:

While I’ve never expected high fashion to be socially responsible and caring for poverty or social inequalities, this is an interesting point: Op-Ed: Is Balenciaga Socially Irresponsible? Meanwhile, you can read up about the actual Cristóbal Balenciaga and have some incredible eye candy of what Balenciaga once was.

The whole thing of shipping our garbage off-sight keep coming back, obviously, because stuff – including garments – does not evaporate, so Rwanda Does Not Want Our Used Clothes and is at a Standoff with the U.S. as a Result and, repeatedly, For Dignity and Development, East Africa Curbs Used Clothes Imports.

“Fashion Revolutionaries is a partnership between the British Council and Fashion Revolution which aims to create positive change in the global fashion industry. The programme highlights change-makers and activists who are exploring new ways of working which values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.
As part of Fashion Revolution Week, the British Council have commissioned a series of 7 short films profiling the innovative stories of 7 practitioners across the world, including fashion designers, artists, architects and entrepreneurs. The films have been created in the spirit of the grassroots movement, using content produced by the practitioners themselves and directed by Kate Cox and produced by the Smalls.” – shorts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

*

June and summer will be officially here very soon… What are your fashion inspirations for this summer? Colors? Materials? Aesthetics? Mine, as you already know, are here.

#100wears: Kaftan

#100wears is the most beloved garment section where I show off the longevity of items I’ve worn at least 100 times and urge to elevate the rather low #30wears aspiration. Basically, a love song, a poem, a “there are some garments so good I can’t stop wearing them”… My second-hand kaftan is one of those.

(I’m now Googling trying to understand why my 14-year-old self would decide that this is a kaftan. If any of you have more info on this piece of garment differentiation than Wikipedia, let me know. Is it about length, after all?)

And my 14-year-old self it was, because – together with my parka – this garment is among the oldest ones in my wardrobe. I don’t have a precise acquisition date, bet has to be around 2002. It was still the epoch when we’d spend a lot of times in thrift shops with my mother, and I got this one in a profoundly second-hand smelling used clothes shop in a basement on Skolas st. in Rīga. Second hand imports – brought in as ‘humanitarian aid’ to the (still) suffering Eastern Europeans – were abundant and there were treasures among them.


However, while I was looking for treasures and bringing them home, I wasn’t necessarily wearing them. But then I wasn’t purging my wardrobe either, so the little kaftan survived until it’s moment came some 7-8 years later. The only memory related to this garment from my high school days is using it as an example in my economics homework. The label has faded by now, but then it still clearly stated ‘made in UK’ which for a person used to seeing only ‘made in China’ or just rips where the labels used to be looked very cool. That economics homework was exactly about this: ‘look around your house and find items made in different countries [to understand that we live in a globalized world and how goods travel around the globe]’. I felt very smug about having a ‘made in UK’ dress laying around!

I started using this garment as loungewear and super-informal (and oh! so comfy) errand outfit during my undergrad years. It has enough detail – golden ribbons, ruffles, puffy sleeves, pattern, nice color – to throw the attention off the fact that I’m wearing a nightgown (and have beach hair, puffy eyes, hurry or whatever the reason I was too lazy to actually dress up). I always get an internal chuckle when people comment on ‘my beautiful dress’. I tried wearing it to work once, I think, and it really didn’t feel appropriate to me. I still got several ‘what a beautiful dress’ comments, though.

(Nightgown, by the way, is not a good use for this one because the golden ribbons are too rough when they touch my face + all my attempts at nightgowning end up with me waking up naked and with a lot of cloth around my neck. How is that thing supposed to stay down anyway?)

From the time when taking selfies was used as a hangover cure (Salamanca 2010/2011):



Throughout the years I’ve used it mostly as loungewear, hence the ‘look’ is mostly that of a sleepy gnome craving bed and falling face-down in my porridge, like so (Salamanca, summer 2013):


Mykonos, September 2017.

