Towards a Sustainable Wardrobe: Step 1: Know what you got!

Source: Edited image

Welcome to the Towards a Sustainable Wardrobe Series. This series of posts looks at the different ways to going about greening your wardrobe - be it buying versatile pieces, scouring for second-life and vintage, shopping for eco-friendly outfits or just not buying at all.. whatever it takes to green your closet!

Here is Step 1 of the process:

Step 1: Know what you got!

I live in a 400 sft apartment with K.

My clothes live in a 9 sft closet. (about 65 cu.ft, thanks for checking!)

Along with most* of the clothing I own, I also store 3 queen sized quilts and all the bedding in here. There are two large suitcases standing upright at the back of the closet. These are my seasonal clothing storage solution. There is so much going on in the closet that it is always a mess and it is hard to find anything without a fight. There is usually a stack of clothes on the floor at the foot of the closet. I pick these up and dump them inside whenever we have guests over. This is starting to sound like a rant on lack of storage.. I promise that that is not the point I'm trying to make.. because I'm not complaining, just merely stating the facts.

*Doesn't include outer wear.

Anyhooo, all the stacking-rummaging-picking-dumping-stacking... and so on means that it takes a while to find what I want, not to mention the poor way I'm treating these clothes. There are times when I complain that I don't have any clothes to wear. K comments that I have one too many clothes; so many clothes that the closet is always overflowing and that I should find something in that pile to wear. My defense to this comment was always: "It is not that I have too many clothes, It is just that the closet is too small!!". Well, so yesterday to find the truth about who between us was right, I did what I seem to being doing quite a bit these days: Count. I counted all my clothes and created an inventory.

Any guesses as to how many clothes I own?

280!!! I own 280 pieces of clothing!

eeek, isn't that a lot?! I'm sure there are people who own more than I do.. but this number just seems too big to me!.. for those interested, the breakdown is:

This exercise helped me with two things:
One: I now know how much I actually own. The 'depth' of my portfolio
Two: I'm now aware of the "type" of clothing I tend to shop for. The 'width' of my portfolio

Based on this depth and width data, I can take strategic steps towards greening my wardrobe.

How? I'll cover that in another post! In my opinion, knowing what you got is the first step towards a sustainable wardrobe.

Chew on this: According to, the more number of dresses, leather shoes and running shoes you have, the greater the number of slaves working for you! Take the quiz and find out how many work for you.. I have 39 slaves working for me! yikes!

Note to my dearest readers:
I know I've been a bad blogger. I intend to update the blog everyday, but off-late I have cut down on on computer usage to give my aching right hand a rest. It still hurts, but not as much as before and I'm typing with my left hand now :)

P.S: I have super exciting news to share with you tomorrow so stay tuned!!!

Clo.Outfit: Color, Prints and a New Accessory

You must have noticed that I have been missing in action this past week. That is because I have acquired a new accessory - Yes, the one you see in the pic below. It is a cool ninja accessory with secret blades hidden it with which I can rid the world of its scum.......or... something like that.... ummm (right, keep dreaming, P). Anyhooo, as you guessed, It is a wrist brace. So after bearing with the pain in my wrist and right hand for a week and a half, I went to the doc. He confirmed what I feared I already knew I had. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Ughhh. I have to wear a wrist brace now every time I'm working on the system and the doc asked me to stop using the mouse and get a track pad.

Later, sulkily I told K that I do have CTS and felt like my body was giving away, one part at a time... K, (with that smirk on his face) says... ummm well, you are getting old. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh! You can imagine what happened next...

