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Maggie Brown

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

A good night's sleep followed by
a day off that includes a hike in the woods or a bike ride by the bay followed by
a shower and some nice smelling body oil followed by
a glass of wine with husband

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

I notice all sorts of women(and men and children - love to look at children). I try not to be judgmental but just to gather information for myself - how we look in motion on the street is so much more true than all the photographs in all the fashions mags in the world - for instance, high heels look fabulous in a picture, but a woman tottering down a busy city street in the middle of the day on high heels looks kind of pathetic.

Through the years I realize I tend to notice women who appear to be my age, young women when I was young, older women now that I am older.

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

If I am drawn to look at a woman's face rather than assess her clothes or hairstyle or some body part. If something about her as a human being captures my attention, makes me curious, I try to figure out why.

In my thirties I was still able to wear short skirts and so thought I almost owed it to myself to do so, but it began to bother me that I would pass someone on the sidewalk and look in their face and smile and realize they were checking out my legs. I did not blame them, I would do the same to others. There was no reason for me to be wearing such short skirts other than to be putting my legs on display, rather than meeting people face to face.

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?

Not really a moment, it's something that comes and goes in my life, I dislike shopping so mostly I try to simply look as presentable as I can with as little effort as possible. Ironically, figuring out how to do that has been a lifelong process.

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

I hate to shop. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it. Therefore women (friends, sisters) who are veteran shoppers intimidate and terrify me.

My shopping companions (more like a therapeutic crutch) have always been boyfriends and now my dear husband. I think guys secretly get a kick out of going into women's clothing stores, but I've purchased some inadvisable items under their influence.

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

I wish I had some rules. I walk a lot so my shoes must be comfortable. I have gotten better at finding comfortable shoes that are still attractive.

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

There are many things I like to have transformative conversations about. Fashion and style are not even on the list.

That being said, I am filling out this survey, so it's something that's been on my mind lately. And that's because I can no longer get away with the way I used to dress. I was once slender, young and poor. I could wear just about anything and look okay and I didn't have any money so I shopped at thrift stores and had a very eclectic, but sparse wardrobe.

This no longer works or fits and, in middle age, I'm having to educate myself about shopping and fashion and style. I'm amazed at how ignorant I am about things like designers and brands and shops, etc. etc.

I've stumbled across a wealth, dare I say, a tsunami, of information and blogs and such on the internet, and this is why I am here right now.

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

Lists. I make lots of lists and lists of lists. I give myself permission to keep my life as simple as possible as I am an introvert and I need as much time as possible to look out the window and day dream.

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

I seem to have a collection of blazers and jackets purchase over the years from vintage stores to designer shops. I think I have them in multiple because they don't wear out like other items and the structure they lend to an outfit makes, say a tee shirt and jeans or slacks, look more dressy. Also, I live in a climate (coastal CA) where the weather lends itself to a blazer or sport/suit jacket year round.

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

A few times, I think. Though I generally shy away from giving jewelry or clothing as gifts. First of all, it requires the dreaded shopping (book stores, however, I can handle). Second of all, I don't know how to ascertain whether someone would like something or not.

The only thing that comes to mind is some very beautiful and simple silver jewelry I purchase for my mother while vacationing in Acapulco.

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

There are many fashion trends I don't participate in right now, though that does not mean I did not participate in the past when those trends came around before. Examples: leggings, short skirts, platform shoes, super tight, straight leg jeans (I had jeans like this when I was younger, though the fashions these days seem to be getting more and more extreme in that direction). Super high heels. I loved high heels at one time, but even then only wore them in the evening on a date, to a party, etc.

Bare legs to a formal or semi-formal, evening event at which one is wearing a really nice out fit and shoes.

Jeans with high heels. I've been looking at various jean brands on line and the photos invariably display the models in high heeled pumps. Really? Why?

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

My body type is very similar to my mother's. That straight or "rectangular" shape with no waist and straight hips. My mother dresses very nicely, I think, but simple and comfortable. She is elderly now, but her clothes fit well, which I think is key. She is still quite slim. One of my sisters does most of the clothes shopping for my mom these days and does a great job. It's conservative and understated. My mother used to sew all our clothes and did a very good job of keeping us nicely dressed. I don't sew, however, unfortunately.

I realize in writing this, that the struggle with clothes is fit. Hand made clothes fit better than store bought ones. I look back on my youth in the rural midwest in a large and rather poor family and think those were my best dressed years.

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

I try to be aware of where the clothes are made. I prefer to buy from locally owned businesses, but, aside from shoe stores, it's hard to find much of selection size wise in small boutiques. I prefer natural fibers to synthetic ones, though I don't know that means anything politically speaking.

16. Please describe your body.

130 pounds (have gained 10 + pounds in the past five or ten years which has really thrown me off - I used to be kind of flat chested, now I wear a 34C, this is strange)
A little high waisted, to the extent that I have a waist.

Somewhat muscular legs, full thighs.

