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Grace Denton

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

I notice women a lot on the street. I notice them if they look comfortable in themselves, if they look confident, if they look awkward, if their clothes are distinctive, if their clothes clash in a way that interests me or looks purposeful, if they've spent a long time grooming or next to no time, if their clothes are clothes that I would wear or might aspire to wearing. I think it used to be an overwhelming feeling of envy that I would get if I saw these women, whereas now I admire and think about what I could emulate, or I simply just want to be their friend like crazy.

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 started my second year of university I dyed my hair red/orange (from natural mousey blonde) with henna. It sounds cheesy but this was a huge thing for me, it's almost like I suddenly became the person externally that I felt inside. Maybe it was part of disassociating myself from the young blonde teenager who go wolf-whistled on the street and had no idea what her body was for. While I was at University I think I slowly evolved into the person I wanted to be, and dying my hair seems, looking back, like a huge part of the development. A lot of things shifted around that time, I broke up with my boyfriend from my home town, I started playing in a band, I started promoting DIY gigs, I lived in a house off campus and began to get to know the city and the people outside the weird uni life. Something I've always loved is that sometimes when I walk down the street in my home town it acts as a kind of disguise.

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

I buy a lot of loose clothes. I had a boyfriend when I was 18 who tried to persuade me to stop buying baggy things and we nearly broke up about it. It's always been because I think it looks good and makes me feel comfortable and makes me feel at ease when I don't want to be judged by my body shape. I have always had people saying 'why don't you wear a belt with that, why don't you show off your lovely figure' and these comments make me want to shrink under clothes even more. These have been comments from friends, family members and near-strangers. Why do people feel that women's appearances and bodies are open to comment?

16. Please describe your body.

Short, sturdy, energetic.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Enthusiastically expressed.

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

I am wearing a black and white striped t-shirt dress which is very soft and comfortable. I have a black and white chequered cardigan over the top which is quite eighties, with gold buttons and big shoulders. I have no make-up on even though I'm at work, because I' going through a period of emotional stress which insists I don't pay attention to my face. My hair is quite large today because I slept on it and put dry shampoo on it to make it stick up.

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 know what I like, but what I like is very varied. It's partly instinctual, partly learned and partly accepted over a period of exposure to a certain thing. Something grows on me through repetition. Opinions are something I constantly worry about, like how they can separate people irreparably. But for some reason this doesn't extend to clothes, which I feel very strongly and independently about, most of the time.

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?

From my mum I picked up a love of good quality fabrics, cottons and viscose and natural fibres. Her style inspired me a lot. When I think of her I think of the photos from my very early years. It's like I romanticise her as this icon of the 60s/70s/80s with beautiful brown hair swept up in combs. She wore, and wears, comfortable and stylish clothes in sweet pea colours. I didn't pick things up directly from my mum I don't think, she never dictated what I should wear, and encouraged me if I was dressing outrageously. Since I moved away from home and our tastes have diverged, and my mum has grown older and I have found my own ways of living that differ from hers, she has begun to comment more negatively on how I dress and why I chose a certain outfit for a certain occasion. We were so close when we were young that this slight difference is something I've worried about a lot. Especially because it became most apparent when I got a tattoo and she responded bodily, in a completely different way than I'd expected. I guess it's completely natural for views to diverge in this way, but when you've been so close before it can feel quite heartbreaking. I think as women become older and lose control over their daughters it seems to me that the way they present themselves to the world becomes more important. I was a scrappy child and loved it, but as I became an adult my mum would despair at how little care I paid to greasy or uncombed hair, still does, even though now I have my own grooming routines and ways of cutting and caring for my hair that are important to me and how I feel in the world.

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

I often feel ridiculous when I try to look sexy or alluring. I've always dressed in a way that pleases myself even if it's for myself only. I had a realisation recently that a lot of women think 'does this make me look hot' when they get dressed, and it honestly shocked me so much. it made me think, maybe I need to do that too. When I accidentally dress in a classically sexy way I often resent the attention I get. I want to shout back or laugh at the idiots who don't think I look hot in an over-sized pillowcase.

