Summer 2017 capsule heroes and lessons learned

My four-month summer capsule (it’s the weather, not me, making the rules) has less than three weeks left. Not all of its 35 items have reached the magical at-least-10-wears-per-season but they will get there. This is becoming an curiously anti-climatic numbers’ game. Of course I can make 35 x 10 = 350 wears happen in 126 days taking into account that an average summer outfit consists of two to four garments and there are many days when I wear more than one.

The only chaos-inducing event was the revision of my Riga capsule. Some items went out after just one or two trial wears while some changed homes and moved to either Riga or Barcelona. But by now everything that got added to the excel is getting its 10 wears. Oh, and the little blue heirloom blouse is up for grabs! May its journey be long and wonderful.

The list of my seasonal heroes (those that have had at least 15 wears, so far the range is [17; 45]) – as usual (see last winter and spring lessons) – reflects the weather, ease of wear, and the inherent magic of numbers: the fewer items there are in a category, the more wears each of them will get. So it is not a surprise that the only two layers that I’ve been using throughout these four months have been worn a lot:

The gray cardigan (hand-me-down from my mom, 39 wears) has been living at work and protecting me against the air conditioning.

The revived Street One military jacket (bought new ~2006), after a long sleep in a glass coffin in Riga, so far has seen mostly planes and travel, not so much everyday life in Barcelona.

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Also both of my shorts have been worn more than enough. This is a source of additional joy, as it indicates a very healthy turn in my relationships with my body. Due to some very stupid ideas about “fat wobbly thighs” I wouldn’t wear any between the ages ~9 and ~24. I’m glad that’s over because shorts definitely are the easy summer garment, especially when as comfy as the floral rayon shorts (hand-me-down from my mom, 22 out-of-home wears). I’ve been wearing them as outerwear, lounge wear, and underwear. Comfy and versatile is how I love my garments!

As you can see, I’m starting to appreciate the appeal of (off)white blouses… So another throw-it-on-and-go comfort garment throughout this summer has been the little white zipper blouse. Light, breezy, and dries very quickly after having been hand-washed in the sink (again!) after somebody threw a saucy potato on it (again!). A hand-me-down from my mom, 17 wears. (Yes, “my mom’s wardrobe” is my favorite second-hand (un)shop.)

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The last category of all heroes is footwear. My four seasonal pairs all have been worn more than 30 times in these four months, and I’m perfectly happy with the range: Veja Taua (2016, 45 wears this summer), Birkenstock Gizeh (2017, 38), Veja Arcade (2017, 32), and Arcopedico wedges (2017, 32). You can see that the price I pay for having a real footwear capsule – currently five pairs I’d step outside home or swimming pool in – is having to replace stuff quite often! I just wear the soles off them…

Preparation for Kristīne’s wedding lead to a discovery how Arcopedico shoes can be fixed for my feet with a couple of silicone heel liners, so now they are full members of the versatile shoe team. Before that I could only wear them for short bursts at work. Changing footwear at work is something I just have to do, it’s a hygiene thing and a mental switch. Eastern/Northern European heritage ftw! Latvians are obsessed with indoors-outdoors shoe switches, my favorite part is seeing women in theater or opera getting out of their winter boots and changing into party shoes.

Birks is this season’s incoming and I love them. However, I’m surprised how not made-for-walking the famously comfy shoe is! So nothing has replaced Vejas for biking (I like to pedal without worrying about losing my shoes) and casual 3+ km walks downtown. I get serious feet blisters if I do that in Birks.

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Through these four months I’ve also collected an assorted list of summer fashion lessons, some of them new for me, some reminders of half-known truths, but here they are:

