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Vanessa Peterson

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I am wearing clothes that fit my awkward figure perfectly. As I am pear-shaped, I have struggled to appreciate my large hips and tiny waist, believing them to be abnormal in comparison to the figures I was surrounded by. The past few years have taught me not to hide, and so, finding dresses (dresses in particular) that compliment these two aspects of me in a classic colour is a confidence boost. As well as this, I will most likely be wearing Coco Mademoiselle (two squirts - one on the neck and one on my wrists) and minimal make-up. Foundation, subtle smokey eye, diva lipstick by Mac.

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

I notice women who are fearless with their fashion choices. Clashing patterns, bright colours, 4 inch heels at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I also admire those who make the minimal look beautiful. I look at women who have their afro hair natural, as it provides me with inspiration for my own crown.

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

I admire the fearlessness. I want to be as brave as them, to disregard what others think of me, to do as I please. When I see that in other women, I am amazed and often mesmerised by their presence.

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 think maybe the age of 22, a year ago, may the time when everything clicked into place. Before that, I was wearing industrial strength foundation when I only needed a little coverage. My hair was hit & miss, depending on my hairdresser and how she was feeling that day (I presume.) My clothes were an imitation of others, or a way to cover up my weight loss. At 22, I lost weight and decided to treat my body the way I had dreamed about for many years prior - with respect. Everything came together. I gained confidence in myself, and I think it reflected on the outside, maybe even more so than internally.

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

Shopping rules? I don't have any. I often buy more than I need. Don't do that. I wish I had more discipline.

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

I dress according to my mood, but I wouldn't recommend that... unless you are constantly in a good mood. I often wear dark colours as a result. I make impulsive decisions in the morning, and often do not have enough time to look in the mirror to see if it works. I try and trust my intuition.

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

In Ghana, in 2013. I spent 4 weeks there in July and August, and quietly watched the way Ghanaian girls dressed. There seemed to be a distinct lack of 'sticking to the fashion rules', and I wanted to take that on board. I went to a second hand market in Accra called Kantamanto, and watched as my very cool friend & her friends trudged through what appeared to be rubbish looking for the best finds. It took patience, and trust, and a whole lot of haggling. I took on board many of their ways. A few days later, I spent time buying fabric with my auntie - they were to be made into custom made dresses. The seamstresses advised me on cuts, colours, fabrics... it was amazing. I left Ghana feeling like I knew the ins and outs of my body to the exact inch, and it also made me aware of being brave.

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

I approach my life in a very scatterbrained manner. I wish I could be more streamlined in that sense. I avoid things out of fear and anxiety. I procrastinate until the very last minute. I would say my relationships may suffer somewhat because of this. I deal with a lot of fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

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

I have an ongoing love affair with stripes. I will keep buying stripes until I am grey and old, and I could not tell you why. Even if I wanted to. Other than that, I tend to buy basics in various colours to match outfits etc.

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

I thought of this in the shower just yesterday. Again, going back to that trip to Ghana... I went to the arts centre, which is a big tourist hub right in Accra central, looking for gifts to take back home. I was instantly drawn to an old lady who was sitting quietly on a bench, failing to partake in the usual hustle and bargaining. Shopping is a skill and talent in these parts. A performance. There was none of that, but there was the most beautiful jewellery I had laid eyes on. At that moment, I knew I had to take a necklace back for my best friend, who at that time was experiencing a very nasty break up. Gold beads, intricately placed, hand-made. I could only get one and I made sure I gave it to her. I am still happy about that, as I wanted her to know I was thinking of her, even thousands of miles away from home. The most important friendships still function.

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

I try not to think about trends too much nowadays. There is nothing I have outrightly 'refused' to participate in, rather, I have not thought much about it in the first place. I guess I am young enough to still experiment and get it right. Or wrong. Either way, at 23, I feel I can get away with it.

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

My mother's body is one I have been familiar with for a long time. Whether her style has been passed down to me? Probably not. Her style is one of simplicity, and she has her own personal taste. Our tastes - at this moment in time - do not align. That isn't to say that they will not in the future. My mother encourages me to wear bright colours, and I guess I bear these things in mind when shopping.

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

Well, my mother is the same size as me, or maybe one size bigger, so every now and again there will be things in her wardrobe that come in useful. Sometimes, she will order things online and deem that they are unsuitable for her, but maybe something I could make use of. 50/50 success rate there. I have a dream that one day, my best friend and I will live in the same city again so I can borrow all of her clothes, or rather, create a communal wardrobe for us both to wear whatever we like. I respect her fashion choices and she is always effortlessly elegant, in her particular way.

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

I would say at the age of 16. I spent the majority of my teen years wearing awkward loose combats, jogging pants and ill-fitting jeans. Suddenly, I was introduced to the world of dresses, skirts, and various kind of shoes that were not trainers. It changed a lot for me. I realised I could be feminine in a way I was scared of, mainly because people I grew up with deemed me unattractive. I believed those kinds of clothes were only for a certain kind of person. 16 changed that, and I am still not sure what the exact trigger was. Probably a boy (very fashionable I might add) I was madly in love with at that time.

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

Not as such, no. I have a t-shirt from a Ghanaian company called Kayobi which could be described as political. Kwame Nkrumah's face is on it, with the term 'VISIONARY' emblazoned. Nkrumah was the first president of post-colonial Ghana, leading them to independence from British rule in 1957. I guess it is a way for me to say I agree with his pan-African ideals, although not everything about his rule worked, he still had a vision and pushed past detractors to make it happen.

16. Please describe your body.

5ft5, I think. Wide (ish) shoulders, a tiny waist, hips that seem to be getting smaller, but still noticeably larger than my waist. My bottom has stretch marks, and other indicators that my body has morphed from one natural state to another. It is a body I am trying to care for, although I wish for my legs to be longer and my arms to be smaller. I am trying to love it.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is scattered, unstable and most likely, unreliable. I am constantly reading 3 books at a time, flicking between 10-15 tables on google chrome, texting and eating at the same time. My mind doesn't know when to stop, or even, how to focus. Maybe that is symptomatic of the internet age of multitasking.

18. Please describe your emotions.

My emotions are pretty gloomy, on a day to day basis. I try and be positive, at least about myself, but I feel that my natural disposition is one that is a bit darker than I'd originally like. My emotions vary by the hour. I guess, I am still finding my way in life and my emotions are a direct result of that uncertainty and instability.

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

I am wearing no make-up. My hair is down, wavy, probably a little frizzy. I am wearing a vest stop I bought several months ago, but have only worn twice. This isn't a great day for me fashion-wise.

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

I believe that we gain so much from outwardly cultivating an appearance that makes us happy. I find peace with knowing whatever is going on in the inside doesn't necessarily show on the outside. It's important in its own way.

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

10th June 1991. I was born in Manchester, UK, and I currently find myself in the North of England.

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

Born to Ghanaian parents who moved to the UK a year before I was born. Grew up in a fairly middle class neighbourhood, although it was lacking in cultural and ethnic diversity. Brought up in a dual-culture and dual-language household.

What kind of work do you do?

I work with photographs, in the area of photography and cultural diversity in the arts. That is my main area of interest.

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

I am single.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I feel like I know myself slightly better. The decisions I considered 'thoughtless' actually have some sense and reason behind them.

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