After 6 months of the big spreadsheet

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

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

Layers

Most worn: Julie’s cardigan (45).

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

Dresses

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

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

Tops

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

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

Bottoms

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

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

Footwear

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

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

Adornments

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

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

Never wore: Wore them all.

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

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

Style mood board: me-me-me!

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

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

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

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

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

Wavy hair

Artsy

Defiant

Cozy winters

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

Wavy hair

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

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

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

Artsy and defiant (yes, those go together)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cozy (winters)

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

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

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

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

Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare

This Saturday is the sixth (!) swap (what’s a swap?) and I’m doing my wardrobe pruning in preparation for it. However, as my wardrobe goes shrinking, there’s another dynamic I’m less comfortable than letting mint condition garments that are not working for me find new owners… the pieces I’ve worn out completely are driving me nuts!

The initial wardrobe editing is about taste, future self and frequency of wear/fit in your life. All very personal and subjective. And if it ever comes down to ‘this is pretty worn out’, most people have replacements already waiting for them right there in the same wardrobe. Yes, there might be pieces that one might want to work hard enough to find or make a copy but those don’t tend to be urgent as there’s an abundance of other garments. However, when I’m down to two bras, one pair of yoga shorts and eight pairs of footwear in total, seeing them wear out is a heart-breaking emergency. It’s as if, once selected as optimal, I’d expected them to last lifetime and they have tricked me by wearing out. Finding exact replacement for secondhand or hand-me-down stuff I’ve worn for years is not easy. And in many cases I would prefer not to buy anything directly from those people anyways.

I already shared my yoga shorts replacement fail and it hasn’t got better since then. The Decathlon shorts I bought second-hand in 2015 are in rag condition, and I have a strong aversion to going to that shop and browsing for new similar ones (as there are no identical ones available). According to their home page, I could get similar ones in organic cotton and elastane mix for f*ing incredible 4.99€ without a word about where the fiber or labour comes from. You tell me how that price is possible!

Looks that the solution of the shorts saga will be to – for a set of other reasons – switch back to home practice, so that showing my privates to people won’t be a concern at all. I still should admit myself the truth and send the old shorts to the orange container (oh, yes, those are well beyond a swap-worthy mint condition).

My parallel struggle with shredded-by-wearing items has been my sneakers. After discovering Veja Taua in early 2015, I though I was set for life. Oh, how naive! After three pairs worn to the point that my left little toe was sneaking out (always the left one!), I am now facing the hard truth that they are not planning to restock them ever again. I did try another of the more modern-looking sneaker models and I’m now breaking in their next best canvas sneaker, but it’s not the same. I want my Taua back! I’m even seriously considering buying the last available Taua in my size, although the color combination – white, very white – is clearly suboptimal for my lifestyle. Or writing them a very heartfelt love letter pleading for a new release of the black ones…

(On a side note, this is one of the big advantages of  heritage brands and styles. If you happen to like a model that the company has been doing for decades already, it’s pretty safe they’ll keep doing it instead of succumbing to demons of innovation and oh-no-that-was-limited-edition-and-we-will-never-do-it-again. I was just assured of this by the lovely Toni Pons salesperson in Born. They’ve been making Montgri since forever, so it’s not going anywhere.)

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According to my archives, that’s what November 2012 looked like in Salamanca, Spain.

It’s the time for the black flower shirt too. It has been patched up in armpits three times and keeps unraveling around them. This little viscose hand-my-down from my mom has seen so much more than #100wears. For years it has been my go-to throw-on for travel, errands and everything in-between. I draped perfectly, covered butt to be worn with leggings, felt amazing and looked lovely. Bye, bye, my love, I hope to find something similar enough one day.

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On a more typical note about garments that will go to the swap looking for new friends (for my outgoing for the previous editions see here, here and here), the only substantive swapped-aways will be garments I thought of as heirlooms until trying to wear them again after years of having them stashed away in my mom’s wardrobe. Both the military field jacket and the pink corduroy skirt date back to 2003 and 2006 respectively, my past self wore them a lot and they are in great condition. But not for my current self! And that’s enough. I hope they have a lot of wears with somebody else ahead of them.

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How do you deal with the conflict of knowing that something is worn out beyond repair and that you cannot replace it? Have you ever made bespoke copies of industrial garments you had loved? Have you crossed oceans, deserts and all the internets combing for a replacement?

After 3 months of the big spreadsheet

So the first three months of no-restriction-you-have-access-to-all-just-track-it wardrobe have passed…

Lesson 1: Go with the flow! After years of pruning and tracking I still struggle with the ‘but I *could* wear it more’ fallacy. Yes, I could. But should I? If something does not get worn ‘naturally’ it doesn’t mean that I have to force myself to wear it. More likely (a) it’s not the right weather, (b) it’s for relatively rare occasions, or (c) it’s not right for me in this season of my life, hence, bye-bye has to be considered.

Lesson 2: Taste and wishes change. D-oh! Some garments somehow fit in for years despite changes in my preferences and some don’t. That’s fine. Let it go!

Lesson 3: My wardrobe is still oh-so-ample! In these 90 days I wore 56 different items (and this is not counting underwear, scarves, hats, bags, hosiery). No wonder many didn’t make it to 10 wears.

And now the nitty-gritty of my wardrobe champions and the not-so-much champions of these 90 days by the category:

Layers

Most worn: my mom’s Zara hand-me-down trench (39), obviously. That’s my winter basic, my shining light, my everything. Now it really needs a wash, though.

Runner-ups: the red flea sweater (37) and the Portuguese cape (26).

Never wore: …wore them all.

Dresses

Most worn: my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (11). I was clearly fed up with dresses after the 7 dresses experiment (1, 2). Hope my fondness for them will come back as the temperatures rise…

Runner-ups: my mom’s hand-me-down MnS linen dress (4) and the purple jersey dress (4).

Never wore: kaftan and my mom’s dark blue silk dress. Because, weather.

Tops

Most worn: the demon t-shirt (28).

Runner-ups: my mom’s hand-me-down lace undershirt/blouse (18) and Liisa’s hand-me-down black lace top (16).

Never wore: my mom’s hand-me-down white zipper blouse. Yeah, weather…

Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (33). Let me explain the legging situation: I do yoga three times a week and swim twice a week, for those activities I leave home mostly in leggings. Then I also sometimes wear them for errands, and instead of tights when it’s cold and I want to be extra cozy. All the wears at home are not counted, but a telling sign is that these 2016 leggings had to be mended once already and now have a new rip again. These 90 days confirmed the central role leggings play in my cold-weather wardrobe, indeed. There were three pairs in my winter wardrobe and not was not too much by any means.

Runner-ups: Amoralle leggings (30) and Liisa’s hand-me-down velvet skater skirt (19).

Never wore: the sari maxi, the lyocell shorts, the rayon shorts. No guessing needed why January and February might not be the months for shorts, even in the Mediterranean.

Footwear

Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (41). They live at work, so the game is rigged in their favor.

Runner-ups: Veja Arcade (29) and Veja Taua Bahia (26).

Never wore: the birks, obviously.

Adornments

Most worn: red wooden necklace (8). None of my adornment got their 10 wears this time. I was trying to relax instead of forcing it, and winters are for cozy layers.

Runner-ups: Jēkab’s necklace (7) and bird and flowers headband (7).

Never wore: the flower ball headband! Ugh, I keep struggling with this one. It’s huge, and we have a love-hate relationship…

Future… and doubts

The show goes on! I’ve already started the next 3 month spreadsheet. There are some replacing to be done (both my Veja Taua are in shreds and I just noticed a tear in the lace undershirt/blouse – things really do wear out!) and some decisions to be made before the May swap.

After these 90 days I have no clear ‘outs’, the only one I’m doubting about is the ~2005 corduroy skirt that looks great but feels a bit off in comparison with my other skirts. I am tempted to toss it (oh, the purgers high!), but my keeper self is arguing against it: (1) they are beautiful, (2) also, they look good on, (3) that would leave me with only 4 winter bottoms, (4) I’ve had them for gazillion years, so, yeah, there’s some sentimental attachment from my ‘past lives’, (5) they are midi length, pink, patterned and sparkly; who on earth will wear that? And similar thoughts on the flower ball headband too – it’s so exuberant that I don’t trust anybody else to wear it either. Ugh!

This is why editing wardrobes of big volume is easier than small ones: the KonMari ‘power of the pile’ works it’s magic and it’s easier to pick out gems from a background of meh. True story.

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What wardrobe lessons have the first three months of this years brought to you? New styles, silhouettes, uniforms, outfit formulas? Letting go of the old ones? Moving towards more stimulating restriction or relaxing the rules?

Wardrobe pruning for minimalists: KonMari stairway to heaven

As you should have heard it from your local newspaper – and this blog – by now, the KonMari method for pruning our possessions is aimed at keeping only those objects that spark joy. She insists that you start with clothing because most people have an abundance of these ranging from sentimental favorites to never worn gifts, so it should be easier to develop our inner spark-o-meters. The way wardrobe editing KonMari style is described (and pictured, if you are into manga!) is a huge pile of garments in the middle of your living room and you going through them for hours (or do *this*). But… what if you have very few items already and the whole spark joy thing is rather menacing, because you know that you run a real chance of discarding all your wardrobe?

