Autumn capsule = 3 months and 7 dresses

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The time of wardrobe overhaul is here. OK, technically it was here on first of October… so I’ve been wearing my autumn capsule for 10 days now. The fun thing to know is that – to shake things up a bit –  this capsule consists of seven dresses + a shirt-leggings set for lazy occasions. There are layers, footwear, adornments in the capsule (29 pieces in total), but the fundamentals of my looks for next three months will be these seven beauties:

Ordered along the warm weather – cold weather gradient.

Origin-wise all of them are hand-me-downs, from top to bottom: from my Mom, from my Mom, from Laura during the last Swap, from Marina, from my aunt Inga, from Liisa, from Marina.

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This additional set allowing for lazy errands, flights, and other pajama-comfy occasions: hand-me-down shirt from my Mom and ZIB leggings.

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If you have seen my #ootd entries, you’ll know that dresses – together with skirt combos – is the basis of my wardrobe anyways. So this little experiment is a mild one for me, not a time-consuming Uniform Project (my only dress I could do a 365-day project with is – not surprisingly – also a LBD, this one; currently part of my Riga mini-capsule exactly because of its year-round versatility).

For me dresses is the sneaky way of just wearing one thing (limiting the decision fatigue!) and still being perceived as on the dressy (puns!) side of life, as Caroline from Un-Fancy said this summer:

“WANT TO STAY COMFORTABLE + LOOK CUTE? REACH FOR A DRESS | Ah, dresses. No pinching waistbands. No need to coordinate a top and bottom. You can just throw it on and be done. Bonus: When you wear a dress, people think you tried — when in fact, you probably didn’t. :)”

As I reach for the dresses half of the time anyway, I decided to see how well I can transition from summer to winter with dresses only. 10 days in, the only problem is the high temperatures (still above 20ºC and we are almost in mid-october), so I’m still in my Birks and the first three dresses of the list with zero layering. In last few weeks I have insisted – as so many people here in Barcelona do – on cajoling the autumn by wearing garments according to the calendar and not the thermometer, but that ended in sweating, chub rub, and frustration, so sleeveless in October it is.

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What are your plans for the autumn capsule? Have you already transitioned towards layers and warm garments? Any dresses included?

Summer 2017 capsule ins and outs

The only true incoming of this summer have been the Birks. And they were accompanied by a swimming pool version of the same model. Despite not being the best long distance walking shoe – hey, nobody promised that! – they are very comfy and, although they are showing some of the characteristic Birkenstock wear already (47 wears), will certainly be a next summer’s staple too.

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These four garments came in from storage during the season:

The off-white blouse (hand-me-down from my mom) I mostly use under the other transparent blouse came out of storage to boost the number of available tops. This one is so light and breezy it works even in Barcelona summer. 11 wears.

The blue family blouse – read about it here, here and here – traveled from Riga so I could make my final decision. I did my best to wear it – 10 times – and remind myself that practical is better than sentimental. It is sad to part with such an old and *experienced* garment, but I still hope it will find the right body to sit on for next 30+ years.

I had overlooked the occasional need to cover my legs when planning for the summer capsule. Well, heat was my focus! Nothing beats a pair of leggings for travel, so the black ZIB leggings (2016) came in and saved the day. Several times. 13 wears.

The Nike yoga top (bought new in 2013) was repaired – shortened shoulder straps; they had stretched out and were doing a poor job at keeping my breasts inside the top – and I brought it back from Riga to make sure it was perfect now. 10 wears – to gym, not work – and I know that it’s a bit too tight now… Ugh.

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A serious number – 10 garments – are going out after the season ends or have been bye-bye for a while. Six of them I already discussed here, but there are more:

The fish necklace: a gift from C’s mom in 2016, 48 total wears. My only reason to give it away is that it is superfluous… We’ll see. If nobody wants it this Saturday, I might bring it back home.

The H&M romper: bought new in 2010, 13 wears this summer, 27 wears since January 2016. We always got along OK, but not splendidly… And all the immediately visible underboob sweat, yuck!

Crocs sandals: bought new in 2014, broke beyond repair after 3 wears in June, 70 counted wears in total. So those have been in the landfill for a few months now…

The Nike top. Let’s see if anybody else is better fit for this one!

The floral jersey dress: a hand-me-down from my mom, 13 wears this summer, 34 counted wears since January 2016. Bye-bye worn-out jersey!

Pleated Zara skirt: a hand-me-down from my mom from last summer. They were short people maxi, got shortened and even then didn’t work for me. 4 wears in total. Went along the family networks of sharing garments. Hope it’s in better hands now!

Amoralle (yeah, those people went from making affordable leggings to whatever atemporal fantasy it is they are doing now) t-shirt: made in Latvia, bought new in 2012, 7 wears since January 2016. As with several other items on this list, it was altered to fit better, but even then… No, thanks! As the gray skirt, went along family networks looking for a new body to adorn.

Yellow floral dress: hand-me-down from Kristīne, mine since 2015, 22 wears since January 2016. Not good enough! The neckline – although altered – is still weird for me.

The blue family blouse: I have a feeling that much of my summer capsule has been orbiting around this one little blouse. Yes, it’s a heirloom. One of the last ones still alive since I started raiding family wardrobes almost two decades ago. But it is not working for me! If I have to make myself wear things – the spreadsheet has a lot of power over me – it’s better to send them away.

The striped H&M top, the same as the pleated skirt, came in Riga capsule after the last time we tidied my mom’s wardrobe. But turned out to be not for me after all. Bye-bye!

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What pieces proved themselves superfluous, not needed or not wanted in your summer capsule? Was there anything you included afterwards? If so, was it need (weather, special occasions) or desire-driven?

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?

Capsule wardrobes trans-seasonally and beyond seasonality

What my wardrobe would look like if I’d adopt a completely a-seasonal approach.

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I came across this piece on trans-seasonal dressing and… misunderstood it! Having never seen the term before, my restriction-loving mind filled the gaps along the lines of “yeah, how about just wearing the same items throughout the year! Of course, would be very local climate dependent, but even in 4-season zones we already wear many of our things both in January and July. Let’s see how many of my garments are that versatile!”

Then I googled a bit more, re-read the article that had sparked my interest, and realized that I had made it all up. In the fashion world the term actually refers to the fact that between winter and summer there are these in-between “transitional” periods of weather changing towards warmer or cooler. It’s clearly additional fun for fashion designers and editors, but in my culture we just call them spring and autumn (and Latvian summer) and bring a jacket. There are even such things as summer coat

So I’ll just go back to my initial idea and explore the *beyond* seasonality of my wardrobe.

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First of all, let’s talk climate. Having been born and raised in a temperate climate (humid continental, to be more precise), one of my major cultural shocks have been grasping that my friends from tropical climates have completely different understanding of weather and seasons. Having seen Mozambicans investing in their first wool hats when surprised by snow in Czech Republic, learning that a Panamanian friend bought her first coat when starting to travel internationally for work, and noticing that my Dominican colleague does not change his meals to lighter and cooler ones in summer has brought the point home. And I know that my current Mediterranean habitat of very mild winters and very hot summers would suggest to many (Latvians) that I am out of touch with the 4-season reality. To some extent – as the mutations of my Riga capsule have shown – I am.

