Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When all of these happen together: I've gotten enough sleep; I've been eating healthfully and don't feel bloated or hungover; I've been exercising regularly; and when my outfit fits well, looks sharp, and doesn't need any "fussing" -- not sleeves to keep rolling up, etc. In other words, when my body feels strong and cared for/healthy and I've covered it in flattering, non-revealing, unfussy things made from the nicest fabrics I can afford.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes. I greatly admire the rare unicorns who only seem to pop up on airplanes or in the restaurants of large cities -- that "look" that seems like a mix of luxury and non-nonchalance. The "Tods ad-campaign" look. Everything they are wearing looks expensive but classic (and therefore vaguely undefinable.) It all fits well, and doesn't seem trendy or "mall-ish." They are wearing it with ease, like they aren't worried about spills or dirt or whatever, and it's all in gorgeous neutrals and warm shades. Good posture, soft voice, glossy hair, relaxed demeanor. They manage to look both sporty and luxurious -- which seems so "American-ideal" to me. Who are these women, and where do they come from?!
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
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?
When I was in HS, I would devour "Vogue" and "Vanity Fair." Somehow, I got it in my mind that I was going to grow up to "be somebody" -- get out of my stupid small town, and live as my true, fabulous self. I was drawn to classic clothes, and I loved old movies. It was easy to get examples of what looked elegant.
Also, I developed curves in HS while most of my classmates stayed waifish. I was not the 1990s heroin chic ideal, so I desperately tried to hide my curves. In doing so, I accidentally hit on what worked well for busty/hippy girls -- v-necks & boatnecks over crew; tailored waists to avoid looking like a big sack; pants instead of skirts to create a long line, etc. I also tried to play down the sex appeal, because my shape was statement enough in that department! I never flaunted it.
So in a way, I figured out my style very early on. When I started working in offices right out of college, I got a lot of compliments on my style. It was my mid-late 20s that messed with the formula a bit -- I felt like I *should* try the trends, and worried that I was looking boring.
I've come back to my old habits, though. Traveling and earning more have inspired me to want quality over quantity. I want simple things that can work everywhere in my life, and I need them to be classic because I want to buy the best I can afford and it needs to work for years to come.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
1. Don't go shopping with anyone else. It's not social, it's work. I need quiet contemplation to decide what works for me and what doesn't. It takes a long time, and I'm very picky. That's not fun to do with anyone else.
2. Don't trust stylists. Every single time I've tried a personal shopper, it's been a disaster.
3. Don't waste your money on costume jewelry.
4. Know your "colors." That old-fashioned idea about being a Summer or Autumn is actually genius. I look sallow in black, so I no longer buy tops in that color -- no matter how popular or abundant that color is.
5. Dry cleaners are the worst things in the world. Hand wash everything -- if it's a natural material, it will be fine. If it's synthetic, you should toss it anyway. Even the best cleaners put your treasured items in a big soupy vat of strangers' disgusting items covered in who knows what. Ink, food, stains, sweat, worse. It floats around in a big tank of caustic chemicals, and then it gets the shit pressed out of it with an industrial presser. That's how buttons break, lapels get ruined, shoulders flattered out of shape. Iron at home, wash at home, treat your clothes well. (Also, you'll be saving the environment from a lot of horrible shit.) I follow old-school rules -- I steam, spot treat, sponge, hand wash, air out. Anything but dry clean. You actually don't need to clean clothes as much as you think you do.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
1. A uniform is important, not only because it keeps your life simple. It helps others feel comfortable around you -- human nature means we like to know what to expect. Always being YOU puts people at ease -- you're a known quantity. "The girl who always wears red," or "the guy who is always in a plaid shirt and jeans." People respond so positively to what's almost a caricature in terms of dress. If Matel made an action figure of you, wearing a typical outfit, would people be able to know who it was?
2. Everywhere is freezing, always. Wear pants. Bring a sweater.
3. Jackets look ridiculous on busty women, no matter how many magazines tell you otherwise. From the front, they're good but from the side they hit your boobs and then hang straight down, forming a box.
