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 crap 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

Zero Waste Wardrobe Part II: Tops


I have twelve:
  • 2 white Madewell t-shirts
  • 1 white American Apparel tank top
  • 1 black Petit Bateau t-shirt
  • 1 black H&M tank top
  • 2 black crop tops, one H&M lace-up, one American Apparel square neck, except I'm extremely short torsoed (I know that's not a word) so on me they are like actual shirts
  • 2 black bodysuits, one American Apparel v-neck, one Reformation turtleneck
  • 1 black Reformation top
  • 1 undyed rib merino wool sweater, from the 80s or early 90s
  • 1 Etoile Isabel Marant plaid button up
All secondhand, mostly natural fabrics, mainly cotton, with some linen, some tencel, and a small percentage of elastane in the American Apparel crop top and bodysuit (don't compost natural fibers for use in your garden unless they are undyed or Oeko Tex certified). So far I've consigned or sold all the tops in previous posts, except for one Madewell t-shirt I cut into handkerchiefs. I'm surprised anyone even married me, when I can barely commit to a white t-shirt. I'm always bad about picking out tops that look good, because I'm a sucker for a beautiful cut or a lovely fabric, frequently ignoring whether the neckline actually suits me. Another problem I have is with knit pure cotton or linen fabrics- they stretch and bag horribly as you wear them, and don't bounce back into shape until the next wash. Since I dread shopping for another t-shirt again (although I objectively admire the deadstock ones at Rawson), I've resorted to tying them at the waist to get the desired fit.

How did I live with one sweater in Cleveland, one of the worst places to winter in America? (Before anyone starts arguing with me, I went to Boston, Vermont, and Montreal with only this sweater right after that giant winter storm and asked why all the cars had wooden brushes. The rental car guy said, "Because plastic ones break. You must not be from a place that gets a lot of snow." I said I was from Cleveland. He immediately apologized) Even thin merino wool is super warm and temperature regulating, especially layered under camel. The material dries fast, so I could handwash it in the morning and air dry (or hang outside to freeze dry, a tip I learned in Greenland). Wool is odor absorbing, so I don't need to wash it often.

I'm really pleased with Reformation's eco rib, which is the warmest non-wool, non-silk material I've ever worn. 88% tencel, 12% spandex, it washes nicely, I just have to stop the drain and water an indoor plant with the wash water. Ribbed tops are very forgiving, and the fabric sucks me in so I don't look like a sausage. I gave up on silk (too clammy), crepe (I always caught my fingernails on them), and collared shirts a long time ago, and for the most part, avoid buttondowns. I don't know how the Kardashians wear them- I read they buy to fit the bust and tailor the rest of the shirt, but this never worked for me. All the tailors I've been to couldn't adjust the shoulders or waist enough. 

Every summer, I always want one of those white French country style tops, with the pintucking and the lace, either in the Jane Birkin or Brigitte Bardot style. I have yet to find the right one. They're always too sheer, or not bra friendly. Also, to reiterate, I hate shopping, so I guess I'm not really looking carefully enough. Things I look for:
  • Square neck, v-neck, or turtleneck
  • Close fitting
  • Cropped right at the waist- I drown in longer tops
  • Ribbing
  • Pocket t-shirts- I actually use the pockets! I stick food in them
For reference I wear XS or S at Reformation and their size charts are always accurate. XS at American Apparel and Etoile Isabel Marant (although Isabel Marant runs huge- that shirt needed to be taken in and shrunk), the twelve year old's size at Petit Bateau, XXS at Madewell, and I have no waist. I am sounding more and more unlikeable and entitled with each post but, there it is.