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

I have a number of types of days. Firstly there are the best days, the ones where I wake up with an idea of exactly how I want to feel or look for whatever's happening and I piece together an outfit in a really organic exciting way. Secondly there are days where I have to think about it more carefully but it comes together in a satisfying way. Like I come up with a theme, or ask my boyfriend for a word to get dressed to like 'yellow' or 'pirate' or 'settlers of catan' (he's pretty good at it), and it gives me some inspiration. Thirdly though there are the days where I get stressed because of a specific occasion and spend ages trying on different things that don't feel right. It's a weird thing to come to terms with, but if I don't feel happy in what I'm wearing, for myself, I don't feel confident.

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

When I see myself in photos I often don't associate myself with what I see, like there's a weird disconnection. I think, wow that's a weird face why does that happen to that face when there's a camera in front of it. If clothes look different in photographs to how I imagine them on my body it sometimes jolts me out of the disconnection and can occasionally make me doubt my choices. But not too often, thankfully.

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

Wear eye make-up and make sure I believe in the colour combinations I'm wearing, despite what others might think.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I buy mostly from second-hand places, but occasionally go to the high street chain shops if I have something specific in mind like shoes or underwear or an accessory for a certain activity or trip. I don't spend a lot of money on clothes but I keep all of them, so my collection is ridiculous. I have clear-outs very rarely and often regret losing certain items.

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

Yeah I remember I was always really happy choosing my own clothes, and then when I moved out and started university there was a girl who lived on my floor, one of those people who take a gap year and refer to everyone as being younger "oh yeah, he's YOUR age, not my age." She once came to my room before we were going out and asked if her outfit looked ok, in the natural reflex way that young girls have with people they don't really know yet I said "yeah you look great!" She was wearing probably something fairly middle of the road with a vaguely hippy influence. I then said "how about me?" as a kind of social exchange, and she said "hmmm, yeah I don't know. you kind of look like you're trying to look wacky." This was a horrific revelation. Who the fuck. What. Why did she. I was wearing a polka dot spaghetti strap dress which I loved, with a t-shirt underneath, because we were going out, but I didn't want to look like I'd made too much effort, and I liked to 'dress down' the evening clothes I had with casual things. It later became apparent that she had multiple social strangenesses, but this comment stuck with me and I still occasionally look at myself with her eyes and think "ok, trying too hard, take it back a step", which makes me sad sometimes, because I don't want to feel restricted (sartorially or etc.) by anyone other than myself.

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?

When I was really young I used to wear my mum's bikini tops with woollen tights and snow boots. This was my general playing in the garden look. I think I liked to feel like I was a grown up woman by borrowing the top, but at the same time I think it was funny to me that I had no breasts, and I loved stomping around in boots, and was never very demure. I think this look is quite indicative of the approach to dressing I have followed through my life. I dress for myself and how I want to feel, I put things together that don't necessarily 'fit'. A friend recently said to me 'on paper, that outfit does not work, but it's actually super fly!' That didn't give me the pangs of self-doubt it once would have, because I know that as long as I enjoy what I'm wearing, the fact it doesn't work on paper does not matter to me, and hopefully wouldn't if she'd said it looked awful.

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

4th June 1988, I was born in Yorkshire in the UK, I now live in Bristol which I love but I miss the north.

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

My grandparents were working class and very frugal. My parents were the first generation to go to University. I used to see them as very alternative, like our family was definitely not 'normal', but as I become more of myself over time I realise there are ways in which they are very conservative with a small c.

What kind of work do you do?

I work in an arts cinema curating bits of their website, editing video and writing copy. I am in bands and produce creative projects and DIY events in my free time.

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

I live with my boyfriend, I have no kids.

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

Recently I started taking photos of elements of my outfits and posting them on my blog under the collective title 'today's colours' so I could document a small aspect of my everyday choices and how I present myself. Focusing in on colours made more sense to me than trying to get a fashion blog style 'nice' photo of myself every day. I described it once in an email to a friend as 'like having a fashion blog but not being a dick about it', which for someone who reads a lot of fashion blogs, is a very silly thing to say. I guess this indicates how important my clothes are to me. I wanted to have a reminder of the things I'd put together, like I actually feel it's a part of my creative output.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I feel good. And a bit odd after reflecting on so many things and writing out thought processes that are often subconscious. I am excited to read what others have said as part of this project.

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