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Bendta Schroeder

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I've got on a new dress and there's good weather and something interesting to do.

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

I love hiding behind my sunglasses so I can check everyone out without looking like a creepy starer. I am interested in whatever there is to be seen--interesting colors, cuts, makeup, accessories. But I love it most when a woman is wearing something very bold or very strange or something that by all rights ought to be ugly and she looks absolutely lovely and at home her body and clothes. It's magic.

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

Courage, self-confidence, creativity, strength.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What? Why did it happen then, do you think?

I have always struggled with terrible self-esteem and body image, and up through my early twenties I dressed to hide myself from other people. All t-shirts and jeans and sad sweaters. I pretty much woke up one day and said "fuck it". I went out and bought a bunch of clothes that I liked without much regard for anything but my own taste.

The self-esteem and body image are still things I struggle for--it seems so constant and slow and excruciating. Dressing to please myself helps--it makes me feel more like my body belongs to me, not to whoever wants to judge it... although, that doesn't always work. I do wish I'd wake up one day and just say "fuck it" to all the bad feelings about my body.

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

Shop alone. Other people's opinions are usually about what they want/how they see you and not about what you want.

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

Never wear pants if you can help it.

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

I hope not! Unified theories of everything frighten me. I would rather just think through whatever problem was in front of me.

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

Leggings as pants, with big shirts or tunics. It can look fine on others, but it covers everything I want to show off and reveals everything I would never show. Plus, I hate pants. Even ersatz pants.

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

My mother dressed for invisibility when I was young. That was directly passed to me. But when I was older, she divorced her abusive husband, and got an office job after many years of being a stay-at-home mother. She didn't feel very confident about dressing the part to begin with, and after a few shopping trips, she felt more uncomfortable with choosing things, not less. So I went to the mall and left a trail of clothing on hold at various places. I told her where to go and said to just pick one thing that made her feel good. She brought back a wardrobe. She has her own style, but I like to think I passed something to her.

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

I have my best friend's bangs.

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

I dress in a very feminine style, and I also have a strongly feminist politics. At first, I felt like my feminine style was a guilty indulgence, especially since I spent a long time in grad school and the unspoken rule there was often "girly"="dumb." But, I'm tired of things feminine being equated with inferiority. There's no reason I can't think serious thoughts in a pink dress.

16. Please describe your body.

I am tallish and very, very round.

17. Please describe your mind.

My brain usually works at a slow simmer. I'll think about something for a very long time, maybe even forget about it, and then an idea pops up at some later time. I like to absorb as much as I can of one subject at a time.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I don't generally like describing my emotions.

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

Teal t-shirt, multicolored scarf, denim skirt, yellow flower stud earrings, black shoes cut out like eyelet. "Natural" makeup. Got-up-late pony tail. Square glasses.

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

It's important to me because it's one way I stake my claim to myself. I get to shape how the world sees me and I get to put my own tastes and feelings first before anyone else's.

But those are strictly my own reasons--everyone has their own relationship to their appearance. And for certain I don't think it should be important to someone if they don't want to be important.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

All my lady friends, my fiance (who is also an inveterate people watcher).

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

In grad school, the pressure to dress conservatively in style and color was immense. By the end of it, I had my grim school clothes side of the closet and the rainbow play clothes side. I have a non-academic job in which I don't see people frequently now, and there are some moderate constraints on what to wear (mostly, don't be ragged), but I have a lot more freedom now.

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

Both, I hope, though probably more of style. I equate style with a vision that is unique to a person and taste to being able to discern the most current and flattering fashions and knowing how to put them together appropriately for the right place. Though now that I think of it, those could just as well be flipped around.

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

I bought an expensive pair of shoes for the first time I went to the Met for an opera. They were very pretty, but they had satin soles and my toes were painfully squished. Even though I put grips on the bottom and tried to stretch them out beforehand, I could barely walk up the big stairs without slipping or grimacing in pain. I felt like a clumsy beast.

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

Some moderate artsy-craftsy abilities. Baking. Cocktail making.

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?

Every time I've ever had to speak in front of a crowd or perform in some way I've carefully planned an outfit that makes me feel good.

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, clothes or otherwise. If that is all discernment is, then it has to come from knowing yourself well. If there's something more to it--say, being able to talk about what you like and identify why--then a certain amount of reflection is needed.

29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?

My parents not so much, but my grandmother dressed impeccably and took a lot of care of her clothes. In her opinion, most things look newer and better made than they are if they are properly ironed. I am a rogue ironer, ironing other peoples clothes when they are dressing up nice.

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

I don't try to be sexy--that always makes me feel like a clown. There are moments that I feel that way, but those usually happen when I am not at all conscious of myself.

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?

I have bought very little that I will not wear. I don't buy things because they are a good deal or because they are in style, though. I only shop if there's something specific I have in mind and I only buy it if it fits well or can easily be altered and I really like it.

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?

All of these things, at least temporarily. I'd love to find out what it would feel like to inhabit a man's body and to experience what it would be like to move through the world as a man. I always feel a little envious of my fiance who is very tall--he can walk down the most crowded city street and a way is always cleared for him. I could be walking down a sidewalk with one other person and that person might still veer into me.

Also, ties, vests, and dress shirts--I want them.

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 try out the dresses from the 18th century, if I could be rich and I didn't have to do it for very long. But I love the embroidery and all the taking up of space involved.

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


80. How does money fit into all this?

All of this is much easier now that I have a decent job...

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

12/12/78, Melrose, Massachusetts

What kind of work do you do?


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

Engaged, no kids (ever--sorry mom!).

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

A bit solipsistic.

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