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Alys Earl

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When my general mental health is good.

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

Those dressed tomboyishly, alternatively or walking confidently. I'm bi, so I do admire female beauty, but my definition of this is quite broad, not linked to a specific bodytype, etc.

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

I admire women who can carry off their look with confidence, whatever that may be. Specifically, I admire those who wear something I might emulate.

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?

There were several of them. I think they occurred because I was in a secure and supportive relationship where I didn't feel the need to present an 'acceptable' face, they were also tied to academic or professional success, and the self-belief that gave me. More recent epiphanies (especially the decision to buzz cut my hair and present a more butch appearance) came about because of the ways people about me were fetishising my appearance and social role.

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

Know when people throw out jeans in your size and hit the charity shops then. Chose shoes in which you can walk, run and kick. You will never regret buying it in black as well. You will never regret that breathtakingly beautiful dress, unless it's uncomfortable. If it is, you will always regret it.

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

It's better a pair of jeans that are too big with a belt than a pair that are too tight. If you have kids, just give up on the pretty stuff until they've stopped wiping their nose on you. Don't be afraid of over dressing, though, it's fun. Also, remember: who gives a damn, anyway?

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


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

No. Unless you you would describe habitual disorganisation as a unified approach.

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

Skinny fit black tshirts and spaghetti strap tops. They go with everything and are incredibly practical. Comfy, too. If you wash your top everyday, then you need several.

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

Yes. My husband is a very easy man to buy for.

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

Leggings. But I avoid most of them - I like gypsy skirts, though, and am always pleased when they come back in.

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

As to body, she is significantly curvier, with a more traditional hourglass shape - I'm more boyish; flatchested and without hips. We have the same leg:body length ratio, though, as well as broad shoulders and large hands for women. She is shorter, although we're roughly the same clothing size.

In style, we are both quite eclectic, with a hippy streak and a preference for natural fibres. We both set our own look, and tend to make our own/ buy artisan clothing rather than high street stuff. We occasionally swop clothes. Still, she is much more respectable and tends to favour neutral /bright shades whereas I prefer black/ dark shades and lean towards a Gothic style, and will wear torn jeans.

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


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

I was about 16 and finally got the confidence to wear clothes I liked, rather than clothes I thought were attractive to the opposite sex. I went from teenybopping grunger to full-out goth. A few years later, I stopped feeling I needed the makeup and embraced a hippy look. I've veered between the two ever since.

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

I try to source clothes ethically, and I hamdmake/ repurpose a fair bit. Sometimes I try to deconstruct notions of gender or propriety. My main motivations, however will always be feeling comfortable and looking fabulous.

16. Please describe your body.

Skinny, androgynous, and pretty hot.

17. Please describe your mind.

Labyrinthine and quixotic.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Variable. Bi-polar tendencies, rage, joy, tranquillity, depression, exuberance, overwhelming love, all in a forty minute period.

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

A very old, battered tshirt that I modified myself, torn, light blue, punk style flares jeans, a red lingerie brand bra and black period pants. My hair is short, dishevelled, with temporary pink streaks and the hairspray to 'fix' those.

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

I like to look like me. Plus, I like playing dressing up with beautiful fabrics. It helps me establish a personal and a gender identity, and it makes me feel attractive.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My husband, occasionally my mother, sister and my daughters. Sometimes friends

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I occasionally have to do the 'respectable middle class mummy' thing.

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

Taste is choosing clothes appropriate to the given occasion and being able to tell if they suit you. Style is seeing combinations that don't make sense and rocking them regardless. I have style.

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

An interview suit. Ugh.

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

A frock/tail coat makes any old crap 'smart-casual'.

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

I have style in EVERY THING. Okay, that isn't quite true, but my writing and speech patterns are very much style over substance.

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?

Big boots fix all wrongs. I wore DMs to my Oxford interviews for that reason.

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. I know what I like and I'm confident in the value of my choices. I had good parents who instilled me with self esteem and a brilliant, supportive spouse who respects all my decisions. Plus, I'm kinda bloodyminded.

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?

I think I just picked things up.

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

Smoky eyes, power boots, leather coats. Also, stockings, lingerie, and showing off my neckline.

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 = scruffy, but not in a bad way. Confident = outre, defiant and aware that they are stunning.

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?

"You can never have too much black." Or maybe, "Wear what you feel like, and enjoy it."

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


More seriously, someone who is really, luminously happy in that present moment, or who is just comfortable in their own skin and sexuality.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

People trying to emulate a standard of dress and behaviour to attract, appease or impress others.

