#whatiwore 2018w31 + Sunday links

A random update: As you might guess by the crumply texture of my blouse on Friday, it’s August in Barcelona and I’m almost past caring. Getting dressed – as in wearing *anything* – is an everyday struggle. I reassess my life choices every time I have to put on a bra. I try to walk in shade, move slowly, avoid chub rub and heat stroke, plan my day according to AC availability… and I’m exhausted already on 5th of August.

I’ll be working from home next two weeks, because even my university closes for two weeks in August, so next week’s #wiw post will probably consist of the bare minimum needed to dash out for more watermelon and trips to the swimming pool two blocks down.

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Now find the coolest spot available and feed the brain:

You think that fashion is somehow getting ugly? Well, you are not alone: Fanny packs. Prairie dresses. Luxury shower shoes: Is fashion trolling us or what? And it’s not the first time either: Plug Ugly (1996).

The n-th reminder of what’s wrong with fashion industry and how raw denim revival is a thing now: In a disposable age, luxury is something old, worn, and beautiful + what an expert review looks like: Japanese Denim for $68. Too Good to Be True? + how all this ‘break it in and make your own fades’ outlook makes denim a niche for sustainability interest (and how it is possible to clean up the denim manufacturing if one wants to): You Buy Free Range-Eggs. So Why Are You Still Wearing Dirty Denim?

How Can You Tell When A Fashion Brand Is Greenwashing? Well, a good indication is a fluffy language with no facts… Telling about how the products will make you feel instead of how and where they are made, for example.

How I feel about millionaires making their own space programmes, yuck: Narcissists in Space.

Although I’m formally a millennial, there are still internet things I had no idea existed (and what weird things those usually are, too): The nightmare videos of childrens’ YouTube — and what’s wrong with the internet today.

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What I was writing about a year ago: My take on “formal” and dressing up out of a capsule.

What I was wearing a year ago (see how many items coincide!): #whatiwore 2017w31 + Sunday links.

Another old post you might enjoy: Let it go, let go (of non-serving restrictions).

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Are you getting any extreme weather that precludes all other style desires? I’ve also noticed that the heat activates my body dysmorphia… Not because it’s the bikini season (my work is by the beach, so I see not only the beautiful, bronzed and breezy but also the burnt, exhausted and disheveled) but because how it feels to inhabit this body in heat. It feels too abundant, too fleshy, too wet and not contained properly… I’ll have to go back to my own advice about body kindness. How about you?

The decision fatigue of sustainable living

My sustainability votes, according to some…

Welcome to another summer rant, closely linked to the previous one. Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially popular among the capsule wardrobe preachers, but lurking around all of us, especially if many frequent and complex decisions are to be taken. Obviously, the more concerned about the quality of your decisions you are, the more tiring it gets. When a happily oblivious person is hungry after work, she pops in the supermarket, asks herself what of things that she can afford appeals to her (that’s probably a decision interacting taste and convenience), grabs it and goes home to eat it. When a conscious consumer gets hungry, it can be a decision-making disaster…

There are many choices to make and – having assimilated that € = votes and that each meal is an opportunity to change the world – it feels important to get it just right. Following a tradition of long, anxiety induced lists of shoulds, here are the questions I’m frying my brain when making a shopping list:

Is it safe to eat? (Yeah, dumpster diving is not my forte.)

Is it vegan? Or shall I make an exception again?

Is it in season?

Is it km0? But really? Or do I just like to think like that for Canary bananas? That’s ~2500km in a straight-ish line, btw.

What are the conditions of production? Is it basically slavery, although on EU ground? Looking at you, Andalusian greenhouses!

What’s the packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic or other unnecessary waste?

Is it nutritious?

Is it organic? Or has it been laced with pesticides that will kill me in 50 years?

Is it easily attainable or am I supposed to go across the city for those bulk goods?

Is is an establishment worth supporting?

Is it something I want to eat?

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Already suffering from a time squeeze, being an urbanite, and having left the CSA cooperative because it was hassle, nothing I eat ticks all the boxes. Boom! And that’s where the haggling starts… which restrictions shall I relax? I’ll walk you through some of my staples whom I have somehow deemed to be good enough just to share my 1st world struggles:

Soy yogurt. I’ve eaten liters of this particular one this summer since I discovered that it makes for the perfect tzatziki-ranch-mayo style sauce for all my salad and dipping fantasies. Organic non-GMO French soy, no added sugar… also two pieces of plastic, one of cardboard (although these people at least make the cardboard easily separable from plastic) and 2.02 € for 400 grams of yogurt. That’s a lot of garbage and a high price to pay for a bit of fermented soy milk. Considering myself a person who can resist most of the bullshit vegan products, I find it very annoying that I finally have one I’m craving and raving about. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

Huelva strawberries. Ugh. This one is annoying, because I don’t even like the taste once I’ve fallen for them in March – after a season with only citruses – and brought them home, but it happens. These huge strawberry monsters are not really strawberries, it’s a frankenstein derivative that looks good, smells enticing but tastes like a bad cucumber most of the time. It took me 10 years of disappointment with Spanish strawberries until I tried Catalan mountain strawberries. Those do taste like the Northern strawberries I grew up with! But concerns about taste, pesticides and the distances traveled is only half of the reasons to avoid these sweet-smelling abominations of fruit. Most intensive work in the Spanish agricultural industry is done my seasonal migrants from Morocco and the stories that come out of Huelva’s strawberry fields, when they come because there is a lot of opacity in the industry, are heartbreaking. It’s all discrimination, abuse, sexual assault, labor fraud, horrible working conditions, etc. Fails at: eat local, think about the worker, chose organic ethos.

Cooked chickpeas. Yeah, I can buy my bulk Spanish chickpeas and then boil them for several hours on the stove top. And time by time, especially in winter when the whole pot becomes a stew afterwards, we do. But a (vegan) girl has to eat, and soaking and boiling takes planning, time and fuel. I’m terrified of pressure cookers and we don’t have a slow cooker (and I don’t want to invest in another gadget). And I’m not that sure that 4 liters of water and chickpeas cooking on a gas stove top for several hours consumes significantly less energy than the industrial production. I expect those people to be more efficient than I am! Even more, taking into account the summer temperatures and year-round humidity, home cooking legumes messes with our quality of life by increasing already unbearable temperatures and humidity in summer and helping the fucking mold in winter. So I’m left with glass jars, metal lids and a couple of ingredients that my home-cooked chickpeas wouldn’t have, namely, calcium disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite. And hummus. And chickpeas for my salads. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

One of the reasons why I prefer swaps and hand-me-downs so much is that the decision fatigue so often becomes unbearable when a bigger purchase has to be made, and I’m so anxious to make the right choice.

A sports bra. My current fast-sport-fashion wonder from Karrimor – a desperate 2015 slip-up when I really needed one – needs replacing. It has been so much wears, both for yoga and casual, that it needed replacement a year ago but I just haven’t got myself to do so. Also, almost nobody sees it, so there is no social pressure… And I’ve already had enough failures in this field to know that the right breast garment isn’t necessarily easy to find. Examples: (a) I had a Nike top with built-in breast support from 2013 till 2017 that I used actively, despite the straps never being perfectly comfortable, even after several alterations; (b) I bought a basic Nike sports bra together with the Karrimor one in 2015 (oh, that was a shopping spree, I also got my athletic swimsuit then), but that one was so uncomfortable and itchy at the neck I just could not wear it; (c) my mom handed me down a top with breast support in January, but it was too big and awkwardly made… (d) and my yoga short fail still eats my heart, you would have thought that shorts were easy! Since I started to publish my swap wish lists, people are really helpful in offering anything sports bra-looking that comes around, but I know that my chances are very slim.

Internets do not make my life easier to get a new one. There was a Patagonia sports bra that, according to their homepage, ‘left Patagonia.com and joined a heavy metal band’. And another one. These people who wouldn’t disclose the no-name material described as ‘moisture wicking and breathable fabric’. Or these that wouldn’t reveal the country their stuff is produced in. And the merino wonders that had me ready to ditch the vegan prerequisite – it is true that all the synthetic athletic wear is stinky alright – but I couldn’t get their wares in Europe and then they discontinued the style I wanted…

Am I really asking that much? Is a basic comfy sports bra made for women with breasts produced in a Western country that much? And I’m not even looking at the prices…

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What are your sources of sustainability decision fatigue? Is it more about the little everyday things or about bigger purchases? What are your routine compromises just to overcome the decision paralysis?

#whatiwore 2018w30 + Sunday links

A random update: I’m finally reviving and migrating my photo blog into this space, so there is a bit of reorganization going on in the Categories section and, if you are a WordPress or RSS subscriber, you have received a couple of posts that don’t look much like my usual content. Photo posts won’t be part of blog’s main section and have their special section instead, but feeds pick up all new posts and I haven’t found a way of filtering them. If they are not your cup of tea while my regular content is, I suggest you drop the feeds and follow my Facebook page or Instagram instead.

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What better reason to stay someplace air conditioned than to claim that your brain needs food?

If you have been anywhere near progressive media, you’ll know that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is our new darling. Hey, she even got George exited: A Revolution Has Begun. Meanwhile, if you want a couple of reminders about about what was is so great about Bernie (and how socialism is nothing new for US), here Bernie Sanders and the History of American Socialism and Why Bernie Sanders’s History of Racial Justice Activism Matters.

Ditch the tea bags! Or at least make the burn test of those baggies, because at least most conventional ones not only make your tea taste worse but also aren’t compostable: (in Spanish) ¿Hay plástico en las bolsitas de té? Unless you enjoy infusions of plastic and bleach…

In case you do festivals (I know, a bit too late maybe; rethink our festival waste and make a to-do list for next summer), How To Do Music Festivals Ethically and Sustainably and How to be Zero Waste at Music Festivals. As always, it comes to down to questioning what is really needed and not purchasing stuff for only one occasion. As with cheap airlines, read the rules carefully as the whole reason of existence of big festivals seem to be making you throw away your homemade sandwich so you can go buy theirs for 10€! The same goes for water, alcohol, etc. And I don’t think many European festivals will let you in with a glass container you can easily kill somebody onstage if you are a good thrower.

Very relevant for the ethical shopper easily lured into ‘get this fashion trend made by disadvantaged women in…’ and everybody who has ever had fantasies about ‘building a school in Africa’: The White-Savior Industrial Complex.

And in the to-do list of skills to be acquired goes Radical Listening: A Manifesto.

What I was writing about a year ago: How to survive summer heat in Barcelona.

Another old post you might enjoy: Heirlooms in the age of fast fashion: Do they still make any?

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The migration of the photo blog and making space for it on this site was also very useful for me to get in touch with my limits. I tried to do it all on my own, had to do recur to backups several times, and got to a point when the site was actually down for a couple of hours yesterday morning and I wasn’t able to do restore the backup on my own. Well, the helpful people at SiteGround did their job and everything is back to where it has to be, but the conceptual doubt remains: is it better to look for experts immediately or trying on your own first? What do you do? If you are on my camp with a ‘but of course I should be able to do this on my own’ attitude, power to you but make sure you have a good backup service in place before you start tinkering.