I played with my wardrobe excel and divided it by the “beyond season potential” of my garments, i.e. answered to the question would I consider wearing (and do wear) them throughout the year or no way. I separated the Barcelona and Riga items, as different logic (and weather!) applies.

Click here to see the spreadsheet.

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No surprises. I have garments for all seasons, and – I would say – a reasonable mix of season-specific and year-round pieces. Seasonality is mostly dictated by fiber type: wool and synthetics for winter, cotton and regenerated fibers for summer. And cotton and regenerated fibers for the year-round champions! The conclusion here could be that getting rid of some of the most plastic pieces would move my wardrobe closer to a beyond-seasonal ideal. We’ll see about that this winter! (The August heat is inducing repulsion towards all my cold weather gear, so I’ll wait to see how I feel about my polyester dresses when the temperatures drop some 20ºC and wool tights come back in vogue.)

Here are some examples of how my year-round garments look in different seasons:

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What are the garments that you wear throughout the year? Are you among the people who have only one-season clothing for your home base and other capsule wardrobes for travel in different latitudes? Would a beyond-season capsule be possible in your life?

The Future of Riga capsule

My Riga wardrobe is going down. As my future is still in works and I’ve spent so little time in Latvia this year, Riga capsule is becoming 3 dresses, 6 layers, 3 pairs of footwear and 7 pieces of loungewear (our of which several can be repurposed for exterior uses). This new reduced Riga capsule will serve my needs here – being comfy at home, dealing with the weather and attending the somewhat regular formal occasions (hi, Opera!) – while reducing the amount of wishful thinking I had attached to this capsule.

The three dresses: formal, winter, and summer.

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I have found four reasons for not making it a one unique wardrobe located in one place (I haven’t had that since autumn 2007):

  1. There are 4 items that do not make the slightest sense in Barcelona: my parka (~2004), my fluffy jacket (2006), a heavy wool sweater (2015), and the infamous Crocs winter boots (2014). Nokian Hai rainboots are on the brink of falling into the same category.
  2. Travel is so much easier when I don’t have to bring any clothing, especially when taking into account the volatility of Latvian climate. It can be anywhere [-30; 10]ºC in winter and [10; 30]ºC in summer. Carrying winter boots and rain boots back and forth would be very wasteful and tiring.
  3. It’s fun! I’ve observed the flow of garments between the two wardrobes for 10 years, and it’s very telling. Of my naïveté, to start with, as my first wardrobe choices when heading out of home were rather questionable. And of wishful thinking, telling myself that Riga wardrobe was of the same value. Liar! Except for the weather-specific garments, those staying behind in Latvia were always second-tier pieces… But the re-encounters are exciting, although in most cases they serve just to confirm that obsolescence of the garment.
  4. Having things in Riga is a sentimental link, and I have few of those left: passport, family and friends, and some belongings that in last 10 years have proved themselves to be not essential enough to be carried with me but still to important to be donated.


Certain heirlooms also get to stay.

Do you have any geographically separated wardrobes (in summerhouses, at your parents)? How do you make sure that those are still functional and not a dump for the “maybe” pile?

How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 first half money talk

My priciest fashion investments of last 6 months: Veja Arcade sneakers, Muroexe Materia boots and 3 pairs of Bonne Maison knee-socks.

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Ethical fashion is expensive. Boom! OK, let’s calibrate that a little bit: newly bought ethical fashion tends to be more expensive than the ridiculously underpriced fast fashion + there are distortions at both ends of the spectrum. On the low side, depending on geography, local artisans might be able to make things for you even cheaper, as you won’t pay the overheads of running a big international conglomerate. On the high end, while couture fashion is mostly Europe-centered and artisan-made stuff (you know that if you follow Emma Watson’s phenomenal success at bringing awareness to ethical fashion via red carpet) that occupies a very slight fraction of the market, the following steps down the fashion ladder (high- and very-high-end prêt-à-porter) tend to care more about brand names and “trends” (whatever that is) than supply chains and labor conditions.

Ethical fashion at the moment is a marginal market where brand-names matter less, yet certainly has its own stars and starlets. And prices. In a world where a beautiful LBD easily costs over 200$ and a discounted winter coat goes over 300$, a suggestion that everybody should pledge to ethical fashion seems very elitist. Ethical fashion activists can run their moth dry about the distorted garment market, investment pieces, buying better and cost-per-wear (me on that, Hannah Theisen from Life + Style + Justice on that), but that doesn’t change the value of a euro.

Apart from just enumerating my wardrobe strategies, I’ve decided to disclose numbers. I have spreadsheets, you know. We are 6 full months into 2017, so I have these data and all the 2016 spending on clothing myself to compare and analyze. Ta-dah! All prices are in euros, the inflation hasn’t been serious, so the values are comparable:

First of all: A lot of money thrown at garments! 2017 is being expensive. I console myself with the clear usefulness of the items and the 2015 data. I don’t have a precise list of what exactly I bought in 2015, but I have the totals: 337.03€ in January-June and 268.13€ in July-December. Apparently, I’ve been in a similar spending situation before…

I won’t do an exhaustive run through all the purchases but here are my thoughts on the overall pattern and several caveats on how my wardrobe is very privileged:

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Observation 1: I comply with my ideal consumption pattern. Going with my ladder of preference, I’m actively using up and obtaining pre-loved items for free. This implies that the purchases – when made – are well researched, ethical (there are still some material and supply chain issues there, I know!) and rather pricey.

Observation 2: Things wear out. I did a great job in spacing my purchases and spending money on apparel every second month in 2016, but that just hasn’t been possible in 2017 (nor in 2015). My explanation is the life cycles of garments: I shred my sneakers mercilessly, tights break and underwear wears out. I’ll be able to confirm this hypothesis by the end of 2018.

Observation 3: I don’t buy second-hand, it usually comes for free. I have two major sources: my mom and swaps. That’s why I’ve made only two second-hand purchases in last 18 months!

Observation 4: I need better underwear (bras! have you ever seen an ethical sturdy underwire bra instead of all those whimsical bralettes?) and, especially, hosiery sources. I’m fine with their “made in” tags, but materials and supply chains are rather dubious. Will look into it!

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Caveat 1: My repair costs are externalized. There should be around 100€ per year in repair costs that so far my mom has been covering. Our seamstress is in Riga, we usually go together, the whole money relationship is a bit weird when I’m in Riga. I’m thinking about this… + there is the occasional gift from her!

Caveat 2: My hand-me-downs are exceptional! They come from my mom and swaps, and they come in heaps! I have been very picky lately, overcoming the scarcity mindset and planning what to look for… I buy all the auxiliaries – underwear, hosiery, footwear, weather gear – but the last serious one seems to have been the ¡No pasarán! tshirt from Red Federica Montseny crowdfunding… in 2015.

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What will July-December bring? Hopefully, less expenses in this segment of my spending. But also SiiL knickers and – finally! – a pair of vegan Birkenstocks if the gods of stocks/sizes will stand by me (after 3 years of intensive wear, the Crocs sandals broke down beyond repair). I’ll tell you in December.

Heirlooms in the age of fast fashion: Do they still make any?

I’ll be talking about family stuff, so here you have photos from the time my mom was participating in a sewing contest of Burda Moden; it’s very early 1990s and I’m the small person there. I definitely had the most stylish mom. Look at those earrings!

