A Capsule for Next Year?

A lot of capsule wardrobes feel very extreme or very small. Going from a standard America closet to 33 items for a season is very drastic. I thought maybe going somewhere in the middle might be a better compromise. What about 150 items?

I did a thorough count and realized that was almost every item including coats that I owned. It’s strange to realize that I own less than 200 items of clothing excluding workout gear, PJs/lounge wear, and occasion wear. I saw this on Pinterest and thought it might be an interesting idea. Then I read through the actual list.

There is no circumstance where I need 15 pairs of shoes for regular use. 80% of my shoe usage rotates between 4 pairs of shoes: casual sandals, arch supporting sandals, sneakers, and black slip-ons. The last ones are like a flat Mary Jane. My other shoes are my dressy wedges, snow boots, Uggs, skele-toe shoes, and cowboy boots. I have a back up pair of wedges that haven’t been put to use yet because finding dressy shoes in my size is that difficult. Drag queens have an easier time than I do.

If I started counting all my costume only pieces, I might have a problem but I could stand to cut down on some of them. I think I want to start off 2018 by doing another closet purge. Dump everything on my bed and go through it all.

I’ve got some stuff set aside that doesn’t fit at my current size stored away. If my lifestyle changes as I’m hoping, I may fit into those again and don’t want to start from scratch on clothing in that size. I could definitely stand to downsize more so I’ll brainstorm a bit and see what I come up with.

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The Privilege of Minimalism

I’ve been watching a lot of minimalist videos on YouTube since I’ve been especially broke lately. I came across an article by Chelsea Fagan of The Financial Diet. She has some serious vitriol for minimalism.

Her critique of the ‘no-makeup makeup’ reminded me of The Anna Edit, who freely admits to liking that look. Anna has professional photographers take a lot of her insta photos, rocks purses that cost hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars, and uses makeup that would kill a week’s worth of my pay. While she makes some fun videos, that life is not attainable.

Anna probably had money to start with and, through hard work and luck, created a life on YouTube and Insta that makes some people hate themselves. So much on social media screams, to quote Fagan, “Look at me! Look at all of the things I have refused to buy, and the incredibly-expensive, sparse items I have deemed worthy instead!”

Part of the minimalist mystique is that it’s voluntary. I think this is why the KonMari method blew up the way it did. You can look at your stuff, decide what brings you ‘joy’ and get rid of excess. Some people can’t get rid of a beat up old coat that doesn’t spark joy because they don’t have a replacement.

“The only people who can “practice” minimalism in any meaningful way are people upon whom it isn’t forced by financial or logistical circumstances”
I missed half a paycheck to take a vacation and it definitely screwed up my finances. I’m forced to not spend extraneously because I have bills to pay. However, I like that I’m being forced to change my ways. I don’t like being this broke but I’m hoping to learn something from this crappy situation.

I don’t live in poverty but it can warp your thinking in ways people who’ve never struggled with it don’t understand. According to John Cheese, you develop tastes for cheap, processed food and often don’t know how to handle money. They will buy the cheaper shoes even if it will fall apart sooner and investing in a better quality item would save them money in the long run. This concept well described by Terry Pratchett.

Some important tenants of minimalism could be useful to people in low income situations where an extra $50 a month could make a huge difference. However, a lot of the more visible minimalists can be pretentious shits so a lot of folks in dire straits aren’t interested in what they have to say.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, now famous for their devotion to minimalism, write about exactly this but do it in such a way you kind of want to smack them. “If we have less money, then we must be more intentional with how we spend it” is a perfect point that gets overshadowed by the ‘look how smart I am’ name drops in the last paragraph.

I think minimalism started as a natural response to the economic bust of the late aughts. People getting loans they couldn’t pay to buy houses they couldn’t fill eventually tanked out economy. Rather than dive into the consumerist lifestyle that impacted an entire generation, people started going tiny, buying locally, and trying to learn from those mistakes.

As with any major social change, you have people who go to the extreme. These are the spiritual minimalists like Nicodemus and Millburn who promise total life satisfaction. They have a documentary, a podcast, books, and tours. They got rich off capitalizing on this movement. If they’re smart with their money, they will be able to live off this for the rest of their lives.

I think there are important takeaways from consuming less, consuming consciously, and spending wisely. You do not have to be all in or voluntarily participating to find what about minimalism resonates with you. Making it your lifestyle doesn’t make you a bad person; failing to see your own privilege makes you a bad person. I aspire to be more minimal in a lot of aspects of my life. That doesn’t make me a bad or more enlightened person; it just means I’m figuring out what works best for me.

