#whatiwore 2017w33 + Sunday links

Travel & Barcelona:


Few pieces of brain-food for this Sunday:

Two Sisters, A Small Room And The World Behind A T-Shirt – Another does of how fast-fashion garment workers live, why they chose those jobs and how, although the choice to work there makes sense for them, they do not wish the same for their children. That’s telling for those loving the argument that garment jobs save people from abject poverty, hence there is no problem with them.

Do Fashion Brands Have a Double Standard When It Comes to Transport Workers? – And just when you though that your plate was already full with fast-fashion problems, here you have another group that you most probably haven’t thought much: transport workers! You are welcome.

Self-Care Interview Series at Golubka Kitchen – One of my favorite cooking blogs has started a series of interviews with other top bloggers about their self-care routines and ways of maintaining sanity. Interesting reads, although most of it comes down to eating well, sleeping enough, and not talking the internets too seriously. Good luck with that! (This is the resolution time for the New Academic Year.)


We have a date for the next swap here in Gràcia! Put it down in your agendas for September 30 and start pruning your wardrobes. If you are not close enough, here are guidelines on how to make a swap in your community.

And our crowdfunding for screening The True Cost is still active! The screening will take place on October 21, and every euro helps. Than you so much!

Capsule wardrobes trans-seasonally and beyond seasonality

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


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

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

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


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

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

Click here to see the spreadsheet.


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

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


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

#whatiwore 2017w32 + Sunday links



As even the August news cycle is not what it was, here we go with more brain food:

Natural, Traditional and DIY Dyes from Around the World – A very brief little introduction in the magical (and creepy; see cochineal) world of natural dyes. For daily inspiration in this front, see the IG of Maria Romero and Fragmentario.

The Giant Book That Creates And Destroys Entire Industries – Living in EU (and despite being embroiled in discussions about trans-Atlantic trade agreements) allows us to ignore that tariffs is a force to reckon with. This NPR piece reminds that trade agreements may be the detail that creates or breaks the possibility of competitive exporting, hence the reason for producing.

Fashion Revolution White Paper (2015) – A brief (17 pages) summary of what’s wrong with the fast fashion industry, a good go-to document if you need a serious-enough piece to illuminate somebody about the ills of the modern garment industry. A rather dull read but there are occasions when this is exactly what’s required. The follow-up is a more exciting one.


For the first time since I started pruning my wardrobe in 2014 (read about that here and here), I’m getting the ants-in-the-pants feeling that I’d like to browse through a second-hand shop or two. Things! New-to-me things, please! This has been the 11th week of the summer capsule (7 more to go) and I’ve been traveling, so probably my wardrobe-calm will be back once I’m at home again.

Have you noticed which moments make you likely to browse garments for pleasure? Is it stress, is it anxiety, or is it a real “I have nothing to wear”? How do you deal with those urges: resist, replace with other stimuli, or succumb but minimize the damage by choosing a second-hand shop or a clothes’ swap?

The Future of Riga capsule

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

The three dresses: formal, winter, and summer.


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

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

Certain heirlooms also get to stay.

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

#whatiwore 2017w31 + Sunday links




This week’s garment-related brain food:

Why I Wore The Same Outfit Every Day for a Year – Just to hear the “nobody cares if you repeat the outfits” from somebody else. Some of her experiences are very similar to my capsule ones while some of them are very different, yet still all of that confirms that “the rest is drag“.

The Afterlife Of American Clothes – A reminder of what happens with the most of the clothing donated in West: they take a trip South to a whole different market. Just to keep in mind when you are planning the next wardrobe purge. Maybe there is another way than the magical container?

Material Guide: Is Viscose Really Better for the Environment? – Again and again, the fiber dilemma… There’s no perfect solution, so don’t get too excited about your regenerated fibers.


So I’ve been able to wear a jacket again. How is your summer capsule going? Do you have a need for layers in your summer or is it the least amount of clothing possible?

My take on “formal” and dressing up out of a capsule

My life tends to be the opposite of formal…


One of my early influences from Western romantic movies was a fondness for “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue“. I found out only yesterday that the whole thing is British and it has an additional line “and a silver sixpence in her shoe”, but even 25 years ago the idea of putting an outfit (and that of a bride, no less!) together from pieces that are not new and following a set of quirky rules seemed a lot of fun. I’m not tying any knots anytime soon (or ever, if I can avoid it), but putting together outfits by combining pre-loved items is what I do… We are in the wedding season, so here’s my proverbial sixpence on how to survive formal occasions with a capsule wardrobe.