Coming back to the outfit, I had to run a couple of errands around the house and I had decided I wanted to wear my argyle print tights, so I planned the entire outfit around them; I'm amazed by the n number of things you can do with scarves! I'm wearing two scarves today. One around my neck, can you guess where the second one is?? right, the skirt! the zebra print skirt is actually a scarf wrapped and tied around my waist :) 

What I'm wearing:
Scarf: c/o mum's travels
Jacket: North Face Polar Fleece jacket (Poly-based fleece)
Shirt: Gap 
Skirt: Scarf worn as a wrap skirt; c/o mum's travels
Tights: Uniqlo
Bag: Vegan from Lulu
Shoes: Vegan from Modcloth

Clo.Chat: Towards a Sustainable and Natural Cosmetics Kit

Get a cup of coffee or tea or whatever it is that you prefer. Settle down and read on.... this one's a long post.

Today evening I lined up all the cosmetics/personal care products I own. Then I counted them all. The count? More than 60 products! Can you believe it? I sure as hell can't. I never thought I owned these many especially since I use about 10 of these regularly and maybe 10 more occasionally. That's about 20 products, which means I own about 40 more products I don't really use.

How did I end up with so many?
  • Bought a bunch of products to try for hair/face to find "the one" (rendering the ones that are not, useless)
  • Freebies/Samples (Who doesn't love free stuff?)
  • Impulse purchases (Oooh, look that shade matches the dress I'm wearing tonight; ka-ching)
  • Very old stuff still lurking around eating up space (For supposed future use; useless hope!)
I'm curious though, is it me or do you also find yourself surrounded by so much stuff you don't use!?

These are all the reasons I could come up with to make my cosmetics/personal care products kit more sustainable:
  1. In this post, I found that my leading brand hair care product has high hazard toxins it. Applying that same calculation to the my entire collection means x50 the chemicals I'm inputting into my system!  
  2. Cosmetics and personal care products have a shelf life and it is really not a good idea to use them beyond that period. Read more here.
  3. I live in a 400sft apartment with my husband. I really don't have the luxury of space to keep the stuff I don't use.
  4. I'm moving towards using only natural and vegan products; So cleaning up and getting rid of all the synthetic and chemical products means I can add natural products to my portfolio as needed.
Now all of this is nice and dandy. Here is my question: How to apply the three R's (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) to the cosmetics/personal care products? I've jotted down what I came up with below. I'd appreciate your ideas/suggestions/advice.

Step 1: Put a breaker on the buying for a while. Fix the current mess, then you can do some need-based shopping
Step 2: Reuse, reuse, reuse. I read somewhere that someone mixed blush to white paint to give it that faint pink color - some innovation huh!
  • Use old shampoos and conditioners to clean up combs and brushes. Apparently, conditioner makes for a great shaving cream! More tips here
  • Look at the number of nail polishes I own! I'm seriously planning to setup a Nail polish swap:  A group of friends get together, buy natural, chemical free polishes in different colors and exchange them! You get to try different colors and  it will cost less. Interested friends in NYC, ping me!
  • Still trying to come up with good reuse for hair styling products (curl products) - Any ideas??
Step 3: Recycle the empty bottles. Many times you can recycle cosmetic packaging curbside but a lot of this packaging is made up of plastic#5 which is often left out of curbside recycling initiatives. Fret not, many companies have come up with cosmetic packing recycling initiatives such as Origins (accepts all types of packing irrespective of brand), Back to M.A.C (accepts only MAC products) etc.
Step 4: Buy Less!!!
Step 5: Buy natural and organic products. Safe for the body and the earth (couldn't resist the cliche)

In summary,

So I'm going to clean up my kit and will keep you posted on the updates.

...and now friend, if you have read through this entire post, I owe you a brownie to go with that coffee or tea or whatever that is that you are drinking.

Clo.Outfit: ComicCon'd

K surprised me with tickets to ComicCon (featuring the NY Anime Festival) and I was super duper ecstatic that we were going! I thought of cosplaying like my fave anime characters, but since we were short on time instead decided to be inspired by Japanese fashion drawing from anime and Harajuku. The pledge of not shopping meant digging up the closet and coming up with a outfit that was J-inspired yet still "me". 

For the dress, I stuck to the basics - white shirt and black denim skirt. I accessorized with an obi belt, a hand-knit beanie, striped socks and striped leg warmer (worn as an arm band). Since we'd be walking a lot, I went with vegan Oxford flats from Melissa. 

