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J McSee

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I am wearing something I am comfortable in. Sometimes, that's flannel pajamas, sometimes it's a beautiful dress.

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

Yes. I notice women who are both well and poorly dressed. I admire a well put together woman, even if she didn't spend a lot on her clothing. I especially like a bargain hunter who looks fabulous in her bargains.

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

I like how a woman accessorizes. Her shoes, the whole ensemble, and how it shows her confidence.

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, I worked in Bonwit Teller as a college student. I had color coordination, but I didn't have a unified style. While working there, I developed a more cohesive style, and an attitude about clothing.

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

I like to shop alone but I don't think women should. I think I do better when I shop alone, but i don;t think women should shop alone. I know what I like, and I know what fits good on my body. I don't need anyone to tell me, but a lot of women don't know that info.

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

Wear as many accessories as you like. I always do, and I like to mix and match silver and gold tone. I also wear my favorite color but in tones of my favorite color that compliment my complexion. But I think I know how to restrain myself, and I don't think a lot of women do - so they should wear less accessories.

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

I was in college working at Bonwit Teller, trying to figure out what my style was so that the look would represent my character and intelligence. That would have been about 30 years ago. It was a conversation with Robert Verdi, before he was famous back ... in the early days he started out as a jewelry designer. That conversation started me thinking about how to express the deeper parts of me on the surface.

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

I like to be organized, and definitive. I like deeper tones, I like to put outfits together, and wear them consistently, with only a few variations of accessories. I take care of my clothing because I typically buy it at a great price and I want it to last a long time. I like to think about things, let the creativity flow, and then execute them in an organized way.

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

Yes, shoes, jackets, underwear, shirts, pullovers... because the fit it good and the fabric is comfortable. I have deformity that I am able to hide, and if I find a cut or a fabric that helps hide it, I buy a lot of the item.

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

Yes, and typically I take it one step further and make it for them myself. I think it shows the depth of my affection when I do that.

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

Yes, mini skirts, because I don't like looking at knobby knees. jegging and strecht pants - because I don't want to see anyone's cellulite, and no one should look at/want to see mine. Cardies that tie in front of the stomach, I don't think that are of the body should have attention drawn to it, even if it's flat. Skinny jeans with pockets on the butt, why make it look bigger than it already is,- -even if it's tiny. Stilettos - if I want to send a message that I'm open to sex, then I'll say it directly.

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

I know that I have both my mother's body and my grandmother's body. I knew as a young woman that my metabolism would slow down, and my thin shape would not last. I know what styles I should and should not wear based on how I watched my mother's and grandmother's bodies age, and it was easier for me to accept it as it happened. However, although I know what cuts suit me as I am aging, I will not wear poly blends, rayons, or those types of fabrics because they impress me as too "old - lady-ish" Instead I wear natural fabrics that I feel comfortable in - cottons, silks, wools, bamboo, linen. If I wear poly at all, it's a blend with one of these I mentioned.

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

I have not stolen, but I have adapted ideas that suit my body shape from two fashion-fabulous films, Downtown Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. I've modern-ed them up, but the influence is there if one pays attention. For instance, I've started wearing more lace and finer fabrics, but in a more current cut. I have borrowed looks that Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wore, and even now, when my body shape has changed, those looks still work.

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

Yes, that would have been in college. I was a complete college preppy - Talbots kind of dresser - when I was in high school. And then I felt that it both represented too much of a trophy-wife image, and a wealth-conscious image, and that pigeoned holed my personality. I learned how to sew, and started making my own clothes to help understand my body type better and to help myself get out of the preppy rut. It worked, but it was an evolution.

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

No, I think my style represents my character, my intellect and what I value is reflected in terms of comfort and accessories.

16. Please describe your body.

I am short waisted, so my arms ad legs are a little bit too long for my torso 0 like Katherine Hepburn. My pelvis is also mis-shapen, through genetic development, so tight clothing shows this off, and I generally don't wear them. It's better for me to wear proper fitted clothing. Peplum help out a lot.

17. Please describe your mind.

Analytical and creative. I know how to sew, bead, crochet, paint weave, quilt. I have a great sense of color, and also of how how items fit together. I know how an item of clothing should hang, and how to modify it so that it hangs properly too. I wanted to know how to do this myself, because I felt it was the complete process of knowing myself. I would like to learn leathercraft, so that i could make my own shoes and boots... but I don't know where to go to learn it.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I feel things deeply, and I am more reflective than people give me credit for. I take in a lot of information in about others before I make decisions about them. I observe, and re-observe and observe again. I like to feel happy, confident, and force myself to do thing that reinforce those emotions, like watching comediens or funny movies, or reading funny books. I think all the time, which can be exhausting, but to help quiet my mind, I have learned how to produce some of my thoughts into objects. That process is very satisfying, and I like the feeling of compliments, even envy, of friends or co-workers who admire it.

