May Swap (10th!) recap

May swap – the 10th! – was, well, normal… Typical. As planned. Pretty much a well-oiled and known event. The highlights and aftertastes include:

(a) There were enough people, not too much people, feeling even a bit empty at times. The only approximation to the scope and attendance I have are the FB event numbers, so… I have FB ‘reach’ stats since Swap IV, and these thousands of people – the record 19.7k for Swap IX – who have scrolled past it on their FB feeds is why I often joke that it’s surprising that we haven’t had to call Guàrdia Urbana just yet. Well, this is how one learns that reach does not translate into action… and the reason why I’ve had several unexpected conversations along the lines of ‘oh, those swaps are yours? Sure I know them.’ Or people who come by and, when asked, say that they probably saw the event on Time Out. Ha!

I have also learnt that ‘interested’ doesn’t mean shit. Some of those turn up but what they actually serve it to show the potentials – as they cannot see the FB reach – to what extent is this event an appealing idea to other FB users… To illustrate my point with an example: 148 ‘going’ for Swap IX vs. 150 ‘going’ for Swap X make sense, the 343 additional people who clicked ‘interested’ did not turn this one into a more crowded swap. But it is satisfying to see the number grow, or, well, stay high.

(b) As for the demographics, fun fact: the audience is a faithful reflection of who I am. Early thirties expat smarty-pants all the way… Men’s corner is a rather sad affair, children and older people are not necessarily catered to, and the class bias are enormous. Easy-to-implement ideas on how to mix it up a bit are most welcome!


(c) Being featured as one of the ‘official’ Barcelona swap-thrift events. All it took was one FB message, but felt and looked cool anyways.

(d) Seems that the separation between bar money and tips/taquilla inversa is finally clear. Cool. By having all the free stuff inside the event space and leaving the drinks at the bar, geographic distance did its magic.

Also, I had a lot of fun making my lettering signs that would guide people to the bar (and the tip box). So much so that I forgot to take a picture of them. Here’s one from the ‘dress rehearsal’ at home:

(e) To be completely open about the money, these are the stats since I started having a tip jar… Keep in mind that I spend around 25€ for the snacks and then there’s the tape, the garbage bags, the incense, the posters I had printed *and* the time invested. Time for finishing the thesis? Time for growing my KonMari consulting business? I won’t even try to calculate the hours spent because that would be very depressing, especially taking into account that a great part of it is answering idiot questions in two languages to people who clearly haven’t even clicked on the event description. And the time and resources of other people, too, of course. Thank you so much, Mara! And Margareta! And Patricia and Chus! And Lala!

We get – quite consistently, curiously – 30€ in tips. Except for Swap IX which was 7.30, and truly enraged me. Hence my money anxiety after these 10 editions… An anti-capitalist labor of love is alright but I am angry when it clearly isn’t appreciated because the dots are not connected. If every person who passed through a swap put just 1€ in the tip jar, this would be amazing. Even if only those who come by and thank me effusively for the ‘amazing idea’ would do so… It sounds incredibly naïve, I know, but it’s rather unpleasant to run an anti-capitalist operation in a capitalist world with no capital. Who knew?!

I already shared my fatigue after the Swap VII, then mostly about the lack of volunteers, and this circles back to it. I’m working on how to square the circle and continue my labor of love while getting all the right feels out of these event, as opposed to feeling exploited and like paying a great party for other people.

(f) And, talking about volunteers, we have a problem. My angry September post got quite few reactions of ‘oh, but just ask for help’. I do. A week before the swap I dutifully ask for volunteers, with clear hours and ‘job’ descriptions. And, with very few noble exceptions, I get the typical Wild West scene of tumbleweed on an empty street. Yes, back to the appreciation of the effort needed to host a swap the way I like it…

This time the setting it up started late, so some people had to be sent away at 11:00 because the ‘shop’ was not there yet, and it just happened that only three of us wrapped it up. Thank you so much, Margareta and Anouar! The open question is how to ensure timely and numerous volunteers whose pay is the pleasure of taking part… I thought it was enough, but clearly I’m weird.

(g) There were a lot of leftovers this time. Aimee (or any other crafter, remember the offer to come pick up whatever?) wasn’t there to collect any of it, so the wrap-up and final disposing of was lengthy. I prefer to think that it is because my loyal un-customers are losing their attachment to the idea of clothes as a scarce resource and shedding garments instead of accumulating…

This is just a fraction of leftovers, on their way to Botiga Gratis:

Both the wannabe Vans slip-ons that I had picked up at the December’18 swap and the ballet flats I tried on during this swap ended up at the Banc Expropriat. Hope somebody there will be happy to adopt them!

As for me, I have two new lounge pants. The yellow ones need a couple of new elastics, and the red ones can accompany me on a new yoga journey whenever that comes. Cool, thank you my beloved anonymous donors!

And there is a care suggestion too: (a) do a more-ritualistic-than-truly-cleansing (i.e. cold, short and gentle) wash of your new garments to make them symbolically yours, acquire the smell of your detergent, and (b) be cautious while doing it, as you don’t want that first wash to be the one hat destroyed your whites. Just be adult about this!

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Do you have any swap experiences? Have you ever organized a swappy event? If yes, how did that go? If you have read this far, what advice would you have for my discontent?

#whatiwore 2019w19 + Sunday links

A detail: The swap morning elevator selfie!

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And the Sunday picnic of information nom-noms is here:

1. This is just a fun story illustrating a million possible ways how brands that do not update their designs create happiness exactly because of not doing it: My Brother Lost His Pants. My own complaints about Veja just making new designs and not bringing back my favorite sneaker ever, are here.

2. And just a bit of technological musings comparing people’s fear of automatic elevators in 1940s and our fear of driverless cars: Pushing the right buttons. Technology is so outlandish until it is suddenly so commonplace…

3. This is the weird story Sunday, so The Weird and Glorious Culture Shock of “Take Ivy” about the man who went on replicating inexistent styles until they became their own reality in fashion. Basically, the magic that might happen – though usually doesn’t – when you copy an aesthetic without knowing what’s behind it.

4. This could be one of most intriguing headlines ever: When Their Trademarks Are Used, the Hells Angels Resort Not to Violence but to High-Profile Lawsuits. Indeed, I didn’t know either that Hells Angels is a registered trademark…

5. When the answer is simpler than you expected (but that doesn’t make it more feasible because of political reasons): Rewild the World.

6. A mediation on how some pictures of anonymous people come to illustrate whole social / political movements, partly due to how those depicted are dressed: ‘It’s Going to Be the Image of the Revolution’.

7. Ugh, there is so much to say about the Notre-Dame fire and aftermath, and so much has been said. But here you have a bit on the symbolic importance for the fashion world (Woven Into the Fabrics of France) juxtaposed with the lavish promises of donations for rebuilding: French Titans’ Pledges to Notre-Dame Pass €850 Million. And a piece from a couple of years ago describing the symbolic value of such gestures (and how that symbolic value can be turned into euros) – ‘you have to think about exactly how you are engaging with the consumer […] the new model is representing something a whole lot deeper and more meaningful to consumers’ – For the Wolf of Luxury, a Chance to Be a Lamb.

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What I was writing about a year ago: Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare. Complaining about how having fewer things make them wear out sooner, that’s just pure statistics.

What I was writing about two years ago: We shall swap again. Explaining the logic of who leaves my wardrobe to go and be swapped away…

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w19 + Sunday links. Also, showing off my first #memade garment ever!

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w19. Still wearing: my mom’s gray cardigan and Monton bird skirt, and Veja Arcade sneakers.

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How did you feel about the Notre-Dame donations? What would you change in the world with €850 million euros? Which sustainability cause you wish the extra rich would start throwing their money at?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee!

#whatiwore 2019w18 + Sunday links

A detail: The 10th (!) swap is coming next Saturday. And these two pieces are leaving my wardrobe for sure… The fake ‘vans’ turned out to be too thin-soled for any reasonable walking, and the cutback top is too complicated to wear. The shape is great but that cut is clearly meant for the no bra people. I just end up readjusting it all the time to hide the bra, and who has time for that? So these two, among many others, will be up for grabs on May 11. See you there!

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Are here come the brain nom-noms:

1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the extent to which some entrepreneurships are made possible by families and significant others, and this popped up in my internets: “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.

2. One of those random heritage brand stories (and an interview!) on myth creation: The J. Peterman Company: Uncommonly Good Stuff From An Uncommonly Interesting Man. And another one: The North Face: From Summits to Sidewalks. And another one: The Harrington Jacket: A Hit Across the Pond. Fashion history is a fascinating subject, especially if one goes item by item! Like so: Fatigue Fashion: History of the OG-107 Trousers.