Guest post: Me, My Clothes and My Club

Welcome to the second installment of guest posts on Un Armario Verde. You read about Marina’s experience with wardrobe tracking in March, now you have Liliana’s post on how she got to the point of organizing clothes’ swaps in Mexicali. This post is part of our post exchange. I wrote a post – in Spanish! – on how to organize a community swap for Liliana’s blog. You can read it here: He organizado seis intercambios de ropa y ésto es lo que he aprendido.

Liliana was a swap regular since the very first edition back in October 2016 and is now doing an amazing job in creating the change she wants back in Mexicali, both organizing community events and teaching aspiring renewables engineers how there is more to sustainability than they thought, and on the internets by blogging and filling her Facebook page with cool memes and info. Go, follow her! And now you have her story about the switch towards more sustainable fashion practices.

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I was born and raised in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, on the border with California, United States. The textile culture that surrounds me is basically materialist: the proliferation of Outlet Plazas, Malls and Internet commerce are part of normality. Second-hand sales are aimed at an underprivileged sectors of the population and since just five years ago swaps and vintage boutiques are becoming popular in this city. Circular economy initiatives are just emerging. These initiatives are accompanied and driven in part by the environmental movement, the economic crisis and the new youth styles (and others not so young).

Mexicali is a difficult city: in the dog days we have reached 52 degrees Celsius. At the moment of writing this, it’s 47℃ on the street. There is sun all year, it rains a little and the winter is hard. It is necessary to have clothes of light, clear fabrics, and to avoid that which accumulates sweat. The irony? I love black and autumnal clothes, so I had to create a balance, for my survival!

I always say that minimalism and textile sustainability came to me, but I also looked for them. When I moved from my parents home to live alone, when I went to study in Barcelona, when I had other moves, travels, change the North American lifestyle to the Mediterranean… all that motivated to simplify my life, to keep my belongings organized and to be more selective. I stopped spending so much on clothes if it was not something that I really loved or needed, so I can say that the first step is to open up to oneself and connect with the intuition (or develop it in any case).

I got tired of having clothes that were not useful, that ended in gigantic boxes to donate or sell second-hand. Here is a picture of my closet:

I can’t believe that before I had it full and at the same time so empty. All the clothes that you can see are for spring and summer. I know I still have a lot to learn, but that’s what this is all about.

In 2010 I earned only a few bucks, so I made a reduction of everything that was not important in my life. I did not suffer in this process, on the contrary, it freed me a lot even though sometimes I did not make ends meet. The times of scarcity teach us many things.

We already know that it is not necessary to buy so many clothes, we know it, but marketing and advertising strategies bombard us so much, and it has stayed so programmed in our minds that we can not see beyond the non-purchase. In my city there are certain fashionista aspirations and even popular sayings, as when you repeat a garment it is said that “you look like a portrait”. I know people who spend more than 40% of their income on clothes and shoes.

In my case, the relationship with clothes has always been changing, but it maintains a constant: I give priority to comfort, this since I was a baby. I refused to use disposable diapers and against technological super modernity I used cloth diapers.

I do not like to wear heels or clothes that sacrifice practicality for style. With the use of the bicycle this conviction was accentuated: I love the real pockets —not the decorative ones—, and I love the fabrics that let you perspire. This is one of the things I learned the most with my cycling friends, to live sustainability and to go lighter… and happier.

To go to work I have stopped “disguising myself” and I try to be casual or semi-formal. I am a teacher-researcher, and fortunately in the institution where I work there is no dress code. I love dresses, and I like to play with them, that is, having a versatile dress that can be used formally, informally or in a more classy way is a jewel for me. The dresses make you look like you’ve worked hard to look good, but they are actually the easiest thing to do (and my gynecologist has recommended me to wear dresses instead of jeans), so there will always be one or two dresses in my closet that have been washed more than 50 times. I try to use the same clothes in different seasons, as you can see at the beginning of the post. This is one of my favorite dresses, it’s a Lauren Conrad’s, I bought it secondhand, although unworn, and you can see how it is possible to carry it through the all four seasons.

Approximately in 2010 I also started to exchange clothes with my friends and family: fortunately my friends, aunts, my mother and I used similar sizes, so we started having fun when we used a dress for eight different weddings, instead of having bought one. With my friends we started to exchange a little more: casual clothes, books, and some accessories. It took away many of the attachments I had with my clothes, and I chose to be pragmatic.

In this time I had some health problems that made me gain 12 kilos (26 pounds) in a few months. Here I went through several conflicts with clothes, for accepting in my mind that I was no longer size 3, or 5 … and that to stop using the style of clothes that I like would not make me feel better. Now I am very well, although I did not lose all the weight I wanted, I am healthy and more in peace with my body.

In 2013, when I arrived in Barcelona, I was delighted with the Flea Market: I found more valuable and original items than the new clothes from H&M and the disposable clothes from C&A. The sterile environment of a Fast Fashion store can never be like the atmosphere of a Mediterranean market. Well, now I have my opinion with respect to those who now organize the Flea in Barna, but that’s another story… Anyway, it was very nice to also appreciate the stories of each garment, give them a new life and, above all, keep my scholarship in my pocket. In Mexicali I swapped with my beautiful friends Laura and Berenice (now they help organizing swaps with me), in Barcelona I made clothes exchanges with my new and sweet friends: Camille, Paola and Tessie, a French girl and two Mexicans from whom I had a lot of support throughout that period.

In 2016 I attended the first swap of Un Armario Verde: The Vermutet & Warderobe Restart Autumn 2016. I found it on Facebook. Here Zuckerberg’s algorithms did work, because I usually did not get something so specific for my taste in the newsfeed. I read the description and at that moment I put my hands to work in my closet. I was very excited, and I tried to go with an open mind to allow for a surprise.

I arrived at the site alone, with a small suitcase. I was a little shy and there I met Luīze. I remember her with a tea in her hand, and with a relaxed face, she said to me: “Bienvenida, tú misma acomoda y coge lo que te guste” (Welcome, you arrange yourself and take what you like). We talked a little about the event and since then I have approached the subject with great joy. From then on I went to all the “wardrobe restarts” that Un Armario Verde made each season and I took some friends to experience the dynamics.

In the event of September 30, 2017, she and I talked about my return to Mexico. I told her it was going to be hard not to have Un Armario Verde, and that I would miss her. She proposed that I adapt the idea to my city and, of course, I said yes! In December of 2017 I returned to Mexicali, and left to Luīze the clothes that did not fit in the suitcase for the next event. With a little advice and motivation from a distance, on February 17 I organized my first swap: “Cafecito & Un Armario Verde”. So it was as if I had been in both events, in some way. My event, considering that it was experimental version with little promotion, was a success!

This encouraged me to open a fanpage and a blog of my own, chose an original name and organize the second event, with more strength and asking for the support of my friends. I was thinking about the name for several hours, as I wanted something inspired by Fight Club and The Breakfast Club. I thought of Fight Fast Fashion Club, but that’s very long…

That’s how the Green Swap Club was born, like a little baby from Un Armario Verde. In the end I put it in English, for practical issues, but the event continues with the Cafecito (Swap & Cafecito!). Especially because it reminds me of the Vermutet of Luīze (vermouth in Catalan) and because I love coffee, especially in diminutive, since that is how we say things with love and because they always mean something more: a space to share. Sometimes, instead of coffee, it may be cervecita, tecito, vinito, etc. ☺

I am using everything I learned about sustainability in my postgraduate studies and communication tools to “preach” Slow Fashion with love and joy, trying not to be heavy or aggressive. Because there is already a lot of that on the Internet.

For the same reason, I think we need to make more community… I like to make funny memes about Fast Fashion, and also share reflections and articles. And I would like to learn how to fix my clothes, as well as organize a workshop for other people to learn how to do it.

I have been invited to talk about Slow Fashion on the Radio and in the press: it fills me with joy! It has been unexpected to capture the attention and get a lot of people to be punctual to an event and leave so happy, without spending a single peso or dollar and without polluting the planet. What’s next? I am starting a new job as a professor and I would like to explore the topic of Fashion and Circular Economy in social and cultural research. Although it is an idea that I am still resting on, it continues to brew. I’ll tell you, if you wish, more about it. Meanwhile, I invite you to a coffee… and in the process we do something for the environment.

Text: Liliana López León. Images by Carlos Cruz. Printscreens from Green Swap Club.

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Thank you so much, Liliana! Looking forward to your next sustainability adventures… What has been your sustainable fashion journey so far, dear reader? Do you share any sustainability triggers with Liliana: emancipation from the parental home, moves (especially transcontinental), travel? What did that thought you?

#whatiwore 2018w29 + Sunday links

Because anger is better than apathy, feed the brain:

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant by David Graeber – “This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment.”

+ an additional interview with him on the same topic, The Rise of Bullshit Jobs: “Most work isn’t about producing things, it’s about keeping them the same, it’s about maintaining them, taking care of them, but also taking care of people, taking care of plants and animals. […] You realize that even a lot of these classic working-class jobs are really caring labor, they’re about taking care of people.”

A tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the Kübler-Ross model to accepting the perversity of fast fashion and breaking up with it – 5 Stages of Grief: Breaking Up with an Unethical Brand. Might be especially useful if you have an identity attachment to a brand, i.e. if you are their exact target audience aesthetically.

While the intention of the author seems to just chide the ethical consumption movement for their shortsightedness instead of proposing solutions, it is a good read to remind ourselves that (a) the typical contemporary supply chains are really complex and hard to control even if the brand wants to, unless they go off-grid and start producing in-house which raises prices, of course; (b) the forms of protest and resistance have to evolve when the target changes; and (c) it is bigger political and economic policies that set the playing field for the economic actors, those are political powers (or lack of them) that allow the corporations to do whatever they want: The Myth of the Ethical Shopper.

And the weekly reminder about haw horrific it is to work for that typical supply chain – #MeToo in the Supply Chain: Violence is a “Daily Reality” for Female Garment Workers.

What I was writing about a year ago: Lessons learnt from the Fashion Revolution MOOC.

Another old post you might enjoy: Persuasion or #fuckfastfashion, but gently.

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Which fast fashion crimes anger you the most? What was the trigger for you to start looking around for alternatives? What fast fashion perks – low prices, constant novelty, retail therapy – are you willing to give up in order to improve this? Which ones have been the hardest ones to give up?

#100wears: Veja Arcade sneakers

#100wears is the most beloved garment section where I show off the longevity of items I’ve worn at least 100 times and urge to elevate the rather low #30wears aspiration. Basically, a love song, a poem, a “there are some garments so good I can’t stop wearing them”… My Veja Arcade sneakers have reached the magic threshold a while ago – it’s now 140 – so here comes the love song.

