Paris To Go

My Outfits



I'm going to regret this, but here is a sampling of outfits from my 28 piece wardrobe. They're more "combinations" than outfits, since all I do in most of these is change my shoes. This isn't a capsule- it's everything I own. There's nothing in storage, nothing I rotate seasonally. People often ask if it was difficult for me to stop shopping or minimize my closet to this point. Well, I grew up poor, and then I was in a relationship where one partner had complete financial control. So, I guess it was easier for me. I was used to not having much, and it wasn't like I had a lot of freedom to shop before. 

Now I have the luxury of choice and can finally spend my own money again, but my wardrobe is a lot smaller than when I moved to Paris. I only kept things I bought or chose, that told a story about me alone- not the person I disappeared into. It's funny, these days I actually dread shopping. I don't even enjoy browsing secondhand. I didn't get to this point until I found the clothes I have now, so I guess it's a little like love- once you find the right stuff, you're happy, so you stop looking, unless you're poly.

As my wardrobe shrinks, I don't replace much (actually I can't think of anything) due to wear and tear. I only replace items as my size and aesthetic change. I have enough that my clothing rests between wears, and even though some things are over a decade old, nothing looks like they'll wear out anytime soon. I also have color! Green and blue and peach and touches of red. Psychologically I prefer muted shades that don't make me stand out much though, like the colors Jennifer Lopez wore in the second half of Enough.

I don't have to do laundry as often as people might think, since most of my clothes are natural fibers like wool, which is moisture wicking and resistant to odors (my tights were air drying when I took these pictures- I NEVER wear ankle boots with bare legs, the very idea makes my skin crawl). I wear a cotton t-shirt under tencel ribbed tops to keep them cleaner longer.  I mostly just wash clothes after a trip (at the very least once a month, washing dresses, my wool skirt, and coats less frequently- once or twice a season). I like to freshen them with shower steam between washings, and spot clean as much as possible. If you don't have a steam iron, you can dampen a white, lint-free cloth and press a hot iron lightly over it to remove wrinkles and gently clean coats or dry clean only items. 

I try to be strategic about the fabrics I wear. That way I can layer and prepare for unexpected weather without adding a lot of bulk. Linen is seasonless, and my 40+  year old lightweight camel hair coat is the warmest thing I've ever worn. It's temperature regulating, so I can use it from spring to the dead of winter without burning up on the metro. I only have a handful of synthetic things- even though I eat vegan, I think secondhand wool and leather are less harmful overall, and more practical for harsh climates. I don't really know what's worse, microplastic pollution or the cruel ways we abuse animals for clothing. To me, nothing uses less resources or does less harm than something that already exists... that's how I justify it, anyway.

Now to my favorite part- the math. I have ten tops and five bottoms and they all (technically) match each other and most of my shoes. For example, one black t-shirt or ribbed top yields approximately 17 outfits. That's over 150 combinations excluding coats (I say 150 because I don't really like mixing knit fabrics with woven fabrics. Some of my friends wore my button downs with my knit circle skirt, and they looked cute, but I have all of these exacting standards for myself and weird hangups. I don't even let people say "boho" around me). I've even worn my Oui shirt with my midi length skirt and heels before. I didn't like it, but it's an option.  

I need to wear dresses a few times a week. Mine are cut so I can wear them layered under skirts or tops, and two of them I wear with sneakers, netting over 25 combinations. To factor in two coats, I multiply 175 outfits by three for 525 combinations, or around 18 outfits per piece. These calculations are almost certainly wrong, and merely illustrative of the fact that you don't need a ton of clothes to have options. However, just because I have 28 items doesn't mean everybody else should too. I have demonstrably poor decision making skills, and don't wish my life upon anybody, so if you have a large closet, don't take this as a personal affront. I maintain that a minimal wardrobe is not necessarily a sustainable one, and the pursuit of a perfect capsule wardrobe is largely a waste of time. I'm usually too busy brushing out my pin curls to care what you wear anyway.

P.S. I know I have a belly and fat spilling out of these clothes. I don't care. Some of the clothes look ill fitting on camera but actually fit in real life- this is an optical illusion because I ate four donuts before I took these. Even so I think I look good, not Instagram model good, but Ariana good. Except for the pictures where I'm pretend laughing. I regret those.
Paris to Go

Three Years of Water Only Hair Washing

  

Today we're going to talk about one of my favorite environmental subjects- my hair. Think how many bottles of conditioner, dry shampoo, and serum you've disposed of in your lifetime. If you're anything like me, and went through an Avril Lavigne-induced Tigi Bedhead phase in the early 2000s, that's a lot of waste sent to landfill or shipped overseas for recycling. In my case, that was also a ton of chemicals being dumped into our water systems and soil, and a lot of innocent animals suffering so my hair could look good for a day, frizz up, split at the cuticle, and smell. It wasn't worth it, especially since I spent money I should have saved for my divorce and ruined my hair in the process.

