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Emma Capps

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel like I have some purpose/drive/thing I’m working on that makes me feel stimulated. When I feel physically able or agile. When I’m dressed in something that feels like it represents me. When I’m eating really delicious food. When I’m being looked at by someone who finds me attractive. When I’m by myself and feel completely self-sufficient and content with my own company.

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

I'm constantly rubbernecking other women. I suppose the (very loose) category of women I tend to admire on the street are those who are casually wearing something fairly assertive. I like it when outfits look convincing and lived in, and if I think I can glean a few things from their outfit, I'll just stare and stare.

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

This is going to sound disingenuous, but I generally admire most decisions other women make about how they present themselves. I basically think any choice is a good choice. If someone doesn’t really ever wash or brush their hair, but seems pretty confident with that decision, well then I admire that, because it strikes me as a hilariously indifferent approach to self-presentation. Or if a stylish friend wears outfits that I find kind of mystifying, and I can’t understand how they thought to put it all together, I admire that, because it’s so surprising and so different to the choices I would make with those same items. I love older, extremely groomed women, who decide to wear big earrings every day, and do their hair properly – I think they look beautiful, and I can’t imagine having the patience or grace to pull myself together like that. Or, I get such a kick out of seeing older women who are basically dressed like 30 years olds – in Converse chucks and jeans and sweatshirts; there are so many women here in London who dress like that and I think they’re great. I love how my Mum dresses herself, because, even though she’s a business woman, her wardrobe is just the most confused thing. She mainly shops when she has a spare half-hour in an airport on the way to another Australian city and I would challenge her to be able to name a single store or label that she likes. Good enough is good enough for her and I admire something about that. Not to say that she doesn’t always look lovely (which she does), but I think her wardrobe is evidence of her lack of vanity, and it’s one of the few things in her life that is kind of slapdash and under-thought. Similarly, she always paints her nails whilst she’s driving to work, at stop lights. The car is full of fumes, and her nails are generally imperfect, but it’s an impressive thing to watch and I think it says something admirable about the amount of focussed time she’s willing to spend fussing over the way she looks, which is very little. None of these examples make any sense together, but I generally find other women’s decisions about their appearance to be pretty charming and interesting indications of their character.

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?

Yes. Dressing for my actual body instead of my imagined one changed a lot for me. I guess I started to do this around age 23, 24...which was probably just a time when I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

And, deciding to wear natural fabrics changed everything for me. I had a boyfriend who only wore cotton or linen or cashmere or wool, and he was always so COMFORTABLE! Now, many years later, the way I shop has totally changed and my level of daily comfort has improved dramatically.

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

I only enjoy shopping alone or with my mother (who has very few opinions about anything I pick up, so we can work very happily alongside each other).

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

This is such a great question, but I don’t think I have an answer.

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

I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly transformative, single conversation with anyone about fashion or style, but I’ve had transformative exchanges that have continued on for years and years. My friend Sophie and I used to often text or email each other our ideas about clothes and fashion. Most of our communication was just jokes and punchlines, and would have made very little sense to anyone who wasn’t us, but I think the conversations evolved because we were both really interested in clothes, and spent quite a lot of our time thinking about clothes, and had both, as teenagers, read fashion magazines, and were aware of things that were happening in fashion, but we didn’t know how to reconcile these interests with our developing adult selves, our selves who also thought fashion was a pretty flawed pursuit. We talk less about fashion nowadays, but I think my conversations with Sophie allowed me to feel comfortable and light-hearted about my interest in fashion (which had previously been something I felt pretty silly and guilty about), so, in that sense, I’d say they were transformative.

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

No! I’m completely patient with some things, fickle with others. I’m sometimes decisive, other time irresponsible, or extremely rational, or overly emotional. No. No unified approach.

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

Yes. I have many, many, many pairs of very short, high-waisted shorts. Maybe eight pairs. They’re generally either from the 1980s or the 40s and all have a similar fit – snug at the waist and then tailored in kind of loose-ish way, with pockets, and an upturned hem. I like these kinds of shorts a lot. They feel like they fit into my lifestyle more effectively than skirts, and I think they suit me more. They probably embody some vague self-image I have as a competent young person, who likes to be outside, who likes to go for long walks. I think another reason why I love this style of almost inappropriately short shorts is that, in the summer, I like to have a lot of my skin exposed, but I don’t really like to feel like I’m being particularly revealing or suggestive. I think these shorts on me manage to look completely unprovocative, whilst also allowing me to feel generally confident.

