Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
My hair long and messy, wearing nothing but a pair of granny panties just after waking up.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes, often. I tend to notice women who dress fearlessly. I live in New York, so it takes something bold and original to stand out on the street. I most admire old women who bring a sense of glamour and fun to getting dress, and plus-size women who dress to call attention to, rather than hide, themselves.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I'm always impressed by a woman who can convey character and personality through their clothing. I tend not to be a bold dresser, so I admire confidence and fearlessness in others' sartorial choices.
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?
Yes, sometime in early 2011. I had gained a lot of weight in grad school, probably about 20-25 pounds, and at a size 18 was at the largest I'd ever been. I was having a hard time with body image issues. I was planning my wedding around this time and looking online for a dress to wear for the wedding reception when I stumbled on a plus-size fashion blog. The newest post had photos of the blog's author in this gorgeous form-fitting coral dress. She was built almost exactly like me, and I thought she looked so sexy and confident in the dress, and that's when it first occurred to me that I could have this body and not actually hate the way it looked in clothes.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I don't spend more than $50 on any article of clothing (with the exception of coats or maybe a nice dress if I need one). I don't buy uncomfortable shoes. If I'm shopping for separates, I typically won't buy something unless I can think of two or three things I already own that I can wear with the new piece.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Because of my size, I don't like to wear any shorts or skirts that hit more than about a 1/2-inch above my knee, and I almost never wear sleeveless tops in public.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
In 11th grade, I bought this fantastic glittery lime green dress to wear to prom (I was going through a really intense David Bowie/glam rock obsession at the time), and I really wanted to put a couple of either temporary green streaks or fake green clip-in pieces in my hair to match. I broached the subject with my mother about a week before the dance, and she shot it down immediately because she said she didn't want me to look like a freak; I think she may have implied that it would reflect badly on her. I wish the conversation had transformed me for the better, that I'd said "fuck you" and done it anyway, but all it really did was make me even more self-conscious about how other people perceived me on account of my style.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Not really, and that's unfortunate because I have panic disorder, so being more unified in my approach to things would probably help nip a lot of anxiety in the bud. Lately, I've been trying to take care of all problems or responsibilities well in advance of when they must be dealt with, which I think applies to life, work, relationships, etc.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
1) I have the "boyfriend t-shirt" from Target in five or six different colors, because they are cheap and very comfortable.
2) I've replaced my Old Navy black skinny jeans four times in the last three years. You'd think I'd give up on them because I keep wearing holes in the thigh, but they're very flattering, comfortable, and versatile.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
I'm excellent at picking out clothes for my husband. When we met, he wasn't a bad dresser, per se, just a boring one; his entire wardrobe was jeans and button-downs or polos that he'd owned for 5-10 years. Since we've been together, I've updated his wardrobe every birthday and Christmas with things that are true to his style but nicer. The thing I'm probably proudest of is the sweater I bought him 2 Christmases ago, a thick grey wool cardigan with brown leather elbow patches. He looks adorably professorial in it, and I can tell that wearing it makes him feel more confident.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Not "refused," I just don't really keep up.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
Oh shit, I can talk about this all day. I'll be brief(ish), though... Up until I was born, my mother was tall and model-thin and beautiful; after she had me, she remained tall and beautiful but kept gradually putting on weight. Most of my life, she's been somewhere between a size 12 and 18, I'd say. She has a lot of body image issues as a result and has for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, she was always trying some new diet and ragging on her body. I internalized a lot of those issues, and then in my teens it got worse because she started projecting them onto me, commenting on my stretch marks or cellulite whenever she happened to notice it. Eventually I grew up, and our bodies look a lot alike now, and I spend a lot of time trying to be okay with that while blocking out her negativity about her own body.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
My roommates and I borrowed each other's clothes in college constantly because we were all around the same size. I steal my mom's clothes all the time. She has a whole basement full of things she bought 20 years ago and hasn't worn in 15, so I like to go through the pile whenever I'm visiting home and take the good stuff. My favorite piece is a black wool blazer that she had when I was little. It reminds me of her, and it looks great with a pair of tall boots.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Sometime around 10th grade was probably the most dramatic shift in my style. I'd been a very trendy dresser up until that point, always wanting to wear whatever everyone else was wearing. But at that point I got really into Anne Rice and David Bowie, and my style started to reflect my obsessions; suddenly I found myself with a lot of gothic or 70's glam rock-inspired pieces in my wardrobe.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
I believe that fashion is always a political act, especially if you're a woman, and even more especially if you're a woman of size, whether you're conscious of it or not. That said, there are at least a couple of ways I would consider my style deliberately political. I tend to dress androgynously -- lots of menswear-inspired looks, often borrowing my husband's clothes. Also, I rarely wear makeup or style my hair.
