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Jane Doe

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When my hair is natural, my face either lightly sun- or lightly make-up-kissed, wearing something comfortable that has something special about it--a plain white t-shirt with loose shorts in a sweet shade, a black tank dress that makes my shoulders look strong. When I'm not in a rush.

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

Yes. I tend to admire women who have the same attributes above that make me look pretty. I admire people who can look really natural, yet express something beautiful and unexpected at the same time. Someone who is able to say something about her culture or her views without wearing a disguise.

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

I admire women who put just a bit more effort into their appearance, who represent power and humor and intelligence and all the good things, while also allowing themselves to have a little fun with their appearance. I aspire to have fun.

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've always clicked on fashion. Honestly, I remember noticing and thinking about fashion in my earliest memories. I have always been fascinated with it, even when people I admired told me I was too brainy to be thinking about such things.

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

No "dry clean only." Natural materials, except when I just can't resist. Extra points for anything that is as comfortable as PJs, but makes me look put together.

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

As I get older, I'm working on some rules to keep me from looking too smunchy--staying away from things that highlight what isn't looking as attractive as it used. My boobs, for example, have elongated several inches. I used to be quite comfortable in a tank top, and now when I go bra-less I look like someone needs to take me aside and have a chat with me. But I'm pretty stubborn.

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

Oh, shoot. I can't think of anything.

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

I'm both logical and idealistic, which can make life a struggle sometimes. I want to live in the moment. I want to live my values. I don't want to throw effort after foolish things. But I also feel good in a clean and ordered space. I like to look out ahead and make today's efforts match what I want and believe in. In a social justice realm, I'm constantly comparing what I value and what I do to what that means to others and how that compares with what others are allowed to do. Admittedly, I can sometimes get all balled up in this thinking. And then I try to go back to the living in this moment part and start again.

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

Donna Karan bikini underwear in some sort of knit fabric is comfortable, makes my ass look cute and makes me feel sexy. And it's not expensive. Voting with my wallet. Otherwise, I think variety is the spice of life. When a beloved t-shirt goes, I think it couldn't quite be replaced, and so I need to find the next perfect thing.

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

I found a great consignment jacket for a friend who is thrifty and cool. It was a risk to give a gift of used clothing, but she so appreciated it. I bet she resold it pretty soon after, and I bet she knows that I know and knows I couldn't care less--it's out in the world living its life. That fabulous jacket contributed to an ongoing fashion conversation between the two of us and I treasure that give and take.

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

I'm open to almost anything that doesn't humiliate or harm the wearer or anyone else. Has to be decided in context, on a case-by-case basis.

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

Oh, God. My mother had 9 kids and always looked a bit pregnant. I hoped having only two kids would exempt me from that, but I think it's more about our shared love of good food and good books--ha ha--because I do have a belly. I also have her long, shapely legs--"gams," in the old parlance. I have her graceful hands. I loved how my dad could dress her, especially when it reflected a 40s strong, feminine style, and I also look fabulous in those structured clothes.

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

In high school, I borrowed clothes from a cute and stylish boy I knew. Particularly, I remember a pair of fabulous plaid pants. I have thieved many a comfy sweatshirt or worn pair of jeans from boys and men--friends, boyfriends, chance acquaintances. I have borrowed from my father--turned his cashmere v-necks backwards in the early 80s--my sisters, my friends, anyone who didn't tie their stuff down. I also eat from other people's plates.

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

I did have a slacker period after graduate school, some of my happiest years--maybe slacker with a bit of sassy pixie. No make-up, long and tousled hair, comfortable shoes and no socks. Most definitely no hairspray and nothing overtly sexy. Organically hot, maybe? I suppose never did abandon that completely.

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

Just the tendency toward organic fabrics and small producers. And maybe I embrace a stubborn inconsistency that says something about imposed standards.

16. Please describe your body.

I was a mesomorph up until I had kids--long, lean, boyish and strong. When I got pregnant, I thought it was so funny and fun to be soft and curvy. I'm still pissed that it turned into shlumpy. My coltish metabolism has slowed way down. Now at 46 I'm a size 12, still with long legs and nice proportions, except for my belly, which is more generous than it needs to be given my frame. Girlfriends are shocked at how clothes they try to get me to wear don't look very good, so I must disguise my aging body fairly well day-to-day.

17. Please describe your mind.

Quick and incisive. Far-ranging and flexible. A wonderland.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Intrusive. Pervasive. Wise and unwise. Seemingly independent nerve centers all over my body--gut, cranium, thighs, hands, jaw--draw independent conclusions and take independent actions, regularly hijacking my mind and muscles.

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

3/4-length light cotton skirt. Green with tan ribbon sewn into the waistband. Top 4 inches of fabric folded over at left hip, pulled together with a utilitarian-looking little zipper. Made by some little independent producer. Black short-sleeved t-shirt with feminine proportions, long and lean. Cheap--Mossimo, I think. Bare feet with chipped red toenail polish left over from a trip to Europe earlier in the summer. White and yellow gold wedding band and small yellow gold engagement ring with sapphire. No make-up, slight suntan. Freshly cut layered hair slightly turned up at my trapezius, washed 2 days ago, so a little unkempt. Contemplating pigtails.

