Read Surveys (By Author)

Rachel Tedder

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

On my way to work, when I had time to put together an outfit and style my hair. And on stage.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

Yes. Women who look fashionable in a casual, comfortable way, but who don't break MY rules of fashion. (Wen in Germany wear black or colored opaque tights with, for example, pumps or heels or even stilettos. I HATE this. I just think it looks tacky.)

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

A good haircut, a confident air, a beautiful statement piece of jewelry.

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 was teaching music at the college level at a women's college in Virginia. My students used to tease and scold me about how I dressed. I like to mix a palette of colors--for example, different shades of blue and green together, or even red and pink--over an overall neutral color scheme. My students believed that if you wear something red, every other red thing should be in the exact same shade. I felt annoyed and disrespected that they kept commenting on my clothes. So I went shopping and bought a bunch of clothes for work in on neutrals--mostly black, white, and grey. For several years I almost quit wearing colors, except when I was dressed down. Just this year, at my new job, I realized...I don't have any reason to do this anymore, and it's not me. Over the last year I've thought a lot about MY style and how I would like to dress, for me, and what that means about me and my relationship to the world.

5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?

Rules were made to be broken. I like to save money, though, so if I see something I like but wasn't planning to spend money that day on that particular item, I usually sleep on it. If I keep thinking about the item, I go back and buy it.

Once I dreamt about a dress I had tried on a few days before. The next day I horror to the store to buy it--I was so afraid they'd be sold out!

I do this with everything, regardless of price. Maybe for a $5 item I wouldn't.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

My rules involve what feels good to me and what I believe looks good on my body. So my rules would be things like: don't wear an outfit that makes my stomach look bigger. Don't wear things that make me look shorter. Hairstyles should be easy to style and not irritating during the day. Shoes should be attractive, sexy, and practical for the day's activities.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

Probably the conversation with myself when I realized I don't need to dress to avoid criticism from former students.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain. I don't even know what you mean by this.

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

Yes. When I find a basic clothing item that I like, I buy several, usually in different colors. For example, t-shirts. And bras, obviously. I have as many as I can afford of the Body by Victoria Demi with memory foam (which, sadly, is two. I need more a they're dying). Also socks and underwear, of course. Oh and scarves! I used to buy a $5 "pashmina" scarf in a different color from the street vendors every time I went to NYC. It was a collectors item, kind of, but I also wear them all the time, especially in winter.

10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?

When I got married, I gave my bridesmaids silver necklaces with different pendants that I thought suited them. My sister wore hers almost non-stop for years. I was very happy about that.

11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why? 

Absolutely refused? Not really. Oh yes, one: tights or even leggings as pants. Tights are not pants. Booty shorts are pants; I will wear booty shorts. But tights??! Kids these days!

12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?

I wish I had my mother's body, without the anorexia she struggled with in college. She is only a few inches taller than me, but her figure looks tall and skinny and leggy and strong at...what is she now? 66? I don't much care for her style, though. In high school and college she always asked my fashion advice. I've often given her clothes and she always loves what I pick for her.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

I can't think of anything. Most of my friends and family are not that into fashion and style. In my family, I'm the stylish one. My mother and sister copy me. I think when my niece is older, she will have good ideas for me. She's 5 and I think she's already dressing my sister (her mother).

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

Yes--when my students made fun of me. Over the last year it's been changing gradually. I've developed a uniform of sorts for work that I feel pretty good in.

15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?

Ugh, no.

16. Please describe your body.

Short and curvy. My legs are relatively long for my height, and with my eyes and hair, are probably my best feature. My torso is quite short, and I wish I had a smaller waist and stomach (I don't really mind my butt and boobs!). My shoulders are somewhat broad (in the 80s I spent a lot of time cutting shoulder pads out of things), and when I was younger I felt that my head always looked disproportionately small on top of them. (I've mostly solved this with volumizing haircuts and products!)