I was chunky sneaker-curious for a while and, after having reaffirmed that Veja Taua would be my lifelong love, I decided to spice it up a bit and got a pair of vegan Arcade in April 2017 (money reports 1 and 2). They came pristine and perfect, of course, but that didn’t last very long as I took them with me for all the big 2017 trips.

To Granada and Sevilla in April:

To Philadelphia in May:

To Cape Town in November where I managed to touch a bit of Atlantic ocean while wearing them:


And just back and forth in Barcelona:


They are chunky and casual alright, though. Last June I put my mother in a desperate bind as my only two available options for my grandma’s 70th birthday were a pair of worn out floral Taua and still a pretty fresh Arcade. She insisted on Taua as for her Arcade looked too much like a hiking boot. I also still have moments of doubt about pulling of the chunky sneaker looks, specially with midi skirts. At times it just looks weird. Oh well… As on normal days my sneakers only serve as a commute shoe, it’s fine. I just feel cool instead of looking the part.

Similar to Arcopedico wedges, these shoes have reached the #100wears for practical reasons instead of undying love. I have ten pairs of footwear altogether, but between those that do not touch street (winter slippers, pool slippers, KonMari consulting espadrilles) and those for specific occasions (rain, winter, formal) sneakers do the bulk of the work, so for me footwear is the easiest #100category. Here, this is how the drawer looks:

Arcade were a bit hard to break in and cannot be worn without a sock, but they are much better for lots of walking and soak slower than the canvas sneakers. I haven’t washed them and, while not being that pristine anymore, the gray color scheme is incorporating wear very nicely. They are by no means waterproof, but the elevation, recycled plastic and thicker built make them very nice for Barcelona winter while not that appealing in summer. So there they are in my wardrobe, waiting for October.

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Is there a type of garment that you have kept wearing throughout the years? What pieces easily reach #100wears in your wardrobe? Which garments do you end up wearing more, the beloved ones or the practical ones?

#whatiwore 2018w28 + Sunday links

A random update: By the end of this week I was so fed up with my hair, the heat, the PhD and life in general that recurring to a feminine classic of going to a hairdresser seemed like a very good idea. I showed her this 2012 photo (July 17, btw, 6 years ago almost to a day):

There is wisdom in folk clichés, indeed. The hairdresser did this and I couldn’t be happier:

And now some material to chill your brain with incoming info:

George Monbiot on how memory bias and changing baselines – among other obstacles – prevent us from grasping climate change and mass extinctions: In Memoriam.

Archana is back! And she brings heart warming tales about composting, too.

Has it been a week or so since you added a new item it your list of environmental worries? Ha, here you have a new one: low hanging ozone. Yes, we love it when it’s in the stratosphere but – turns out! – not so much in the troposphere. And I had already put ozone under my very short list of ‘environmental fuckups humans actually reverted‘… while that is still true, it’s not the end of the story of us and ozone.

Is Online or In-Store Shopping More Eco-Friendly? based mainly in this paper by Dimitri Weideli: Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping… Main message? It depends! Jen focuses on the driving associated with in-store shopping vs. deliveries which – isolated from everything else and assuming that the person doesn’t move their car to browse previously or to do sth else instead – are more efficient in route planning. However, there are so many other issues that are hard to assess (and Weideli tries to estimate it): which mode uses more packaging (because the store wares did came wrapped in something to the store but probably less than when they package one item for shipping), which one has a better carbon footprint (things have been already shipped in bulk to your high street or the super special lip balm from New Zealand; but what about if it’s responsibly made in New Zealand and the high street stuff is much worse in their production practices)?

Here is his break-down of CO2 emissions assuming that it is either online or in-store and not the person who went through all the stores in their city (by car!) and then ordered online, and that the product is the same (which in sustainable fashion niches it tends *not* to be):

So, if you like the in-store experience, don’t drive there! If you like shopping on-line, don’t ask for a speedy shipping and insist on the least packaging possible. And they better make it recyclable if not compostable. Or, even better, just stop shopping!

What I was writing about a year ago: Garment makers and fixers, I salute you.

Another old post you might enjoy: Vision-building for your wardrobe.

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Do you ever struggle with shopping decisions due to multiple considerations: aesthetics, ethics, CO2, distance? Which of those seal the deal for you?

After 6 months of the big spreadsheet

This is a bit more complex than the first big spreadsheet report three months ago, because now I’ve covered winter and spring weather up to the beggining of the hot-hot summer. It’s cumulative instead of capsule-ish (but the capsule is dead) and garments appropriate for milder weather are bound to have more wears in total. Yet it still is a clear reflection of the functionality of my wardrobe (and of babysteps towards #100wears). The astonishing part even for me is that in these six months I have worn it all at least once! Boom. The ~40 garment wardrobe (~50 including shoes) works and might be the optimal one!

So here you have the wardrobe heroes by categories in 2018 so far with the number of wears in parenthesis:

Layers

Most worn: Julie’s cardigan (45).

Runner-ups: The red flea sweater (41) and my mom’s Zara hand-me-down trench (39).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The floral courduroy bolero (2) – it’s fancy and in Rīga, works very well (although takes it slightly over the top) with the HnM sweetheart dress, but not casual enough for every day even by my very lax standards.

Dresses

Most worn: The second-hand kaftan (16).

Runner-ups: My mom’s dark blue silk dress (15) and my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (15).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The HnM sweetheart dress (3) – again, it’s a party garment and lives in Rīga so that I would have a mainstay for all family celebrations and opera. Feels like a bit of a waste but I’ve had it since 2008, so it has to be somewhere in vicinity of those #30wears. Also, this February I finally found a nice way to dress it down a bit, this.

Tops

Most worn: The demon t-shirt still wins (40). This is weird, because I don’t have a feeling that I’ve worn it that much. Here, a proof that my memory and perception of frequency of wear cannot be trusted!

Runner-ups: The swap Forever 21 t-shirt (26) and my mom’s lace undershirt (23).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The WAG top (5) – Throughout these months I still hadn’t finished the beige skirt, so the only combination was with the set skirt which is (I finally have to admit it) very uncomfortable. Here, finally I have a combination issue! I have a top that can be worn only with (now) two bottoms which themselves are not that easy to wear, and that clearly doesn’t help to boost their wears. Ugh. At the end I should probably admit that the African set was a rather stupid impulse buy…

Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (42), still.

Runner-ups: Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (32) and Amoralle leggings (30).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Blanco paisley pants (1) – they live in Rīga and mostly serve as lounge wear decent enough to also head out in them. I had them in Barcelona last summer and didn’t enjoy them that much either. If I’d be spending any summer time in Rīga this year, they’d probably get their wears, but that’s not happening, not in 2018.

Footwear

Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (78) still, obviously.

Runner-ups: Veja Wata (43) and Veja Arcade (41).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Nokian Hai wellingtons (1) – they live in Rīga and are rainboots. I keep wondering if bringing them to Barcelona could be a good idea…

Adornments

Most worn: Jēkabs necklace (24). It had been in my heirlom stash for years and I decided to give it a spin. Turns out I really like it!

Runner-ups: The red wooden necklace (18) and the bird and flower headband (12).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The flower ball headband (6) – I rescued it from the Rīga wardrobe and we had a great time together in London, but then in Barcelona I find it hard to wear. And the bicycle-headband incompatibility (the wind!) doesn’t help.

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Have has your wardrobe fared in these first six months of 2018? Do you think you have worn all that you have? Have you tried any kind of wardrobe tracking? Are you anywhere close the optimal wardrobe?

#whatiwore 2018w27 + Sunday links

A random update: I’m still working on incorporating the #memade beige skirt into my everyday life. So far I’m accepting that it crumples *a lot* and that the hem will soon need a dye job to cover the bike oil stains. Yeah, I know, my wish not to save garments for special occasions take through a lot and only the true heroes persist, like so:


And even in 30ºC heat, the little gray cells need to be fed:

Just a reminder on why you don’t want to partake in the fast fashion July sales: Low Wages, Violence Against Women Continues in Indian Garment Factories.

A few long reads on revolutionary attempts? I’ve Jacobin mag‘s got you covered: Ralph Miliband’s 1990 essay on Counter-Hegemonic Struggles; How Beautiful It Was on May’68; and just to inspire to think out of the box – There’s More Than One Way to Strike the Boss.

And this: A Woman’s Work: Home Economics* (*I Took Woodworking Instead) – Carolita Johnson tallies the costs and benefits of love and cohabitation as a woman artist living in a patriarchy.

What I was writing about a year ago: How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 first half money talk.

Another old post you might enjoy: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough.

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Have you had an experience of making or acquiring something beautiful and then struggling into making it work in your life exactly because it’s so special? What did you do? Did you accept that it will lose its luster and use it anyway or did you save it for special occasions?

2018 first half money talk, or how expensive an ethical wardrobe is?

Money is the typical contention point of ethical fashion, because price is, of course, fast fashion’s forte. And once we have accepted that 5€ t-shirts are possible, how do you convince people that it has to be 30 at least? The fact that most online pushers of sustainable fashion either make it, distribute it or receive it for free to review it plug it in doesn’t help either.

So to be the change you want to be in the world tell where at least my money goes while following my list of priorities in wardrobe detoxing, here you have the first half of 2017 and the second half, and this post is about last six months, January to June 2018. You have a full list above and more details below, from most euros spent to least.

Learning to sew ≈ the beige skirt: 214.20 €.

This is a bit contentious, yes, as I could say that all money spent on me learning to sew is an investment in valuable skills but the spreadsheet doesn’t lie. Making this one skirt took me a lot of time, money and frustration, and although I didn’t even buy the main material – it was a give-away from Julie’s stash – turning that piece of lyocell a skirt cost me more than 200 €.

Although this might not have been the most rational way to spend my money as I could have found something good enough to serve as an alternative bottom for the WAG top in one of the swaps (0 €) or by exploring all local second hand shops (certainly less than 200 €), I have learnt things on the way.

(1) Sewing is hard. Even when done by professionals and on an industrial assembly line, every stitch is a conscious effort. That brings us back to the ultra-cheap garments and asking how is that possible as the skill involved is not trivial…

(2) I lack precision. It is true that I had picked a tricky fabric to work with but even so, precision is a non-cognitive skill I have to work on.

(3) There are many ways how learning to sew can be a slippery slope towards a more abundant wardrobes and more clutter at home. I’ve already started accumulating projects for unclear future, having fantasies about fixing suboptimal garments instead of letting go of them and desire to buy notions that I might need eventually. Self-control, being in touch with reality, and focusing on upcycling/fixing/working with our own deadstocks instead of purchasing new.

Verdict: Not efficient but I’m learning a new skill.

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Veja Wata Pierre: 74.95 €.

I’ve already complained about my footwear problem: I found the optimal model and then Veja stopped producing it. So Wata is a rather meh replacement. I had to get rid of both pairs of Taua I had because they looked to sad, so a replacement was warranted but didn’t really make me happy: too big, too much rubber, took longer to break in. I will shred through them, of course – they’ve got 51 wears already and they arrived in May –  but the amount of joy is not the same. It is possible, though, that I will get another pair when these ones dies, Veja is the best option I have found.

