Read Surveys (By Author)

Phaedra Lermontovna

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

The best look I get is in the morning after I've had a good sleep, a shower to freshen up, after my teeth are brushed and rinsed; my face cleaned and moisturized; my hair shampooed, silky and air-dried; after I pin my hair up and put on my makeup and clothes. It also helps if I've had my morning coffee. ie., I feel most attractive when I'm alert, my energy is highest and I'm ready to face the world.

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

Mostly, I don't pay attention, but women who attract my attention do so in either positive or negative ways.


Brand-name obsessions, bling or clothing as an indication of material status.

Clothing, makeup, hairstyles, tattoos and piercings which comes across as confrontational and aggressive: black leather or rubber with studs and things which look too much like fetish gear; dirty, grunge-y clothes (obvious construction or outdoor activity gear being an exception); tee-shirts with slogans, especially rude or vulgar ones ...

I make some exceptions. If a woman is into rock or heavy metal, then she would obviously reflect that in her clothing choices. But then, it doesn't feel contrived.

Clothing which is too revealing, and I give a lot of leeway before I decide it's ugly. Basically, I don't like being flashed with under-butt, side boobs, underboobs, bazOOm cleavage, camel-toes, errant thongs, too much thigh, etc.. I especially don't like being flashed when women bend over to wash their windshields, etc..

Any article of clothing which is too tight and constricting, or obviously uncomfortable like stiletto heels, and, yes, I think women who say they find them comfortable are liars.

I also dislike the clothing that so many retailers force upon heavy women (by not providing any alternatives), which seem to reinforce that society thinks of them as undeserving of being seen as beautiful: loud, chunky or pop-art patterns; muddy colours; horrible stretchy fabrics; anything tight; butchy pants and tops. It's fine if a woman really IS butch, because that's a statement of sorts, too, but not all heavy women are and they should not be forced by retail clothing designers to look as such.


Women who know what they like and aren't afraid to wear it, even if it's out of synch with custom, like women who let their hair have grey threads, or refuse to be shorn into a short haircut once they turn grey.

Women who wear what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful without concern for fashion or status.

I like handmade clothing, especially hand-knit sweaters and dresses. I like ethnic touches like sari-style beading or embroidery, Indonesian or Senegalese batik, Mexican or Peruvian weaving, Japanese kimono fabrics. I like long flowing skirts, dresses, scarves and jackets. I like natural fibers.

I really love Bohemian and "Ethnic" clothing. I enjoy steampunk or Japanese Mori-style street fashion. I like the ways which women dress to express their personality—if it doesn't look contrived or uncomfortable.

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

Confidence in one's personal style. I like things which are quirky, whimsical and unusual. I like clothing which expresses the creative and playful side of a woman's personality. I like soft, flowing shapes and room to move. I like colours which suit one's complexion, lighting and mood. I like unorthodox hair and makeup.

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 three, I realized that I never wanted to wear trousers again. It was the 1970s and there was a lot of pressure for feminists to avoid "socially programming" their children with gender-stereotyped clothing. I got the feeling that the things which I actually liked were "bad" and my mom mocked me when I told her I wanted a white lace dress shot with silver. "You actually like THAT?"

Yes, it's wrong to gender-indoctrinate people, but where in that ideal, does it say that if someone likes girly clothes, that's wrong and should be trained out?

So, I took out a pair of scissors and snipped all my jeans and pants into "mini-skirts." That left me with two outfits fit to wear in public.

Mother never forced me to wear clothing I didn't like again (although she kept trying, unsuccessfully, to influence my choices.) She learned not to buy me clothes without my approval because I would not wear them.

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

I only buy clothes made with natural fibers unless there is no other choice available. This includes footwear, handbags and gloves made of good thick leather.

I won't buy branded anything, unless there is nothing else available. I once felt I had to buy a brand-named rucksack and messenger bag, because there was no other sort being made with that particular colour and quality of cowhide. So I stitched a beaded patch over the brand mark.

