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82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

All the time. I feel as though it has taken/continues to take me a long time to really get a sense of my body/appearance. Given my childhood, it took me a really long time to be able to consider myself beautiful – that’s still difficult for me. But it’s through people complimenting my hair, eyes, clothing choices that I’ve learned to accept it.

As a “ginger,” my head’s always been commented on. We lived in Italy for a year when I was four, and the old ladies would follow me around shouting “Capelli stupendi.” It’s a great feeling starting out life knowing that you have stupendous hair. I also felt identified as a separate tribe. I found guidance from Lucille Ball and Anne of Green Gables, and those ladies weren’t afraid to be different or attention grabbing. So naturally, I now wear neon.

a woman at my kids' school once commented that I always look so stylish and pulled together and that was a shock to me. I feel like I look kind of a mess most days and that my excellent taste and style is mostly played out in my head.

all the time - even last night - i caught myself in the mirror, and i looked like a totally different person. I thought "what if this is how everyone sees me?" I liked it, so now i am trying to keep that vision and run with it.

I've been told by a few people that I look like Katherine Ross in The Graduate. I take this as a major compliment because I think she's a major babe. It's made me wonder what I actually look like because I don't think I know.

Yeah I remember I was always really happy choosing my own clothes, and then when I moved out and started university there was a girl who lived on my floor, one of those people who take a gap year and refer to everyone as being younger "oh yeah, he's YOUR age, not my age." She once came to my room before we were going out and asked if her outfit looked ok, in the natural reflex way that young girls have with people they don't really know yet I said "yeah you look great!" She was wearing probably something fairly middle of the road with a vaguely hippy influence. I then said "how about me?" as a kind of social exchange, and she said "hmmm, yeah I don't know. you kind of look like you're trying to look wacky." This was a horrific revelation. Who the fuck. What. Why did she. I was wearing a polka dot spaghetti strap dress which I loved, with a t-shirt underneath, because we were going out, but I didn't want to look like I'd made too much effort, and I liked to 'dress down' the evening clothes I had with casual things. It later became apparent that she had multiple social strangenesses, but this comment stuck with me and I still occasionally look at myself with her eyes and think "ok, trying too hard, take it back a step", which makes me sad sometimes, because I don't want to feel restricted (sartorially or etc.) by anyone other than myself.

Vintage style is popular now, but it didn't used to be. When I wore 70s clothes in the 90s people would stop their cars to yell at me, stupid things like "freak" or "hippy" but then stuff like "don't you own a mirror?" which perhaps was the most upsetting (yelled by a man in a van). I tried to tell myself I wasn't dressing to impress him, but I felt hurt anyway as he called into question not my identity, but my ability to dress myself.

On a more positive note, one day I was in Berlin and wearing one of my great dresses - a black dress with big red poppies printed on one side of it, and big white polka dots on the other. My mother was with me when I bought this dress and she said "oh Vanessa!" when she saw me buying it, as if I was making a big mistake - I think of her saying this every time I put it on. Back to Berlin - I don't speak much German but I passed a woman who met my eye and had a warm, happy look in her eye and said something to me I didn't understand in words but knew she was saying she loved my dress. My dress had made her happy that day. I felt broken out of the anonymity of being in a city where I knew almost no one.

“You’ve got kindof an Ann Magnuson thing going on, with the short hair and the glasses.”

"You look like Ellen Barkin/Meryl Streep/Tracy Ullman/Ellen Degeneres."

"Brown eyes. Mommy brown eyes."

“Goodnight, gentlemen.”

“I like your Rock n Roll thing. Really.”

“That’s handsome.”

“You look like a slut.”

“You are more beautiful now than you’ve ever been.”

"You're great looking!"

Someone recently told me I have "style for miles". I never would have thought this about myself but I'd be okay with hearing it again.

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