A Year of No Shampoo

At the library recently, I started reading about Karl Lagerfeld's cat Choupette and how Cafe de Flore makes her special salad and she has a Louis Vuitton bag fitted with food and water bowls and Colette gives her eponymous water cocktails. Then I noticed the book The French Beauty Solution on a nearby shelf. In it, Caudalie founder Mathilde Thomas devotes a whole section to how Americans overwash their hair and bodies. "Our grandmothers told us to only scrub the part that smells," she writes, advising readers to wash their hair once a week at most, simply rinsing with water between shampoos. The beauty expert's favorite hair mask? A zero waste mixture of egg yolk, avocado, olive oil, and rum, which you can purchase, package-free, at En Vrac

It's been a year since I started water only hair and face washing, and I couldn't be happier. In the beginning, I thought I'd switch to gram flour or clay eventually, but I can't see that happening now. My hair didn't grow for two years; now the longest curls reach my waist. It feels shinier, bouncier, more manageable. It doesn't break easily, as it once did, and my horrible dandruff problem- which plagued me for years- went away suddenly. When I visited my grandmother, whose obsession with cleanliness reaches Pak T'ae-jun levels, she confirmed I didn't smell. My horrendous cystic acne? Gone.

I wash my face only at night, with a washcloth, which I previously said could damage skin. I've since changed my mind :) I use silicone based foundation every morning- if I don't, I get acne- and the washcloth removes makeup easily, without needing oil or anything extra. I scrub my dry scalp morning and night with fingertips only, washing in water once a week. Outside Paris, I've stretched washings to biweekly or even monthly, but in a dirty city, water removes salt, sweat, smoke, pollutants, and impurities. Brushing with a wooden pin brush mechanically eliminates dust and distributes oils daily. I haven't cut my hair all year, but the ends look ok. They're not splitting or breaking anymore. The longer I go without washing, the bigger my hair gets!

Thick, dry, greasy, or dandruff prone hair will probably benefit most from giving up shampoo. Before starting a water only routine, get all the junk out of your hair first. If you don't have clarifying shampoo, try washing with an egg, gram flour, or clay, followed by shikakai, aritha, or henna rinse. You may still experience a detox period, since silicone buildup isn't easily removed without surfactants (coconut milk contains saponins, which are natural surfactants, as do soap nuts and chickpeas, but they are not suitable for all hair or water types). Try to push through it. Resist the temptation to wash or use dry shampoo, and let hair adjust naturally. Subsequent wash frequency depends on hair type and lifestyle. Some people need every three days, while others find this too drying. It's an unscientific approach, but I recommend at least rinsing hair every time you get sweaty. Also this works for guys too. My friend Damian and I were in Saint Germain des Pres one night recently and I forget how this came up, but he revealed he hadn't washed his hair in three weeks and it looked super clean and fluffy and his girlfriend couldn't even tell. And girls kept coming up to me on the Metro asking if he was a movie star so it must be ok.


  • Waxy or patchy hair. Minerals from hard water deposit on strands, causing unsightly patches of buildup. Try distilled water, carbonated water, or a shower filter for your final rinse. If the wax is really bad, a flour or diluted clay wash (rye / rhassoul for fine hair, gram flour for thick hair) and shikakai, aritha, or henna rinse clarifies. You may wish to coat the hair in oil a half hour before any natural wash, as these can be drying.
  • Smell. You won't smell if you massage your scalp and keep hair free from products. Rinsing when you get sweaty, after a day of smoking, or after being exposed to smoke should cleanse hair of odors. I put perfume in my hair sometimes and it's fine.
  • Loss of hair / breakage / stunted growth. Buildup of trapped sebum can result in hair loss. Scalp massage sloughs away dead cells, leaving your head clean and clear for new growth. When experiencing breakage, avoid overbrushing. Keep your hands off your hair for awhile and avoid pulling it back too tightly. Try a protective hairstyle, like Zero Waste Vegan's braids. Periodically treating hair with castor oil, I'm told, stimulates growth. This is only anecdotal, but apparently it's like zero waste Latisse if you put it on eyelashes and brows. Lavender and mint encourage hair growth.
  • Chlorine damage. I put olive oil in my hair before swimming, especially before going in the ocean. Finer hair prefers less fatty oils, such as jojoba. Washing with an egg or using an avocado mask after sun or chlorine exposure alleviates dryness. I actually love what saltwater does to my hair, it gives perfectly crunchy curls.
  • Greasy hair. In my experience, if you bear through it and don't overwash or use stuff to soak up the oil, your hair balances itself out and looks nice in a day or two. However, this isn't always practical in corporate environments. A little cornstarch, arrowroot, cinnamon, or cocoa powder is effective dry shampoo. Brushing and scalp massage helps distribute oils, but avoid overbrushing, as hair may appear greasier. Stop using citrus or honey in your hair, which can exacerbate oil production.
  • Limp or weak hair. Massage more and reduce emollients. This may be symptomatic of a poor diet, so avoid sugar and processed foods. In the meantime, flip hair upside down and massage your scalp to improve circulation and pump up hair's natural volume.
  • Frizzy hair / flyaways. Sugar water is the best natural hairspray there is (thanks, Emma!). A lemon or lime slice tames flyaways. If hair is overly frizzy, you may be overwashing. Try reducing wash frequency, using a brush to distribute oils.
  • Itchy scalp / dandruff / white buildup / dullness. Hard water can be the culprit, or it may be a sign you're not scrubbing your scalp enough. Increase scalp massage frequency and brush away dust and grime with a wooden fine tooth comb or plant based bristle brush. If the problem is really bad, burdock root rinse helps alleviate dandruff, parsley or beer adds shine, and stinging nettle or lavender soothes itchiness.