When I moved to Paris, I was struck at my new French friends' attitudes towards American beauty routines. Daily shampoos weren't a thing in a country where women still got blowouts weekly, then preserved them. My friends wore caps in the pool and just rinsed their hair after a class at Klay. They also rarely used conditioner, preferring masks twice a month, and were more apt to use clays and oils to enhance, not hide, their naturally fuzzy texture. It was so freeing not having to shampoo everyday, but Paris' hard water still wreaked havoc on my hair, as did an ill-advised Japanese straightening treatment that forced me to chop off most of its length. This was earth-shattering for someone as shallow as me. I was really embarrassed to go out with scarecrow hair when everyone I saw was so beautiful, and ended up staying inside and wasting precious time in the city I love because I felt self conscious. 

So three years ago (well, in three months it'll be three years, but I need the content so just go with it) I got fed up and started scrubbing with water every week. That's it. No soap or baking soda or ACV. Three years of mermaid rinsing, scritching, and brushing later, I finally have hair to match my mean girl personality. My hair doesn't shed in handfuls like it once did, and I don't ever need to brush it. My natural curls returned, and I can get a smooth or straight look without heat styling or products. I only wish I'd started sooner.

Hair is like a delicate sweater- it wears out more quickly the more you wash it and loses softness and strength (100% sure I did not come up with this comparison, I think I heard it in a podcast or something). So even if you can't do water washing, it's best to shampoo less frequently, if only for the health of your hair. If you're willing to try no poo methods, I don't recommend using baking soda, which is too alkaline and destroys the keratin in hair, or ACV, which is too acidic and can disrupt the scalp's natural balance. Gram or rye flour, clay, aloe, a shampoo bar, or refillable soap free cleanser like Plaine Products would be my recommendation. I used to tell people to use bar soap, because my husband liked it, but my friends say it's too drying and coats their heads. Bar soap is far more alkaline than a liquid formula, and I routinely make deeply sus life choices, so it makes sense that my advice would be wrong. 

Start with little steps, like eliminating one product at a time. My friend and hero Tori said she noticed her split ends disappeared after she stopped using conditioner, and my Parisian friends are very proud of never using it at all- only a little oil from Buly 1803 or Grand Cafe Tortoni before washing (in the US, you can get bulk oils from Refill Revolution). If you must use a conditioner, apply before shampooing so it doesn't weigh hair down. That way you can save water and wash less.

To start water only hair washing, dilute castile soap heavily in a spray bottle or color applicator so it reaches the scalp (I don't recommend buying clarifying shampoo for this purpose- castile soap will strip any silicone products off). After that, you can try either the mermaid method of water washing (dunking it in a basin or bucket, then scrubbing the scalp and running fingers through hair as if with shampoo) or simply scrub in the shower. Most people will need to wash everyday at first. Gradually, with regular brushing and scalp massage, you can ease into every other day, then every week. The type of brush depends on hair texture- plant based bristles for fine hair, wooden pin brushes for thicker hair, and a fine toothed comb for curls seem to work best. Stevie has good tips on training hair to need less washing. Try to avoid dry shampoo as much as possible, because the goal is to let your hair's natural oil production occur uninterrupted. Once hair is coated in sebum, it'll never be dry or smell again.

We're trained to prefer artificial fragrance over the natural non-scent of hair, so it's ok to spray essential oils or perfume when needed (sometimes when I ran out of oil, I used to sleep on a lavender sachet and then, in desperate times, a bar of lavender castile soap- in the morning, I'd wake up with the perfume on my hair). You can also try lemon juice diluted in water in a spray bottle to refresh between cleansing. After working out, swimming, or pollution exposure, rinsing hair should be sufficient for most people to remove sweat, allergens, and odors. Just remember to tie up hair, or protect with a cap or scarf beforehand. You may need to wear braids, a bun, or headbands Blair Waldorf style to work for awhile, but my experience was that no one really noticed any change in my hair except me. Brushing oils through hair, dragging sebum down the cuticle with your fingers, or using cornstarch, cocoa powder, and arrowroot can alleviate greasiness if it's really a problem. I've found that if I push through the oil one or two days, it disappears suddenly by day three (I don't get greasy anymore though). My hair doesn’t fall out anymore (it did when I used shampoo), but scalp massage or a circulation stimulating essential oil such as eucalyptus should strengthen hair (diet may play a role).