3. If you want a reminder on what to hate vehemently, here ‘Cars are ruining our lives. We should cut their use by 90% over the next 10 years’: Auto-Destruct.

4. I had never thought of how a good billboard can be amplified n-fold by people appreciating it and posting that on social media. However, marketing people had thought about it: The Beauty of a Billboard in the Age of Instagram.

5. In hopeful news section, this sounds too good to be true (fingers crossed, though): Fast-fashion retailers like Zara and HnM have a new threat: the $24 billion used clothes market + pro tips on buying second-hand online: Emerging Markets.

6. If you were ever looking for a fashion essay that brings together Samuel Beckett, la Résistance, and the history of industrial chemistry just to talk about ochre, here you have it: The Color of Roussillon, France. I can’t help but love it, this is how I want to write when I grow up…

7. And to crush your aspiration to cure everything with some reusable bags: Your cotton tote is pretty much the worst replacement for a plastic bag.

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What I was writing about a year ago: #FashionRevolution Fix it! workshop + easy fixes. We had a blast doing some basic hand-sewn fixes exactly a year ago, let’s see if another one happens soon…

What I was writing about two years ago: Style ebb and flow, me and others. From that time when I spent a couple of hours in the Chicago Midway International Airport meditating on what I wear and why… mostly on how I don’t do it for anybody else’s pleasure but my own.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w18 + Sunday links. Still going strong: Hummel Madelaine jacket, Street One jacket and the now-reborn No pasarán t-shirt, Veja Arcade, the red wooden necklace, my mom’s gray cardigan and her gingham dress.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w18. Even two years after, my mom’s gray cardigan, Veja Arcade, No pasarán t-shirt, and Liisa’s black lace top coincide.

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Have you been swapping lately? Any interesting newcomers, any long-needed partings? Do you have those special friends or family members whose wardrobes you keep an eye on for when they are tired of their stuff? Or do you suspect that you are that person with the wardrobe that others are hoping to raid?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee!

#whatiwore 2019w17 + Sunday links

Here, feed the brain:

1. I still don’t have a properly formed sociological opinion about the KonMari fever and all other homemaker-influencers, but it will probably be something along the lines of ‘try to control a least a bit of your life (as the economy in unpredictable and the planet is down the toilet)’ mixed with it being an easier field for women’s entrepreneurship: What the rise of the ‘cleanfluencer’ tells us about women’s lives in 2019.

2. Because I find this explosive mix of niche fashion anthropologies and a fashion giant trying to restrict who can wear their wares hilarious: (a) Patagonia Drops Co-Branded Fleece Vests; (b) Patagonia Is Cracking Down on the Wall Street Uniform; (c) Are Bankers and Venture Capitalists Really Getting Fleeced by Patagonia? and the actual evidence that the conflict is real (d) Midtown Uniform Instagram account.

3. The fashion casualization stuff still appears on my feeds, so here you go: (a) a  historical one on East India Company enduring English garments in highly inappropriate weather for stupid reasons: Idiotic Pride; (b) Casual Friday and the ‘End of the Office Dress Code’; (c) Why American Workers Now Dress So Casually; (d) The Origins of Business Casual; (e) on how fashion advice is routine in politics: Hey, Governor, What Are You Wearing?; (e) and how we are probably all ending up in tights and onesies: It’s Possible Leggings Are the Future. Deal With It.

4. Just for fun and footwear history: (a) History of Wellington Boots: From Battlefields to Potato Fields; (b) Horses to Hollywood to High Fashion: The History of the Cowboy Boot; (c) How the Air Jordan 1 Became the New Chuck Taylor; (d) Nike’s Air Jordan was a key turning point in menswear.

5. And a couple of ladies whose job you might want to have: Kelly Harrington: 100% Denim and Dress For A Role: Style Lessons From A Costume Designer Keri Langerman.

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What I was writing about a year ago: Luīze goes to KonMari Consultant Seminar.

What I was writing about two years ago: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w17 + Sunday links. Still repeating: Inga’s PhD dress and Liisa’s skater skirt. Also, Veja Arcade sneakers.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w17. So many still in rotation: Hummel Madelaine, the Indian Prince shirt, Veja Arcade, Inga’s PhD dress, Ginta’s MnS black dress…

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What are your 2 cents on the fashion casualization? Do you think it would be fun going back to wearing little white gloves every time you leave home and starchy underskirt? Or are you among those who cannot wait until it will be acceptable to get married and/or buried in your yoga pants?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w16 + Sunday links

Here, a spoonful of informed and furious:

1. I haven’t participated in any of these yet but even my introvert self is getting there: (a) Climate Change Protests Disrupt London Fashion Week; (b) First Strike; (c) suggestions on how to prep and disseminate from Body Politic / Extinction Rebellion; (d) No More Excuses.

2. Why it might make sense to dress formally when protesting: Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently. I actually vaguely recall a protest initiative where people marched dressed in their best… and how it impressed both media and the police. In UK, I think, but cannot seem to find to find it… Help me, please, if you know what I’m talking about!

3. The Earth Day is coming and the Fashion Revolution Week is coming, and you will read the same articles again and again. Like these: (a) My Year of No Shopping; (b) How online shopping and cheap prices are turning Americans into hoarders; (c) Waste Colonialism; (d) Your HnM addiction is wreaking havoc on the environment. Here’s how to break it; (e) Is This the End of Recycling?; and some people like to inject a bit of hope, so we are back talking about plastic-eating bacteria that might or might not be in the market in a couple of years (f) Hello, Little Microbe. Doesn’t This Jacket Look Yummy?

4. And there are always more plastics to worry about: (a) Should We Worry About Little Plastic Produce Stickers?; (b) The truth about fruit stickers because no article that starts with ‘the truth’ will ever tell anything nice; (c) Esta empresa española está revolucionando el mundo del etiquetado de alimentos. Fun fact, these people tell that the laser-tagging technology was invented to prevent melon theft in supermarkets, i.e. people paying for more expensive melons as if they’d be the cheaper kind

5. And some more analysis of ‘why fashion so ugly?’: How Sound Branding Changed Fashion.

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What I was writing about a year ago: #100wears: Red flea sweater.

What I was writing about two years ago: Persuasion or #fuckfastfashion, but gently.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w16 + Sunday links (aka what I wore to the KonMari consultant seminar).

What I was wearing two years ago: How I pack or #whatiwore 2017w16 (my minimalist travel outfit planning illustrated).

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What do the designated days of activism mean to you? Do they serve as an additional impetus? A means to reach out? Or are you slightly irritated that suddenly, once a year, everybody is so keen on sustainability just to forget it tomorrow?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

Vegan-friendly omnivore places in Barcelona

Let’s talk eating out! I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my favorite vegan-friendly omni places in Barcelona for a long time, and an unpleasant experience pushed over to finally do it… The first disclaimer here has to be about my preferences when it comes to eating and eating out in particular:

(1) Food matters to me. I like it, I enjoy, I cook (one of my very few useful skills once the digital apocalypse comes), and my food should taste good. So my interest in food – as for most people – go beyond fueling life in my cells. Fuck Soylent, I’m looking for pleasure.

(2) I eat mostly vegan (with aspirations towards a whole food plant based diet) and will do vegetarian when eating out, but eggs and dairy is as far I’ll go. I’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarian since 2006 (and toying with it since I was 14, so 2002), and seduced by veganism as the only reasonably ethical option since 2010/2011.

(3) C is an omni and, while he is very flexible and down for a good tofu (the V-only places he would approve of include El Vergel in Tarragona, The Spread Eagle in London, V Spot and Beyond Sushi in New York among others), prefers to have his options open when eating out.

(4) And I have to admit that there are veg*an places that take their Ⓥ clientele for granted instead of really taking care of the umami in their food. Also, I think it is more reasonable and engaging to include vegan food in your omni menus instead of making me feel like an outcast who is so weird she needs her own special restaurants or at least ask for special treatment in normal people places. And I want people to accidentally order vegan food because it’s so good. Or maybe I’m just too picky and know nothing of vegan advocacy…

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The quick suggestions if you came here for v-only recommendations in Barcelona are the following, all these are vegetarian with ample vegan options:
Maoz: €, great but always crowded which is a problem as the appeal of the place is in the unlimited salad toppings while you are working at your falafel;
Quinoa: €, good but very little seating + some former employees have filled Gràcia with ‘Quinoa exploits its workers’ graffitti;
Teresa Carles: €€, especially reasonable if you go for the working-day lunch menu but nothing otherworldly;
The Green Spot: €€, an attempt at veg*an fine dining, very nice but a long way to Vedge, my best (and only) experience at vegan fine dining so far.

