The capsule is dead, long live the spreadsheet!

My new ‘all-in’ spreadsheet (view full here).

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As admitting the truth is the first step towards a better life, I’m finally facing the obvious: all my wardrobe is a capsule. If it’s about “a collection of 30-40 practical and versatile pieces of clothing put together with the intention of being an entire wardrobe [for a season]“, that’s exactly what’s going in on in my wardrobe, except for the seasonal part. I’m currently living with a total of 42 pieces of main clothing + 8 pairs of footwear + lounge wear, accessories, etc. A grand total of 141 items, including every sock and earring.

I’ve realized that the seasonal extraction of the weather-inappropriate subset is pretty superfluous, especially with these fake Mediterranean  winters. And stashing away – in a big plastic box, no less –  things I could be wearing just because the calendar or the spreadsheet  said so (like for the 7 dresses experiment: read here and here) felt unnecessary and forced. While uniforms and super-reduced wardrobes are celebrated for the mind-space they liberate, I love and want my daily decisions. And then I want to track them.

Also, for me having all my stuff hanging (yes, Marie Kondo, almost all my garments look happier on hangers!) is more challenging than having a formal capsule and moving the plastic box back and forth. The implication of this new strategy is that my year-round wardrobe must fit on 30-40 hangers, because we share the wardrobe and that’s all the space there is. So I will still have exogenous limits, tracking, an empty plastic box to re-purpose, and all my joyful garment friends at my fingertips.

Our wardrobe!

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My current wardrobe feels more than abundant… It’s weird how careful pruning works: I have an abundance of exciting outfits and I love them. Never before since my adolescence I’ve had so few garments and never before I’ve been so satisfied with what I have… So, counting only main garments and footwear, I have 50 items but he spreadsheet has more because adornments and some lounge wear for casual days is included. It has been only eleven days of the new order, and:

a) I’m very excited to have all my things ‘available’.

b) Oh, I love my separates!

c) I’ve already worn 55% of what I have.

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The new goal is to maximize wears of those items that, for reason or another, have not received that much attention. In some cases – parka, rubber boots – it’s pretty much weather dependent (and in Riga), but many others just need love sweet love and, maybe, change of wardrobe if it turns out that we are not a match made in heaven. An important caveat when looking at the number is that those reflect last two years while some of the garments in my wardrobe have been there for more than 15 (that parka, my second-hand kaftan). However, even if I know perfectly well that my parka has had more than 100 wears, not having worn it much during last few years is an indicator too.

So these are the current underdogs I’ll be focusing on, weather and life allowing (it does make sense to include stuff from my Riga mini-capsule as I’ll be there for a week in February):

The WAG set (2 and 5 wears for the top and skirt respectively) – 2017: oh, the child of my sartorial weakness! It’s beautiful, flashy and tight (feels much better before dinner than after). I’ll do my best to give it as many wears as possible (beware, all the upcoming weddings!), but I’m still uncertain about it. After all, it’s on trial!

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The pink paisley corduroy skirt (3 wears) ~2006: I wore these a lot in high school. They’ve been hidden away in my Riga semi-capsule for years, but I think it time to bring back their pink sparkly goodness. Already tried them on the bicycle and they survived without getting trapped into the brakes, great! It’s amazing how old stuff can feel so incredibly ‘mine’ after years of scarce use.

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The striped jersey mini (3 wears) – 2017: the little versatile mini I scored at May’s swap got pushed away by the 7 dresses experiment. I actually already had the same model but in black back in 2011-2013 when we had an intense but short-lived relationship. I don’t expect longevity from this one either – thin H&M jersey is what it is. But it will be a beloved staple until it falls apart.

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The Norwegian-Lithuanian wool sweater (4 wears) – 2015: I kept this one in Riga waiting for a cold winter that never came. Now I finally found a function for it: it’s perfect for hanging around home during the cold months as part of my ‘survive the fake winter without any heating’ programme. It’s great for lounging around and running errands. So-incredibly-warm!

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Marina’s American Apparel mini skirt (4 wears) – 2017: The skirt so short I can wear them only during the tight season. I’m still on the hedge with this one. On one hand, they look good, help me channel a Sailor Moon vibe, and this 100% polyester hard plastic will last forever unless I set it on fire… but it is extremely short for my standards! I still have a couple of weeks to decide if February’s Swap is the right place for this one.

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My parka (4 wears) ~ 2003: What can I do if there is no winter? The pics below are from the fucking 12 of *March* 2005 in Riga. The weather is clearly not what it used to be… I wore the outer shell as a trench (in January!) last week, and the whole garment is not going anywhere. I still have some hope for seeing white winters again.

