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1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
I feel the most attractive when I wear a very flattering dress (tight but still modest, covers everything but is form fitting so my shape is shown off, I like a dress to go about an inch below my knees, and to cover my chest and have a baby doll sleeve, kind of like a Michelle Obama dress). I feel equally attractive in my favorite jeans- tight light blue skinny jeans that are so worn they have holes at the knees and are not so skinny anymore- and a basic black t-shirt. I like for my long hair to have a beachy wave to it, which I never seem to achieve. I feel my best when I can curl my hair but I never do it because it takes too long. I feel most attractive when it’s warm out and I can wear these types of outfits.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I notice women on the street all the time! Living in the city is the best for this. I always say I dress for other women and I think this is very common. I like women with spunky style or really elegant style. I like women who take risks and seem like they just don’t give a fuck and are really confident.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I like women that wear whatever they want and don’t care what other people think. I love it when women can be really sexy or different. I like women who are uninhibited.
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 realized that I was dying my hair too blonde and it washing me out. So I went with a more natural look. I get expensive high lights but it looks so much better. Hair is our biggest accessory that we wear everyday so that was a game changer. Similarly, I stopped tweezing the crap out of my eyebrows. I let those babies run free, Cara Delevingne-style.
I started wearing more colors and having more fun with fashion. I started wearing makeup more often. These things happened as I became more aware of what works for me and not necessarily what I think I should do.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
A few: Don’t buy shoes that are too small- bad. When purchasing a skirt, do a sit test- if it’s too tight when you sit down, don’t get it! This goes for pants that aren't stretchy as well. Jeans can loosen up, but only so much.
Remember to layer the clothing that is thin- that shit is see-through a lot of times. And very sweat-stain conducive.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
As a grad student, I walked a campus among young women who wore a Tights-As-Pants-and-Uggs uniform. I personally would not wear thin leggings as pants, however I can’t disparage an entire generation for wearing them. Many times, I walk behind a young woman who’s underwear I can see when the sun shines on them. I don’t think they realize that the fabric is extremely light and see-through. Sometimes I want to tell them. Maybe they do know? If so, more power to them. I just want to make sure they are aware because I have sometimes had this happen to me, where I think I am wearing something opaque and then I step into the light and I notice that everyone can see my underthings. Many of my friends have a saying, “Tights are not Pants” and I understand the bewilderment behind it but it’s maybe what older people felt about the mini skirt in the 60’s. It’s just a trend.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Plain white t-shirts and plain black t-shirts. I am attracted to colorful bright fun clothing but then go to my basic black t’s on several occasions. I have quite a black tee collection.
I also have a shift dress that I bought in teal and one in black- the fit was perfect and basic enough that I think I can wear it for many years to come.
I bought this one white lacey shirt twice because I figured the first white lacey shirt would turn yellow or get stains on it at some point.
I tend to want to buy clothing similar to the clothing I already own. I once read an interview with a stylist that said that this is a common thing. She suggested only buying things that are different than things that you own but that can compliment them nicely. I have been trying to do this more often.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
I have a few pieces from my Mother's closet that I relish.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
I borrow ideas from people on the internet or what the mannequin is wearing in stores. Growing up, my sisters and I borrowed each other’s clothes all the time.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
In middle school and high school, I grew up in the grunge era. I wore band t-shirts: Hole, Breeders, Nirvana, and L7. I wore baggy jeans and shirts from Goodwill. I never cared about makeup. Once in awhile, I would dress up, and I enjoyed it. After school, I worked in a field that focused on helping people and not on materialistic things or on looks. Once I went to grad school and planned a career change, my style changed.
31. Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you?
I like to feel good in what I wear. I need to be mobile and feel authentic. I concentrate on how I feel over how I look. I need my clothing to feel good on my skin.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
People that are authentically themselves and express themselves freely and lovingly.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
If someone is mean, I find them to be an ugly person. Weird plastic surgery can be hard to look at as well. I do, however, understand that it is society's pressure to look young or perfect that drives someone to undergo plastic surgery, so I don't judge the person. They are still people but the surgery can lead to a freakish result and people often have very cruel responses.