The transition period varies for everyone. I think water only is suitable for all hair types, because people were water only for thousands of years, and we didn’t evolve to need Garnier Fructis over millennia. However, it’s not a quick fix by any means, typically requiring three months‘ transition. Some people, like my friend Helen, didn’t really have a transition period at all- they just quit cold turkey and their hair looked great automatically. Whatever your hair type, it requires a lot of patience, and you can’t psych yourself out and think someone will criticize your shampoo-free appearance. People for the most part don’t care; my family were the only skeptical ones, but they also thought I couldn’t survive without eating meat or cheese, yet here we are. I even met hairdressers who supported my water only resolve. Two stylists recently told me it’s common for clients to bring their own products because of preference or allergies, and most blow dry bars I’ve been to are okay with simply wetting hair before styling. Shampoo chemically removes flakes, so you'll need to mechanically remove them with your fingertips (not your nails) if they're actual dandruff. If dryness is the issue, try drinking a spoonful of oil each day, or putting oil on your scalp the night before a wash. Eating lots of good fats and maintaining a plant based diet seems to help prevent greasiness, flaking, and hair loss, as does limiting sugar, if my Parisian friends are any indicator.

I don't own a hair straightener, blowdryer, brush, or curling iron. I like my hair's natural texture a lot, but it gets messed up after a few days, so heatless styling methods like rag curls work best for me. When my hair is wet I can tie my hair in a bun or twist it and secure with a ponytail holder to get a straight, smooth look. Pin curls are the most effective, but if I do them wrong, I look like Shirley Temple, and sometimes it takes days for them to loosen up. Three years in, that’s the only major issue I’ve encountered, although now that I’m back in America, I psychologically feel compelled to wash more, and it’s making my hair drier than it ever was in Paris (I used to wash once a month- since August, I’ve been washing weekly or biweekly). But there’s no turning back for me now. Like I said, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time coating my hair and obscuring my natural texture to solve imaginary problems. It’s so nice having one less thing to worry about in the morning, and everytime I toss my hair, it’s a giant, zero waste “told you so” to everyone who thought I was crazy for going water only. I am crazy, but for reasons completely unrelated to my hair.


My Wardrobe


Maybe I can't count but I'm down to 28 items year round (not including socks, lingerie, and accessories). People used to say this was a fantasy wardrobe, that these pieces could not last in real life, or for working full time, or social occasions. They've stopped saying that. I really like my clothes and the freedom they afford me- everything matches, choosing outfits is easy, I can still express myself, and Jaden Smith said I looked like a bad b at Water Bar- but don't feel you have to own such a small wardrobe to be zero waste. I consider my story a cautionary tale, not a prescription. Nobody in the zero waste community will judge you for liking clothes and a few new things here and there- everybody likes that stuff except me, because I am dead inside. In fact, I think the zero waste community is overwhelmingly nice and supportive, so I don't know why everyone talks about the holier than thou attitude associated with the movement. I'm pretty sure I'm the only judgmental one.

I thought my wardrobe would change a lot now that I'm in the US, but it hasn't really. Recently I thought I was too big for my jeans, and the prospect of shopping for a new pair or changing any aspect of my tightly controlled, excessively calibrated closet was devastating to me. I briefly checked a few thrift stores and when I couldn't find anything, willed myself to fit into them again. Also, these items pleasantly surprised me by how well they performed in Cleveland's extreme weather. Also, people need to stop sending me contradictory emails everytime I say something in Paris is better than something in Cleveland. There are lots of things Cleveland does better than Paris- pierogies, dedicated grilled cheese sandwich restaurants, craft beer- but comparing Cleveland to Paris is like comparing me to Karrueche Tran. This is not to diminish one or the other. They just don't compare!

    
   


Tops (all secondhand)
  1. American Apparel ribbed tank top (similar)
  2. Black tank top (not pictured, similar)
  3. L'ecole des Femmes Oui shirt
  4. Reformation navy Lozita bodysuit
  5. Reformation Axel bodysuit (similar but not really. This bodysuit is thicker material than their current ecorib and the snaps are stronger than Lozita. I like both though)
  6. Reformation Piper top
  7. Vintage ribbed merino wool sweater. I don't wear this much anymore though, only when running or hiking
  8. Equipment white shirt
  9. Etoile Isabel Marant plaid shirt
  10. Black American Apparel crop top (pictured below. On me, crop tops are just tops)

   

Dresses (all secondhand)