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Nokian Hai rubber boots (5 wears) – 2016: A good buy after Latvian summer rain made me wear winter boots in August once! They live in Riga and wait for the rain. They are my Latvian weather insurance!

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Flower ball headband (6 wears) – 2011: My most outrageous headpiece! It leaves in Riga and comes to opera with me. I might be relatively audacious when it come extravagant patterns and adornments, but this is my limit. It’s rather sad to touch the limits… I should wear this one more!

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Floral corduroy bolero (7 wears) – 2011: A bespoke creation of family dead stock for my LBD. Again, we go to opera together…

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Ginta’s purple jersey dress (8 wears) – 2016: The comfy hand-me-down! I use the little summer lace blouse (also a hand-me-down from my mother) as a layering piece and look relaxed yet put together. Win! It stayed in Riga, because I lacked space in my luggage and was too eager to live on my Barcelona separates for a while.

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Swedish military jacket (9 wears) – 2003: Oh, Swedish army surplus, you so sturdy and ultra-casual! I liked it 15 years ago because it pissed off the adults, now I need to find a place for it in my wardrobe again. My clear adolescent inclinations towards military styles (it was all the rage in early-2000s! Remember the combat pants and camouflage everywhere?) led to two functionally similar jackets, this and the Street One military-inspired one (2006) I revived last year. At the moment it’s my only light jacket in Riga, and we’ll see what the future brings.

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So this is the colorful – notice the dominance of purple, red and pink hues – adventure that awaits for the next few months. What are your wardrobe goals for the first quarter of 2018?

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

What can I do? Money is part of the essentials. So let’s talk about it!

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Money is almost always a tricky social issue, especially so when it comes to niches – like ethical fashion blogs – where people tell other people how they should spend their money. Blah-blah-blah, voting with your euros… and then sponsored posts and things-things-things! I already wrote a detailed post in July about my overall money-spending goals, so this one is an itemized update on last six months. The order of preferences has stayed the same: (1) intensively using up what I have, (2) incorporating mainly pre-loved garments, (3) ethically sourcing the ones I have troubles finding second-hand (underwear, hosiery, footwear).

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This is what January-June looked like:

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And these are the last six months in a nutshell:

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Two observations jump at me, and they are connected: (a) despite my July intentions, I’ve spent significantly more money on getting dressed than in the previous six months which already almost twice as in each of the 2016’s six-month chunks, and (b) I allowed myself to buy a set of two new main garments I did not need; without those 160€ my spending list would look much better. Here comes a complete run-down through each item:

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The birks: I was after a pair of vegan birks for a long time, remembering my knock-off footbed sandals ~2007 as the comfiest summer shoe ever. In July my trusty 2014 Crocs broke beyond repair, so now I have a pair of street sandals and the same model in EVA for the swimming pool. I’m very happy with both, despite the fact that the street pair is unfit for both cycling and long walks (Oh, feet blisters!). The swimming pool ones haven’t touched the street, so technically I could even exclude them from this list.

Verdict: Nicely invested 95€. Would repeat.

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SiiL knickers: Liisa made it possible for me to switch from LuvaHuva knickers – extremely comfy and well made but quite pricey – to ones made three street blocks from me. From organic cotton mixes bought in Barcelona and made by a friend = best ethical fashion! Also, these six pieces allowed to retire some worn out knickers, always a good idea. Although this pattern turned out to be better for winter than for Barcelona summer (the rubber band leads to chaffing), they’ve been great from October till now.

Verdict: Great! Mil gracias, Liisa.

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I bought naked “peinetas” – hair combs – to try to repurpose a pair of feather earrings Marina sent me. I re-crafted the feathers but the result was too exuberant even for me! So I passed them back to Marina hoping she could use them for her pre-Burning Men crafting sessions.

Verdict: Oh, well! Not all repair endeavors end up being successes, I tried my best.

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Swedish Stockings hosiery: I finally made the hosiery upgrade from Calzedonia to Swedish Stockings. The cashmere blend tights are ~3 times more expensive than the Calzedonia equivalent… I keep telling myself that that’s the right thing to do, but the price point still feels uncomfortable for me. I opened the tight season in November and so far have basically worn out three pairs of woolen tights: two Calzedonia leftovers I had from the previous winter and the Swedish Stockings one. That would mean a seasonal investment of around 120€ for three pairs of winter tights. The tights themselves are very nice: a generous fit (higher waist than Calzedonia has), very nice feel, but they clearly do not last forever.
I also bought six pairs of their step socks… Well, those are a complete fail! They are too tiny to stay on my feet, (and probably because of that) break very easily. Did not work.