36. When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, can you describe a bit about what this “other person” is like? What do they like, dislike, what sorts of judgments do they have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or once knew?
You know, this question is interesting. I don’t know if I try to look at myself from an “outer eye” perspective. That actually scares me. Thinking about what other people would think of me is exhausting. You can’t please anyone but yourself.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
In the morning, I get dressed by considering what I will be doing that day (work, school, etc.). Comfort is a big part- I walk at least one to three miles a day so I need to be mobile. Weather and climate dictates my choice as well. I am not opposed to wearing things with holes in them or stains. I can’t throw out my favorite articles of clothing, which tend to be lovingly worn.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I am trying to achieve different things for different occasions. When I attended class, I wanted to wear something interesting and fun but comfortable for class. For a day at home, I sometimes stay in my pjs all day, trying to achieve absolute comfort and sloth. When I go to work, I dress as a woman who is well-put together but who likes to dance and chat.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing up is like getting ready for a show. It usually is done for an occasion, something out of the ordinary and it can be fun to experience a different role in life. I love things that require dressing up, like Halloween and theme parties. I like both ends of the spectrum: complete nonchalance and complete transformation.
I relate to this quote from Amy Sedaris, "You know those people that sell Christmas trees? That's how I dress. I look like a beat-up scarecrow. I'm like, oh well. People are going to think I'm John Cougar Mellencamp walking down the street. I remember once I was going over to Justin Theroux's house, and he said, 'Oh God, there might be paparazzi,' and I was like, 'They'll just think I'm Daniel Craig with a big coat on.' No one's taking a picture of me. I like performance wear, clothing where it feels like one size fits all, with a good sturdy zipper. Then when I have to go out and dress up, I feel special. I like it when kind of unattractive people go out of their way to look attractive. I love that. Jerri Blank, the character I played on the show Strangers With Candy, had the hair of a professional golfer, an overbite, nicotine-stained teeth and below her waist was a problem area. But she had big fancy eyelashes and accessorized with pizzazz, so I think she had great style."
49. What is an archetypal outfit for you; one that you could have happily worn at any point in your life? What do you like about it?
Jeans and t-shirt. It just feels right.
50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?
In middle school and high school, I wore some masculine vintage clothes because the grunge era was huge. I wore a chain wallet and all of the boys were angry because they thought they owned all of the rights to chain wallets. I was into fashion models who were photographed in suits and looked really awesome. There was this really great Gucci suit that was like velvet or something, many celebs had worn it and I loved it. I think it’s sexy when women wear a suit or a tux and act kind of masculine. I remember I bought a pair of men’s oxford dress shoes at a thrift store that were like two sizes too big so I only wore them once and everyone thought I was strange. Now, oxfords are in style. Every New Year’s Eve, I say that I might wear a tux. Maybe next year.
I never really wish that I were a man.
The only time I really thought, “Must be nice to be a man” was in preparation for my wedding. People were so intrusive and judgmental about how I was or wasn’t planning my wedding, etc. No one asked my husband any questions at all. This goes for other things as well, like the issue of not having or having children. No one grills my husband on the reasons for how he lives his life, it makes me semi-jealous but really I just wish our society would be more accepting/open-minded.
Sometimes, I wish I could walk down the street and not be scared of men, something that most men don't have to worry about. Again, it’s more like I wish that the sexist culture that supports this didn't exist rather than actually wanting to be a man.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I love 50’s stuff but I would have found it tedious in real life. I love 70’s stuff. Women’s lib really took off and women were more loose and free. They went bra-less or wore t shirts with big pants or wrap dresses, had natural hair and were into androgyny. I think it would have been cool.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
Nope! I've learned that being photogenic is a skill though and I have adapted some of these skills. I never thought about these things until fairly recently in our selfie-obsessed world. Tyra Banks once said on “America’s Next Top Model” that everyone should know their angles and I didn’t realize that most people have to do some sort of posturing in order to look their best in photos until recently.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
I admire Kate Middleton. She gets to wear the most beautifully tailored clothing that is modest yet flattering. Those crazy little hats she gets to wear are freaking amazing. I wore fascinators to a few dress-up parties, totally influenced by her.