  • There is a (fashion) solidarity and significantly lowered thresholds of “yuck” in weather extremes. When it’s crazy hot you are sweaty and disgusting but so is everybody else using this metro.
  • After years of suffering chub-rub, here are ways how I prevent it: (a) by walking less; using the bike instead has been my alternative of choice as public transportation induces even more anxiety during a heat wave; (b) by applying some magical dust generously; my dust of choice being Lush “Silky Underwear” mixed 1:1 with cornstarch; (c) by choosing your garments wisely; instead of cooking my body parts in biker shorts I prefer my extra flowy silk maxi skirt. They move between my thighs as I walk and have saved my from “I can’t walk any further” moments this summer. And, yes, I have had such moments in my life!
  • Necklaces choke me. The do not come to me naturally in winter and even less so in summer. If I’d be perfectly honest, I’d have got rid of them long time ago. But I love the idea of necklaces, I love how they look, but often I take mine off before the day is over… so the struggle is stupid and real.
  • Due to a miscommunication with the amazing ladies that normally take care of my unwanted body hair, I ended up going to the biggest European sociology event with all the possible hair on me. August in Athens, so no opaque tight tricks! And it went perfectly well. I decided not to care and the whole non-experience just confirmed that nobody notices or cares.
  • Trying to dress weather appropriately in July and August lead to a clash with my mental hang-ups about work-appropriate clothing. These are totally self-imposed as I do not teach or deal with people in general. I share the office with several colleagues but it has been clear since the very beginning that there is no dress code. So it’s just about cockroaches in my head. Big fat cockroaches whispering that kaftan or short-shorts are not a good idea even when the premises are empty and, obviously, nobody cares!

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What have you learned this summer? What will you do differently with your 2018 summer capsule?

September swap + my outgoing pieces

We shall swap again! And to encourage wardrobe editing before the event, here’s how I think about what stays and what goes. I have to admit that it gets harder to discard things as they become fewer – these items have survived many editing fastivals, so there is some function or value ascribed that has saved them before. Yet despite the reduced number, there are still garments in my wardrobe that do not live up to the standard of “would this be a part of my optimal wardrobe?”

I try to let go of fears about needing them or pondering about the likelihood of anybody wanting them. I have one historical reassurance for this and one additional mental trick. The reassurance is the story of my red denim jacket and the mental trick is possible due to the relaxed concept of our swaps. I’m still kind of on the fence about several of the items described below (guess which ones!), so I’ve made a deal with myself: if nobody will want them, they are coming back home. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one calming my separation anxiety with this kind of tricks and me being there from the start till the finish of the event increases the chances of these garments finding a new body to adorn.

So these are the ones looking for a new home on September 30 (in order of acquisition):

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#1: The blue peasant blouse

Came from: It’s family vintage that my mother and her sister wore in early 1980s. Came into my wardrobe sometime in early 2000s. However, I’ve worn it very little.

Made in: Latvia by a former colleague of my grandma.

# of wears since January 2016: 9.

Overall # of wears: Many but stretched over a period of more than 30 years.

Why? The fluffy sleeves are a bit too much. But mostly because this garments shows all the sweat (and I sweat a lot).

Whom for: Somebody who enjoys the peasant blouse trend and is willing to stick to this style when the trend is gone (or wait until it’s back in 2032 or so). Also for somebody who sweats less than I do.

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#2: The HM romper

Came from: This is one of the last fast fashion items I willingly bought in 2012 when still browsing shops for recreational purposes.

Made in: I was still in the tag-cutting phase, so that information is lost. An educated guess would be Bangladesh or Cambodia.

# of wears since January 2016: 24.

Overall # of wears: A bit more than that, but it clearly didn’t become a beloved staple.

Why? Also this garments shows all the sweat, especially under the breasts if you are not wearing a bra.

Whom for: Somebody wishing to discreetly channel Esther Williams, at least that’s how I feel when wearing it (like this!). Again, for somebody who sweats less than I do.

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#3: The Nike workout shirt

Came from: Bought new in 2013 for yoga because it has an incorporated bra part. This shirt has seen so much yoga, it should have a yoga instructor certificate by now.

Made in: Cambodia.

Overall # of wears: A lot. Not counted as this was never part of the proper capsule.

Why? The neck straps had worn out and I got them shortened, now I’m not sure about the new fit.

Whom for: Anybody looking for activewear and having a more delicate back-neck than I do. Maybe it just needs some more wear to stretch just the right amount for me…

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#4: The floral dress

Came from: My mom used to wear this around the house in summer, I snatched it from her for the same purpose in 2014 and never gave back.

Made in: Some fast fashion hell, most probably.

# of wears since January 2016: 29.

Overall # of wears: Much more than that, as wearing it as loungewear was never counted. And my mom wore it beforehand.