Verdict: Tights yes, socks no! I keep telling myself that there is no way back to high-street hosiery… My new plan is to take full advantage of Swedish Stockings’ recycling initiative. As they promise 30% discount for those who return stockings for recycling, my three pairs of cashmere blend tights would end up costing around 80€. Much better! The only challenge now is to stretch the hosiery I have until the end of the season, and to save them up to send to Sweden. Taking into account that it’s around 16ºC now in Barcelona and I’m getting rid of my short dresses anyway, seems doable.

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The WAG set: Oh, my! I hadn’t bought a *new* main garment since 2015. But ideas about African prints and find something made locally when visiting Cape Town fogged my mind. The attention to the customer was impeccable, we had a great time, I tried on a million things, and ended up paying a small fortune for an unlined set made of conventional cotton.

Verdict: There is no way back, so now my mission is to wear it again, again and again. I’ll do my best!

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Trench repairs: details of my hand-me-down trench needed repairs, and neighborhood repair shops – seamstresses and the cobbler – were able to take care of it.

Verdict: My trench is back in shape, and I feel immensely grateful for living in a place where there is still access to fixers.

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Bra strap fixers for Laura’s dress: I picked up this polyester dress in September swap and wore it 11 times to understand that it’s not for me. Knowing that the main reason that the previous owner had passed it on was a problem with bra straps, I first used safety pins and then gathered all my bravery and precision to make my first bra strap fixers.

Verdict: I’m so proud of myself! And you are very welcome, next wearer of this dress.

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A new pack of hair pins: I came to Riga knowing that my current go-to hairstyle is a pinned-up french braid but didn’t take hair pins with me. D-oh!

Verdict: Even I could use some better planning at times.

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How do you deal with additional time and money investment that ethical fashion implies? Do you fall for some decision-fatigue buys of “I need this and I don’t care” or “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s too beautiful”? What was your most dubious buy of 2017?

Fashion, sustainability and tidying books I read in 2017

For the second year in row I’ve had the ambition to read more books than there are weeks in a year, and for the second year in row I’m failing miserably. I ended 2016 at 42/52, so 81%. At the moment I’m at 37/52, so 71%. Disappointing! However, 12 of those 2017 books were blog-related either touching the whys (sustainability, climate change, consumerism), hows (sustainable fashion) and aesthetic pleasures (style!). Here’s the list in the order I read them:

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Tuite, Rebecca C. 2014. Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look.

A pretty look-book explaining the rise of the preppy look which I’ll always eagerly repin despite the class bias. The funniest part is that styles that we now associate with arrogance and careful selection to “look the part”, was born out of quest for comfort and were seen as highly inappropriate and rebellious at their time. What can I say, give me a mix of nice knits and emancipation of women any time!

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Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox.

A bit outdated and avant-garde focused sustainable fashion book. A reminder that less than ten years ago sustainable fashion was an artsy fringe activity nobody expected to become relevant to the mainstream.

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Carson, Rachel. 1962 [2005]. Silent Spring.

Yes, I hadn’t read the seminal book that launched the environmentalism. And now I have. It still is a very powerful reminder of the arrogant recklessness of the industrial management of nature (that tends to bring unintended consequences of colossal scale). Although the pesticides of today are not exactly as horrible as the organochlorine pesticides that Carson was focusing on, we have more than enough toxic messes around the world continuing the proud tradition of human hubris.

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Sontag, Susan. 1977 [1979]. On Photography.

Aha, another classic that I finally read this year! While not neatly fitting in the overarching theme, a recommended read to everybody taking daily selfies. Somehow I do feel relieved that Sontag did not live to see Instagram… Diagnosis? We are all sick, but that won’t stop us from documenting the illness.

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Gilman, Charlotte P. 1915 [2002]. The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing.

Oh, this was such a treat! Gilman, the ultra-rational feminist hero – read her What Diantha Did for a 1910 (!) answer to the still-relevant housework issue! – charging against the stupidity of fashion. Early social scientists just wrote what they thought, interpreting their participant observations from the armchair (OK, like Bauman and other theorists of postmodernity still do / did until they left us). You cannot trust them as describing a representative reality, but they surely reflect certain stirrings of their time. This one is fascinating! I already mentioned this book here and here.

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Corn, Wanda M. 2017. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

I got this gem thanks to Marina who was willing to cater to my “see an exciting book in a museum shop, decide later” whims. For me this book was just the right mix of art and personal style without entering personal life. Bravo! The argument is very convincing, and more so with O’Keeffe than with others: if the artists has spent decades carefully curating (and making) her wardrobe and surroundings, it makes perfect sense to analyze them alongside her paintings.

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Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose. 2012. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.