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

Because it says something about what I'm doing today, the season. It carries memories from the past--I bought the skirt in a little boutique in Bellingham, WA, with my friend, Lori. I appreciate the design of both pieces, that someone thought about attaching that zipper and making a sweet fold in the skirt fabric, and the thoughtful seams that criss-cross and give an interesting structure to it. It's like reading a book and having a conversation with the author while you're reading. And when I greet people it might bring lightness to their sensibilities and they might enjoy these last few days of Indian summer with me because my skirt flowed around and reminded them that we can still wear light cotton clothes this week. And I feel good.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My daughters. My husband. My sisters. A few specific acquaintances at the local walk-up coffee stand--others who appreciate clothing and spontaneously notice it. My girlfriends and guy friends. Myself. What's not to talk about? It's a visual conversation that's around all the time.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I have to think about what someone might think if I want or need something from them. Sometimes I purposely ignore that, but even that is something I think about.

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

I have more style than taste. Style is an overt relationship with the way we visually present ourselves, and a thoughtful reigning in of a strong sensibility. Taste has more to do with restraint, I think. Taste has something to do with fear that puts me off. I can see how tasteful restraint can be effective, but I still am usually not motivated to go there. I prefer to achieve what I want to achieve despite my lack of restraint. If I restrain, I want it to be because I have a good grasp of my tools, not out of fear.

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

I remember several such events. Usually, it's because I'm in a hurry and am trying to solve a problem by throwing money at it.

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

I have a knack for getting away with simultaneous cuteness and utility. I didn't invent the gambit, but I rely on it.

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

Yes. I can sometimes express myself in just the right way. My house would be way stylish if it weren't such a pigsty. I am very much attuned to style in every area of life, but I'm a bit lazy and a bit idealistic and those two things are the enemies of style.

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, definitely. In black, for instance, to remain inscrutable. The black suit-dress I had in the 90s did a lot to boost my confidence in a pinch--no point of failure or discomfort at the waist, total comfort and style and powerful armor. Sexy without anyone really able to pin that on me. "If you find this sexy, that's your problem, because I'm revealing nothing."

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 have always been attuned. My desire to explore new things, though, is a double-edged sword in that you cannot take risks and explore new territory while also having perfect discernment. I value both equally. Definitely, I value the new a little too much to claim utter discernment.

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 father was a conservatively stylish, Brooks-Brothers-clad fellow who grew up in San Francisco in a formerly wealthy (possibly "ruined") family. My mother has little to no innate sense of style, but rather more of a don't-give-a-shit-but-I'm-not-going-to-shout-it-from-the-rooftops thing going on. She allowed my father to make clothing decisions. My father's clothing was always visually satisfying to me, and his admonitions to buy quality and make it last rang true. He tended to take more risks when dressing my mother, and they usually paid off. When he dressed her, she looked fabulous, and he looked even more dashing next to her. I think he was secretly egging me on, even as he was singing a tune of restraint.

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

Bare shoulders, chest or back. Anything unexpectedly girly, I guess, as a contrast to my love for the utilitarian and boyish.

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 = free. Confident = powerful.

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?

Learn to use the tools, and then find how to express yourself in your singular way with those tools. And then find how to use those tools and your perspective to achieve your best ends in this world. It parallels healthy growth in every aspect of life, I think.

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

Contrast and unrestrained expression, simultaneously.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Lack of respect for your point of view--your point of view taken over by external interests. How, exactly, that manifests changes too much over time to give specific examples.

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. Doesn't mean I don't sometimes let other forces take over and make bad purchases, but I usually have a sense.

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

I think about the course of my day and think how I want to feel and what I need to do and which relationships I might want to tune into or stimulate. And then I throw on whatever approximates that, because I'm better at knowing what I want than at executing it.

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

See #37.

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

Dressing up is putting even more significance on what your clothing is stimulating in others. If the occasion is important, you will want to dress up. "Dressing" is more a daily, utilitarian thing.

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

A comfortable, sexy shoe, loose but well-shaped dungarees, a plain white or black t-shirt and an over-the-top gorgeous sweater in some organic, soft, but hearty material. And some way to keep my hair soft, but structured, up or down. And a blushy face and lips and inky eyelashes.

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

"Me" is sexy-but-utilitarian. "Not me" is fussy or uptight.

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

Officer's daughter. Huge family. Logic as religion. 40s musicals as steady visual diet in youth. Mayflower family, active in the union cause, westwardly expanding. Entrepreneurial, multi-disciplinary, intellectual. All of this means I manifest many, many influences and a feeling of freedom, in addition to a slavish affection for utility and integrity.