Never use baking soda or vinegar on hair. In fact, my main advice is avoid using anything but water to the extent possible. The less you mess with your hair, the shorter the transition period will be. I don't have a blowdryer or curling iron, but I really like Lucy Liu's look, so I pull the top section of my hair back in a ponytail and use rag curling methods instead (my hair is naturally very curly). If you have tight curls, and brushing makes them dread, stick to scalp massage and an afro comb.

As for areas affected by drought, I think water only hair and face washing is actually better. Processing wastewater contaminants like shampoo or facial cleanser consumes so much water and energy- this isn't even considering the amount of water needed to produce and bottle them in the first place. I'll never have perfect hair like Selena Gomez in the Pantene commercials, or perfect skin like Selena Gomez in her Instagram pictures, but that's okay. I think our perception of what hair and skin should look like is way off base, and water only is actually good for everybody. I wish I started years ago!

Paris to Go

What to Pack for Paris in Spring

This post contains affiliate and non-affiliate links intended to serve as examples. Please shop your wardrobe first, then DIY, ethical, or secondhand. Madewell chambray shirt  / Etoile Isabel Marant Ken and Kieran linen t-shirts / Bella Freud merino wool jumper / J Brand 811 mid rise skinny jeans in Ocean Side / J Brand Maria High Rise white jeans / Etoile Isabel Marant Anna skirt / MM6 satin and cotton jersey dress you could easily DIY / Acne Jensen boots / Nuria organic espadrilles / Nike Quickstrike Air Max trainers / Sibling leopard print cotton jacket / Aanndd petite pack / The Umbrella Shop Grey Domestic / Swedish Stockings / Saint Laurent scarf

I never thought to make a Paris spring packing list because there are a lot of them. However, a quick search on Google turns up glaring inaccuracies. To tackle a few, nobody wears skater skirts, sundresses are typically worn ironically, and only tourists wear hats other than beanies. Maybe things were different a few years ago. Today, for an idea of what French girls are wearing any given season, look at Saint Laurent, which somehow trickles down to every age and economic bracket. If you are a guy, just dress like Aziz Ansari.

Springtime in Paris means lots of bright, clear, chilly days, and sunny days that turn into unexpectedly heavy rain. Honestly, whatever you're already wearing is probably in fashion here- just adapt it to being outdoors on a city street. I'm not good at styling, but I know what I see people wearing every day, so if you're under 30 and visiting Paris, I would pack:
  1. Ankle boots 
  2. Sneakers
  3. Espadrilles- the Chanel kind, or ankle tie kind, but not the Jennifer Lawrence kind
  4. Black tights
  5. Umbrella- crooked handles are best, so your hands are free to Snapchat. I like Pelcor's renewable cork umbrella.
  6. Chambray or plaid shirt, to wear open like a jacket, or with a skirt, or jeans
  7. If you bring a dress, something 90s, like Reformation's Dime, Penny, or Hackman, would fit right in, under a jacket with tights and a scarf.
  8. Fuzzy angora-type sweater, or a slightly cropped Bella Freud style 
  9. Skinny jeans, particularly in grey, acid wash, and white; mom jeans, or overalls of any color
  10. Bomber jacket / denim jacket / colored biker jacket / duster / hip-length, collarless light wool jacket, especially in tweedy grey or navy. Weirdly, my waxed cotton full-length raincoat is on trend now- thanks, Monica Rose.
  11. A choker or skinny scarf
  12. Violet-style top or bodysuit
  13. One solid t-shirt, unisex fit (like a Jungmaven shirt). It can have minimal writing on the front. Also pack a striped t-shirt, same fit.
  14. Small, boxy cross body bag, or good mini backpack, such as Matt and Nat vegan leather
  15. A-line skirt
For night, an influx of stylish Russians upped the glam factor at places like l'Arc and Maria Magdalena, so you can wear the aforementioned 90s dress with ankle boots, or skinny jeans and an embellished jacket with a silk camisole, or an Anthony Vaccarello / House of CB / Self Portrait / Valeria style outfit, bodysuit with mom jeans, etc. 