Another sustainable fashion textbook, better than Black’s, worse than revised 2014 Fletcher below. In 2017 I was eager to build up an adequate knowledge base to start with, now I think I’m good, thanks! But I have to agree that in the last decade the sustainable fashion industry has moved with an incredible speed.

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Fletcher, Kate. 2008 [2014]. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journey.

For a still-relevant overview of the sustainable fashion industry from the point of view of design (and lots of optimistic hope about the designer’s power to be an influence for good), read this one! Fletcher is the fashion philosopher of NOW (of, the notion of “craft of use” is irresistible), but if you have other favorites, let me know in the comments.

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And then I went on a Marie Kondo binge you can read about here

Kondo, Marie. 2010 [2014]. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

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Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.

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Kondo, Marie and Yuko Uramoto. 2017. The Life-changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

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Monbiot, George. 2006 [2007]. Heat: How Can We Stop the Planet Burning.

I read Heat for the first time in 2008, and it was a game-changer for me. I took several small, individual steps to reduce my carbon footprint but didn’t stop flying (bad, bad me…). Not being a home- or business-owner, those were really tiny, but the book cemented my convictions that (1) climate change is happening (I know that in the USA “climate change” is understood to be the doubting term vs. much stronger “global warming”; however, assuming that words have meaning, not only spin, the shit storm that has already started goes beyond warming and is changing the climate in a multitude of ways, for example, when the Gulf stream stops, we won’t see much warming happening)  and we made it happen, obviously; (2) we have enough knowledge since long ago about the causes, so in principle we could have stopped it; (3) but we are shitty animals, our brains cannot deal with gradual and impersonal danger, so deserve to die and leave it to lizard-people to build the next civilization. That third part is not Monbiot’s, he really tries to be optimistic about the whole thing, but re-reading ten years later and knowing that we are even more fucked now, oh, well! Monbiot’s book started my climate change education and nothing has changed my climate pessimism since I read it for the first time.

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What were your sources of wisdom and brain-food in 2017? Do you have any information-consumption goals for 2018? How about less screens and more books?

7 dresses x 3 months: lessons learnt

Intrigued by the idea of dresses-only capsule (or wardrobe in general), in October I set out to give it a try with seven dresses of varying warmth that should have carried me from the still very warm October till December. Now comfortably in my Riga capsule lounge wear and under a blanket, here are the main lessons learnt from this little experiment:

1) I was bored and missed my separates.

2) Most of them (4/7) were sub-optimal and will be sent upstate for a better life.

3) However, I love that each of them came from a person I know, so they have actual names.

Boom! Now what? Well, let me tell you about them, both those who have proved to be my wardrobe champions and those that will be up for grabs in the next swap:

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My loves

Ginta’s blue dress: the dark blue silk dress made and worn ~20 years ago by my mom is the winner. It feels amazing on skin, is just the right size, and I feel artsy and fierce when wearing it. I started wearing it only this summer and it already has 33 wears. And, being the perfect summer dress to look put together even in Barcelona heat, will get many more.

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Ginta’s plaid dress: The plaid Wizard of Oz reminding “we’re not in Kansas anymore” is a fast-fashion hand-me-down from my mom I adopted in 2016 and have worn 43 times. It’s a great summer semi-formal (again, very few items manage not to kill you and still look smart in Barcelona summer) and can be worn year-round, has pockets and whirls. This is one of those paradoxical dresses that looks like an effort while feels like pajamas. A gem!

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Inga’s PhD dress: The plastic fake wrap dress was a random hand-me-down from my aunt in 2014. She had got in a second-hand raffle of sorts, it looked meh on her and great on me, so I got it with a suggestion to defend my thesis in this one. More than 40 wears later, it’s the perfect no-wrinkle cold weather dress that I might actually defend my thesis in.

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My bye-byes

Laura’s polka dot dress: I fell for this one during the September swap. Oh, the color, the dots, the flow! I felt like figure skater while wearing it… But it’s 100% polyester and can feel rather suffocating (I’m still not really getting the whole “let’s make summer dresses from plastic” logic), plus the top kept slipping down my shoulders together with the bra straps. And just when I was really proud of having put in the bra-strap fixers, the rubber giving shape to the waist snapped. The dress is now queuing at the seamstress’ for a fix and then will be looking for a new home. I understand that the slipping top was the main issue why Laura gave it away, so now she can come get it!

I’m incredibly proud for having done this!

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Marina’s bow dress: I adopted this one from Marina’s wardrobe a bit too hastily. I get excited, what can I say! It’s 100% poly and ultra-short. Despite the melting polyester (already two visits to seamstress), this dress is clearly keen on travel. As Marina said: “I bought it on ASOS on sale in April 2011 when I lived in London. She had many outings and came with me on vacations to Italy and Egypt. She made a couple appearances in New York but after hanging in the closet for a year, it earned a new life with you!” Add to that life in Barcelona and a trip to South Africa. So, if you’d like a short semi-formal with lust for travel, this might be just the right dress for you!