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Most of my garments won’t last. Many of them are poor quality fast fashion that I still pick up as hand-me-downs and swaps. And, due to my excel-driven wardrobe pruning decisions (i.e. unwillingly worn items have to go), my most loved items are worn to shreds and then some. Yes, my seamstress is used to me bringing in worn out jersey garments and pleading for a fix! Also, I’m not very careful with my stuff in general. Fragile and delicate is not really my cup of tea.

An unintended consequence that emerges from this combination of cheap, mass produced and low quality clothing and me cultivating a “here and now” wardrobe approach is lack of heirlooms. I use the notion of “heirloom” in a rather lax manner here, we don’t have much jewelry to pass. But apparently not much quality vintage either. A change in criteria in family hasn’t helped. Unless somebody is hiding stuff (I suspect that my aunt is!), the most interesting garments were cleaned out from family closets some 15 years ago when it became clear that the Soviet (and Post-soviet) need of saving things for a rainy day is gone forever. I did wear some of my grandma’s half-slips as skirt for a while (hey! it was 2003, teen magazines told me it was OK) but that was pretty much it.

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I’m currently holding on to few items of family vintage, mostly accessories. Those seem to adjust better to the passing of time and wear out less:

Grandpa’s ducky tie and rainbow cufflinks. I stole several grandpa’s ties when I was in my teens (and wore them! before Avrile Lavigne did), this is the only one left due to it’s novelty print. The rest of them were geometrical 70s stuff in dirty colors. I know nothing about the history of these accessories but keep fantasizing about the perfect white shirt and full skirt to wear them with. Some day…

The Justina wristwatch, from the other side of the little family I’ve built with C. Having understood the use of a watch during travel and meetings, in 2012 I wanted a wristwatch. It just happened that C was going though his old stuff in his childhood bedroom and showing me an array of wristwatches he had worn. So I got one to wear and take care of, one that he wore before his first communion, more than 20 years ago. Justina is a bit capricious (loves the touch of a watchmaker!) but feels just right.

Grandma’s winter scarves. Again, I snatched these some 15 years ago and wore as scarves throughout the Latvian winters of my teenage years. Even though I’ve been wearing other highly valued scarves lately (see below), these are back in Riga waiting for their renaissance.

The blue embroidered peasant blouse. I know that a colleague of my grandma made this for my mother and her sister. I don’t know which one of them wore it mostly and when. It’s a puffy and very cute garment, though shows sweat and adds a lot of volume to shoulders. Last week for the first time I started doubting about holding on to it. But then I wore it and this little blouse is one of those garments that feels better than it looks. It stays in the drawer!

The beaded bag. It is a set of three bags, one big and two small ones. As made for a mother with two daughters, my grandma and her two girls. I “inherited” one of the small ones (see the 1991 pic) and my cousin had the other one (I hope she still has it!)… until I somehow got my hands onto the big one. It’s heavily worn, and velvet + glued-on plastic beads are not the most lasting materials. This is the real vintage and is not going anywhere.

My mom’s blue dress. She made it herself. It was a maxi then, moved so magically and smelled of her. This is my first summer with it, and it feels magical to wear it.

Red wooden beads. I played with them as a child, making necklaces and taking them apart again (and letting somebody else to pick up all those that fell on the floor).

Silver Namēja wristband. This is the real heirloom from my mom.

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And then there are things that are not strictly heirlooms yet but I can see the potential:

Two relatively recent additions to my winter scarf collection are these wool wonders, a Pavlovo Posad shawl and a Cien Colores shawl. My favorite trivia question that everybody fails is asking people to guess where the Cien Colores comes from. Nobody suggests Cáceres, ever. Russians have been very successful in co-opting these kind of patterns in the popular imagination of Europeans.

The weirdest earrings capsule: chocolates and post-modern Lenin (see photo above) are creations of Latvian artists and gifts from my aunt. The virgin earrings – somebody told that that’s the typical depiction of Our Lady of Lourdes – are almost as funny as the Lenin earrings. I found them in a run-down mall of Fuerteventura in January 2008. In a normal accessory store, not one specializing in Catholic paraphernalia. I had newly pierced ears, and found the design + circumstances so ironic that I had to have them. A great conversation starter in inland Spain, too. It still puzzles me that somebody would wear such thing seriously.

The other necklace was a gift from my kindergarten friend Jēkabs when we were still in the kindergarten. He also had a very stylish mom and we were below 7, so I assume that I have to thank her for this very cool piece.

Wooden jewelry from Dana Zēberga, the sad bear earrings (above) and the “Russian” set. I love the “Russian” set very much and hope to keep it forever. Unless I lose it, my chances are good. I’ve had it for three or so years now, and no signs of wearing out.

Swedish army field jacket. Bought second-hand in a military/fishing shop in Riga in summer 2003 preparing for a military-themed summer camp (weird, I know! I did two of these at the ripe ages of 15 and 16, go figure). When I brought it home, together with matching pants and army boots, my haul smelled so bad that my grandma ordered a shortcut from doorstep to washing machine. Those pants and boots have long since disappeared from my wardrobe, but this jacket is probably the most robust garment I have.

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Throughout this post I kept thinking about what makes things potential heirlooms. They have to be unique or at least rare. They have to be aesthetically appealing. The have to be somewhat sturdy and time-resistant.

It’s weird, but I don’t think that my most exuberant adornments – my headbands – will survive for long enough. I’m down to three and… they just don’t feel special enough, despite being carefully crafted by ban.do girls (before they switched to whatever bs it is they are doing now) and Kaley from Little Honey Pies (also before the permanent vacation mood).
The wooden beads I used to play with 25 years ago and my grandpa’s ducky tie will last longer. That’s called selection bias.

The wardrobe ins and outs of spring 2017

These combinations will never happen again.

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I already shared that spring felt somewhat overwhelming in my wardrobe: so many garments, so little time… And that’s a mind trick because spring capsule was 39 items for 12 weeks, only two week less than my winter capsule. It is rather eerie, but the number of incoming and outgoing items during the season is also the same: 8-8 in winter and 8-8 now! If the same happens this summer, I’ll consider writing a treatise “Magical mechanics of capsule wardrobes”. (Damn, that’s what I should’ve named the blog!)

The causes of overwhelm include adjustments for weather, unexpected gifts and hand-me-downs, one long desired incorporation and one totally random “let’s wear lounge wear outside” decision. So here we go:

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IN (from storage)

White Indian blouse and H&M shorts: taken out from storage for our Andalucia trip, and then worn to ease into the rising temperatures. I love that blouse, and the heat here erases any stupid ideas about “but my legs in shorts…” It’s just a necessity. Both of these garments will accompany me in summer.

Muroexe boots: it rained. Twice. Now I know that my heavy Barcelona rain strategy should be staying at home, no boot can deal with these showers. Also, my decision to walk to work (3km) in heavy rain might have been misguided.

Amoralle leggings: it seemed like a good idea on March 12. I guess it was a laundry emergency. I made myself wear them 10 more times, and this just cements my conviction that those leggings should not leave home.

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IN (new!)

Veja Arcade: a long planned and needed addition to my footwear ultra-capsule. So I continue my Veja fangirl adventure by changing a model (my previous three pairs were all the same model: Taua). Vegan and very pretty, as the previous ones, but this is a more serious sneaker. It took me few weeks to break them in properly, but now they are very comfy.

