Read Surveys (By Question)

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? what? why did it happen then, do you think?

I went through a phase of wearing mostly black for awhile in my early 20's. Then, as I got older and more comfortable with myself and my personality, I moved back towards embracing colour. I think it was accepting the fact that I'm bold on the inside that made me want to show it on the outside.

I think I once saw my dowdy but beautiful english teacher wear red lipstick. All she ever did was wear grey sacks. I was like, oh I can be the grey sacks lady and also once in a while wear red lipstick. For the most part I dress pretty gender neutral and then occasionally, out of the blue, get all dolled up. Maybe high school, and seeing my idol do it, made it click.

I think it is "clicking" for me right now. I want to represent myself as best as possible and am realizing how fashion, make-up, and hair aid in this.

It might have been high school when I decided that I should just wear what I want without concern for what other people thought. If I liked it, and if I felt good wearing something (for example, bright blue eyeliner), then I would embrace it.

In college, I cut my hair into a pixie. It was long and blonde and thick, and I got a lot of negative feedback when I cut it, which hurt my feelings at first, but then made me kind of mad, both at those who told me I "used to be prettier" and at myself for caring so much (especially seeing as the act of chopping off your hair is supposed to reflect and reinforce confidence! But it turns out that stuff doesn't just turn on). ((Most people were complimentary and kind, but of course I forget those people.))

But one realization that started brewing then, and continues to "click" more and more as I keep having these experiences, is that as long as I appear in public, and particularly if I'm wearing something bold on my face or body, there will always be people offering unsolicited [negative] comments on my fashion or makeup or hair. But it really doesn't have anything to do with me, not if I don't want it to! I don't have to let it in.

So as much as I want to cry at those meanies (I WOULD NEVER SAY THAT TO YOU, I DIDN'T ASK YOU, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!) it is really and truly best to say, "Oh, okay!" and go on with my life.

So basically, if you want to be confident, be confident. Hair changes may or may not help in that regard.

I always felt like the third sex in public washrooms when I'd see women applying makeup in an expert manner and fluffing their hair. Heck, I still do. Except now I don't care in the least, because sometime in my 30's I twigged to the concept that I am no less 'female' or even 'feminine' than women who feel at ease applying mascara in a semi-public place. I think that's true. I want to believe it's true.

I am not really sure. I think the biggest difference has been living with other girls my age, starting when I went to college. They inspired me to care about all this sort of stuff more. Coupled with learning a lot about gender and sexuality during college, I definitely pay more attention to how I and others look and dress.

I grew up in a Northern California surf town, and everyone constantly looked like they were about to go swimming—Uggs and lowrise yoga pants. I don’t surf, but I tried really hard to look like I did. I wasn’t very good at this masquerade, but I kept it up until college. At art school in New York, clothes were suddenly allowed to become the centerpiece. It wasn’t about utilitarian sportswear. I also didn’t have to chase the right surf labels anymore (O'Neill and Roxy). My new college friends shopped for cheap at thrift stores. We’d take ferry trips to Staten Island and go to Everything Goes. I liked that you had to hunt for something stylish, reclaiming past styles. I thought I looked great in a newsboy hat and Goodwill trench. The trench didn’t fit me. It took a while for the hodge podge to look like style rather than an accident.

I always felt that it was a sign of stupidity and frivolity because I was raised in a hippie environment with a naturally beautiful mother who had no interest in fashion, only literature. I loved clothes and felt guilty every time I loved them too much. Only when I was older, in my twenties, did I realize that one could be a smart woman and love clothes and make up. I still struggle though with moments when something looks or feels too thought out.

I knew I was interested in fashion from an early age. Growing up in Alaska in the 80's and 90s pre internet had is challenges. It was all about catalogues and magazines. When a new catalogue or magazine arrived in the mail, I would disappear into a daydream world of fashion and culture. When my parents would go to the grocery store, I would stay in the magazine isle and read every issue that I hadn't already read.

My first click came in high school, when my hairdresser pointed out (as I was complaining about my curls) how many people had paid for my hair just that day (spiral perms were very popular at the time). Ever since then, I rarely ever straighten it (even when that was wildly popular) because it just feels more "me."

More recently, I have battled my corporation's HR department, because I will push the dress code to the limit (I'm sorry, we all know that a "suit" does not have to mean a matching jacket with matching pants, but apparently they don't) in order to express myself. I enjoy getting up in the morning and putting an outfit together based on how I feel that day, and do not like someone else "telling" me how I'm "supposed" to feel.

I went to an all-girl Catholic school and they were quite strict about the kilt and all that. It had to be a certain length, our shoes had to be black with no heel, our white shirts crisp and tucked in. But I found ways to push against this. The trick was to fold the kilt to make it shorter (one could undo this of course), you could also roll up your shirt sleeves, tie a sweater around your waist, wear sneakers or whatever and carry other shoes in your bag if you were caught. It was a bit like jail in that you found ways to break the rules and make the system work for you.

Around high school I realized that I could have my own style and it didn't have to cost a lot of money.

When I started my second year of university I dyed my hair red/orange (from natural mousey blonde) with henna. It sounds cheesy but this was a huge thing for me, it's almost like I suddenly became the person externally that I felt inside. Maybe it was part of disassociating myself from the young blonde teenager who go wolf-whistled on the street and had no idea what her body was for. While I was at University I think I slowly evolved into the person I wanted to be, and dying my hair seems, looking back, like a huge part of the development. A lot of things shifted around that time, I broke up with my boyfriend from my home town, I started playing in a band, I started promoting DIY gigs, I lived in a house off campus and began to get to know the city and the people outside the weird uni life. Something I've always loved is that sometimes when I walk down the street in my home town it acts as a kind of disguise.

Just after my daughter was born I became hyper aware of the way I dressed. Not only was I worried about how I looked now that my body had changed, I found myself paying particular attention to what my clothing choices said about me. I stopped wearing clothing with holes in them and I put away my short cut-offs, though I keep them as an emblem of when I felt I could wear whatever I wanted.

I did a reperformance/mash up of Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece" : I made a 12 minute audio piece and the audience cut off all of my hair. It happened because I was now the mother to a daughter and needed to understand my femininity/feminism/femaleness in a different way.

When I was 15, I was approached on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade and photographed for the "street fashion" section of a now defunct teen magazine called YM (Young and Modern). The photographer didn't weigh in with an opinion or description, but she took notes on my clothes (black Dansko clogs, a knee-length denim skirt, a pink tank top from a Weezer concert, a velvet red thrift store jacket, a thin black tie) and asked me to describe my style. I'd never been asked a question like this, and it triggered a new “outer eye”—the outfits I'd been assembling suddenly constituted a style! I was flustered, and blurted something generic like "vintage mixed with new." The issue came out (Shakira was on the cover), and I spent months wondering how I might have answered the question differently—with greater precision and a more impressive vocabulary.

This is embarrassing to admit, but even now, when I put a nice outfit together, the thought of that question (and desire to answer it well) motivates me on some level.

Share This Page

Read more surveys (By Author) Read more surveys (By Question)