Verdict: Needed, not 100% happy.

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Taller Mil•límetre silver earrings: 60 €.

My splurging-loving side and my reasonable side made a deal that – after all the investment I made in the beige skirt – I wouldn’t buy a new outfit but could get a pair of dark massive earrings to pull it together. Worked out very well for that night and I’m happy to have found that workshop (a great place for Barcelona-made jewellery, a shop run and stocked by three talentd girls), but I just don’t wear earrings so much anymore, so we’ll see. Maybe return to earring will be my autumn project, because these babies need their #100wears too.

Verdict: A whim I now have to wear again, again and again.

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Lauma Tuxedo bra x 2: 49.90 €.

Lauma is a legend in Latvian social imagination supporting Latvian women’s breasts since 1971, and, after finding one model I’m happy with (and they call it their ‘classic’ line so I hope it will be available forever), I’ve just decided to get a couple of those every year and be done with it. The model is Tuxedo (but of course!) in black and these are the only two dress bras I have + a sports bra. From now on this will be my New Year’s ritual in Rīga: buying two new of these in early January, sending to textile trash the previous two, and not thinking about bras until next January. They have no additional credentials in sustainability, but I’ve decided that it’s OK for me now.

Verdict: Needed. Satisfied. Will go back for more.

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Toni Pons Montgri: 29.95 €.

I finally bought the classic – Julio Iglesias – espadrille in ecru for my KonMari consulting work. I needed something unassuming, clean-looking and practical enough. They are sturdy looking, made in Spain and sworn to be vegan (there’s a little leather-looking tag at the back, but I’ll assume it’s plastic if they say so). I wear them only for KonMari sessions in order to keep them clean, so the #100wears desire has a whole different level of aspiration attached to this pair.

Verdict: I think I found the exactly the right thing for the intended use. Score. And I was espadrille-curious for a long time.

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Repairing the Muroexe boots: 7.50 €.

The little plastic Muroexe boots with the most dangerous sole needed a fix. I’m still ambivalent about these boots, so fixing them was a passive-agressive act of standing by my early 2017 decision of getting them. Yes, they are vegan and made in Spain which is not the case for all of their designs, but they have ended up being smelly (it is a closed plastic boot and my feet smell in those conditions even if I wear them only during my commute) and, what is even more perversely interesting, talk about creators inability to understand winter. These have 0 grip making them inappropriate for wet weather and prone to have you rolling down the stairs (that happened to me in December and I’ll have a grudge forever). And coming apart after 30 or so wears just added insult to injury. Of course, the local cobbler was happy to pour glue at them, and I’m resisting all those design flaws! Until something clearly better comes around, I’m sticking with these. I live in Barcelona, after all, I don’t really need winter boots anyway.

Verdict: Résistance! But of course.

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The spreadsheet says that only 30% of my wardrobe spending in last six months has been strictly necessary, while another 49% had the added benefit of learning a long-desired skill. The only true whim was the earrings, but I’ll work on giving them many more wears and I’m consoled by having supported local girl artists.

What have been your wardrobe investments in last half a year? Do you have a fashion budget or do you move in intuitive ways? Which fashion spending is yours: the truly rational based in need, the capricious stemming from ‘oh so beautiful’ or the one looking for added value (what else apart from the garment do you get, who made it, who benefited)? Have you ever found yourself making the added value excuses of ‘I didn’t really need this but at least it from the little local shop / responsibly made’?

#whatiwore 2018w26 + Sunday links

Here, memento mori:

What strike me most when learning about Kate Spade? On the positive note, the ‘just go and do (although you have very limited knowledge about the job)’ message. On the other, I didn’t know that it’s possible to give up the rights not only to all your intellectual property but also to your own name. Scary shit. For a context: 10 Minutes with Kate Spade, the Person; Kate and Andy Spade on NPR’s How I Built This; American Fashion Designer Kate Spade Dead at 55; Kate Spade’s Legacy Was Bringing Color and Quirk to Fashion + The Fashion Industry is Exclusive, Should We Expect its Coverage to Be Any Different? + Kering is Shuttering Tomas Maier’s Brand But His Trademark Lives On (And That’s Important).

After my take on body positivity, here you have two other bits: Body Positivity Is a Scam and Active ways to cultivate positive body image.

And bits about coherence in fashion (thanks to The Fashion Law ♥): When Is It Okay for Brands to Get Political? Ask Noah and Paris Fashion Week’s Front Rows Speak to Fashion’s Complicated Stance on #MeToo.

What I was writing about a year ago: #30wears and 18 months of counting.

Another old post you might enjoy: Get to know your fibers (and stop cutting the tags).

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As you can see, my outfits vary less in summer. I guess that’s because of lack of layering pieces. Have you had any adventures with outfit repetition, like having to explain it anybody that it’s OK? Do you think that people actually notice outfit repetition?

The time squeeze of sustainability attempts and blogging

I started this endeavor knowing that (1) I wouldn’t be blogging full time at least in the foreseeable future – even if I would magically go viral and start to monetize as crazy – because of the thesis; (2) overnight successes happen rarely, so I better count on not being to live off a blog; and (3) I’ve always enjoyed much more blogs whose authors live off something else, makes them much more relatable and, when it comes to sustainable lifestye blogs, make their suggestions more viable. So I set out to be a twice-a-week blogger (yeah, insane!) doing several calendar-mandate recurring posts (money series and wardrobe update series) *and* a weekly outfit recap. On my own. While doing a PhD and – although that came later – establishing a KonMari consultancy.

So this is a ‘I’m pissed off at my own unattainable standards’ post. You see, I don’t care knowing that my favorite food bloggers do only that: come up with recipes tweaking them repeatedly for my ease of use. I somehow don’t compare my life with theirs and if this week’s recipe doesn’t resonate with me, see you next week! I understand that creating the perfect oven falafel burger takes time, and don’t resent them having all the time in the world to do that.

I have an issue with sustainable lifestyle bloggers, though. When style bloggers show off beautiful lives of pretty garments and sponsored vacations on turquoise beaches, I don’t care. I’m only there for pretty pictures. But the base assumption of sustainability DIY and ‘do this easy switch / ditch this horrible pollutant’ blogs is that the advice given must be replicable, easily so. And here we get into trouble…

Well, I get into trouble because I take all of it seriously and easily add new projects to my ‘true urban ecologist’ check-list. My eco-sin list was only part of my ongoing battle with all those ‘I should really’. Big part if the problem, of course, is that – at least I – tend to incorporate this stuff in my identity. I feel so deliciously smug being the person who gets a CSA veggie box, the person with only second-hand clothing, the person with the most sustainable yoga mat in my yoga studio, the person with the most nutritious whole foods plant based homemade meal in my work canteen. Self righteousness feels amazing! So I go on organizing anticaptialist events with local biodynamic wine, double fermented fair trade tea kombucha that I made myself and the most nutritious vegan brownie. Boom!

(On those mentioned: we left the CSA cooperative in May, I left the yoga studio too, not everything is second-hand, and the whole foods part of our eating is not true – white pasta, among others, for the win!)

What constantly ruins all this smug-fest of satisfying little gestures is that the day has 24 hours and everything takes time. Of course I’d like to, off the top of my head:

Start composting

Go zero waste and plastic free

Truly research the few industrial cleaning / beauty products we have left instead of relying on certifications and what the bulk shop guy tells me

Get all the produce from CSA

Go fully organic

Make my own bread

Start sprouting

Be 100% vegan whole food plant based

Reduce my possessions even more

Reduce my spending and move towards FIRE (1, 2), at least a teeny tiny bit

Do daily yoga

Meditate

Do morning pages

Experiment more with cooking

Take better care of our kombucha

Never fly again

Make my own snacks and sweets

Make my own plant milks

Make my own nut butter

Make my own ice cream

Learn to sew well

Cut my own hair

Look into natural dyes

Organize more events

Learn more…

You see where this is going, right? I’m already exhausted after just putting that list together. I want to do everything that’s cool on the Internets, I want to be good at it, and I want it now. And these are not all my goals, of course! Throw in a couple more languages (Russian, Catalan), several other arts (more drawing, analogous photography), cultural capital (literature, cinema), and you have my impossible life plan.

I know that my brain is doing that old trick of discounting all I’m already doing (nope, I won’t make a list of that, this is a different kind of post) and valuating all I’m not doing but I can’t really help it. Years of therapy around that Hamilton line is what expects me: “I will never be satisfied!” That’s the first part of my fit: frustration about not being able to do everything on the sustainability checklist. Knowing that even on the internets full of fringe lifestyle heroines I haven’t found anybody who would really do all of the above does not send a signal my brain can interpret adequately as “see, *nobody* can do it all”.

The second part is time spent blogging. Setting aside the whole question of if you went capsule wardrobe or zero waste and didn’t start a blog about it, did it really happened… I’ve realized that for me a post starts from 1000 words and often goes on for more (the body positivity post is the current record holder at 3180). I greatly enjoy inserting vaguely connected scholarly references and bits of song lyrics. The only post where the photos are not mine is the first one where they have to illustrate a point I cannot convey in any other way. (I have to admit that I despise – among so many other things and people, admittedly – content creators who use stock or other people’s IG photos. Yuck! Keep those in your Pinterest for inspiration, but do not make your visual identity out of those.) I love doing this, but it takes time. And the weekly outfit thing is stressing alright. And, of course, I’ve made a decision to stick to my initial concept of weekly outfit posts + the weekly substantial post, no summer vacations, no winter breaks, no PhD hiatuses. Thank you to all who worked so hard to instill all this self-imposed work ethic in me, great job, Grandpa and Grandma! On the other hand, this is a creative outlet after all, and I don’t really want to know what the counterfactual would feel like.

The aim of this post is not to announce that I’m shutting all this down or to just get yours ‘oh, poor thing!’, just to vent my frustration with – of course – my self-imposed rules. My blog effort mean that I take time off either the thesis, C, sleep, housework or leisure. And all these have suffered because of my blogging. The only silver lining I see to my time squeeze, falling behind on my posting schedule and ‘shoulding all over myself’ is an empathy that a full-time blogger cannot have. This experience brings me closer to normal people with more serious jobs and n other worries beside correct recycling and the most nutritional plant milk (it’s soy, btw).

Let me preach to you so maybe sth sticks to me as well! tl;dr: it’s OK to relax your sustainability standards to get through the day.

Here, have a spoonful of my climate pessimism! We are already all fucked and these little things are but feel good rituals of washing off the common guilt, taking an observer’s position to the havoc we as a species are wrecking and sigh ‘if only everybody would have said no to one more plastic bag’. Right now I’m unable to come up with a smart little bit of hopefulness, sorry. That stated above is my end of the day truth where the ultimate advice is not to have children and to get ready to witness a great deal more of misery. I re-watched George Carlin’s Jammin’ in New York recently and, curiously enough, I think he is ultimately right about the whole sustainability thing: “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” I hope you all go zero waste and prove me wrong.