If you're over 30, or on a business trip, you might like:
  1. Tunic in a fluid fabric- this style, preferably not viscose, under a cardigan or jacket
  2. Trench coat or thin parka, thigh length; leopard and moto jackets are Emmanuelle Alt approved
  3. Neutral sweater- wool, silk, alpaca, or cashmere
  4. Tailored blazer or collarless jacket
  5. White jeans and / or skinny jeans
  6. Striped boatneck
  7. Fitted solid t-shirt in white, black, or navy; and a looser t-shirt in any of these colors or grey 
  8. Silk shell or camisole
  9. Unstructured above-the-knee sheath dress (black or colorful) with sheer black tights; for night, the same dress or a black jumpsuit
  10. Pencil skirt
  11. Umbrella 
  12. Longchamp bag
  13. A skinny belt in a print or bright color
  14. Scarves, Hermès-style, linen, or wool
  15. Tailored button down or bodysuit 
Finally, athleisure is just as popular in Paris, for all ages, as elsewhere. The sample wardrobe pictured above should fit easily in a carry-on, yielding 30 outfits in 15 pieces, not counting the umbrella. For an around the world carry on wardrobe, click here.

Paris to Go

What to Pack for College, Zero Waste Edition

This sums up my undergraduate experience

It's been a few years since I was in school, so maybe I'm out of touch with this, but this is how I would try to live plastic-free (mostly) and zero waste at university. I never lived in a dorm, though I did share a small space that didn't have laundry in college, and moved long distance with only a few suitcases. For a downloadable zero waste packing list, click here.


  • Nice pajamas. Pick something you won't feel uncomfortable being seen in, or a robe you can throw on quickly when somebody pulls the fire alarm in the middle of the night. Only Hearts has organic options. Ethical Charentaise slippers are on sale at Zady right now, though I would try to DIY them.
  • A multitasking waterproof jacket. The key is having the most adaptable pieces possible, so they don't take up space in a tiny dorm. It's why I think lined leather boots are better than rain boots.
  • Something nice to wear to interviews, events, and presentations. For general ideas, click here.
  • Sewing kit. Make your own with a zippered pouch, supplies from around the house, and organic cotton thread. As with everything, it's best to use what you already have.
  • Travel steamer. Irons and ironing boards waste valuable space.
  • Lint brush. Click here for recommendations.
  • Hamper or laundry bag. Laundry bag is better for small spaces, plus you can make it yourself. A canvas bag is more durable and less smelly than flimsy nylon.
  • Clothes drying rack or clothesline (if your roommate doesn't mind). These wooden and metal umbrella clothes racks are plastic-free, space-saving, and collapsible.
  • Umbrella. If you don't already have one, and can't thrift one, look into renewable cork or an ethically made option.

If I remember correctly, nobody cares what you wear in college. Choose the most comfortable, low maintenance, least smelly fabrics possible- like linen and wool- and pack at least two weeks of clothes, including several go-to outfits for rushed mornings. Eight tops, four bottoms, two coats, four dresses, a jacket, four sets of exercise clothes, three sleepwear sets, two bags, 4-5 pairs of shoes, and however many lingerie sets / socks / accessories / swimsuits you need would easily fit in the tiniest dorm closet, providing plenty of variety year-round. You could even double these numbers, but I recommend taking less and focusing on basics. Your style and body will probably change, so it's better having a blank slate at first. My actual college wardrobe was reviewed here.