I should add that it’s extremely illogical for me to own all these shorts, whilst I only own (for instance) three pairs of pants, or only one jacket, or one bag. I now live in a cold country, and can barely even wear shorts in the summer. My decision to keep on buying shorts is not a sensible one. I need jumpers.

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

I stand by every pair of earrings I've ever bought my mother.

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

Clogs! I didn't touch that one. The shortcomings of that trend were, to me, self-evident from the beginning. Also, its shelf-life was too predictably short for me to indulge.
(WHAT an conceited response!)

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

My mother doesn't care much for clothes, and I do. She's always done a good job of humouring me, and showing interest when I want to talk about clothing, but I wouldn't say that she has influenced my style.

Our bodies, I think, are quite similar. We're both reasonably tall, with narrow shoulders, pale skin and dark hair. I'm glad for the physical traits I've inherited from my mother, even the ones I'm not so crazy about.

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

My friend Sophie (see above) and I used to exchange ideas constantly, and for years we often wore fairly similar outfits. We both used to buy most of our clothes from op-shops, and although we hardly ever went shopping together, we would often, in conversation, arrive at a particular trend we wanted to follow, and follow that. I don’t think we derived much joy from looking similar, and we wouldn’t have ever dreamt of properly coordinating our outfits, but I think we both thought it was really fun to be independently following the same trend that we’d decided was compelling. For instance, we both used to love wearing sheer blouses buttoned up to the neck with a black bra underneath and a high-waisted full-skirt. We thought it such an elegant idea. I’m sure our mothers thought we looked horrible.

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

Yes. After wearing only vintage clothes for years and years, I decided I wanted to start wearing new clothes. They didn’t have to be brand new, they could be second hand, they could even be twenty years old, but I started to feel like I just wanted to wear clothes that translated easily to the life I was actually living. I think this happened around about the time that I started exercising. I certainly wasn’t exercising with much drive or focus, but I did start jogging and swimming and doing yoga, and it seemed silly to me that my wardrobe was so divided – there were all my 40s and 50s dresses and skirts and silk shirts, and then there were these exercising clothes made from modern fabrics. And I thought, well, this is ridiculous. I want to live in clothes that allow me to move and run and walk, and I want to be wearing those clothes everyday. Like, why can’t I apply the logic that went into deciding to wear these leggings to everything I wear. Now, although I still wear things that are 70 or 50 or 20 years old, I only wear them if they feel immediately applicable to the actual life I live now.

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

Not particularly. Although, I have, in the last few years started to almost exclusively wear sneakers, and the more I do, the more I realise how much they encourage flexibility in my life, and how, when I was wearing more classically 'female' shoes (like black flats, or high-heels), my daily life was effectively hindered by these shoes. I couldn't walk for long distances, I couldn't move quickly, I wasn't comfortable. Wearing sneakers all the time has made me realise how long I sub-consciously thought of comfort as a kind of male domain, and how long I deprived myself of something so simple and essential.

16. Please describe your body.

Long, pale, hairy, responsive, strong, changing.

17. Please describe your mind.

Um, digressive, optimistic, focussed, flexible. I don’t know. I have a very long attention span. I can recall things that happened decades ago very clearly. I find it hard to memorise facts. I’m trying to teach myself to avoid catastrophizing things that are yet to happen. I’m learning, I’m always learning more about my mind and the way it operates. I’m trying to go with it.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I’m very available to feeling things, in general. After so many years of seeing myself develop alongside my peers, I can see that I’m a pretty emotional person. This used to manifest itself in every area of my life, but I’m a lot more calm now. I don’t get angry very often, or, if I do, I deal with it. I suppose I have a tendency to be anxious about some things. I also tend to be generally more enthusiastic in social situations than most of the people around me. I’m not overly nostalgic, but I think a lot about my friends and family, just remembering moments between us, and I feel really moved. I find the close relationships in my life to be a source of real profundity, which is related, I think, to a deep emotional belonging I feel amongst the people I love. I don’t really know how to properly categorise my emotions or describe them, but I’m certainly very aware of them.