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Yeah, I fluctuate inexplicably between the extremes of ‘all the little things matter’ and ‘it’s all already lost anyways’. It may be the heat wave (or, as scientists would call it, this extreme weather event) making life unpleasant all over Europe that’s making me more rant-inclined than usual. (I have had angry outbursts before, though. They are all neatly filed here.) Is there anything that’s eating you? Do you experience the sustainability time squeeze? And where do you stand on the climate pessimism to optimism gradient?

#whatiwore 2018w25 + Sunday links

Feed the brain (and keep it hydrated, too):

After the glitter shit, want another new environmental worry? Great, I give you *light*. Can Reducing Light Pollution Help Pollinators?

When recycling is a (low-key) crime, and how inefficient the donation system is unless stuff is sent abroad – Here’s What Really Happens to Your Used Clothes: How what you donate in the United States gets smuggled into Mexico.

And from a person trying to – still! – figure out what I think about the Academia, here you have some William Deresiewicz: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education and Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.

One of my head explosion moment regarding garment manufacturing was that there is no garment-with-seams machines – I can’t find the link now, sorry – in a sense that it all (except the seamless knitted pieces) needs human expertise and touch to properly construct garments. Well, 3D printing is changing some of that: Robots Are Making Gucci’s $650 Sneakers, Balenciaga’s Runway Jackets.

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What do you think, what will be the next true revolution in fashion technology? Large scale 3D printing? Mass composting? Or just a coat of durable finishing à la Ghost in the Shell? My favorite 20th century ones are first nylon stockings being so durable Dupont had to rethink the whole thing to sell more than a pair per person (i.e. redesigned priming sheerness over strength) and the t-shirt – an undergarment! – becoming socially accepted as an ‘essential’.

Body positivity, the average user’s guide

This is a story about a never-ending road towards body positivity (including fat positivity but not only that) in a world where we are all damaged goods when it comes to our own bodies, a brainwashed civilization unable to appreciate everything our bodies do for us. I’ll do my best not to relive my traumas again in this post, I’m still busy healing them. Throughout this post I’m talking about a very mild case of body dismorphia and societal pressures felt while inhabiting still a very – in the statistical sense – ‘normal’ body, I am aware that life at other configurations of body shape, color, ability, sexual identity among other traits are very different, and I eagerly read when other people share their body stories but they are not mine to re-imagine and retell. Here I will try to capture what has let me be so much more happy with my body now than in any other moment since I gained aesthetic consciousness of it at around 8 or so.

Odessa 1995, I was the bubba on the left just having a really good time and pretty oblivious to bodies.

And even more absurd is the fact that, despite not having any experience of being properly fat, I have so much trauma around this shit. I have experienced very little direct body shaming, but I did the rest of the job myself with a little help from the popculture, thank you very much. I was prone to adolescent idiocy moments like observing that ‘my tights wobble in shorts’ and then taking around 15 years to wear short again, Barcelona summer made me. But now adolescence is over, and either (a) at least in my circles, Spaniards are less judgemental than Latvians, (b) my social circles are better selected now than 15 years ago, or (c) I’m getting immune to this crap. So I’m ready to impart advice:

1. Become an engineer, see function!

You might have been looking for the wrong shapes all along. Somebody told us that small, tall, young and willowy was where it’s at and here we are. But think about evolution! Think about primates! Think about what bodies are for! Your genes are probably a couple of hundreds (if not thousands) years off in their expression, but they are doing what they can. Try to see your body in connection with your ancestors, that’s the inheritance, the family trunk full of treasures that made sense way back. I’ve had to admit that my body is not made for gender bending, androgynous play and being willowy. It’s the opposite, just what my fertile peasant grand-grandmothers needed to live, work, and, yes, marry well and survive all those pregnancies. Wide back and shoulders to carry water from the well, firewood from the forest, and potatoes from the field. Strong tights and calves to keep walking all day long from one farm errand to another. Wide feet to keep my bare feet grounded in places that even now don’t have asphalt. A round belly to grow babies in and downward looking breasts to feed them. Such waste to have it all on me, from an evolutionary point of view, as the use is pretty limited, but that’s my trunk. Here, my best selfie ever (2016):

2. Become a historian, do your research!

Women’s bodies also have fashions, get to know those. The click-bait places are full of ‘the ideal woman through ages’ videos and there is an abundance of more serious materials too. For an extra level, try to explain the trends, i.e. fat when most people were starving, pale skin when only the leisurely classes didn’t spend the day outside followed by appreciation of tan when people started to spend most of their time in factories and offices, or the abundant meatiness of the 1950’s sex symbols following the Great Depression and WWII. And these trends move fast: I’ve seen supermodels, heroin chic, and Kardashian butt being all the rage since I am alive and that hasn’t been so many years. Assume that this – as bell-bottoms, platform shoes or millennial pink – will also pass. Maybe Rubens will have a revival and cellulite will be the next big thing! A girl can dream.

Although taking into account that only the scarce commodity can be truly valued, I’d suggest not giving a fuck as a more sustainable and reality-based alternative in comparison for waiting for the cellulite trend.

3. Become an art historian, de-earth women who chose to become icons instead of becoming pretty!

There are stories of rebellion and ‘fuck pretty’ for all tastes, including those that wanted to be part of the game and learnt that extravagant also works (hello, Diana Vreeland) and those that knew that she needed more than being recognized for her looks (hello, young Georgia O’Keeffe), because striking stays when the youthful beauty is gone. Frida Kahlo is a bit overused for coasters and pins by now, but always a good place to start. You have Wikipedia for days: Nina Simone, Iris Apfel, Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth I, etc. etc. And for some gore and to remember that for a long time religion was the only reasonable alternative to the three Ks of domesticity, you have the stories of Joan of Arc, Agatha of Sicily, Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Ávila (those two actually succeeded at the whole thing) to begin with. And I’m sure you have a handful of local examples to add to this list, let me know in the comments!

4. Become a fly on the wall. Observe!

Relax! Look at real people instead of billboards. A ride in public transit, especially in a day of ‘wear shorts or die’ will do much more for your body confidence than a fashion magazine. The same goes for a day at the beach or gym showers. And I don’t mean it in a ‘you are so much better than’ way. Nope, it’s just bodies going places, and cellulite or upper arm flap is completely irrelevant Try to practice observing bodies without judging them: the shapes, the sizes, the little things nobody has had time for. Among strangers or friends, I love to notice half-shaven legs, undone nail polish, blood stains that never came out, droopy shoulders, early wrinkles, and all the rolls, rolls, rolls. As The Killers asked ten years ago, ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’

5. Use your body! Preferably, naked.

There is a great piece about this point exactly in Caitlin Moran‘s new book ‘How to be Famous’ (see the quote above). It almost boils down to the old cliché of nobody having a low self esteem at the moment of orgasm, but in a classier and more ample way. If you are truly present while using your body – in sports, traffic, crafts, dancing, sex – you are not likely to be thinking about it. Again, function trumps aesthetic, or at least we seem to lack bandwidth to process both at the same time. If you treat your body as tool for self expression (and life in general), the criteria are very different than if the body is an aesthetic commodity. In this sedentary world moving the body might require an effort, but only in movement it shows its magic.

The note about nakedness is not random, though. As most bodies we see are printed or digital, they are far removed from actual bodily experiences – they are plastic or cardboard, heavily airbrushed and sanitized. They don’t sweat, bleed or have random hairs sprouting out of unsuspected places. So hanging around – at least – with your own naked body creates counter-images of living, breathing, warm bodies being the norm. We have to hack our brain back to recognizing the true us as the baseline, not some painted lady on the billboard.

Oh, and – when taking a break among all that movement – take all the selfies in the world! I’d say that the greatest benefit of digital photography has been giving the tools of instant and infinite self-portrait to the people. Selfies have helped us all to discover that, while some are more photogenic than others, the great majority of us have a couple of great angles in the right light, and that great part of the airbrushed commercial photos we see around are due to – after make-up, styling and before photoshopping – about taking enough pictures until some came out nice. Of course it’s narcissistic, but in a world which puts us down for not being pretty enough while bombarding us with images of supposed perfection of others, knowing that the magic of one stunning photo is usually having taken 200 of them is power. I cling to the idea that my first digital camera did almost as much for me as my first pop feminist books did. If I was able to make ‘pretty’ out of myself, I didn’t rely on anybody else to do it. Ha, and be careful about putting naked pictures on the internets. Here, have some of mine instead (Berlin 2008):

6. Experiment with the limits of patriarchy in beauty.

Play a little truth or dare with yourself and body/beauty standards. First of all, there is already probably a bunch of supposedly ‘essential’ beauty routines you are not doing. How do I know? Because there are so many of them that nobody could possibly have time for them all! Make a list of every Cosmopolitan advice you are not following: painting the toenails? daily face/body/hair masks? curling your eyelashes? waxing your forearms? permanent make-up? permanent hair removal? hair transplants? magical pills for better skin? hockey mask with pink lights for acne treatment (that exists, btw)? If you do any of these or any else, that’s fine. My point is that the options and their combinations greatly exceeds our numbers.

So keeping in mind that there is no universal beauty list beyond the very basics of some soap and maybe cleaning under your nails, you get to decide and shake it up a bit. My minimalist-bias go towards reducing instead of adding, so I suggest looking at your routines and asking ‘do I enjoy this?’, ‘what does it do for me?’ and ‘why am I doing this?’. Allow for trial and error, it’s an experiment.

My personal recent ‘transgressions’ include: the above-mentioned short wearing (yay); trying to stop using a lip balm (nay, doesn’t work for me); replacing facial cream with almond oil (yay); and giving up yoga classes because those didn’t spark joy anymore – I was more attached to wanting to be the person who does yoga than actually enjoying the practice.

Older and established choices include: wearing my nails short and unpainted; wearing only flat shoes; not wearing trousers; getting a haircut only once a year; doing a diy hair dye with henna once a month; having a wax every seven weeks; not wearing make-up… Each of these was a process of ‘let me see how can I twist this’. For example, I tried not removing body hair at all just to realize that I am not comfortable living like that, unfortunately. So a compromise I’ve devised is to allow for a lot of time between waxes so that I actually get to live with some hair before they are stripped off again. While politically I would be on the side of ‘if it gets too bushy, you can trim’, I played with the external standards to find out where my current limits are. Remember that all that shit is arbitrary and relax! The same goes for experimental dressing and letting go of ‘no horizontal stripes’ type of prejudice – check and re-check that your limits are truly yours. And have fun with glitter and curling iron meanwhile!

7. Practice compassion for those in the first line of combat.

Some people’s value – measured in income – actually depend on their looks. People get dragged through the yellow press, shamed, and contractually obliged to lose or gain weight, hair, tan, etc. Imagine the exhaustion! Having come of age when Britney Spears was a thing and then not again when she couldn’t maintain the appearances, having read about Amanda Palmer switching to crowd funding and self editing because of record label considering her fat, Pink being dragged through media because of the same shit, Jennifer Lawrence being a ‘fat actress’ for the contemporary Hollywood, you know what? Thank goodness my life is not like that.