Taking the dress out for two vegan ice creams in Cape Town.

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Liisa’s lace dress: Liisa brought this M&S dress to January’s swap and I picked it up, because who could resist dressing like a bridesmaid for work? Not me, clearly. And only in this autumn – after 20 wears – it showed that everyday life is not what this dress was made for. I’ve literally (and accidentally) felted on it a whole layer of pink pills from my pink cardigan, and that’s just not OK. So bye-bye it goes…

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Marina’s blue bodycon: Oh, the tight winter bodycon! We’ve loved each other for 20 wears, but have to admit that you need somebody that either sweats less or lives somewhere colder than Barcelona. Good luck, my little plastic friend!

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What garment lessons have you learnt in the last few months? What are your plans for 2018? Have you ever thought of a uniform or capsule containing only one type of garments?

#KonMari for advanced minimalists


My first konmari tidying spree in 2016 resulted in giving my adolescent bedroom back to my parents.
Well, better late – at the ripe age of 28 – than never.

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I spent November under the spell of Marie Kondo books. I had already read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” last year, but now I binged through all three of them. Apart from enjoying them a lot, I have some reflections and suggestions on how to approach the (now somewhat subdued) “does it spark joy?” fever.

For anybody curious about the whole thing, I’d suggest this order of reading:

1. The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: Being manga, it’s a very short read – you’ll be done with this in a couple of hours and will have either curiosity about the whole “method” or none at all. However, I do see how this less esoteric than “The Life-Changing Magic…” and clearly young-adult-professional-women-looking-for-love targeting book could put some of us off. Kondo comes across as the love fairy that will discipline you into throwing out your sentimental garbage, hence opening space for the handsome neighbor next door.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The classical best seller that has filled Instagram. It’s short and follows the classical self-help book outlay of tracing the protagonist’s steps until they see the light and can now share it with the rest of the mortals. Kondo comes across as a spiritual teacher with a rigid “method” that you should follow without complaint in order to reach clutter free nirvana. While Kondo always repeats that relapse rate for her private clients is 0%, I am willing to bet that the great majority of people who read this one stayed with “oh, sounds interesting but a bit too harsh” and never did anything and the other ones did some purging of the obvious clutter and left it at that.

3. Spark Joy: This one is my favorite and has a very distinct tone from the other two. Kondo repeats the basic tenants of her method but also accepts all kinds of bending of the rules as far as you stick to things and practices that “spark joy”. This book is the real talk of “we are all weird”, going as far as the author revealing that her animistic relationship with objects is probably due to her difficulty of relating to humans. Boom! The stern fairy godmother just became vulnerable and human, although still suggesting ordering our lives along the lines of a slightly modified William Morris‘ maxim of “Have nothing in your houses [i.e. your lives] that you do not know to be [indispensably] useful, or believe to be beautiful [i.e. spark joy].”

Lettering by Kelly Cummings.

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Now, not to be counted among those “nice idea” people, I can proceed to lessons learnt and musings for future:

Having toyed (i.e. binge reading) with minimalism and capsule wardrobes since 2014, I have much less stuff to begin with. These are both good and bad news when thinking about a proper KonMari tidying festival. The good news are that the physical threshold of gathering my stuff in our living room by categories is a relatively easy task. On the other hand, my “joy-meter” is off and I don’t have a heap of little loved clothing to fine tune it. After several years of becoming what Kondo calls “a discarding machine” – and describes it as one of the tidying pathologies one can fall into – I’m able to rationalize throwing away almost anything.

Very few things are *perfect*. True indispensability and great design are very rare. If all my possessions are to be measured against the *ideal*, basically everything goes, and I’m left with the problem of finding the perfect replacements. The alternative explanation would be that my ~55 item wardrobe is already paired down to a reasonable level of joyfulness (and I have no 0 joy items to feel the difference) while I expect a joy-gasm just from opening my wardrobe. That’s one of the problems with an author promising *magic* – a lot of self doubt: if I’m not feeling the magic, is it because I’m doing it wrong or am I living the magic already without realizing it?