16. Please describe your body.
I'm tallish (about 5'8") with broad shoulders, average sized breasts, and very large hips and thighs. My body is very muscular from years of dance and sports, but there's a considerable layer of fat overlaying the muscle.
17. Please describe your mind.
Creative, anxious, dirty, compassionate
18. Please describe your emotions.
Pretty even keeled, often detached or awkward.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
My hair is in a low messy bun. My face is bare, and I'm wearing large black reading glasses. On my body, I'm wearing a pink sports bra under a multi-colored chevron print tank top, which is tucked into a pair of high-waisted dark wash jeans.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
It's not, really. Except the reading glasses.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
My husband, who gamely listens.
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
Indirectly, in all kinds of ways. Directly, the effects are fortunately pretty limited. I work from home, so there's no workplace dress code that I have to abide by. I'm not religious, so I don't feel some sense of guilt or immodesty from wearing whatever I feel like wearing. I don't know...that's a pretty complicated question.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
I think of taste as what is appropriate, elegant, respectable; style, on the other hand, is a flare, something distinctive. Taste is dictated primarily by economic class, so I don't have a ton of respect for the concept. Style might also be, to some extent, but it doesn't have to be. To me personally, style is more important. Style conveys something about your character and personality rather than how much money you have (or aspire to have). I think I have style. I understand taste, what is considered tasteful and what is considered in poor taste, I just don't really care.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
Anytime I ever bought jeans from Abercrombie & Fitch in middle/high school. The politics of shopping at A&F aside, their jeans are insanely overpriced and tear up in about three months.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
I've gotten really good at using different types of bras--and sometimes wearing two different ones at once--to change my proportions depending on the outfit I'm wearing. Also, Spanx always make me feel like I'm getting away with something.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
In some ways, I think my conversational style -- quiet, sardonic, irreverent -- is an extension of fashion style, which itself is an extension of my personality.
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?
Dressing like a sexy boss for class presentations. Wearing comfortable pants and shoes to job interviews.
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?
I would say so, in terms of both fashion and most other areas of life. I think discernment comes with age. I'm almost 30, and by now I feel like I've developed a pretty good sense of what I like to wear, what I value in a friend or romantic partner, what I need from a job or from life in general. Those are things you learn through trial and error over time; I'm sure that by 40 my skills of discernment will be even more finely honed.
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?
For better or worse, I learned most things from my mom. She taught me how to curl my own hair and apply makeup. As far as fashion or style go, I don't exactly remember how much she taught me directly and how much I just picked up on. Something I distinctly remember, though, is that when 70's fashions had a resurgence in the 90's, I was on the cutting edge because my mother could tell me exactly what she wore in those days and could help me pick out clothes and shoes that had an authentically "vintage" flair.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Clothing: I feel my sexiest in menswear-inspired looks with a feminine cut. I would say that my physical attractiveness is fairly androgynous -- I'm tall and broad and muscular but with long hair and feminine curves -- and these kinds of clothes complement that.
Make-up: A dark red lip or anything that brings out my eyes.
Hair: Down and wild, or down and perfectly curled.
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?
Comfort and confidence, to me, are kind of the same thing. If you're comfortable and confident, it means that you look at home in what you're wearing. You're not fidgeting or pulling at the fabric or having trouble walking. Confidence may also mean that you've got the balls to wear something audacious or unexpected, though it doesn't necessarily have to mean that; you can be confident in jeans and a T-shirt.
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?
My philosophy is this: Wear what makes you feel good about yourself. Wear whatever makes you smile, when you look in the mirror. Fashion should make people feel awesome, not self-conscious or unworthy.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Anything can be beautiful, but aesthetically I'm most drawn to jewel tones, shapely women, bearded men, and androgynous fashion and styling.
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, this goes back to my rule about not buying something unless I can think of a few different things I already own to pair it with. Sometimes I'll by a dress or pair of shoes on a whim and never wear them and end up taking them to Goodwill with the tag still on, but this happens only like 1 out of 100 times.
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?