The wear and tear of the years is becoming visible – soft viscose is not forever, unfortunately! There have been many washes getting out sunscreen and wine stains among others, and this little garment has had it’s fair share of fixes already: replacing the rubber in the sleeves and closing several tears along the seams. Yet, as the original shape is so generous, it can be fixed and taken in a bit without affecting the feel. So I hope we’ll have some 15 more years together!

What have been your all-time favorite thrift finds? Do you have garments that you’ve had for more than a decade, more than half of your life? If so, is it more about the function or the sentimental attachment now?

#whatiwore 2018w20 + Sunday links

A random update: I did a little happy DIY to keep one of my feminist pins alive (obtained from Norwegian ladies in Women Deliver conference in 2013)! While the visible side had some rust which is not a big deal for me and happens to many pins that have been worn outside, the reverse was giving me grief. I had worn this one on my backpack for quite a while but lately the closure kept opening and too often I was picking the pin off the ground. The only useful transformation that occurred to me was doing the Sugru magnet magic: taking out the metal closure thing and putting a blob of Sugru + a piece of magnet (with the less magnetic side touching Sugru) on it. Ta-dah! This pin now has a calm retirement ahead of it guarding our shopping lists.


And now for something completely different:

While I don’t own any Elizabeth Suzann garments and I’m not sure if that’s an aesthetic I’ll ever wholeheartedly embrace, I’m in love and at awe with her business politics. Here you have both eye candy – Yossy Arefi: Clothing Is A Means & Natalie Chanin: Clothing Is An Expression Of Life – and some more talking about sustainable business development: Times, They Are A’Changing: A Conversation About Growth and Adaptation.

The notions of ‘modesty’ in fashion keep catching my attention. While in these videos the attention is on other aspects of people’s lives in connection with religion, I’m just superficial (and an atheist!) and attracted to the aesthetics. The bridging of the formally ‘modest’ with undoubtedly cool is fascinating: Your Average Muslim and The Queen of Berlin’s Underground Hip-Hop Dance Culture parts 1, 2 and 3.

For some reason, I’ve done some health-care intervention related reading this week… So you might too. The Oxytocin Tent by George Monbiot, Closing the Asylums in Jacobin Magazine and the Daniel Dennett classic Thank Goodness! + It’s Time to Take Back Our Aging, Smelly Bodies by Martha C. Nussbaum.

*

Have you recently done any – however small – DIY that makes you very proud of your own ingenuity? Is there a practical-life or item longevity issue you are trying to solve and haven’t found the answer yet? Have you stumbled on any intriguing DIYs you can’t wait to tray out?

May (6th!) Clothes’ Swap Recap

Some of the very satisfied un-customers!

Swaps are becoming a very pleasant routine. I know how to prepare, what to bring, to ask help (learnt it last time!) and then to rely on the little army of helpers to do the bulk of explaining, because everybody who steps in this for the first time, needs at least a ‘Hi!’ and ‘let me tell you how this works’. Thank you so much Mara, Margareta, Patricia, Coco + all others who have come, shared on FB, brought their friends! This only works when you all show up.

Seeing how many things end up returning to the swap, I keep thinking if there’s a way to steer people towards picking and choosing in a more conscious way… On the other hand, I know that also for myself I need looking at things calmly at home and a period of trial. And our ‘best return policy ever’ (i.e. just bring it back next time and it never happened) is one of the great advantages of swapping instead of buying. However, having a clear style vision and a solid wishlist has helped me a lot!

If in February there were very few leftovers, this time we’ve set a record of 24 bags continuing their journey to the Botiga Gratis of Banc Expropriat. Looked like this:

The only thing that is still lagging are the garment stories. I do believe that swapping becomes an even better experience if the garments have an additional story. People who happen to pick up stuff their friends brought attach that knowledge to the garment and it enhances the emotional link. Of course, not all garments will be Latvian grandma’s post-war underskirts, but the great majority could have at least the basics: from whom, where from, if you have worn it for a specially memorable occasion… As the events are becoming too busy to attach the stories in situ (or I haven’t found the right volunteer just yet) I’ll invite people to do that as homework and bring their garments with stories already incorporated. Let’s see how that works in September!