Objectively, the quantity of possessions and clutter we have is rather low. There are few black holes of stuff that would benefit from airing out, but overall we are kicking ass in not accumulating useless shit. To enhance the magic, here are some of my future tidying plans extracted from “Spark Joy”:

A) Following Kondo’s and C’s example, I’m ditching the seasonal wardrobe overhauls and the big plastic box for out-of-season clothing. Everything will be visible, foldables will be folded in the drawer below, the plastic box will get another job, and we’ll see how it all will work out:

So going from this

To this

Which in reality means this as we share the hanger space:
an ecosystem with natural limits

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B) I’m using my vacations in Riga to review (again!) my possessions left there, in line with Kondo’s warning to never ever send stuff to our parents’ homes. Thankfully, my parents live far away and their flat is small, so there’s little to no sense to store my things in Riga. My resolution stays the same as in August: only the indispensables that shouldn’t be moved back and forth (parka, rubber boots, winter boots, a dressing gown, and few more).

C) I’ve done a partial joy-check with my books, and oh! that was hard. Having been raised by bibliophiles and having always aspired to have as many as possible, I took a deep breath and did my first division into “stays”, “will see”, and “out” trying to base it on the joy factor only… I’m still not sure how to go about books that can’t possibly bring joy due to their content. Global crises, totalitarian crimes, failing humanitarian aid schemes will never make a joyful read… I already realized it in Riga with my novel collection: it is much easier to sort out fiction this way!

D) I intend to carry out a full tidying festival focusing on joy instead of discarding. Only when I’m done – my plan is to give myself a very generous permission to *keep*, to use this process to reaffirm my love for my things (C could tell you that I’m often very careless with my possessions) via the positive focus of choosing what to keep instead of focusing on throwing away – with my own stuff, I’ll move towards our common komono.

E) For the household clutter and “maybe someday”, Kondo suggests mapping out the storage spaces to identify where to look. I’ve done that on paper already, and even in our tiny flat there are several pockets of mystery and miscellany to be tackled: rarely used cupboards, boxes under the bed, boxes on top of the wardrobe, items we “inherited” from the previous tenant and never started to use or threw out, etc. Again and again, I’m grateful of having a small flat with little storage space, I have no idea how people with n-bedrooms, basement, attic, and a garage do it. Oh, wait, they don’t!

F) To either put full stop on my KonMari fever or to enter the sect forever, I’m planning to do her consultant training this spring. The price is ridiculous, several of my loved ones have doubted my sanity, and I am aware that the most likely outcome of the course will be slight disappointment and a depleted savings account. But I want to do it. It will be my 30th birthday present to myself. Some people jump with parachutes or swim with sharks, why can’t I spoil myself with a Japanese decluttering seminar?

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Have you done any decluttering campaign with your possessions? How did that go? Have you read any of Kondo’s books? Did they spur you into action or did you find her method too extreme?

Stop browsing fast fashion, browse the internet instead

One of the most powerful tricks up fast fashion’s sleeve is the magic of browsing. If you have time to kill, here you have the carefully arranged – often with the help of up and coming artists – flagship stores and the “I’ll only take a look while I’m waiting”… Especially when it’s cold outside and the idea of a *new* big furry hat seems like a very good one!

So, following the steps of John and Yoko, I’m suggesting a bed-in against fast fashion and physical fashion browsing as a pass-time. Curl up under a blanket with your favorite device and browse the internet instead of badly made and fugly (for real, often the stuff these people sell really offend my aesthetic sensibilities) polyester garments. And for finders keepers and future reference, my not at all revolutionary suggestion is using Pinterest. Especially for hoarding visual inspiration it makes so much more sense than bookmarking stuff in your browser or any other link collector I’ve tried.

So these are my fashion-related uses of Pinterest (+ a wide array of other boards for feminist pins, interesting books and cute animals):

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Gathering my own #wiw pictures

An exercise in vanity and a better overview of the unending repetition in my wardrobe. It has been almost a year now of a weekly outfit post, and my fashion consistencies and inclinations are very clear at this point.

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Visual fashion inspiration for cold and warm weather

Not aspiring to replicate or “buy the outfit”, but when a photo calls my attention as fashion inspiration, to one of the following boards it goes, depending on the approximate (Mediterranean) season it would be appropriate for:

or

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A reality-check exercise of what you feel like wearing

I did this one last December picking out from my cold weather inspo board the looks that I would happily wear, taking account the current aesthetic cravings, weather and lifestyle. Comparing this with what I’ve been wearing both last and this cold seasons, you can see that my leaning towards knee-length patterned dresses or top + flared skirt combos, opaque tights and fun sneakers for winter hasn’t changed:

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Reasonable and ethical show board, because hobbit feet

Something in my heart that has been dealing with footwear struggles for many years has pushed me towards a small but robust shoe board. It is a merged have- and wish-list, and, as always with these exercises, my preferences are clear:

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A fashion-related link-depository