Well, that was the situation I was in early December – with a muted spark-o-meter! But then then I found ideas about what to do, both in her in-detail book and the social media: find your joy étalon and build on it! The idea is that even if we are unclear about some pieces, we are very likely able to identify things among our belonging that bring us maximum joy. And then, the second most joyful one, etc. etc. So in principle it possible to order all our garments ranging from most to least joy. In stats language, we are turning a binomial variable – “yes, joy” vs “no, no joy” – into a continuous variable ranging between these two extremes. For me this conversion took some pressure off the decisions, I separated the task in two: (a) order first and (b) then decide what to do with the low-joy end.

(A very important KonMari caveat for me that doesn’t get mentioned that much – probably because there is not much about it in the bestseller manifesto book – is that there are items that bring joy not because of their appearance or fluttery feeling they give to you but because of their function, and that is fine and still *counts*. Think hammers and winter underwear.)

And, as I appreciate rock’n’roll puns, in my mind these are stairways to heaven joy! So this is the joy order (not to be mixed up with joy division) of my dresses, from top joy to bottom joy:

Several interesting things happened while I was doing this. First, I was unable to order my layers in this way. And I accept that. The functionality is so *loud* winter jackets and sweaters that I don’t really hear the joy. All garments among my layers are either high joy or high functionality items, i.e. if I would throw away my parka – because of its sub-optimal silhouette, let’s say – I would have to replace it with other similar piece. Looking for a specific item that I have to buy bring me very little joy, so I leave my layers alone.

Second, once ordered I looked at the bottom of the list. (That’s the most interesting part because in theory all my seven dresses should be of the superjoy kind by now!) The last two live in Rīga, that’s clearly not a coincidence: I see them rarely and my Rīga ultra-capsule makes me wear them. The purple jersey one is actually a very nice one – a warm, stretchy and flattering hand-me-down from my mom – but it won’t last. It’s giving off treads and piling already, after ~10 wears. I’ll wear it out and will be loving every moment of it, but it won’t be long…

December 2008 – Brussels, Belgium.

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The little black dress is a weirder case. I bought it in H&M in late 2008, in a pretty low happiness moment of my life when browsing fast fashion and buying big plastic earrings made me feel better. The neckline looked good in carefully selected photos but was a continuous struggle and adjusting when moving around. Our seamstress added satin straps that took away the constant fidgeting but I still feel very self conscious when wearing this one without a layer (like this), hence most of the time it looks like this:

January 2018 – Rīga, Latvia.

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Coming back to the weakest link of my dresses’ stairway of joy: what shall I do with my little black dress? I know it brings me less joy than the rest, but… (a) what will I wear to the opera next time? and (b) when will I wear my floral bolero, as that garment was made to go together with this dress and no other garment or garment combination I currently own offers the same black canvas and balances out the extravagant shape of the shoulder detailing? My mission hence is no to throw it away, at least not until I happen to cross paths with the perfect LBD, but to steep with joy this one! One option to tone it down and wear more I found during these holidays is this one:

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I did the stairway exercise with my tops and bottoms too, and this is what the joy order of the tops are, again starting with top joy and going down to lesser:

The last three are here because of something else but joy as such: the black lace top is extremely versatile (and, as the purple dress, won’t live for much longer because of all the piling), the floral shirt is on probation and to be evaluated after this summer, and the WAG set – the result of my irrational whims – will also first have to see the summer and then we’ll see…

The order of bottoms you can see here, and I’m doubting only the last two items. WAG skirt has the same probation time as the top, although the skirt has a much greater potential (the top is so crop!). I’m still hoping that maybe somehow this set will be amazing in summer with no need for tights and layers + the option to tone it down with a pair of Birks. And – taddah! – the real outcome of all this ordering is that the little plaid mini, an American Apparel hand-me-down from Marina has to go. It’s too short and too tight after lunch – not enough joy!

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Lessons learned from this exercise? (1) It gets harder to prune when you have few items, as there is no pile of meh to fish out your joyful gems from. (2) This kind of ordering – taking into account both pure joy that garments bring you and their function – is helpful for making wishlists: you jot down the function and think of a better replacement. In my case the ones to replace would be the little black dress if I would come across one that makes me more confident (a basic quality black jersey bodycon could do the trick!) and when the black lace top dies, it could be time for a basic jersey turtleneck or boat neck. (3) You become aware of those with limited joy *and* function, and those garments have no excuse to be in your wardrobe. Let them go!

The capsule is dead, long live the spreadsheet!

My new ‘all-in’ spreadsheet (view full here).

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As admitting the truth is the first step towards a better life, I’m finally facing the obvious: all my wardrobe is a capsule. If it’s about “a collection of 30-40 practical and versatile pieces of clothing put together with the intention of being an entire wardrobe [for a season]“, that’s exactly what’s going in on in my wardrobe, except for the seasonal part. I’m currently living with a total of 42 pieces of main clothing + 8 pairs of footwear + lounge wear, accessories, etc. A grand total of 141 items, including every sock and earring.

I’ve realized that the seasonal extraction of the weather-inappropriate subset is pretty superfluous, especially with these fake Mediterranean  winters. And stashing away – in a big plastic box, no less –  things I could be wearing just because the calendar or the spreadsheet  said so (like for the 7 dresses experiment: read here and here) felt unnecessary and forced. While uniforms and super-reduced wardrobes are celebrated for the mind-space they liberate, I love and want my daily decisions. And then I want to track them.

Also, for me having all my stuff hanging (yes, Marie Kondo, almost all my garments look happier on hangers!) is more challenging than having a formal capsule and moving the plastic box back and forth. The implication of this new strategy is that my year-round wardrobe must fit on 30-40 hangers, because we share the wardrobe and that’s all the space there is. So I will still have exogenous limits, tracking, an empty plastic box to re-purpose, and all my joyful garment friends at my fingertips.

Our wardrobe!

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My current wardrobe feels more than abundant… It’s weird how careful pruning works: I have an abundance of exciting outfits and I love them. Never before since my adolescence I’ve had so few garments and never before I’ve been so satisfied with what I have… So, counting only main garments and footwear, I have 50 items but he spreadsheet has more because adornments and some lounge wear for casual days is included. It has been only eleven days of the new order, and:

a) I’m very excited to have all my things ‘available’.

b) Oh, I love my separates!

c) I’ve already worn 55% of what I have.

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The new goal is to maximize wears of those items that, for reason or another, have not received that much attention. In some cases – parka, rubber boots – it’s pretty much weather dependent (and in Riga), but many others just need love sweet love and, maybe, change of wardrobe if it turns out that we are not a match made in heaven. An important caveat when looking at the number is that those reflect last two years while some of the garments in my wardrobe have been there for more than 15 (that parka, my second-hand kaftan). However, even if I know perfectly well that my parka has had more than 100 wears, not having worn it much during last few years is an indicator too.

So these are the current underdogs I’ll be focusing on, weather and life allowing (it does make sense to include stuff from my Riga mini-capsule as I’ll be there for a week in February):

The WAG set (2 and 5 wears for the top and skirt respectively) – 2017: oh, the child of my sartorial weakness! It’s beautiful, flashy and tight (feels much better before dinner than after). I’ll do my best to give it as many wears as possible (beware, all the upcoming weddings!), but I’m still uncertain about it. After all, it’s on trial!

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The pink paisley corduroy skirt (3 wears) ~2006: I wore these a lot in high school. They’ve been hidden away in my Riga semi-capsule for years, but I think it time to bring back their pink sparkly goodness. Already tried them on the bicycle and they survived without getting trapped into the brakes, great! It’s amazing how old stuff can feel so incredibly ‘mine’ after years of scarce use.

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The striped jersey mini (3 wears) – 2017: the little versatile mini I scored at May’s swap got pushed away by the 7 dresses experiment. I actually already had the same model but in black back in 2011-2013 when we had an intense but short-lived relationship. I don’t expect longevity from this one either – thin H&M jersey is what it is. But it will be a beloved staple until it falls apart.

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The Norwegian-Lithuanian wool sweater (4 wears) – 2015: I kept this one in Riga waiting for a cold winter that never came. Now I finally found a function for it: it’s perfect for hanging around home during the cold months as part of my ‘survive the fake winter without any heating’ programme. It’s great for lounging around and running errands. So-incredibly-warm!

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Marina’s American Apparel mini skirt (4 wears) – 2017: The skirt so short I can wear them only during the tight season. I’m still on the hedge with this one. On one hand, they look good, help me channel a Sailor Moon vibe, and this 100% polyester hard plastic will last forever unless I set it on fire… but it is extremely short for my standards! I still have a couple of weeks to decide if February’s Swap is the right place for this one.

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My parka (4 wears) ~ 2003: What can I do if there is no winter? The pics below are from the fucking 12 of *March* 2005 in Riga. The weather is clearly not what it used to be… I wore the outer shell as a trench (in January!) last week, and the whole garment is not going anywhere. I still have some hope for seeing white winters again.

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Nokian Hai rubber boots (5 wears) – 2016: A good buy after Latvian summer rain made me wear winter boots in August once! They live in Riga and wait for the rain. They are my Latvian weather insurance!

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Flower ball headband (6 wears) – 2011: My most outrageous headpiece! It leaves in Riga and comes to opera with me. I might be relatively audacious when it come extravagant patterns and adornments, but this is my limit. It’s rather sad to touch the limits… I should wear this one more!