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 used to have a more boyish body. I really enjoyed how easy it was to shop, the variety of things that looked good, and how my body did not interfere with my style at all. My middle-aged body intrudes and feminizes looks to such an extent that I feel less able to express myself with style. I do not, however, wish I were a man or wish I had a man's body. It is kind of fun to finally have boobs, even if they do interfere.

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

Italy in the 50s. Yum. Such great shapes, simple, deep colors, impeccable construction. I don't know what was better, the men's or women's clothes. I'd wear both.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Ugh. No. Neither in still nor in video. One time an actively feminist teacher, evaluating a videotaped presentation, felt compelled to comment: "You are much prettier than your screen image." It pissed me off, yet I have clung to it ever since.

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

Mostly: Who the hell is that and why doesn't she pull herself together? Less often: Dang, cute.

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

Isabella Rossellini, for how she manages her curves and her strength. Katherine Hepburn for her appropriation of the utility of male dress without sacrificing sex appeal. Gwen Stefani for doing that in a rock-n-roll youthful way. The way Grace Coddington styles almost everything, and the way she seems to say f-u with her own dress.

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

The usual showing-up-to-school-without-pants, mostly.

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?

Loose, structured men's pants with sexy tops.

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

Attract intelligent people with a developed sense of aesthetics. Repel people who want to control me or think I need their approval.

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

I like it, but don't have a favorite scent right now. I'm not motivated to find one. I've worn neutral or men's scents in the past, as well as women's. I don't how having a regular scent seems to demonstrate some allegiance.

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

Earthy, organic deodorant. Warm washcloth to the face, followed by organic moisturizer. Clothes not stinky. A harmonious outfit that fits my mood and agenda.

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

I used to wear make-up, and whenever I didn't wear it people would say: "Are you OK? You look tired." Fuck that. I'd rather other people be pleasantly surprised when I do it up. I do sometimes use lip pencil or concealer when I need or want a little boost.

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

I'm tired of talking about clothing. I own really distinctive, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. I would rather not be overpowered by jewelry, and my philosophy is sort of like how I think of make-up. Some days it's nice to make a statement.

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

Changes. Currently, it's an edgy silver ring. I have a sexy black off-the-shoulder plain cotton t-shirt from Anthropologie that always makes me feel good.

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 handmade kilt. I look like an ox in it, but it's so beautiful and warm.

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?

T-shirts in distinctive, feminine shapes.Very special sweaters, again in distinctive, feminine shapes. Really good jeans. Pieces where shape and construction and individuality take precedence.

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?

A beautiful black short-sleeved shift dress from Bennetton's Sisley line back in the early 90s. I looked and felt sexy and so much like myself. I felt like people always got a true impression of me and were drawn to me for the right reasons when I wore it, yet it was not overly revealing. It looked good with black converse or expensive booties. I loved that dress until I got heavier and it rode up in an unflattering way and showed me belly. I long to still have the dress and to look as I used to in it. I think I donated it to Goodwill in a fit of pique. I also had two pairs of handmade Aurora shoes that I gave away when I decided they were too clunky for the bigger me. I wish I had them back anyway.

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

These days, dresses that flatter me, cross seasons, and are simple to throw on. Pants in interesting-but-neutral colors that flatter me and are comfy.

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

Big, walk-in closet with hangers and shelves. No dresser. I tidy, then it quickly falls out of order.

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?

Yes, the off-the-shoulder t-shirt from Anthropologie was a quickie purchase that looks good no matter how heavy or light I am. Love it.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Not as often as I used to or need to. Honestly, there is no pattern anymore. Unexpectedly, anymore.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I like to not notice it, but have a pleasant feeling and sensibility around me, and to have the same effect on others.

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

My ambition is to be free to dress how I want, and to be particularly appreciated for my style and how I express it. I want to be known. And I don't mean well-known, I mean known for who I am. And I want to stimulate good feelings and ideas in others by the atmosphere I project, visually.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Rather than pennies, aim for pennies-per-wear. Take the long view. Invest.

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


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

One time I ducked away from a street vendor trying to put a hat on me. My friend told him I didn't like to call attention to myself. I thought that was wrong. I just don't like how hats feel on my head. But it launched me into a hat phase, just to prove her wrong. Some really bad hats, actually! But it was good for 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 can still hear how my diaper cover over my cloth diaper crunched when I walked, and even how the plastic felt fresh and caused discomfort to my inner thighs. I can feel the uncomfortably cold and wet from a urine-soaked diaper vs. a nice, new dry cotton layer. I can feel the soft cotton of my toddler t-shirts. I think I can remember these things about my first uniform--how sometimes it worked, and sometimes it just didn't.

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

Oct 30, 1967. Born on an air force base in Michigan, now live near Seattle.

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

Already said it.

What kind of work do you do?

Used to work at a start-up, am now a mom full time, a writer and editor part time.

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

Married, two adolescent daughters.

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

Middle-class child of the 70s. Underemployed mother. Seeker, daydreamer, hardass.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?


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