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Maddy Speck

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

Freshly showered and made-up, just leaving the house in a nice outfit.

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

Women who have taken time and care with their outfit and makeup--who stand out for looking superlatively nice and put-together, but also for having an odd sense of style. "Odd" meaning out of the ordinary, off-putting or unique.

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

A sense of cool confidence and skill that it takes to achieve and pull off the above.

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?

No. I don't fit into the category that I admire. I wear few clothes over and over, the same makeup every day. It works for me. It's a comfort zone.

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

I don't shop enough to have rules. Just forcing myself to find *something* I might wear to buy is enough.

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

I don't think I would follow rules I wouldn't recommend...not in this area anyway. I eschew shorts or sneakers in my semi-casual workplace though others wear them. I follow similar general rules of formality where appropriate. There's also the classic boobs-to-legs ratio for keeping it classy (kind of an either-or situation depending on severity and occasion). No all white or all red at weddings.

Wait--I hate strings of pearls and overly preppy clothing but it's fine on people who like it. There.

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

I haven't. Sorry to disappoint :/

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

I can't believe you read all submissions. This is so much free-form writing! Kudos.

Let's see. I'm a last-minute person RE chores and finances. I consider work a duty to others and kind of a matter of honor (sorry--watching GoT) to some degree so I am more diligent there. Relationships have a high loyalty and honesty factor for me. I take them seriously--expect a lot of my friends and they of me in a good way. Romantic relationships are fly by the seat of your pants. Or lack thereof. So no, not super unified.

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

I have a lot of plain form-fitting tees--simple, efficient, flattering enough.

Repeats on socks and panties is self-explanatory, I think.

A lot of black. Like a LOT. Flattering, cool, doesn't stand out.

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? 

Uggs. My mother gave me some, I wear them like slippers when at her place sorority girl, you know? Not my style either--neither functional (destroyed by snow, not great traction) nor particularly attractive.

Yoga pants or leggings as jeans. Too much detail on my ass for my comfort.

Brassy, dyed-blonde hair. Actually don't dye my hair at all but I find this iteration annoying.

Expensive purses. Just, no. I don't even like them that much.

I could go on...

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

I'd say our bodies aren't super similar for sharing so much DNA, but her no-nonsense sense of style has imprinted a bit. I'm free to not give a shit about trends or really much about fashion at all, which I've taken to heart. I enjoy it as artistic expression in others and expect a level of commonality in terms of formality and decency rules, but beyond that everyone's free to be their own fashion peacock. Or some better analogy.

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

Hm. My sister still has a shirt of mine from college, but...we won't talk about that. I've been gifted cast-offs from sisters, but no stealing, really. I wish we wore the same shoe size...

As far as ideas...only subliminally I think.

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

Yes. I went through an intensely religious (Catholic) phase in college and began wearing A-line skirts and being intensely afraid to show cleavage or even my shoulders. Dark time, haha.

Then moved to NYC and got into the music scene--band tee shirts and ripped-up jeans. Slightly weirder haircuts, a tattoo, chuck taylors.

Now much further toward normcore if that's really a thing. Not intentionally, it's just easier.

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

No. I once had a Pro Life tee shirt. No longer. I'd rather not identify so intensely by politics. There's power (and sometimes safety in varying degrees) in controlling the reveal for that sort of thing.

16. Please describe your body.

I'm well-proportioned, below average in terms of thickness. Great boobs so I've been told. Tall compared to most but no basketball player.

17. Please describe your mind.

I'm intelligent in terms of analysis and succinct (you might disagree) communication. I often seem smarter than I am, just as I seem taller and older than I am. I have a terrible memory and a fairly good imagination. I'm very visual in how I organize the world and my thoughts. Okay at math.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Used to experience much more difficult emotions (highs that could spin to irrational and lows that could spiral to suicidal) before diagnosed and treated for bipolar.

Currently--I'm really not sure how to describe my emotional landscape...I react to events. Love my friends and family. Enjoyment, annoyance, grieving, anger...those things happen too.

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

I'm wearing a simple black strapless dress from target. Cinched with a cheap (so cheap) meant-to-look leather, thin brown belt. Jean jacket over to cover the strapless aspect at work. Pseudo-cowgirl boots from Aldo's that I've beat up for a few years. Hair blown out and down. Makeup normal. I only have one style of makeup...normal is the best way to classify it.