I love Michelle Obama’s style.
I love Rihanna’s style. Her hair styles and makeup are amazing. The stuff she wears is crazy and sexy; she’s totally uninhibited and I love it. I loved when her “Loud” album came out, she had this bright red hair in her music videos and she wore stuff that reminded me of being very young and carefree.
I love Beyonce’s style. I like that she is sharing photos of her on low-key days as well as some really fun high maintenance outfits. I love her hair. Her sister Solange has great style. I love Emma Stone’s hair, makeup, and outfits. I love Jenna Lyons style (J. Crew’s creative director). I loved L’Wren Scott’s style- she wore really beautiful clothes that she designed. Her attention went to the excellent tailoring and it showed. I’m admire women that get to change their hair colors and styles often.
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
You do you!
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
Perfume tends to make me feel dizzy but I've recently found a nice scent that my husband likes. It's called Clean and I can get little roller balls of it for $7. Why not pay $7 to be Clean?
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
This has been quite a journey for me.
I was a late bloomer in terms of makeup. My mother told me several times that she never wore makeup and had to wear it for her wedding and that it made her cry. I was never drawn to makeup growing up and when I did try it, it never looked right on me. I didn’t like the way it tasted or smelled.
I have since developed something of a makeup routine. It’s a nude eye with some dark brown eyeliner on top of my lid, tinted moisturizer with SPF, pencil in my eyebrows, light pink blush on cheeks, and a second dusty rose blush on my cheekbones that serves as kind of a bronzer for a very pale person. There’s more to it than that but that’s the gist. I wear makeup most days that I go out in public. I wear more makeup for parties/social life. When I’m at home, I don’t wear makeup. When I go on errands, I don’t always wear makeup or I’ll wear only a little bit.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Too much clothing. No jewelry.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
My favorite piece of clothing is my pair of light blue jeans that are falling apart. They were the first pair of skinny jeans that I bought and I had to be talked into getting them. They are like a best friend that I can't get rid of because we've been through so much together, even if they are shitty. I also have a few favorite vintage t-shirts that I love.
66. Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it?
Many things, however, I have gotten better at getting rid of stuff. Once I got an expensive cocktail dress. I have no idea why I had to have it, but I did. I wore it to two parties. It’s not that unique or interesting. It’s just a black tube dress, very tight. It’s still in my closet but I doubt I’ll ever wear it again.
67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?
Such a good question. Blazers seem to hold up well. Really basic dresses too. Sturdy pea coats. Boots that are of good quality and not super trendy. Jeans that fit just right.
68. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it, what happened to it, and why do you want it back?
Yes! This haunts me to this day. In high school, there was a girl that one day started telling my friend that she liked my clothes. I thought she was cool because she was a grade older and had short hair. We ended up hanging out once or twice but I never became good friends with her. For some reason, she kept asking to borrow my clothes. She was really going for the same look that I had going on. I usually didn’t let her borrow my clothes.