Most of my professors hated hats, so a scarf or wide headband was helpful on bad hair days, and upcycled ponytail holders to tie hair up for lab. If you get tired of your wardrobe over the course of a semester, host a clothes swap on your floor or with student groups. On an early trip to Paris, a friend introduced me to Tiffany, who started a secondhand shop on her campus and now works at Armani! If you're really motivated, organize a university repair or reuse workshop periodically- for clothes, electronics, whatever- and arrange to collect textiles for recycling from each dorm.


  • Shower caddy: Stainless steel wire baskets, like the kind used in kitchens, are what I would use. Are shower caddies necessary though? Even if you don't do water only, a waxed cotton bag might suffice for most zero waste products, including a bamboo toothbrush, soap, siwak/ waterpik / eco-friendly floss, menstrual cup, safety razor, baking soda, and tumbler for rinsing teeth. Umbra makes a plastic-free bamboo shower caddy, but it's pricey.
  • Natural rubber flip flops for showering, and robe (see above). 
  • Washcloths. Base the number on how often you use them to remove makeup, to scrub, etc., and how often you plan on doing laundry. Knitted hemp cloths are antibacterial, can be scrubbed with soap, and hung to dry without smelling bad.
  • Towels. Linen towels are cozy, space-saving, and don't smell when they dry.
  • Soap (or soap nuts). Try to stock up at home, then buy in cloth, cardboard, or paper if you can't find it loose. If there are no all-natural soaps, look for something with as few fragrances and additives as possible. The Environmental Working Group has a great database on the environmental safety and toxicity of common bar soaps. For instance, Basis has minimal impact on the environment. I had a professor let us do soaps in the lab during free periods, which is when I tried my disastrous bacon fat soap- it still haunts me.
I was actually no-poo for part of college, before I knew what that was. Otherwise, a shampoo and conditioner bar is practical and long-lasting. Instead of blowdrying, consider air-drying or braids, like the gorgeous Zero Waste Vegan. If you must buy packaged, Elate CosmeticsFat and the Moon and Meow Meow Tweet are cute, ethical, and responsibly packaged in reusable glass, aluminum, etc. Le Labo, Kjaer Weis, and Ellis Faas are refillable, but pricey for college students. For more affordable perfume, try refillable glass bottles from Call of the Vialed.


  • Decor. Think reusable, and try to use what you already have- plants, fabric wall hangings, weavings, crocheted blankets, pillows, floor pillows for friends to sit on, upcycled mats, rugs, books, and handmade ceramics (DIY ideas for these items in the Zero Waste Master List). Display photos in frames, or use cork and reusable push pins. Try a sisal or jute doormat to wipe shoes on slushy days.
  • Power strip, to switch off at night. You may also wish to look into wooden, steel, or bamboo flash drives, if you don't already have one. Don't forget rechargeable batteries in addition to your laptop, case, devices, cables, etc. When I went to college, streaming and computers made TV-and-DVD-less dorm rooms possible. I always printed on university printers instead of buying one of my own.
  • Solar flashlight. Or try plastic free beechwood.
  • Bedding. A wool mattress pad is your best bet. There are organic hemp, cotton, and bamboo mattress protectors in longer lengths packaged in hemp and corn, but backed with polyurethane. For sheets, make your own, use what you have, or ask for 39x80 linen sheets from Etsy and XL Twin organic hemp sheets from Rawganique for graduation :) I would just bring my own comforters and blankets (if you're crafty, knit a cute chunky one). Ditto for my own pillow, although a bamboo, wool, or natural fill pillow would be fine. Two linen sets seem like enough to me. Note: If bed bugs are a problem at your school, plastic is useful. Buy a special spray, pillow protector, and waterproof zippered mattress cover.
  • Bed risers. If necessary, upcycle plastic-free lifts from scrap materials or use steel / wooden ones. A lofted bed is dangerous if not done correctly though.
  • Sleeping bag. I don't know that it's needed, but it shows up on a lot of college packing lists. Here are recycled and tencel options.
  • Hangers, mirror, wicker basket (or several) for laundry / storage. Fancy organizers are probably unnecessary, but a door mirror, baskets, wooden hangers, and a box for lingerie / socks or DIY jewelry holder are good ideas. I don't see why a college student would have so many shoes to necessitate a shoe rack. Instead of using space bags, put out-of-season clothes in a basket on the floor or in the closet.

The dorms at my school had nightstands, desks, and chairs. Otherwise, I'd bring something from home or source furniture secondhand. To organize my room, I'd keep textbooks and papers at my desk and recreational reading in the nightstand. I'd hang coats, jackets, crisp button-downs, and dresses, fold everything else flat, storing bras, undies, and socks in a box, with leggings and tights rolled like tiny Cinnabons. The steamer would go in my closet with the clothes rack and lint brush. Luggage would go under the bed, shoes and laundry bag by the door so they were readily accessible, and toiletries too, if space permitted.