17. Please describe your mind.

I'm very intelligent and curious. I love philosophical discussions and talking about intellectual things (especially artistic topics), and I hate angry arguments. When I lived in VA, most of my friends were graduate students in a Shakespeare program. I loved to go to parties with them. They would get drunk and argue about scansion and the interpretation of semicolons. While I've studied neither topic and couldn't really pick a side, I really loved watching these passionate discussions. (If you want to see me in a passionate discussion on an esoteric topic, we could talk about appoggiaturas in Mozart recitative.)

18. Please describe your emotions.

I'm very passionate and enthusiastic, but also a little reserved. I will be loudly and openly expressive with positive emotions, but negative ones I try to keep private except from very close friends. I feel things very deeply, and I laugh and cry easily. I'm very empathetic and patient, and I enjoy teaching because I can help the student discover...well, whatever it is they're discovering! I'm very patient with their struggles and mistakes--these things don't irritate or frustrate me. Laziness and lack of effort infuriate me, though; I can't understand them at all. I've always felt things very strongly. When I was younger, I often felt completely overwhelmed by my emotions. As I've matured, I've learned to handle them better and to ride the storm.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

Haha I just woke up! My hair is half in a ponytail and half falling out. I have no makeup, but I'm wearing glasses. I'm wearing my usual pj's: comfortable old sweatpants, a tank top, and a long-sleeved t-shirt. The T is from Victoria's Secret Pink brand (I used to work there!). It's black but has a little bit of silver sparkly thread mixed in, and there is a small silver heart made of rhinestones over the left breast. I love this T. My sweatpants were a gift from a girlfriend--her "clothes for Goodwill" that she let me look through first. They are olive green and have a drawstring, and I really love them. They're very comfortable. The tank is one of 3 almost identical ones I bought together. It had a little lace at the neck and around the hem, which I love.

20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?

Which stuff? What I'm wearing now or this entire survey?

I think I answered that already when I described my clothes now.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My sister mostly.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

My job now is fairly casual, and there is not an official dress code. My previous job was the same. At both, however, there is an unofficial dress code. Sometimes I go to companies for work, and then I dress up even more until I get a sense of how employees there dress. I try to follow the guidelines of the institution I'm working with when I dress. I think how I dress (especially as a woman!) affects a great deal how people perceive me and treat me. I like to be perceived and treated well. So I dress to evoke that. Going against institutional norms does not promote that.

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

To me, taste and style are not very different. And yes, I think I have them. I guess style is...for me, that means a personal style: clothes that mean me, no matter the occasion. When I think of style, I think of people like Audry Hepburn or Jackie O. But I would say that Lady Gaga also has style, in a way--at least she has her OWN style, certainly--but her style is not really in good taste. I think that's kind of her intention. Taste is, to me, appropriateness? Tastefulness? I'm not sure how to define it. And it's objective, at least to a degree, and especially in the middle. Extremes are somewhat obvious. Jackie O--good taste. Donald Trump's hair--bad taste. (I had this conversation once with friends. Boys: if I were that rich, I wouldn't care what my hair looked like. Girls: if I were that rich, I could pay for a BETTER HAIRCUT!!)

I would rather others see me as having style than taste, I think. I think my style is tasteful, and I'm working on developing my personal style. But maybe it won't be to everyone's taste, and I'd like to be confident enough in my style to trust my own taste and not worry so much about other people's.

24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?

I've bought one or two things that were, for me, expensive. But they were things that I loved and wore a LOT. I remember once, at a family vacation, my grandmother gave me a $50 bill. I think she said, "don't spend it all in one place." I believe I was in high school. But I did spend it all, on a dress. It was long and blue with an understated white floral pattern. It was sleeveless and had a square neckline, and the body was an hourglass A-line. It was beautiful and I loved it. And I felt beautiful in it. The neckline really showed off my breasts--but in a classy way; I wore it to church a lot. I think I was 14 or 15 when I bought it, and I must have kept it until after college, when I think I decided it didn't suit my personal style as well as it once had. Or maybe it's still in a box somewhere at my dad's house.

