Paris To Go

Zero Waste Wardrobe IV: Dresses


When it comes to dresses, only Dior survives the scorched earth policy I apply to my wardrobe. Fully lined in silk, with hook and eye closures above a concealed zipper and attached belts, in smooth wool and crepe, they handwash (or machine wash) beautifully and dry wrinkle-free overnight. I love dresses because I'm lazy- put on a coat and shoes and you have a complete outfit without needing any other accessories (I'm over cardigans and would rather die from pneumonia than put a sweater over a dress again). Plus I love seeing people's minds explode when I tell them how much I paid for each, and where I found them- "This was $36 at a thrift store," I say, before walking away, leaving them to recall their last, more expensive Zara purchase- mic drop.

I realize that, as much as I loved my Prada shirtdress in a Bianca Stratford kind of way, full skirts and unlined dresses are problematic for me, a person who never met a subway grate she didn't accidentally step on. Or I'd ride the Metro from Barbes to Chatelet and struggle to keep the skirt down whenever a gust of wind came through the car. Plus, cotton is a pain to take care of. I always felt messy in that easily wrinkled dress, which my more polished sister owns now.

These days I stick to close fitting dresses, with open necks (the black Dior scoops down just enough) for freedom. All my dresses have the advantage of looking kind of nice with sneakers, especially with a coat on top. They hit just below the knee, which is the most versatile length- as appropriate in the office as at dinner or Silencio (does anyone still go there? Does it even exist anymore). My dress collection isn't extensive, but I never need anything else:

  • 1 crepe Dior dress (similar but not really), for formal events, cocktails, dinners, work, and funerals. The simpler the better, especially if it's black. I learned the hard way that black clothing must be extremely well designed and well made, because the shade betrays every error of cut and finishing.
  • 1 wool navy dress, pictured here (similar). I chose wool because it's seasonless and navy because it's the official color of Paris. This is my everyday workhorse, and the longest lasting piece in my wardrobe. I've never needed a tailor to fix anything on it, only to take it in.
  • 1 grey wool dress (similar). I chased this down because I remember seeing the actress Nora Arnezeder wear it to the 2009 Dior Haute Couture show and thinking, "It will be mine someday." It surfaced years later on the secondhand market, and I had the skirt, which hung straight down, taken in on an angle to make it more fitted. I don't usually wear the attached belt with it because I'm short and I feel it cuts off my torso (I prefer the belt with jeans), but it's nice to change up the look once in a while. This is my go to for interviews, presentations, or big meetings. I wore it to COP21.
  • 1 ponté foil American Apparel dress, $12 at a thrift store, my casual dress to wear with sneakers (pictured here). I unexpectedly fell in love with it and remember thinking every roll would show in the ponté but a girl in tiny disco shorts shook her head and said, "Tu es mince." That was it. With her blessing I've worn it to picnics, Versailles, lunches, nights out, shopping, hot chocolate runs, donut runs, and with heels at the Chedi. It's my favorite because it packs so easily and rolls up really tiny.
  • 1 grey ribbed cotton American Apparel henley dress. I mostly wear this around the house and to bed now, after my friend's chic Parisian daughter told me it looked like pajamas. Sometimes I'll wear it to a barbecue or to play outside with friends' kids though. As a house dress, it has the advantage of not being embarrassing when someone drops by unexpectedly (which seemed to happen every week I lived in France- we were too liberal with our code. Also: our gardienne was the worst), and I could run out quickly for groceries or whatever without feeling indecent.
Since I collected them over many years, and cared for them over several more, I love these dresses more than I love most people. Also, I just found the Reformation Capri dress in Marley secondhand and ordered it, so we'll see if it works, but who knows. I get a sick thrill from the restrained, somber simplicity of my dresses now. I might be too neurotic to handle something patterned.

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Makeup

I forget I had a blog again. Even though fiscal responsibilities, job stability and basic emotional intelligence continue to elude me, I now have a refillable, plastic free makeup routine I really love, which is more important. My skin improved greatly after ending a 15 year addiction to foundation- it was such an Ike and Tina Turner situation- and these new essentials are not only somewhat affordable, they feature compostable packaging and eco-friendly ingredients that don't break me out.

As you know, I wear less makeup in the summertime, and less makeup in Cleveland, because no one will ever love me here. I've also dabbled in making my own cosmetics, which won't happen anymore, since I am lazy and never home. I tried high end refillable or green beauty products in the past- RMS Beauty, Kjaer Weis, and Ellis Faas, to be specific- with disappointing results. Cream formulas disappear into my skin, and I end up with blemishes later. The mascaras were too dry and crumbly for my taste, although others raved about them. 

I wanted to streamline my routine to use the least number of products possible. I was also looking for long lasting, waterproof, or powder formulas, biodegradable / minimal / easily recyclable packaging, and things I could use with the cruelty free EcoTools brushes I already own. I know this is sounding like I'm trying to shop my way to zero waste. I am. I'm too unreliable to consistently make my own satisfactory cosmetics. I'm so tired after work or travel now, I'd rather spend time making vegan food or hanging out with friends and family than mixing 25% calcium chloride solutions for activated charcoal. I enjoy makeup too much to give it up entirely. Also, I memorized the eye charts, so I don't actually know how I look, and- patriarchal manifestation alert- it's likely a makeup-free face just isn't an option for me. Therefore, buying is my preference now.