It's better to spend hard cash on a good-quality tailored woolen serge winter coat with a lovely thick lining. This investment will last for years, and is much better than spending a quarter of the amount on a down-filled puffy or felted anything, which makes me look like the Michelin Man and doesn't last much longer than two years.

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

T-shirts look trashy on me. No sayings or slogans on any clothing. Exception: hand-brushed Kanji or Chinese calligraphy ... but nothing obscene or vulgar. Metal studs also look trashy on me, as does ripped clothing.

Stilettos are not sexy, just uncomfortable.

The comfort of long (mid-calf) skirts and dresses trumps everything else.

Jeans feel tight and constricting.

Wide-brimmed hats actually work at keeping the sun and rain off.

No big flower patterns. They make me look frumpy.

I like the Japanese Mori style of street fashion, but I have to be very careful when selecting clothes in it. Otherwise, they look prissy and shrewish, instead of softly feminine.

Scoop-necked or plunging collars. Nothing tied around the neck, except a scarf on cold days.

Tailored waistlines and darted bustlines are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Lined skirts and trousers are lovely, too.

I love handmade, complex beaded statement jewellery with semi-precious stones and "ethnic" beads, especially if there is something poetic involved in it. I don't like "bling" or flash or investment jewellery.

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

Sadly, it was a conversation with a dear friend, who happened to be a geography professor and who had the knowledge to spell out how everything about the clothing we wear has been commodified, and that is why I couldn't buy a daffodil-yellow velvet fabric anywhere to sew into a dress.

It made me even more stubborn and resistant to fashion.

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

Life: Unpredictable and full of karma. Anything can happen, so don't get too comfortable. Accept changes in circumstance.

Work: Don't be a job-snob, but also don't work at a job which offends my personal integrity, or for people who get power from being abusive.

Relationships: Try to the best of my ability to live from the heart.

Finances: Don't spend money in order to get approval from others, but don't horde money either. Be generous for the sake of my own heart. Be careful for the sake of my livelihood.

Chores: Never finished. Always more to do, so don't complain and don't procrastinate. Help out whereever I can to make other's lives easier, when I can.

Is that unified in any way?

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

Long black skirts, because they are the most comfortable things ever.

Black leather pumps with 2-inch heels, because they go with everything and they don't show the dirt like tan-coloured leather footwear does.

Black leather gloves lined with rabbit fur, because they are the warmest and most suitable for bitter cold and because I can grip things with them, as opposed to woolen mittens. They also repel water.

Tights for winter because they are so warm. Bonus: I don't have to shave my legs everyday.

Beautiful scarves and jewellery dress up the plainest outfit.

Canvas Keds or Toms. Flat and comfy.

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


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

There are many fashion trends which I've refused and continue to refuse to participate in:

Studded leather clothing, because it looks confrontational and might attract attention from disturbed people spoiling for a fight.

Animal print anything, because I'm not Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

T-shirts, because they don't look nice on me.

Jeans, ditto.

Mini-skirts. Too much potential for accidental reveals.

Stilettos. Uncomfortable.

Bling ... looks desperate.

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

No. My mother is neurotic and obsessive about food, and that is reflected in her clothing choices. She has "allergies" to flour, gluten, milk products, coffee, wine, things that have been fermented, yeast, sugar, peanut butter, oranges, cabbage, cured meats, red meat ... and on and on and on. Of course, it's okay to sometimes sample these food products as a rare treat. I refuse to live like that.

She has found her own style, and it works for her. I don't like receiving gifts of clothing, accessories, jewellery or makeup from her because they reflect her style and life-choices. I feel that she diminishes my choices, so I tend not to engage with her on the subject of clothing or food.

Similarly, women who share her "Nancy Reagan" style of body type and dress make me wish they would have a good psychedelic drug experience and run off to an ashram somewhere.

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

Not really. They were too conservative and self-conscious for me.

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

I did wear office clothing when I worked in an office.

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

Yes. I resent fashion and the commodification of clothing. I resent any planned obsolescence. I resent clothing made by slaves. I resent fibres made from pollutants.