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So, my current favorite vegan-friendly omnivore places in Barcelona… I’ve been there with v-friends and with omni friends and the satisfaction level has been very high. As for me and C, we have left a small fortune in every one of these:

La Rovira

These people have achieved a miracle: a craft beer place that doesn’t feel snobbish and has maintained the feel of a normal Spanish bar where people pop in for a coffee, to read the newspaper, to watch a Barça game (check before going, you will have less seating but so much more ambience if you go on a game day), to see friends, eat, drink, and be merry…

The menu consists of typical snacks and starters (olives, potatoes, fish conserves, etc.) and sandwiches. And among those sandwiches is my favorite vegan sandwich of all times (and three other vegetarian ones, all good). No, you don’t have to arrange anything or ask them to hold an ingredient. Legalitat is your perfect (big!) beer sandwich with seitan, grilled onions, white bean paste, dried tomatoes, and raw zuccini… if you do slightly spicy, ask staff for Salsa Valentina hot sauce. Delicious! There are also usually some vegan options in the seasonal offer, like vegan ‘meatballs’ or a saucy seitan bánh mì experiment. As for starters, guacamole, potato chips and banderillas (an olive, a pickle, a pickled oinion, and a spicy pepper on a little stick) are yours. The sauces for the patatas bravas are vegetarian but not vegan. Home olives contain anchovies, beware.

As for vegan dessert, go for a sorbetto in one of Gràcia’s plazas. The craft beer selection is excellent, and this is one of the rare places where they won’t treat you with contempt if you ask for a wine or water.

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Mosquito restaurants

Most Asian flavors are my cup of tea, so I’m always looking for the best new place that will make me happy without all the shit about traditional pork broths, fish flakes and mysterious sauces. And the Mosquito chain (several slightly different restaurants, same owner, same mochis) will do exactly that with your options clearly marked and staff knowing their menu while also keeping your omni friends happily slupring. Your options include Mosquito for dumplings (vegan: chard/collard filled dumplings, smoked tofu + rice, edamames, kimchi), Red Ant for ramen and bibimbap (just ask them to hold that egg), and noodles, kimchi, seaweed salad, Cal Cuc for hot or cold ramen (again, ask for no egg; the cold shoyu ramen is really nice). These places get crowded and Mosquite is infamous for its live queue, go to Cal Cuc in Poble Nou to avoid that but I’d say that the dumplings are worth it. Unfortunately, their incredible mochis are not vegan… Servers are knowledgeable, busy, and often very rude, focus on your noodles instead.

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La Taquería

I’m under a taco spell, what can I do? While there are many things here for the cheese people, the vegan option is one: guacamole for a starter and then vegetarian alambres (make-your-own tacos) containing bell pepper, onion and white mushrooms + I always ask for extra nopales (you can also get extra pineapple if you are so inclined) served with the four home sauces ranging from non-spicy to OMG. Use the sauces, they make all the difference – take that little non-spicy green pepper magic and spread it evenly on your 4 tacos, don’t share it with anybody else! Sorbettos (drunk ones, if you like mezcal on your postre) for dessert. I stick to my micheladas in this apparent tourist trap just by Sagrada Familia and try to forget that tables are covered with tarpaulin. And learning that sucking on ice cubes at least gives an illusion of calming the fire in my mouth:

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The best vegan ice cream ever (yes, leaving the glorious Van Leeuwen second)
Rocambolesc

Oh, brothers Roca, they have changed my life, OK, Jordi Roca has… because once I’ve tasted their sorbets, I can never go back to the usual icy sugary stuff that ice cream joints offer to vegans. The creaminess and the flavors are pure magic! I tried it for the first time in Girona last summer – blueberry and watermelon sorbets, pictured above – and I was blown away. After having found out that they also have a shop in Barcelona, on the f*ing Ramblas, no less, I kept re-asking if the sorbets were really vegan… they are! That creaminess, though.

The shop can feel a little overwhelming because there is a lot going on. Jordi expects you to choose an ice cream, then a mountain of toppings, then maybe put it into a bread packet and heat it… Bah! No! Go in, look above your head for the flavors available – typically 5, with 2 sorbets among them – pick yours and say no to toppings, the ice cream is good enough on its own. They also have pints to take with you. Bring one when you are visiting a Barcelona vegan, and they will love you forever!

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For vegans with pizza cravings, I recommend Messie where you can opt for vegan cheese on your pizza and Sortidor where their vegetarian pizza is so lush (spinach! artichokes! the whole garden!) that ordering it without the cheese does not destroy the experience. Madre Lievito was my first experience of the simplest pizza Marinara being truly enough and incredibly tasty.

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From left to right: El Vergel, Quinoa, Ale’n’Hop (our first vegetarian favorite when we moved to Barcelona).

If you have food restrictions, do you prefer to be integrated (separating what has to be separated in the case of allergies) or have restaurants catering to you specifically? If you inhabit the veg*an world, what are your Barcelona – or worldwide – favorites? I am ready to travel for food…

#whatiwore 2019w15 + Sunday links

A detail: Here you have a little garment story. First, at the February Swap I picked up this small Benetton 78% wool and 22% angora sweater. It had a rip at the front – somebody had clearly once pinned a brooch on it and unraveled it – that I was afraid to try and fix, but Mara is not afraid of anything, so she bravely mended this beauty:


Then, after less than ten wears (and two hand washes), I noticed that my little swap sweater was piling very quickly. Well, that is cheap wool mixes for you… So I shaved it. With this thing. C invested in one recently, and I am very impressed. However, as he remarked, a few more shaves and I won’t have any sweater left.


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But now, here’s a hearty soup for the brain:

1. On the complicated relations between price and value in fashion: Untruisms: You Get What You Pay For.

2. Ever heard of ‘ecocide’? I hadn’t either until I read George’s column about the work or Polly Higgins (1, 2): Law of Nature.

3. There are certain types of information I always find delightful, one of them is ‘look at this lady you never heard of before who run her fashion business (after some horrible shit happened and she had to make her own living)’, so ta-dah: Hansi Originals and Hansi Landis.

4. If you are dumbfounded by how people create their uniforms (pro tip: whatever stuff you have on that chair that you don’t even put back in your wardrobe because you are wearing the same thing tomorrow *is* your uniform!), here, Caroline will tell you how: Spring style: My uniform for warmer days.

5. Before you stash away your winter stuff, this: I’d Like To Try To Fumigate This Here Sweater: Dealing With Moths, Without Pesticides and A Textile Conservator Explains How To Deal With Clothes Moths.

6. Then, in denim news: (a) Kingpins to Require Denim Exhibitors to Meet Supply Chain Standards; (b) What Does Levi’s Impending IPO Have To Do With Your Leggings? (c) New Levi’s® Wellthread™ x Outerknown Features Groundbreaking Cottonized Hemp; (d) and I cannot help but applaud this brilliant advocacy strategy: Levi’s Leather Patches Come Under Fire by Peta (who are now their shareholders).

7. And just for history fun and a reminder that most writing people have written questionable stuff just to earn their living: The Walt Whitman Method for Acquiring a Manly Chest and Avoiding Syphilitic Taint.

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What I was writing about a year ago: Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed. From that list I’ve now washed the red flea sweater and my mom’s Monton bird skirt.

What I was writing about two years ago: Journey on Hobbit Feet.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w15 + Sunday links. OK, I’m repeating the yellow scarf, the No Pasarán t-shirt in its current incarnation, Liisa’s black velvet skirt, and my mom’s Monton bird skirt. Boom!

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w15. Oh, this is one of the rare weeks that 0 garments coincide with the respective week from two years ago… See, even my wardrobe changes.

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What are your knit-care experiences? Piling upon first wear from garments you thought were a good investment? Or a random thrift find or a hand-me-down that exceeds all expectations? Any moth catastrophes to grieve?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w14 + Sunday links

A detail: As my stuff is pretty randomly acquired, I’m very excited to see any of my choices worn by other people or suggested in editorials. Also, I think that coinciding outfits have to be celebrated and not avoided; those people ought to be your friends, at least your aesthetics and/or ethics coincide. I still squeal when I see anybody wearing Veja. So imagine my surprise seeing this in the EasyJet in-flight magazine:

The sweater is made in Lithuania of ‘pure new wool’. And I’m really unimpressed by the ‘designed and developed in Norway’ and ‘worn by Norwegians since 1853’ shit, btw. My mom bought it for me in 2015, 32 wears since. I wear it at home (no heating Barcelona winter, remember) or out and about when I’m feeling under the weather. It’s very warm, very bulky, and piles a lot. An example of me wearing it, here.

