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.

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.