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

My hair is in a low bun, and I'm just wearing moisturiser on my face. I'm wearing a navy baggy silk singlet with pockets and a wide hem, and over that, I'm wearing a navy wool jumper. My pants are patterned ones by Marni that I got from an outlet in Italy a while ago, and I'm wearing grey New Balance sneakers.

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

For some people, I think clothes can be a very articulate form of communication. They're not always, and for many people they're highly irrelevant, but I can say, for myself, that clothes are important.

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

I really enjoy cooking, so, if I’m flattering myself, I’d probably say that I approach food with a certain style. I really love spending time making a meal, and when I’m putting it on the table, I want the food to look beautiful and appetising, and I want whatever we’re drinking to complement the food, that kind of thing. Is that style? I definitely have strong opinions about food, and an aesthetic, and a general way of approaching it, which I’m always keen to develop (which I think, now that I’m writing this, is quite similar to my relationship with clothing).

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?

Yes. When I first moved to London, I was living out of the same suitcase I’d been living out of for almost a year, and all my clothes were falling apart, or totally inappropriate for anything other than travelling. Soon after moving here, I got a full-time job that I came to loathe, and I wore the same outfit everyday of the week, changing one or two small things to make it seem like I wasn’t being basically unhygienic. I had no money, so couldn’t afford to buy anything else, and I recall the feeling of pulling on this same insipid outfit everyday to go to a job I hated, and it just felt like I was in disguise. As my attitude towards the city developed, and I started to feel some sense of stability, it felt imperative to me that I also start dressing in a way that adequately reflected who I actually was, outside of this mess I was living in day to day. Starting to turn up to work in clothes in which I felt confident certainly contributed to me reasserting my presence in my own life, and made me feel better about navigating the city, looking for other work, meeting new people. Dressing in a way that felt honest and self-assured really helped me gain a sense of control, I think.

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

Generally in the mornings, the outfit I’m dressing myself in is basically a replica of the outfit I’ve been wearing all week, or sometimes, all month. I sometimes have what I might consider a ‘good idea’ about what I want to wear, and then I just repeat that idea until the items involved become too dirty, or, if I have multiple, similar items, until those various multiples become too dirty, or if the weather changes, or if I have another ‘good idea’. The degree to which I am convinced by my initial idea hinges on too many factors to write out. But if I’ve ticked enough boxes, I just go with that. Within this programme, of course, there’s also room for flexibility, and I’ll sometimes wear something I only put on occasionally. These items tend to make me really happy, but also tend to be less adaptable, and might only work for a handful of activities, as opposed to being across-the-board effective, which is what I’m aiming for with my daily outfits.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Nope. No. I’m not great in photos. I don’t really know what to do in them. I know the point is to just pick a pose and hold it for a second, but most of the time, I’m not so good at it. I think I used to be, as a teenager. But for the last few years, no.

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

It depends. I like photographs of myself where it’s evident that I’m feeling at ease and confident (I suppose everyone likes these photos of themselves). When I see photographs of myself like this, I feel happily nostalgic looking at them. On the other hand, if I was at a stage in my life where I wasn’t feeling these things when a photograph was taken, I find it pretty painful to look at.

I suppose my relationship with photographs of myself would change if I took more photos on my digital camera, or had friends who were more active on Instagram, and so had more opportunities to look at current photos of myself. As it happens, this isn’t the case, so I’m normally looking at photographs that were taken years ago, so it’s more of a reflective thing.

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

Yes! I used to have dreams where I’d be in an op-shop and would find an INCREDIBLE outfit, one I’d never seen before in my life, and I’d look at the price tag, and it would be $10!!! This is of course a completely embarrassing dream to have, but I have had several versions it. Many times.

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

I could never be really groomed. It’s hard for me to look super clean and ordered, because I have a lot of curly hair, and also because I just don’t know how to groom myself. So, I suppose a really neat, tidy look would be very difficult for me to pull off.

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

I once read this great book by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez called Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, which was a series of excellently written reviews of various perfumes. Reading that book made me feel like wearing perfume could be a life enhancing form of communication, and that perfume itself represented this miraculous confluence of science and art. Although I didn’t wear perfume when I began reading the book, by the time I was finished, I really wanted to start. In the back section of the book, the authors had picked their favourite perfumes, so I just went out and bought the perfume they reckoned was the best. Of course, I tested it in the shops, and thought about it, and decided I agreed with them that it was pretty spectacular, but that’s how calculated my decision to wear perfume was. It was never a natural inclination of mine. I wore the perfume for a year or so, now I don’t. I just own it. I don’t really want to smell like perfume all the time. I wear it maybe every few months, and I still think it’s is a wonderful smell, but I’m just not a perfume wearer.