  • Soap. Soap flakes, or soap dissolved in hot water, seems to work fine in most shared laundry machines. Otherwise, use baking soda and washing soda, or stock up on an eco-friendly brand.
  • Vinegar. If you must buy it in plastic, I would buy big plastic jugs (1 and 2 plastics are most commonly recycled) to pour into a glass spray bottle. I don't know that expensive glass Heinz bottles are really better in terms of emissions.
  • Cloth rags. Old t-shirts will do.
  • Homemade scrubbies. Better than natural sponges / brushes if you don't have composting facilities on campus. 
  • Baking soda. In a box or paper bag if you can't find it loose.
  • Vodka. In a spray bottle, instead of Febreze!

Bring a broom or hand vacuum, and open windows or keep plants to freshen the air, instead of room fragrance. Most college students probably still need a wastebasket, if only for recycling.


  • Reusable shopping bags and containers. A cart can be helpful, providing storage when not in use. If you're in an area where bulk liquids are available, pack a few glass bottles with your sheets. No bulk options? Don't stress. I grew up in a rural area and still don't shop at bulk bins (I prefer putting sauces on lentils, cauliflower, and spiralized veggies instead of dry pastas anyway). Stick to loose or semi-loose fruits and vegetables. Ask the deli counter to put meat and cheese in your jar, tiffin, or reused Tupperware. Buy juice and milk in returnable or glass bottles if available, and items in cardboard, cloth, or paper instead of plastic to the extent possible. The important thing is to stay healthy and maintain a balanced diet, so if buying packaged foods is your only option, do it. If you have time, write the manager about your zero waste choice. You could ask professors to help you reach out to local farmers in the area.
  • Jar, canteen, or mug (or any combination of these). The jar can pull double duty for coffee and drinks, with a cozy to prevent breakage or insulate liquids.
  • Reusable utensils and cloth napkins. You can't always avoid packaging when restricted to cafeteria food, but bringing portable reusables will reduce disposable waste (even if you live in a drought state, reusables are better). Ask the cafeteria if you can bring your own containers for meals. They may be happy to oblige.

If your school doesn't have a composting program, start one! Should the university say no, try to limit food scraps, using every part you possibly can. Arrange a campus cleanup, or volunteer at a local garden. Bike and walk around campus; carpool or use public transportation (if available) when traveling further. There are plenty of ways to make a positive impact on the environment, even if you can't live perfectly zero waste.

For school supplies, I didn't use much besides a laptop. Some countries have burgeoning secondhand and vintage markets along with old mainstays Freecycle and Craigslist. Apart from FSC-certified printer paper and the occasional ream of hemp paper, my assignments were primarily digital. All my textbooks were digital or used, and I typically sold them after. 

Now for the zero-waste move. If your family has big reusable plastic storage bins or trunks, try and fit as much as you can in those, or use boxes around the house, look for moving boxes on Freecycle and Craigslist, and reuse / relist them afterward. My friends recommend liquor store boxes for moving. Some countries have programs to rent eco-friendly moving suppliesCarton Plein is one in Paris. I fold boxes shut by the flaps, but you can use paper tape, twine, or rope to secure them. I took glass bottles, plates, and even beer overseas with no breakage by wrapping them in clothes, towels, socks, and sheets. My last advice for living zero waste at university is say no to free shirts, fliers, notebooks, pencils, keychains, magnets, etc. For a downloadable version of this post, click here.

P.S. This is not meant to be an endorsement of college. Actually, if I were to do it all over again, I wouldn't go. I'm grateful for the privilege I had to graduate and don't wish to diminish the hard work of those in the university system, or judge the decisions of others. I just don't want this post to imply that university credentials are necessary to be educated and successful- I don't think they are. 

Paris to Go

Wardrobe Upgrades

I'm out of touch with trends, and my style takes more inspiration from Apgujeong halmeonis than Hadids, so I'm embracing my inner grandma to aggregate advice for updating a wardrobe from college to the corporate world. I interned for ELLE first semester of freshman year, and worked throughout school, so my college wardrobe was a little different from the North Face + Uggs formula of my classmates. I lived off campus and would frequently go straight to work from class, making rolling out of bed in pajamas not an option. My mom, who completed undergrad with two kids under four, then finished law school while raising three kids alone, never went to class without full makeup and dressing nicely. This made me uncomfortable about wearing sweats to school, considering I didn't even have cats to care for until junior year. Parisians, correct me if I'm wrong, but based on the throngs of kids I wade through everyday, it seems like neither lycée nor university students dress super casually? Even 12-year-olds wear either blazers and cashmere sweaters, or off-duty model looks, to Chipotle. 