What I'm Wearing:
Shirt: Express
Skirt: Denim (Too old to remember)
Belt: Vegan; Obi style; ASOS
Thigh Highs: Polka dot;
Socks: Cotton; Gap
Shoes: Vegan Oxfords - Alexandre Herchcovitch for Melissa
Bag: Woven; Crossover; c/o mum's travels in India
Beanie: Woven - handmade by Nepalese tribals, c/o mum's travels
Fake eyelashes: Make Up For Ever

Completely off the topic for this blog, but while we are on the topic of comics and anime...

If you are new to the world of anime and would like to get introduced, I'd suggest starting off with movies/series from a couple of great directors: Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki. Google them and you'll find lists of their works. I have watched all of them and totally recommend them. Along with these, here are some of my favorite shows, in no particular order:

Samurai Champloo
Cowboy Bebop
Ouran High School Host Club
Rurouni Kenshin
Tekkonkinkreet (movie)
Paprika (movie)
12 Kingdoms
Last Exile
Darker Than Black
Fullmetal Alchemist
Soul Eater
Sword of the Stranger (movie)

Where to watch: Hulu has a lot of these shows, mostly English dubbed and some subbed (I ONLY watch subbed versions, well, I'm a purist and hey that's how I improve my Japanese :D ). Netflix also has some titles and you can always borrow DVDs and Mangas from NYPL.

See how I styled the same skirt and polka dot tights differently here.

Clo.Outfit: Girl About Town

So far, October has been a month of weekly park visits. Last week was Bryant and Central Park, and today we went to the High Line park. We are trying to get as much sun as possible before it starts getting too cold. There was a chill in the air so I decided to bring out my warm, comfy and eco-friendly bamboo tights. These tights are made up of 80% natural fiber -56% bamboo yarn and 24% cotton, and the remaining is polyester and spandex. I tried something new today; wearing a fedora backwards. It gives a very different yet stylish look. That's two styles in one! :)

I'm liking the idea of matching my tights to shoes whenever possible; makes one look tall, I think. What do you think? Would you match them?

What I'm Wearing:
Dress: H&M
Tights: Eco-friendly; 80% natural fibers;
Shoes: Vegan Oxfords;
Belt: Vegan; Target
Fedora: Natural fiber - cotton; flea market; worn backwards
Earrings: Flower petals enclosed in plastic; gift
Rings: H&M, Flea market
Bag: Vegan; Waterproof; Bought it 8 years back in India. One of my favorites.

Clo.Outfit: Festive Season Fusion

you can see the eco-sneaks peeping from under my skirt

I meant to do this post earlier (read: 2 weeks ago) but just did not get the chance. I have always wanted to try a fusion of Indian traditional + western and the festival month of October just seemed perfect for that :)

Wishing ya'll a belated Happy Dasara! Hope you feasted on yummy food :)
Dasara Shubhakankshalu :)

What I'm Wearing:
Skirt: A traditional Ghagra (bought at a crafts fair directly from the weaver in Ahmedabad)
Vest: H&M
Hat: Thrifted; Vintage Phil Forstadt. I wrapped the "chunni" around the hat to make it look like a rimmed turban
Awkward Robot Charm: Handmade by lovespelljewels, Etsy
Shoes: eco-sneaks from Simple (top made of 100% hemp, sole from used car tyres, laces: recycled PET, organic cotton lining)
The trinket hanging from my pocket is an ear ring (I lost its pair)

Clo.Outfit: My 'Running Late for the Train' Outfit (Fall)

Every morning, I run. Nope, not to stay fit but to catch a train.
For those of you who don't know me well enough, here is something you should know. I am NOT a morning person. I can stay awake however late at night, but I will not wake up early. This trait is obviously not helpful when you need to be at work on time. I had to be at work by 8am today, which meant that I had to wake up at 6am to get ready and catch the 7am train. phewww

That mini rant sets the context for this otherwise normal (read routine) outfit I'm wearing today. Yet I like the simplicity and the versatility of it. This is the kind of dress that you can accessorize as little or as much as you like, remember Sheena's LBD? You can just throw it together in a minute, it is formal with a hint of playful and super comfortable. What is your go-to outfit when you are running late??