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Wardrobe Part I: Foundations

(I'm including swimwear in this because I'm lazy)

I only started caring about lingerie when I got married, not because of my husband or anything- he was already trapped, so who cares- but because it seemed like the grown up thing to do, you know, like getting regular pap smears, having an accountant do your taxes, or Venmoing friends instead of giving them straight cash (I do none of these things). Also, living in Paris, I had to pretend to be interested in Foucault's technologies of self, of which lingerie is one instrument. I don't know if Dior really said, "Without foundations, there is no fashion," but all too often, undergarments are an afterthought. We're more inclined to choose an outfit first, then haphazardly find a bra or whatever to go with it, when clothes would fit better if we chose carefully, from the ground up. That being said, I wish I could be one of those girls who goes braless but... I can't. I'm too basic. I can't even use being from the Midwest as an excuse, because Gloria Steinem is from Ohio, too.

Anyway I don't know if French girls really spend a significant portion of their income on lingerie. Some magazine articles make it seem like they're all running around in Agent Provocateur but most of my friends buy more regularly from, for example, Etam, Aubade, Princesse Tam Tam or Oysho, and they handwash their lingerie, no matter how inexpensive. I know this because I would walk into their apartments and see everything hanging off dish racks or drip drying in the shower. It's true they would, for instance, buy one bra and buy the matching thong, culotte, and boy short to go with it. Their collections were not so different from those of my American friends, though, and I'm more crazy about matching than anyone I know.

It was difficult for me to find things in France because my size is not normally stocked in stores, and then I care about ethics and the environment of course, and also I hate everything. I try to keep fabrics and materials as natural and untreated as possible, the gold standard for which is Oeko Tex certification. One sustainable brand I often admired at Centre Commercial was Base Range; I also like zero waste Anekdot Boutique and Pansy. However, I read once that you should choose lingerie based on your actual shape, not how you hope to look someday. As much as I'd love to look like one of those lithe Vanessa Traina types at Dia:Beacon, I never will. My underwear reflects that. I ended up finding a jackpot of Stella McCartney lingerie, tags still attached, at Violette Leonie and never looked back. Now my whole lingerie collection is secondhand. I wear the Isabel floating bralette (not pictured because I was either wearing or washing it while taking these photos) to exercise, which I realize is the equivalent of Shannen Doherty bathing in Evian. I think Stella McCartney is an important voice in the push for a more sustainable fashion industry, however, I don't believe the line is as green as everybody says. My pieces have organic cotton gussets and recycled metal fasteners, as well as a small percentage of recycled polyester (they are mostly silk, though). For ethical shoppers larger than a B cup, Luva Huva and Harlow & Fox offer an extended range of sizes.

I like garter belts because my mom always had them and they make me feel like a career woman in post war America, but I don't actually need them since I only wear seamed Swedish Stockings. I wore the same single pair of leggings from age 10 to age 27, recently replacing it with an organic cotton pair from Pact, also secondhand. They are the best ever, so soft, not the least bit saggy or sheer, and easy to care for. Since most of my socks were lost in my move, now I only wear Pact socks or a handknit A Wool Story pair.

To bed, I wear an American Apparel dress I found secondhand. I usually change into that or a t-shirt and my leggings as soon as I get home, because I hate the idea of dirty street clothes on the furniture- I feel like I must have had a trauma or something in childhood to make me this way. The swimsuit is American Apparel also, and it's perfect- it doesn't move when I jump into wadis or get caught in a wave or anything. I try to handwash everything with castile soap after each wear and hang to dry. It takes a lot of water and resources and energy to manufacture just one pair of underwear, so I want to take care of my things as long as I can. Right now my collection consists of three bras that I rotate (I never like to wear the same bra two days in a row), seven bottoms, and seven pairs of socks. I'm just storing them folded, with each cup inside the other, in the boxes they came in for now.

Above: American Apparel swimsuit, secondhand, similar top and bikini bottoms at Reformation. Stella McCartney Isabel floating bra, panty, thong, and suspender. Stella McCartney Clara Whispering set. Agent Provocateur Cendrillon set. Swedish Stockings, Pact socks, and Pact leggings.

Paris to Go