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 (I have seven no-see pairs, in black, white, and nude- they never slip, they are so perfect) or a handknit A Wool Story pair (also perfect, these are my favorite things that I own).


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

25 comments:

  1. So, with such pretty underwear, I'd worry about my monthlies staining them - any issues there? For this reason, I have COUNTLESS pairs of Uniqlo black knickers - which go with all my largely dark pants I wear to work or work out...

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    1. Exactly what Melanie said... the cup makes it possible to wear whatever you want all the time! I even read you can go commando with it ha

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    2. The menstrual cup is my solution too.

      Although I see some staining on the days I bike. For the life of me, I cant figure out why. I have browsed forums and studied anatomy charts to see if I am doing something wrong. Still havent figured it out. Ideas ladies ?

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    3. Huh! That's interesting. What cup are you using if you don't mind me asking? I haven't had this problem but I know the cup I use was actually designed for older women and women who've already had children so maybe it serves as extra reinforcement for biking days?

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    4. you may well get incidental staining if there are any remnants of blood in the vaginal canal present during retrieval or reinsertion. I usually do (or leak in general because my cup weirdly sits on an angle like some men's guys point left or right).

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    5. Thanks all - I do use cups (Lunette brand) and not often, but they can and do leak. And at night... I choose to not wear the cup, so that's on me for staining, but that wasn't when I meant...

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  2. I think Ariana's using a menstrual cup. I'm using one too and since I got used to use it properly, I haven't had blood stains in my undies. But just in case, I think it's a good way to wear black underneath for those few days per month... :)

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    1. The cup is so freeing, no stains, no leaks or cramps since switching... glad it's worked out for you too

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    2. Damn I still get cramps sometimes with a cup :(

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  3. so being well-endowed enough that going braless isn't a practical (or comfortable, or figure-flattering) option makes someone basic, while being light enough up top that it isn't a big deal makes someone cool? I mean - I get that body-shaming is a thing, but...that seems harsh.

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    1. People go braless regardless of body type, for many reasons. People decide to wear bras for many reasons (and they don't have to be basic to wear one). I received many emails saying that I'm basic for wearing a bra and should just go without if I really wanted to be environmentally friendly, feminist, etc. That was a reference to that. But I'm not comfortable going braless anyway

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    2. I agree with you both. In an ideal world we'd be able to eliminate all the baggage of social expectations and perceptions. If feminism and gender equality is about freeing the nipple for someone, that's their choice and I respect it, but they shouldn't be imposing it on others. In a theoretical vacuum going braless might be a wonderful form of bodily and mental liberation, also resulting in less waste and consumption. However, do I want to walk around in a city with a bunch of men looking at my nipple and swaying breasts in the streets, at the workplace, etc.? No. I'll reconsider when the world is rid of those people.

      Ariana - you're so lucky when it comes to scoring such great second hand finds! I'm also very particular about matching sets, which makes things difficult when I prefer the seamless cotton shorts from one brand but like the wireless bra from another maker...

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    3. That is a great point. It's a personal choice, just like being vegan or eating meat, and I can't believe that people judge and hate on personal decisions like that.

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    4. Oh my, I can't believe that you receive emails about how one should go braless for ethical reasons. (I really shouldn't be surprised, but, ack!) I could never go braless out of the house myself, both because of my size and what I'm comfortable with.

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  4. (fwiw, the menstrual cup + Thinx option is basically mishap-proof...if one lets you down, the other picks up the slack)

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    1. I have yet to try period panties, so it's good to hear from someone who has!

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  5. Ariana,

    Have you read the article on Quartz about the lie of conscious consumption ? Your take ?

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    1. I saw it on your blog! So, I have zero faith in the political system to achieve lasting environmental change. I took several classes on environmental policy in school and worked for my county's environmental planning commission (which was super corrupt, raided by the Feds, all my references from that job are serving time right now, and the Justice Department is still investigating them) and especially after attending COP21 I feel like they are hopelessly ineffective. The current projects I'm working on are urgently needed in my area, but have been stalled for political reasons for the umpteenth time (these projects started when I was a child... people have been petitioning their representatives for these projects for almost thirty years now, with no success). And turning climate change into a political matter instead of looking at the science alone impedes progress. Historically, lasting environmental policy changes started with consumer demand. CFCs, for example, were only phased out because consumers didn't want them. Rather than placing faith in politicians, why not force the hand of the corporations they are controlled by? Consumer demand for transparency is creating huge industry changes in ways regulation never did before (how many years has it been since Upton Sinclair wrote the Jungle). Consumers changed agricultural policy in ways farm lobbies never could. I just think the political process is too long, circuitous, and encumbered by other issues (like the unreliability of politicians themselves) and I think protests and petitions are largely a waste of time, whereas shopping our values and living the best way we can is better.