There is a lot of superstition around formalwear, and most of it is not even as romantic as putting a coin in your shoe. (Also, now you won’t catch a ride home with a sixpence, but in XVIII-XIX that was quite a lot of money.) Most of formalwear superstition now is not linked with good luck or fertility, it’s all about “what will *they* think” instead. Very boring! The most abundant and insidious belief out there is that repeating outfits is a disrespect for the occasion, if you haven’t even bothered to go on a shopping spree for it. Bah!

My unsurprising suggestion here is to relax and repeat-repeat-repeat outfits until your current formalwear disintegrates. Very few of us have lots of these occasions (and if you are one of those people, there is a whole army taking care of your red carpet needs), so even if you have the perfect “formalwear capsule” (= 1 dress!) now, (a) it is very likely that in five years you will have worn it only a handful of times, (b) f* knows what your body will be up to in these years, (c) fashion aesthetics do change, just think of all those shoulder-padded garments now slowly dying in so many storage units. So, unless you manage to create a timeless and formal one-size-fits-all garment (let me know if you succeed, as even men suits don’t live up to these requirements), having a “formalwear capsule” is a wasteful strategy. You will never get it up to #30wears.

A much more rational, even utilitarian approach is to make the best possible combination of your smart casuals and call it a day. If you are reading this, you probably live in an amazing abundance of garments. Some of that is bound be good enough for the occasion, especially if you are not the bride.

Rental services for formalwear is an option. A lot of fuss but obviously better than buying. In my 30 years, I’ve never needed an evening gown. I might look into rentals if an occasion with strict-enough dress codes arises. Second-hand outrageousness or ethnographic costumes might be an option, depending on your crowds. Obviously, all this is lifestyle-contingent. But all the bs of a new dress, new shoes, a matching clutch and half day at the hair saloon is much too much anxiety for me to handle. Also, and for the n-th time, unless you are the bride, nobody is really keeping tabs on how many times they’ve seen you in the same dress.

If you are hellbent on *investing* and wan the old lie of “I’ll wear it again” to become true, stay away from flashy and fashionable, unless that garment is truly and uniquely *you*. Fashionable colors and prints are more likely to feel dated. Opt for something tailored and/or long-lasting (LBD, anyone?). And take into account that most of your cohort is combing the fast fashion places for the right outfit, hence the identical jumpsuit *catastrophe* is possible. Well, if that ever happens, laugh about it and take a photo!

And repeating has a comfort advantage, too. You are very likely to know if you can dance in these shoes and if you can eat in that dress, and how it looks in the photos. And you probably already have the right underwear. All this puts you light-years ahead of people who are breaking in a new pairs of shoes, i.e. those people dancing barefoot.


To illustrate my point, this is what I wore for:

A high school reunion in 2015.

A wedding in 2015.

Two weddings in 2016.

A first communion in 2017.

My grandma’s 75th birthday in 2017.

Opera in 2017.

I have a wedding to attend in a week and, unless there’s a fashion force majeure, those people will see the same H&M sweetheart dress (2008), my Arcopedico work shoes (2017) and the little bolero jacket dreamed up by me and made by Gunta Upīte (2011). I’m leaving the headpieces at home, because I have no idea what will be going on on bride’s head. Easy-peasy!


What’s your formalwear startegy? Do you combine from the existing everyday pieces or do you have the one cocktail dress that has seen all the occasions? Or is this the segment of your garment life where you relax the capsule and go shopping?

#whatiwore 2017w30 + Sunday links



Because learning is living (and a great excuse for not doing):

Label Lingo: Everything You Need to Know About Natural Fabrics – More fiber stuff, as this is the topic that I find most interesting these days and Good on You people are kind enough to provide these little informative posts. Also, to remind ourselves that natural = perfect.

