OK, I’ve gone over the conceptualization of minimalist wardrobes – as I see it – here. You’ve read it and seen if any of those strategies resonate with you. This is the post where I confess the level of obsession I have with my wardrobe and the process I’ve followed to get here. In the second part I take you through the nitty gritty of how I build and track my seasonal capsules.
As you might have guessed from the wardrobe conceptualization post, the last strategy, the one with no external references, the one that I don’t know anybody doing – that’s me! I do recognize, especially by the disturbed stares of people I have talked about this, that my approach is a rather extreme one. I admit the obsession and console myself with the fact that it could be worse. The substance of my obsession could be a more dangerous (to my health, to my social life, to my work) or that money use involved could be a spending not saving one. So hear me out.
The Status Quo
My overall wardrobe status-quo is having two small wardrobes separated by more than 3000km. I’ve had that separation since I left Riga in 2007. For last 10 years I’ve still spent few months a year in Riga (and there are some Riga-specific items, such as winter coats), hence so far having two sets of clothing has made sense and have enabled me to travel lightly to and from (hello, extra-small free carry-on luggage of WizzAir). However, this also means that there is a flow of things to Riga and back in my attempt to curate the smallest possible Marie Kondo-style wardrobe that would work for all four seasons of Latvia.
As of early March 2017, I have a total of slightly more than 100 items of all kinds of clothing (this is including all underwear, socks, scarves, bags, earrings… everything) in Barcelona. Out of these, there are 34 serious items I wear in public (the ones usually counted in wardrobes: layers, dresses, tops, bottoms) and 4 pairs of out-of-home footwear. In Riga I have a total 60 items, 19 of them serious and 3 pairs of footwear.
I know the exact numbers because I have an exhaustive list in a Google sheet I keep updating and tinkering with. You can see where this is going… because my seasonal wardrobes, both the process of curating them and tracking the use of those items, are also sheet-based. Welcome to the data-nerd galore!
Because Latvian summer requires a wide range of layers…
How Did I Get Here?
What my adolescence looked like, 2003-2007. I still wear some of these things, btw.
I started as a clothing junkie in my teens. When I claim that I could have opened a well-stocked second-hand shop only with my stuff, I’m only half-joking. We did a lot of thrift-store shopping with my Mom in my early teens and I combined it with more and more fast fashion until my mid-twenties. Not cool. Also, I would say that my style deteriorated, becoming less exciting. Makes sense, those items are as far from unique as they can be. And low quality. And hurting people who make them. Fast fashion is evil, fuck it. But, yeah, I’ve binged on it.
Somehow in 2012 I stopped going to H&M to browse and in 2013/2014 I started to prune my wardrobe instead of adding. I tried the “switch the hanger” system and was not happy, so I turned it into a virtual “switch the hanger system”. My first attempt at seasonal wardrobe makes me laugh now. It’s a list for September 2014 with 58 items. By the end of month I had managed to wear 34 of them. I had just put in a list everything that was weather appropriate. Two things became very clear. First, I had a lot of stuff. Second, I needed a change in strategy.
My first conscious attempts at dressing with less and documenting it, early 2015.
I went on editing out the things I did not wear. I extended the time periods I was working with. I took notes on weather, discovering what winter in Barcelona means and how long the summer lasts (June to September is the answer). I decreased the number of things selected, both because the unworn items went away and were not replaced and just to try how much more restrictive I could make it. And all this time I was turning my virtual hangers in my wardrobe sheet.
In early 2016 I added a whole new layer of information following a thought “what if I tracked exactly how much I wore each thing?”. I’m not sure where the idea came from, because I have not read of anybody doing this. Though I do believe that there have to be some fellow obsessive-compulsives out there taking notes like that. I have a long history of creating data sets like this on movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read, countries I’ve visited, my menstrual cycles, etc. Then I can do basic descriptive analysis and feel happy about the knowledge gained (for example, the percentage of female-directed movies I’ve seen in a year). Yeah, to each her own.
This winter I played an additional game, trying to make sure that each item gets at least 10 wears. I succeeded at this one, but only with careful planning work and paying special attention to latecomers from January’s Clothes’ Swap, the lace dress and the velvet skater skirt.
A year after… 2018-02-13
The only update to be had is that the current numbers are 34 ‘serious’ garments and 6 pairs of footwear in Barcelona, and 8 and 2 respectively in Rīga, so I’ve lost 11 garments and gained a pair of shoes in this year. I’m still tracking the number of wears, and the basics of my approach in wardrobe curation can be found here and here.