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

It's a go-to outfit. I always feel attractive but under the radar in it. Classy enough for work or a nice dinner, cute enough for going out. More than once it's led to some nookie for what it's worth but I could still meet my grandma wearing it.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My friends. My mom. Sisters, coworkers. Whoever asks or is amenable to me bringing it up.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

There are formality and decency rules, obviously. We talked about work, if I still went to church that's an example of a place I'd modify my outfit in deference to. If I were meeting an important official in get my drift. It's kind of baby stuff, really and I've never been punk enough not to respect these kind of rules. Respecting them is respecting the persons upholding them. Until I have a Pussy Riot level reason not to, I will.

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

I have style more in a sense of what I won't wear than what I will. Certain trends aren't my thing...I go for streamlined, classy, flattering, but not look-at-me. That kind of sums it up.

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

I bought a $200.00 black leather jacket that I thought was a waste for a while but it TOTALLY WASN'T. That thing's awesome. I wear it all the time.

Oh, but some strappy evening sandals, 3-inch heel, chiffon bow and rhinestones--those I've worn once. Not like I'm going to galas all the time unfortunately.

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

I wish I had a perfect Bonny and Clyde outfit that I could get away with while I was getting away with something and then leap gracefully into my getaway car.

But no. When I cut corners you can tell. I mean, minus the unwashed hair in a ponytail trick. But everyone does that.

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

Apparently I move gracefully. When I'm not nervous.

But I don't really have much style. Not sure why I'm taking this survey.

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?

I wore the exact outfit I'm wearing now to a party after a breakup. Left with three numbers. The boots and flow of the dress made me feel strong and attractive and feminine.

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 would say that I do. It's not always available, though. I often visualize a certain thing before I shop and of course it doesn't therefore materialize...

In other areas I'm not sure I'm necessarily discerning. I will follow if another would lead...I'm at a place where I know I want change but don't know which direction to head in...

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 was allowed near total self-determination in this area. No comments beyond "that looks nice" when it was true. Wasn't asked to cover up (I was pretty conservative anyway, but not always), or wear a certain thing after about age 7. My mother taught me about matching and that I couldn't wear my best party dresses to school but that's about it.

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

I'll wear the tighter or lower or brighter shirt, the tighter jeans or shorter shorts. High heels, a flattering dress. Makeup is always the same. Hair down is the sexiest I can muster.

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 are difficult to attain when you're looking for them specifically. They come from you and so many things influence them. Clothing is sometimes an expression of, sometimes a facilitator of, and sometimes a threat to comfort and confidence. I don't think it's ever really the source.

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?

God. Well if it's the only thing I do I'm going to assume I get paid well for it...and am probably heavily in the public eye. (Aside--I would hate that).

I would say I go for elegant and sleek where possible, flattering always, and practical where necessary. And always defer to sartorial expectations of the host when applicable, out of respect. I sound like I'm interviewing to work at Buckingham Palace :P

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

"In general" makes this hard. What is really beautiful when I look at a woman dressed (I haven't even considered men this whole time...oops) is that she clearly took the care that shows she highly respects herself and others and the event at hand whatever that is. And then there's more superficial things like a perfect fit, beautiful fabrics and construction, lovely color tones like blush pinks and deep blues, interesting greys...

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Well it would be the opposite, wouldn't it? A blatant disregard for the value of the person's body, for the comfort of those around her, for the expectations of a certain event. I think the latter two can be played with a little, but I'm talking about really awful choices and non-choices. Like the woman on the train where you can see half her ass and the clothes are a little fabrics, offensive phrases plastered across the chest maybe.

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?

Not always. Maybe 80/20. I don't shop enough to have the spidey-sense.

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?

Honestly I don't think that deeply when I look in the mirror. I don't try that hard to see what others see when they look at me. I just try to think, do I look slutty? Is this flattering enough? Do I look sexy or cool enough for where I'm going? Is my hair working? And then I just think, "Well, this is what I look like." At some point it's all you can do.

It's much more functional than introspective.

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

I usually consider how I feel (feminine or confident or hungover) and pick what's easiest that satisfies best how I want to be seen that day. Simple black shirt and jeans for low profile but professional, dress if I'm feeling prettier, etc. On the weekend there's less thought.