What did I get? Oh, I had a great day, made several new friends and brought home three new-for-me garments. The funniest part of this swap was that my wish list was taken seriously: several people approached me offering garments they have spotted that fit my descriptions. So sweet! This was the list and I’m happy to report that with no effort and a little help of my friends I’ve ticked off 3/7. I think that’s a great success.

The lucky winners are: home slippers, winter gloves and a consulting-appropriate cardigan. Yes!

I’m in love with the slippers, they are exactly what I needed – sturdy sole with a comfy and supporting upper. Best slippers of my 30 years and made in Spain. Although I thought I’ll be wearing them in winter as I have a pair of swimming pool Birks for summer, I basically haven’t taken them off since Saturday.

The gloves will carry me through the cold morning bicycle commute for at least next season. I don’t expect much longevity from them, as I’ve had enough similar pairs of cute little gloves for Latvian winters and they don’t tend to last. I really should get serious about this when I’m in Riga next time and invest in a pair of sturdy wool finger-gloves (as opposed to mittens which is what most of the artisan glove market is about, as there is more surface for artistic expression). For both the slippers and the gloves I have to give thanks to Margareta who had clearly read my wishlist with outmost attention anddid some curation while I was busy with other swap proceedings!

The cardigan is the one we’ll have to put to test. While the fit and look is exactly what I was looking for – relaxed but put together – it had a hole already (one of those typical stupid ones that knits get at the edges of the label), but I fixed that with a clumsy piece of ’embroidery’. What I didn’t expect but should’ve known better is that the shitty material composition (really, Zara, 70% cotton and 30% nylon for a fucking knit?) is prone to make smells instead of magically getting rid of them as wool does. So I spent my Monday at work discreetly smelling my armpits and wondering why there was a whiff of a high-school locker room around me. If the problem persists after a wash (because clearly somebody brought it to swap without washing it), we’ll have to say goodbye and finally go looking for a proper wool cardigan!

*

Have you ever organized a swappy event? If yes, how did that go? Or do you have any other routine sources of quality hand-me-downs: family, friends, etc?

#whatiwore 2018w19 + Sunday links

A random update: I made my first sewn garment! I had knitted, crocheted and customized before, but this is a new milestone. And even brand new this garment already has a story. My little South African top needed an additional and more neutral bottom, then my friend Liisa taught me my sewing machine basics, my friend Julie invited me to take from her fabric stash whatever I wanted, and Carmen from Opció Taller accompanied me through all the troubleshooting this supposedly easy project needed. The whole precision thing is something I’m still working on, being accustomed that the code I write for my little statistics at work is basically endlessly tweakable and reiterations don’t leave trace. As far as I don’t show the inside of this skirt to my mom, we are all happy and set!

And now the brain nom-noms:

How could you resist a merge of Japanese shapes with African prints? Why would you? Why hadn’t this happened before? Cameroonian artist and Japanese designer collab for stunning Kimono line. (Hat tip to Sanjukta for this one!)

Just a brief reminder on what’s the problem with faux fur. In case you were wondering.

When reading about several African countries trying to forbid the import of second-hand clothing last year, I didn’t know that China did exactly the same thing in the 1990s (and now they are doing the same with our plastics). About the impact of that policy on the local industry, The State of Fashion Design in China.

And just to rub in how far I am from the actual design and fashion vanguard, turns out that there is a whole color thing going on: Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away, Why Are We So Obsessed With Millennial Pink? There’s A Scientific Explanation For Everything and Move Over, Millennial Pink — There’s a New Sheriff in Town. I live truly oblivious to this stuff… As an extra bonus, of course, the ‘scientific’ explanation boils down to ‘we don’t really know but we can quite confidently blame late capitalism for everything’.