Ear headband: Marina sent me a love package! But after 10 wears I have to admit that my adornment box is not the right place for it. My head is too big so it hurts to wear it for long time. And, unfortunately, it is clear that it is too much extravagance for my current lifestyle. I’m very sad to admit it. The only place I saw people with similar things on their heads was at the Sakura festival at Brooklyn Botanical garden…

Bow dress and American Apparel mini skirt: hand-me-downs from Marina, out of current season material-wise (winter is the synthetics time, everybody knows that!) and very short (so also will work better during the tights season). I wore them a couple of time to find all this out, though, but now they are going to sleep in storage until October.

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OUT

I organized my wardrobe departures around May’s Swap, so you can see 7 of them in this post. The only item missing from that list are my Crocs pumps who were worn out of home for the last 11 times during this spring. Now they’ve received a bath and will continue their life as indoor-only shoes, so no more appearances in the spreadsheet.

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There are several things that came into my wardrobe right before the beginning of the spring capsule. My mom came to visit bringing two pieces I had snatched at her last wardrobe pruning – the little pale pink sweater (fast fashion) and the gorgeous floral full skirt (made in Estonia) – and together we discovered the Arcopedico store in Barcelona. So these does not count as formal ins as they appeared a day or two before the official start of my spring season, but I got a pair of very comfy formal shoes (so wide that I actually need a smaller size there; next time I’ll get 38 instead of 39) and ta-dah:

Adventures of the spring 2017 capsule

Some of my spring favourites.

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The spring is over, so let’s talk about spring. (I know, it’s weird but… the knowledge is in once the season is over and waiting until the last weeks of next winter is a strategy I might try one day. But not now.)
Weather basics are the following: March 1 – May 28, temperatures between 15 and 25ºC with a gradual change towards hotter and hotter, an occasional heavy shower but mostly sunny. And lifestyle still the same: cycling or walking to my university office where nobody cares about what I wear (I don’t teach, so there are no respectability concerns) five or six days a week + an occasional travel. Andalucía and Chicago-NYC-Philadelphia happened this time (#wiw 1 & 2). 12 weeks and 39 items in my wardrobe.

The shift of weather towards warmer meant shedding layers. In March I wore two light layers, in April one layer and May in Barcelona is already summer by Latvian standards, so the only places where I need a cardigan from May till October is my air conditioned office, trains, airports and planes. Also, I started the season with tights, switched to knee socks in mid-March and to bare legs in May. Yet my basic pieces carried through these temperature changes beautifully:

The evolution of layering between March, April and May 2017.

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As in my winter capsule, the most used pieces have more to do with math than with some profound truth about my preferences. As I insist of wearing all of them at least 10 times, pieces in categories that have less items – footwear and layers in my case – get more wears than the rest. There are two items that have special status – the gray cardigan and Arcopédico wedges (one of this Spring’s “ins”!) – as they live at work, so they basically get a wear every working day. Here you have the parade of Spring’s most worn (20 or more times, in descending order):

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The overall lessons learnt during these 3 months are to do a better work at balancing restriction and flexibility, so that I wouldn’t have to sulk about not meeting my own standards. In my case that means better control of “incomings”, at least when it comes to pulling random stuff out of the storage (read about that here), but still accepting that life happens, garments wear out and laundry emergencies are a reality.
Here you have the ones that – for one reason or other – didn’t make it to 10 wears: H&M “denim” (lyocell!) shorts, Marina’s bow dress, Marina’s AA mini skirt and Muroexe boots. It’s not about them, however, it’s about timing and weather, so you’ll see them again once the temperatures go down.

Let it go, let go (of non-serving restrictions)

If you’ve read my previous posts, you might have noticed my “wear everything at least x times per season” rule. I started doing this in January, aiming to surpass the “turn the hanger” method and obtain more information about which garments currently work for me and which ones have to go.

(I have no illusions for keeping “heirlooms” for children I’m not having, so very few items hang around for sentimental or artistic reasons. Currently that shortlist comes down to few highlights from my formerly extensive flashy earring collection and few garments I received as heirlooms. But that’s a whole another post…)

My spring favorites. And the spreadsheet knows it.

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I still think that my daily check-in with a spreadsheet is a valuable practice and I enjoy doing it. However, for last few weeks I’ve had to ruminate about the dark side of complex rules: what do I do when life gets in the way?
Current tension comes from a clash between two self-imposed rules: (a) I’ve set the end of this “season” on May 28 and (b) I’ve decided to strive towards the same number of wears-per-season as in winter (10), despite the fact that this one is few weeks shorter. Being me, I was ridiculously methodical for the first half of this season, but then life happened:

a gift,

a trip,

rain,

an attractive hand-me-down.

So my excel is out of balance and there is no way for all items to reach the magical number of wears. Well, unless I wear nothing else for next week but winter boots, short shorts and bird headband. And – guess what! – I’m not doing that. In your face, obsessive-compulsive personality!

What it could’ve looked like for next 10 days.

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I know my wardrobe in and out, including the reasons for each of the “failures”. (Thankfully, Google sheets do not provide info on time spent on each document!). And my spreadsheet still serves its purpose beautifully: it identifies items that have to find another home. At the end of this season – at May 27 Swap – I’m saying bye-bye to several things that have accompanied me for years and that I could still make myself wear. Yet, the spreadsheet doesn’t lie!
While for some people it is enough to hold a garment and ask if it sparks joy (hi, KonMari!), I’m too prone to rationalization. With around 30 serious garments left in my Barcelona wardrobe, I can find reasons to keep any of them. So spreadsheet data serves as counterargument to this scarcity mindset. Every time I feel prone to panicking about the shrinking size of my wardrobe, I just remind myself that with the current quantity I have difficulties wearing each of those garments 10 times in 3 months of appropriate weather. So, zero reasons for panic.

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Lessons learnt from having had to convince myself to let go:
1. Relax the self-imposed rules when compliance would go beyond the utility. I.e., remember the reasons and evaluate your obsessions on that basis.
2. A seasonal capsule of almost 40 items at the end of the season feels too big and overwhelming. My wardrobe is like a baby, it sleeps better with a little straitjacket. Keep that in mind for summer!

We shall swap again

Get out your agendas and mark in fluorescent May 27! Here in Gràcia we shall spend that Saturday swapping clothing, having drinks, snacks and overall good time. Check in as “going” in the Facebook event, so we can count with your presence, and here you can read all about how we swap and why.

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To give you an idea of what kind of things will leave my wardrobe (and invite you to prune yours before that Saturday), here is a preliminary list of garments that I’ll say bye-bye to during this swap:

1. My red denim jacket. This is one of the oldest garments in my wardrobe, but now, after 15 years or so, it’s time to let it go. There’s nothing wrong with it, apart from some wear and serious fade, but it just does not feel right anymore. I see it as the perfect base for becoming an embroidered statement jacket, so much better than anything hanging on the racks of fast fashion places this spring. Wait, let me think about it…

2. Zara blazer. A hand-me-down from my mom and made in Spain, hence from the days when Amancio hadn’t shipped abroad all their production. It’s summery and nicely shaped (it had shoulder pads originally, but I paid people to get those out), but throughout the last few years I’ve had to *make* myself wear it. When I wear it, I like it… but only when there are no other options around. I guess the problem is that I like the idea of blazers but not the actual garments. Also, I have wide enough shoulders that need little emphasizing, they are prominent enough, thank you very much.

