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Leopoldine Core

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I feel attractive when I don’t have any zits and when I’m having a good hair day. Hair and skin are the top priorities for me. But I feel spectacular when I’m wearing a dress because I like the air on my legs and I can wear my boots with the little heel. If I wear a dress and have exposed legs, I like a big sweater on top, kind of hanging off me, like a Kurt Cobain sweater. I can also feel very attractive in jeans and sneakers and an old stained hoodie with no makeup. That feels very youthful, and I’m turned on by the idea of someone being drawn to the face I actually have, the clothes I actually own. If someone likes me all raggedy, I feel powerful, like I don’t need much, and that’s hot. Okay, I’m now realizing when I feel the most attractive. It’s when I’m wearing someone else’s well-chosen and wonderfully lived-in clothes. Like when I borrow a friend’s shirt or pants or shoes. I look in the mirror while wearing these clothes and think, “I would never have known to buy this.” And then I walk out into the world wearing whatever it is with a certain feeling—a sexy feeling.

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

I admire well-groomed women whose clothes are clean and fit them perfectly. Conversely, I admire women who rock a more feral look. I can’t decide which of these women I’d like to be. Clean or dirty? I pinball between the two.

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

I follow my mood and that can get me into trouble. I’ll arrive somewhere and suddenly feel like a slob. The thing is that I can’t get all tarted up if I feel depressed or lazy or if I’m too immersed in a creative project or a TV show. I wouldn’t recommend this personality or soul or whatever it is that chooses my clothes. I’m hopelessly inconsistent and weirdly vain. I’ll curl up with myself at home and think, “God, you’re gorgeous,” then at the party I’ll realize it really would have been a good idea to take a shower.

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

I think I’m a bird in a wind tunnel, and I’m working on it. I’m not as organized as I’d like, but my passions are deep and true and they move me to work really hard. I’m an intense little candle. If I love you it’s really like a light coming from the bottom of my soul and you have my full attention. Same with a poem or story. Then other parts of my life suffer. I’ll forget to pay Con Ed and suddenly it’s dark.

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

What I have a lot of is pajamas. Nightgowns are important to me, too, because I spend more time inside than out. Being in bed feels the most natural to me, I even write in bed. I grew up in a very cluttered apartment. The only uncluttered place was my bed, so I learned to do everything there. I have many flannel pajama bottoms and many large sleep shirts, which are just oversized T-shirts that are soft from being washed so many times. I also call these shirts “eating shirts” because it doesn’t matter if you spill, they are already so stained. I think I keep collecting these things because I like being naked but not totally naked. I like for there to be a loose wall between me and the world. I can’t wear regular clothes while I’m home. It doesn’t matter what time it is, when I get home I immediately strip down and put on pajamas or just underwear and a robe. I find regular clothes really restricting. I can’t really relax until I’m wearing something loose and crawling into bed.

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

My mom is kind of a tomboy. Lesbians often think she is one and flirt with her, which she likes. She has a very different body than I do—short and strong like a pony. And she looks good with short hair (I do not).
Growing up, I loved picking through all her old clothes from the 60s and 70s—my two favorite decades style-wise. But I never dressed much like my mother. What she instilled in me was an attitude—a kind of self-love with regard to style. I’m only realizing this now as I write this. She never forced me to change if I dressed sexily. There were no rules about makeup or skirt length or gender or looking any sort of way. I guess she wasn’t threatened by my sexuality. It moves me to realize this. What a gift.

16. Please describe your body.

Recently a man on the street said my legs were both chubby and skinny. “Like baby doll legs,” he said and it bothered me a little but I also thought: “God you’re exactly right.” My boyfriend said something similar, that I was thin but with certain chubby parts. “I like it,” he said and I beamed—liking it too.

I have small shoulders. I have a long neck and torso. My legs are quite short by comparison and I remember feeling they were ugly. As a teenager I felt certain they were ugly and now that makes me laugh. I’ve changed my mind.

17. Please describe your mind.

I think of my mind as an uneven place. On the one hand I’m very distracted and also feel interested in that distraction—that it has something to tell me. The other part of me is a scholar—I study. When I watch my boyfriend sleep I am a scholar. When I buy socks I am a scholar. Riding the train—scholar. I’m endlessly studying. I know a lot and yet there are things—like giant chapters of common knowledge—that just won’t stick. Whenever I’m at a bad party and forced to play Trivial Pursuit, it is revealed that I don’t know what other people know. And yet I’m smart. I think my intelligence centers around ontology—modes of being. I’m endlessly interested in who people are and the manner in which they are that varied trembling thing. Also I care. It’s not just fascination—I love people.