*

Do you make garments? If so, how do you then deal with the intimate knowledge of all the imperfections? Or is it that the pride of having done it compensates for all frustrations and suboptimal seams?

Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare

This Saturday is the sixth (!) swap (what’s a swap?) and I’m doing my wardrobe pruning in preparation for it. However, as my wardrobe goes shrinking, there’s another dynamic I’m less comfortable than letting mint condition garments that are not working for me find new owners… the pieces I’ve worn out completely are driving me nuts!

The initial wardrobe editing is about taste, future self and frequency of wear/fit in your life. All very personal and subjective. And if it ever comes down to ‘this is pretty worn out’, most people have replacements already waiting for them right there in the same wardrobe. Yes, there might be pieces that one might want to work hard enough to find or make a copy but those don’t tend to be urgent as there’s an abundance of other garments. However, when I’m down to two bras, one pair of yoga shorts and eight pairs of footwear in total, seeing them wear out is a heart-breaking emergency. It’s as if, once selected as optimal, I’d expected them to last lifetime and they have tricked me by wearing out. Finding exact replacement for secondhand or hand-me-down stuff I’ve worn for years is not easy. And in many cases I would prefer not to buy anything directly from those people anyways.

I already shared my yoga shorts replacement fail and it hasn’t got better since then. The Decathlon shorts I bought second-hand in 2015 are in rag condition, and I have a strong aversion to going to that shop and browsing for new similar ones (as there are no identical ones available). According to their home page, I could get similar ones in organic cotton and elastane mix for f*ing incredible 4.99€ without a word about where the fiber or labour comes from. You tell me how that price is possible!

Looks that the solution of the shorts saga will be to – for a set of other reasons – switch back to home practice, so that showing my privates to people won’t be a concern at all. I still should admit myself the truth and send the old shorts to the orange container (oh, yes, those are well beyond a swap-worthy mint condition).

My parallel struggle with shredded-by-wearing items has been my sneakers. After discovering Veja Taua in early 2015, I though I was set for life. Oh, how naive! After three pairs worn to the point that my left little toe was sneaking out (always the left one!), I am now facing the hard truth that they are not planning to restock them ever again. I did try another of the more modern-looking sneaker models and I’m now breaking in their next best canvas sneaker, but it’s not the same. I want my Taua back! I’m even seriously considering buying the last available Taua in my size, although the color combination – white, very white – is clearly suboptimal for my lifestyle. Or writing them a very heartfelt love letter pleading for a new release of the black ones…

(On a side note, this is one of the big advantages of  heritage brands and styles. If you happen to like a model that the company has been doing for decades already, it’s pretty safe they’ll keep doing it instead of succumbing to demons of innovation and oh-no-that-was-limited-edition-and-we-will-never-do-it-again. I was just assured of this by the lovely Toni Pons salesperson in Born. They’ve been making Montgri since forever, so it’s not going anywhere.)

*

According to my archives, that’s what November 2012 looked like in Salamanca, Spain.

It’s the time for the black flower shirt too. It has been patched up in armpits three times and keeps unraveling around them. This little viscose hand-my-down from my mom has seen so much more than #100wears. For years it has been my go-to throw-on for travel, errands and everything in-between. I draped perfectly, covered butt to be worn with leggings, felt amazing and looked lovely. Bye, bye, my love, I hope to find something similar enough one day.

*

On a more typical note about garments that will go to the swap looking for new friends (for my outgoing for the previous editions see here, here and here), the only substantive swapped-aways will be garments I thought of as heirlooms until trying to wear them again after years of having them stashed away in my mom’s wardrobe. Both the military field jacket and the pink corduroy skirt date back to 2003 and 2006 respectively, my past self wore them a lot and they are in great condition. But not for my current self! And that’s enough. I hope they have a lot of wears with somebody else ahead of them.

*

How do you deal with the conflict of knowing that something is worn out beyond repair and that you cannot replace it? Have you ever made bespoke copies of industrial garments you had loved? Have you crossed oceans, deserts and all the internets combing for a replacement?