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Kathryn Beard

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I'm out having fun, as long as I don't look into a mirror. Especially a mirror with fluorescent lights--those just bust up and ruin my mental image and then I feel icky and tired.

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

Yes; great dresses and shoes on women with confidence. Who know where they're going (or look like they do) and are heading there, not milling around or looking lost.

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

I love tall women who aren't afraid to be tall. Put on those heels, head up tits out and KILL IT. I love naturally curly hair and am so sick of the flat iron trend. People who look chic and put-together in any sort of weather are also impressive.

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 17, I swam in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, and let my hair dry naturally in the sun. That was the first time I realized that my hair was a good kind of curly, and I didn't have to fight it or toss it into ponytails all the time. I could do it curly, with the right products, and it could be fabulous. It probably happened because I was having too much fun to worry about my hair at the time, and when I finally noticed it, I liked what I saw.

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

Try EVERYTHING on. Even same style/size in a different color. You never know. Try on crazy things but don't buy them unless you're sure you'll wear them. Go fast- in and out, toss anything you don't love immediately. If you're not sure, put it aside and try again after everything else has been tried on. Wouldn't recommend to many others because it can be overwhelming and very slow.

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

Don't wear shorts. It doesn't matter if they look okay; you (I) don't feel good in them and won't enjoy it. Go with the jeans even though it's humid and hot and you'll be sweaty, because in your experience, that's preferable.

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

A girl I went to law school with came up to me one day and asked for fashion advice. She said that I always looked very well put-together and appropriate. It kind of blew my mind because, although I had been attempting to not dress like an undergrad (i.e., pajama pants, jeans/t-shirt, etc) I had no idea whether I'd been successful. Her telling me that showed me that it was working and people noticed and it was conveying what I was trying to convey--I had never done that before, that I had known.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.

No, unless "Do what works for you, pretend to get a jump on things, procrastinate, and make something happen at the last minute because YOU HAVE TO NOW" is a unified way of approaching things.

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

Yes. I bought a couple work-appropriate tank tops in different colors because they fit well and more colors = more jackets you can wear them under. Also some Old Navy moccasin slippers because they're so warm and so comfortable that they make my always-cold feet sweat which ruins them so I need more.

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

Not that I can think of. But I can also only think of at most 3 pieces of jewelry anyone has successfully given me. I wonder why clothes/jewelry are so difficult to give as presents.

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

Leggings and tunics. I have a very short torso (have to wear petite tops despite being too tall for general petite sections and wearing regular-length pants) and am a bit pear-shaped. Tunics bunch around my hips in an unflattering way and are always way too long on me. It's probably comfortable but would just look awful.

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

I try to avoid wearing anything she would wear. Her style is loud--bright colors, big prints, large costume jewelry. I'm much more subdued. She always buys me things I don't want (as in, my whole life has) because I'm not able to tell her I don't like them. I can't say how many things she bought me as presents or back-to-school shopping or whatever that she loved for me and I never, ever wore. So many.

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

Not that I can think of. I suppose maybe once enough friends have adopted a new trend, it grows on me enough to try it (like riding boots lately--I've never liked flat boots but they were cute on so many people that I branched out).

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

Probably when I started law school. Everything you hear about professional programs is that from day 1 you're starting a new career. Everyone you meet will be a colleague, and the last thing you want is them to tell a potential employer later on that "She's really smart and capable, but she doesn't dress appropriately and could be a liability." The first time I bought a suit for ME, rather than a suit that my mom bought me was huge. I realized suits could be cute and fit well and be fun to wear--the skirt flared out when I spun around, and who doesn't feel better about herself in an outfit that spins well? I lost about 40 pounds a few years ago and at first was afraid to buy anything, but when I finally did I realized I could wear much more than I used to think I could; more than I would have worn as a skinny teenager. I was more confident and bought things that were far more my style, in my comfort zone, and that looked good, rather than another-pair-of-fat-pants.