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Here, maybe your brain wants a nibble?

1. I finally listened to the Articles of Interest, a podcast mini-series from 99% Invisible, lauded as the ‘the Smartest Podcast On Fashion’ by Put This On. Well, it is not as brainy as I expected, but my expectations have been corrupted by years of academic papers… Nope, this is well done edutainment. My favorite episode is the one about pockets, a true ode to pockets as key elements of freedom. And my main historical discovery – also from the pockets episode – is the work of Bernard Rudofsky and his “Are Clothes Modern?” MOMA curation in 1944. Talk about a powerful graphic, illustrating all the useless tailoring that was still the norm for a well-dressed gentleman as recently as in 1940s:

2. Another topic the Articles of Interest touch upon – in the episode on plaid, of course – is the confusing world of majority appropriation of minority fashions making it harder to signal allegiance, this piece dwells on that in much more detail – Straight Copying: How Gay Fashion Goes Mainstream.

3. Before you get a Frida t-shirt or sth like that, just pause for a moment and think. And read this bit from the incredible (insert a heart-eye emoji) Laurie Penny: The real history of women wouldn’t look quite so nice on a tote bag.

4. I am tickled when harmless items cause controversy, when people love or hate something with such intensity (think crocs!), so: The Much Maligned Cargo Pant.

5. And today’s main course goes to fashion in corporate cultures and how sometimes ‘casual’ can be very suffocating too: (a) Interviewing at a startup; (b) Inside the Mirrortocracy; (c) What It Means to Be Professional; (d) The New Business Casual Is Still Uptight; (e) What’s Next, Big Shorts? Goldman Sachs Relaxes Dress Code; (f) A Relatable Casual Uniform.

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What I was writing about a year ago: After (first) 3 months of the big spreadsheet. You can compare this with the first trimester of 2019 here.

What I was writing about two years ago: Constant Gardener: Edit your wardrobe!

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w14 + Sunday links. The only garment that coincides? My Street One ‘No pasarán’ jacket.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w14. Again, only one garment coincides – my mom’s gray cardigan.

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The London trip reminded me about that weird trick our mind does about weather: even if you look up the forecast in your destination, you don’t really believe it until you step out and realize that it truly is 10ºC less or sth. I had packed relatively OK – although a winter hat would have felt nice – and my 3-dresses-for-5-days logic has been tested so many times… My ‘how I pack’ post is here, but what are your wardrobe planning strategies for trips? Are you the tight planner (which means that a stain, rip or rain can ruin it all) or the ‘just in case’ checked-in luggage fan that brings many things home equally fresh because at the end you didn’t feel like wearing them?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

After 3 months of the big spreadsheet in 2019

Another 3 months have passed and here is an update on my big spreadsheet. If you are new to this, between 2014 and 2017 I was doing season capsules of stashing away the ‘unseasonal’ items and doing the whole ritual of ‘seasonal change’ every couple of months while tracking the number of wears. And then it felt like too much fuss… So I started tracking the number of wears without doing the ‘now you go away’ ritual. Here is the outset post (that includes a link to an example Google Sheet), here the 3-month update, here the 6-month update, and here – the 9-month, and here the 12-month recap. But we are three months into 2019, and here comes the next update!

Having a year’s worth of solid information is great, and my data-loving side is filled with joy. If you think that this is for weirdos quantitative sociologists only, Marina is an example how less spreadsheat-inclined normal people might get value out of this exercise too… So here you have the wardrobe heroes of January-March 2019 by categories with the number of wears in parenthesis.

I am mostly disappointed about the numbers of these 90 days. And my irritation is of statistical nature, of course. As I’ve expanded my wardrobe considerably in these months – that’s a whole another post – each garment has got less wears assuming an equal distribution of them… But this is it.

Layers

Most worn: Red flea sweater (30). This is a curious case… I keep doubting whether I should discard it as the shape was never perfect and it piles… but the warmth and short hem have me coming back to it. Hah, I just washed (by hand, in cold water, dried flat) it for the first time since I got it, already second-hand and upcycled, in early 2015! Survived fine. So I guess it will get a de-piling treatment (C recently invested in this gadget) and wait for Autumn.

Runner-ups: Street One jacket (22) and my mom’s Zara trench (22).

Most worn in the same period in 2018: the Zara trench (39). Yep, I’m not sure if is has been (a) the weather (warmer?), (b) the available alternative in the Street One jacket, (c) being a bit tired of the trench; or (d) change in lifestyle that has pushed the trench back in 2019… It’s not going anywhere, though.

Not worn: my mom’s Primark cardigan. I picked it up when we organized her wardrobe in December, wore it a couple of times around Christmas and then left in Rīga. This is part of the integration work of new-to-me garments I was talking about… but I’m confident that its time will come as light fast fashion cardigans get worn to bits here.

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Dresses

Most worn: my mom’s Violeta gingham dress I refashioned (11). I was very excited about this refashion, and the dress is pajama-comfy while looking put together.

Runner-ups: my mom’s MnS black dress (10), HnM sweetheart dress (6), and my mom’s Madewell dress (6).

Most worn in the same period in 2018: my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (11). Got 4 wears in last 3 months.

Not worn: my mom’s gingham dress and my mom’s dark blue silk dress. While these are pretty summery dresses, I’ve been wearing the gingham – ‘Toto, […] we’re not in Kansas anymore’ – dress during winter before. But not this last one. Curious! Too busy appropriating other garments, I guess.

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Tops

Most worn: Liisa lace top (11) and Liliana t-shirt (11). Makes sense. The black lace top was already a runner-up a year ago.

Runner-ups: Kristīne’s blue kaftan (10) and February swap’s Bershka cutback top (10).

Most worn in the same period in 2018: the demon t-shirt (28). It is now going through a process of rebirth, I’ll show you in another post…

Not worn: Street One paisley top (0), my mom’s Indian prince shirt (0), my mom’s green bird plastic top (0). The purple paisley is an astonishing example of cotton jersey done well. That thing is 15+ years old and is in mint condition, mostly serving as lounge wear in Rīga. The white shirt is mostly for summer, so let’s see how will it do in next 6 months. And those green birds have a nice cut, the cutest print, and the most plastic fabric. We’ll see, maybe for occasional Latvian winters that is fine. I wore it to family Christmas lunch in December and felt fine.

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Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB orange flower leggings (21). Yes, I need leggings for a quality life. As lounge wear, as hosiery, as bottoms. C’est la vie.

Runner-up: Ha! C’s HnM jeans (20). 16 wears as long pants, and then finally the perfect style emerged as I cut them.

Most worn in the same period in 2018: ZIB black leave leggings (33). Surprise! I worn out and boiled to death those leggings, so new ones were acquired.

Not worn: Ugh, too many… Gunta Upīte’s sari maxi, Kristīne’s sailor skirt, WAG skirt, my mom’s CnA green pants.

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Footwear

Most worn: Veja Wata Pierre (48). At least footwear still gets decent number of wears. And, yes, I’ve spent most of this ‘winter’ in canvas sneakers.

Runner-up: Muroexe boots (13). There was some winter in there after all… as in gong to Latvia.

Most worn in the same period in 2018: Arcopedico wedges (41). As I don’t go to office every day anymore, they are now sleeping in the footwear drawer. 4 wears in last 3 months.

Never worn: the birks, obviously. While it has been a month or so since one can spot tourists in flip flops in Barcelona, I’m not doing that just yet. However, every time I want to sneer at flip flops tourists, I remember this photo from April 2005. Yeah, been there, done that.

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Adornments

Most worn: Little Bit Bijoux necklace (11). A very beautiful gift from Giulia, made by her causin Giovanna, and an apt reminder of my future vision: from outrageous to sharp, from obnoxious to bright and precise. Also, reminds me of a Quidditch Snitch.

Runner-up: Ban.Do headband (10).

Most worn in the same period in 2018: red wooden necklace (8).

Not worn: that red wooden necklace. Dunno what happened there.