For the sake of simplicity, I'm generalizing observations below, operating on the assumption that nearly all new grads have a limited budget to start with, and, by extension, limited storage space. Depending on your office dress code, what your style is, and what you do in your free time, you may be able to re-use workwear items for off duty, stretching your budget considerably. For instance, the Paris Vogue uniform of slim trousers, oversized tops, pencil skirts, tailored jackets, and comfortable shoes is typically appropriate for office and weekend, yields plenty of year-round outfit combinations, and doesn't necessarily cost much. My life experience is still limited, so this advice won't apply to every working environment. Please share what you've found helpful in your case!


Instead of Flip-Flops...
try leather sandals, espadrilles, slip on loafers, or peep toes 
K. Jacques-type or gladiator sandals and espadrilles, especially ribbon tie wedges, are widely accepted here. If they're not at your company, peep toes, Vara-style pumps, or Minnetonka / Everlane / Tod's type driving shoes are comfortable for warmer weather- the key is finding breathable, natural materials. When I worked in a lab, open-toed shoes were out. $20 Newbark flats from eBay (with a rubber sole the cobbler added for $12) were my favorite all purpose footwear because they covered the whole foot, looked nice with dresses, and were comfortable to commute and stand all day in, but light enough to not get sweaty.

Instead of miniskirts / minidresses...
try pencil or a-line skirts and sheath, shift, or fitted dresses
It's harder and can be more expensive to find a good fitted dress than a sleeveless sheath or shift, which, when cut above the knee, reigns supreme in Paris, with a leather jacket or tailored blazer. Some of your co-workers may find fitted styles overly dressy, or you may not be comfortable wearing one all day, so the latter may be preferable. Obviously, I almost exclusively wear dresses (in the lab, we could wear below the knee skirts), because suits are expensive and don't fit me right. My superiors cited this as a reason for promotions or good performance reviews! They thought my appearance was respectful and showed I took the job seriously. Because women hardly wear skirts now, they can potentially set you apart and make you memorable. Whatever skirt or dress you choose, it's better to skim the body than hug it.

Instead of tube tops / sYNTHETIC camis...
upgrade to a silk / linen camisole or shell
Longer-lasting, less informal, and versatile enough for off duty, these are some of the easiest things to buy at a thrift store, although Eileen FisherReformation and Everlane have good offerings. Usually, the armholes are cut wide enough to avoid armpits entirely, making them easy to maintain and hand-wash, assuming new grads don't have time for or ready access to laundry. Silk and linen are better smoothed by hand, require little to no ironing, and are every bit as comfortable as that ubiquitous Forever21 synthetic cami, minus the constantly unraveling seams.  

Instead of DrAWSTRING BAGS AND Uggs...
upgrade to a grown-up bag and knee-high or ankle boots.
In my strictest workwear environment, they didn't allow over-the-knee boots. Flat riding boots lined in cushy flannel and low-heeled leather zip-ups were office-appropriate and just as comfy. To me, a secondhand Longchamp bag is the lightest and best-priced way to carry your laptop, papers, lunch, and extra pair of shoes without killing your shoulders, but there are plenty of ethical leather and vegan options.



Instead of cutoffs and sweatpants...
upgrade to tailored shorts and wool pants
Taylor Swift is an excellent example of how shorts can look sophisticated and office appropriate. Keep your cutoffs for Burning Man or washing your car, but if there's any chance you might run into a coworker or manager on weekends, you may wish to swap in something more grown-up. Since shorts are now generally accepted in all but conservative offices, here's a helpful post for making them work on the job. Lined wool tab front pants, in my experience, are just as comfortable as sweats and better for warm weather. I found mine at thrift stores and shortened them for a few dollars; easy to pack and hand-wash and naturally wrinkle-resistant, I could steam them in the shower to save on dry cleaning.