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Floral corduroy bolero (7 wears) – 2011: A bespoke creation of family dead stock for my LBD. Again, we go to opera together…

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Ginta’s purple jersey dress (8 wears) – 2016: The comfy hand-me-down! I use the little summer lace blouse (also a hand-me-down from my mother) as a layering piece and look relaxed yet put together. Win! It stayed in Riga, because I lacked space in my luggage and was too eager to live on my Barcelona separates for a while.

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Swedish military jacket (9 wears) – 2003: Oh, Swedish army surplus, you so sturdy and ultra-casual! I liked it 15 years ago because it pissed off the adults, now I need to find a place for it in my wardrobe again. My clear adolescent inclinations towards military styles (it was all the rage in early-2000s! Remember the combat pants and camouflage everywhere?) led to two functionally similar jackets, this and the Street One military-inspired one (2006) I revived last year. At the moment it’s my only light jacket in Riga, and we’ll see what the future brings.

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So this is the colorful – notice the dominance of purple, red and pink hues – adventure that awaits for the next few months. What are your wardrobe goals for the first quarter of 2018?

How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 second half money talk

What can I do? Money is part of the essentials. So let’s talk about it!

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Money is almost always a tricky social issue, especially so when it comes to niches – like ethical fashion blogs – where people tell other people how they should spend their money. Blah-blah-blah, voting with your euros… and then sponsored posts and things-things-things! I already wrote a detailed post in July about my overall money-spending goals, so this one is an itemized update on last six months. The order of preferences has stayed the same: (1) intensively using up what I have, (2) incorporating mainly pre-loved garments, (3) ethically sourcing the ones I have troubles finding second-hand (underwear, hosiery, footwear).

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This is what January-June looked like:

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And these are the last six months in a nutshell:

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Two observations jump at me, and they are connected: (a) despite my July intentions, I’ve spent significantly more money on getting dressed than in the previous six months which already almost twice as in each of the 2016’s six-month chunks, and (b) I allowed myself to buy a set of two new main garments I did not need; without those 160€ my spending list would look much better. Here comes a complete run-down through each item:

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The birks: I was after a pair of vegan birks for a long time, remembering my knock-off footbed sandals ~2007 as the comfiest summer shoe ever. In July my trusty 2014 Crocs broke beyond repair, so now I have a pair of street sandals and the same model in EVA for the swimming pool. I’m very happy with both, despite the fact that the street pair is unfit for both cycling and long walks (Oh, feet blisters!). The swimming pool ones haven’t touched the street, so technically I could even exclude them from this list.

Verdict: Nicely invested 95€. Would repeat.

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SiiL knickers: Liisa made it possible for me to switch from LuvaHuva knickers – extremely comfy and well made but quite pricey – to ones made three street blocks from me. From organic cotton mixes bought in Barcelona and made by a friend = best ethical fashion! Also, these six pieces allowed to retire some worn out knickers, always a good idea. Although this pattern turned out to be better for winter than for Barcelona summer (the rubber band leads to chaffing), they’ve been great from October till now.

Verdict: Great! Mil gracias, Liisa.

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I bought naked “peinetas” – hair combs – to try to repurpose a pair of feather earrings Marina sent me. I re-crafted the feathers but the result was too exuberant even for me! So I passed them back to Marina hoping she could use them for her pre-Burning Men crafting sessions.

Verdict: Oh, well! Not all repair endeavors end up being successes, I tried my best.

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Swedish Stockings hosiery: I finally made the hosiery upgrade from Calzedonia to Swedish Stockings. The cashmere blend tights are ~3 times more expensive than the Calzedonia equivalent… I keep telling myself that that’s the right thing to do, but the price point still feels uncomfortable for me. I opened the tight season in November and so far have basically worn out three pairs of woolen tights: two Calzedonia leftovers I had from the previous winter and the Swedish Stockings one. That would mean a seasonal investment of around 120€ for three pairs of winter tights. The tights themselves are very nice: a generous fit (higher waist than Calzedonia has), very nice feel, but they clearly do not last forever.
I also bought six pairs of their step socks… Well, those are a complete fail! They are too tiny to stay on my feet, (and probably because of that) break very easily. Did not work.

Verdict: Tights yes, socks no! I keep telling myself that there is no way back to high-street hosiery… My new plan is to take full advantage of Swedish Stockings’ recycling initiative. As they promise 30% discount for those who return stockings for recycling, my three pairs of cashmere blend tights would end up costing around 80€. Much better! The only challenge now is to stretch the hosiery I have until the end of the season, and to save them up to send to Sweden. Taking into account that it’s around 16ºC now in Barcelona and I’m getting rid of my short dresses anyway, seems doable.

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The WAG set: Oh, my! I hadn’t bought a *new* main garment since 2015. But ideas about African prints and find something made locally when visiting Cape Town fogged my mind. The attention to the customer was impeccable, we had a great time, I tried on a million things, and ended up paying a small fortune for an unlined set made of conventional cotton.

Verdict: There is no way back, so now my mission is to wear it again, again and again. I’ll do my best!

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Trench repairs: details of my hand-me-down trench needed repairs, and neighborhood repair shops – seamstresses and the cobbler – were able to take care of it.

Verdict: My trench is back in shape, and I feel immensely grateful for living in a place where there is still access to fixers.

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Bra strap fixers for Laura’s dress: I picked up this polyester dress in September swap and wore it 11 times to understand that it’s not for me. Knowing that the main reason that the previous owner had passed it on was a problem with bra straps, I first used safety pins and then gathered all my bravery and precision to make my first bra strap fixers.

Verdict: I’m so proud of myself! And you are very welcome, next wearer of this dress.

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A new pack of hair pins: I came to Riga knowing that my current go-to hairstyle is a pinned-up french braid but didn’t take hair pins with me. D-oh!

Verdict: Even I could use some better planning at times.

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How do you deal with additional time and money investment that ethical fashion implies? Do you fall for some decision-fatigue buys of “I need this and I don’t care” or “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s too beautiful”? What was your most dubious buy of 2017?

Fashion, sustainability and tidying books I read in 2017

For the second year in row I’ve had the ambition to read more books than there are weeks in a year, and for the second year in row I’m failing miserably. I ended 2016 at 42/52, so 81%. At the moment I’m at 37/52, so 71%. Disappointing! However, 12 of those 2017 books were blog-related either touching the whys (sustainability, climate change, consumerism), hows (sustainable fashion) and aesthetic pleasures (style!). Here’s the list in the order I read them:

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Tuite, Rebecca C. 2014. Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look.

A pretty look-book explaining the rise of the preppy look which I’ll always eagerly repin despite the class bias. The funniest part is that styles that we now associate with arrogance and careful selection to “look the part”, was born out of quest for comfort and were seen as highly inappropriate and rebellious at their time. What can I say, give me a mix of nice knits and emancipation of women any time!

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Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox.

A bit outdated and avant-garde focused sustainable fashion book. A reminder that less than ten years ago sustainable fashion was an artsy fringe activity nobody expected to become relevant to the mainstream.

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Carson, Rachel. 1962 [2005]. Silent Spring.

Yes, I hadn’t read the seminal book that launched the environmentalism. And now I have. It still is a very powerful reminder of the arrogant recklessness of the industrial management of nature (that tends to bring unintended consequences of colossal scale). Although the pesticides of today are not exactly as horrible as the organochlorine pesticides that Carson was focusing on, we have more than enough toxic messes around the world continuing the proud tradition of human hubris.

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Sontag, Susan. 1977 [1979]. On Photography.

Aha, another classic that I finally read this year! While not neatly fitting in the overarching theme, a recommended read to everybody taking daily selfies. Somehow I do feel relieved that Sontag did not live to see Instagram… Diagnosis? We are all sick, but that won’t stop us from documenting the illness.

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Gilman, Charlotte P. 1915 [2002]. The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing.

Oh, this was such a treat! Gilman, the ultra-rational feminist hero – read her What Diantha Did for a 1910 (!) answer to the still-relevant housework issue! – charging against the stupidity of fashion. Early social scientists just wrote what they thought, interpreting their participant observations from the armchair (OK, like Bauman and other theorists of postmodernity still do / did until they left us). You cannot trust them as describing a representative reality, but they surely reflect certain stirrings of their time. This one is fascinating! I already mentioned this book here and here.

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Corn, Wanda M. 2017. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

I got this gem thanks to Marina who was willing to cater to my “see an exciting book in a museum shop, decide later” whims. For me this book was just the right mix of art and personal style without entering personal life. Bravo! The argument is very convincing, and more so with O’Keeffe than with others: if the artists has spent decades carefully curating (and making) her wardrobe and surroundings, it makes perfect sense to analyze them alongside her paintings.

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Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose. 2012. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.

Another sustainable fashion textbook, better than Black’s, worse than revised 2014 Fletcher below. In 2017 I was eager to build up an adequate knowledge base to start with, now I think I’m good, thanks! But I have to agree that in the last decade the sustainable fashion industry has moved with an incredible speed.

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Fletcher, Kate. 2008 [2014]. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journey.

For a still-relevant overview of the sustainable fashion industry from the point of view of design (and lots of optimistic hope about the designer’s power to be an influence for good), read this one! Fletcher is the fashion philosopher of NOW (of, the notion of “craft of use” is irresistible), but if you have other favorites, let me know in the comments.

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And then I went on a Marie Kondo binge you can read about here

Kondo, Marie. 2010 [2014]. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

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Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.

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Kondo, Marie and Yuko Uramoto. 2017. The Life-changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

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Monbiot, George. 2006 [2007]. Heat: How Can We Stop the Planet Burning.