I bookmark in my browser only the links I have to deal with: upcoming Sunday brain-food, Wiki pages I want to read, etc. Reviewed links I want to keep go into a Pinterest board. The two fashion related I have are for news and for taking note of ethical brands. For brands I pin an item or two that both reflect the offer of the brand and that I find most appealing, so that a quick look through the board could tell me where to go for sports bras and where for wax print dresses.

and

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The caveats to all this are that:
(a) Pinterest is clearly for puritan aesthetics, so uploading naughty pictures may make you lose all you boards (repinning is safe, so do that) and the criteria are not really clear. If you want naked people and stuff, get a Tumblr, we all know that, right?
(b) once you are done with your reality-checked desires, real-life browsing might be needed, especially if you are looking for second-hand options (always better than virgin fibres!). So when you have a clear vision and an approximate (un)shopping list, get out of the bed and go visit your community swaps (or organize one) or second-hand dealers!

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Do you browse fashion stores out of boredom? How do you collect your fashion inspiration? And how do you organize your links?

Curating the 100% comfort wardrobe

While our ideas about what is comfortable couldn’t be different, I agree with Caroline from Un-fancy that dresses are a shortcut to comfort and happiness.

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My wardrobe might not seem to fit the Pinterest understanding of comfort. I have very few oatmeal knits and boyfriend denim going on, zero to be exact. In the world where most of my peers pull on a pair of skinnies and a funny t-shirt/nice blouse, a wardrobe consisting of dresses and loud patterns might seem complicated. However, I insist that the wardrobe editing and curating that I’ve been practicing for last three years (1, 2) is towards 100% comfort: comfort about the ethics of my garments, physical comfort, and the aesthetic comfort in recognizing myself in my wardrobe.

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There is some heterogeneity, I know, but sustainable fashion brands normally do try to cover bigger share of the market by prioritizing neutrals and timeless shapes. Depending on your fashion strategy, for bold shapes and patterns you may have to look very hard, look into bespoke designs and secondhand market. No matter what your aesthetic preferences are – you have read any of my “be reasonable and take care of your feet” sermons, you’ll know that my brand of feminist fashion blogging is the now infamous you-do-you, especially when it comes to purely aesthetic choices (I do get more demanding about ethics, care, etc.) – you need criteria to decide which garments enter your wardrobe. Both buying new sustainable fashion and using hand-me-down chains have possible pitfalls. With new and expensive (because ethical and sustainable fashion is more expensive, and it has to be) you are afraid of wasting your money and a likely victim of sunk costs bias. Secondhand and hand-me-downs have the opposite problem of no entry barrier; why would you not take something that is free or almost free? I’ve been on a main clothing buying ban since 2015, and I sometimes wonder what my wardrobe would look like if my choices would be made among more varied offers of retailers instead of wardrobes of my family and friends. For example, I consider red to be my favorite color but my wardrobe is currently dominated by blues and grays! Go figure.

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My swap acquisitions are not random, of course, but they are restricted to a complex chain of path dependencies and accidents. To get there a garment has to be chosen to be discarded via swap by the owner, brought in (this part might get complicated due to other plans or hangovers), then I have to notice it before somebody else has taken it, like it, and it has to fit… And, no, there’s no other size, color, or one without that stain. Complicated alright!
However, I was surprised to read this Good On You piece claiming that the author was confused and unable to curate her style because of the hand-me-downs. Dude, that’s just weird! You don’t have to take all the garments that come your way! They are not puppies! Unless you have suffered a serious loss of stuff lately, you probably already have more than you need. It makes zero sense to move stuff that won’t be worn from one overstuffed wardrobe to another. That has nothing to do with poor hand-me-down sources, that’s just being hooked on getting new-to-you clothes!

All my swap acquisitions so far: nothing in October 2016, Liisa’s lace dress and velvet skirt in January 2017, Julie’s cardigan and an anonymous striped mini in May 2017, and Laura’s polka dot dress and a floral shirt of unknown previous ownership in September 2017.

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Not to sound creepy, but I pay attention to what people around me wear, I keep mental tabs on my partner’s wardrobe, and one of my biggest pleasures in life is when my mother is up for tidying her wardrobe with me… After almost two years of tracking what I wear, I can claim an advantage over those that don’t: with all that data, I have no way of maintaining illusions around garments. I know with great certainty which pieces are really *mine*, which ones are here as placeholders until something better comes around, and which ones are on trial.

Each garment that offers itself for my wardrobe falls into one of these three categories:
(a) I know it’s not mine, I’m completely unmoved. Examples include: neon colors, leather textures, white underwear, trousers… Meh!
(b) I’m not sure, I’m attracted but have some reservations.
(c) Things jump at me and it’s love at first sight.