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Wishes for next three months? Relaxing and just putting down numbers. Tracking is fine if I manage not to obsess about it…

What have been the heroes of your wardrobe in the first trimester of 2019? Any major changes, contraction or expansion? What have you worn most and what are (seasonally appropriate) pieces that have stayed in the back of the wardrobe? Do you practice any kind of wardrobe tracking?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w13 + Sunday links

Here, a stone soup of brain food:

1. In ‘online retail is changing everything news’: Why It Doesn’t Seem To Matter That Amazon Will Soon Be The Largest American Clothing Retailer and Sales for the “Amazon Coat” Were $5 Million in January 2019, Alone.

2. On the limits of tailoring and re-tailoring garments which mostly comes down to the scarcity of great tailoring skills and our inability and/or unwillingness to pay for it (which is obviously linked to the disappearance of these skills): On Respoke. I witnessed a much lowers scale problem of this kind this week in the studio I’m learning to sew. A guy who works at the bar next door came in with a jacket he had purchased new online and asked Carmen’s advice for changing the shoulder line… it turned into a lecture on why that was nearly impossible (i.e. implied significant changes and adding fabric + taking out and then putting back in a layer of well sewn lining just to access it all) and hinged on finding and paying a very skilled tailor who would be (a) willing to take up such labor and (b) vouch for the result. You see, while the neighborhood Yaya Costurera ladies will happily shorten your hems and change your zippers, very fine modifications are not really what they are there for. tl;dr: if you’ve found a great tailor, hold on to them as if your life depended on it, because your wardrobe actually might.

3. On men and men’s fashion: How Two Men Are Reshaping Men’s Style Media and With Menswear Revenues Expected to Outpace Women’s, Chanel Wants in.

4. Stories of happy wool: The Journey of Wool through Woolgatherer Carding Mill (with very educational photos what happens to wool ‘from bale to bedding’; yes, you also learn new words) and Heavenly Soft Yarn at Valhalla Farms (this has pictures of alpacas, so also very good).

5. And in ‘fashion as business’ news: (a) Blockchain Applications Could Help the Fashion Industry Address its Most Significant Challenges; (b) the companies about which you shouldn’t feel sorry for: The 10 Most Valuable Fashion Brands in the World 2019; (c) on the logic of sales: Fashion retailers are trapped in a vicious cycle; (d) a short history of fashion as business: The Very Serious Business Of Fashion.

6. How much do you know about zippers as technology? The Humble Zipper is at the Center of an Almost $20 Billion Global Battle and The Great Denim Debate: Button Versus Zipper.

7. The jeans that went to Woodstock are still around… this is why I love Heddels Fade section: Levi’s 646 (50 Years, Unknown Washes).

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What I was writing about a year ago – Guest Post: Marina’s Wardrobe Reset 2018.

What I was writing about two years ago: Vision-building for your wardrobe.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w13 + Sunday links. Still wearing? Green patterned secondhand top, the Street One jacket, and Kristīne’s pale pink ruffle blouse.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w13. The same as this week? Kristīne’s pale pink ruffle blouse, my mom’s black dress, and the Hummel jacket.

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What have been your experiences with tailoring services? Do you have that one magical professional you’d entrust your rarest fashion treasures? Or have you suffered in hands of inexperienced tailors?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

3 + 1 books to heal a burnout

According to my outlook, books can fix anything… So obviously my burnout journey – I dare to call this shit like that although nobody has diagnosed it – is book-based. I needed boosts of confidence. I needed affirmations that I was a valid person although my chosen profession has turned not to be the right one for me. I needed a permission to do new things. And I needed a confirmation that it is not too late.

It’s not only books, of course. My family, C, and friends have done their best to be there with me. And since last July I’m also in formal therapy. And, for good and for bad, I’ve been highly functional throughout. But I needed my lady-friends from books too. So here is my shortlist, yes, all written by women and, yes, all widely published and translated bestsellers. And none are fiction. I’m still making my peace with fiction…

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Cameron, Julia. 1992 (2002). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam.

OK, this one is hard-core woo-woo. I squirmed a lot at the ‘spirituality’ language, ‘God’ and ‘prayers’. But she delivers all the affirmations I wanted and offers tools to accept them as intimate truths. And I’ve always enjoyed journaling and writing as healing, that’s what I’d already done through all my previous turmoils, so her Morning Pages and written exercises are just the thing for me. It is comforting and soothing, and effective. After all, “creativity is like crabgrass – it springs back with the simplest bit of care…”

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Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2015. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC.

If you want an easier read (a medium-length air travel is all you need for this one and not 12 weeks), Liz Gilbert is there for you. Coming 25+ years after Julia Cameron, Liz says basically the same: creativity is an abundance economy, just showing up makes all the difference, and that all that truly matters is what all that means to you. That is, the bold ‘creative living’ she recommends can and should be expressed throughout your life, not expecting to necessarily get a Nobel for it). True to her usual style of scattered random anthropologies and history bits throughout, the book is entertaining and might serve as a gateway drug for more self help airplane books from the likes of Brené Brown and Gretchen Rubin…. Beware, book lovers! Reading about doing is not the same as doing.

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Pinkola Estés, Clarissa. 2001. Women Who Run With the Wolves.
Sounds True audio or any book-form edition.

Oh, Clarissa… at my lowest last summer I would binge-listen to her soothing voice, especially Theatre of the Imagination, and draw. And that was enough.

A fun detail: despite being familiar with her work since more than 10 years ago, only last year I learned that Women Who Run With the Wolves was an audiobook before it was a readable book. The printed versions are much thicker than the 2.5h audio original, but being able to listen to her voice is priceless. Her poetry is delicious and her sense of humor (especially commenting on Women Who Run With the Wolves fame) – intact, but for that you have to go to Theatre of the Imagination.

As with everything in this adult life, not 100% of her fairy tale selection and interpretations make sense, and some seem out of place. That is fine. Take what you need. This is the type of work that you can (should?) reread once every 10 years or so. Just to observe how your perception and take-aways change. Oh, and the poetry! I stole this from Homemaking: Women Writers and the Politics and Poetics of Home. 1996. Edited by Catherine Wiley and Fiona R. Barnes as Clarissa’s web has been listing a poetry book as forthcoming for years now:

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Kondo, Marie. 2010 (2014) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
London: Vermilion.
Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.
London: Vermilion.

Surprise, surprise! What an unexpected turn: me suggesting KonMari and then some tidying. But bear with me. Here you can find my mini-reviews of all three books and you could read any other book that propels you into action through your possessions (The Art of Discarding or The Joy of Less, or any other of the kind will do). My favorite comprison is with IT devices: if you run for too long without restarting, your systems clog up and slow you down, and you might think that the device is flawed. That’s why your every call with an IT person will start with ‘Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again?’ This is exactly what KonMari™ does. It is an opportunity to revise and edit your present (hence also future) *and* the narrative of your past.

The power of past editing is my most recent tidying revelation. I have to admit – here comes a dirty secret, beware – that I still have digital photo clutter. My current photo archive is 120GB and I’ve just started tidying it. My obsession, even with the analogue soap box before the digital one, has been documentation, the conviction that there is ‘truth’ to be kept. And then my artsy expressions and allure of street art… that’s a lot of meaningless photos 15 years later.

So I’m slowly tidying up my digital photo past (I already did that with the analogues a couple of years ago) and it is incredibly liberating. Once I let go of the compulsion to keep something for its ‘historical value’ despite it being embarrassing, ugly, meaningless and applied the *spark joy* criterion, I enjoy it so much. There is the symbolical value of retaining only what I want with me going forward, and the pleasure of deleting hundreds of archives and liberating dozens of gigabytes.

Possessions are your road trip companions, a book of KonMari™ style can help you take action to retain only the ones that are kind and helpful.

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Which books have helped you at some points in your life? Which authors have given you those a-ha phrases that you have later calligraphed, embroidered, tattooed, etc to retain? Which books do you return to periodically for inspiration and solace?

Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w12 + Sunday links

Here, baby, eat, you look hungry:

1. There was a time when influencers were called socialites and they weren’t paid because that would have been vulgar: Lee Radziwill, the Original Influencer and Marella Agnelli, Society’s ‘Last Swan’ and a Passionate Gardener, Is Dead at 91.

2. While we’re on celebrities, I find it very cute when the NYT complains about Lady Gaga being to classy and boring: Lady Gaga’s Long Road to That Giant Diamond Necklace. On related red carpet news, At the Grammys, Sisters Dressing for Themselves (oh, I loved Cardi B’s pearl oyster costume!) and Who Are You Wearing and Where Did They Donate?