I read Heat for the first time in 2008, and it was a game-changer for me. I took several small, individual steps to reduce my carbon footprint but didn’t stop flying (bad, bad me…). Not being a home- or business-owner, those were really tiny, but the book cemented my convictions that (1) climate change is happening (I know that in the USA “climate change” is understood to be the doubting term vs. much stronger “global warming”; however, assuming that words have meaning, not only spin, the shit storm that has already started goes beyond warming and is changing the climate in a multitude of ways, for example, when the Gulf stream stops, we won’t see much warming happening)  and we made it happen, obviously; (2) we have enough knowledge since long ago about the causes, so in principle we could have stopped it; (3) but we are shitty animals, our brains cannot deal with gradual and impersonal danger, so deserve to die and leave it to lizard-people to build the next civilization. That third part is not Monbiot’s, he really tries to be optimistic about the whole thing, but re-reading ten years later and knowing that we are even more fucked now, oh, well! Monbiot’s book started my climate change education and nothing has changed my climate pessimism since I read it for the first time.

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What were your sources of wisdom and brain-food in 2017? Do you have any information-consumption goals for 2018? How about less screens and more books?

7 dresses x 3 months: lessons learnt

Intrigued by the idea of dresses-only capsule (or wardrobe in general), in October I set out to give it a try with seven dresses of varying warmth that should have carried me from the still very warm October till December. Now comfortably in my Riga capsule lounge wear and under a blanket, here are the main lessons learnt from this little experiment:

1) I was bored and missed my separates.

2) Most of them (4/7) were sub-optimal and will be sent upstate for a better life.

3) However, I love that each of them came from a person I know, so they have actual names.

Boom! Now what? Well, let me tell you about them, both those who have proved to be my wardrobe champions and those that will be up for grabs in the next swap:

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My loves

Ginta’s blue dress: the dark blue silk dress made and worn ~20 years ago by my mom is the winner. It feels amazing on skin, is just the right size, and I feel artsy and fierce when wearing it. I started wearing it only this summer and it already has 33 wears. And, being the perfect summer dress to look put together even in Barcelona heat, will get many more.

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Ginta’s plaid dress: The plaid Wizard of Oz reminding “we’re not in Kansas anymore” is a fast-fashion hand-me-down from my mom I adopted in 2016 and have worn 43 times. It’s a great summer semi-formal (again, very few items manage not to kill you and still look smart in Barcelona summer) and can be worn year-round, has pockets and whirls. This is one of those paradoxical dresses that looks like an effort while feels like pajamas. A gem!

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Inga’s PhD dress: The plastic fake wrap dress was a random hand-me-down from my aunt in 2014. She had got in a second-hand raffle of sorts, it looked meh on her and great on me, so I got it with a suggestion to defend my thesis in this one. More than 40 wears later, it’s the perfect no-wrinkle cold weather dress that I might actually defend my thesis in.

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My bye-byes

Laura’s polka dot dress: I fell for this one during the September swap. Oh, the color, the dots, the flow! I felt like figure skater while wearing it… But it’s 100% polyester and can feel rather suffocating (I’m still not really getting the whole “let’s make summer dresses from plastic” logic), plus the top kept slipping down my shoulders together with the bra straps. And just when I was really proud of having put in the bra-strap fixers, the rubber giving shape to the waist snapped. The dress is now queuing at the seamstress’ for a fix and then will be looking for a new home. I understand that the slipping top was the main issue why Laura gave it away, so now she can come get it!

I’m incredibly proud for having done this!

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Marina’s bow dress: I adopted this one from Marina’s wardrobe a bit too hastily. I get excited, what can I say! It’s 100% poly and ultra-short. Despite the melting polyester (already two visits to seamstress), this dress is clearly keen on travel. As Marina said: “I bought it on ASOS on sale in April 2011 when I lived in London. She had many outings and came with me on vacations to Italy and Egypt. She made a couple appearances in New York but after hanging in the closet for a year, it earned a new life with you!” Add to that life in Barcelona and a trip to South Africa. So, if you’d like a short semi-formal with lust for travel, this might be just the right dress for you!

Taking the dress out for two vegan ice creams in Cape Town.

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Liisa’s lace dress: Liisa brought this M&S dress to January’s swap and I picked it up, because who could resist dressing like a bridesmaid for work? Not me, clearly. And only in this autumn – after 20 wears – it showed that everyday life is not what this dress was made for. I’ve literally (and accidentally) felted on it a whole layer of pink pills from my pink cardigan, and that’s just not OK. So bye-bye it goes…

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Marina’s blue bodycon: Oh, the tight winter bodycon! We’ve loved each other for 20 wears, but have to admit that you need somebody that either sweats less or lives somewhere colder than Barcelona. Good luck, my little plastic friend!

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What garment lessons have you learnt in the last few months? What are your plans for 2018? Have you ever thought of a uniform or capsule containing only one type of garments?

#KonMari for advanced minimalists


My first konmari tidying spree in 2016 resulted in giving my adolescent bedroom back to my parents.
Well, better late – at the ripe age of 28 – than never.

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I spent November under the spell of Marie Kondo books. I had already read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” last year, but now I binged through all three of them. Apart from enjoying them a lot, I have some reflections and suggestions on how to approach the (now somewhat subdued) “does it spark joy?” fever.

For anybody curious about the whole thing, I’d suggest this order of reading:

1. The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: Being manga, it’s a very short read – you’ll be done with this in a couple of hours and will have either curiosity about the whole “method” or none at all. However, I do see how this less esoteric than “The Life-Changing Magic…” and clearly young-adult-professional-women-looking-for-love targeting book could put some of us off. Kondo comes across as the love fairy that will discipline you into throwing out your sentimental garbage, hence opening space for the handsome neighbor next door.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The classical best seller that has filled Instagram. It’s short and follows the classical self-help book outlay of tracing the protagonist’s steps until they see the light and can now share it with the rest of the mortals. Kondo comes across as a spiritual teacher with a rigid “method” that you should follow without complaint in order to reach clutter free nirvana. While Kondo always repeats that relapse rate for her private clients is 0%, I am willing to bet that the great majority of people who read this one stayed with “oh, sounds interesting but a bit too harsh” and never did anything and the other ones did some purging of the obvious clutter and left it at that.

3. Spark Joy: This one is my favorite and has a very distinct tone from the other two. Kondo repeats the basic tenants of her method but also accepts all kinds of bending of the rules as far as you stick to things and practices that “spark joy”. This book is the real talk of “we are all weird”, going as far as the author revealing that her animistic relationship with objects is probably due to her difficulty of relating to humans. Boom! The stern fairy godmother just became vulnerable and human, although still suggesting ordering our lives along the lines of a slightly modified William Morris‘ maxim of “Have nothing in your houses [i.e. your lives] that you do not know to be [indispensably] useful, or believe to be beautiful [i.e. spark joy].”

Lettering by Kelly Cummings.

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Now, not to be counted among those “nice idea” people, I can proceed to lessons learnt and musings for future:

Having toyed (i.e. binge reading) with minimalism and capsule wardrobes since 2014, I have much less stuff to begin with. These are both good and bad news when thinking about a proper KonMari tidying festival. The good news are that the physical threshold of gathering my stuff in our living room by categories is a relatively easy task. On the other hand, my “joy-meter” is off and I don’t have a heap of little loved clothing to fine tune it. After several years of becoming what Kondo calls “a discarding machine” – and describes it as one of the tidying pathologies one can fall into – I’m able to rationalize throwing away almost anything.

Very few things are *perfect*. True indispensability and great design are very rare. If all my possessions are to be measured against the *ideal*, basically everything goes, and I’m left with the problem of finding the perfect replacements. The alternative explanation would be that my ~55 item wardrobe is already paired down to a reasonable level of joyfulness (and I have no 0 joy items to feel the difference) while I expect a joy-gasm just from opening my wardrobe. That’s one of the problems with an author promising *magic* – a lot of self doubt: if I’m not feeling the magic, is it because I’m doing it wrong or am I living the magic already without realizing it?

Objectively, the quantity of possessions and clutter we have is rather low. There are few black holes of stuff that would benefit from airing out, but overall we are kicking ass in not accumulating useless shit. To enhance the magic, here are some of my future tidying plans extracted from “Spark Joy”:

A) Following Kondo’s and C’s example, I’m ditching the seasonal wardrobe overhauls and the big plastic box for out-of-season clothing. Everything will be visible, foldables will be folded in the drawer below, the plastic box will get another job, and we’ll see how it all will work out:

So going from this

To this

Which in reality means this as we share the hanger space:
an ecosystem with natural limits

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B) I’m using my vacations in Riga to review (again!) my possessions left there, in line with Kondo’s warning to never ever send stuff to our parents’ homes. Thankfully, my parents live far away and their flat is small, so there’s little to no sense to store my things in Riga. My resolution stays the same as in August: only the indispensables that shouldn’t be moved back and forth (parka, rubber boots, winter boots, a dressing gown, and few more).

C) I’ve done a partial joy-check with my books, and oh! that was hard. Having been raised by bibliophiles and having always aspired to have as many as possible, I took a deep breath and did my first division into “stays”, “will see”, and “out” trying to base it on the joy factor only… I’m still not sure how to go about books that can’t possibly bring joy due to their content. Global crises, totalitarian crimes, failing humanitarian aid schemes will never make a joyful read… I already realized it in Riga with my novel collection: it is much easier to sort out fiction this way!