3. Natura linen dress. A hand-me-down from Julie that I had the lining taken out (somebody in fast fashion industry though that it was a good idea to put synthetic lining to a linen dress, the seamstress I brought it to was gobsmacked). It’s the anti-bodycon and I’ve worn it a lot in the eight months I’ve had it for, but feels rather worn-out lately. Plus it’s a bit too short for riding a bicycle and shows sweat.

4. Black blouse. A very versatile garment (on the formal side, though) I’ve worn a little over many years I’ve had it (more than 10), however it somehow never sat very well. My latest adjustment is to wear it with high-waist skirts, but it still lags behind other items in my capsule. So I hope somebody will adopt it and give this little blouse all the love it deserves!

5. Wrap skirt. Another very old item. My mom wore it for years and I’ve had it for even more afterwards. Nowadays it feels too long. So long that it has been bitten by bicycle breaks several times, so not fit for my lifestyle.

6. & 7. My two metallic headbands. Both are gifts, one from Marina and other from C’s mom, and I like them aesthetically. Yet they hurt my head more than I can endure. Well, it’s a big head I’ve got. Hope they find new owners with better-sized heads.

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I have to admit that listing them like this make me sentimental and creates an urge to hold onto them. Yet I know better. If they’ve been marked as “outgoing” in my spreadsheets (all of them form part of my spring capsule), that means that there is some aspect that is not working. And I shall let them go, let them go.

Instead of focusing on the outgoing, I have my little wishlist for the swap. While swapping is like thrift shopping in the sense that you never know what you will end up with, it helps to know which broad categories you are really interested in (try these wardrobe vision-building strategies for that!). So I will keep my eyes peeled for: (a) sandals (unlikely, but hey! a girl can hope), (b) breezy and nice-to-touch shirt with prolonged hemline (similar to this or this), (c) nice wool sweater, Seven Sisters style.

See you on May 27 and happy wardrobe editing until then!

Style ebb and flow, me and others

The conscious pairing down of my wardrobe – and spreadsheet control – allows to see style changes from a mile away. Focusing on what works for me now also shows which garments are no longer a fit. Wardrobe visions might suddenly reveal something very different than what I’ve been working towards for years. And these changes feel scary.

Significant part of my identity is attached to my style. I see myself as somebody dressing at least slightly more outrageously than people surrounding me. Braver. Artsier. Signalling nonconformity and different aesthetics. I guess many people go through such a phase in adolescence. Mine started in adolescence but never went away. Outwardly it has gotten much more conventional since then yet I still have an urge to overdress and to express anything but fitting neatly in.

The trouble begins when my style shifts and garments I love the idea of suddenly become obsolete. The intense pruning of last few years has also been a move towards a more versatile wardrobe. My key travel pieces for this US trip were three dresses on the black-gray color scale paired with black tights. Very classy for my standards. And felt right for the occasion.

Yet this turn towards normal is in conflict with a part of my identity, the girl with bird headband. I keep consoling myself with the fact that I have a long way to go to even touch real normal (not owning a pair of jeans and insisting on bright henna hair dye help). Letting go, at least partly, of my supposed uniqueness through fashion is probably a good idea. Feels like growing up.

My stuff still has a story to tell, that’s the part I like most, not necessarily the clashing prints and out-of-place bridesmaid stuff. I know my garments much more intimately and prefer this to owning a wardrobe full of weird garments I had adopted because nobody else would understand them but wore rarely.

First draft of this post was written in Chicago Midway airport, on a very early Sunday morning, and the item rundown for this very un-special and un-fancy event is as follows:

Denim jacket: fast fashion, owned since 2003 or so, has seen most of my adventures since then.
Wristwatch: hand-me-down from C, he wore it when he was a little boy, leather strap.
Scarf: gift from C, part of the ethnographic costume of his region, wool.
Socks: gift from Liisa, made in Estonia, with ethnographic motives.
T-shirt: from a feminist crowdfunding, organic cotton, lovely print.
Pin 1: feminist message, from my SRHR activism with IPPF.
Backpack: hand-me-down from my dad, leather details.
Sweater: hand-me-down from my mom, fast fashion.
Sports bra: fast fashion bought new, very comfy.
Leggings: made in Latvia, silk screen printed.
Pin 2: feminist message, gift from Kristine.
Brooch: gift from my cousin, hand-made.
Suitcase: hand-me-down from C’ mom.
Ring: silver, a Latvian thing.
Knickers: Luva Huva.
Sneakers: Veja.

All of these carry a symbolic meaning or are a direct expression of my commitment to ethical fashion (that sports bra is the only outlier, very comfy though, hence representing my commitment to comfort). My wardrobe is evolving alright. I am OK with somewhat less flashy things that carry a story and link me with my loved ones.

And who knows, I might get back into the eccentric lady thing and weird hats with years to come.

The internal change is hard to disentangle from shifts in external expectations. I’m too used to people knowing the performative nature of my fashion choices. The implicit contract with my family, my friends and my partner is that I don’t ask for approval and they don’t comment on my choices. Hey, I went through high school dressing as I pleased, and remember only three fashion-related remarks I heard throughout those years.

Yet in last few months I have had several conversations when people I love thought it pertinent to remark that my fashion choices for the occasion were unfortunate. That threw me off completely as this is not what I’m used to. I expect people to stay silent about my outfits, especially if they don’t approve of them. That basic courtesy!

At the bottom of this is the fact that my headbands, lace dresses and bright tights are not for anybody else. I wear them for me and your opinion is not required. I already have the internal dialogue going on, debating under what conditions Lenin-with-punk-mohawk earrings are appropriate to wear. On one hand, he is a symbol of a totalitarian regime and of an ideology I don’t subscribe to, and makes fun of the tragic history of my region. On the other, it’s Latvian art, gift from my aunt, and I do find this kind of postmodernism funny… I don’t need additional input, thanks.

Journey on Hobbit feet

Comfort is key. Comfort is key. Clothing is here to make our lives easier. Have I told you that comfort is key? Sometimes I think that the feminist interpetation of (most) female footwear as conscious attempt of the patriarchy to keep us down is not just a hyperbole. If you need a visual argument for this, google “high heels x ray”. It shall do the trick.

The Tolkien reference in the title stems from the fact that my adult footwear choices have been restricted by my feet. They are wide, robust and keep me grounded. Also, their length by width do not fit most commercial footwear brands: the sizes that fit the width leave room for at least a finger or two at length.

This has served as more of an excuse than reason for suffering so far. I never really learned to walk on heels, so I gravitate towards more reasonable footwear anyways. Yet there have been some mistakes throughout the years. Espically painful was admitting to myself that Melissa stuff just is not made for my feet (plastic does not stretch, d-oh!) and lifestyle (their flats are not made for walking; believe me, I’ve tried). Here, have a laugh at my younger self and my poor tortured feet:

Sneakers have been a mainstay on my footwear shelf. Chuck Taylors All Star – real and fake – obsession was followed by lots of fast fashion ballerinas that wore out in few months. Summer 2014 was the lowest point of shoe desperation of wishing for better but being out of ideas. So my mom took me (a 26-year old) to Crocs shop in Riga and bought me 3 pairs. Only one of them turned out to be a real winner, but at least the existential dread of having only shoes that hurt in one way or another was eliminated.