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

I have my hair short, but in a style I like because I don't like to spend too much time on my hair. It's a style that suits my overall fashion sensibility. I do not wear make-up. I have very even skin tone, and strong eyes, so I don't believe they need much enhancement. I am wearing a simple gold chain, diamond stud earnings in silver, a wedding ring & engagement ring and a ring with both a black and white pearl - all rings have both white gold and yellow gold. I am wearing a swatch "candy" watch - reminiscent of my childhood (Don't chew the plastic beads!!!!) jeans, a brown leather belt and a "life is good shirt" When I was at work today, i wore this and a men's blazer that my father work on his very first day of work as a full time professional. I even have his photo id from that day!I feel comfortable about myself.

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

It shows the world me in my natural state, which is actually a subtle , understated state. There are many people who misjudge me, but that it because they are not able to perceive subtlety and understated-ness. Oh well, too bad for them.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

Anyone. Everyone, family, strangers, co-workers, sales people. Anyone. People

I watch Tim Gunn regularly, even if it's repeats - and I talk to him about his choices and recommendations. I like to watch the BBC National Sewing Bee. Now i will re-watch Joan Rivers, and have imaginary conversations about what I am wearing.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I don't change the way i dress for an institution.

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

I have both, i think taste is inherently genetic and style must be nurtured. They are equally as important, and one without the other is obvious, and even sad

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

Yes. a blue suede dress that didn't fit properly.

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

No, I don't believe in that. I know enough and have enough skills to make it work and to be consistent about how it looks

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

Yes, my home, and work environment. I like casual comfortable elegance.

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, many times. job interviews, meeting with a hostile co-worker, going into a difficult meeting, getting fired - and knowing I knew it before they realized I knew.

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?

Yes, I know what I like in most areas of my life, and the challenge for me has been to get people to take me seriously about it, especially at a younger age.

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?

Yes, my mother and grandmother taught me how to care of them, and make some of them. My father taught me how to handle the reactions of men when they themselves didn't understand what was motivating them.

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

How I display my legs under a specific type of skirt or in a particular type of pant.

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?

That I am expressng myself in a comprehensible way to myself and I perceive others comprehending it in the way I intend

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?

My styly adpats to my moods, but is presented with subtlty to engage others to think about it, and me while we are in the same environment.

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

Harmony and lightness. blends of color and texture that make me feel joyful and wanting to share in return

34. What do you consider very ugly?

slovenliness, sloth, self-absorption

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?

Yes, I am. and I have evolved to this stage over time.

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

What mood I am in, do I want to keep it going forward or do i want to change, how much I want to fit into or not fit into my environment, how harmonious I feel with others and the world.

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

To communicate that I am intelligent, capable, confident, and articulate.... and that it would be a mistake to underestimate me.

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

dressing up means an event. dressing means looking presentable by my standards to the environment where I am.

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

It would change from day to day to suit my mood and environment.

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

I am completely a comfort creature person. I want to be warm in the winter - for example, I look like a male lion with a huge mane and coat - while I'm keeping warm. In the summer, I will cut my hair short, so that my scalp is not sweating.

What is not me - dressing like I am 25 younger than my age. Bikinis are not me either - never were even when I had a body to envy.

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

I have an appreciation for color and shapes that many americans do not.

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 haven't had a radical change in dressing style, but back in high school/college I did wear a lot of plaid pants. It was about showing off wealth and intellectual snobbery and it turned out that's not what I want to show or be.

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

The thing is, even when I dress casual, I feel professional. I wear something that is cohesive and comfortable.

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

There was only one place where I worked that had a business oriented dress code. Then one day, it changed to business casual. I didn't like it. I no longer work there, for many reasons - but when the dress code changed, I truly felt that the environment was phony because the behavior didn't match. That leader didn't get me - and I feel disdain towards him.

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


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

I rebel, by wearing what I feel comfortable in, but is also practical for the activity.

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?

jeans, a white shirt and a jacket, low heeled slip-ons or boots with a watch, some jewelry at the wrist and ears, and a ring. It's intereting to feel the reaction from men and women of different cultures. It causes a reaction.

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?

Never! When I wear men's clothing, I wear it like a woman.

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

Now, because it is acceptable to be current and retro and both.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

I probably am photogenic in the right light.

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

Most of the time I think that the light doesn't show my face well, but the rest of me looks good, and sometimes I wish I had the clothes in my current size, because I miss them.

