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Lindsay Ruoff

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I'm ~comfortable and also wearing things I'm proud of, which sounds weird to say, but I mean items or styling (makeup) that I've cultivated or coveted or done well.

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

Yes I look at women all the time. I think I look at all women and I admire people who look comfortable in their attire. I tend to look at their bottom-halves, pants and shoes. Maybe because it's less obvious that I'm looking. Also, people have such interesting shoes! I'm not really into shoes (more than other things) but I am always impressed by peoples' foot-gear.

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

Heels and hairdos. Doing one's hair is kind of bold as it seems unlikely that any obviously "done" hair will ever come across as effortless. There is effort always in binding and braiding and smoothing and volumizing (word?) hair and it's conflicting with this idea that women are meant to look good but are not allowed to be vain enough to set out to achieve "looking good." Doing one's hair is a sort of 'fuck you' to that or potentially reveals that a person does actually just spend too much time doing their hair. Value judgments. Obviously sort of a cultural/textural thing as some hair must be intricately maintained.

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?

An early understanding (teenage) was that if I got dressed after hair/face stuff then that was easier. Another important moment was when I was in college, age 19 or so, and stopped straightening my hair. I was away from where I grew up and consequently away from the people who expected me to look as they had known me: spending time making my hair straight. This has been a huge deal for me because I have curly hair! It is so nice to be at a stage where the people who know me now, see me with the hair that I have, as it grows naturally, and that I myself love it.

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

I have had time where I would not buy an article of clothing for more than $5. I will spend a little more now. It can be extreme, to not spend and to still try to find things you like. A lot of effort. But it feels more real.

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

Colors, textures, fabrics over fit (sometimes).

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

Maybe I fling myself into it (whatever it is). I have always been fairly easily distracted and it seems to work best to try to be there entirely -- like, clean the whole house at once, catch up with everyone on one day.

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

Yes to my friend Becky (who was one of the ladies who gave me the above gifts) a little bronze ring with 3 odd-wrought jade stones in it, representative of Becky, my friend Sophie, and myself though I was selfish in choosing the gift because it was a group gift from 4 or 5 other ladies and it was obvious that the sentimental scope was smaller and subsequently alienating for the others.

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

I don't participate in any VERY purposefully! Or I recognize that I am choosing something popular, but not adhering to a 'trend' because that implies a sequence (of trend-following) which I don't do. Pick and choose.

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 and my bodies are similar in shape, but she has larger breasts and her body has undergone much more change (2 pregnancies, surgery, later cosmetic surgeries . . .) of course. I feel like her body is not hers anymore. Which is weird and terrible to think about someone else with whom I (genetically) share so much. It might be this way of protecting my own body. Style-wise, I have a couple items that my mother used to wear. A long, slim, sheer skirt with wonderful lace at the bottom (black). I have felt like my mother doesn't really have much consideration for clothes/appearance and consequently doesn't look well thought-out. Which is fine. Maybe she was better at it before, or maybe she never was. I will never know her like that. I, on the other hand, (to-date) am still engaged with my personal aesthetics.

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

Yes. All the time. Sophie talks about silk and now my eye is out for thrift-silk. Kira's black flowy stuff -- I am working on it. Not to adopt wholly, but to fit in these parts that other women I love have come to love.

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

Yes. Consciousness about dressing oneself is inherently political. Our bodies are politicized. Our clothes. Deciding to wear something (presentation) 'feminine' or 'masculine' or 'androgynous' will expose something I see and think about the world, and also the way the world sees me. What clothes I spend money on (where it was made, by whom) is a vote for that practice. I think we are in a stage (of late capitalism) that cannot escape this, and so must confront this.

16. Please describe your body.

Sometimes I think my body looks like a T-rex. I have a small upper-body, small breasts, small waist and a decent-sized butt and thigh region. I'm not very tall (5'4). I think I have a slightly athletic build, pretty curvy, fair skin. Dark brown hair and blue eyes.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is skeptical and empathetic. My feeling brain. I think I can get caught up in/too distracted to focus on many thoughts simultaneously.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Sensitive and guarded. I'm working on (trusting) my intuition. In comfortable settings I am quite available/forward with my emotions, but in uncomfortable settings I can be really shy and untruthful (not to say I tell big lies – I'm just not comfortable enough to be honest/engaged.)

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

I am wearing a white lace negligee, residual make up, messy hair. I am in bed! But it sounds like the *right* answer to that sort of question (joking).

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

I think a conversation around clothes (esp. women dressing themselves) is important because it's often shrugged off as trite and superficial, yet women are heavily influenced to look certain ways. I think putting it in a personal realm, thinking about it, accepting the tendencies we have, and understanding how they've formed seems no less important than any other version of self-reflection.

Clothes can be this sacred extra-skin, to protect, to adorn, to represent.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

I talk about clothes with my friends Sophie and Becky and my partner Rob. S & B & I used to live together for 4 years, and now live in different states. We like to "catch up" on what products, styles, etc, each is using/wearing since we're not around each other on a daily basis and also because these things change gradually and it's funny to no longer know what people you are close to choose in these ways. Rob is a good listener and is often jealous of the options, as he says, that women have when it comes to dressing. I talk to my friend Kira, who I live in the same city with, about these things often too. Most recently about eccentric lipstick and hair colors.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

When I work at the elementary school, I need to dress 'appropriately' which is fine. But I also want to look like myself. I think it's important to dress with as much 'you-ness' as you can and want, especially while being around young people, so they can know you this way and develop their own thoughts out of variety rather than homogeneity. I really hope institutions will play no further role in my dressing.