No wonder there is a great demand for celebrity ‘stolen’ swimsuit photos – we all crave a confirmation that they are ‘wrong’ too. The chastising ‘how dares she not to be airbrushed!’ remarks and evil indulgence in those photos is the only passive aggressive ‘revenge’ that people have when reminded that we are being tricked all along. Obviously, that doesn’t change anything for anybody: the celebrities keep being tightly controlled by the masses willing to believe in their perfection and that 10 sit-ups a day will give the same for everybody who persists.

And when you think that people talking up about this stuff is celebrities doing alright, remember all those that just have to swallow the insults while doing the jobs where one *has* to be pretty, feminine, helpful, and not threatening: flight attendants, secretaries, waitresses… Or those arts/sports where eating disorders and communal hard-core body policing seems to come with the discipline. Yuck!

8. Carefully select food for your brain.

This one consists of two parts, one being media and other the everyday interactions. Fill your feeds with truly fat people. Knowing is not enough, our brains need to see things again and again to file them under ‘typical’, and, taking into account how many idealized and airbrushed bodies you have seen by now (because all the corporate dollars have been channeled into making sure you see all those), we need *a lot* of other pictures to counteract that. Depending on the stage of healing you are at, side effects might include: (a) de-stigmatizing the word ‘fat’ and reminding you that it is just a noun or adjective, not a crushing insult unless we make it so, (b) realizing that the fantasy world of ‘I’ll get thin / get a boob job / nose job / six pack and then I’ll be…’ doesn’t work that way, except for very few cases, (c) discovering the variety contained by the plus size and body positivity universe, especially the tensions around body shapes of most plus size models and plus size fashion representing mostly a slightly overweight, tall, long-legged, hourglass figure, (d) confirm that confidence and believing it is the key to sexiness (and all other -nesses, too), if that’s what you are going for. And try to cut out the toxic crap: hours on tumblr will do you much good while beauty pageants, talk shows that body-police, mainstream series, TV advertisement, and women’s magazines will put new images we are already sick of in your head.

9. Help liberate others’ brain (at least don’t add crap to it).

OK, so once you have have your power place built up on the internets (I have a tumblr partially dedicated to this and a Pinterest board to go back to when the day is dark) and your brain is high on #fatgirlsdoingthings, now your job as the secret avenger of the body shamers begin. All that toxic talk, all that damage we inflict on ourselves and others. It takes so little, only a subtle eye roll or a nuance in tone in ‘oh, that’s what you are wearing?!’ It is about control, fitting in, guilt, and equaling fat with a character flaw, and making sure everybody knows they are not photoshop perfect. Self-depreciation is the norm, kind of pre-emptive strike at ourselves.

I’ve adopted a strategy to be very blasé when anybody tries to discuss my body, especially when people do the ‘oh, you so thin today!’ bullshit. I won’t allow anybody to police my fat or feet or anything else I’m happily doing – faking incomprehension is my favorite way of challenging that, makes assholes name *their* issues – or try to buy me over with sweet talk. Even when people clearly mean the best, I try to softly switch those remarks towards them, because commenting on others people’s bodies without a good reason (a medical emergency, for example) is never about other people. It hurts me profoundly to think about all the direct attacks people get if they are… well, not even, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés would put it, in the wrong nest, just in a normal family where body policing is what people do, mostly among females and mostly with the best intentions of wishing acceptance and desirability upon their daughters and granddaughters, transferring the survival strategies they have learnt.

And from that follows the self-depreciation stuff you’ll have to deal with, especially as the above-mentioned ‘compliments’ tend to have the following structure of ‘Oh, you so x, me so not x’ that tries to trick you into responding with at least ‘Of course you’re x, we are all amazing here!’ and preferably, as body-confidence is frowned upon, one-upping into a self-hating tirade along the lines of ‘Naah, me the fattest ugliest troll ever, you the pretty princess’. And that spiral can go on – and downwards! – for years… I tend to respond with something between ‘babe, quit the bullshit’ and ‘stop talking shit about my friends, be nice to your body, after all the hard work it does for you’. Try to figure out if the person is just engaging in a familiar ritual, a game you just don’t want to play anymore, or is this an occasion to sit down and truly talk about it. You will meet plenty of people who are deaf to such conversation, so accept that your capacity to change them stops at making it clear that you are out of the body shaming game, planting the little seed of doubt, and reassuring that you will be there if they ever want to talk about it.

And for people raising little people, may the force be with you, because, despite all your body positivity work, feminist pedagogy, and unconditional love, they are bound to bring home all the toxic crap, and it will be your job to hold their hand and explain what patriarchy and unattainable beauty standards are about. This stuff is powerful with thousands of years of history and all the current big money behind, so, please join the resistance! We really need you.

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Obviously, there are better days and ones when the fat demons come back, but at least now we have an argument instead of a dismissive monologue. I have my safe places: that Pinterest board, the swimming pool, an intimate lube, and just plain spite of ‘nope, I refuse to be ordered around by stupid ideas, I have a great and functional body and I shall cherish it’.

How do you fight against the shame monsters, be they human or ghosts in your head? Do you have key songs, playlists, movies, books, fridge magnets with inspirational quotes? What do you tell yourself to get over the body shaming moments? And what do you say to others trying to do that to you?

#whatiwore 2018w24 + Sunday links

And brain food for all:

If you are not a worshiper of Kate Fletcher, here you have a brief taste of her take on sustainability in fashion – Usership: Fashion Beyond Consumerism + this beautiful urban intervention, a Haberdashemergency.

The sticky stuff around wish to eat healthy and an eating disorder easily endorsed by others: The Problem With ‘Clean Eating’ In Eating Disorder Recovery, Disordered Eating and Consumption in the Intentional Living Movement, and Clean is for Underwear, not Food.

And how (post)colonialism slows down fashion emerging off the official fashion capitals: Bridging the Gap Between Africa’s Burgeoning Fashion Brands and the Global Market.

And on links between race, school furbishing, and academic achievement: Staying Cool as Social Policy.

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What interesting things have you read this week? New and unexpected unintended consequences stuff I should know about?

Train travel long distance in Europe

If you have read this blog at least since March (1, 2, 3) or talked to me lately about traveling, you will know that in April I planned to do some some international train travel which I had to cancel due to French rail worker strike. However, in the beginning of June I did an even more ambitious route than the initially planned Barcelona-Paris -London-Paris-Barcelona. Ha! I did Barcelona-Lyon-Brussels-London-Paris-Barcelona instead.

This wasn’t my first time crossing borders in a train, though. I started at 7 doing Rīga-Odessa-Kiev-Rīga with my mom in a slow train where she convinced that trains were the best places to sleep, provided that we are talking coaches with compartments shared among 4 or less persons, having your own little shelf with a proper bedding and when the train is not a high speed one. It was 1995 and former Soviet Union, so seeing the tracks when going to bathroom was normal. As an adult I’ve done the very short Brussels-Rotterdam-Brussels, Brussels-London-Brussels, Brussels-Paris-Brussels trips and the overnight Moscow-Rīga (17h) we did for fun in 2012.
I’ve also crossed Spain and Poland by train but that was not complicated either, except that time I got confused when part of the train bound for Bilbao was left in Valladolid. They do the same in Paris-Montpellier-Barcelona train: half of it stays in Montpellier, so you want to be in the right coach when that happens.

This is what overnight travel Moscow-Rīga looks like in a 2-berth compartment. Very cutesy and sentimental! By the way, this slow but tranquil option but in a more luxurious compartments is known to be the favorite way to travel by some Russian celebrities with links to Rīga; makes sense: you get a no hassle and almost no disturbances travel packed together with a trip down the memory lane. The border guards that wake you up to look at you passport in the middle of the night not pictured:

Horrified by my last year’s 23 flights and 17 of the year before, and knowing that some options exist, I did my best and below you have a long list of the pros and cons of long distance train travel according to me. These are, obviously, restricted by external factors such as distances and your closeness to a railway hub. For example, I’m not planing to go to Latvia by train anytime soon, as around 1500km of train travel per day seems to be my limit with current speeds, it’s twice that to Rīga, and several day train trips with multiple uncoordinated layovers is not in my wish list (something like Barcelona-Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Warsaw-Vilnius-Rīga). The other is personal preferences, those, well, to each her own!

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(My) reasons to take train long distance:

Significantly lower CO2 emissions.

Time *seems* better spent as you are in movement for a bigger proportion of the journey. Because the airport waiting times are just soul crushing…

Though vistas still fly by, at ~300 km/h of high speed railway you appreciate distances better than at the ~1000 km/h of the commercial planes. In my book that’s a good thing – distance is not a trivial thing and being mindful about it is a nice added value. For example, now my knowledge that Paris-London distance is less than half of Paris-Barcelona is a very real experience. And, yes, I am aware that in both cases those mentioned are top speeds and that the reality is often lower, especially for the high speed railway lines with many stops.

As Eurostar advertised in its beginnings, train normally takes you to actual places that have the same name as your destination. Even more, as railway is much older, most of the big stations are pretty central. No disrespect to people living in Prat, Charleroi, Nyköping or Luton, but these are not the places I was going to.

While we are now used to airlines policing our bodies and stuff (remember, the 100ml restriction has been there since 2006, not forever), the trains are a much freer world. Depending on a station and type of train, there might be a bag scan, but that’s it. Nobody controls how much stuff you are carrying and if any of that is liquid.

The most heart-breaking example of what the liquid restrictions have to done to us was at the Eurostar check-in in Brussels Midi. There are recycling bins before security and passport control there, and there was a bunch of half-full drink bottles, water and soft drinks. I already got scared that for some reason Eurostar has adopted the airline liquid rules, and asked the security staff. Clearly enjoying themselves, they explained that people just did that without being asked. Sad.

So bring your own water, and, if you are willing to suspend your water taste criteria in favor of reducing all the stupid bottled water waste, get a filter bottle and drink some bathroom water. Mine is a Bobble, I’ve had it for five months without changing the filter yet because I only use it for travel as we have a nic etasting water fountain in the office. I have to admit that the filter bottle is not as comfy to use as any normal vessel as you actually have to push the water through the filter and – as all normal plastic bottles – it’s not insulated, so you are bound to drink your water the same temperature as the ambient. I have made my mind though: I am easily disgusted by the common public water (chlorine!), so I prefer to push mine through a filter, even if it’s warm. In any case, hydration is important, please take care of yourself even if that means purchasing overpriced plastic bottles of water!

And bringing your own food is normal and expected, and snacking is great! Bring sandwiches, sturdy salads (read about how pros do it here) and fruit, snacks, it all helps. My basics are granny smith apples, cherry tomatoes, carrots, pistachios, dark chocolate and then whatever else that seems like a good idea. On the other hand, there is such thing as a ‘restaurant-vagon’ or at least a bar section in all trains (significantly cooler in older and slower trains, of course). Moving around freely is OK when in train, serendipitous encounters might happen, and it’s a way of escaping your seat-mate if need be.