‘Our Industry Follows Poverty’: Success Threatens A T-Shirt Business – I’m still exploring Planet Money documentary-related articles, this one on differences in textile industry working conditions in Colombia and Bangladesh. It is striking that the more efficient of the two factories, the Colombian one, is the one that loses fast fashion costumers (and have to reassess their future) in an industry where labor costs drive the orders.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern – I finally got my hands on the book documenting this Brooklyn Museum exhibition (a gazillion thanks, Marina!). A review may or may not follow, but I strongly suggest you explore the biography and aesthetics of this lady: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Such an inspiration!


I’m thrilled by the knowledge that I’ll be able to wear a jacket next Friday… I miss layering so much! Do you also find summer dressing to be the easiest and the most boring at the same time? What’s your favorite season for dressing, all the cozy (but bulky) winter layers or breezy summer stuff (when even that feels too much)?

How to survive summer heat in Barcelona

Me re-learning to use a swimming cap after 20 years of not having worn one.


I present you with the typical Barcelona summer week. Hot. And humid. Despite having lived in Spain for years, my first socialization has left lasting notions of appropriate summer weather. Which is not this one… I present to you exhibit 1 – “Latvian summer”:

You see the difference, right?


So I’ve had to develop strategies for survival. And the good news are that the locals have been doing the same thing for millennia. You may frown about lunches consisting of gazpacho and melon, sleeping siestas but then filling terraces until late in the night, and mothers warning their children to stay in shade, but it all makes sense. Here comes my list of survival strategies for heat. I do my best balancing certain levels of comfort with sustainability, but in extreme situations survival wins.


“Vete por la sombra, hijo”: Fear the sun and stay in the shade.

What stupidity looks like.

Sunburns is how you tell tourists apart from locals (well, that and ugly sandals). People in North are raised to adore sun instead of fearing it. It takes years to change it, but try to take Southern sun threats seriously. Sun burns and heat strokes are awful, and you have nobody else to blame for it.  This is the real reason for siesta: it’s dangerous out there in the middle of the day. Stay in! If you have to go out, do it in short bursts or during mornings or evening.

In urban context protecting yourself means staying in the shade and a good pair of sunglasses, especially if you are participating in traffic. I got my first pair of real deal optical sunglasses in 2015 when starting to take commute-by-bicycle seriously, and wish I had done so many years ago. Forget the 5€ fast fashion stuff and invest in your eyes!
And I still wonder why modern Spaniards don’t use parasols… That would be so weather-appropriate and ladylike, despite tiring one’s arms.

If leaving the city or planning for a daytime picnic in a park, a heavy duty sunscreen, light clothing that covers body and beach umbrella are the way to go.

If you have managed to get burnt, aloe vera, sour milk products, or heavy neutral creams + wet towels can help while bras and other tight fitting garments + errands to run will make your life miserable. In case of a heat stroke, first step is to identify it (headache, dizzyness, nauseas) and get a buddy to help you to bed and wet towels. These strategies apply for mild cases only! There are cases of both sun malaises when only professional help will be of use. Try not to get to that point.


Move differently!

Moving the body is very important but climate puts restrictions on it and it would be very foolish to ignore them. If you are moving outdoors, please, do yourself a favor and try to underestimate your capabilities. My little thing this season is the elevator. I work on the 6th floor and never take the elevator between October and May. But now there are days when – after gym and bicycle commute down to the campus – I do get into it. The same goes for popping in home, dropping things and going on errands. That’s the winter modus operandi. Now I know very well that I need a shower and 15 minutes of rest before taking up the next task. Little acts of kindness to the body go a long way!

Formal exercise is even more dangerous. I have no idea how people manage to go for a run during the summer here, bet clearly nobody does it between 12 and 17pm. Inside activities depend on AC. Some yoga places become hot yoga places (which is good for stretching!) and others turn into freezers (which is good for pneumonias!), but all gyms advertise their swimming pools. I’ve succumbed to it, hence the swimming cap!

For years I’ve been toying with the idea how water activities might be the best ones for me. I sweat a lot and water prevents the discomfort of that, I always loved playing wit water and mud as a child, I had tried some low-key water aerobics and loved it… but I never learned how to swim properly and the Mediterranean is way too salty for me. So I’ve finally obtained some unsustainable gear – I already had a Speedo swimsuit (made in China), a 2015 “promise” purchase of double polyester that needs amortization, and now also a pair Birkenstock flip flops (EVA, made in Germany) and a silicone swimming cap (Decathlon-Nabaiji, made in China) – and got into the chlorinated water. And I love it, despite the overall tackiness and the smell, oh, the smell! So far it has been water aerobics with people at least twice my age, but one day I will swim properly. Pinky promise!