D) I intend to carry out a full tidying festival focusing on joy instead of discarding. Only when I’m done – my plan is to give myself a very generous permission to *keep*, to use this process to reaffirm my love for my things (C could tell you that I’m often very careless with my possessions) via the positive focus of choosing what to keep instead of focusing on throwing away – with my own stuff, I’ll move towards our common komono.

E) For the household clutter and “maybe someday”, Kondo suggests mapping out the storage spaces to identify where to look. I’ve done that on paper already, and even in our tiny flat there are several pockets of mystery and miscellany to be tackled: rarely used cupboards, boxes under the bed, boxes on top of the wardrobe, items we “inherited” from the previous tenant and never started to use or threw out, etc. Again and again, I’m grateful of having a small flat with little storage space, I have no idea how people with n-bedrooms, basement, attic, and a garage do it. Oh, wait, they don’t!

F) To either put full stop on my KonMari fever or to enter the sect forever, I’m planning to do her consultant training this spring. The price is ridiculous, several of my loved ones have doubted my sanity, and I am aware that the most likely outcome of the course will be slight disappointment and a depleted savings account. But I want to do it. It will be my 30th birthday present to myself. Some people jump with parachutes or swim with sharks, why can’t I spoil myself with a Japanese decluttering seminar?

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Have you done any decluttering campaign with your possessions? How did that go? Have you read any of Kondo’s books? Did they spur you into action or did you find her method too extreme?

Stop browsing fast fashion, browse the internet instead

One of the most powerful tricks up fast fashion’s sleeve is the magic of browsing. If you have time to kill, here you have the carefully arranged – often with the help of up and coming artists – flagship stores and the “I’ll only take a look while I’m waiting”… Especially when it’s cold outside and the idea of a *new* big furry hat seems like a very good one!

So, following the steps of John and Yoko, I’m suggesting a bed-in against fast fashion and physical fashion browsing as a pass-time. Curl up under a blanket with your favorite device and browse the internet instead of badly made and fugly (for real, often the stuff these people sell really offend my aesthetic sensibilities) polyester garments. And for finders keepers and future reference, my not at all revolutionary suggestion is using Pinterest. Especially for hoarding visual inspiration it makes so much more sense than bookmarking stuff in your browser or any other link collector I’ve tried.

So these are my fashion-related uses of Pinterest (+ a wide array of other boards for feminist pins, interesting books and cute animals):

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Gathering my own #wiw pictures

An exercise in vanity and a better overview of the unending repetition in my wardrobe. It has been almost a year now of a weekly outfit post, and my fashion consistencies and inclinations are very clear at this point.

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Visual fashion inspiration for cold and warm weather

Not aspiring to replicate or “buy the outfit”, but when a photo calls my attention as fashion inspiration, to one of the following boards it goes, depending on the approximate (Mediterranean) season it would be appropriate for:

or

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A reality-check exercise of what you feel like wearing

I did this one last December picking out from my cold weather inspo board the looks that I would happily wear, taking account the current aesthetic cravings, weather and lifestyle. Comparing this with what I’ve been wearing both last and this cold seasons, you can see that my leaning towards knee-length patterned dresses or top + flared skirt combos, opaque tights and fun sneakers for winter hasn’t changed:

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Reasonable and ethical show board, because hobbit feet

Something in my heart that has been dealing with footwear struggles for many years has pushed me towards a small but robust shoe board. It is a merged have- and wish-list, and, as always with these exercises, my preferences are clear:

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A fashion-related link-depository

I bookmark in my browser only the links I have to deal with: upcoming Sunday brain-food, Wiki pages I want to read, etc. Reviewed links I want to keep go into a Pinterest board. The two fashion related I have are for news and for taking note of ethical brands. For brands I pin an item or two that both reflect the offer of the brand and that I find most appealing, so that a quick look through the board could tell me where to go for sports bras and where for wax print dresses.

and

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The caveats to all this are that:
(a) Pinterest is clearly for puritan aesthetics, so uploading naughty pictures may make you lose all you boards (repinning is safe, so do that) and the criteria are not really clear. If you want naked people and stuff, get a Tumblr, we all know that, right?
(b) once you are done with your reality-checked desires, real-life browsing might be needed, especially if you are looking for second-hand options (always better than virgin fibres!). So when you have a clear vision and an approximate (un)shopping list, get out of the bed and go visit your community swaps (or organize one) or second-hand dealers!

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Do you browse fashion stores out of boredom? How do you collect your fashion inspiration? And how do you organize your links?

The Pink Post: Instrumental and subversive uses of the traditionally feminine

Yes, pink, florals, and pearls look good on me!

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I hadn’t though much about the significance that might me ascribed to the aesthetics of my style until I came across (via the amazing illustrator Ezra W. Smith!) this post (in Russian!) that apparently shook Russian internets to their core.

Long story short: the article is called “My armour: How I learnt to love pink (and myself with it)” and filed under “Experiment” label. There journalist and pundit Dasha Evans-Radova describes how she realized that pink was a color she had been (unconsciously) ignoring in her life due to the derogatory significance assigned to it (infantile, too sweet, too feminine, stupid), and set up to analyze this lack and integrate pink in her life. The results can be seen here, and I got thinking…

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Trying to be true to third wave feminist notion of individualism and cross-sectionality that could be sloganized as “you do you”, I haven’t wrote much about my aesthetic preferences. The focus of this blog is ethics of fashion and not looks – while my #wiw posts do show a set of clear preferences in case you are interested – and so it will stay. However, #grownuppinkroutine in combination with Kate Fletcher book I’m reading made me wonder about the signals my wardrobe is sending to passers-by (and my acquaintances and co-workers who have unfollowed me on social media since I started this blog). One of many points that Fletcher makes is how sustainable fashion, having been traumatized by unbleached and shapeless eco-chic of the 90s, now often looks exactly the same as conventional one, hence being invisible as social phenomenon. And this is even more so with second-hand and hand-me-down items. If you are saving fast fashion from the landfill by wearing it, nobody will know that you are not earnestly embracing it. And your conscious investment pieces might look exactly like the newest HnM collection. Yes, shit happens!

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With aesthetics it is easier to signal that your choices are ironic and intended to be transgressions. Mixing and misplacing – think of the now classical combination of floral dresses and work boots (that’s a fashion advice that Caitilin Moran gives in her How to Be a Woman as looking nice on everybody) or how people dress up funny for marathons – is an easy way to signal lightheartedness about the attire. Yet, if you are all in on classical “flattering” cuts, New Look, Mad Men wardrobes, minis, maxis, florals, bodycons, and pearls… Ooops! You might be part of a play you never rehearsed for.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the hue, cut, or pattern as such. Fashion is a symbols’ game and too much get hoisted upon innocent colors and textiles… but as the basic maxim of sociology would have “if [people] define situations as real, they are real in their consequence“. And, as far as these common notions are internalized, shapes and cuts affect behavior and body language. You are not supposed to feel and act the same way in boyfriend jeans and in a non-elastic super-mini. In this way fashion is a form of social ingeneering that we have consented to (not always, of course, and there have been fashion liberation movements such as Rational dress movement when harem pants were revolutionary).

Donna Mae Mims in action, via classicdriver.com.

The practice that is the most interesting to me – and the one I’ve been semi-consciously practicing more and more – is that of traditionally feminine as camouflage. A good example of this (that I learnt about via Dasha’s original post) is Donna Mae Mims, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship. While known as the Pink Lady for her pink cars, helmets, overalls, and described in press as “a delightful blonde with an intriguing smile, well-shaped figure and a laughing sense of humor […] and much like most other members of her sex, she delights in leading men a merry chase”, there’s another side of the story. Mims has described her racing as follows:

“I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don’t talk to anybody. You cannot think nice. Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You’re out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place. […] A lot of the male drivers think I’m out there to prove that I can beat them because they’re men. That isn’t so. They claim that I sometimes charge into the corners, cutting them off. I don’t mean to. I’m just trying to win.”

Boom! You see it, right? Embracing her love for pink and knowing that the feminine appearance will help her navigate the ultra-macho world of racing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but makes sense to me: if you know that your words or actions go against the grain of patriarchy, it might be useful to ease into it via instrumental use of traditional femininity. That’s working behind enemy lines: everybody let their guard down and then you kill them! Yes, it is unfair for those who have never been interested in pretty dresses and might be attracted to aesthetics with negative social dividends. And I have no honest advice for that, apart from suggesting to bring down capitalism and patriarchy.

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I don’t really care about pink, it’s here, it’s queer, and I like it. The only colors I treat with suspicion are neon (because of class prejudice) and crisp whites (for practical reasons and class prejudice). Beige and grays are not my favorites either, but somehow they always find their way into my wardrobe. Here are some of the other pinks happening in my life:



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What are your relationships with the traditionally feminine and pink? Do you feel the social pressures attached to colors and cuts, or are you oblivious to them? And how do you deal with them?

Curating the 100% comfort wardrobe

While our ideas about what is comfortable couldn’t be different, I agree with Caroline from Un-fancy that dresses are a shortcut to comfort and happiness.