An authentic relief came with my first pair of Veja, and I’ve been riding into the sunset ever since. But here are some past favorites:

Currently I’m the most happy with my footwear options I’ve been in a long time. I have eight pairs of outdoor shoes – five in Barcelona and three in Riga – and using ninth, the white Crocs pumps, as slippers at home. The great majority of them fit very well, except for those Crocs (that’s why they have been retired from taking long walks) and my first Arcopedico pair (next one I’ll get will be a 38 instead of 39 because, contrary to what the salesperson claimed, they do stretch). That’s the advantage of finding few brands that work for you: you resonate with the aesthetics, research the supply chain and production conditions, trust the quality, and know your size. That’s a quadruple win, especially for someone with non-standard feet.

Now the only thing I need for a dream-come-true shoe capsule is a pair of vegan footbed sandals, something like this but preferably with a toe post and attached to the ankle.

My minimalist well-being routine

Sometimes it seems easier to list all the things I’ve stopped using (make up, nail polish, hair conditioner, coffee, black tea, thongs, heels, milk chocolate), so this is an alternative exercise of counting all that remains.

Keep in mind that this is just about me and my advice for this type of subtraction is to be inspired konmari style and ask if a routine/product brings joy. If it does, keep it! If it doesn’t, replace it with something that sparks joy.

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Basics

Food: I eat vegan (leaning towards whole foods plant based) at home, with lots of fiber and very little processed sugars. Ovo-lacto things happen at social situations. I drink little alcohol, consume no tobacco and no caffeine (only a very occasional green tea if I’m feeling adventurous). Herbal teas is my jam.

Sleep: Sleeping is one of my all time favourite activities. My current feel-good requirement is 9h of zzz. Yes, nine hours of sleep every night. I know it’s a luxury and I treat it as such. I’ve read somewhere that Einstein needed 10h. That’s highly reassuring.

Movement: My current routine is cycling to work and back (~7km a day, half of that uphill), yoga at home with doyogawithme.com videos, taking all the possible stairs (I work on the 6th floor) and walking, walking, walking… In my movement wish list for future are more ping pong (there are public tables in Barcelona and I have a ping pong set, so convincing my potential ping pong partners is the only initiative needed) and some water activity, either finally learning to  swim properly or water aerobics if I can tolerate all the chlorine.

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Potions, tools, products and services.

Face: Coconut oil. A mix of shea butter and coconut oil for winter.

A great success of 2017 so far is weening myself off the chapstick addiction. However, if you are looking for one, Epically Epic is the way to go. Her stuff is breathtakingly good!

The same goes for facial creams. I’m not using any (coconut oil ftw!), but the only one I’d go back to is Lavera Basis Sensitiv. It has the perfect texture and smells the way I imagine the magical cream of Azazello smelled in Master and Margarita.

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Body: B12 supplement (If you are vegan, start taking this! Seriously). Multivitamin supplement.

Shampoo (no b*shit, purchased in bulk here), deodorant (vegan, no aluminum), coconut oil, sunscreen, tea tree oil for mosquito bites and zits, lavender oil mixed with water for refreshing and calming effect,  geranium oil because they don’t carry rose oil at Safareig, tweezers, bamboo q-tips. And I get all the unwanted hair removed with hot wax every 6 weeks.

Hair: Shampoo (serves as body wash too), henna dye, Kent (very non vegan) hair brush, wooden comb, assorted bobby pins and pony tail holders, mostly found on the street. For last few years, I’ve been getting a haircut once a year. There has been talk of Liisa trimming the ends for Julie and me, though, so this might change.

Nails: Nail clippers, nail file. My liberation from nail polish and long nails came really early. I removed the polish and cut my nails short when going for a long school trip in spring 2004. Never looked back to the aspiration of *perfect manicure*.

Oops. Found a proof in the archives that an occasional nail polish was going on still in early 2006

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Sexual and repoductive wellbeing: pill, fleurcup, vaginal probiotics (as my gynecologist says “Give your vagina a treat once in a while!”), lube + breathable and comfy underwear from Luva Huva and SiiL! And a visit to a gynecologist once a year.

Dental care: tooth paste (vegan and with fluoride, brand depends), Humble Brush tooth brush (I prefer extremely soft brushes, so I use the children’s brush), floss, and night guard because I grind my teeth. I visit my dentist and dental hygienist twice a year.

Feet: Foot file, nail clippers, lavender oil mixed with water to refresh and calm  + very comfy shoes.

Hands: Hand soap, desinfectant gel for going out and travel.

Vision: glasses, sunglasses, mini screwdriver for the glasses.

+ a stash of pills, mostly pain killers and fever reducers, and band-aids.

Baby Steps: Detoxing A Wardrobe Takes Time

Downsizing a wardrobe has one negative social effect… negative for us, social animals that look for recognition and pats on the back from our inner circles. Your friends will notice something new and flashy while they won’t know that, starting from now, you will treat your wardrobe differently. Unless you post that in all your social media, of course.

I want to assure you that every little step you make is good. I want to confirm that your effort is real, even if it means resisting the fast fashion advertisments green washing your brain and telling that they have changed just this one time. I want you to know that habit formation takes time. I want to promise that – after the initial resistance and adjusting – there will be a day when fast fashion will stop being a viable option in your microcosm. And that moment takes you into a whole new world.

My strategy of wardrobe detox is three-fold, slow and invisible. That’s fine. Relax and do your thing. Actions matter more than appearances. You will know that you are evolving, and that’s enough.

1. Use up what you have! Despite the temptation to start anew, our wardrobes are already full. I prune and edit, but keep living with things I have had for a long time. I still have some stuff from when I went to fast fashion places to browse. This first rule of sustainability sometimes leads to paradoxical situations. I might be lecturing you against the evils of fast fashion dressed in items I bought first-hand from the very same brands I viscerally hate today… well, I bought that garment in 2012 and its life with me is not over yet. At the moment I have few such items left, but it has taken me 5 years of not buying anything from those people to get here.

Denim jacket from 2003, black blouse ~2006, paisley pants from 2010, romper from 2012.

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2. Replace with used whenever possible! Yes, there are vintage gems and sewn-by-familiar-hands items in the second-hand and hand-me-down circles, but they are a minority. Most of the stuff that is going around come from the same fast fashion brands. Reusing a fast fashion item is obviously much-much-much better than purchasing that stuff new, but the tag doesn’t lie. Those things were made in poor conditions and, unless you explain to everybody you meet that this fast fashion garment is reused, i.e. redeemed, it looks like you are wearing fast fashion. A lot of my wardrobe falls into this category, and I treat them like adopted shelter animals: the whole situation is not their fault and I’ll make sure I give them the best possible life (a lot of wear!) until the natural end of their lives.

And these are not even all of my adopted fast fashion wonders…

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3. Buy well made only when new is your only reasonable option. For me the buy-new categories are very clear. So far in 2016 and 2017 I’ve obtained brand new underwear, hoisery and shoes. Underwear and hoisery are categories that do not invite reusing, those are intimate garments that many of us wear to shreds. Also, these are the things that wore out sooner than the rest, gets the most washes, etc. New items have to come in and replace the worn-out ones, hence there isn’t that much second-hand market even if you’d want to!