3. And here is a bunch of sexism in fashion news, just if you were missing a couple of reminders: (a) Has #MeToo changed what we wear to work? (b) The Mess of Modern Power Dressing; (c) Women Were Granted Just 4 Percent of Patents in the U.S. Over the Past Decade; (d) Women Finally Get Their Own World Cup Soccer Style.

4. “On Turnbull’s theory, cathedrals aren’t just building sites. They are laboratories. In methods such as this, the thinking and making are one and the same. Craft is design”: Craft as Design.

5. “Technology is essentially about creating utility and spreading it over billions of people. Fashion is about creating a moment, a trend, a romance and spreading it across a small amount of influential people”: Is Apple Saying Goodbye to Fashion?

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What I was writing about a year ago – #100wears: Trench.

What I was writing about two years ago: My minimalist well-being routine.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w12 + Sunday links.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w12. Still the same: the red flea sweater and the gray cardigan.

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Are there any classical red carpet/showbiz outfits that have inspired you (maybe indirectly but still)? Rihanna’s nude look? JLo’s navel décolletage? Avrile Lavigne’s neckties? Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday? Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w11 + Sunday links

Here, the brain nom-noms are in:

1. No-plastic people reflecting (in Spanish): ¿Merece la pena [vivir sin plástico]? and – for those who still haven’t connected the dots and think that balloons are cute – ¿Lanzarías basura al cielo?

2. An example how local action brings meaning and results – “A world-changing experiment in London’s poorest borough shows how to break out of our disastrous spiral of alienation” – Mutually Assured Salvation.

3. Even you are against animal fibers in fashion (me? that’s another post…), you have to know why people have been using them for so long and still do: The Other Kind of Cashmere. And for a bit more practical tips on one type of animal-derived materials from people who go as far as to remind that “leather is just another type of skin […] and, like your own skin, it needs to be moisturized every so often” (that is bad taste imho): The Do’s and Dont’s of Breaking In a New Pair of Leather Boots.

4. I started following The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman very recently (it is paywalled after a few free articles per month but you can get around it with ‘private browsing’ that any decent browser will provide you with) and, while the actual reviews of catwalk shows do not touch me, there are a lot of pieces I read with interest and link here. And the whole logic of high fashion is one of most fascinating aspects of it: (a) Why We Cover High Fashion; (b) When a Fashion Statement Has Real Meaning; and, by The Fashion Law but still in line with my interest in the twisted world of high fashion, (c) What Can the Fashion Industry Learn from a Legal Squabble Over Video Games & Tattoos?

5. And that peculiar genre of fashion essay bringing together the history of battlefield medicine, childhood memories, and raincoats: On Nostalgia and Raincoats.

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What I was writing about a year ago: My sustainability fails.

What I was writing about two years ago – Baby Steps: Detoxing A Wardrobe Takes Time.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w11 + Sunday links.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w11. Not that many items coincide (only the gray dress and the big scarf) but you can see what the No Pasarán t-shirt was like before it became an applique.

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Those white pants is a new thing for me… What are you looking forward to wear this spring? New cuts? New colors? New mix’n’matches? Or just baring some skin will be enough?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w10 + Sunday links

A bowl of brain food for everybody! You are welcome.

1. The International Women’s Day was on March 8, so this is the time of the year for a public service announcement that fashion is an incredibly sexist industry, starting from the gender imbalance among famous designers and unattainable beauty standards down to all girls and women doing the dyeing, cutting, sewing, packing… while being paid painfully low wages and navigating a world of discrimination and exploitation. Exhibit (a) She for She – Why Fast Fashion is a Feminist Issue; (b) Does Your Feminist T-Shirt Empower The Women Who Made It? + more on the Spice Girls t-shirt scandal: How do you know if your clothes are being made ethically? (c) Why Fashion Matters for International Women’s Day; (d) Brands Need Different Priorities on International Women’s Day. The most robust strategy is to wear your old t-shirt again and again to show your solidarity for their work (mend it if need be, or make your own) instead of falling for the pinkwashing pop feminism sells!

2. If you want the politics of it, here: (a) Bangladesh Government set to throw away Accord achievements; (b) What a Modern Slavery Law Means for the Fashion Industry; (c) Fashion Revolution Statement on House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report: Fixing Fashion. tl;dr is that efforts are concentrated in making the ‘my supply chain is so complex, I didn’t know’ defense impossible which is a very reasonable step.

3. To restate the obvious, here you have Louise from Miss Pandora reminding that being a feminist does not preclude dressing in a way typically perceived as feminine (in French and English): Le féminisme, la féminité et moi. I already talked about the subversive power of pink here – The Pink Post: Instrumental and subversive uses of the traditionally feminine.

(The only downside of that Louise’s post was learning that HnM released a William Morris collection last year; who was the idiot managing his estate that allowed this desecration of the legacy of a radical socialist reformer?)

4. Apparently a victory for the textile engineering geeks: Synthetic spider silk is finally appearing in products consumers can buy. No, better don’t tell me why a wristwatch band would be the place you’d apply ‘biosteel’… the article does offer more reasonable uses, though.

5. Just for fun and to open a thinking space about the relationship between the author and the public persona we all project: Literary Hoaxes and the Ethics of Authorship.

+ an extra for the Latvian-speakers (čau!) from yours truly: 8. marts bez tulpītēm un jociņiem par Marsu un Venēru.

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What I was writing about a year ago – Some things change: My bag now and 10 years ago.

What I was writing about two years ago: To All New Arrivals (Winter 2017), We Love You.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w10 + Sunday links.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w10.

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What’s the utopian fashion innovation you’d welcome most? Self cleaning fibers? True no waste circular reuse? Self-lacing Back to the Future shoes for those difficult mornings?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

Faking being a redhead, since 1999

It’s only hair, it grows back.

My mom was always very permissive with fashion and bodily modifications. And there were some things I’m not sure I’d be OK with now, believe me. It gave me a great freedom to explore and express myself, and took any ‘forbidden fruit’ temptations out of dressing, piercings, hair dyeing… and for some reason I was taken away by idea of being a redhead with freckles from very early on. A major influence was a hairstyle book dedicated to braids I got when around 8 that among other models featured a girl just like that! I’m unable to find a pic of the book cover online, it was around 1996 after all.

At the age of 11 (that’s 1999!) I had two transformative experiences on the same day: trying nail polish and a temporary coloring shampoo in red. I abandoned the nail polish in 2004 after realizing that it took too much effort to do it well, but the red dye stayed and became permanent. I wish I got an euro every time people assume this is my natural hair color or ask which my ‘real’ hair color is. For a while I quipped back that red was the real one while another – let’s be polite and call it ash blonde – is the natural one.

Since then the only time I’ve seen my natural hair color was after I shaved my head in June 2008. These are the steps I went through from full locks to running back to henna as soon as my hair was long enough, i.e. January 2009. The gray ‘pixie’ (it was never a proper haircut, they just grew back like this) was so much fun for both me and my mom – we finally got to see and document that natural color:





I switched to henna sometime in my late teens, and I haven’t looked back. I started with henna from a Hare Krishna store in Riga. Lucky for me, it was a decent product, because at that point I could’ve easily fallen for whatever shit. I did no previous research, put it right over my chemical dye (thing nobody in the dyeing world approves of, because there is no guarantee of the result), and my mother never asked if putting unknown powders into my head was a good idea. She actually helped me with it, convinced that I was too sloppy about it. We hadn’t heard about black henna and people getting seriously harmed. The worst thing I’ve tried since then was ‘henna’ brought from Egypt as a souvenir that stained my hands pink, and by then I clearly knew that something was off with that product. I don’t remember, though, if I used that pink stuff on my hair. I think I did. I don’t think I ever looked up what my henna was made of. As far as I purchased from a trusted-enough place, and it looked and smelled alright, I didn’t bother.

In Spain I have mostly used the Radhe Shyam henna. They are widely available in health food stores here, have pretty boxes and offer a gradient of colors (a red flag if you are looking for sth ‘authentic’). A random video of my favorite whole-foods-plant-based guru Michael Greger sent me googling in September. The video is rather alarming and could be more precise in describing that the health hazard in ‘henna’ use comes from the additives and therefore the warning that ‘according to FDA guidelines, henna shouldn’t be applied to skin at all’ does not apply to the actual henna, defined as pure lawsonia inermis. So I went looking what my henna contains… pretty sure that nothing too horrible, but curious now. I still can’t believe I hadn’t done it the time I purchased the first package every time I had tried another brand! After so many years of flirting with veganism, you’d think that reading labels should be my number one step in every aspect of life.