All my clothing is political.

16. Please describe your body.


Strong, healthy, powerful.

Soft, delicate, pale-skinned.

Heavy, sluggish, prone to aches.

Beautiful, sensual and sinuous.

17. Please describe your mind.

Imaginative, creative, always active.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Generally calm and serene, but also able to experience outrage, grief.

I have had episodes of Stendahl's Syndrome.

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

I am wearing black silk bra and panties, over which I'm wearing a blue-violet velvet loose sleeveless top over which I sport a long open Japanese summer kimono top with handbrushed dyes, a long flowing black cotton skirt, black canvas Keds on my feet. I have a long patchwork scarf of red-violet silk velvet, rose cotton, and salmon brocade, trimmed with rust and olive silk embroidery and peach-coloured sequins.

I am wearing a statement necklace of a red Chinese cinnabar pendant inscribed with the symbols for good luck, Chinese brass coins, chunky red coral, amber and carnelian beads, Tibetan glass bead, brass findings and chains and a strand of red sandalwood prayer beads.

On my face, I have a set of horn-rimmed reading glasses over my long distance contact lenses. I'm wearing pale ivory foundation and powder, coral blush and lipstick, black eyebrow pencil, eye pencil and liquid eyeliner (Cleopatra style).

My hair is about 20 inches long, dyed golden-ash blonde with lighter streaks and pinned in an upsweep.

On my face

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

Apart from that I feel comfortable in my clothes, which are locally sourced and crafted, and I made the jewellery myself, none of it is important at all.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

Nobody. I've always felt awkward talking about them.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

If they require a uniform (including an office suit), I will buy it and wear it.

If they require safety clothing or all-weather clothing, I will buy it and wear it.

The rest of the time, I wear what I like.

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

Yes, I have personal taste and style. Neither is more important than the other. Taste is a sense of appreciation for quality of design and craftsmanship. It's where the person looks for how sturdy the seams are sewn, how well the buttons are sewn on, if the garment is lined and well-hemmed. It's where the person recognizes the fabric, how and why it is made a specific way, and understands if the fabric is an appropriate choice for the garment (woolen serge for winter coats, for example.) It's where a person recognizes if cut hangs well or bunches and grabs, and the size and fit is appropriate to one's shape.

Style has to do with whether clothing is a form of self-expression, of the colours and textures and shapes that one likes. It's also where a person decides if the clothes are appropriate to one's lifestyle (outside or inside wear; casual or more formal, etc.) and budget.

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

I had to buy a sister-of-the-bride dress and all the clothes available in the shops were too expensive and unflattering. I spent too much money on a mint green silk and lace dress that I hated and never wore again. I should've used the silk and lace to make some boudoir pillows, except they were the wrong shade of green for that.

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

Long skirts and tights mean that I don't have to shave my legs every day during the winter.

Keeping the primary clothing items in black means that they stay neutral and I can dress them up with brilliant coloured accessories and jewellery.

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

Yes. I have particular tastes when it comes to my living spaces and food.

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?


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?



My discernment comes from within, from knowing myself, from experience and intuition, from self-confidence and not being too concerned about what others think.

Where I lack discernment ... mostly where I couldn't be arsed to research. I couldn't tell you anything about sports clothing.

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?

Yes. All the children in my family were taught how to mend, hem and sew buttons on premade clothing. We were given basic sewing lessons on a machine, and I was taught how to sew from patterns. We were taught how to separate clothing according to fabric, colour and degree of soiling in order to properly machine launder it, and when to handwash items. We were all taught how to use a dryer properly and when to hang items to dry. We were taught to read fabric labels in order to understand the quality and taste of the garment for sale, or fabric in a fabric shop. We were all taught how to iron our clothes and linens.

One thing I picked up later was that any item with elastic in it deteriorates with heat and dryness, so it's always best to hang-dry anything with elasticized threads or microfibers.