Birknestocks have provided so much toe happiness and the biggest feet blisters, as they are clearly not a walking shoe. At least not for 5+ km of brisk walks in 28C heat.


Adjust the temperature

Getting into a swimming pool is only one way of adjust the temperatures in your favor. Depending on your circumstances, you might have several other at your disposal (in order of eco-friendliness):

Right clothing: Fashion-wise summer in Barcelona is paradoxical. I wake up and even the thought of putting anything on seems awful (a bra?! no…) but, if I manage to overcome that repulsion (with the Lush dusting powder if we are in a heat wave) and leave home, everybody else is in the same situation. So we suffer together and the standards of respectability get low-low-low. Not everywhere, of course, but among junior researchers here pants that I would swear off as pajamas, both long and short with pom pom hems, are definitely a thing. Combined with a tank top and maybe a bra. My approach is loose dresses of natural or regenerated materials, but I do have a pair of those pajama pants (since 2010).

Draft: Depending on your living spaces, a permanent draft could be an option. Just make sure that your windows/doors are fixed to avoid slamming and possible damage.

Wet towels: Grandma (and science!) trick that works! Wet your towel in water and put it on skin, works like a charm. I cover myself with a wet towel in very hot nights. Cools off very quickly! Also wets the bed but nobody cares at these temperatures.

Showers: If in winter I may take 2 showers per week, summer means several short showers every day. On the worst days my shower schedule might look like this: woke up sweaty and sticky – shower 1, came home sweaty and sticky – shower 2, too hot to sleep (i.e. sweaty and sticky) – shower 3. Water is the best cooler and stickiness remover. Just keep them short and no-soap (if applicable), and let yourself air-dry if possible.

Air conditioning: Many places are AC-ed, some of them too much so (I’m looking at you Barcelona metro and light railway, and supermarkets, and so many other places…). I indulge AC at work, as it gets stuffy because of the coworkers, computers, and the permanent draft trick does not work well here. At home we have been resisting the urge so far this year, bedroom AC being our last resource if it gets really really hot and impossible to sleep.


Water and fruit are your friends

As in most places that have seasons, Spanish winter and summer menus are two very different things. A hot meal is the last thing you want, but gazpachos, salads and watermelon straight out of the fridge is the real thing. Most fruit and veggies are in season and many of them don’t have to be cooked.

The vegan trick to cover at least the legumes (because dark leafy greens are not really happening that much), is adding chickpeas or tofu cubes to those salads. And hummus, a lot of hummus.

While most summer fruit and vegetables are full of water (that’s what I think about when carrying watermelons home, it’s basically just a fancy container for water), you still need to drink plenty of it. Water, lemon water, kombucha, room temperature herbal teas (natural rooibos is very nice for this!), and an occasional IPA are the drinks of my choice. Not the crappy sugar waters, I have watermelons for that!

I have a few tricks that make me drink more water. For example, when I fetch my first kettle at work, I also fill my glass with cold water. I have only 1 glass at work, so then I have to finish that cold water before the tea water boils (and I can start brewing my herbals).
And I always leave a big glass of water on the table when going to bed. I normally wake up several times per night, and that water both hydrates and refreshes my morning breath.

Ginger and lemon second fermentation kombucha. Foamy, sparkly, and not made by Coca Cola, Ltd.


Chub rub and what to do about it?

I sweat a lot, my thighs touch, and I like to walk long distances. In warm weather this combination often ends in chaffing and pain. I tried the “use deodorant on you thighs” strategy and I’m not impressed. Talc-based baby powders (stay away from it and google why!) and this Lush product also have their cons: bathroom full of white powder and rather limited staying power. But it helps to get dressed in those mornings when putting anything on seems impossible. I cover myself with the powder, get my dress on (while trying to avoid stains) and get out of the door. Then there is no way back! As all Lush products, this one is extremely fragrant. To make sure I don’t smell like a Lush shop and to make it last longer, I mixed the original powder with the same amount of cornstarch. It’s already cornstarch based, so it mixes seamlessly, smells a little less intensely and lasts twice as much. With the next one I might shift the proportions to 2:1 in favor of cornstarch.