My leggings are ZIB and Amoralle (Latvia FTW!), my stockings, tights and pinkie socks come from Calzedonia (carefully selecting made in Italy items), my knee-socks are Bonne Maison (made in Portugal). I’m not sure about the supply chains of any of them,  so these are mid-term solutions. Google on your own for better ones! GoodOnYou, although Australia-centered, is a good place to start.

My knickers are Luva Huva (UK) and SiiL (Barcelona), my bras are Lauma and Rosme (unclear supply chain but made in Latvia) + a Luva Huva bralette and a fast fashion sports bra (a 2015 slip-up that I’m owning up). I like to have moderate to high amount of support, so the flimsy bralettes that most ethical producers throw at me do not cut it. I’m still looking for a responsibly-made solid underwire bra. So far those seem to be as elusive as unicorns!

Footwear is another category (and whole another post) that in my case invite to buy new if I’ve found something that fits my needs. I have very wide feet and use them a lot (walking! cycling!), so my shoes have to be wide, comfy and securely attached to my feet. Adding another layer of requirements when it comes to responsibly sourced and ethically made (and vegan!) makes buying shoes an impressive challenge. The whole trope about women and shoe shopping is something I’ve never understood! So second-hands do not tend to be my option (there have been exceptions, though), but after years of footwear struggles I currently have a set of favourites: Veja sneakers (currently I’m impatiently waiting for my fourth pair in two years), Muroexe boots and Arcopedico pumps.

To All New Arrivals (Winter 2017), We Love You

This is going to be a chat about arrivals and departures of items to and from my winter wardrobe (Barcelona, November 2016 – February 2017). I was quite flexible, allowing things to come in and flow out. Ended up being the same number, but that’s a coincidence, I swear.

8 IN!

New to me:

1. Black sparkly headband, birthday gift from C’s mom. A rather “sober” addition to my headband collection. A keeper for at least a while.

Not counted in the spreadsheet (welcome to my complex system): birthday gift from C – a cien colores scarf from Cáceres region and sunglasses, a birthday gift from my Mom.

2. Woolen fast fashion sweater (made in Madagascar!) I snatched from C and then swapped away before tailoring to fit me better (so you also see it in the “Out” list). Served me well for two weeks, though.

3. Muroexe boots. You can read about my wet-weather footwear struggles here. C had followed these people for a long time, so he suggested I get these boots during the sales and stop whining about my feet hurting. It worked.

4. Fast fashion (made in Turkey) lace dress Liisa had brought to January Swap. This has received an extensive wear throughout February to comply with my obsession to wear everything at least 10 times. Did it! And brought some serious bridesmaid’s look to my office.

5. Velvet skater skirt Liisa had brought to January Swap (indeed, I like her stuff!). A friend of hers in Estonia made it, so it’s slow, homemade fashion. Also warm, comfy and flattering. High (read: natural) waists have been intriguing me for a while, but I never found the right piece to practice it. After all, I came of age during the time of boot cuts and low-low waistlines. Again, this piece got a lot of wear in February due to 10-time rule.

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The pieces I pulled out of my non-seasonal box were:

6. My Mom’s hand-me-down wrap skirt emerged from the box, to replace the green flared skirt.

7. I got out the pink outrageous trench to do a low-key Little Red Riding Hood fancy dress and then decided I needed to stick with it for 10 times. During those I realized that this modified fast fashion wonder had become too much even for me. So, out it went. I really hope it has found a more extravagant new owner.

Pictures from when the little trench was still white. There is no photographic evidence of my dye job.

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8. Black White Veja Taua got pulled out of the rubbish bag and worn for a week. Then, having confirmed that they were indeed falling apart, out they went.

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8 OUT!

1. C’s woolen sweater went to January Clothes’ Swap and found a new owner.

2. The pink trench went to January Clothes’ Swap, nobody wanted it so to Banc Expropriat’s Tienda Gratis it went.

3. The green flared skirt (bought second hand in Riga in 2006) felt very worn and used, and went to January Clothes’ Swap. Nobody wanted it there, so to Banc Expropriat’s Tienda Gratis it went.

4. C’s hand-me-down fake denim pants were not keeping their shape, even after all the tailoring. So bye-bye and it ended up in Banc Expropriat’s Tienda Gratis.

5. Vivienne Westwood x Melissa boots had the same destiny, because boots causing suffering is not OK, no matter how pretty.

6. Julie’s hand-me-down cardigan got an unmendable hole and went to Roba Amiga container.

7. Black White Veja Taua also went directly to the orange container.

8. I got in touch with reality, and the white knitted vest finally went to rest in the orange container. It had my winter staple for many years (and my Mom’s before that), but no garment lasts forever.

So there was a lot of movement in my winter wardrobe. I got three very basic winter staples: the lace dress, the velvet skirt and my new winter boots + some cute adornments. And I let go of several items that were either not working for me or beyond repair. Success!

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.

My Wardrobe, Part 2: How I Build and Track My Seasonal Capsules

What my current wardrobe spreadsheet looks like, March-May 2017.

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My notion of season is weather-driven. I’ve realized that in Barcelona it makes sense to separate them unequally. So I have 4 months of very mild winter (November-February), 3 spring months (March-May), a whole lot of hot and humid summer (June-September). I pull October in with summer knowing that a light jacket and knee socks will become useful. Yes, there is variation in each season, but I’m OK with lack of conceptual clarity here. The only reason why I do the separation and not Marie Kondo-style “put everything out and wear what makes sense” is my refusal of having things I’m not wearing in the “active” part of my wardrobe. I do not want to see my wool cape when I’m dripping sweat in July. I want to open the wardrobe and see only the weather-appropriate, i. e. realistic options I have.

So, some time before the date I’ve marked for season change, I open a spreadsheet and copy-paste from my total wardrobe sheet the items appropriate for the season and items I want to force myself to wear. This is the answer to the riddle why necklaces and headbands are in my capsules and winter hat is not. I know I will wear winter hat everyday I’m riding my bicycle. I have one – a hand-me-down from C that brings me Team Zissou vibes – and my ears hurt if I don’t wear it. Case closed. Although I might include the hat and my three winter scarves next winter. Yet no surprises are coming from them and none of them is going out anytime soon.

All the impractical stuff neatly together.

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The impractical adornments – earrings (6 pairs), necklaces (4) and headbands (4) – is a whole different story. Conceptually I want to wear them, but it’s not an automatic thing. I’m (unfortunately) not Iris Apfel, after all! So I train myself by including them in the capsule spreadsheet. Indeed, “a spreadsheet made me do this” makes sense in my world. I can confirm that the bird headband is very grateful for all the attention it is getting.

My dearest friend Marina recently decided to up my headband game with a pair of sparkly cat ears.

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The expected weather is my main guide, as it dictates the types of layers and materials. I pick around 20 season-appropriate things from the serious items I have. So I put the things in and look at the sum. These days I want it to be around 30 at the beginning, birds and necklaces included. If it’s over that, I look for an item that could use a “time-out”. If I have two functionally very similar items, I usually keep in the capsule the one I like the least. That way I understand sooner than later if that’s an item I really want to keep on having. I allow myself to retire items to a never-ever-again land after a few wears and give myself permission to replace them with stored items if appropriate.