On the other end of hydrating and travel nutrition we have the bathroom issue. Just to keep it short: have paper tissues just in case, liquid hand sanitizer (regardless of what you think about harsh chemicals, I think that they are very good idea for travel, including dealing with toilet seats) and small change for those places (French train stations!) that think that taking money for access to bathroom is a good thing.

Space! There is significantly more leg space! For real. And only two seats together, so you will need to climb over a maximum of one person (those who have been stuck in the 6-seat mid-row on a trans-continental flight and then in a lap of a complete stranger mid-way through your gymnastics towards toilet know what I mean). Also, if traveling in a small group, you can get the 4-seat 2-facing-2 table to have some quality time of conversations, meals, and games. For example, Spanish railway actually give you cheaper tickets if you book the whole 4-seats because few people want to share those with strangers.

And plugs. There are plugs. The number depends on a train model (one per every two seats in most trains I took), but still much better than none. So non-online computer work is a real option from the moment you get into your seat until the moment the train stops in your station. None of the ‘all big electronics have to be safely stored in the overhead lockers’. And the unified EU no-roaming-fees zone will take care of your data needs, although access to those fluctuated across my itinerary.

Less crowded. I see two reasons for it. First, not all of these are full. For example, my Barcelona-Lyon coach was pretty sparsely populated. Second, even when full, there are just fewer people in one coach and that gives breathing space. Yes, a train is a chain of coaches, I know, but the feeling is different sharing a closed space with 2 seats by 2 sides by 11 to 15 rows = [44; 60] than by 3 x 2 x 30 (or a bit more) ~ 180 on commercial median distance flights. My Paris-Barcelona train was a double-decker, having 88 or so passengers per coach but divided in two spaces.

(My) obstacles to take train long distance:

It is more expensive. The only exceptions might be the very short ones like the Belgium-Netherlands ones. All those I took this time were more expensive than low-fare flying. Like twice as expensive.

In many cases, it takes more time. The Brussels-London (2h) and Paris-London (2’15h) seem to be among the exceptions, and so are the trains connecting Belgium and the Netherlands. But if you are covering longer distances or using slower trains, it will take significantly more time. So, apart from the few faster-than-flying itineraries, this is not an option for people in hurry. As the pink letters in London-St. Pancras claim, trains want their time with us:

Failure could be much harder to fix and more time-consuming. Especially because the connections are not formal, so nobody will reseat you in the next train if you just missed yours because of a delay or give you a hotel if you have to spend the night. Again, the probability of such desperate moments depends on your itinerary, and my feeling is that it’s mostly linked to industrial actions instead of tech failure. So do your research and err on a safe side, especially if people with reasonable power for industrial action are planning to strike (hi, France!).

The infrastructure and habitual uses are less homogeneous, hence more stressful for the traveller. The differences among airports are smaller than among train stations. Timing cultures, security checks, infrastructures vary a lot. And language is not English necessarily. There is much less baby sitting than in air travel: nobody will call your name throughout the station and, depending on the station, check if you are getting on the correct train! And you can lose your stop if you are not paying attention or sleeping. Connections are not formal, so you are the one responsible of being informed and alert.

Depending on train model and itinerary, and booking algorithms, you might end up being seated backwards. I was sitting like that on my Lyon-Brussels train and found it only mildly unpleasant, but I know that there are people who get truly sick with stuff like this and in a full train with all seats booked your only option would be an informal seat change with a flexible-enough stranger. Please, nobody talk about this to Ryanair, they could implement random – cheaper! – sitting backwards seats just to fuck with us.

Also, not necessarily pretty. You’ll be seeing this a lot:

You have to be able to deal with your luggage on your own. This is very important! While nobody cares how big your carry-on is the whole point is that it is an actual ‘carry-on’: you will have to move it on and off train, climb steps and put it in the luggage shelves, either together with others in one spot in the coach or on the shelf above your head. I had a typical size carry-on and a cross-body with my essentials, and even this way it was annoying at times to do all the steps and gymnastics. It is true that people with big bags looking helpless get assistance from staff or kind strangers, but that’s not something I would like to rely on, especially in French stations where in both cases – in Lyon and Paris-Lyon – the track was announced less than 10 minutes before departure resulting in mass hysteria and stampede. So follow my grandpa’s advice and always be able to comfortably carry your own stuff!

As you can imagine, my strategy was to plan for outfit repetition and carry very little. Most of the little cross-body was taken by my two cases for glasses, so my clothing and conference shoes, notebooks, books, laptop, grooming pouch, food and water bottle had to go into the carry-on. Apart from what I was wearing for travel (kaftan, sports bra, sneakers, cardigan + ‘just in case AC’ leggings), I took two dresses, a bra, a pair of formal shoes, extra underwear and socks. You can see all the outfits here and here. And this is my hotel wardrobe in Brussels, the things on shelves are drying after a sink-wash:

And more hand-wash drying in London. While I take extra pairs, I do not take enough to cover all days, so washing by hand is a routine. If my dad and Paul Krugman can do it, so can I! I heard Krugman telling about his book-tour sink hand-washing habits due to the ridiculous prices hotels charge for laundry on some youtube talk years ago and he’s been a role model since. My all-time favorite knickers both for comfort and the super-quick dry are Luva Huva Satin Frilly Knickers in black you see in this photo:

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Do you have any experiences with lower CO2 travel? What mode of transportation, where to and how did it go? Do any of the cons I mentioned that make it impossible to you: price, time, stress levels?

#whatiwore 2018w23 + Sunday links

Feed the gray cells, they deserve it:

The best thing on #MeToo and #NotAllMen I’ve read lately: The myth of the male bumbler.

Ever wanted to have another environmental issue to worry about? I give you… glitter! What’s The Problem With Glitter?

As North Korea is in the news, here you have a fashion link at least I had never thought about: What is Standing Between the West and “Made in North Korea” Clothing?, North Korea factories humming with ‘Made in China’ clothes, traders say and Your “made in China” clothes may actually have been made in North Korea.

And a bit of anthropologies and random links… First, I read a bit on quinceañera celebrations in Latinx communities: My Super Sweet 15. Then I went to look up the quinceañera Barbie, a commercialized twist of a symbolic tradition described in the Racked piece. And Mattel page sucked me into its magic up to discovering (a) that the 1985 Day-to-Night™ Barbie should be on the cover of my thesis and (b) that there is a Barbie fashion Instagram clearly aimed at my demographic. Creepy! And their attempts to brush off the toxic toy stigma by introducing the ‘fat’ Barbie and by always doubling down of how Mattel has always been feminist because of the ‘you can be anything’ discourse, although usually covering only the very feminized professions… So much material for research.

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I actually spent a lot of time on Mattel pages window shopping the special editions back at the dial internet days (~2000), so going down their rabbit hole felt very familiar. Do you have places like that on internet? And was has been your latest weird clicking chain of unsuspected degrees of separation?

Or the latest ethical consumption issue you hadn’t even heard about before? For me both glitter and North Korea – Made in China link were completely new. They kind of make sense if you start to think about it – like ‘oh, those are pieces of some foil, so probably petrol-derived hence microplastics’ and ‘oh, sure, they share border and actually trade’ – but had never come up until this week.

Style mood board: me-me-me!

Let me set the stage for you! Many people browse others’ content to find fashion inspiration; that’s the whole premise of Pinterest, including mine. However, as I’ve been editing drastically reducing my digital photo archives, I’ve got an heretical idea: I’ll do a style mood board of my own materials, ideas I’d like to go back to instead of trying out what other people are doing. Yes, very self-involved but also reafirming and comforting!

I did run into the problem of disentangling the memories, the photo (light, colors, posture) and particular garments… but Pinteresting – and all fashion inspo in general – has the same issue. We evaluate the overall feel of a fashion editorial, not every garments on its own merits. And the notion of style is about combinations not pieces. It’s garments by other garments by adornments by activities by ‘audience’, etc. etc. And my ‘conclusions’ are also more about mood than garments.

In case you have a couple of hours to spare and want to do something similar, these were my steps:

1. I went through my old photos starting with the older ones and copied (copy, don’t move! whatever photo system you have, you want the originals to stay in their place) into a separate folder all those that spark fashion joy. Treat it like scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram and ‘like’ the ones that inspire you style-wise! I ended up with 50 or so photos from 2005 to 2011. I consciously chose not to deal with the most recent ones, that’s what the rest of this blog is for.

2. Then I tried to find commonalities between the photos and key words for the common themes. And the winners are:

Wavy hair

Artsy

Defiant

Cozy winters

3. The rest was just formatting the photos to the same sizes, making them into collages by key word and then trying to figure out the reasons for their salience…

Wavy hair

This one needs a background explanation, because it’s not a purely aesthetic choice, it’s a mystery and an ongoing tension! My natural hair color is ash blonde, but I’ve been dyeing it different shades of red since I was 11, first with synthetic dyes and then with henna since 17 or 18. The length has fluctuated between none (hah!) and half-back, mostly being around shoulders. The texture has fluctuated between straight and wavy but always very thin. I have a child’s nose and a child’s hair, yes.

My go-to hairstyle for the last few years has been a modified french braid from ear to ear followed by a normal braid that’s either just hanging or is pinned up to complete the circle. I came up with it when looking for an easy way to (a) keep hair away from neck, (b) not to gather the bulk of my hair at the nape as that is the last thing you want for inverted yoga postures, (c) do something more stable than the messy bun which in my case is a ridiculously small thing that keeps unraveling, (d) find a ‘do I can sleep with in Barcelona’s summer, (e) gracefully gather even dirty hair, (f) not to tire my scalp (f*ck ponytails!). An additional advantage is that it looks like I made and effort while actually I have it down to few minutes and then don’t have to think about it until the end of the day. Very practical and adult.

Yet when you look at the pictures that have moved my heart’s strings, I clearly long for my rebelious, uncommbed, wavy locks. I know that there are selection bias at play – those are the extra good hair days! And the causality is unclear as so many variables have changed since then: age, stress, food, water, air, shampoo, combing practices… so I wouldn’t even know how to go back to having such hair, yet I love the look:

Artsy and defiant (yes, those go together)

While I still dress quite differently than my peers and have done so since my early adolescence, I do have a feeling that I’m settling down… and it bothers me. So a great share of my inspo photos are capturing a more daring way of dressing.

There are lifestyle dictates, such as that pretty much everything has to be bicycle safe to be used on working days (this mostly restricts headpieces and skirt length). There are bodily whims such as my earlobes deciding that they will inflame with anyhting but pharmacy baby studs. And there are my more mature standards of comfort: no pinching waists, no tugging pants, no uncomfortable underwear, no chocking necklaces, and no street-sweeping hems.