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

I think that I have taste. Taste to me means having a lens with which you personally perceive what you like, how you make decisions. Style means that you choose within a larger sphere that is affected by media outlets, companies, etc. Style probably affects peoples' individual tastes and taste might be what style is built out of. I'm comfortable relying on my taste rather than tapping into various styles especially because of the way I shop. Keeping up with style/s seems like a greater effort and perhaps more expensive.

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

Tucking a shirt in! With what I don't know. Thoughtfulness?

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

Yes, I have aesthetics that inform most things about my life -- my home, my food, my garden, my writing, my art.

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 like this question because I feel like it confronts the possibility of clothing and dress as sacred objects. When I have my moon (period) I like to dress in deep red, lavishly. I have recently received a glowing amulet -- made from 4 stones one of which is this naturally glowing stone -- the purpose of which is to impart a sense of physical/emotional power. It is very fun to wear because it has a centering quality, being that it is literally located at the center of my chest. And it looks rad.

To calm myself, I will wear clean, loose-fitting clothes in muted colors.

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?

No. I was doing my own laundry (at my mother's house) by first grade which means I never was taught many nuances in this process -- throw it in, turn it on. As an adult I have come to learn things on my own, especially when process is involved. After having hand-washed an item for twenty minutes, hung it in the sun to dry with wind tugging at it lightly, has not this article of clothing all of these elements embedded in it?

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

Strange bold lipstick I have made at home.

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?

They are not universal. Comfort for one is not the same as the other. I think it has to do with self-consideration and not conformity. Although, for some, standing-out and not 'blending in' (conforming) might make them uncomfortable. But again, not universal.

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?

See your clothes within the context of their own lifetime. They, like you and because of you, will fluctuate and these changes (however gradual, abrupt, disjointed . . .) are phenomenal, so accept them as they come.

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 am a pretty good judge but also try to never place too much importance on any one object (with money, especially, but also with attention).

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

The weather and the temperature. I ride a bike everywhere. I this does not keep me from wearing what I want. I mean there are some things I can't wear on a bike, but I try to not let it hinder me much. I will pick out things that will suit me for the duration of the day, or I pack other clothes if I want to change later on with out coming home. That can be stressful. I guess I try to match my mood.

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


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

Dressing up means you're allowing yourself more, a further reach. That's vague, but I think implies that you are willing to let yourself be more seen, more focused on.

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

I'm thinking of Andrea Zittel's Personal Panel Uniforms project (based on the Russian Constructivists) where she created garments that were simple rectangles never cut or sewn into "alien" shapes. The "uniforms" are so basic and elegant and organic and seem to be all anyone would ever need to be clothed.

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

I want to, like, quote Whitman and say "I am large, I contain multitudes" in response to the feeling that I just don't really know. I think there have been times where I definitely would not say or do or wear something and now I do. I guess I am conscious of my 'self' and the effects that self on others and this is pretty consistent.

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

White middle class girl in Southern California. Means I have repelled a lot of bland, thoughtless things. Some are trapped inside, I'm sure.

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?

Straight hair, huge Steve Madden platforms under low-cut flared jeans and tight tops. Middle school, high school. Rocket dogs, having and wearing what other people did.

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

No cat fur.

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

By not looking like a 'mom'.

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


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?


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

I really, really, really dislike perfume. I have a sensitive nose and it makes me sneeze/get a headache.

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

Have many shirts, shoes, dresses, skirts, hand-me-down or handmade jewelry items. Most of my clothes were probably made in the 70s-90s. Self-tailored jeans, the only kind of jeans I have been wearing for ~8 years now.

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

My mood ring/s -- one higher-quality, a birthday gift with a round cabochon set in sterling silver. The other two are the old, cracked (not longer 'working') mood rings, which look like two silver and black bands I wear together on a separate finger from the round one.

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?

This weird red and black choir-like robe. Deep colors and satiny feel, with wrist closures and puffy arms, pleating above the breast which leads to a basically long, shapeless body. The fabric and cut is beautiful, but I can't imagine it looking good, as is, on any body. I can't imagine cutting it though.

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?

Burnt-orange cardigan I got at The Bins (goodwill outlet, buy by the pound). Cigarette hole in the back. Gone but not forgotten.

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

Timberland winter boots. Yes! Hopefully for another winter or two. . .

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

My friend gave me a wrap-around skirt for my 20th birthday. It was green with giraffes on it. I still have it though I don't wear it often anymore. Got that along with an antique-y copy of Aesop's fables which was an appropriate accompanying gift. And more recently a glowing-green, like Ghost Busters-green, costume jewellery ring from the same person. Green gifts.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

When I have a minute, passing by a second-hair store, pop in.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Fairly clean, with natural deodorant, which might have hints of essential oils but mostly means that I smell like a natural body, perspiration and all.

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

I want to be myself and this is an ongoing process.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I try to not spend money; I have very little. I remember having 'buyer's remorse' as a child, for clothing my mom was buying for me, so money that wasn't even mine. I had that feeling every time we bought clothes at places like Target or Kids R Us. Shitty clothes, perhaps not worth the money. I feel much better buying used things.

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

Carry dark brown lipstick in bag.

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

March 8, 1986. Born in Orange, CA, live in Portland, OR.

What kind of work do you do?

I am a poet and teach art and writing classes in an after-school program.

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

Have a cat and a life partner.


Lindsay Allison Ruoff lives and makes in Portland, OR.

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