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My wardrobe might not seem to fit the Pinterest understanding of comfort. I have very few oatmeal knits and boyfriend denim going on, zero to be exact. In the world where most of my peers pull on a pair of skinnies and a funny t-shirt/nice blouse, a wardrobe consisting of dresses and loud patterns might seem complicated. However, I insist that the wardrobe editing and curating that I’ve been practicing for last three years (1, 2) is towards 100% comfort: comfort about the ethics of my garments, physical comfort, and the aesthetic comfort in recognizing myself in my wardrobe.

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There is some heterogeneity, I know, but sustainable fashion brands normally do try to cover bigger share of the market by prioritizing neutrals and timeless shapes. Depending on your fashion strategy, for bold shapes and patterns you may have to look very hard, look into bespoke designs and secondhand market. No matter what your aesthetic preferences are – you have read any of my “be reasonable and take care of your feet” sermons, you’ll know that my brand of feminist fashion blogging is the now infamous you-do-you, especially when it comes to purely aesthetic choices (I do get more demanding about ethics, care, etc.) – you need criteria to decide which garments enter your wardrobe. Both buying new sustainable fashion and using hand-me-down chains have possible pitfalls. With new and expensive (because ethical and sustainable fashion is more expensive, and it has to be) you are afraid of wasting your money and a likely victim of sunk costs bias. Secondhand and hand-me-downs have the opposite problem of no entry barrier; why would you not take something that is free or almost free? I’ve been on a main clothing buying ban since 2015, and I sometimes wonder what my wardrobe would look like if my choices would be made among more varied offers of retailers instead of wardrobes of my family and friends. For example, I consider red to be my favorite color but my wardrobe is currently dominated by blues and grays! Go figure.

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My swap acquisitions are not random, of course, but they are restricted to a complex chain of path dependencies and accidents. To get there a garment has to be chosen to be discarded via swap by the owner, brought in (this part might get complicated due to other plans or hangovers), then I have to notice it before somebody else has taken it, like it, and it has to fit… And, no, there’s no other size, color, or one without that stain. Complicated alright!
However, I was surprised to read this Good On You piece claiming that the author was confused and unable to curate her style because of the hand-me-downs. Dude, that’s just weird! You don’t have to take all the garments that come your way! They are not puppies! Unless you have suffered a serious loss of stuff lately, you probably already have more than you need. It makes zero sense to move stuff that won’t be worn from one overstuffed wardrobe to another. That has nothing to do with poor hand-me-down sources, that’s just being hooked on getting new-to-you clothes!

All my swap acquisitions so far: nothing in October 2016, Liisa’s lace dress and velvet skirt in January 2017, Julie’s cardigan and an anonymous striped mini in May 2017, and Laura’s polka dot dress and a floral shirt of unknown previous ownership in September 2017.

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Not to sound creepy, but I pay attention to what people around me wear, I keep mental tabs on my partner’s wardrobe, and one of my biggest pleasures in life is when my mother is up for tidying her wardrobe with me… After almost two years of tracking what I wear, I can claim an advantage over those that don’t: with all that data, I have no way of maintaining illusions around garments. I know with great certainty which pieces are really *mine*, which ones are here as placeholders until something better comes around, and which ones are on trial.

Each garment that offers itself for my wardrobe falls into one of these three categories:
(a) I know it’s not mine, I’m completely unmoved. Examples include: neon colors, leather textures, white underwear, trousers… Meh!
(b) I’m not sure, I’m attracted but have some reservations.
(c) Things jump at me and it’s love at first sight.

Unfortunately, C happens rarely. Most incomers in my wardrobe are Bs, and I do what most reasonable employers do: I give them a trial period! And this is where my spreadsheet love proves fruitful in making sure that those garments don’t just stay at the back of the wardrobe. I include the newcomers in the next weather-appropriate season and challenge myself to wear them at least 10 times during that season. Nope, not once or twice, but 10 times! We, humans, are masters of self-deception, and first few wears can still be liable to lies. At least 10 wears will show the fit – physical and aesthetic – for different weather, activities, moods… if it shows sweat, if you can sit down, raise your arms, walk, tie your shoelaces, etc. Very soon it is clear which pieces fit your needs and which ones are just not that into you. And you shouldn’t keep things that aren’t yours!

Let it go! Overcome both fallacies that might be holding you back: (1) no, you won’t suddenly start to wear it someday, and (2) no, it’s not your duty to keep them out of the landfill by turning your wardrobe into one. Yes, it’s a contradiction with my “use up what you have” commandment, but that rule is about full-time members of your wardrobe and is meant to prevent you from willy-nilly acquiring functional duplicates. The ones that are on trial are only partly in. You are trying out the relationship, and, if it is not working, the garment has to go. Yes, even if you paid for it! Sorry, have an ice-cream, assume the sunken costs, and try to make somebody else happy with that piece. Don’t keep it for one day, when… That day never comes! If you have done any wardrobe editing, you’ll know that you very rarely think of those discarded garments ever again.

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I’ll admit that consciously trialing garments is not always comfortable. Sometimes it becomes clear very early on and only stubbornness will keep me wearing the thing I now know I don’t want to own, sometimes – even worse – doubting goes on until the last moment. The thing is that you are already curating for comfort when you reach for the same pieces again and again. That’s fine, but what are those other pieces doing in your wardrobe then? I prefer to face the torment head on, give garments their chance, and act accordingly after that period.With such discipline in mind I encourage people to take B category garments home from swaps and give them a try: “bring it back if it doesn’t work for you!” I think that all garments deserve a chance to return to the rotation and to keep looking for the right wardrobe to fit in.

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Despite the fact that textile recyclers are overwhelmed by the quantity of discarded garments, a conscious wardrobe starts with a purge. My experience shows that the real editing for 100% comfort starts when you are down to around 50 main garments. It’s an exercise in honesty with yourself and a little field research. Is there a type of garment you keep acquiring but not wearing (fancy shoes? formalwear “for work”? funny t-shirts?)? Are there colors or patterns that attract you as artifacts but end up sad and lonely at the bottom of your wardrobe?

My recent material insight – under Julie’s educational influence – is that I find it hard to resist synthetics because my first criteria when looking at garments are color and pattern. I momentarily forget that I move more than most people and sweat more than most people, so an additional plastic wrapper is clearly not needed. I don’t mind the prolonged moisture of natural fabrics, but I want it breathable! So in January several plastic-oh-fantastic garments will go out and I’m making a pledge to do better work at avoiding them in the future. Not all synthetics will go bye-bye, because there are some that I love unconditionally, but so far I’ve marked five pieces as “outgoing” because of their fiber composition.

All four of these are among my synthetic favorites!

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From the seven dresses of my current capsule, two are going out for sure. They both have material *and* fit issues. I could deal with either, but both in one dress is too much. Laura’s blue dress is 100% polyester with a very nice flow but still plasticky against skin. The top keeps falling off the shoulders (I have been wearing it by pinning the dress to the bra), and the waist keeps climbing up. I’ll put in bra strap fixers before bringing it back to the swap (this is the first item I’ll be returning), that will fix the shoulder fit … I was attracted by the hue, the polka dots, the movement, but after 8 wears so far I know that we are not meant to be.

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The grey bow dress, a hand-me-down from Marina, goes out because of its shortness. After 7 wears, I know I just cannot live like this… Style icons like Twiggy, Jane Birkin or Pattie Boyd would not understand what’s wrong with me as this is not a super-mini, but the fact that I cannot roam around freely – or tie my shoelaces without losing dignity – bare legged is a deal breaker. Yes, there are tight and legging seasons, but that’s just not optimal. Also, it has no stretch (100% poly), so while it’s pretty much precisely my size, shoulder movements feel restricted. I’ve already had the armpit holes fixed, so it’s ready to go to somebody looking for a rather formal dress for no-movement events. Being below my 167cm might be an advantage shortness-wise.

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So this how I curate for comfort: trial period of rigorous evaluation and till death do as part unconditional love afterwards. What are your mental hacks around availability of second hand and hand-me-down items? When do you say yes, and when no thanks?

Autumn capsule = 3 months and 7 dresses

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The time of wardrobe overhaul is here. OK, technically it was here on first of October… so I’ve been wearing my autumn capsule for 10 days now. The fun thing to know is that – to shake things up a bit –  this capsule consists of seven dresses + a shirt-leggings set for lazy occasions. There are layers, footwear, adornments in the capsule (29 pieces in total), but the fundamentals of my looks for next three months will be these seven beauties:

Ordered along the warm weather – cold weather gradient.

Origin-wise all of them are hand-me-downs, from top to bottom: from my Mom, from my Mom, from Laura during the last Swap, from Marina, from my aunt Inga, from Liisa, from Marina.

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This additional set allowing for lazy errands, flights, and other pajama-comfy occasions: hand-me-down shirt from my Mom and ZIB leggings.

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If you have seen my #ootd entries, you’ll know that dresses – together with skirt combos – is the basis of my wardrobe anyways. So this little experiment is a mild one for me, not a time-consuming Uniform Project (my only dress I could do a 365-day project with is – not surprisingly – also a LBD, this one; currently part of my Riga mini-capsule exactly because of its year-round versatility).