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

I would say no, but that's not really true. All clothing is political in some way. Wearing jeans, showing cleavage, a pant suit or a skirt suit, heels or flats. But for a generic white American, no, my clothes aren't political.

16. Please describe your body.

Long legs, short torso. Small chest, broad shoulders, large rib cage, big hips. Tough feet with high arches. Small hands and fingers. A tendency towards thickening in the short waist region probably due to not enough space to put fat. Or so I tell myself. Strong. Sometimes achy. Functional, which is probably most important.

17. Please describe your mind.

Quick, lazy, never stops running and running and running, analytic, logical. Chemically balanced due to anti-depressants.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Generally content, but leaning toward neutral. Obsessive about things that make me angry. Loud.

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

Slippers (Old Navy, from above question), dark jeans, tank top, blousy shirt to stay warm in overly-air-conditioned room, glasses, ponytail. No makeup or jewelry.

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

It's functional (keeps me warm) and comfortable.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?


22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

Greatly. First thing that comes to mind is going to court. In general, lawyers are expected to be in dark suits, heels, well-groomed. You have to look a certain way to ensure that the judge is paying attention to what you say, not what you look like. Other lawyers, too, because the profession is small, even in big cities, and it's a judgmental profession. Women under 40 are generally assumed to be secretaries, despite the vast majority of us kicking around the court being licensed attorneys. So we dress to look older, more capable, less secretarial (if that's at all possible). It's a man's world and we just live in it.

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

Taste probably; style, not so much. Taste means dressing appropriately to the occasion, whether it's a picnic, a wedding, a funeral, an interview, a networking event, etc. Style means you have a specific look that is YOU. Where people see a shirt and immediately think "oh, SHE would love that." I don't have that.

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

Probably my wedding dress. I mean, it was pretty and I liked it a lot and it fit well and I felt great in it, but come on. It's a dress I wore one day and will never ever put on again. What's the point?

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

not that I can think of.

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

I try with decorating my house. It is probably pretty similar to how I dress--comfortable, classic, but a little bit fun occasionally.

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?

A few years ago, my dad called to tell me that my grandmother was dying and they thought she had less than a week. She had been sick for quite a while, but I wasn't ready to not have a grandma. My only thought was that I had NOTHING to wear to a funeral. So I went shopping and found a black dress that would be very appropriate for a funeral but that I could also wear to work and cocktail parties because it couldn't just be my "I have a dead grandma" dress (I still think of it as that, despite wearing it regularly). I couldn't face the likelihood that she'd be dead so to cope I found clothes to wear. I also took a necklace of hers that needed repairs to a jeweler (I'd been putting it off) and begged him to do a rush job fixing it so I could wear it to the funeral. At the funeral, the dress and necklace were my armor against the world, and it worked.

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, generally. I am very opinionated and I make snap judgments about liking/disliking things, and stick to them. Occasionally something I originally disliked will win me over (see flat riding boots, above) but usually I stick with what I like. It probably comes from not tending to like much, so it's easy to know when I do like something.

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?

Laundry. We all (2 brothers and me) helped sort clothes by color, separate out delicates, wash certain things in those mesh bags, etc. But that's all I can think of.

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

Lots of eye makeup. Cute underwear. Heels. Clothes that fit well. Contacts instead of glasses (hate it, but that's how it is). Straightened hair (hate that more).

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 means able to do what needs to be done (even if what needs to be done is lounging on the couch binge-watching tv) without worrying about what you're wearing--being able to eat whatever you want without your pants getting too tight. Few restrictions, not about appearance but about how everything feels on your body. Soft--always soft. Confident is an attitude--that "Bring it, World--I am ready to kick your ass" approach to life where you walk down the street feeling like you know what you're doing, where you're going, why, and like you're ready for whatever comes because you're a badass.

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?

Ha. Well. Fit is most important. Everything has to fit well. It's astonishing the difference it makes. Otherwise, items that work well with each other and can be worn multiple times on multiple situations. One-time clothing is a waste, generally. Spend more on well-made items, buy mostly staples but branch out occasionally to something fun. This sounds like a crappy magazine article, super generic, but there you have it.

