EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 4, 2007

Clothing with a conscience Dressing 'cruelty-free' doesn't have to mean sacrificing style

North of Boston image consultant Ginger Burr makes a silent statement every morning while getting dressed for work - her stylish wardrobe is 100 percent vegan.

What's vegan, you ask? Veganism is the practice of not eating meat, fish, eggs or dairy products - anything from an animal. And most people who follow the practice - who are known vegans - typically shun clothing made from animal byproducts, including leather, wool, cashmere, suede, shearling, down, silk and fur because they believe the animals are treated inhumanely.

"Veganism is more than what you eat, it is a personal philosophy of living a life of compassion toward all living beings," Burr said. "Sure, it takes a little extra thought and effort. But as my mother has always said, anything worth doing is worth doing well."

Burr, who hasn't eaten red meat in 25 years, decided to go vegan roughly a year-and-a-half ago after reading about what she considered to be cruel treatment of animals in the dairy industry. She rid her closet of all animal byproducts; however, she hasn't replaced her sophisticated style of dress with tie-dye and peace beads.

Because there are so many cruelty-free options, vegans can make a statement without altering their personal style, said Burr, who helps clients best present themselves through their clothing and makeup choices.

"I think people have this idea that if you went vegan, you'd have to look like a hippie with boiled hemp socks," said Jo Tyler, a Newburyport resident who is a vegan. "My dad became a vegetarian in the '70s and he said all he could find (to wear) was hemp belts that looked like they were made right out of the forest. It's not like that anymore. A lot of my friends are surprised to learn that I'm a vegan because I don't look any different than them."

If you're thinking about taking your wardrobe cruelty-free, spring is a good time because stores are flooded with lightweight clothing made from alternative materials, said Burr.

"The warmer weather is always easier because you do not have to deal with wool, suede, cashmere, etc. There is much more cotton, linen, rayon, Lycra and man-made fibers - and that's really true this spring," she said. "It's so easy to find vegan clothes everywhere this season. In fact, non-vegans will be dressing vegan this spring and won't even know it."

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