The box I had listed as ingredients cassia obovata, lawsonia inermis, and sodium picramate. Assuming that they are listed according to proportion in total volume, turned out that my henna contains mainly not henna but another plant known as ‘blonde henna’ that produces the ‘treatment’ effect of the product and a seemingly inoffensive dye fixer. Both of these make sense as I did try a pure lawsonia inermis powder when my closest health store started to phase out the Radhe Shyam in favor of Khadi (funnily enough, they have now gone off the high horse ‘well, you know we want to carry only organic products’, and sell it again, ha!) And it felt… ineffective! Pretty much as if I hadn’t done anything, at least in comparison with the product I was used to. Now I know that that inefficiency was just natural, the pure henna without the gloss of cassia and without a dye fixer. And cost double, so I went back to the previous brand.

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If you’re interested, here’s what I do. It is a bit messy and takes time, I still prefer it over the ammonium stink:

1. Preparation for henna dyeing: Mixing it the day before with hot water to a consistency of a puré. For shortish to mid-length hair I use 50g (half package). The only add-ons I’ve experimented with was olive oil, and, no, don’t do that.

2. The weirdly smelling brown-green mud all the way the day after mixing it. I use an old toothbrush for the hairline and my hands afterwards. This is messy and not for perfectionists. A professional hairdresser would not be happy with my dye job. I just try to cover it all, assuming that the harder-to-get parts won’t dye as well. I tell myself that the effect is a bit more natural this way…

3. Now it has to work its magic for a couple of hours! I put a plastic bag and then a scarf to protect my surroundings. Henna washes out well, but why create work housework? Keep in mind that at least the scarf and the t-shirt will need a wash after this.

4. Then you wash it out and go on with your life! Repeat it when the need strikes. I have many layer of it already and the contrast is not striking when the roots are visible. If you want to be diligent it, about once a month is what you have to plan for. It washes vaguely orange first few times and stains linen. Again, nothing in comparison with the synthetic dyes. And the smell also lingers, especially when washing or sweating. I’m now used to it and don’t care, but there are people who find the experience – between the muddy too much.

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My recent conflict about dyeing is between looking to reduce even more the everyday hassle vs. my redhead identity. It is partly cultural, though. I have somehow accepted – thank you Latvian media and so many women around me – that that ash blonde base is very boring and inexpressive. I’d even dare to say that it is a rite of passage in average Latvian girl’s life (at least it felt so around 2005) to chose your color: varying shades of blonde are the most popular, then the dramatic ones opt for black or red, or being happy (or too busy doing something else) with what you’ve got. After seeing my dye fade and my roots appear for a couple of months at the end of 2018, I went back to my green powder. It felt very bright this time… So my current plan is to tone it down a bit shade-wise but keep up with the henna routine. Fun fact? I have no idea if I have gray hairs. A fully white head could be appealing too.

What are your hair dyeing adventures? Do you live it – be it dyed or natural – as a part of your identity?

#whatiwore 2019w09 + Sunday links

A note on the last outfit 1: Yes, the WAG top is still here, despite me almost discarding it before the February Swap. What happened was that I had already published that on Wednesday and Kristīne had already volunteered to adopt it when the inspiration struck. Yes, the little black dress (2008, HnM) is the perfect match for it. No fussing around the shoulder straps and the neckline of the dress while having all that skirt volume. And no need to redo the knot of the top or adjust the place where the skirt and top meets as it stays put atop of the dress. The LBD is probably living its last year as the ribbing of the top is starting to come apart, so we’ll see what the future brings… but so far these two are staying together for occasions when the floral corduroy bolero is a bit too much.

A note on the last outfit 2: This was the rare (first?) occasion when I took an outfit photo before actually wearing it. Typically I take my photos before leaving home or post factum. And, of course, weather decided not to cooperate! So my actual outer shell for Sunday ended up being my mom’s Ilse Jacobsen raincoat and wellies. It’s not a hand-me-down, I just borrowed it for a day. I have to admit that it brought me back to my thinking about getting a Stutterheim raincoat. But then I remembered that it rains rarely in Barcelona, so I don’t really need one… but I felt like a happy Pusheen while it lasted.

Nom-nom-nom, here comes your reading matter!

1. On racial representation in fashion: (a) Is Fashion All Blond? A Spoof Takes Aim + photos from the shoot that 1996 article refers to: Karl Lagerfeld’s Awesomely Weird “Scarlett ‘N The Hood” Photo Shoot; (b) Conspicuous by Their Presence + a more philosphical question about the use of bodies in fashion media – The big picture: models in Charles James gowns, New York, 1948.

2. And in other Lagerfeld-related news, well, he passed. So now you get to learn about him: (a) Karl Lagerfeld, 1933-2019; (b) Karl Lagerfeld, Designer Who Defined Luxury Fashion, Is Dead; (c) The Last Designer; (d) Resale Searches, Demand for Chanel Products is Up on the Heels of Lagerfeld’s Death; (e) remember him making sneakers legitimate haute couture? At Chanel, Look at the Shoes! (f) After Karl Lagerfeld, What’s Next for Chanel and Fendi? (g) Karl Lagerfeld’s Death Puts a Women Back at the Helm of Fashion’s Most Established, Respected House.

3. Another write-up about Patagonia… no wonder, their products, their ethics, and their workplace culture are truly droolworthy – Behind Patagonia: Clothes, for the Outdoors. A strong backbone and 0 bullshit policy seem to be more common among outdoors apparel manufacturers, take this as another example – L.L.Bean: America’s Maine Outdoor Clothing Manufacturer.

4. And a dusting of the KonMari media frenzy: (a) The Joy Of Sparking Joy: A Kondo Scale For Clothing Enthusiasts; (b) (in Spanish) while not overtly a KonMari adept (she’s selling her own method, so that would be a marketing no-no), Alicia spills the beans on the changing ‘spark joy’ click-point, suggesting that 5 rounds (in 2 years or so) of repeated full-on tidying is around right to settle for a ‘never again’ state of tidy: Cuánto se tarda en ordenar una casa; (c) What White, Western Audiences Don’t Understand About Marie Kondo’s ‘Tidying Up’ – tl;dr: its animistic base that all things have a soul/spirit.

5. And, just for lavishly beautiful pictures of a completely unsustainable lifestyle, Louise from Miss Pandora took the Le Venise-Simplon-Orient-Express. Oh, my!

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What I was writing about a year ago – The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain.

What I was writing about two years ago: Is There a Winter in Barcelona? A Winter 2017 recap.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w09 + Sunday links. Heh, most of the usual winter suspects are still active…

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w9. First days of March in 2017 were clearly warmer than in 2018. And some of those garments are gone: the wrap skirt, the minion t-shirt, Julie’s linen dress, and my red denim jacket.

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What has the weather done for you lately? Any fashion despairs or wins? Is the spring there yet?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w08 + Sunday links

Here, your grey cells will (burp and) thank you afterwards:

1. If you like being retold the obvious (but maybe catching a nice upcycling idea meanwhile): What’s Behind the Rise of Upcycled Garments?

2. Meanwhile, in racialized cosmetics news: Rwanda is the Third African Nation to Take a Stand on Skin-Lightening Products.

3. It’s always so cute when people write about stuff they are bewitched by, in this case, tailoring and leather: Making Bespoke Leather Jackets.

4. George Monbiot on toxic masculinity causing, apart from other stuff you had already thought about, higher mortality, mental health issues, and barriers for mitigating climate change: Testeria.

5. Alden Wicker observing (and excusing) our – as a society – lost ability to take care of our clothing: The spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers and Put This On illustrating the usual procrastination around mending – Style & Fashion Drawings: Emergency Denim Repair. And the rather more uplifting (because those people dress dapper and buy investment pieces) reaction from Die, Workwear! – How We Lost Our Ability to Mend – that sends you back to your sewing kit.

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What I was writing about a year ago – #100wears: Arcopedico wedge ballerinas.

What I was writing about two years ago: Why We Swap and How.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w08 + Sunday links.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w8.

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Where are you on the mender-procrastinator gradient? Do you mend, do you collect it all and then never fix it, or have you lost all hope and assume that torn pieces are just done for you?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

#whatiwore 2019w07 + Sunday links

Here, fill the little mind attic:

1. Uniforms are a good idea for many people – and so many of you already have it down to a pair of dark skinnies and a t-shirt – so maybe embrace it (no, it’s not for men only): Five Reasons To Wear The Same Thing Every Day and An interview with a guy who wears the same thing every day. I tried a dresses-only period and clearly crave more diversity, you can read more about it here and here.