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


34. What do you consider very ugly?

Being an asshole.

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?

I'm getting better. Sometimes I still buy something but after I get it home I realize that I'm NEVER going to wear it. I am finally responsible enough to take it back, rather than letting it rot in the back of my closet. I items on with things that I already have, to make sure it works with them--take the right shoes, tops, pants, whatever, so make sure that everything goes and not only can be worn together, but will be.

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?

The "Other Person" is still me--highly critical, looking for flaws, talking myself out of anything that critical-outer-me isn't into. It's probably based on my mother, to a point, because she can't ever do anything without a critique, no matter how great things are. I hate that about myself.

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

The main consideration is how much time I have. Next is what I'm doing that day--office, errands, party, whatever. Then it's making sure I'm not wearing the exact same thing I wore last time I went to whatever that thing is because I repeat outfits a lot. Lastly, it's however what I'm wearing makes me feel. If it's ugly or icky or fat, I switch out for something else.

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

Other than protection against the elements? I usually try to not look like a high schooler. I'm young looking in general, so if I roam about in a t-shirt and jeans and a ponytail and no makeup, I look like a child.

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

Dressing is putting on clothes. Dressing up is getting ready for a special occasion with fancy clothes, nicer jewelry, extra attention to hair and makeup, some perfume, a longer shower, etc.

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

Dark skinny jeans, ballet flats, sweater, blazer. That's my ideal uniform. More likely it's black pumps, skin-tone nylons, black skirt suit, small necklace, grown-up watch, smooth hair, clean makeup, briefcase, whatever outerwear is necessary (trenchcoat or peacoat).

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

"Me" is simple, quiet, basic, blacks instead of browns, silvers instead of golds, jewel tones if any color but more usually no color or neutral. "Not Me" is the opposite: trendy, fussy, bright, bold, loud, etc.

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

Generic American WASP. It taught me what's appropriate in every possible situation. It also made me judgmental of people who wear what the WASPs would consider inappropriate.

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?

No. I've always been kind of boring.

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

Suit, heels, bun or straight hair instead of ponytail or curly, contacts instead of glasses. The click-clack of heels down a hallway is the most professional sound to me, though the click-drag that some people make always sounds like teachers at my elementary school.

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

I conform. Look at what supervisors wear, use that as a guideline. I'd love to rebel, like dye my hair with pink streaks or something, but I never would because I don't know how others would react. I don't like not knowing how others will react.

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

Dress code at work is business casual unless court or other important things are happening. Then we suit up.

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

I conform. Being the odd-person-out isn't a feeling I'm comfortable with.

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

Comforting. Less decisions to make.

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 a comfortable top. It's easy, comfortable, classic, and works for all ages.

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. Buildings are temperature-regulated to men. When they're wearing pants, an undershirt, a dress shirt, a tie, a jacket, etc., women will never ever be warm enough unless we wear menswear, basically. Also unisex shirts aren't unisex; they're men's, but Man is the default. Women's clothing is more expensive, less-well-fitted, and cheaper material than men's. We are stuck with see-through items because somebody decided that a see-through shirt means we'll buy two. They're right; we do. Wouldn't it be awesome to walk into a store with a couple measurements and walk out with something that fits just right? To have tailoring included in purchases rather than an extra? It would make everything easier.

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

Now, in Western Europe.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Not particularly.

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

Oof, wonky eye. I shouldn't stand like that. Hey, that's a good one! Why did she tag me in that one? My hair is awful. That was so much fun. Time to get back to the gym.

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

Not particularly. Maybe Katherine Hepburn and Kate Middleton. Always looking good in something that is clearly YOU.

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

Not that I know of.

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

Punky rockstar or sex goddess. I'm too all-american girl-next-door-y to pull off either of those and they make me feel silly.

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?