But when I look back, of course it’s the ‘craziest’ outfits (and the occasional shaved eyebrow) that I appreciate the most and would like to go back to. It’s the feeling that I’m not pushing the fashion conformity enough, that I could do more to actively remind myself that clothing is means of expression and not to blend in (OK, you could, if need be) or to serve as an unpaid billboard (you really shouldn’t).

(I have a huge flower that few people would pick even for their wedding day on my head as I’m drafting this, though. So maybe I’m doing my mission alright on this London-Paris train surrounded by ultra-casual tourist wear and people in business suits. Also, there are enough garments that I did wear but wouldn’t want to go back to, my toy princess crown period in 2005 being just one of them.)

Curiously enough, my narrative is that pop feminism set me free. The message that I could do whatever made sense for me and that pleasing others was optional was a permission to experiment with dressing up to my heart’s content and not for anybody else. There were fails and occasional succumbing to (percieved) peer pressure (because at that age we are all so anxious about ourselves that other people barely enter our field of vision) but I felt like dressing true to myself most of the time.

I clearly have an underlying issue of having to stand out in a crowd, even if then I have to provide proof of not being as superficial and self-involved as it may seem. I now think that my loudest acting out coincided with my most normal dressing, but both could be just side-effects of being a teenager. Even though I abandoned the idea of becoming an artists at 15 – I might get back to it when I’m around 70 – dressing is one of the aspects of my life where I can be flaunting my (perceived and desired) creativity and extravagance. So far it has been a constant need and doesn’t seemt o be going anywhere.

Cozy (winters)

Climate conditions bodies. I am convinced that we learn to regulate temperatures according to the climate we grow up in, so… I miss proper winters! Salamanca still had enough cold for me (~ 5ºC on average between December and February), but Barcelona just doesn’t have any for my standards + it’s the stupid combination of cold at home and warm outside that drives me mad. The same way as Spaniards treat winter and cold weather as an annoying emergency, there is a part in me that loves it. The bundling up, the careful thinking through what layers to put on and in what order, and the smug satisfaction when managing to put together a good looking winter outfit that works both with your coat and without. I miss proper layering. I miss cold rosy cheeks. And I miss the collective milieu when being warm and cozy trumps everything else. (Barcelona has that in summer heat: all other standards of decency and formality get lowered to favour weather-appropriate clothing and sweat stains are not frowned upon.) I miss my big scarves and winter boots, all the cocooning. And, yes, insert a joke about Latvian summers and all of us having a winter coat, a spring coat, and a summer coat. It took me years to learn no to take a layer with me ‘in case it gets cold’. It doesn’t.

An additional coziness note about trousers: yes, I used to have and wear them a lot! Something switched, though, and I haven’t been serious about getting a pair since more than five years ago. Many of these photos made me think how I used to wear jeans and feel both comfy and cool. Maybe the desire to wear them will come back someday.

On a closing note, this exercise did remind me of three particular types of garments that I would like to get back to (September Swap, I’m looking at you!): (1) what I called my Mucha dresses – floral, dropped waist, bare shoulders, and short; (2) a dark turtleneck, could be with a subtle print or plain; (3) a jersey bodycon. These were the paragons of comfort and feeling awesome at the same time.

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What would be the major fashion inspiration themes from your past? Has your style ben consistent or are you changing? Can you see yourself going back to wearing garments similar to those you had when teenager? Or did you never stopped wearing them?

#whatiwore 2018w22 + Sunday links

And now for the little gray cells:

On making one more country better for women and our reproductive rights, and celebrating the activism that lead to this change (also because I have had pleasure to meet Stephanie on several occasions): “It Was ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Type Stuff:” An Exclusive Conversation With Irish Abortion Rights Activist Stephanie Lord.

While clicking around Brit+Co (I know, a weird place to be clicking around, but Stephanie’s interview was there), I also found this: Two Neighbors: Israeli and Palestinian Women Create a Pathway to Peace Through Fashion. Obviously, small scale economical projects won’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it’s a cute story anyway, and a smart sales point, too.

Modest fashion keeps coming up in my feeds, so How the Hijab Has Grown into a Fashion Industry of its Own.

And to remind you why cotton is not among the best fiber crops when it comes to the current industrial practices, here is one reason: Your Cotton T-Shirts Are Likely Linked to Forced Labor.

As I’m finishing my PhD thesis, this a reminder for my current self: Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

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What are your current reminder to self? Any go-to resources for restoring the inner balance you would like to share?

Book review: Second Skin by India Flint

Reading has been an important part of my life since I understood the superpowers it conferred and proceeded to read through the whole local children’s library in the 1990s. And since I got hooked on minimalism and sustainability in 2014, great part of my readings have been around these topics, both on-line and off.

Second Skin: Choosing and Caring for Textiles and Clothing (Murdoch books 2011) by India Flint came my way through Julie who had talked about it for ages and had brought it along for the Fix it! workshop. She kindly lent me her copy and I dove into a very different sustainable fashion book than I had got used to.

And maybe that’s my already squared mind, but was very grateful that I had previously read the sustainable fashion books of the Kate Fletcher circle (1, 2, and especially 3) which – while much more prone to being out of date as fashion industry practices are a moving target, especially when it comes to sustainability claims and attempts in last ten years or so – give a comprehensive overview of the life cycle of garments in late capitalism and the efforts to make it more sustainable and ethical. Flint’s stuff is a labor of love, and the most gorgeous book I’ve read in a long-long time, but that’s the thing: she is not a sustainable fashion scholar or industry insider, she’s a fiber artist, a maker, a natural dyer, a radical mender…

So, I’ll give you reasons to read this one…

It’s a beautiful artifact! The illustrations and text are weaved together into a work of art. There is no way this can be made Kindle-friendly because it shouldn’t be.

Herstory! Flint traces her family history through a lineage of women who knew how to make and mend for their families, both for festivities and during duress, throughout her childhood’s amazement of the magic of stitching and up to her daughter’s textile projects. Also, of course, I’m biased because – surprise, surprise! – it’s WW2 Latvia that her grandmother escaped from, sewing machine in hand.

If you ever wanted a little big push to appreciate natural fibers (and learn that cotton is not the best one by far) here you have it. Flint loves her linen, hemp, silk, and, especially, wool, and the whole book is a love letter to them. My special additional kudos for her suggestion that first textile making – felting – might be an unintended side-product of fucking. Also, the very sensible suggestion that people working with fire hazards should wear wool protective clothing. Cute! Be careful, though, with the power of suggestion: I had two episodes of a very suffocating synthetics-panic while reading the book and those were garments I had had for ages.

She is pushing the ugly mending revolution, and I love it! Flint is a great inspiration to let go of conventional notions of perfect dyeing and invisible mending. She advocates for visible layers of customization, appropriation, evolution, and it’s liberating.

Career inspiration! She is a great example of person just doing her thing and truly pushing the boundaries of what ethical fashion on an individual level can be. It’s authentic and it’s beautiful, and beyond the conventional notions of pretty at the same time which gives her work even more power.

And reasons not to start your sustainable fashion journey with this book!

The biggest one for me is that her life – that she implicitly sets as an example – is a very marginal anecdote. Yes, in her life wool is super sustainable and ethical because it comes from her own sheep, she travels the world in her overdyed and self-made uniform giving natural dyeing workshops and dyes in her hotel rooms (giving advice how to avoid smoke detectors, no less), and she has spent all her life developing the skills to be as sustainable and autonomous in her use of textiles as one can be. It’s inspirational and frustrating at the same time! While baby steps of the spirit of her work can be incorporated in our daily lives as urban, semi-formal people with limited skills, the position from which she is speaking is frankly unattainable unless you drop whatever else you are doing. (Well, Julie is an example of such switch, though, and is doing great!)

She has clear preferences and giving a comprehensive vision of the textile industry is not among her priorities. While her love for natural fibers is cute and makes perfect sense for her lifestyle, all synthetics get just written off as shit unworthy of even engaging with. Yes, it’s does not mend or natural dye well, but this generalized position ignores the fact that synthetics can be recycled back to their virgin quality if designing or at least sorting post-wear is done right with a fraction of energy required to make new and no water, and that we have a shitton of polyester and nylon laying around, so turning a blind eye to it is not a solution and, due to the nature of the material, not much can be done about it on an individual consumer level. Flint has this frontier woman flair of textile autonomy which is very attractive but could be as well from 100 years ago when we weren’t all drowning in cheap polyester.

The same ‘this is not an issue because I do it in my backyard’ logic is applied to ethics and animal products. While I don’t like to engage in wool and silk vegan debates, because they shift the focus away from more urgent issues, Flint brushes off any such concerns with a mix of ‘but if I can do it well, we all can’ in case of wool and leather (+ the leather is just meat industry by-product’ argument – 1, 2, 3) and an esoteric elevation of the ‘but we use plants’ argument that every vegan has heard too many times for silk (basically saying that silkworms are shit animals with no quality of life anyway) and coming this close to talking about natural cycles of everybody feeding everybody else in one way or another. As with fiber preferences, Flint’s views on animal agriculture and usage of parts of dead animals in human apparel is a bit too much Little House on the Prairie for my taste.

The repeated eye rolling about the notion of organic cotton. While admitting that labeling something organic has a narrow meaning that doesn’t include water use or posterior dyeing, Flint is baffled that a synthetically dyed garment with whatever trimmings (remember that 100% synthetic thread is the industry standard) would still be labeled as organic cotton. D-oh! It’s ‘organic cotton’, not ‘organic garment’, unfortunately, but that label does not lie.

And just an example of how unfortunately blasé I am about all the pollution that surrounds me (and I think you could use a first person plural there), my reaction to her synthetics dye outrage because skin is a large and absorbent organ was along the lines of ‘buah, not even everything I put inside me (stomach and intestinal linings are much more absorbent surfaces) is pesticide and other poison free, so…’ My bad, but I relativization is the only mental tactic that keeps me sane.

The radical mending that sound so well as a manifesto is hard! Even achieving a moderately acceptable level of reasonably functional fix requires skill. I’m learning it the hard way. The same goes for dyeing and garment-making described in this book. Coming from a person who has spent all her life playing with textiles, practices she describes meditative and empowering can get frustrating very quickly. With the additional rub that you’re failing at fugly mending…

So I suggest you read it when you have already covered the general textile and fashion industry basics, at least I’m happy that for me it happened in this order.

My takeaway inspirations (and caveats) are:
(a) to be more serious about phasing out the pure synthetics from my wardrobe and bringing in natural fibers (though I already failed at that miserably during the May swap),
(b) to take a second look at threads available at my local mercerías in an effort to move towards cotton ones (although I also have my mother’s sewing treasure box in Rīga with rainbow synthetic threads that could last me a lifetime; ugh the awful choices between ‘use up what you have’ and ‘purchase better’),
(c) to maybe dip my toes in some very basic avocado or onion skin dyeing for my stained whites… I’ll let you know!

What interesting sustainable fashion books have you read lately? Is there any one book that changed it all for you?