      But I'm VERY biased by my experiences and refuse to even follow politics. Particularly because I live in an area that loves fracking (if people refused to consume natural gas and chose increasingly affordable solar options, fracking- yet another failure of the political system- wouldn't happen)

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    2. Ariana, Thank you for the response.

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    3. My experiences are really limited though... the latest Ecocult article about 14 fashion industry myths was super thought provoking

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  6. As always, I appreciate your cleanliness-obsessed self deprecation.

    I've been wondering for a while, are there any natural or biodegradable fibers that stretch like our modern plastic clothing? The idea of those microfibers pouring into the ocean freaks me out a bit (but then so does everything happening to our planet).

    On that same topic, how do you keep from becoming anxious? I'm very passionate about the environment, but the more I learn the more I despair for our future. I've had a few panic attacks about all of this. But I still want to learn more and work in this field. Is that crazy? It just seems like the only thing that really matters is the planet's health at this point, it would be hard to focus on anything else.

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    1. First, LOL

      A lot of our natural fibers are highly elastic- linen, hemp and cotton stretch so much- but they don't bounce back into shape until you wash them, which is why people love spandex and synthetic fibers. I can't believe how hard it is to find clothes without a small percentage of synthetics in them. I have to stop up the drain and scoop the water into an indoor plant when I wash them.

      I was just talking about the anxiety because I knew other sustainability majors actually had breakdowns and even at the climate change conference (and my friend who went to COP22 noticed the same thing) the air of desperation and depression was suffocating. A lot of my classmates turned to yoga (and actually left corporate or government jobs in sustainability to be yoga instructors- one left medical school to be a waitress, and they are all much happier). I find religion (not yoga) to be my only hope because I've lost faith in people. People have so much potential to make better choices and come up with amazing, inventive environmental solutions but their tendency is to squander it and be greedy instead. So I need to believe in something higher. I'm not practicing any religion at the moment (I hope to soon), and I dislike ritual and doctrine or any religion that participates in wars, but I've found one that gives me peace and a hope for the future while still aligning with what I learn about science and history so I don't worry about this planet- I believe it's here to stay and the human race won't be extinct or have to live anywhere else.

      I know a lot of people disapprove of religion because of the corruption they've seen so I don't talk about it much. But the more I learned about science, particularly bacterial DNA, the more I started to believe in something higher

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    2. Hi Ariana,

      I too have struggled with the despair that can enter into sustainability work. The human heart seems to lean towards destruction so much of the time! We *could* make good choices, but choose not to when the better way is filled with a lot of joy and preserves life. It makes no sense to me.

      That said, I have found a more meaningful life by refusing to go with the flow and give in to societal norms that are harming human life and this planet. I think it is important to remember that we do much of this for the joy it brings and that when we share that joy, others want some too! We cannot legislate the human heart. But we can woo it. :-)

      Rachel P.

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    3. That is so beautiful Rachel! I completely agree we can't legislate the heart. I think the most powerful way zero wasters can appeal to people is not by scaring them into thinking it's a necessary step but by showing them the beauty and joy it brings. But can you imagine... if we cared for our planet as much as we care for ourselves how great everything would be?

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  7. Love that you brought up a higher power. After being an atheist for years, I have recently found faith and it gives everything a fresh perspective and fuel for positivity. I was one who got sonbihhed down with issues, but now I am more mindful of them but at the same time, more hopeful. Interesting that science brought you to divinity. I was trying to explain this to a friend recently. The complexity of our world is too intricate to not be by design. Just look at the miracle of life and our nature to sustain the species.

    On another note, I hate lingerie shopping as much as I love lingerie aesthetically. I believe we have a similar petite, yet curvy build that sometimes makes it challenging in surprising ways. I love wireless bras and briefs that actually cover my butt, in matching pairs- that are actually sexy. Talk about wishful thinking! I'm giving up for now and just sticking to black for everyday, so pieces from different brands "match" and hunting for a few more vibrant colored pairs for special occasions.

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