Why? Feels worn out.

Whom for: Anybody looking for a very relaxed and easy to throw on beach/leasure wear. I wear it as a strapless dress and without a bra, because the two rubber bands give it enough structure. However, I’d look into replacing the rubber and taking the straps completely off to give it a reboot.

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#5: Kristine’s yellow dress.

Came from: A hand-me-down from Kristine. Mine since 2015.

Made in: ?.

# of wears since January 2016: 20.

Overall # of wears: A bit more, but it’s clear that I’m not giving it all the love it deserves.

Why? The material and print are very nice (the print remind me of home textiles for summer houses, that’s the reason I adopted this dress), but I have an issue with the neckline. It’s weird on me, I’m not sure if it’s because of shoulders/back or breast size.

Whom for: Again, a relaxed beach/leasure number for hot weather. There has to be a body type to enjoy this little number!

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#6: The fish necklace.

Came from: A gift from my mother-in-law. 2016.

Made in: China, maybe?

# of wears since January 2016: 48.

Why? I have a complicated relationship with necklaces (for me headbands are easier to wear). I have made myself wear them since I started doing the tracked capsule, but… among the four necklaces that I have, this one is the weakest link.

Whom for: Anybody looking for a low-hanging whimsical but delicate accent piece.

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And for a moment of wishful thinking… What would I happily pick up at the next swap? These are very specific, but – hey! – a girl can dream. In all affairs of pre-loved clothing I pursue a bimodal strategy: I have a clear vision of what I’m looking for and open eyes for an unexpected treasure. Thankfully my idea of “treasure” has evolved and I’ve become much harder to seduce than some 15 years ago. There are still things that I’d gladly incorporate in my wardrobe, though:

A) A top that could serve as a modesty garment under the purple jersey winter dress of Riga capsule. I use the little lace blouse for such purposes in Barcelona, but having another one as versatile in Riga would be nicer than carrying this one back and forth.

B) A pair of comfy gym shorts for the Riga capsule. Again, a have my comfy shorts in Barcelona but an additional pair in Riga would be less hassle.

C) A pair of winter gloves. May random second-hand gin-promoting gloves are too short and too big to be optimal, and the long pair I got second-hand in New York didn’t survive even one winter.

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What’s on your outgoing and incoming lists? What strategies do you pursue when (un)shopping?

Is There a Winter in Barcelona? A Winter 2017 recap

The previous season (November-February) is just over and I’m reflecting on how my winter wardrobe could be improved for next winter. I’ll give you a short overview of the dynamics, introduce you to the closet heroes of Barcelona winter. This was a 4-month affair with 39 items (26 pieces of clothing, 5 pairs of shoes and 8 trinkets). A rather fluid one two, because 8 items came in (gifts and me borrowing from the pieces that were not selected for this winter) during the season and 8 went out. You can read about those arrivals and departures here.

Winter is a very mild affair in Barcelona, and this has been a particularly warm one. Except for two harsh 10ºC (!) weeks in January, it has been around 15ºC most of the time. So I got away with wearing items that would be considered spring-appropriate in most of Europe throughout the coldest season here.

So I present you with my winter staple: a hand-me-down from my mom Zara trench. I know, it is ridiculous, but this is my winter coat here. I do have two considerably warmer ones in Riga, though. Layering is how I adjust the trench for the temperature fluctuations. Also, a big scarf, a warm hat and gloves keep me warm when bicycling.

The alternative for warmer days and occasions when I’m tired of the trench is my Portuguese cape. It is a gift my Mom bought in Lisbon, and a very skillful Latvian seamstress lined it for additional warmth. As any cape-owner will tell you, they are tricky to wear. You have to coordinate the silhouette with more care (a cape and an a-line skirt look weird, believe me, I’ve tried) and you can’t wear a backpack (because then the only thing left to do is channeling either the Hunchback of Notre-Dame or “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas). So I wear it with my bodycon dresses and put my backpack in the bike basket. Yet wind still blows through it. These restrictions explain why I wear the trench twice as much as my cape.