When I was young and thin, and did a lot of dance and yoga, legs looked good and wore a lot of skirts and dresses. now they seem too chunky and also veiny and splotchy, so I only wear pants, which kind of bores and depresses me - finally got rid of all my size 2 and 4 dresses last month. Feeling like I'm on a downward spiral of frumpiness that I've finally realized I need to make a concerted effort to change. Only because I realized I was feeling depressed about it, not because I necessarily think one can't give into frumpiness if one has more important things to think about.

17. Please describe your mind.

Decidedly introverted, neurotic, introspective, sarcastic, empathetic, indifferent

18. Please describe your emotions.


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

Just got my hair cut, it's short and stylish, I think, thanks to the lovely, young hair stylist who cut it. Stopped dying it. Everyone seems to like the natural color(silverish)but I feel mixed about it.

Caught me on my day off in my "house pajamas": Pink and white striped cotton drawstring pants, pink and blue striped cotton dress/nightgown, thin cotton v neck pullover long sleeved tee in a pinkish lavender. Brown mule slippers. Put these on in the evening to lounge around the house. Then take off the pants and tee, sleep in the night dress, and put the pants and tee back on in the morning. Home alone, so why not?

Bare face.
Platinum wedding band.

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

Culturally, I suppose. We are of a piece with the culture we live in and, as social animals, it takes great effort to escape from the norms and expectations of the group.

I remember learning in grade school geography (I think) class about "food, clothing and shelter" as the basic needs for human survival and development. As a culture gets more "advanced" these basic needs seem to become increasing "fetishized". I think that's what we struggle with. Extracting and balancing the consumer fetish aspect from the basic need aspect.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My husband, my best friend, my mother, in that order.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

A lot.

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

Well, these words are subjective, depending on how deeply involved with fashion culture one is. I'd almost rather not pin myself down with a "taste" or a "style", but it's hard to escape as a woman living in an urban area of western society.

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

I spend as little money as possible on clothes. I have an Eileen Fisher silk kimono jacket that my husband convinced me to buy. It's beautifully made but I've never liked the way it looks on me. I don't remember how much it cost, but I'm pretty sure it was a "splurge".

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

I wish.

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

I find if we keep our house as clean and as uncluttered as possible (given we only want to spend as little time as necessary doing housework) it looks more presentable, even though it is a bohemian mish mash of random stuff.

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 used to be an actress. Getting into costume and makeup was essential. Being in character on stage was the only time I felt in control over any situation. It was somewhat addictive.

I still think of this in my private life, dressing for work, an appointment, etc. It's definitely a persona that requires certain details of dress and makeup to pull off.

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 think so, I do know what I like and don't like, it's almost visceral, in some cases. I don't know if I am "generally good" but with age one naturally because more discerning. The downside is becoming too rigid.

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 mother sewed for us (mostly out of economic necessity) so I think I absorbed what it is like to have someone make something that fits you. I remember standing in her sewing room while she would pin and re pin the seams of dress until it fit right.

She made two of my prom dresses and they were beautiful and suited me perfectly, one was a pink dotted swiss empire waist, the first floor length dress I ever wore - I felt so special in that dress.

My parent's generation simply dressed better. My dad was poor, midwestern farm boy and he looks like a movie star in photos from his youth - to this day he dresses in slacks and a button down shirt every day.

Unfortunately the super casual styles of the seventies and into the eighties set me on a different path from which I have yet to recover...

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

I know what I used to do. I would wear eye makeup, fairly heavy, a sheath dress - but often relatively high necked and below the knee, so while tight, not a lot of skin - high heels and a little perfume. I had a boyish figure and a super short, very sleek hair cut. I realize in retrospect it was this contrast that "worked".

Not quite sure what works for me now. My body is more "womanly" now and I have no idea what to do with it. I've moved in the other direction, wearing tee shirts and slacks, blazers and ankle boots. This does not feel particularly alluring, just comfortable.

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?

It's hard to describe and both qualities are on a continuum - comfort can shade into casualness that is not always appropriate to a given situation. Confident can be overblown or slightly off putting, even a tad arrogant. Some people that initially strike me as confident begin to come off as "full of themselves" after more exposure.

If am plotting out how to be deliberately comfortable or confident, I am probably failing at both.

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?

Style Philosophy is an oxymoron.

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


34. What do you consider very ugly?

Prejudice. Blight.

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?

Generally, it has to fit. Surprisingly, it took me awhile to realize that I had to be ruthless and focused when trying things on.

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?

I want to show respect for the people in my community by not showing up looking like a total slob, even at the grocery store. Nor do I want others to feel like they need to comment or compliment me on something I am wearing by being too "flashy" or over dressed.

I want to dress appropriately for any given occasion or situation. I don't particularly want others to comment on what I am wearing or compliment me unduly on hair, jewelry or makeup. I will be gracious but I do dislike this need we seem to have to comment on other's appearance. It makes me uncomfortable. Why would I not make an effort to look presentable?

I was one of those "lucky" folks who was constantly being told "oh, I wish I was as thin as you are", etc. etc etc. It's almost as if I had to apologize for it, over and over. A warm and genuine smile is all the commentary one needs to give to another vis a vis their appearance.

So this outer eye is myself, through all the different stages of my life.