August Blocked Spending

My July low to no spend was a great idea. Too bad old habits die hard.

I started off doing well but I went to a convention at the end of the month and bought books, Athleta had a big sale so I bought a sweatshirt (more than 50% off and was green), and I had to order more wicking leggings. I am so over summer humidity.

One thing that will help curb my fiscal irresponsibility is that my credit card got hacked, again. The first time was for camping equipment in Minnesota. The second time was groceries in Texas. This time it was almost $900 in cell phones. So that card has been canceled and I won’t get another one until sometime next week.

In August, I’m going to try doing a week-ish long block on certain items and see how that goes. For example, until August 12, I’m not supposed to buy books or makeup. During August 13-19 I will be on vacation in the mountains so no new jewelry or clothing or mobile spending. I’m not sure how I’m going to block off the final two weeks of the month. Given my track record, I’m not sure how well I’ll do with the first half.

Fatshion Struggles

BuzzFeed posted a great list about the fashion struggles of being fat. These struggles are real and frustrating.

We are limited in where we can shop. I had a say she was jealous I could still shop in Torrid. You get the entire rest of the mall so pipe down size 6. This is the same friend who had me tag along with her and one other person to a store that stopped at a size 12. It was an hour of me sitting bored out of my mind in the husband chair while they shopped.

Lots of department and big box stores like to shove the fat clothes off in some far-off corner. It’s even worse if it’s directly next to maternity. Nice subtext assholes. Only pregnant women should be this fat. How kind of you.

The price thing is so fucking annoying. Yes, I’d like a shirt that will fit my body. Oh, it’s an extra $5? Well, fuck you then. Every time I discover I can buy something in a non-fat store, I feel like I just got one over on them. That product wasn’t meant for me but I get it anyway. Mwahahahaha Madewell. Your tees are belong to me.

Needing to try things on before committing is a huge pain. It’s part of why I am semi-brand loyal to some unethical fashion retailers. I can go online, order wicking capris or a pair of jeans and know it will fit. I got a pair of black bootcut jeans off Poshmark this way. Or I’ll go into a store, try a ton of stuff on, and buy nothing just so I know for later. In a glorious display of masochism, I did this with jeans, bras, and bathing suits in the same store.

Most of my pants are tailored because of my waist to hip ratio and the dreaded butt gap. It got to a point where my old alterations place would see me and prep the changing area. I went to have a maxi skirt hemmed and the 2 inches I needed taken in would make it shorter in the back. I’d just like to not trip over it in the front. #bigbootyproblems

Chub rub is real so I must wear shorts under skirts. I finally figured, if I need to wear shorts anyway, why not just cut out the middle man? I’ve had 2 pairs of jeans die on me in the last couple of years and it was because the wore out on the inner thigh. On the plus side, my need for shorts and leggings has ensured I never get dresses riding up where they don’t belong.

Button up shirts are a nightmare because I have big upper arms and broad shoulders. Even the fat people ones just don’t work on me. This also goes for blazers and jackets. Some of my hoodies are men’s/unisex because I know the shoulders will fit.

When I was a kid, other kids called me fat. That alone was never enough to get to me. My attitude was “Fat? Is that the best you’ve got?” As an adult, it’s just an adjective. I had a very skinny friend correct when I said I was fat. I’m not a TLC-special super-fat but I’m not skinny either. Besides, I said I was fat, not ugly.

Fast Fashion Fast Slowed

I was bad. While I didn’t give my business to some of the more notorious fast fashion brands (Zara, Forever 21), I didn’t participate in ethical fashion either.

I needed more wicking capris for work. I need to walk half a mile to the metro and I get overheated easily. I’m sweating like crazy by the time I get to the station and the mediocre temperature controls aren’t great there either. Basically, if I wear it out, it’s going in the laundry. I don’t have in-unit laundry so I’m at the mercy of my floor on when I can do laundry. Usually it’s not a problem but I don’t like my wardrobe decisions being at the mercy of strangers.

I checked Poshmark but they didn’t have what I needed so I caved and went to Kohl’s website. I got some wicking clothes there for Firefly so I knew what brands I preferred and what sizes I needed. I got a couple of capri leggings, one wicking shirt, and a new sports bra.

I wasn’t happy but I’m fat and have a limited budget. Meeting those needs is not that easy so I tried to just keep it simple. It should have ended there. But it didn’t.