I haven’t tried or read the ingredients on this product, but sounds promising if you like to have the big pharma on your side (and between your thighs).

An alternative to creams, powders and potions is not sweating that way. It took me a stupidly long time to realize that an additional benefit to bicycle commute is the absence of chaffing, unless I do many kilometers in heat. I’ll take backpack-sweat over chub rub any day, thank you very much!

Another option is looking into shorts as an underwear alternative. Preferably ones you already have.


What are your tips for heat survival? Have you had to fight the Northern obsession with sun while you should’ve known better? What’s your favorite summer recipe?

#whatiwore 2017w29 + Sunday links



Because feeding the brain and knowing the cause well is the key:

Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt – A great 5-part NPR documentary project following the making of a fast-fashion cotton jersey t-shirt. At this point it is almost refreshing to have people almost OK with the industry doing this kind of journalism (as opposed to desperate activists  – yes, that’s me – decrying the whole industry as rotten). The frame they are giving is also a curious one: instead of shock and disgust they are at awe with the technological side of the whole affair, from the GMO cotton to container shipping. Overall, very informative for its length, especially the first two chapters on cotton and converting into fabric.

Nixon And Kimchi: How The Garment Industry Came To Bangladesh – An additional background story for the above project, giving a glimpse at the Multi Fibre Arrangement (whose expiration in January 1, 2005 caused part of the fast fashion boom as we know it), the calculus that big industry players make when taking decisions and reasons why entrepreneurs bring garment jobs to places.

Our Guide to Caring for Your Clothes and Caring for the Earth – A reminder on garment- and environment-friendly washing practices. You can find my take on the topic here but basics are the same: wash less, wash in cold, and upgrade your detergent.


How is your summer wardrobe doing? Are there things that seemed like a great idea in January but have betrayed your hopes of becoming summer staples? Or the other way around?

Lessons learnt from the Fashion Revolution MOOC

Lesson 1: If you are interested in this course, you probably already know all the content.

If you want to learn the nuts and bolts of industry and materials, this will not happen. You will have to go into technical reports and academic literature to do so. Befriend a librarian at your closest polytechnic library and prepare stimulating snacks, because nobody makes entertaining videos out of those books! This MOOC is an inverse classroom of “learn through your own research” and the few materials provided are really low brow. Every piece of journalism about fast fashion industry will provide as much.


Lesson 2: This is not a course, it’s an activist training.

The course enlisted gazillions of people and directed their actions to press fast fashion makers. Smart! At the center of that training is that individual behaviour change without awareness raising is less valuable than the other way around. But you cannot advocate against what you yourself are doing, that makes 0 sense! Imagine how seriously you would take somebody lecturing you on factory farming while munching on industrial chicken nuggets…

In general these people are worry much more about labor conditions than about the environmental impact (you could have guessed it by now, as the call to arms is #whomademyclothes and not #whatstheecologicalfootprintofmyclothes), even to the point of questioning boycotting out of fear that this may cause job loss and factory closure. And calling that a long term strategy! If we are to shift the whole industry towards better practices, most of those jobs will have to change so radically that we might as well consider them whole new jobs (hence the old ones will have to disappear). In an actual long term perspective, “keep the jobs” leads us towards stagnation. Think of the coal industry as an example: for much empathy you might feel for the individual workers whose already hard lives would be shook up by job losses, a sober assessment of the industry will show that disappearance of those jobs would be better in long term for both workers and consumers. The same goes for children in Bangladesh sewing sequins to fast fashion garments.


My Pledge = Keep calm and carry on!

I’ve already outlined my wardrobe strategy as a ladder of steps – (1) use up what you have, (2) replace with pre-loved and second-hand, (3) buy new only categories you don’t find second-hand (in my case, underwear, hosiery and footwear), then do your research and buy well made and ethical garments – and my awareness efforts include this blog and regular community clothes’ swaps. You can read more about our communist fashion events here, here and here.


How are your wardrobes doing? Do you feel like in need of an polytechnic library or are you informed enough? And on what side of the “boycott fast fashion vs. engage and try to change it” debate are you?