This routine literally takes five minutes, and has the added benefit of allowing me to eat jackfruit and guacamole in an almond flour tortilla with one hand while applying makeup with the other:

  1. W3LL People mascara, $21- Life changing. The recycled packaging features a silicon brush that defines and lengthens without clumps. The mascara itself stays on even through tears or swimming, yet somehow removes easily with a washcloth at the end of the day. It also doesn't sting when I accidentally stick the wand in my eye, which happens more often than it should
  2. Elate Cosmetics bronzer and blush, $32 each- I love these clean, refillable bamboo compacts. They feature a mirrored and a magnetic side to snap in pressed powders or cheek color. The makeup stays in place in the compact, and will not shatter, even when dropped from various heights at various speeds (just trust me on this). These are really strongly pigmented products- I got the Sunkiss Bronzer and Ingenue cheek color- but even though I'll probably buy lighter shades in the future, they still look natural on skin. They have great staying power, and don't break me out like mica-containing cosmetics. I use the bronzer for contouring, which I don't really know how to do. The makeup itself comes in seed paper, although it's shipped in a bit of bubble wrap, with a handwritten note and (presumably biodegradable) packing peanuts in every box.
  3. Brow powder- My mom gave this to me because she wasn't going to use it. Applied with an Ecotools brush just at the base of my lashes, it gives a precise line. My brows are the opposite of sparse and don't need additional definition, but to extend the brow, I might use it with the same flat tipped brush.
  4. Burt's Bees Red Dahlia lip balm, $5- I have yet to find a vegan, plastic free lip balm that gives a flattering color like this (Update: since a child ate my lip balm, I order Urb Apothecary's lip and cheek tint. The founder accommodates plastic free orders). I'm vain and it feels like it brightens my whole face. One tube seems to last forever, and Burt's Bees has a takeback program for empty containers. I'm considering Fig and Yarrow lip balm, but I don't know if the shade will show up on me. Also I split my lip open as a child and that's why I have a scar and the Burt's Bees kind of hides it
If you're looking for more refillable cosmetics, here's a great list of six brands at varying price points.

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Wardrobe III: Pants and Skirts

I don't like fabric between my legs. It feels invasive. Give me a well made skirt, silk lined, with a grosgrain waistband and invisible zip closure, any day. The first one I really fell in love with was at Alaia, one of his full skater skirts with curved seams. It was astonishingly sculptural, with a system of hook closures and taffeta stiffening, curved to dip slightly at the back. The material was smooth and supple, not the knit garbage Mariah Carey wears, but the thick woven wool favored by Stephanie Seymour. I didn't realize until I got home that the skirt had slits concealed all around the waist- here I thought I was getting this modest gathered fashun thing, but it was actually super revealing. I wore it to work a lot because I loved the way it rustled when I walked from the fridge to my desk but then a coworker said something along the lines of "You can't wear that without expecting to get the business," whatever that means so I sold it for $800 on eBay and bought a plane ticket to Paris. 

That's when The Real Real was just starting and I got my Louis Vuitton skirt (pictured here, lol these pics are already so embarrassing) for less than $100. The investment amortized rapidly- thankfully Dior thought to place a flat panel of fabric behind the skirt slit, allowing me to climb fences / statues / trees and even bike in mine while preserving a modicum of decency. I was taught every woman should have at least one black wool skirt, one tweed, and one linen, but I think, for the most part, unless you are a certain type of rich white person, tweed is a 90s trend that should die with the Rachel. Since I don't really do summery or seasonal dressing- it's 2017, we are almost completely distanced from the elements at all times now- the black skirt is all I need. Pencil skirts kind of bore me, and remind me of sausage casing. I got a high waist American Apparel circle skirt though (pictured here), the kind that doubles as a dress, to wear with sneakers and crop tops when I moved to South Pigalle. It's a surprisingly useful and durable workhorse, even though it skews at least 60 years younger than my general aesthetic.

I acquiesced to the charms of shorts, jeans, and pants only recently. I think Paris, which is pretty casual, softened my stance. I'm ashamed of the J Brand denim I wore before (it's funny, one of the first things I thrifted that I really loved were Junya Watanabe jeans, which my sister still wears today. Back then I was embarrassed to go thrift shopping. Now I'd be embarrassed to shop in a mall). Pure cotton Levi's high rise jeans and shorts (cuffed only, because I am not Denise Richards washing a car in Wild Things) are so much better. I try to spot clean / freezer wash as much as possible. If they need laundering, I like to sun dry to facilitate fading. I also put coconut oil on my legs before each wear, which gives a nice sheen to the fabric. Ohio thrift shops are a gold mine for vintage Levi's. Sometimes I find pairs with Ford or LTV Steel plant ID badges in the pockets, which makes me sad and kind of makes my stomach turn when I think about how costly the denim runs now on Poshmark.

I was against black pants because I associate them with pushy Victoria's Secret salesgirls, but I found some flared Louis Vuitton wool pants secondhand that changed my mind. The wool is light enough for summer but warm in the winter, the silk lining gives me the freedom to wear granny panties and bodysuits underneath, and I feel like a character from American Hustle when I stomp around in them and a pair of patent leather ankle boots. I have leggings I'm very happy with also, ethically produced organic cotton from Pact Apparel. I just hate sheer bottoms, and the substantial fabrics in my collection make me feel secure, not exposed. Reading that sentence back to myself makes me realize I really think too much about my clothing, though. I need a life.

Paris to Go