It was one of the first expensive items of clothing I bought for myself, but it certainly wasn't a waste. I have bought a few things that I don't wear much, but I don't think they were a waste because I keep thinking I might wear them. There is a dress in my closet now in this category.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

Er, no. Please publish these! I'd like to learn some!

Oh, maybe one: jeans and a t-shirt turned professional. Dark jeans and a jewel-tone T with a blazer, long chunky necklace, big earrings, and heels. That's my work uniform: professional but comfortable. I can put more casual shoes in my bag and lose the necklace (it can be in the way!), and after work I'm ready to play.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I'm not sure what this means!

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. I was the band leader for a contemporary service at a church. My job was part-time, and they decided they wanted a full-time person for the position. I didn't want to do it full-time. They hired someone, and there was a cookout for people---including me--to meet him. This worship band had been a very important part of my life. They were my friends, we were a team, and I wa the leader, which meant final decisions rested with me. I could do things the way I thought was best. Now I planned to keep playing and singing with them, but someone else's way. I was terrified. I wanted to dress to intimidate because I felt so intimidated, but it was a cookout. If I had had something really expensive and gorgeous to wear, I think I would have. But I wore jeans and a black V-neck t-shirt (my motto: when in doubt, add cleavage. My boobs are my OTHER best feature). I think I wore shoes that were really too nice for a cookout at a farm, as was my jewelry.

Months later, I ended up dropping out of the band.

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?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. With my singing also, I have been struggling for years with issues of identity. I think having a personal style and knowing what you like is also related to identity. And self-awareness. I often see clothes on the rack and think thy will be great, but then they don't look good on my body. I also wish I had a different body...I think it would be easier to dress another body. But this is an area of growth for me, and I think I'm getting better.

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?

Uh, no.

30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

Show off my boobs a little. Wear red. Style my hair and wear it down. Big earrings. Stilettos. Masquera--I have long eyelashes anyway, but I NEVER leave the house without masquera.

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?

People who like and are comfortable with themselves, in every aspect. People who like and dress for the body they have, who like and admire themselves. I think of a quote from "Eat, Pray, Love"...a girlfriend of the author says, "mine is not a body that can wear everything; still, I cannot help loving myself."

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?

Comfort and functionality are foundational; appearance is only the outside. But you can have both.

33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?

Sparkly things, colors, nature. Animals are beautiful; every kind of natural landscape or view is beautiful.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Man-made things inturrupting nature, like a factory pouring out smoke. Some fashion trends are very ugly (tights with pumps). I dislike some, for example, except in very small amounts. Unless it's in the sky, of course, at sunset.

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?

Generally but not always. I am trying to be more critical in the dressing room. There I notice what looks good about an item of clothing; at home I notice what looks bad about it. I'm trying to deliberately notice the bad before I buy.

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?

I don't think this way. I look at myself in the mirror, as myself. If I try to have an "outer eye", the outer eye is me--that is, what would I think of this person if I saw her on the street?

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

What do I have to do today? What is the weather like? How long am I on the go today? Do I have to walk? What is my mood? What is my energy level?

Weather, walking, and schedule are somewhat obvious considerations. If I'm tired, I prefer to be more comfortable and less dressy--this feels like giving myself a break. If I'm feeling down, I usually dress more dark or neutral to reflect that. If I'm feeling bright and cheerful, I wear brighter colors. I don't dress to change my mood but to affirm it--however I'm feeling is ok.

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

To feel good about myself and gain respect from others.

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

Dressing up is for a special occasion. That means dresses, gowns, heels, and sparkly earrings.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

Dark jeans, boots with a low heel, solid color t-shirt, blazer, big earrings, bracelet, and long necklace. That IS my uniform.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

Jeans are me. Boots are me. Graphics t's are me. Big earrings are my signature. Sheath dresses are me. Knit fabrics with some give are me. Things I can move in are me. Leather is me, although I'm a vegetarian and wonder if it's hypocritical, but I love it. Doc Martins are me, as are flip flops. Lace with leather and denim is very, very me. Silk sleeveless shirts with a high collar are not me. Asian style dresses are not me. Button down shirts are only occasionally me. Big prints are SO not me. Maxi dresses are (ugh, yuch!) not me.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

White American...not really sure. It's also the dominant culture I grew up with, so I don't notice the influence because it's all around me. I'm not generally interested in dressing to evoke other cultures or ethnicities.