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

I dye my hair since my natural colour makes my skin look sallow. I wear foundation and powder to minimize blemishes and smooth the skin surface. I keep my body meticulously clean and moisturized. I brush my teeth after every meal. I wear deeper, richer colours and sensual fabrics. I pin up my hair.

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 and confident means that the clothes don't look like an affectation, that they suit the person's personality. It means that the clothing or shoes don't pinch or grab or bunch up in places. It means that you don't feel like you're being cut in two around the waist, or that things aren't digging into your armpits. It means that seams and elastics hold and don't suddenly, hems don't unravel, and buttons don't pop off. It means that one's feet don't ache after half an hour tottering around on them, and that one can confidently run after a bus or taxi or away from a disturbed person without falling out of one's shoes or spilling out of one's bra. It means that you can bend over to clean your windshield without showing everyone your hoohah. It means that the clothing is worn to express yourself, not what you think others will like.

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?

I have an excellent imagination, but even so, I can't imagine being that limited. It strikes me as a very boring sort of existence.

Style Philosophy:

Clothes are, first and foremost, the things one puts on to protect one's body against the elements. So the first and foremost rule is to make sure the clothing is appropriate for the elements, and after that, there are no hard and fast rules.

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

Lovely natural fibers in rich colours. Handworked detailing like beading, embroidery, crotcheted laces, cutwork. Loose, flowing lines. Bias cut hems. Clothing that is appropriately warm or cool according to the temperature.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Tight clothing. Trashy clothing. Clothing that tries too hard to be sexy. Loud patterns and colours. Rude, confrontational slogans and images.

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?

Absolutely. I will never again buy an item I don't feel completely comfortable about, or don't like. I can usually tell at a glance, but to double-check, I always test them in the change room.

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?

Bohemian, artistic, well-educated — a proverbial blue-stocking. Someone who appreciates other cultures and traditions. Someone who is sharp and self-aware. Someone who has no interest in appeasing bullies or in suffering fools.

I've been told that I have a "strange charisma". I don't even know what that means.

Rough, rude people tend to avoid me. Some men are very threatened by me, especially the loud, opinionated sort, as I'm not easily intimidated and can hold my own in almost any sort of discussion—not that I approach these for the sake of argument. Some women also tend to find me abrasive, especially if they are at the opposite end of the political spectrum or they hold fundamentalist views on belief/non-belief. I can be very pointy when I have something to say, and I'm not afraid to voice disagreement. So my confidence will be off-putting to some people.

But for the most part, I am a live and let live sort of person.

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

I won't feel ready to face the public unless I'm freshly showered and scrubbed. So I take care of the personal hygiene first and foremost.

Then I consider the weather. That will determine whether my clothing will be rich heavy fabrics like velvets or woolens, or light and breezy things like organzas or silks. It will also determine whether I will wear lots of layers, or a sun-hat.

Lastly, I will consider what I'm going to do. If I'm going to be working in the garden or kitchen, then obviously I'm going to wear different clothes than if I'm meeting a senior staff member for lunch.

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

Comfort, confidence, taste and style.

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

Dressing is more task-oriented. If I'm digging out the garden, I want to wear work clothes. If I'm baking bread, I want to protect my clothes with an apron and not wear things that will catch on things or drag in food.

Dressing up is where I want to make a personal statement with my clothes.

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

Perfectly fitted and tailored in good quality fabric with sharp lines and lining.

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

I think I've answered this many times already.

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

My cultural background is Canadian middle class, but I have always had an affinity for the fine arts, so my clothing choices tend to be highly aesthetic in terms of colour, shapes, textures, natural fibres and handmade detailing. I need them to be comfortable and loose fitting.

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?

Only when I was a small child, because my mother wanted me to dress a certain way.

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

I go for more tailored and structured clothing. I pay closer attention to personal grooming, like whether the heels on my shoes are worn down, or whether I've shaved my legs and armpits, or whether I need to invest in adhesive nails. (I keep my nails short for studio work and gardening as a rule.) I wear my hair up, as opposed to letting it down.