4. Keep it all neutral, but don't be too matchy.
6. No matter how much it costs, if you put it on and gasp with delight, buy it right then. That only happens once every few years, so wait for those moments. Then don't think, just buy.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
With my husband, who is very stylish. It's interesting listening to the psychology of clothes for men -- they have just as many expectations and limits as we do. Looking nice is fine, but too nice is "gay." Luckily, he does whatever he wants anyway.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Yes! Simplify, streamline -- not out of some severe minimalist Puritanical philosophy. But because the more you can reduce all of the tiny little stresses in life, the more you have time to be completely sybaritic.
Keeping most of life simple means you can really live it up for the rest of the time. We don't spend a lot on a car or cable TV, so we can go on amazing vacations. We have a small house we can afford on one salary, so we can splurge on 5-star hotels. We cook the same quick meals M-F, so we can relax together and not do a million dishes. We keep the grocery bill tight, so we can eat out for practically every meal on the weekends. We have one set of sheets, but it's a fantastic one. etc etc etc.
Simplify, to focus on quality and fun.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Most! Hunter boots when it's warm out -- or any time you're not walking through a muddy field. First, why would you want your legs to be encased in rubber, when it's hot and humid outside? Second, it's not raining indoors, so why are you still wearing them? Third, wearing mucking boots when it's sprinkling is like using a steamroller instead of an iron. Plus, they cut you off at your widest point on your legs, which isn't flattering. I can't stand non-practical clothes. Form *and* function!
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mom has always been super thin, so she didn't have a lot of advice for my body type. She did instil a sense of classic style, and the importance of being groomed.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Yes, I'm a woman in a mostly-male workplace. I always wear pants, and I'm more comfortable in them on the weekends, too. I definitely feel a little rebellious against the Stepford wife/SAHM/Suzie homemaker movement that's become popular. I like knowing that just by not wearing something frilly and girlish, sitting in my office making my own money, I'm making a statement towards something I believe in.
16. Please describe your body.
I am 5'9", 145. Fairly fit, but also a little squishy. (I can do 10 push ups, but I also have a baseball-sized pouch that hangs straight down when I do them!) I'm a 30DD/E, 27-28" waist, size 6 in most designer clothes (not vanity-sized mall stuff.) My torso is long -- even though I'm tall, I wear a normal pant length and never need them taken out.
17. Please describe your mind.
Busy, seeking pleasure, enjoys problem-solving, likes to be doing 87 things at once, forward-looking.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Impatient, quick to anger but good at hiding it, can get very sappy and homesick, seeking pleasure, rebellious, defiant.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
• Hair is day-old, straight, parted on the side and behind my ears. Shoulder-length.
• Same makeup I wear every day: Bobbi Brown tinted moisturizer, cream blush, Chanel neutral eye shadow quad (just two shades), Bobbi Brown black gel eyeliner, Honeybee Organics black mascara.
• White tailored-fit Brooks Brothers button-down shirt (size 6) -- haven't gotten the waist tailored in yet but I need to.
• Navy ponte, tab-waist, wide-legged trousers with a front crease, from Banana Republic, that are probably 5 years old at this point. They are 4 tall, and I wear them with my highest heels and they still skim the ground a teeny bit.
• Beige linen almond-toe heels from Banana Republic -- older than the pants, I think. Black wooden stacked heel (probably wood all the way through, or else I'd have scuffed through the veneer by now.) They have black leather piping trim and a silver buckle on the toe.
• Black belt, faux croc with a silver buckle
• wedding rings
• Donna Karan nude t-shirt bra & Agent Provocateur black lace underwear.
• Bonlook tortoise-shell round-frame Rx eyeglasses.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
Except for the wedding rings, it's not -- but I have to wear something so my uniform makes me feel appropriate, stylish and confident.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
My husband, a few friends.
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
The corporate world does, so do the ideas of classic etiquette and decorum.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
I think I have GOOD taste, and CLASSIC style. I think you can either have good or bad taste, but there are many differenst styles.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
A very very very fitted DVF wool pencil dress with a deep v neck. Too sexy. Too much. (My husband loves it, though)
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Sexy underwear, and Hermes scarves. People don't usually recognize them, and it's fun to have that "secret."
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
My job is in graphic design, and our home is stylish I think -- not trendy, some antiques that were handed down, some unique stuff from trips we've taken.
27. Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?
Yes, see all of the answers above that mention work! Also, my uniform is a good way to feel comfortable when traveling.
28. Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it? Or if you don’t have it, why or why not?
Yes, yes and yes. I think it comes from wanting to get out of my small town and reading / watching all I could about grander places.
29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?
My mom taught me to hand wash things, how to iron, how to care for clothes. I have picked up a lot more knowledge as I've gone, though.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Take them off!
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?
Comfortable is slightly lazier than confident. But I get the idea -- that they want to feel like whatever they're doing is "right." Like the passage in "Franny & Zooey" -- Lane (? Lane? I think?) is sitting in the cafe with Franny, and looks around and realizes something like, "He is in the unimpeachably right restaurant, eating the unimpeachably right food, with the unimpeachably right girl."
I think of that phrase often in terms of clothes. Outfits that give you that "unimpeachably right" feeling -- no matter what the weather does, or what invitation you get, or who you meet, or where you go -- is the ultimate in confidence.
32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?
I'd ramble all of what I've written here already.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Nature, classical architecture.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
35. Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance?
Yes, now I can tell myself, "This is just going to sit in your closet, don't do it!"
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?
A little -- I am mindful of the "fourth wall" a bit because I know that being dependably YOU (whatever that is) is a great social lubricant. Also, I try to be mindful of poise, and that person wouldn't shovel food in like I do at home by myself, have too much to drink, be loud, etc. : ) But I like doing that stuff, too!
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
I don't think about it until I get out of the shower and stand in front of my closet. Then I pick whatever -- I don't know how I choose.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
A consistency, a statement, a flattering look, something that will work in all cases no matter what the day throws at me.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
See above. : )
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
7-20-80. I was born in Peoria, Ill. I went to school in Columbia, Missouri. After graduating, I lived & worked in Albuquerque, NM; Myrtle Beach, SC; Raleigh, NC. I now live in Durham, NC.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I was born to two working-class parents, neither of whom had been to college. My dad was the sole income-earner, and was on strike for two years. Clothes were sometimes hand-me-downs from relatives, but because my mom stayed home with us, she sewed a lot of our clothes. Looking nice was always seen as important -- she made new dresses for Christmas and Easter, lots of smocking and detail. I was flabbergasted when she showed me something she made for me when I was three: a gorgeous wool a-line coat with velvet trim and tons of tailoring and darts. It also had a matching hat. She put a lot of effort into how we dressed.
Now, I earn more than my parents probably ever did, and my husband earns more than that. Our HHI is comfortable, and we've been able to indulge in nicer-quality items. We also get a little fussy about made-in-the-US, handmade items, high-quality materials, fair labor, etc. Sometimes I feel proud that I can afford more expensive things, because it lets me vote with my wallet. I don't have to support fast fashion made in dangerous overseas factories, or trendy items that will fill up landfills next year, or are made of petroleum products, etc. Sometimes I feel guilty, however, because I'm able to buy things my parents never could. When I visit them, I leave the Hermes scarves at home, for example.
What kind of work do you do?
I'm an art and production director at a national sports magazine.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
I'm married, no kids. I married my college sweetheart -- we had the same major. We lived together for 8 years after graduating before getting married.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
I feel most comfortable thinking of clothes as a uniform, or armor. Not in a negative way, but in a productive, effortless way. I wear classic things -- to the point that may seem boring. Trousers and a button down shirt or blouse are my go-to. A belt and heels, no jewelry except for my wedding rings. I do this for two reasons: 1. To feel confident at work. Because I work in sports, my office is mostly men. I feel awkward and exposed wearing dresses or skirts at my job, even if they are very conservative. I stay away from anything frilly or colorful, although I'm totally fine with animal print for some reason.
The other reason is, 2: I am a bit of a minimalist. I like streamlining life and eliminating little stressors. Clothes fall into that category for me. I know what works for my body type, and what makes me feel covered, powerful, comfortable. My "uniform" can go from the office to dinner or drinks, I can pair the tops with jeans on the weekends, and it all works on vacations (to cities, at least. Resort stuff gets a little trickier.) I like having a capsule wardrobe and definitely enjoy the challenge of finding what's exactly right for me, the "best" option to fill a gap in my closet, etc. I like planning it all out and then not having to worry or think about it after that.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
Interested -- I didn't think I would write very much. I also think I maybe sound more severe than I am/feel.