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Don't be cruel

Vegan fashion is no longer an oxymoron. You can dress compassionately -- and look stylish.

When Ginger Burr visited my office, she was a smashing fashion plate -- perfect makeup, flawless haircut and color, sensational brown outfit, Kate Spade nylon bag and Franco Sarto boots, complete with a faux shearling coat.

So what's unusual about that? Nothing, except that she's a vegan, and the phrase "stylish vegan" is usually an oxymoron, thanks to the limited clothing choices for followers of compassionate dressing.

Burr dresses in a chic way that complements her cruelty-free philosophy -- that is, she won't eat meat, poultry , fish, eggs , or milk, and won't wear wool, leather, silk, suede, shearling, cashmere, or fur. With those kinds of restrictions, many vegans can too easily look like a crunchy-granola Earth Mother. But Burr, a professional image consultant whose specialty is vegan fashion, looks more hip than hippie. And she wants to help other vegan women achieve the same.

Burr has been obsessed with eating healthfully since she was a teenager. Friends used to tease her about her food choices -- they scarfed down pizza and Doritos while she snacked on radishes and carrots. She became a full-fledged vegan in 2005, and her business, Total Image Consultants in Lynn, has since embarked on a quest to help other vegan women find stylish fashions. Burr charges $160 an hour for her wardrobe consultations, which last an average of two hours.

So what should a quinoa-eating, veal-hating vegan do about her garments? Until only recently, it's been a challenge. Burr acknowledges that if you're a vegan, the choices are limited. "You don't want to dress as though you're going hiking everyday," she says. Most vegan fashions have been decidedly un-chic. "Most vegan clothing is casual, but that is slowly changing," she says. "For vegans, there's hope if you want to be fashionable."

CLOTHES Burr recommends VeganUnlimited.com and Weekenders.com, and she swears by The Studio in Brookline. "They have lots of clothes vegans can wear, in cotton, linen , and handmade fabrics." She also recommends Joseph Ribkoff, which until recently had a shop on Newbury Street and can be found at ribkoff.com. She adds that today's polyesters are nothing like that of the '80s. Sworn Virgins (swornvirgins.com) creates eco-fashions made from 100 percent biodegradable bamboo jersey. It's a hit with celebrities such as Teri Hatcher and Alicia Silverstone.

BAGS Burr cites margaretgrace.com and 1154lill.com as great sources. The 1154 Lill Studio store at 220 Newbury St. does a brisk business with its "create your own bag" program. Customers can choose the shape (handbag, laptop case, diaper bag, evening bag, bridesmaid pocketbooks) and a favorite fabric such as faux suede, cotton , and corduroy. Prices start at $25 for a coin purse and run up to a bag priced at $160. The store also just introduced a "design your own shoes" line of adorable ballet flats that cost $165 per pair.

SHOES Pretty shoes are the hardest thing for vegans to find, with the exception of boots and sandals. She shops for cruelty-free footwear at Lord & Taylor, Payless, DSW, and zappos.com.

COSMETICS Burr is a fan of ColorSciences products (colorscience.com), which are animal- and eco-friendly, as well as reusable, refillable, and recyclable. They are used by scores of celebrities including Jessica Simpson, Eva Longoria , and Gwyneth Paltrow. Burr also likes Sevi, a new line that is free of animal byproducts, and Natural Organic Edible Cosmetics (called NOe and found at Whole Foods Markets), which claims to be the first skincare line derived from 100 percent natural, organic , and edible ingredients. (NOe products include $16 natural coconut cleanser and $18 white tea toner.) Designer Stella McCartney, who is a vegan, is also launching an organic skin care line this spring.

Debbi K. Kickham can be reached at Debbikkickham@hotmail.com.

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