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

I don't. I'm not required to conform, therefore there is no need to rebel. Besides, such things are a waste of time and energy. There are more important things to worry about.

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


I wear clothes in the studio that let me move and yet which I know I will have to throw out once they get past a certain state of disrepair; sturdy work clothes in the garden; things that won't cause accidents in the kitchen; exercise clothes when I'm working out; formal clothing to the theatre, opera, ballet or symphony; upscale casual clothing to resorts and restaurants ...

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

No. They are my choice to wear, and for the most part, the choices are based on what strikes me as common sense.

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


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?

The archetypal outfit is a kimono robe over a sleeveless top and long skirt or trousers, the very thing I'm wearing right now.

I like it because it's comfortable, it can look either formal or casual depending on the situation, it's colourful and appeases my sense of aesthetics, and the fabric is really lovely. It's also handmade, so I feel like I'm supporting local artisans.

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?


No ... well, I suppose I have a bit of a dress uniform fetish from the early 19th century: the double-breasted coat with brass toggle buttons, epaulets and sword-sash, not that I would ever wish for the life that came with it.

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

I like the one I'm living in. I wouldn't want the constrictions which women faced in other eras.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

My face either looks stiff and unnatural, or I have a weird expression on it, or my mouth is open because I'm yapping at someone, or there's a shadow fallen across it which looks like a prize-fighter's bruise.

The only lovely photo I've ever had was from a female studio photographer who caught me at just the right angle and expression. It was soft and pretty and I've never had another one like it.

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

Rosalind Russell in Aunty Mame.
Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda, both, in the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Lady Ottoline Morrell.
Women in Gustave Klimt's paintings.
1920s flapper-girls.
Annie Hall (a little)
Scottish kilts

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

Not as an important aspect of the dream.

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

Kim Kardashian.
Nancy Reagan.
Dolly Parton.
Anna Wintour.
Lady Gaga.
Nikki Minage.

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?

Maybe a fitted bustier.

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

No ... well, I would always choose to repel assholes. That's probably why I prefer not to wear overly sexual clothing.

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

No. I think women should feel free to wear whatever they want. I might wish that more of them would choose to bin the BDSM shoes, for the sake of their future comfort, but that isn't up to me.

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

Yes, I love perfume. I don't always wear it. I wouldn't dream of wearing it where I know I'm going to be in a crowded and unventilated space, or a medical facility like a hospital.

Lately, because I've been learning about the economic ramifications of collecting scents, I've been a bit more cautious about commercial perfumes, though.

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

I need to be clean: showered, shampooed and conditioned, scrubbed and moistured, teeth brushed.

I need to have some makeup on.

I need to put up my hair.

I need my clothes to be clean and neat.

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

It smooths out my skin and brightens my complexion. It accentuates my nicer facial features and draws attention to my eyes, where I want it. It puts a bit of colour in my cheeks so I look healthy.

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?

Expected? By whom?

If my mother had not abandoned her attempts to mold my personal style, I would say she wants me to look like a trophy wife, but that is a very nebulous sort of thing. Someone who looks like she just stepped out of a spa, salon, manicurist/pedicurist parlour, high end shop, and spends all her time worrying about what she looks like.

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

Four long (mid-calf length) flowing black skirts in a variety of fabrics.

Several sleeveless, scoop necked tops in different fabrics including cotton, velvet, silk and microfiber knit in black, red-violet, blue-violet, fire engine red, burgundy, turquoise, lilac blue, butter yellow and white.

Two dozen black tights, and bra and panty sets.

A fire engine red Chinese silk Qipao and matching silk Mandarin jacket with gold buttons, black trim and turquoise embroidery that looks like an ancient Chinese watercolour. I wear this with a choker of large turquoise beads and some embroidered silk "kung fu" slippers.

A Japanese men's Heien short winter kimono (just below the hips, with mid-length sleeves) of handdyed and woven cotton in burgundy and white stripes with black trim, lined with black cotton. I wear my red Chinese cinnabar and brass necklace with this.