43. Do you remember a time in your life when you dressed quite differently from how you do now? Can you describe it and what it was all about for you?

In high school, I always wore jeans and t-shirts and tennis shoes. In college, the t-shirts became fitted, and I changed the tennis shoes for boots and occasionally heels. That's still how I dress.

44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?

Style my hair instead of letting it air dry (although it can be very nice air-dried, too!). Wear a blazer instead of a hoodie. More jewelry. Nicer shoes.

45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

I conform. My boss, although a man, wears the same uniform as me--minus the earrings.

46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?

No, thank goodness. I generally avoid activities that require a uniform. I usually look bad in them, and they never fit!

I have been in choirs that had uniform dresses. They were usually ok, though--generally some sort of A-line. I have actually decided NOT to join some choirs only because (all other things being equal) they wore choir robes. Hideous damn things.

47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?

I don't do activities that require uniforms.

48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?

Hate 'em.

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?

I think I've covered that. :) I like it because it's comfortable and casual--jeans and a t-shirt--but also dressy enough to be professional. The comfort is on the inside for me, so I feel able to function and to physically do whatever the day demands. (What if the zombie apocalypse occurred on a day when you were wearing a business suit with a pencil skirt and high heels? I mean, I've worn that outfit on occasion, when I felt like it. But what if the ZA happened and you couldn't go home for more clothes and you had to flee through the woods from the walking dead for months in that outfit???!!! Then you'd really be sorry! I want to look professional, but I also want to be prepared for th ZA. Just in case. You just never know.)

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?

Yes. Every time I travel, especially for singing things. I went to an opera master class in Sweden. I packed two formal gowns, three cocktail dresses, heels for unstaged performances, heels for staged performances, and also all the everyday clothes (which also included four pairs of shoes: exercise, sandals, casual dressy, and rain). This was because the performance plan wasn't really decided. I ended up using two of the cocktail dresses. The others I just hauled around. Instead of all those selections, a man needs ONE suit and ONE pair of dress shoes. Ugh!

51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?

The 40s, although I probably wouldn't feel as comfortable. But I love those fashions and look good in them.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Meh. Not really I get very nervous and tense in front of the camera. I hate having my picture taken.

53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

Ugh, I look so fat.

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?

Well, I admire but don't really emulate Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn. When I want to feel really classy, I try to wear something one of them might wear. I also once bought a dress because it looked like something Kate Winslet wore in Titanic.

55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?

I dreamt of a dress I had tried on. I went back the next day to buy it.

56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?

Ugh, every look I wish I could do: tall and skinny.

57. If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body was a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear?

More hourglass dresses. I used to wear them a lot, but my stomach is a little rounder than it used to be, and I feel like it sticks out too much. A pencil skirt and nice top, or a dress with lining and roucheing over the stomach, disguises this better.

58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?

I've never thought about that. But I think how I dress can attract and repel certain attitudes and behaviors from everyone I meet.

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?

Be comfortable. You don't owe the world beauty or attractiveness. But if you present that, you will be treated differently than if you don't.

I am an attractive woman, and I am a feminist. But I don't think it's anti-feminist to take advantage of the privilege I can gain because I'm attractive. Use whatever you've got, if you need it. Just use all your powers for good.

60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

Hate it. If I wear it, I like it for 5 minutes, and then it gives me a headache. I do use scented lotion and occasionally body spray, because it fades and is lighter. I hate to smell perfume on other people, too. The absolute worst is when someone smokes and then tries to cover the stench with perfume. Ugh.

61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?

Be clean and not smell bad. Wear makeup--I NEVER go out without makeup.