I picked up my order from a local Kohl’s because the shipping was free. I got trapped in the store by an unexpected deluge and started surfing the web. I found Torrid’s new Harry Potter line for the summer.

This kimono will be mailed to a local store for me to pick up (again, free shipping). I could argue that it was on sale and I used ebates and those are totally my colors but those are justifications. I didn’t need it; I just wanted it. Whether Torrid is fast fashion or not is a debate for another post but it’s definitely not ideal.

Either way, I participated in the consumerist machine and am here for atone for my sins. I started this for a reason and I need to remember that reason. I need to change my habits to stop hurting our planet and my bank account.

Love/Hate Athleta

I’d heard my FSIL laud Athleta’s leggings so I poked my head into their store when I was at a local mall. I left with an insanely comfy cardigan that I later figured out was magnetic. I’ve worn it several times since then and love it. Hell, I’m wearing it as I type this.

If you buy something in store, you get a reusable tote bag instead of a regular shopping bag. Another big plus but it also acts as free advertising for them so take that how you will.

Later, I realized some things about Athleta and their history that made me question how great this brand truly was. I love some of their products but some of their history is genuinely troubling. Here are some of the things that contribute to my love/hate relationship with this brand.

Their Sizing

Athleta actually has a pretty generous sizing. It’s unusual for me to walk into a store and walk out with a size XL dress that looks good on me. While most of their extended sizes aren’t stocked in the stores, their return policy is very generous. It still omits the far end of the fat spectrum but many stores don’t bother to include any of us so it’s a nice change.

Their parent company is reprehensible

In 2014, Gap Inc. received the Public Eye Award which are given out to companies with the worst human rights and environmental records. They have had factories permit abuse of workers, child labor, and ignored basic safety regulations.

How does Old Navy sell shirts for just $5? At the expense of workers and our planet.

They have ethically made and/or sustainable clothing

I’m fat so finding something that’s comfortable, flattering, affordable, and good for my conscience is nigh impossible. The fact that Athleta has sustainable and ethically made options in my size is refreshing. While not cheap, they’re not obscene either.

However, nothing is marked as both sustainable and ethically made. You must pick one or the other. Those options only make up a small percentage of what’s available on the website so what about the rest of their stock? Was it made using the deplorable labor practices from this 2013 article? How bad is it for the environment?

The prices

I can readily accept I’ll have to pay more for clothing that is ethically and/or sustainably made. It’s the nature of the beast. However, since only a portion of Athleta’s offerings fall into this category, why is everything else so expensive?

This dress, which I bought on a whim and love, costs $89. It has the sustainable sticker, it’s comfy AF, and looks great. It’s a minimalist’s dream dress in a lot of ways. This dress is incredibly similar except for the hem, slightly longer sleeves, and pockets. It’s also $89 but does sweet FA for your conscience. Since this dress probably cost them less to make, why is it the same price?

Here’s another example. This dress is purple and has spaghetti straps whereas this dress is gray and has short sleeves. They have the same name and the same price. Why does one get the stamp and the other doesn’t? How much more work would it have been to make sure the other dress from the same product line didn’t hurt the planet?

By charging the same price for garments with one being made kindly and the other not, one of them generates a significant markup. They can pretend to be doing some good and still scam customers

Conclusion

Striving to live more minimally means consuming mindfully and knowing yourself. I know I love some of their products but I also know it’s a problematic brand. If/when I buy from them again, I will only buy their fair trade or sustainable products. By putting my dollars toward their more conscious products, I’m letting my dollars say what I want the company to hear. I can also check Poshmark and do some thrifting. It doesn’t count if I buy the bad brand secondhand, right?

Book Borrowing Rules

Much like most bookworms, I’m a bit precious about my books. I value my things and take good care of them so they last. I expect others to do the same. I will absolutely lend out my books but I have a handful of ground rules.

-I do not lend out autographed books. You are welcome to read it in my home but it’s not leaving with you.

-If it’s new and I haven’t read it yet, neither are you.

-You break it, you replace it. If it comes back to me in considerably worse condition than when it left, I expect a new copy.

-If you fold the cover all the way around on my book like so, it is the last time you come near by books.

-Don’t dog-ear the pages. Use a receipt, dollar bill, free bookmark but no dog-earing.

I occasionally borrow books from friends but I always treat them as well as I treat my own, maybe slightly better. One thing that I have gotten a lot of value out of is a book sleeve. It’s a fabric pouch you put your book it so it doesn’t get as beat up riding around in your bag. I got mine from this seller