A brown and gold furisode with phoenix patterns counterwoven into it, which I wear as an overcoat.

A grey, black, gold and brown Japanese kimono with orange detailing and hand-brushed Kanji, which was given to me by a friend.

A purple bias-cut coat.

A ruffled and handmade lace white cotton organza blouse. Some handcrocheted lace gloves.

Four pashmina shawls: one in brilliant peacock blue with violet counterweaving, one in soft pink with coral and yellow ombre detailing, one in royal blue, one in purple.

A long silk scarf with a Gustave Klimt pattern on it.

A russet tanned cowhide rucksack and messenger bag with brass fittings.

An amethyst necklace with moonstones, Venetian glass beads, and brass findings.

A silver necklace with amethysts, moonstones, pink pearls, blue and white porcelain beads, Czech crystals and a pendant of a cherry blossom.

A malachite necklace with silver findings, sea-glass beads and blue-green Czech crystals.

A long wrap-around skirt made from a dark brown sari fabric embroidered with gold thread and copper sequins.

A long peacock blue cotton sundress with Indonesian batik patterns on it.

A wide-brimmed straw sun hat with pink, peach and coral silk flowers on it.

Black leather pumps, black canvas slip-on shoes, black leather lace-up boots.

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

My red silk Qipao and matching Mandarin jacket, worn with the chunky turquoise beads and embroidered kung fu slippers.

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 keep a brown sari wrap-around skirt. I never wear it because I need the right sort of coloured top and bolero jacket to set it off, and I haven't got those items yet.

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?

The ones that I loved the most were the handmade items in beautiful fabrics, patterns and colours with hand-finished detailing.

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 charcoal grey serge woolen winter coat with satin lining which was fitted and tailored to perfection. It was warm, but elegant. I wore it for years, long after it went out of style. I basically wore it out.

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

I couldn't choose.

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

I would never buy a dress to please a bride.

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

My first investment item was the charcoal grey serge woolen coat, and sadly, that was worn out years ago.

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

Not paradigm-shifting, no.

Important, yes. In Canada, you can't get away with inadequate winter clothing. I learned to spend money on stuff which protects me from the elements, but does not embarrass my sense of aesthetics.

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

The perfect handmade embroidered Spanish lace mantilla.

A tail-coat and top hat.

Some of the Laura Ashley dresses from the 1980s.

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

I have to. I don't have a lot of space. But I do keep my jewellery and perfumes in baskets for ease of access.

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

The Japanese kimono which I am presently wearing.

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?

The series of sleeveless, scoop-necked tops in different colours and fabrics. All I do is check to make sure they fit. They can go with anything, and look great no matter what the occasion.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

When I have the money to spare. I check at craft bazaars, farmer's markets, consignment shops and only go into regular retail shops for things like bras and panties.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I like green or floral scents. I'm not crazy about spicy notes.

I could wear anything that smells like a fresh rose, lily or lilac forever.

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

It doesn't.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I've had to walk away from many beautiful pieces of clothing.

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

Bright red lipstick and blusher.

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

Not really, although I became very careful of buying flowery feminine clothing after watching how it made some women look very uptight.

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 was fourteen and had lost a lot of weight. I wore out, for the first time, a plum coloured "Audrey Hepburn" close-fitted dress and opera gloves. I suddenly noticed that men kept staring at me and circling ... like sharks. I was very glad that my parents were around to block them because, at that age, I did not have the self-possession to respond gracefully, yet firmly.

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


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

Middle-class Canadian.
I've been wealthy and poor at different times in my life.

What kind of work do you do?

Artist, writer, educator, mother ...

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

Single. One child.

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

I was married, but my spouse suffered from depression, became an alcoholic and abusive, so I had to protect myself and my child. I was left destitute by this change of circumstance. I have recovered somewhat, but not without friends and family. This also comes at a cost.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Nothing monumental or pithy. I wanted to share my thoughts, and I'm a bit antagonistic to the fashion industry, but this was a questionnaire which felt like it was not about the commodification of my style.

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