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I had very bad acne as a teenager. I was very self-conscious about it an always wore foundation. At slumber parties, I slept with foundation. Now my skin is (miraculously!) fine--I don't even have scars. But makeup is an ingrained habit. I just wear powder, eye makeup, and a little blush, but I feel really naked without it.

63. Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?


64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?

Jeans, t-shirts, big earrings. I have a pretty good collection of formal gowns and cocktail dresses because I need them for performing. In the summer I love to wear sundresses or skirts.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

My spoon handle earrings. A friend made them...they are the handles of two old spoons. I think they're real silver. They are very heavy, but they're dramatic and classy and I love them. She had let me borrow them once and I commented on how cool they were. She told me she rarely wore them because they were so heavy. About two years later, for Christmas, she gave them to me. I wear them all the time, heavy or not. I love them.

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?

A beautiful little black cocktail dress that is just one size too small. It is so flattering and classy. I can still get in it, but it's not comfortable or right on me. I keep it because I hope to fit in it again! I got rid of all my other dresses that didn't fit a year ago, but I didn't have the heart to get rid of this one.

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?

The blue $50 dress in high school. Another dress--my best LBD. It's a stretchy fabric and has some roucheing over the stomach. It's sort of a wrap style. I bought it for an audition in must have been 15 years ago. I got a little tired of it last year and didn't bring it when I moved a year ago, but now I miss it and can't wait to get it again. It was very cheap, but it's lasted for years with tons of wear and a lot of body changes. When I gain or lose weight, it still fits and still looks good. It's cotton and black, so it can be casual for work or even a picnic and also cocktail dressy, depending on what I wear it with. It's comfortable and fantastic. If the Zombie Apocalypse happened when I was wearing that dress, I'd be ok.

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?

I can't think of anything.

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?

What not to Wear? I would probably keep the aforementioned LBD, actually. I don't think I could find it again. And the silver spoon earrings.

70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

Spend more money per item on fewer better-made pieces.

71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

The blue dress for $50! At that time I considered it an investment. I got my money's worth from it. But I don't think I still have it.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?

I can't think of anything.

73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

Costume pieces. Especially the perfect corset. I can't decide which period I want, an it's a big commitment as good ones are very expensive.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

Generally neat, although periodically they get messy and I go through and reorganize. Maybe twice a year or so. Right now I have a pretty good system...some things are rolled instead of folded. This makes it easier to paw through and find things without making a mess.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

The silver spoon earrings!

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?

The black dress! It continued to fit and flatter as I gained and lost weight.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

When the mood strikes me, or when I realize I have nothing to wear--especially nothing for the season. Sometimes I window shop just to see what's new and then think about it for a week or so before I go back to buy things.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Vanilla. I wear vanilla scented deodorant.

79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

When I do anything opera-related, I usually dress a little differently than for teaching. I want to look like a diva, just a little, even if it's casual.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I don't have a lot of money to spend on clothes. I like to shop thrift stores. Target and TJ Maxx are splurging for me.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

Burt's Bees lip gloss in a dark red, but I rarely put it on! I forget. However, it's always in my bag if I need a little extra something.

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


83. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

As a child, I liked clothes. I don't remember one moment.

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

April 11, 1975. I was born in Madison, WI, but moved to Tennessee at six months old, then ATlanta, GA at 4 years. I grew up there and lived in VA for about 15 years as an adult. I moved to Germany a year ago.

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

White, middle-class American.

What kind of work do you do?

At the moment I teach English, but my education and passion is music. I moved to Germany to sing opera.

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

I'm divorced and live with my (German) boyfriend. I don't have or want kids.

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

I'm an artist and a teacher. I've worked as a music teacher and as an actress and singer (as well as retail and waiting tables). But if I chose one label, it would be opera singer.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Maybe I like myself and my body better than I thought I did. That's nice.


I'm an aspiring opera singer living in Germany. Right now teaching English pays the bills, but I hope to soon be singing full-time.

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