There was this one t-shirt that I had bought from Boot Girl. Boot Girl was this indie store in Zern’s- an indoor flea market. Boot Girl was owned by this young punky couple. They sold vintage and new clothes, magazines, and Manic Panic. The store's logo, Boot Girl, was fashioned after the woman who had owned it, she wore big boots and had blonde hair, kind of similar to Tank Girl. One day, I purchased a white t-shirt with a photo of a still from an old campy movie on it named, “Imprisoned Women." It was a picture of a bunch of women in a prison cell, from the 60’s. A quick google search makes me wonder if it were a weird sexploitation film but I can’t remember the exact title. I really hope it wasn’t a porno, that’d be weird. I thought it was just slightly campy but for all I know, I was going around with a porno name on my shirt. Anyways, the t-shirt was weird and it fit me really nice, it was a baby tee. I had been wearing my brand new t-shirt and this person asked to borrow it. I probably felt weird saying, “No” so I let her borrow it. I think she may have worn it once to school and then I asked my friend to ask her to give it back. Time passed and she never gave it back. I asked my friend to ask her again and apparently she responded, “I lost it, she needs to get over it." I never got over it. I don’t know how someone can borrow something and then never return something or at the very least apologize or offer something to make it up to the person. I loved that t-shirt and I loved how weird it was and that there was only one like it- Boot Girl custom-made her own stuff.
Boot Girl went out of business and places like it exist less and less. I can’t find it online.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
This question is so traumatic to me that I can’t even envision it. I can’t throw out all of my clothes! Seriously. That’s nuts. I’d have to be allowed to keep like 10-20 items at least. I’d keep my fave jeans, fave t-shirts, J Crew fuschia pea coat, cropped pants, J Crew plaid shirts, Kenny Rogers brand vintage blazer that is country western looking and has patches on the elbows, a few of my dresses- including the navy blue one that goes to my knees and has white polka dots that is comfy and looks fabulous and I wear all of the time.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
Comfortable but cute shoes. Boots that are indestructible. A really good parka that will keep me warm in any weather but not look atrocious and is somewhat affordable. Jeggings that don't look stupid. I might as well be looking for unicorns here, but I like to think that hope is alive.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
Embarrassingly overcrowded. Very much a work in progress. I've gotten a lot better. I've realized that the more I get rid of, the easier it is to utilize the pieces that I do own.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
My dad gave me a little pin that had belonged to my grandma that passed away. It was an 'A' for my last name and my aunt said she may have gotten it from a fair.
I have an old dress and blazer that my mom wore back in the day that we found and she said to take it. It is white and purple gingham. It’s adorable but doesn’t fit right but I keep it in my closet. It makes me think of what my Mom must have been like when she was younger and fashionable and had more of a social life.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
Wouldn't that be nice?
80. How does money fit into all this?
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
In the winter, I wear leggings under my jeans because it is so cold. I wore my bright pink pea coat everyday. Most of the time, I carry around an extra pair of socks in my purse because you never know! I also have panty hose in there for work but never wear them. I carry around a few lipsticks. One is the lipstick I wore for my wedding. It is expensive but perfect. Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Lip Stain #7, Corail Aquatique. I was once scared of lipstick, but I’m trying to wear it more often. I had a hard time finding a lipstick for my wedding, I went into all the stores and you have to try on samples and pray that you don’t catch some disease because other women have sampled them too. One day, a woman who worked for Sephora came up to me and demanded she try this miracle lip stain on me after observing me try on some chalky mess. I tried to run away but she pretty much forced me over to a mirror and showed me how to apply it. It actually looked good, a pink coral. It didn’t taste or look like lipstick, more like a gloss, and it actually has good staying power. It was $32 and I bought it and I have no regrets. I think about this woman sometimes. She was tiny, a dead ringer for Tracy Anderson (trainer to the stars) and I’ve never seen her again.
I also carry around some Revlon Lip Butter lipsticks. They are kind of like chap sticks/lip gloss/lip sticks. I have two faves: Lollipop (bright fuschia) and Juicy Papaya (Papaya colored). They look great but require more reapplying than the glossy stain. I also carry around chapstick. I usually carry a sweater around in my purse even if it’s hot because air conditioning makes me cold.
I wear the same purse everyday until it becomes so crappy I can’t wear it anymore.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
I experienced an incredible amount of flow filling out this survey- I became really engrossed and fulfilled.
Filling out this survey was like having a really good conversation with a friend and I can’t wait to read the book and continue the dialogue.
RM Andes is a writer. She has her Master's degree and enjoys cats. Follow her @RachelMSmachel