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?

Pass. I tend to wear everything at least a couple of times, and I don't throw clothes out, so something currently neglected may become a favourite later.

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?

Not really. I like to meet my own standards - no-one I know would really 'approve', as such, I'm thrown upon my own judgement.

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

Knickers, bra, jeans, tshirt. I try to colour match my underwear, but everything else is about what is nearest or best suited to the weather.

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

Not being naked. It depends very much on the occasion.

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

It's huge. Dressing is about throwing on clothes for practical reasons, dressing up is about fun, show and exuberance.

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

18th Century light cavalry dress uniform?

Probably a black skinny fit tshirt, black jeans, Doc Martins and a belt. It's what I wear most days, and it's good for everything except formal wear.

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

Me is any or all of the things in my wardrobe. Not me is any time I try to bend my appearance to what others expect.

Me: dark colours or tie-die, corsets, black jeans, army boots, cheesecloth skirts, ballet pumps, military jackets, poet shirts, jeans, strappy tops, fairy wings....

Not me: demure, fussy, proper, smart.

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

Generally white middle class with some non-white European heritage. Not especially, unless white privilege has given me more space to manoeuvre.

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?

I dress differently quite often, usually because I feel like it. I tried being fashionable once. It was horrible.

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


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

Pass. I rebel against people's expectations of how I should dress as as a mother.

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

No. Thank god.

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?

Utterly confining.

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?

Black jeans, black tshirt, Doc Martins. Even when I was uber goth or hippy, I'd happily wear that. It's comfortable, practical and versatile.

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. Often. I quite often crossdress, and used to wish to be a boy. I'm quite happy as an occasional drag king, these days.

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

Now. Unless the future is utopian.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

No. Not in any way.

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

If it's a good photo: ooh, not too bad.
if it's a bad photo: Kill it with fire!

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

David Bowie, obviously. I admire Dita von Teese and Siouxie Sioux. There are a lot fictional characters I emulate, generally, I draw bits and pieces of style from different periods. I have a general love of Victoriana.

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

Not that I recall.

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

Hipster jeans. Empire line dresses. Anything 50s, I have the wrong figure.

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?

What I wear now, but showing more skin. I would be happier to wear more cropped tshirts and short shorts.

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

My husband. Myself.

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


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

I don't like much perfume, but when I find nice stuff I wear it.

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

Feel like my clothes don't need constant adjusting, and that they aren't too tight.

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

It doesn't, unless I feel like 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?

Smart, bohemian professionalism. It doesn't suit me and I know it. I always feel like I'm faking it, the way I did when I was a teenager and trying to be 'normal'.

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

Umm... a lot of different stuff. I prefer silver to gold, and I like vintage jewellery. It's all fairly unconventional.

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

I love my silver torque, and I have a Victorian style ladies' riding jacket that goes with everything.

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?

I have a red, designer seventies flower-child dress. It cost me a fiver and I love it, but it's difficult to walk in it, and I rarely have an occasion to wear it. Also, a cropped, turquoise, Indian tshirt with real mirrors. Same reasons - practicality and opportunity.

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?

Beautiful goth stuff. Beautiful hippy stuff.

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?

The top half of my wedding.dress. It vanished, I have no idea where to. I want it back for sentimental reasons, but also because it was very lovely.

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

My black triumph bra. Beauty, comfort and a perfect fit.

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

Very little, although I would bother with fewer 'respectable' things. I never wear them.

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

My first what?

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

My first fitted tshirt.

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

A reproduction, 18th century regimental jacket at an affordable price.

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

Not really. My wardrobe is neater than my drawers, although I do try to keep them sorted.

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

My parents bought me the leather trenchcoat I would never have bought myself. I cried happy tears.

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?

Um, no. I don't wear that kind of thing.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

When I need them (functional) or when I have spending money (pretty things.)

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?


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

I want to be flamboyant and stylish. I would like to have a 'look' associated with me.

80. How does money fit into all this?

There is never enough for the pretty things, or for places to keep them. There is enough for the essentials and for that I am desperately grateful.

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?

Probably, but it wasn't so profound that I remember it.

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?


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

I was born in 1987. I was born in rural Kent (England) and live in rural Suffolk (England.)

What kind of work do you do?

Writer, freelancer, mother.

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

Married with kids in a hetero marriage.

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

I'm a bit gender queer, and like alternative clothing.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Tired. It's a long survey.

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