Instead of a hoodie or fleece...

upgrade to a sweater and proper jacket 
A wool coat and decent trench for rain are warmer and more breathable than fleece or a hoodie. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can find ethical / secondhand options that won't break the bank. It helps that parkas are increasingly acceptable these days. Sweaters are as comfortable as hoodies, but more useful. Handknit isn't always the best for offices and is more cost-prohibitive. Instead, choose a lightweight wool or alpaca to layer under jackets, perfect for hot, crowded Métro rides and generally suited for year-round wear. Mine is a J Crew cashmere sweater in Heather Acorn, $18 at Clothes Mentor. Just don't make the mistake I did and keep buying frumpy cardigans (if I get cold, the pullover looks better over dresses).

Instead of sorority, class, or band t-shirts...
upgrade to grown-up t-shirts and blouses
Looser, thicker, with longer sleeves and more refined seams, Geraldine Saglio and Barbara Martelo have perhaps the best collection of office-appropriate t-shirts. Currently, I'm wearing a linen secondhand Etoile Isabel Marant Keiran, my black split sleeve cotton shirt, and thrifted Madewell cotton v-neck. Marinières are good, though I don't see many wearing the jersey kind in offices here. I once worked in an office where we couldn't wear t-shirts, so I wore Equipment shirts over camisoles, woven wool tops, and tunics. Most people look nice in an oxford (Emmanuelle Alt wears American Apparel ones), but I didn't want to deal with the ironing. Now I wear Etoile Isabel Marant's plaid-linen Tom shirt with my skirt or dark jeans and pumps / espadrilles (BTW I decided against a leather jacket. I tried one and with this plaid shirt I looked like Jamie Hince). I had to sew the back seam down because it made a weird bubble in the back, but it doesn't wrinkle and looks as nice in a corporate setting as at Freegan Pony. Reformation's Lina top is another low-maintenance option.

Instead of ripped, faded, low-rise jeans...
upgrade to intact medium / high rise indigo
Unless you work in a creative industry where Vetements-style jeans are acceptable, a good pair of dark rinse skinnies / bootcuts will work wonders. I don't know why I hung on to my flares so long, because skinny jeans, cut at the ankle, look more professional. I like J Brand Photoready 811, which are floating around eBay for cheap (mine are Bluebird wash, $7, and needed no tailoring). Katie Holmes wore them so you know they're conservative, but the Kardashians also wore them, so you know they can party. With a thrifted cashmere v-neck and pumps, they're perfect for a day at the office and drinks at a Paris speakeasy after. 

On a tight budget, fast fashion can be tempting, but in case ethical implications aren't enough to trump price, remember the clothes require more maintenance and cost more in the long run. Some argue you can still get years of wear from fast fashion, although it takes more mending, fixing hems, sewing buttons back on, repairing heels, etc. It's all about balance- minimizing mistake buys and buying when you're absolutely sure an item is quality and you'll love wearing it five+ days a week. Thrift stores are usually a good place to experiment with lots of different styles, instead of select trends marketers, retailers, and merchandisers choose for you. Now that the secondhand market is more selective and conscious about what styles / brands they take, that may not be true of all stores.

When I first started working, I put more money into shoes and lingerie- they are the basis for everything (finding supportive bras that are invisible under clothes is surprisingly difficult). I wore a dress and good shoes to job interviews instead of a suit, and recruiters always remembered me. Invest in a nice coat next, because that's the first thing you're seen in, then jeans because they're a workhorse, and a good pair of jeans gives confidence (did Carine Roitfeld say that or something? I feel like I'm plagiarizing this). Also, tops normally don't last as long as bottoms or jackets, which last years with proper care, so budget accordingly.

You don't need a different outfit for each day of the year or day of the week- in most industries, it's probably best to be seen in the same outfit more than once, even if you're constantly photographed or in the public eye. The perfect work wardrobe depends on color and quality, things that look better the more they're worn. For instance, my sister (an accountant for a major US company, who has to travel for work) relies on a formula of colorful wrap dresses, neutral button-downs and tunics, bootcut trousers and pops of pastel, all things that don't wrinkle easily, remain comfortable, and will withstand the test of time (I think she buys a lot online and gets high-quality statement pieces from Korea). Invincible Summer is another example of an office-and-age-appropriate wardrobe.

In most offices, prints are ok if they're classic. Leopard works with everything, and horizontal stripes generally don't look dated. Vertical stripes and some florals can look like Rachel from Friends, while certain plaids look very Cher and Dionne at the beginning of Clueless. There are exceptions to everything, and it's best to adapt to the unique culture of your workplace, erring on the conservative side, if necessary. Lastly, most of this still applies if you work at home. You're still a professional! Sweats and pajamas just don't seem conducive to productivity. You don't have to go all out, but a nice button down or jumper and combed hair are more polished, in case you have to leave the house or unexpectedly meet a client for some reason.