That’s what happened with my very old and very reliable green Next skirt this winter. In mid-December I clearly knew that I didn’t want to wear them ever again. So I washed them, tucked them away for the January Clothes’ Swap and pulled out my Mom’s hand-me-down wrap skirt. Everybody survived and nobody noticed.

So at the beginning of my “season” I have an prepared spreadsheet where I fill in everything I wear outside home. For me the few minutes of attention needed is worth the end result: full information about how much use I’m giving to my things. I end up knowing perfectly well which ones are my closet heroes and which ones linger at the end of the list because of the wrong fit, material, whathaveyou… Not all of them get donated right away. Frankly, it is not surprising that the comfy and practical stuff, especially if I have one item that fill that function, gets more wears than a bird headband. Yet I am very aware of my more capricious pieces that do not fit my lifestyle that well.

This is what the first four weeks of this winter looked like. The columns go like this:

  1. Items that came in during the season.
  2. Items that went out during the season.
  3. Item marker for the total, in this case 39.
  4. Item name, arranged by categories and in order of tenure in my wardrobe. Those are color-coded if they went out during the season (red) and if they need fixing (blue).
  5. Worn item marker or the “virtual hanger turner”.
  6. The number of times this has been worn.
  7. A column for each day of the season, color-coded according to my activities (work day – weekend – travel/holidays/working from home).

+ Little notes on how the outfit fits the weather.

This is the end graph, tallying up the times each item has been worn. As you can see, almost everything reached 10, many of them barely, though. The exceptions were the green Next skirt, Vivienne Westwood x Melissa rain boots and Veja Taua Black White sneakers. Those are the ones that didn’t make it to the end of the season. You can read all about their destinies and the wardrobe heroes of this winter here.

To sum up, I do a tightly controlled seasonal capsule of around 30 items, footwear and adornments. This is my way to force me either wear the things or part ways. So far it is working great, I have a feeling of living in clothing abundance and my biggest wardrobe headaches are caused by the need to replace basic items that are beyond repair. My supposedly unbreakable Mel Virtue Stud moccasins tore, so I need a new pair of robust, year-round, comfy and ethical slippers. Good luck with that! I would have preferred them to last forever. The same goes for the Veja Taua Black Whites. I really hope they are planning to put out a new batch.

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Help yourself!

If this approach – or a more laid back version of seasonal minimalist wardrobe spreadsheets – seems intriguing, I’ve made three types of Google sheets that you can download or bring to your own Google drive:

  1. The virtual hanger turner if the physical hanger turning does not work for you, like if you have a dresser instead of hangers or just hate the look of turned hangers.
  2. The weekly-virtual hanger turner. Keep those items in check at least weekly! You will soon realize that not all items are created equal.
  3. The daily sheet for the spreadsheet lovers. Gives you all the information.

My Wardrobe, Part 1: What Do I Have and How Did I Get Here

OK, I’ve gone over the conceptualization of minimalist wardrobes – as I see it – here. You’ve read it and seen if any of those strategies resonate with you. This is the post where I confess the level of obsession I have with my wardrobe and the process I’ve followed to get here. In the second part I take you through the nitty gritty of how I build and track my seasonal capsules.

As you might have guessed from the wardrobe conceptualization post, the last strategy, the one with no external references, the one that I don’t know anybody doing – that’s me! I do recognize, especially by the disturbed stares of people I have talked about this, that my approach is a rather extreme one. I admit the obsession and console myself with the fact that it could be worse. The substance of my obsession could be a more dangerous (to my health, to my social life, to my work) or that money use involved could be a spending not saving one. So hear me out.

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The Status Quo

My overall wardrobe status-quo is having two small wardrobes separated by more than 3000km. I’ve had that separation since I left Riga in 2007. For last 10 years I’ve still spent few months a year in Riga (and there are some Riga-specific items, such as winter coats), hence so far having two sets of clothing has made sense and have enabled me to travel lightly to and from (hello, extra-small free carry-on luggage of WizzAir). However, this also means that there is a flow of things to Riga and back in my attempt to curate the smallest possible Marie Kondo-style wardrobe that would work for all four seasons of Latvia.

As of early March 2017, I have a total of slightly more than 100 items of all kinds of clothing (this is including all underwear, socks, scarves, bags, earrings… everything) in Barcelona. Out of these, there are 34 serious items I wear in public (the ones usually counted in wardrobes: layers, dresses, tops, bottoms) and 4 pairs of out-of-home footwear. In Riga I have a total 60 items, 19 of them serious and 3 pairs of footwear.

I know the exact numbers because I have an exhaustive list in a Google sheet I keep updating and tinkering with. You can see where this is going… because my seasonal wardrobes, both the process of curating them and tracking the use of those items, are also sheet-based. Welcome to the data-nerd galore!

Because Latvian summer requires a wide range of layers…

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How Did I Get Here?

What my adolescence looked like, 2003-2007. I still wear some of these things, btw.

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I started as a clothing junkie in my teens. When I claim that I could have opened a well-stocked second-hand shop only with my stuff, I’m only half-joking. We did a lot of thrift-store shopping with my Mom in my early teens and I combined it with more and more fast fashion until my mid-twenties. Not cool. Also, I would say that my style deteriorated, becoming less exciting. Makes sense, those items are as far from unique as they can be. And low quality. And hurting people who make them. Fast fashion is evil, fuck it. But, yeah, I’ve binged on it.

Somehow in 2012 I stopped going to H&M to browse and in 2013/2014 I started to prune my wardrobe instead of adding. I tried the “switch the hanger” system and was not happy, so I turned it into a virtual “switch the hanger system”. My first attempt at seasonal wardrobe makes me laugh now. It’s a list for September 2014 with 58 items. By the end of month I had managed to wear 34 of them. I had just put in a list everything that was weather appropriate. Two things became very clear. First, I had a lot of stuff. Second, I needed a change in strategy.

My first conscious attempts at dressing with less and documenting it, early 2015.

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I went on editing out the things I did not wear. I extended the time periods I was working with. I took notes on weather, discovering what winter in Barcelona means and how long the summer lasts (June to September is the answer). I decreased the number of things selected, both because the unworn items went away and were not replaced and just to try how much more restrictive I could make it. And all this time I was turning my virtual hangers in my wardrobe sheet.

In early 2016 I added a whole new layer of information following a thought “what if I tracked exactly how much I wore each thing?”. I’m not sure where the idea came from, because I have not read of anybody doing this. Though I do believe that there have to be some fellow obsessive-compulsives out there taking notes like that. I have a long history of creating data sets like this on movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read, countries I’ve visited, my menstrual cycles, etc. Then I can do basic descriptive analysis and feel happy about the knowledge gained (for example, the percentage of female-directed movies I’ve seen in a year). Yeah, to each her own.

This winter I played an additional game, trying to make sure that each item gets at least 10 wears. I succeeded at this one, but only with careful planning work and paying special attention to latecomers from January’s Clothes’ Swap, the lace dress and the velvet skater skirt.

A year after… 2018-02-13

The only update to be had is that the current numbers are 34 ‘serious’ garments and 6 pairs of footwear in Barcelona, and 8 and 2 respectively in Rīga, so I’ve lost 11 garments and gained a pair of shoes in this year. I’m still tracking the number of wears, and the basics of my approach in wardrobe curation can be found here and here.