The bus shoot happened by chance, but it felt appropriate to arrange this photo shoot in some form of public transportation, as I'm always chasing one! So here I am in a New York City bus. (M-103, to be precise).

What I'm wearing:
Shoes: Vegan; Don't remember where I bought them
Solid Tights: Uniqlo
Dress: JCP
Scarf: Courtesy of Mum's travels in India
Umbrella: Clear Plastic from Century 21
Jacket (not seen): Vegan; Kenneth Cole 

Clo.Chat: Toxic Curls


Yesterday I re-watched the video on The Story of Cosmetics with Annie Leonard. Elaborating on the 'Toxics In, Toxics Out' concept, Annie mentions that there are carcinogens and reproductive toxins in her leading brand shampoo. I was curious to check what toxins I was washing my hair with so took up this little exercise:

I made a list of ALL the listed ingredients from four of my heavily used hair care products. I then looked up each ingredient on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website. This website was launched in 2004 to create online safety profiles for cosmetic and personal care products. Basically, they compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. They then score each ingredient based on the health hazard and availability of data for that ingredient. Can you believe that there is no published data for some ingredients that goes into our cosmetics (scary!!!).

Anyhoo, below is snapshot of my little exercise:

Click to enlarge

What I found:
As you can see, all my hair care products have atleast one or two very high health hazard score (7-10) and a few moderate hazard ingredients (according to the Skin Deep website).  Read the names of the ones with "0" score; they are all natural extracts and water. Wonder why we can't have more zero-score ingredients in our products...

All in all, those reds and oranges and yellows in the chart above are all bad for me! my shampoo has a known carcinogen and a reproductive toxin. My conditioner has a very well documented human skin toxicant and my hair spray and styling lotion have a known human immune system and skin toxicant. This means that I'm inputting a lot of dangerous and unwanted toxins into my system. 

Time to listen to the elders and mum and start using shikakai :). And no, I'm not kidding. My mum had thicker, stronger and healthier hair at my age than I do now (she's got photographic evidence too). 

Shikakai is on my Indian grocery list now. I hope I can find the fruit itself and not the powder or paste.. In the mean time, if you want to find products that are safe, just go here and look them up or just look-up your product by brand or ingredient and see what's in your products.

For those who are interested in watching the Story of Cosmetics video, here it is:

Clo.Tip: How I Shop Vegan for Less Moolah

I was queuing up a post on best places to shop online/offline for vegan shoes when I saw Archana's comment on this post about finding really good vegan shoes for $$ or less. So I combined my post with the response to her comment. There is much to share, so here we go!

Offline  Shopping:
There are many mainstream chain stores that carry a few faux-leather or vegan pieces. These are typically priced comparable to leather shoes in the collection .
Some shops to try:
  • Moo Shoes in NYC (Vegan shoes/accessories store)
  • Kaight boutique in NYC (eco-friendly and vegan wear only; it is a bit on the expensive side)
  • Irregular Choice boutique in NYC (limited vegan collection)
  • TOMS (has a vegan line)
  • Forever 21 (limited selection, latest fads and trends)
  • Express (thanks for the tip, Anagha! She found vegan booties here)
  • Aerosoles 
  • NineWest

Caution! Even if the body of the shoe/boot is non-leather, the sole could be! So, double check with the sales person and look for the “Genuine Leather” logo. Also, many times I found that in chain stores, vegan shoes = canvas/fabric shoes. So brace yourself! Don’t expect to find much  :)

Online Shopping:
I have always found it easier to shop for vegan shoes/ accessories online, since you can eliminate the guess work out of the equation pertaining to a mainstream store visit.  Also, many websites now offer a flat rate shipping or free shipping both ways.