  1. Dior grey wool dress (silk lining, similar)
  2. Dior navy wool dress (silk lining, similar)
  3. Dior crepe dress
  4. American Apparel foil ponte dress

 

Coats (both secondhand)
  1. Dior camel coat, silk lining. If you go to Paris now, everyone is wearing a camel coat with a beautiful umbrella. I think camel coats are universal, but this is the first year I saw them more than doudounes. Nobody in Paris wears a peacoat by the way, same goes for leather jackets after October (unless you're riding a scooter, according to Caroline de Maigret. Like the Lorax, she speaks for all Parisians). Catherine Baba said a real camel hair coat like this ($19 at a thrift store in NYC, spotted in the window from a Lyft) would cost over $700 today. It's too bad because herds are actually sustainably managed, and camel's temperature regulating properties make it a good choice for extreme weather.
  2. Louis Vuitton rain coat, waxed cotton. The waxing is long since gone and I don't wax it anymore. It's still perfect in torrential downpour. I bought this at the vintage shop that used to be next to Alaia. I came to Paris without a raincoat and ran in during a heavy rain ready to buy anything. So glad this was the first thing I saw- I was not mentally prepared to purchase from BHV

  

Bottoms (all secondhand)

  1. Levi's Wedgie icon jean, Coyote Desert
  2. Levi's Wedgie icon jean, Classic tint (different from the classic tint they offer now, maybe because mine are 100% cotton. My jeans aren't as dark as the current version, so they look more like the kind Jeanne Damas wears, less like Britney Spears in Crossroads. Does anyone worry as much about Jeanne Damas’ cat Charlie as much as I do? He always is crawling in the gutter outside her balcony railing unsupervised)
  3. Levi's Wedgie shorts
  4. Louis Vuitton wool skirt (silk lining)
  5. American Apparel circle skirt (can also be worn as a dress)

  

Loungewear, accessories, and lingerie (secondhand except the socks)
  1. American Apparel ribbed henley dress
  2. Pact Apparel leggings 
  3. Pact Apparel socks (I like my leggings, but not these socks. They're already wearing out). I like what Pact Apparel stands for, but their branding and packaging is obnoxious. The plastic windows are unnecessary!)
  4. London Undercover umbrella. I originally wanted a waxed cotton Filson one, which they apparently don't make anymore. This is beautiful, surprisingly lightweight, fits in my purse, and made from 100% recycled materials. The handle is fully biodegradable.
  5. Longchamp bag. I use this as a carry on, for groceries, etc. It's washable and lightweight- when I was walking around Paris carrying my stuff all day, that was crucial.
  6. Agent Provocateur Jet and Felinda sets (Jet is the best one they ever made, I feel like a comic book villain in it and I don't really like anything with lace) and two silk Stella McCartney sets that haven't fit me in awhile, thanks to my sedentary American lifestyle. When they truly can't be used anymore, I'll get Araks 100% cotton sets. Nobody should wear only wear silk underwear, it's not healthy.
  7. Swedish Stockings. I gave my nude pair away a long time ago because I felt like J Lo wearing Leggs in the 90s in them. So for over a year now I've worn the Stefanie Seam stockings only. They are more delicate than any of their current offerings yet managed to avoid snags, runs, or rips. My nails snagged people's ARMS before so this is amazing. I like that the factory is solar powered and they recycle any stockings sent to them for a customer discount.
  8. A Wool Story hat, mittens, and socks. People in Paris and Cologne were crazy for these, especially Germans- they all want to visit Detroit. Most knits are too feminine or boring to me, but these fit my sort of industrial style, match everything, and are extremely warm. The socks are my favorite for boots, but I have worn them in sneakers before. 

 

Shoes
  1. Stuart Weitzman patent leather boots. I walked all day in Paris and New York in them, wore them on the beach in Iceland, and to shovel 6 inches of snow five times already this year. It's not even winter 
  2. Ferragamo Vara- my go-to walking shoe.
  3. Louboutin Simple pumps- these aren't as well constructed as the Decollete- I've resoled them already, and I've only had them two years. They're a lot more comfortable than the Decollete or Pigalle though, and good for wide feet and walking. I used to walk from Rue des Grands-Augustins to Rue Joseph Granier or Rue de Rochechouart in them and back, rain or shine.
  4. Nike wedge sky highs (not this color). On principle I'm anti-wedges but I have no integrity and love these. They match everything and make me feel like Destiny's Child-era Kelly Rowland crawling on the beach in camo.
  5. Nike Air Force 1's, low flyknits, because that Nelly song had a very formative influence on me. 

Paris to Go