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

Getting dressed is a major psychological undertaking form me, every day. It signals the transition from inner to outer life. For me, this is a radical shift, daily.

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

Switching my focus from my inner state to the outer world. Girding my loins, so to speak, for the stuff that must be done, the job, the chores, the errands, the events, the appointments. Putting on a persona to deal with the world.

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

Dressing, on a day to day basis, is about about me, about my life as I live it now. It has to be primarily functional.

Dressing up is about the rituals of a particular culture and the specific events can change over the course of a life. As a young woman, it was, perhaps, to go out dancing. As a mature woman, it may be to go to the opera. In between there are weddings, holidays, religious events, parties, etc.

As such, the way one dresses is to honor and dignify the institution or ritual that you are choosing to participate in as well as oneself and one's fellow attendees. There is a lot of symbolism involved.

It's fascinating to make gestures in these directions, though I rarely wish to immerse myself completely. So a strand of pearls, some black pumps, but not a ball gown, etc. These days I am drawn to iconic or symbolic looks or objects rather than trends and self expression. One can go in either direction when it comes to dressing up.

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

These days I do wear a uniform and it is flats, slacks, tee shirt, blazer, bag. I wear a hat and sunglasses on sunny days or a silk scarf on cool evenings.

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

I am essentially lazy. If I am ambitious, these ambitions are privately held and accounted for. Not me IS me.

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

Raised in the rural midwest by northern european immigrants, cherokee blood from my grandmother. Adult life spent in coastal central/northern California.
Bohemian; writer, actress plus a series of different jobs.
Dress is decidedly casual. I have to make an effort not to dress in an extremely casual way. Jeans are routinely worn in office settings, I have a rule never to wear jeans in the office or to the symphony. This is a personal rule because no one else would care or complain.

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?

I always wore dresses as a child. All through grade school and high school we were required to wear dresses. Many of our clothes were made by my mother so we would pick out the fabrics and the patterns so each piece was quite unique and memorable to me. For some odd reason lately I have been thinking about all those skirts and dresses - a colorful parade of youthful femininity - wishing I had pictures of them, but few exist.

Then I went off to college and wore nothing but jeans for about ten years or more.

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

Lean toward a conservative look. I like hair that is sleek and shiny, not fluffy and styled. When it was longer I would keep it pulled back and out of my face at work. Just enough makeup to not look pale and washed out.
A blazer or suit jacket and nice shoes. No sandals, peep toes, strappy shoes. No painted toe nails visible at work, ever. My thinking is, if you wear party looks to work, what will you do to feel special when you go to a party?

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

It's a pretty casual atmosphere. I try to hold the line.

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

The first thing that comes to mind is my hiking outfit: REI pants, boots, hat, wind breaker. Always those same four items.

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


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


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?

I think the women's clothing from the thirties, the shapes of the day dresses particularly, is a uniformly flattering look. They would be comfortable, too. All you need is a dress and a pair of nice shoes and you look good and you are dressed!

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?

Yes! In fact I have borrowed my husband's way of dressing for work. Slacks, shirt, suit jacket, He has a closet full of variations on these three items and always looks put together.

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

Just mentioned the thirties, so I'll stick with that. I envy French women their reputation for impeccable style.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

well, as a maturing women, I think, lately, I look old, but so what.

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

Greta Garbo. Ha.
Using what might be considered masculine qualities to balance out the feminine.

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

I think so.

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

High powered business woman. Expensive suit, high heels, high maintenance hair and makeup

Anything overly feminine involving highly styled hair, lots of makeup, low cut tops, short or tight skirts, high heels.

Red carpet looks, ball gowns,

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?

More dresses and skirts

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


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

Look in the mirror, preferably a three way mirror.

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

I wear it occasionally, but not to work or not if I am going to a theater event where lots of folks are in close quarters. The scent of pefumes at these events can be overwhelming.

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

I don't feel presentable if my clothes don't fit right. Too tight, too short, too long, too big. If they are wrinkled, obviously threadbare or stained. If shoes are dirty or really run down. Can't stand messy fly away hair.

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

Makeup is kind of the icing on the cake. It's not necessary. Makeup will not compensate for an unattractive outfit or messy hair but if your clothes look good on you and your hair looks nice, you can get away with out the makeup.

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?

Skinny jeans. Okay for very young people. But they seem to be pushing them on everyone these days. Otherwise you are deemed "dated" and "out of style".
I take my previous statement back. Even a lot of young people to not look good in these. But I have a seventy year old friend, tall and lean, and she looks pretty good in them, so...

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


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

White, liberal, feminist,

What kind of work do you do?

Legal aid

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

married, childless

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

I have only recently turned my attention to my wardrobe, realizing I had moved into a new phase of my life and wasn't feeling good about myself. I normally spend hours on the internet reading about current events, politics, art etc. In the past four weeks I've switched to reading about wardrobes and clothes and style trying to figure out how to be more comfortable with myself and how I look. That's how I ended up here.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I could not finish the survey, I did not realize how time consuming it would be, I feel a little egocentric for spending so much time writing about myself and a topic that I consider sort of frivolous.

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