2. I never thought I’d dedicate a whole mini-section to Rihanna, but after seeing a completely honestly asked ‘Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century?‘ in the NYT, well, let’s go: (a) A Splashy Entrance by Rihanna Puts Chinese Designers in the Spotlight; (b) Kim K., J-Lo, Beyoncé [and Rihanna] Undress for Success With the Naked Look; (c) A Lawsuit Between Puma and Forever 21 Poses an Interesting Question About Celebrity “Creative Directors”; (d) Rihanna Files $75 Million Lawsuit Against Her Dad Over His “Egregious” Use of Their Last Name; (e) UPDATED: LVMH and Rihanna in “Secret Talks” to Launch Luxury Label.

3. As if fast fashion wasn’t sinister enough on its own, here, get some debt on to of it: Buying a new purse? This startup wants to help you pay for it — but could also get you into debt.

4. An n-th reminder on Living More Sustainably: Clothing. The usual key points include buying less, buying better, buying used, fixing when needed, and – this one you don’t see that much, but you should – shopping in brick-and-mortar, so that you would be sure about the fit and not sending packages back and forth. As in: No online shopping company can figure out how to quit this one plastic bag and Your online shopping has a startling hidden cost.

5. One of those weird fashion stories of ‘how can it be that (once) a key industry in Scotland depends on Himalayan goats?’: It’s more than just money, it’s cashmere and The Last Of Good Scottish Cashmere: William Lockie.

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What I was writing about a year ago: A year of blogging and adjusting expectations.

What I was writing about two years ago: My Wardrobe, Part 2: How I Build and Track My Seasonal Capsules.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w07 + Sunday links.

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w7.

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Have you tried the uniform-dressing? Or maybe you have a hidden uniform – what Anuschka Rees calls ‘outfit formulas’ – not the same items necessarily but several similar mix’n’match pieces (for example, (a couple of) dark skinnies, (several) low-hem tops, a pair of oxfords or a pair of chukkas + aleather jacket)? Putting it differently, if you would have to chose a uniform for next 3 months, what would that be? Or does the very thought of a uniform give you goosebumps?

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Also, the tipjar is available if you ever feel like buying me a coffee:

February Swap (9th!) recap

Oh, the February (9th!) swap! The sun was shining, the afrolatin music was on, the vermouth was had… and some outrageous – and some less outrageous – pieces were swapped and adopted. And I was very happy. So this time there are no critical remarks. You can find them in previous recaps.

The mandatory ‘bring it on’ Saturday morning elevator selfie. That flower ball is my new official swap headgear:



Doing our best to welcome all creatures in need of a t-shirt, vermouth, carrot stick or a Saturday walk:

If Facebook is to be believed, this was the most visited swap so far. This is the current record at FB reach. At no point it felt too crowded, though. I keep fearing that one day I’ll have to call Guàrdia Urbana to contain the crowd, but we haven’t been anywhere close to that.

However, we ran out of food really quickly. But now we have a new official ‘we are out of food’ snack: popcorn! Turns out people really love them some microwave popcorn. Not organic, not zero waste, but vegan and much better than alcohol on an empty stomach.

Gender and age integration is an ongoing challenge for the swap, as – surprise, surprise! – most uncustomers have my age and my gender. I’m not really sure how to actively encourage underrepresented groups (suggestions are most welcome!) but I’m very happy when they appear, especially the ladies. Because señoras is the real quality mark of an event, they just effortlessly add class. And if I learn that they are into prints as Luisa’s mother-in-law or *animal* prints as Silvia’s mom, my heart just melts! True role models indeed.

The unplanned fail was that I smashed the objective of my camera… I was carrying it in my chain strap purse… and after some happy jumps the chain went ñeh and the purse down to the floor. I bought a new objective after the weekend, but my photographic abilities were meh for the rest of the event. So many of the photos here are courtesy of Margareta. Thank you so much! And lesson learnt: next time the camera will come to the swap into its protective bag and not in a flimsy purse.

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And finally we got a little upcycling initiative to take advantage of the textile gathered! For a long time I had wished some refashionistas, patchworkers, quilters, trapillo knitters etc. would turn up and take the some supplies as quite few items at the swap might be pass their prime or suboptimal as that particular garment but still full of potential to be transformed into something else. So I couldn’t have been happier when Aimee wrote: “Hello hello! So I am finally making a bunch of upcycled yoga bolsters, as I think I mentioned to you! A yoga teacher friend of mine also has four yoga bolster covers she needs to stuff with rags. Wondered if you could ask people to bring their unwearable clothes and we can make a rag collection bin? I will then tear it up and it will go into a useful, high value item!” Yes, please!

We designated a big ‘Rags for Aimee’ bag and then the magic of rebirth happened… First, after bringing it home: “It makes me feel so satisfied to have something useful to do with it […] and bolsters need SO MUCH stuffing!” And then: “Hey hey! I finished the bolsters and gave one away. Will take a pic of the two remaining ones and send it to you- perhaps you will feel some satisfaction or perhaps you will be able to use it in a blog post or to talk about where our clothes go in this mad world. […] They weigh like dead bodies but they’re super great for yoga 🙂 […] Can also be used piled one on top of the other as low seating.” And she dyed them herself: “Yes! First try at the shibori method.”

Take Aimee’s example, let me know if you want to come pick up specific items for a project and COME GET THEM. That is, of course, if you need bag-loads of stuff. If you are into small scale refashion and just looking for a theater or fancy dress costume, feel free to just pick up, of course. Although I’m always happy to receive those ‘after’ pics. Like these fabulous ladies who, convinced by Mara, are casually showing off their swap finds:

It could be because Aimee took away three bolsters worth of clothes, but this time the leftovers were really light. Excellent! As I described in the December swap recap, I’m not very comfortable with pushing so much stuff on the Botiga Gratis ladies…

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My swap finds this time are two bodyhuggers: cute and flattering to begin with but we’ll see how they perform in the long run. The striped Bershka cutback number intrigues me because I’ve never had one of those fashionable back holes before… this seems to be bra-compatible, hence promising! The pink one needed a fix (thanks, Mara, the result is great!), and now it’s only about the longevity of this Benetton wool mix… how much will it pile?

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Do you have any swap experiences? Have you ever organized a swappy event? If yes, how did that go? Or do you have any other routine sources of quality hand-me-downs: family, friends, etc? What’s your best-ever (or just latest) swap find?

#whatiwore 2019w06 + Sunday links

Also, the Saturday swap outfit and the stuff that makes swap happen:

And the brain nom-noms are served, bon appétit!

1. On time and fashion (and, surprise, how fast fashion has ruined it all): How Tempo is Changing Fashion + an example of someone from very high shelves going against that crazy whirlwind: Meet Your Favorite Fashion Designer’s Favorite Vintage Dealer + an ode to wearing the same things for a long time (the best form of resistance!): The Joy Of Old Clothes.

2. If you want some objective reasons for feeling sorry for yourself (and a whole generation): How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.

3. (American) politics and fashion: (a) George H.W. Bush, the Original Sock Diplomat, (b) Nancy Pelosi’s Coat Catches Fire, (c) Why Covering Nancy Pelosi’s Hot Pink Dress Isn’t Sexist, (d) Finally Revealed! Trump’s Reasoning Behind His Extra Long Ties, and (e) The Lessons of the Women in White at the State of the Union Address.

4. If you have been watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and swooning over the 1950s recreation (those dresses! those coats! the outrageous headpieces!), among other things, this: New York’s Lost Department Stores.

5. But if winter still has you craving everything warm and fluffy, here, have some fleece history: The Mill That Invented Synthetic Fleece and Caught By The Fuzz: A Brief History Of Fleece.

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What I was writing about a year ago: February 2018 (5th!) Clothes’ Swap Recap.

What I was writing about two years ago – My Wardrobe, Part 1: What Do I Have and How Did I Get Here.

What I was wearing a year ago: #whatiwore 2018w06 + Sunday links. The hair was long but the clothing was pretty much the same…

What I was wearing two years ago: #whatiwore 2017w6. Oh, the very beginnings! Those first outfit photos have more visual interest than these, I think, (within the same set of limits) I was experimenting more back then.

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What are your outfit photo preferences? Breathtaking or mundane? I know very well the appeal of beautiful editorials… An example from my feeds would be Rebecca at A Clothes Horse! Or Louise at Miss Pandora. But I have no plans of going anywhere from my bedroom wall. This is a statistical and historic exercise, not an aesthetic one necessarily. Fun fact: the simpler the photo the harder to hide any imperfections in fit.