For me dresses is the sneaky way of just wearing one thing (limiting the decision fatigue!) and still being perceived as on the dressy (puns!) side of life, as Caroline from Un-Fancy said this summer:

“WANT TO STAY COMFORTABLE + LOOK CUTE? REACH FOR A DRESS | Ah, dresses. No pinching waistbands. No need to coordinate a top and bottom. You can just throw it on and be done. Bonus: When you wear a dress, people think you tried — when in fact, you probably didn’t. :)”

As I reach for the dresses half of the time anyway, I decided to see how well I can transition from summer to winter with dresses only. 10 days in, the only problem is the high temperatures (still above 20ºC and we are almost in mid-october), so I’m still in my Birks and the first three dresses of the list with zero layering. In last few weeks I have insisted – as so many people here in Barcelona do – on cajoling the autumn by wearing garments according to the calendar and not the thermometer, but that ended in sweating, chub rub, and frustration, so sleeveless in October it is.

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What are your plans for the autumn capsule? Have you already transitioned towards layers and warm garments? Any dresses included?

Summer 2017 capsule ins and outs

The only true incoming of this summer have been the Birks. And they were accompanied by a swimming pool version of the same model. Despite not being the best long distance walking shoe – hey, nobody promised that! – they are very comfy and, although they are showing some of the characteristic Birkenstock wear already (47 wears), will certainly be a next summer’s staple too.

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These four garments came in from storage during the season:

The off-white blouse (hand-me-down from my mom) I mostly use under the other transparent blouse came out of storage to boost the number of available tops. This one is so light and breezy it works even in Barcelona summer. 11 wears.

The blue family blouse – read about it here, here and here – traveled from Riga so I could make my final decision. I did my best to wear it – 10 times – and remind myself that practical is better than sentimental. It is sad to part with such an old and *experienced* garment, but I still hope it will find the right body to sit on for next 30+ years.

I had overlooked the occasional need to cover my legs when planning for the summer capsule. Well, heat was my focus! Nothing beats a pair of leggings for travel, so the black ZIB leggings (2016) came in and saved the day. Several times. 13 wears.

The Nike yoga top (bought new in 2013) was repaired – shortened shoulder straps; they had stretched out and were doing a poor job at keeping my breasts inside the top – and I brought it back from Riga to make sure it was perfect now. 10 wears – to gym, not work – and I know that it’s a bit too tight now… Ugh.

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A serious number – 10 garments – are going out after the season ends or have been bye-bye for a while. Six of them I already discussed here, but there are more:

The fish necklace: a gift from C’s mom in 2016, 48 total wears. My only reason to give it away is that it is superfluous… We’ll see. If nobody wants it this Saturday, I might bring it back home.

The H&M romper: bought new in 2010, 13 wears this summer, 27 wears since January 2016. We always got along OK, but not splendidly… And all the immediately visible underboob sweat, yuck!

Crocs sandals: bought new in 2014, broke beyond repair after 3 wears in June, 70 counted wears in total. So those have been in the landfill for a few months now…

The Nike top. Let’s see if anybody else is better fit for this one!

The floral jersey dress: a hand-me-down from my mom, 13 wears this summer, 34 counted wears since January 2016. Bye-bye worn-out jersey!

Pleated Zara skirt: a hand-me-down from my mom from last summer. They were short people maxi, got shortened and even then didn’t work for me. 4 wears in total. Went along the family networks of sharing garments. Hope it’s in better hands now!

Amoralle (yeah, those people went from making affordable leggings to whatever atemporal fantasy it is they are doing now) t-shirt: made in Latvia, bought new in 2012, 7 wears since January 2016. As with several other items on this list, it was altered to fit better, but even then… No, thanks! As the gray skirt, went along family networks looking for a new body to adorn.

Yellow floral dress: hand-me-down from Kristīne, mine since 2015, 22 wears since January 2016. Not good enough! The neckline – although altered – is still weird for me.

The blue family blouse: I have a feeling that much of my summer capsule has been orbiting around this one little blouse. Yes, it’s a heirloom. One of the last ones still alive since I started raiding family wardrobes almost two decades ago. But it is not working for me! If I have to make myself wear things – the spreadsheet has a lot of power over me – it’s better to send them away.

The striped H&M top, the same as the pleated skirt, came in Riga capsule after the last time we tidied my mom’s wardrobe. But turned out to be not for me after all. Bye-bye!

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What pieces proved themselves superfluous, not needed or not wanted in your summer capsule? Was there anything you included afterwards? If so, was it need (weather, special occasions) or desire-driven?

Summer 2017 capsule heroes and lessons learned

My four-month summer capsule (it’s the weather, not me, making the rules) has less than three weeks left. Not all of its 35 items have reached the magical at-least-10-wears-per-season but they will get there. This is becoming an curiously anti-climatic numbers’ game. Of course I can make 35 x 10 = 350 wears happen in 126 days taking into account that an average summer outfit consists of two to four garments and there are many days when I wear more than one.

The only chaos-inducing event was the revision of my Riga capsule. Some items went out after just one or two trial wears while some changed homes and moved to either Riga or Barcelona. But by now everything that got added to the excel is getting its 10 wears. Oh, and the little blue heirloom blouse is up for grabs! May its journey be long and wonderful.

The list of my seasonal heroes (those that have had at least 15 wears, so far the range is [17; 45]) – as usual (see last winter and spring lessons) – reflects the weather, ease of wear, and the inherent magic of numbers: the fewer items there are in a category, the more wears each of them will get. So it is not a surprise that the only two layers that I’ve been using throughout these four months have been worn a lot:

The gray cardigan (hand-me-down from my mom, 39 wears) has been living at work and protecting me against the air conditioning.

The revived Street One military jacket (bought new ~2006), after a long sleep in a glass coffin in Riga, so far has seen mostly planes and travel, not so much everyday life in Barcelona.

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Also both of my shorts have been worn more than enough. This is a source of additional joy, as it indicates a very healthy turn in my relationships with my body. Due to some very stupid ideas about “fat wobbly thighs” I wouldn’t wear any between the ages ~9 and ~24. I’m glad that’s over because shorts definitely are the easy summer garment, especially when as comfy as the floral rayon shorts (hand-me-down from my mom, 22 out-of-home wears). I’ve been wearing them as outerwear, lounge wear, and underwear. Comfy and versatile is how I love my garments!

As you can see, I’m starting to appreciate the appeal of (off)white blouses… So another throw-it-on-and-go comfort garment throughout this summer has been the little white zipper blouse. Light, breezy, and dries very quickly after having been hand-washed in the sink (again!) after somebody threw a saucy potato on it (again!). A hand-me-down from my mom, 17 wears. (Yes, “my mom’s wardrobe” is my favorite second-hand (un)shop.)

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The last category of all heroes is footwear. My four seasonal pairs all have been worn more than 30 times in these four months, and I’m perfectly happy with the range: Veja Taua (2016, 45 wears this summer), Birkenstock Gizeh (2017, 38), Veja Arcade (2017, 32), and Arcopedico wedges (2017, 32). You can see that the price I pay for having a real footwear capsule – currently five pairs I’d step outside home or swimming pool in – is having to replace stuff quite often! I just wear the soles off them…

Preparation for Kristīne’s wedding lead to a discovery how Arcopedico shoes can be fixed for my feet with a couple of silicone heel liners, so now they are full members of the versatile shoe team. Before that I could only wear them for short bursts at work. Changing footwear at work is something I just have to do, it’s a hygiene thing and a mental switch. Eastern/Northern European heritage ftw! Latvians are obsessed with indoors-outdoors shoe switches, my favorite part is seeing women in theater or opera getting out of their winter boots and changing into party shoes.

Birks is this season’s incoming and I love them. However, I’m surprised how not made-for-walking the famously comfy shoe is! So nothing has replaced Vejas for biking (I like to pedal without worrying about losing my shoes) and casual 3+ km walks downtown. I get serious feet blisters if I do that in Birks.

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Through these four months I’ve also collected an assorted list of summer fashion lessons, some of them new for me, some reminders of half-known truths, but here they are:

  • There is a (fashion) solidarity and significantly lowered thresholds of “yuck” in weather extremes. When it’s crazy hot you are sweaty and disgusting but so is everybody else using this metro.
  • After years of suffering chub-rub, here are ways how I prevent it: (a) by walking less; using the bike instead has been my alternative of choice as public transportation induces even more anxiety during a heat wave; (b) by applying some magical dust generously; my dust of choice being Lush “Silky Underwear” mixed 1:1 with cornstarch; (c) by choosing your garments wisely; instead of cooking my body parts in biker shorts I prefer my extra flowy silk maxi skirt. They move between my thighs as I walk and have saved my from “I can’t walk any further” moments this summer. And, yes, I have had such moments in my life!
  • Necklaces choke me. The do not come to me naturally in winter and even less so in summer. If I’d be perfectly honest, I’d have got rid of them long time ago. But I love the idea of necklaces, I love how they look, but often I take mine off before the day is over… so the struggle is stupid and real.
  • Due to a miscommunication with the amazing ladies that normally take care of my unwanted body hair, I ended up going to the biggest European sociology event with all the possible hair on me. August in Athens, so no opaque tight tricks! And it went perfectly well. I decided not to care and the whole non-experience just confirmed that nobody notices or cares.
  • Trying to dress weather appropriately in July and August lead to a clash with my mental hang-ups about work-appropriate clothing. These are totally self-imposed as I do not teach or deal with people in general. I share the office with several colleagues but it has been clear since the very beginning that there is no dress code. So it’s just about cockroaches in my head. Big fat cockroaches whispering that kaftan or short-shorts are not a good idea even when the premises are empty and, obviously, nobody cares!

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What have you learned this summer? What will you do differently with your 2018 summer capsule?