P.S. Pictured above, my wardrobe today. Not pictured: My white coat, parka, sharp shoulder sweater, grey t-shirt, leggings, pajamas, and secondhand H&M waxed cotton moto jacket that I stole from my sister 

Paris to Go

Going Zero Waste (When No One In Your Life Wants To)

I might take the path of least resistance more than some zero wasters (for the sake of simplicity, as with all posts, I am generalizing here). I try to avoid conflict and focus on building and establishing relationships to lessen environmental impact. This approach successfully turned my household into a plastic free zone, and the people in my life constantly surprise me with unsolicited zero waste switches. Here’s what worked for me when living with those who don’t share my lifestyle.

Living with Non Zero Wasters

  • Lead by example. For the most part, I try to mind my own business and not talk to my husband about zero waste, because he responds better to actions than words. He prefers my spaghetti sauce to store-bought, and colorful zero waste meals to processed takeout. When your partner / roommates taste homemade pickles or hummus for the first time, they’ll never go back. Try throwing a zero waste party to get them acclimated (for zero waste wedding tips, click here). Live your life a certain way, and it sets off a chain reaction- see Cheryl Mendelson’s application of the broken windows theory to housework.
  • Be tolerant. If my husband asks me to pick up his favorite brand of deodorant or something, I do it (the only things I buy for him now are deodorant and toothpaste packaged in aluminum- they both go to recycling). If a particular product makes him happy and comfortable, he deserves it! Be reasonable and non-judgmental. Haranguing loved ones into zero waste will not produce long-lasting results; it may even promote resentment. But if he asks me for, say, a tuna salad sandwich, that’s something I can make zero waste with the same end result. Getting someone's preferred brand in bulk is an inoffensive way to introduce zero waste to their existing lifestyle- like getting my husband's favorite beer in growlers (though now he’s brewing his own, which is even better). 
  • Introduce appealing alternatives. Making small, inoffensive changes, like sticking an unpackaged bar of soap in the shower or switching plastic toothbrushes to bamboo, are often effective and met with no resistance. My husband loved the creaminess of savon d’alep so much, in fact, he started using it instead of shampoo and body wash, leaving me with two less packaged favorites to purchase :) When I refilled his favorite Aesop mouthwash with my own homemade concoction, he actually preferred it, and started asking me to make it all the time!
  • Save receipts. The cost benefits of zero waste stagger even reticent roommates. The difference is particularly obvious with cleaning and beauty products, especially in Paris. While I’m away, my husband cleans regularly using expensive conventional products. He notices the apartment is dirtier with the industrial stuff- which doesn't cut through hard water buildup- and the laundry suffers from starchiness, dye loss, or dye transfer. According to him, there's a huge difference when I get back and clean, quite economically, with simple vinegar and soap. Beyond finances, when your family sees how much time you save cleaning your uncluttered private space, using common household products instead of shopping, or dressing with a minimal wardrobe instead of caring for a ton of clothes, they might be impressed into simplicity themselves.
  • Emphasize aesthetics. My husband is a man of taste. He appreciates good design and beauty, so the loveliness of glass and linens (as opposed to crumply paper towels and ugly plastic) are, to him, the biggest favorable arguments for zero waste. Some people think the pursuit of beauty isn’t a valid reason to switch to a zero waste lifestyle. I say, whatever works, as long as you’re not throwing out old, perfectly useful stuff to buy new stainless steel and glass replacements.

If you're a minor living with parents, you might not have much control over grocery shopping or even the personal products you use. Try bringing household cutlery and a cloth when eating out with family, instead of using disposables. Pack your own lunch in reusables, upcycle household items, or clean up with soap and vinegar. If there's an upcoming gift-giving occasion, you could ask for an experience gift, zero waste alternatives, or a trip to a bulk or resale store :) On a college campus? Do what you can. Start cleaning with natural products, try a zero waste beauty routine, walk instead of driving your car, and drink out of a glass jar, which me and a few classmates did for years- it isn't as weird as it sounds. Bring reusables to the cafeteria, start a composting program with like-minded students, or take your own shopping bags to the store. Don't stress if you can't live completely zero waste! Make it work for your circumstances.

Just relax and don’t try to change everyone in your life. People respond better, I think, to a compassionate and understanding approach than a rigid, Spartan one. Focus on your own lifestyle, and others will follow- maybe not entirely, but they are sure to make changes that lead to positive environmental effects, however small.

Paris to Go