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

I don’t really know how to use makeup, and also, I don’t really like the idea of wearing it. I wouldn’t want to dismiss anyone else’s decision to wear makeup, but I kind of disagree with the premise of it. This being said, I have unruly eyebrows, so I use a kind of eyebrow mascara (clearly, my vague anti-makeup position is full of holes).

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

I have a long, pinkish coloured, extremely flimsy and impractical summer coat that I think is so beautiful. It’s such an odd colour that I never could have thought of, and it adds instant wit to any outfit one might put it with. However, it makes no sense – although it’s a jacket, it provides nothing in terms of protection from the wind or the rain or the chill, so it’s a completely superfluous item of clothing. But it is lovely, and it makes me feel great to wear it.

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 surprising number of cocktail dresses, gowns, and generally fancy outfits. I never wear any of them. Maybe I’ll wear one of them once a year. I used to work in a vintage clothing shop and I fell into a bit of a habit of buying silk dresses from the 40s. I used to wear them to work at the shop and at parties, but now, I just don’t have the lifestyle for them. If I went out on dates with middle-aged men, or to the opera, I could wear these dresses. When I go to parties now I just want to wear a nice pair of pants and sneakers, or a loose cotton dress. I don’t want to wear heels, and these dresses require them. I will keep them forever, though. I think they’re so beautiful, and they’re engineered so brilliantly, I’ll never give them away.

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

ears ago, when I worked in a vintage clothing store, I bought a jacket from the 1980s made by Alaïa, an infamously expensive designer. I think it cost me something like $400 dollars, which was astronomical to me. But, I loved it, and it fit me really well, and it was made beautifully, so I bought it, and I have since worn it hundreds of times. It remains in excellent shape and I still think it’s a great jacket. What an investment!

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

On many levels. I think I’m probably overly symbolic when it comes to reviewing the choices I’ve made about the clothes I wear, and what those decisions meant for me as an individual. Like, if I’ve decided to start wearing lots of colour again, after many years spent not wearing colour (as I have now), I think it’s some indication of some broader, new found expression in my life, generally. There’s the outfit and then there’s what I think the outfit indicates. When I started wearing more comfortable clothes and choosing more breathable fabrics, I thought it said something good about the level of comfort and ease I thought I deserved in my life. When I started wearing men’s clothes (like my boyfriend’s pants and his shirts) more than women’s clothes, I thought it showed that I was more confident with my body and didn’t need to dress in a particular way to feel attractive. A few years later, looking back at that same decision, I thought that actually, I had been negating myself, putting my own tastes and interests aside and instead choosing the tastes and interests of my boyfriend. Now, I think both positions are probably true. I think generally, I’ve always tried to dress in a way that reflects the confidence and assertiveness I like or would like to feel, but don’t always.

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

Yes. I have a large red wallet that I carry everywhere. I spent a lot of money on it when I was in Paris a few years ago. It now has an ink stain on it, it’s completely filthy, but I think it’s so nice. I also only own one bag, so I use that everyday.

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 think I would have been very young. I certainly can vividly recall the texture of certain clothes I used to wear as a child, and how it felt to wear them – a red velvet dress, a smocked cotton dress, a tulle skirt. From a really young age I loved getting dressed, and was apparently very decisive about what I wanted to be dressed in (although I suppose all kids are). I certainly have memories of feeling either extremely comfortable and happy with what I was wearing, and then I have other memories of feeling somehow compromised by what I had on. There was a matching floral skirt and top I used to sometimes wear when I was four or five, and the top was cropped, so my midriff was exposed. I remember loving the idea of the skirt and top, but always feeling like it was a bit much. I don’t know how these feelings really translated to my infant brain, but I do remember hastily changing myself out of that outfit and putting on something else that felt more comfortable to me. Around the same age, I had a similar relationship with a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses, and with a kids’ handbag. They felt so embarrassing to wear! Even then, I felt completely unconvincing in them, really self-conscious. They just weren’t me.

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

I was born in Sydney and now I live in London.

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

Anglo-saxon, middle-class.

What kind of work do you do?

I work as a research assistant, and at a bookshop, and I freelance as a writer.

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


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