My "outer eye" is based on the person I want to be -- cool, brazen, unequivocally fuckable, the tatted-up bisexual babe in the leather jacket and combat boots smoking Marlboro Reds. She's appraising me to see if she'd fuck me. She's not hung up on style, necessarily, but she's looking to see if I look like I know what I'm doing, if I can carry myself with her level of confidence and cool, if I can hang.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
I don't always get dressed in the morning since I work from home. Sometimes I just throw on sweats or lounge clothes like yoga pants and a t-shirt. Getting dressed to leave the house can be kind of a process, though, because of my social anxiety. I have to make sure that I look put together but like I'm not trying to hard, that nothing I'm wearing is physically uncomfortable, that I don't feel too fat in what I have on, that my legs aren't showing if I haven't shaved or that my hair doesn't look to greasy if I haven't showered.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
More often than not, I'm dressing to look presentable but not stand out.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing up rarely, if ever involves dinner. It involves a certain level of taste as well that doesn't typically accompany regular "dressing" -- for me, at least. Nicer shoes, nicer jewelry, more makeup, more attention to how my hair is style.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
Black jeans, black combat boots, comfy t-shirt, black leather jacket.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
Anything black or jewel toned I can pull off pretty well. Things that are more masculine work well for me, too -- blazers, moto jackets, boots, button-downs. Things that don't work for me include pastels, shorts, or anything white (not because it looks bad but because I'm the messiest person I know and it will be ruined).
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I'm white and from a small, impoverished town in Appalachia. A lot of my present style, I think, comes out of wanting to stand out from everyone else in a place where being normal was something to aspire to.
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?
For me, 7th grade was the apex of my wanting-to-fit-in phase. I was a cheerleader and had abandoned my nerdier friends for more popular ones. My style was all about fitting in at that point, wearing as much A&F, American Eagle, and Tommy Hilfiger as possible. I felt like if I could dress the part of the popular girl, I could be one. It was a bad judgment call, but I was 12 so that's probably to be expected.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
Curl my hair, wear minimal makeup, wear pants that aren't jeans. This is a hard one for me because I work from home and rarely have a reason to look or feel "professional."
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
Again, I work from home, so there aren't any dress expectations in my workplace. Most of the time I don't even put on pants.
46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?
47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?
48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
Comforting, because it reduces the amount of effort I have to put into dressing myself.
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, t-shirt or tank top, and a cardigan. I like it because it looks clean but comfortable, mature but not trying too hard. I also like that any of the pieces can be mixed and matched with other things.
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?
I don't wish I were a man or that I had a man's body. I don't have to wish that I could dress like a man because I can if I want to. One thing I will say, though, is that I sometimes wish that I was narrow through the hips like a man so that I could wear men's trousers, which I prefer aesthetically to women's; my huge ass and thighs totally throw off the look.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I don't think there's anything better than this moment right now in America, fashion-wise. I have the freedom to wear whatever the fuck I want. Also, there are more plus-sized options than ever before, so my options aren't as limited.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
Usually I think I look fatter than I think of myself as being.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
David Bowie, Tilda Swinton, Oscar Wilde.
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
I have that dream about being naked at school sometimes. Sometimes if I go to bed without any underwear on, I have dreams about being sexually assaulted.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Club girl -- the tight dress and high heels thing. I would feel extremely uncomfortable in those clothes.
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?
Shorts and sleeveless tops
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
I try to be attractive to my husband, I guess, but he's pretty easy to please. Otherwise, not really. Myself?
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
No, I'd tell them to ignore rules.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I don't mind a little perfume. I wear it on rare occasions, like if I'm going out to a nice dinner or a more formal event.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Clothes should look clean and not too rumpled. I would prefer that my legs be shaved if they're going to be showing. My hair should be brushed if it's down, or artfully messy if it's up, and if it's too greasy I'll put a little baby powder on the roots to soak it up and add more volume.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
Makeup fits in less and less the older I get. I only wear makeup on rare occasions anymore, usually if I'm going out somewhere with other people or on a date with my husband. I really like makeup, though. I have a lot of fun applying it and it's usually the style area where I'm the boldest when I do wear it. I love wearing a dramatic eye or a bold lip color.
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?
The hip, quirky Brooklyn girl thing. I feel like I'm supposed to like it because 1) I live in NY, and 2) I'm a writer, but I just hate that whole look. It's always these skinny women with model good looks, and their clothes look like they came from Goodwill but definitely were purchased at Anthropologie for at least $50 more than what anybody should be paying. There's just something really pretentious and silly about it all. It comes across as a very expected uniform for people living under the misguided impression that they're unique, special snowflakes.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Some very basic sportswear pieces, plenty of jeans, a few dresses, almost no jewelry aside from a few statement necklaces and basic earrings.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
My favorite piece of clothing I own is a black boatneck top with 3/4-length sleeves. The material is thick and sturdy, so it creates clean lines. It goes with just about any skirt or pair of pants I own, and it can be dressed up or down easily.