I’m also very literal-minded so I take people to mean what they say. I hear the words and linger in their meaning. It can be stressful because language is so limited—failing you all the time. I think poetry pushes me out of that frozen sadness. I need poetry to live maybe. The failure of language is still there—always will be—but in a poem I feel some opportunity to enjoy it. Maybe failure is the medium in poetry—a dead end that opens into other galaxies.

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

Shu Uemura oil on my hair and coconut Skin Trip lotion on my body. Then I put aloe gel on my face to calm the pinkness. I’m wearing an illuminating concealer under my eyes, some mascara and blush. I also use a Chanel eyebrow pencil to shape and define. Some days, I won’t wear any makeup at all.

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

I hate when people say they don’t care about clothes, because it’s a lie. It’s like when writers say they don’t care about plot. Lie. We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, to be fucked, to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I’m poor, I love myself. It’s the quiet poem in the waiting room, on the subway, in the movie of our lives. It’s a big fucking deal.

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

When I think of taste, I think of the home. People with great taste have the right furniture, that kind of thing. It seems like a whole religion. “Style” feels looser to me, and sexier. I think of partial strangers saying this: “You have such great style!” It’s the thing we say about the traveling circus that is our bodies. I love for people to look at how I move through the world and think, “Wow.”

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?

When I feel too exposed, I put on a loose button-up sweater and instantly relax. My skin is pinkish, and color floods to the surface if I’m having a feeling. It’s like looking right into my thoughts, and that can make me nervous. Frequently at an event I’ll cover my naked arms.

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

Some days I want to be invisible. Other days I want to look interesting and pretty and like an animal. Looking unraveled but not too unraveled feels sexy and smart. It’s part of being a writer. I like looking like someone who was probably lying around with her thoughts for a while and then took a shower and groomed herself a little.

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

Dressing is just finding something comfortable and leaving the house. Dressing up is a more strenuous journey. It means rubbing scented oils into my frizzy hair and putting on some makeup. It means wearing a dress and my little clog boots and some sheer black stockings (Wolford are the best).

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

I grew up in the East Village in the ’90s. It was a dirty, stylish time. The goal was always to stand out and look different, not to aspire to be one kind of woman. Punk felt right. When I was young and pretty, there was a part of me that wanted to destroy that image. I was realizing that the corridor of women is all YES and I wanted to say NOOO. But I also wanted certain boys to want to fuck me, so it got confusing. I wore a lot of eyeliner and hoped to be ravaged.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

No. I think I look moonfaced and shadowy in photographs. Ghoulish and sad, like someone who works in a factory. The truth is that I panic when someone whips out a camera. And of course I try to suppress that horrible ringing feeling but I can’t. It’s the face of fear that represents me in most photographs. I think I’m beautiful in action, so that loss of my animation has always been deeply unflattering.

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

Don’t buy anything to prove yourself to a sneering salesperson in a fancy store. In upscale stores I’ve so often felt judged to the point of purchasing clothes I didn’t truly want or need. I did this to prove I wasn’t poor or a thief (even though I am poor and used to be a thief). Sometimes that devil head is my own and it’s telling me I need a $300 sweater. But I don’t. That said, I think it’s important to get a few really nice, sometimes pricey items. I have these Swedish clog boots that were sort of expensive but I adore them and wear them everywhere. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to buy a lot of crap, like thirty things off a sale rack rather than a few beautiful items. I think it’s our demented way of getting to feel rich, buying tons of cheap little junky dresses. It feels so much saner to have a lean wardrobe you dig

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

Shaving my armpits is important. It feels so good to get clean and smooth there. I need to wash my face and clean my teeth. I always floss. My shirt should be clean because a dirty shirt is a stinky shirt.

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 wish women would stop fetishizing notions of perfection. Look at American Vogue—it’s so safe. We are ashamed of our excess and that is the
saddest thing in the world. It’s why women keep getting nose jobs. They take the most beautiful thing about themselves and lop it off so they look like everyone else. In fashion it’s the same. Anyone who gets an outfit perfectly right turns me off. Or I don’t even notice them. It’s “offness” that is key in fashion, I think. On a more specific note, I find the “It Bag” repulsive. Often I’ll see one swinging on the arm of a wealthy woman in a tracksuit—it’s a charmless staple of female wealth. And think about what a purse really is: an externalized pussy or womb. So to have the “right” one and the most expensive one—that sends a chill up my body. Taste is a
wink, not a thud.

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

A pair of $200 shoes for my high school graduation. They were black with ribbons that tied up my legs, and my toes spilled out the front. They were a mistake, but at the time I was proud of how expensive they were.


Leopoldine Core is a writer. She lives in Manhattan.

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