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

I want to look either okay, presentable, cool, professional, sexy, or classy. Or maybe I'm throwing on something that covers necessary areas to go to the kitchen for a snack.

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

Dressing is putting on something that fits a normal function. Dressing up is putting on something that suits a fancy function. I feel like that's in the dictionary?

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

A sexy military uniform...possibly for shenanigans other than official military ones.

If I had to wear a work uniform it would look however my boss intended...probably black and modest.

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

In terms of clothes. "Me" is classic and streamlined and flattering. "Not me" is fluffy and pink and patterned. Or those platform shoes that look like hooves.

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

I'm a white, American, not-quite-wasp. Upper-middle class. Eastern seaboard. It's shoved me to the conservative side of things, sartorially, if you took a longitudinal trend.

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?

Again, there was the religious phase and the rocker phase. Rocker phase was influenced by lesbian leanings (lesbian in terms of style--I'm bisexual). The religious phase was about fitting in, trying to hide my identity and my desires (all desires, not just sexual). The rocker-->queer phase was about breaking out, getting angry, saying I'm this and not that, breaking rules to see how far I could push things before something broke.

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

I wear dark colors, conservative lines, I try not to be feminine in a girly fashion, but in a powerful, commanding fashion. I don't have much money so I don't buy many clothes, or expensive clothes, but ideally, nice suits, slim slacks, military-inspired where appropriate (in buttons, lapels, boots--not combat obviously, but stylish/functional--forgive my lack of fashion knowledge).

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

There is not much to conform to. One girl wears flannel and converses and has two full tattoo sleeves. Another girl wheres Ann Taylor--dresses and heels and nice tops and chignons. I oscillate across this spectrum depending on my mood (and laundry situation).

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

No uniforms in my life at the moment.

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

See above. I did wear school uniforms K-12 though, and was fairly faithful to them--only breaking rules that were as enforced as that 10 mph cushion where the cop won't pull you over because he has bigger fish to fry. Things like skirt length.

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

It's a bit of a comfort in terms of not having to decide what to wear or define yourself by it. But then again, only if you already find the uniform reasonably flattering.

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?

That black dress, boots, belt and jean jacket. It's easy, versatile, flattering, and cute without standing out or being cutesy.

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?

Oh all the time. I love men's fashion, especially the power some male fashion exudes. Suits and ties and men's dress shoes. Rugged cowboy-ish wear from jeans to flannel and boots. Some men feel constrained by the lack of choice and change and self-expression, but I've always envied them that power in their dress. Female clothing is so much more often flimsy even in the fabric, and revealing in vulnerable ways. I tried wearing men's clothing for a while, but found I missed looking sexy and gave off an odd vibe. Being a man and wearing that clothing I admire would be so much better. Also the amount of change in women's fashion, and the expense of the trends is exhausting.

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

I would love to live in the 20's (considering we are only speaking for fashion of the time).

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

I think, "oh, God, that's what I looked like?"

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

Not really. I was embarrassingly obsessed with the character Shane from the L word for a while, and Joan Jett, and tried to be like them at one point. That secret will die with me except here, haha.

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

Well. I don't have many naked dreams, so yes.

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

Those antebellum-era ball gowns look pretty uncomfortable. But more realistically...really anything that stands out a lot or fits into the category "not me" would be uncomfortable to varying degrees.

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?

I'm already pretty comfortable with my body. If I haaad to I might flatten the tummy and make the butt cuter, but who wouldn't? I'd wear the same stuff. It's more a question of being able to afford more and better options for me.

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

Haha. I repel the haters. Generally I'm trying to look good for everybody, from my best friend to my crush to my grandma...depending who I'm seeing.

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

Do what you want, what feels good and looks good to you, but don't idiotically assume that offending is the same as being original and making a mark. There are some societal rules that aren't there to put you in a cage.

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

I like it! It's prohibitively expensive at times. I have one scent that was a splurge that I wear when I want to kick it up a notch. Or just feel pretty for me.

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

Wash them at reasonable intervals. Makeup is a near requirement for me, and I always blow out my hair right after I shower.

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

It covers the ugly.

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?

I don't actually feel a lot of expectations on me in terms of clothing. The stuff that I like naturally is so "acceptable" anyway. Though there are trends I won't jump on.