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

Yes, Cleopatra, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, the georgian era, the Gibson girl, roaring twenties, the 50s in America

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

Yes, many. And me sewing some of them.

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

Slut. Hooker. Wouldn't be able to do it.

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?

I would have just a few more tight fitting things in my closet

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

I want to repel self-absorbed people, but it doesn't seem to work.

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

Yes, don't think showing cellulite is attractive; it's not.

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

I don't like it, I'm allergic. I prefer people who smell good, but natural. I like dusky scents

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

CLEAN! The must be clean and in good repair. They must smell neutral - no BO but also not perfumed.

I like my skin to feel smooth. And I'm dieting/exercising to stay at this weight.

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

It doesn't unless I'm going out at night for a special occasion, and then it's only to accent my eyes in a different way.

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?

I don't wear what's expected of me. And I think that you'd be surprised how modest I dress, but I look good. Men still respond - which can be flattering sometimes, but I'm not looking for that. Women still react, and I'm always disappointed when the reaction is jealousy.

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

jeans, khakis, pant suits, dress suits, dresses, shorts, skirts to the knee and longer, jackets, coats, hats, scarves, shoes, slip ons, heels, boots, sneakers

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

a nic+zoe jacket called midnight bloom. All my jewelry whether costume or genuine all of it is my favorite.

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?

A velvet dress from when I worked at Bonwit Teller I paid about $30 for it, it looked lovely on me at the time, and I hope my daughter will wear it. It's a fabulous quality velvet. My father's wool fisherman's coat - it's too small for the both of us, but I remember snowball fights in the that coat.

67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?

the items that I knew I would get a lot of wear out of if I cared for them properly.

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?

A navy double breasted suit with the designers logo in gold on the breast pocket. It became too small and it would be waste not to see someone else wear it but I loved the quality of the fabric, and how it made me feel when I wore it.

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?


70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

I would repeat it. I like what I own and what I wear.

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

Pearl necklace, yes I still own it and yes I still wear it.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?

Yes, a winter white Donna Karan winter coat that I bought junior year of college. That was the turning point for my style.

73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

A rain hat that coordinates with my beige trench coat. I may have to make it for myself.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

Yes neat, color coordinated, grouped by season.

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

Many times, and if they become too small, I would give them away after praying over them in the hopes that the next woman would have happiness and safety.

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?

Yes, my navy brooks brothers jacket - it's so handy when I'm too rushed to think about what I will wear. It dress up and down very well. And shockingly, I paid full price - which is something I rarely do.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

online if I know the designer cuts a true size. In person when I need something for a special occasion. I shops in expensive boutiques and in second hand shops, and in the mall.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Yes, clean, and a little dusky.

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

I don't have a particular ambition for myself. Rather, I am striving to always be consistent in presenting myself, communicating about myself and being myself.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I like to spend as little as possible on well made clothes from quality natural fabrics. I like a good bargain and telling people about it.

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

My wallet. It's coach with a leather strap that I can buckle onto a belt loop or my purse so I don't lose it. And people comment on it all them time.

82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

My husband, but I can't remember because it's been incorporated into my psyche and presentation.

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?

3 years old. At my pre-school graduation I was wearing a yellow polyester dress with white embroidery and a sash. I felt like a butterfly when the sash became undone and still feel that way when I think of it. I still have the dress.

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

1967 I was born and live in NJ

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

I am middleclass, well educated and of eastern european descent.

What kind of work do you do?


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

Married, with kids.

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

I have had tough moments, but over all a very very good life and I know that I am blessed with it. I am proud of my talent and creativity, and my acceptance that beauty is not perfection, but perfect satisfaction.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Some women will identify with me and others will not, but I accept that and respect all the women who share their thoughts about this.


I'm born and raised in NJ. I've traveled extensively and everywhere I've been I have bought clothing, fabric, yarn, notions or something to bring home with me that I can make clothing or accessories from. It took me a long time to express my voice in a way that people took notice and heard me. I have done that now for many years, and I am happy with the choices, even the painful ones, that have brought me to this moment. Clothing was always a part of my self-expression, which is rather subtle and understated but together. I have learned how to hide a deformity, and in so doing have learned about the rest of my body in the process. i am not ashamed of the deformity, but I also don't believe drawing attention to it serves any purpose. I am slowly teaching my daughter what my mother and grandmother taught me about clothing, cloth, yarns etc. so that she can express herself fully in her own way, not filtered through the vision of someone else.

I heard about this survey on NPR, and I am pleased that it is still live. I hope that this survey demonstrates the gravitas of clothing, and what it expresses about the wearer. I am pleased to be a part of it.

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