Same stuff I wear now, with maybe a couple tweaks (are midriff-bearing tops a thing again? that could be fun).

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

I would dress to repel street harassment, but as everyone knows, it doesn't matter what you're wearing. No.

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

Do what works for you, what you like.

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

Very very seldom. It's fine, but it's another thing to remember and too much is so horribly overwhelming.

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

Mascara. I have blonde lashes and when I don't blacken them it's a constant chorus of "are you as tired as you look?" and "are you okay? you look sick."

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

Tinted moisturizer changed my life. I hate foundation, hate powder. I was a dancer as a kid, so makeup always brings recitals to mind, with heavy makeup under hot lights. The possibility of evening out my skin tone and downplaying flaws without feeling like I'm covered in paint? it's amazing.

I don't wear lipstick. I think it makes my mouth look too big, and it feels weird. Not even lip gloss; just basic Burt's Bees.

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?

Cardigans. I don't get their appeal. They never fit right, they hang weirdly. They're hard to find in petite and they never make me look put-together.

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

Moderately-priced basic items. Nothing terribly cheap, but not designer or expensive either. Plain.

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

Pearls. They can be dressed up or dressed down and are always so cool to the touch.

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 pair of pants I bought in Greece. They're beachy, sort of complicated--held up only by ties around the waist with the front and back not connected to each other. I'm not sure why I don't wear it, except that in a breeze I'd end up doing an Angelina's Leg at the Oscars. I keep them because I love them, I love the idea of them, and I loved wearing them in Greece.

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?

Outerwear. I've been willing to spend more on coats than on most items, and they have held up for many years.

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?

Mostly the sort of clothes that are so comfortable that they fit perfectly and you'd be happy sleeping in. What happened is that I probably tossed them in a fit of cleaning because really who needs three pairs of pants with a hole in the crotch, and I miss them because they were just so perfectly worn in.

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

My winter white peacoat with black trim. It doesn't get as dirty as I thought it would and always makes me feel special.

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

Better planning. Having clothes I need in advance, rather than "oh my god X is happening THIS WEEK and I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR" which always results in something cheap or far too expensive.

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

A knee-length black peacoat. I still own it, but the liner is ripped to shreds and it's too big for me now. I really should get rid of it.

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

The first suit I bought for myself and also for ME. I didn't know I could wear something that made me feel professional and capable and cute. For the first time, it didn't feel like I was dressing up in my mom's clothing.

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

Good flats. The kind that I can stand in and walk in that don't rip up my heels.

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

Overflowing. I try to put items of certain types in certain drawers, but generally fail. I toss clothes on the floor and don't manage to put things away. I'm a mess.

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

My grandma gave me a necklace with a little charm of a birdhouse with a bird floating below it that says "fly sing soar" and I adore it because I adore her and it was what she truly wanted for me. Otherwise, inspirational-type-sayings make me gag, but this one works.

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?


77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Fast and alone. Roam around grabbing everything, get into a fitting room and toss everything on and off quickly, get out.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I more like to not smell. Not just not stinky but also not overly perfumed or scented.

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

I don't want anyone to say that I dressed inappropriately for something, because that could hurt me professionally down the road.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I don't buy things that seem outrageously expensive, but I also don't bargain-hunt. I should be better about that, but I'm not.

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

Wedding band.

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

When a law school classmate told me I always look very well put together. It's what I was going for, but didn't know if it was working until then.

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?

My first dance recital. We danced to a hoe-down in jean skirts with jean bows and little white polo shirts with a red bandana. I hated it because I wanted so desperately to be a ballerina in pink and tutus. The next year we had pink tutus and I hate them too because by then I was over that junk.

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

January 25, 1982. Born in Lansing, Michigan; now live in Chicago, Illinois.

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

WASP. Parents with advanced degrees, lived in large university town, never wanted for much (or if we did, I didn't know it). College was expected, not an aspiration.

What kind of work do you do?


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

Married, 8 years, no kids.

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

I sound shallow and self-centered. I probably am.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?


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