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 yellow T-shirt from a community theater play that my best friend was in about 13 years ago. I don't wear it because it's too small, but I keep it because it's actually my friend's shirt. I ended up with it after we lived together in college. I kept forgetting to give it back to her, and now she lives in Florida while I'm in NY, so I haven't really had an opportunity to return it.
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?
Jackets and cardigans. These are the articles of clothing that have been the most versatile and have lasted me the longest.
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?
When I was 17-18, I had this great sweater that I wish I still had. It was bright green and had a low V-neckline. The material was so soft and stretchy. I have no idea what happened to it -- I think my freshman roommate might have stolen it -- but if it hadn't gone missing I suspect it'd still be in rotation.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
My denim jacket.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
Fewer T-shirts. In general, I would try to favor a few well-made expensive items over a bunch of cheap, ill-fitting articles of clothing. I'd get better shoes, too.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
I don't know that I have such an item. Everything I own is inexpensive ready-to-wear shit, even my wedding dress. I don't have a suit or a nice bag or coat anything like that.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
Last winter, I bought a pair of brown suede lace-up combat boots. If boots could be a spirit animal, those would be mine. Everyone I knew commented on how well they suited me, and I felt so at home and confident in them in a way I'd never felt with clothing, least of all with shoes.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
The perfect motorcycle jacket.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
There is nothing neat about my clothing storage. My hang-up clothes are forever falling off their shitty hangers. Anything in drawers or on a shelf is in a wrinkled heap.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
My engagement ring. It belonged to my husband's mother, who died when he was just 15. They were very close, so it meant a lot for him to give that to me.
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?
So I bought these two nearly-identical pairs of black and white patterned pants recently that kind of look like MC Hammer pants -- big through the hips, tapered at the ankle. I bought them on a whim because they were on clearance and looked really comfortable. They're so ugly. I mean, they're really in style this summer, but they're so so ugly and unflattering. But because of that, they've actually meant a lot to me. They're the first thing I've ever worn that explicitly called attention to a part of my body I don't like -- my big ass. Wearing them makes me feel confident, like I'm owning an imperfection.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
I usually shop for clothes about once every three months or so, just to get a few things to update my wardrobe. Given my budget and my size, my best bets are typically Target or Old Navy.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
Not a specific scent, but I'm obsessed with Lush, the bath and body store. Everything there smells amazing, so basically every bath/body product I own comes from there so that I can smell like that all day.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
I don't know that it really does, for the most part. I suppose having a great body image is an ambition I have for myself, though, and I think I try to dress in ways that make me feel confident and happy about my body and how it looks.
80. How does money fit into all this?
My husband and I have been on a tight budget until recently because he just finished law school, so most of my clothing and beauty purchases have come from very inexpensive stores. I imagine this will change now that we're making more money.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
I usually wear my reading glasses at some point every day.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
I'm a human female, so yeah.
Seriously, though, the most traumatic example of this was in middle school when a boy told me the only way his friend would want to date me was if I lost 20 pounds. I knew I was a little bit chubby, but it was the first time I realized that other people thought of me as fat.
A positive example came from my husband. Soon after we started dating, he told me that he was really intimidated by me when we first met; he thought I seemed really cool and badass apparently, which had never occurred to me.
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?
I remember in 3rd grade the time that I first meticulously planned an outfit to wear to school. Black suede skirt with a matching vest over a white turtleneck. Yellow socks scrunched over black combat boots, and a black suede that had a giant sunflower on the front of it. I can't remember why I wanted to wear this -- it wasn't picture day or a special occasion or anything -- only that I thought it would be very fashionable and grown-up.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
September 30, 1986. Born in Ashland, KY. Live in Astoria, Queens, NY.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I'm a white Euro-mutt, with a little Cherokee thrown in there somewhere. My economic background is all over the map; depending on whether my mother was married and to whom she was married, I grew up somewhere between shitty-apartment-and-food-stamps poor and upper-middle class at various points.
What kind of work do you do?
I'm an English adjunct professor.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married, no kids.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
This was awesome. Actually it was kind of therapeutic. I think I realized a lot of things about myself that I'd never given serious thought to before.