September swap + my outgoing pieces

We shall swap again! And to encourage wardrobe editing before the event, here’s how I think about what stays and what goes. I have to admit that it gets harder to discard things as they become fewer – these items have survived many editing fastivals, so there is some function or value ascribed that has saved them before. Yet despite the reduced number, there are still garments in my wardrobe that do not live up to the standard of “would this be a part of my optimal wardrobe?”

I try to let go of fears about needing them or pondering about the likelihood of anybody wanting them. I have one historical reassurance for this and one additional mental trick. The reassurance is the story of my red denim jacket and the mental trick is possible due to the relaxed concept of our swaps. I’m still kind of on the fence about several of the items described below (guess which ones!), so I’ve made a deal with myself: if nobody will want them, they are coming back home. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one calming my separation anxiety with this kind of tricks and me being there from the start till the finish of the event increases the chances of these garments finding a new body to adorn.

So these are the ones looking for a new home on September 30 (in order of acquisition):

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#1: The blue peasant blouse

Came from: It’s family vintage that my mother and her sister wore in early 1980s. Came into my wardrobe sometime in early 2000s. However, I’ve worn it very little.

Made in: Latvia by a former colleague of my grandma.

# of wears since January 2016: 9.

Overall # of wears: Many but stretched over a period of more than 30 years.

Why? The fluffy sleeves are a bit too much. But mostly because this garments shows all the sweat (and I sweat a lot).

Whom for: Somebody who enjoys the peasant blouse trend and is willing to stick to this style when the trend is gone (or wait until it’s back in 2032 or so). Also for somebody who sweats less than I do.

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#2: The HM romper

Came from: This is one of the last fast fashion items I willingly bought in 2012 when still browsing shops for recreational purposes.

Made in: I was still in the tag-cutting phase, so that information is lost. An educated guess would be Bangladesh or Cambodia.

# of wears since January 2016: 24.

Overall # of wears: A bit more than that, but it clearly didn’t become a beloved staple.

Why? Also this garments shows all the sweat, especially under the breasts if you are not wearing a bra.

Whom for: Somebody wishing to discreetly channel Esther Williams, at least that’s how I feel when wearing it (like this!). Again, for somebody who sweats less than I do.

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#3: The Nike workout shirt

Came from: Bought new in 2013 for yoga because it has an incorporated bra part. This shirt has seen so much yoga, it should have a yoga instructor certificate by now.

Made in: Cambodia.

Overall # of wears: A lot. Not counted as this was never part of the proper capsule.

Why? The neck straps had worn out and I got them shortened, now I’m not sure about the new fit.

Whom for: Anybody looking for activewear and having a more delicate back-neck than I do. Maybe it just needs some more wear to stretch just the right amount for me…

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#4: The floral dress

Came from: My mom used to wear this around the house in summer, I snatched it from her for the same purpose in 2014 and never gave back.

Made in: Some fast fashion hell, most probably.

# of wears since January 2016: 29.

Overall # of wears: Much more than that, as wearing it as loungewear was never counted. And my mom wore it beforehand.

Why? Feels worn out.

Whom for: Anybody looking for a very relaxed and easy to throw on beach/leasure wear. I wear it as a strapless dress and without a bra, because the two rubber bands give it enough structure. However, I’d look into replacing the rubber and taking the straps completely off to give it a reboot.

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#5: Kristine’s yellow dress.

Came from: A hand-me-down from Kristine. Mine since 2015.

Made in: ?.

# of wears since January 2016: 20.

Overall # of wears: A bit more, but it’s clear that I’m not giving it all the love it deserves.

Why? The material and print are very nice (the print remind me of home textiles for summer houses, that’s the reason I adopted this dress), but I have an issue with the neckline. It’s weird on me, I’m not sure if it’s because of shoulders/back or breast size.

Whom for: Again, a relaxed beach/leasure number for hot weather. There has to be a body type to enjoy this little number!

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#6: The fish necklace.

Came from: A gift from my mother-in-law. 2016.

Made in: China, maybe?

# of wears since January 2016: 48.

Why? I have a complicated relationship with necklaces (for me headbands are easier to wear). I have made myself wear them since I started doing the tracked capsule, but… among the four necklaces that I have, this one is the weakest link.

Whom for: Anybody looking for a low-hanging whimsical but delicate accent piece.

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And for a moment of wishful thinking… What would I happily pick up at the next swap? These are very specific, but – hey! – a girl can dream. In all affairs of pre-loved clothing I pursue a bimodal strategy: I have a clear vision of what I’m looking for and open eyes for an unexpected treasure. Thankfully my idea of “treasure” has evolved and I’ve become much harder to seduce than some 15 years ago. There are still things that I’d gladly incorporate in my wardrobe, though:

A) A top that could serve as a modesty garment under the purple jersey winter dress of Riga capsule. I use the little lace blouse for such purposes in Barcelona, but having another one as versatile in Riga would be nicer than carrying this one back and forth.

B) A pair of comfy gym shorts for the Riga capsule. Again, a have my comfy shorts in Barcelona but an additional pair in Riga would be less hassle.

C) A pair of winter gloves. May random second-hand gin-promoting gloves are too short and too big to be optimal, and the long pair I got second-hand in New York didn’t survive even one winter.

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What’s on your outgoing and incoming lists? What strategies do you pursue when (un)shopping?

Capsule wardrobes trans-seasonally and beyond seasonality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to see the spreadsheet.

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

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

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

The Future of Riga capsule

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

The three dresses: formal, winter, and summer.

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

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


Certain heirlooms also get to stay.

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

How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 first half money talk

My priciest fashion investments of last 6 months: Veja Arcade sneakers, Muroexe Materia boots and 3 pairs of Bonne Maison knee-socks.

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Ethical fashion is expensive. Boom! OK, let’s calibrate that a little bit: newly bought ethical fashion tends to be more expensive than the ridiculously underpriced fast fashion + there are distortions at both ends of the spectrum. On the low side, depending on geography, local artisans might be able to make things for you even cheaper, as you won’t pay the overheads of running a big international conglomerate. On the high end, while couture fashion is mostly Europe-centered and artisan-made stuff (you know that if you follow Emma Watson’s phenomenal success at bringing awareness to ethical fashion via red carpet) that occupies a very slight fraction of the market, the following steps down the fashion ladder (high- and very-high-end prêt-à-porter) tend to care more about brand names and “trends” (whatever that is) than supply chains and labor conditions.

Ethical fashion at the moment is a marginal market where brand-names matter less, yet certainly has its own stars and starlets. And prices. In a world where a beautiful LBD easily costs over 200$ and a discounted winter coat goes over 300$, a suggestion that everybody should pledge to ethical fashion seems very elitist. Ethical fashion activists can run their moth dry about the distorted garment market, investment pieces, buying better and cost-per-wear (me on that, Hannah Theisen from Life + Style + Justice on that), but that doesn’t change the value of a euro.

Apart from just enumerating my wardrobe strategies, I’ve decided to disclose numbers. I have spreadsheets, you know. We are 6 full months into 2017, so I have these data and all the 2016 spending on clothing myself to compare and analyze. Ta-dah! All prices are in euros, the inflation hasn’t been serious, so the values are comparable:

First of all: A lot of money thrown at garments! 2017 is being expensive. I console myself with the clear usefulness of the items and the 2015 data. I don’t have a precise list of what exactly I bought in 2015, but I have the totals: 337.03€ in January-June and 268.13€ in July-December. Apparently, I’ve been in a similar spending situation before…

I won’t do an exhaustive run through all the purchases but here are my thoughts on the overall pattern and several caveats on how my wardrobe is very privileged:

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Observation 1: I comply with my ideal consumption pattern. Going with my ladder of preference, I’m actively using up and obtaining pre-loved items for free. This implies that the purchases – when made – are well researched, ethical (there are still some material and supply chain issues there, I know!) and rather pricey.

Observation 2: Things wear out. I did a great job in spacing my purchases and spending money on apparel every second month in 2016, but that just hasn’t been possible in 2017 (nor in 2015). My explanation is the life cycles of garments: I shred my sneakers mercilessly, tights break and underwear wears out. I’ll be able to confirm this hypothesis by the end of 2018.

Observation 3: I don’t buy second-hand, it usually comes for free. I have two major sources: my mom and swaps. That’s why I’ve made only two second-hand purchases in last 18 months!

Observation 4: I need better underwear (bras! have you ever seen an ethical sturdy underwire bra instead of all those whimsical bralettes?) and, especially, hosiery sources. I’m fine with their “made in” tags, but materials and supply chains are rather dubious. Will look into it!

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Caveat 1: My repair costs are externalized. There should be around 100€ per year in repair costs that so far my mom has been covering. Our seamstress is in Riga, we usually go together, the whole money relationship is a bit weird when I’m in Riga. I’m thinking about this… + there is the occasional gift from her!

Caveat 2: My hand-me-downs are exceptional! They come from my mom and swaps, and they come in heaps! I have been very picky lately, overcoming the scarcity mindset and planning what to look for… I buy all the auxiliaries – underwear, hosiery, footwear, weather gear – but the last serious one seems to have been the ¡No pasarán! tshirt from Red Federica Montseny crowdfunding… in 2015.

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What will July-December bring? Hopefully, less expenses in this segment of my spending. But also SiiL knickers and – finally! – a pair of vegan Birkenstocks if the gods of stocks/sizes will stand by me (after 3 years of intensive wear, the Crocs sandals broke down beyond repair). I’ll tell you in December.