This winter’s most used layers were the Hummel Madeleine jacket (a TK Maxx find in 2009), the red sweater (Barcelona Flea Market 2015), my Mom’s gray hand-me-down cardigan (I’ve had for at least 8 years) and Julie’s off-white hand-me-down cardigan (came to me in 2016). They are comfy and they keep me warm. However, I hope to receive something new-to-me of this sort before the next winter, because I ripped an unmendable hole in Julie’s cardigan (so out it went), the grey one is rather worn-out and, even after two years of wearing it, I’m still not completely convinced about the shape of the red sweater. It’s extremely cozy, though.

For those extra-cold weeks of January I had appropriated one of C’s wool sweaters that he wasn’t wearing anymore. However, as it was clearly too big for me, I made a deal with myself that I’d take it to our January Clothes’ Swap and then – if nobody wanted it as it was – I’d make a sewing project out of it and fit it for my body. But out it went! And now has a very satisfied new owner. So winter staples are on my radar for the next Swaps.

Also, I’ve come to terms with the clear superiority of wool when it comes to keeping me warm (but not suffocating) and needing basically no care. Wool doesn’t absorb odors, is nice to touch and I have to wash only the spots where the sauce lands. Indeed, neither the red sweater nor Julie’s cardigan have had a full wash under my watch. I do machine wash – and consistently manage to shrink – my woolen socks, though. Because those do get grimy.

Most of my non-vegan wardrobe items are woolen (cape, sweater, socks, scarfs), although there are still three leather items and some silk blends. I do try to avoid leather, but these are the three exceptions: C’s hand-me-down wristwatch (2013), detailing on my Dad’s hand-me-down backpack (2014) and my Crocs winter boots in Riga. The winter boots was an honest mistake and then a generous permission I gave to myself in 2014 when discovering already at home that the so-into-plastic producer is also into suede, who knew?!

A contrast between a pair of Veja Taua worn for 18 months and a new pair.

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Winter in Barcelona means your feet are mostly not really cold, but do get soaked throughout time by time. So the conceptual approach that works for me is having sneakers for everyday use and a pair of waterproof boots for the rainy days. The definite footwear hero of this winter are my Veja Taua B-Mesh Bahia Nautico, followed by Crocs pumps I wear at work. It might be a cultural thing or my personal hang-up, but I find it inappropriate to hang around at work in my street footwear; the same for home: I need to switch to slippers once I’m over the doorstep.

Muroexe Materia Boots replaced my Vivienne Westwood Anglomania + Melissa Protection Women’s Rubber Boot. I was sad to see them go. Those boots was my only big name item so far and so-so cute, but, after three years of struggle, I had to admit that they did not fit my walking needs or my feet. So, bye-bye discomfort and hello the much more hobbit-feet-friendly Muroexe!

The fifth pair of footwear of this winter I pulled out of my rubbish bag for a week were the already very worn-out Veja Taua Black White. Out they went after that.

After this season I’ve left with four pairs of shoes in Barcelona: boots, sneakers, pumps and Crocs sandals. Yes, my Mom bought me four pairs of Crocs in 2014, I’m still having a hard time replacing them. That’s called path dependency!

Taking into account that even my Riga footwear capsule won’t help me out here (I have a pair of rather worn-out Veja Taua Canvas Blossom, brand new Nokian Hai rain boots and those infamous Crocs winter boots), there will probably be some new-for-me shoes coming in. At least a pair of more formal sandals and a pair of black sneakers. I’d like to repeat the Black White Veja Taua (yes, I’m a fan!), but they are currently out of them and who knows if there will be any more.

Under the winter layers go either a dress (four in my winter wardrobe) or skirt + top combo. The only occasional wink at pants in winter is leggings with a long top. My last serious trousers – a Cheap Monday hand-me-down from C – went out in the last swap.

Overall my winter wardrobe felt ample and warm enough. All items that survived until the end were worn at least 10 times, even my most extravagant bird headband. You can read all about the fate of those things that were lost on the way here. Even if there is no winter in Barcelona according to Latvian standards, at least the changes of amount of daylight are undeniable. Summer will come with (overexposed) better photos, I promise.

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Help yourself!

Assess which garments are your winter wardrobe heroes, clean them, thank them for all their hard work throughout the cold season and send them to rest.