Some noteworthy sites where I found decent vegan shoes for $$ or less:
Other Online shops that carry the vegan brands I mentioned in yesterday's post:

Caution! In my experience, I have found that cheaper vegan shoes are mostly made in China and it is hard to find information on their origins and the company’s stand on ethical/fair-wages and sustainability.

(Offline vs. Online shopping is another issue I want to research and blog about - Is one better than the other? Which is more sustainable? etc.... coming soon!)

My formula for saving $$:
You stick with the brands you know are ethical and sustainable even if they are on the expensive side and do the following drill:

Note: Most of the shoes I own were bought at 40% or greater discount and this is my preferred method of shopping.

Hmm... does using a flowchart seem too geeky to y'all? I'm liking it though ;)

How do you go about your shopping?

psst.. I have this feeling that I did not include a really big/obvious brand in the list.. Feel free to jog my memory by dropping in a line in the comments section.

Clo.List: A Round-up of the Best Vegan Shoe Brands

* Unique Selling Point

Here is a quick round-up of my favorite vegan shoe brands. Some I have tried and others, I look forward to. If you have been following this blog, you'll know that I heart Melissa shoes.  The Steve Madden slouchy boots have held out really well for the past two New York winters. I'm totally digging my quirky Irregular choice shoes and the chic blue Cri de Ceour pumps. I find all the styles I own to be comfortable over long hours. Haven't tried dancing in my Cri de Ceours yet.... but otherwise, rest all pass that test! :)

psst.. click the table for a larger image!

I have reached out to a few of these companies for more details on their material usage and sustainability commitments and will update this table as and when I hear from them, so keep checking back!

Clo.Outfit: Stripes, Leopards and Red Bows

Credit to J for this photo location

I love animal prints. I love all things striped. I love to mix 'em up. 

It gets even more exciting when you add shoes with red polka dot bows + floral patterns + dangling cherries to this mix. I love these shoes. I think they are childishly wacky. I first spotted these in Chicago, when best bud and I randomly walked into this store called Akira, right next to the subway station.

I did not buy them, but when I got home, I googled it and found that they had only one boutique outside of UK and no points for guessing where - yes, right here in SoHo. Boy was I ecstatic. If you've never been to this store, then you should. It is an awesome awesome place, so creative, so wacky, so different, so irregular! And the best part? they carry a few vegan shoes!! yippppieee!!!!

Anyhoo...It was a beautiful sunny day here in NYC and we spent a good chunk of the day in Central Park.

What I'm wearing:
Denim Cut-Offs: Cut a 7-yr old ill-fit Levis 
Shirt: Organic Cotton from Zara
Scarf: Cotton (c/o of mum's travels across India)
Shoes: Vegan from Irregular Choice
Beaded Bracelet: Crafts Fair, Hyderabad
Ring: H&M
Bag: Woven grass bag (c/o Alila Hotels, Bali - where we stayed for our honeymoon)

Clo.Outfit: A Dress That Was......

A dress that was a skirt. Here is a skirt I bought 4 years back. I loved the print and thought I could rock a mid-length skirt. But, after coming home and trying it on again, I just couldn't make it look good on me! It always looked off, somehow....until, I pulled it up to make a summer dress :)

I gave the dress a bit of structure by adding a belt. I have always been a fan of Obi belts (the Japanophile in me, i.e) and fell in love more so after seeing the metallic Obi belts in Paul & Joe's Spring 2011 collection.  

What I'm wearing:
Dress: Skirt pulled up + a safety pin to tighten the elastic
Belt: Vegan Obi belt from ASOS
Shoes: Vegan Steve Madden from Moo Shoes
Bag: Handmade Jute satchel from a crafts market in Hyderabad
Hat: Hell's Kitchen Flea

The weather was just perfect for a day in the park absorbed in an intriguing sci-fi novel (Asimov's Foundation series!!!) 

On the way back in Grand Central Terminal


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