Unfortunately, C happens rarely. Most incomers in my wardrobe are Bs, and I do what most reasonable employers do: I give them a trial period! And this is where my spreadsheet love proves fruitful in making sure that those garments don’t just stay at the back of the wardrobe. I include the newcomers in the next weather-appropriate season and challenge myself to wear them at least 10 times during that season. Nope, not once or twice, but 10 times! We, humans, are masters of self-deception, and first few wears can still be liable to lies. At least 10 wears will show the fit – physical and aesthetic – for different weather, activities, moods… if it shows sweat, if you can sit down, raise your arms, walk, tie your shoelaces, etc. Very soon it is clear which pieces fit your needs and which ones are just not that into you. And you shouldn’t keep things that aren’t yours!

Let it go! Overcome both fallacies that might be holding you back: (1) no, you won’t suddenly start to wear it someday, and (2) no, it’s not your duty to keep them out of the landfill by turning your wardrobe into one. Yes, it’s a contradiction with my “use up what you have” commandment, but that rule is about full-time members of your wardrobe and is meant to prevent you from willy-nilly acquiring functional duplicates. The ones that are on trial are only partly in. You are trying out the relationship, and, if it is not working, the garment has to go. Yes, even if you paid for it! Sorry, have an ice-cream, assume the sunken costs, and try to make somebody else happy with that piece. Don’t keep it for one day, when… That day never comes! If you have done any wardrobe editing, you’ll know that you very rarely think of those discarded garments ever again.

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I’ll admit that consciously trialing garments is not always comfortable. Sometimes it becomes clear very early on and only stubbornness will keep me wearing the thing I now know I don’t want to own, sometimes – even worse – doubting goes on until the last moment. The thing is that you are already curating for comfort when you reach for the same pieces again and again. That’s fine, but what are those other pieces doing in your wardrobe then? I prefer to face the torment head on, give garments their chance, and act accordingly after that period.With such discipline in mind I encourage people to take B category garments home from swaps and give them a try: “bring it back if it doesn’t work for you!” I think that all garments deserve a chance to return to the rotation and to keep looking for the right wardrobe to fit in.

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Despite the fact that textile recyclers are overwhelmed by the quantity of discarded garments, a conscious wardrobe starts with a purge. My experience shows that the real editing for 100% comfort starts when you are down to around 50 main garments. It’s an exercise in honesty with yourself and a little field research. Is there a type of garment you keep acquiring but not wearing (fancy shoes? formalwear “for work”? funny t-shirts?)? Are there colors or patterns that attract you as artifacts but end up sad and lonely at the bottom of your wardrobe?

My recent material insight – under Julie’s educational influence – is that I find it hard to resist synthetics because my first criteria when looking at garments are color and pattern. I momentarily forget that I move more than most people and sweat more than most people, so an additional plastic wrapper is clearly not needed. I don’t mind the prolonged moisture of natural fabrics, but I want it breathable! So in January several plastic-oh-fantastic garments will go out and I’m making a pledge to do better work at avoiding them in the future. Not all synthetics will go bye-bye, because there are some that I love unconditionally, but so far I’ve marked five pieces as “outgoing” because of their fiber composition.

All four of these are among my synthetic favorites!

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From the seven dresses of my current capsule, two are going out for sure. They both have material *and* fit issues. I could deal with either, but both in one dress is too much. Laura’s blue dress is 100% polyester with a very nice flow but still plasticky against skin. The top keeps falling off the shoulders (I have been wearing it by pinning the dress to the bra), and the waist keeps climbing up. I’ll put in bra strap fixers before bringing it back to the swap (this is the first item I’ll be returning), that will fix the shoulder fit … I was attracted by the hue, the polka dots, the movement, but after 8 wears so far I know that we are not meant to be.

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The grey bow dress, a hand-me-down from Marina, goes out because of its shortness. After 7 wears, I know I just cannot live like this… Style icons like Twiggy, Jane Birkin or Pattie Boyd would not understand what’s wrong with me as this is not a super-mini, but the fact that I cannot roam around freely – or tie my shoelaces without losing dignity – bare legged is a deal breaker. Yes, there are tight and legging seasons, but that’s just not optimal. Also, it has no stretch (100% poly), so while it’s pretty much precisely my size, shoulder movements feel restricted. I’ve already had the armpit holes fixed, so it’s ready to go to somebody looking for a rather formal dress for no-movement events. Being below my 167cm might be an advantage shortness-wise.

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So this how I curate for comfort: trial period of rigorous evaluation and till death do as part unconditional love afterwards. What are your mental hacks around availability of second hand and hand-me-down items? When do you say yes, and when no thanks?

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?