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

Oh God. Not much.

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

There used to be a purse that I loved. Handmade leather, with leather flowers sewn on it. I bought it for $35 in Morocco, but lost it in a bar a year ago. The stuff I own now is all replaceable.

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 dress from White House Black Market that I call the "Michelle Obama Dress." Called such because I feel like a politician's wife in it (it's the cut and the fabric). I bought it on the tail end of being conservative in a religious sense in terms of style, and now I hate it. But I don't throw it out because *technically* it's very nice--pretty pattern...and maybe they'll ask me to be on House of Cards next season.

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?

Jeans are great value because you'll get so much bang for your buck. I wear the same one or two pairs for like a year or more, so I always buy nice ones. Bras are the same way. Guaranteed value. Other stuff is less certain--your initial affection might wane, the thing might fall apart, you might have few occasions to wear it.

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?

It's that Moroccan purse. Curses. Plus this one pair of jeans that made my ass look *amazing*. No new pair has yet been its equal. I also have a pair of cutoffs that I won't throw out even though I can't wear them out anymore.

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

Um. A dress. Don't want to be flashing anything unmentionable.

Oh, just realized that you might mean and then buy up a whole new wardrobe. I hope you're paying for this. Then it would be my jean jacket. Flattering ones are hard and annoying to find.

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

Buy less weird items of questionable value (momentary phases, etc.), bad fit, and bad quality. I think I did well on nice staples (those aren't as hard, I guess), but the fun extras that I have basically suck.

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

Investment.....I might concede that I don't have any. Everything I have is fairly easily replaceable.

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

Hahaha. Unless it's a magic wand or a portal, I doubt that I can purchase anything paradigm-shifting.

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

I'd love a good *casual* red dress. Mostly they're semi-formal, but I want beachy. I've only wanted that for two months, though, and I'm not trying very hard to find it...

Similarly, I have a slowly growing desire for a real purse. It's about as old a desire.

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

Oh no. My drawers are as organized as the laundry bag was when it came back from the laundromat. But my socks are usually paired, my dresses and nice shirts hung, and half my shoes (the ones not worn, tellingly) paired on a rack.

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

My mother (and father, though he wasn't instrumental) gave me a birthstone ring in a princess setting for my 16th birthday. It was the most beautiful and grown-up gift I'd ever received. I almost tossed it in a river when I was 23, though, and then lost it for a year...turbulent time. It's now safely back in a jewelry box.

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 black dress. I need to diversify my wardrobe so I have better answers. That dress was from Target maybe 7 years ago, though. People seem to think it's nicer than it is.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Ooohhhh when I have to. I hate shopping. Sometimes I take a friend for moral support, so I don't give up too easily. The how would quickly and practically as possible. Trying not to get angry at the shops for having things I hate.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Clean. Sometimes perfumed, but not too sweet.

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

Ambition is a loaded word for me right now. The best I can do on this question is that I hope for people to perceive me in a positive light, and generally as attractive.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Well, I obviously can't always afford as much or the type of clothing that I want. It doesn't really bother me stylistically, though. I don't need to be in expensive brands to feel attractive.

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

I wear the same make-up every day that I wear make-up. MAC for foundation, and drugstore brands for the rest. I wear the same jeans and boots very often. Oh, and a chain bracelet that I've worn without ceasing since maybe 2007. It used to have a religious significance, now it's just sentimental.

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

Physically there have been a lot of comments over the years that have led me to see myself as attractive, maybe above the average (not saying much when you see it as a 50/50 split to determine "average").

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?

Oh yeah. Party dresses with poofy sleeves and twirly skirts were my *jam* in nursery school. When I first learned that you can't wear something that fancy every day was when I made my first sacrifice on the road to adulthood.

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

Birthday: 11/16/1988
Born: Baltimore, MD
Live: Brooklyn, NY

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

White, American, Eastern seaboard, upper-middle class. Mix of southern (back to 1600s) and New England (back to 1600s), historically.

What kind of work do you do?

I work low-level in publishing. Something akin to data logistics, but not glamorous on the level of tech people.

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

Single, no kids.

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

This survey is so involved that I doubt you need more context on me :)

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Kind of...enlightened. I don't think very deeply about clothing.


No thanks! I'm sure you have enough info :)

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