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Cynthia Leslie

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I am wearing full makeup and am wearing shoes with heels at least two inches high

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

I live in a very rural area now, and many people here don't dress particularly well. However, I attend functions frequently at a university campus in this area, and when I'm there I enjoy seeing how students and faculty dress. I don't notice any particular sorts of women; rather, I enjoy seeing women wearing many different clothing styles.

When I lived in urban areas, I did notice well-dressed women on the street. Again, not particular sorts of women.

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

I tend to like to look at women who don't dress in ultra-feminine ways. Clothing, hair and makeup that make a woman appear strong and in control are more my style.

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?

I had waist-length hair from high school until I was in my early 40s; then I decided to have it cut short because I just thought I looked a little too mature for the long hair. Immediately after the short haircut, I was sorry I'd lost the long hair. However, after experimenting with several hair styles, I finally found one that suited me - that "clicked."

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

I don't buy anything with a V neckline.

I don't buy pastels.

I look for great clothing in consignment shops and second-hand shops.

I always buy jeans in consignment shops and second-hand shops.

I don't buy super-bulky sweaters (they make me look fat).

I don't buy short jackets (they make me look fat).

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

See #5.

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

I can't think of one.

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

I am rebuilding my life subsequent to my Divorce From Hell a few years ago, and sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed because I have way too much on my plate. When I start feeling this way, I force myself to focus on just a few tasks that an be done in the near future, as opposed to thinking about long-term goals and "the big picture." This tactic serves me well in many areas of life.

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

Yes. Black tank tops, black T-shirts, black sweaters, black undergarments, black shoes and boots.

Black is an important color in my wardrobe, as I like to coordinate my clothing with my glasses, which are black, and with my earrings and other jewelry, most of which are black.

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

Yes. My siblings and I gave my mother a "Mother's Ring" a number of years ago. It was a beautiful ring, and my mother wore it always.

Other than that, though, I have never given and will never give jewelry or clothing as gifts, because I don't presume to know what other people might or might not want to wear!

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

Oh, so many!

The long-sleeved shirts and sweaters with a loop for the thumb. I think it is/was a ridiculous fashion trend. (I do have ski clothing with thumb loops, but that is a different matter altogether.)

Equally ridiculous are the shirts and sweaters with sleeves so long they near cover your hands.

Very short skirts. I grew up in the 1960's and wore miniskirts then and into the 1970's but haven't worn really short skirts since then.

Pumps with very long toes. These were trendy a few years ago. I think they look silly, and I also think they are a safety hazard.

FiveFinger shoes.

Shirts and blouses with short, puffy sleeves.

Shirts and blouses that look like they could be maternity clothing but are worn by women who are not pregnant.

Jeans or shorts with waistlines so low your buttock crease is visible! A few days ago, while shopping, I saw a young woman dressed in jeans with a waistline that was way too low, and the sight of her was actually repulsive.

Body piercing other than ear piercing.

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

My mother tried to dress well and did so when she could afford it. I have never emulated my mother's style of dressing, though.

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


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

Yes. In the 1980's, when I abandoned my career in accounting for a career in IT, I abandoned my suits and high-heeled shoes with matching purses and started wearing jeans and boots and carrying a backpack.

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

Only one thing: I don't wear natural furs. I suppose some might consider this "political."

16. Please describe your body.

Five feet four inches tall. 145 pounds. Short brown hair in a spiky do. Black glasses.

17. Please describe your mind.

Intellectual. Rational. Logical. Curious.

18. Please describe your emotions.

All over the place.

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

Well, actually, I just got out of the shower and am wearing only a bathrobe. My short hair is done in a spiky style. I'm not wearing makeup.

When I get dressed today, though, I'll be wearing long underwear, old jeans, a tank top, a turtleneck, a flannel shirt, and heavy socks. That's how I dress these days, as I do IT work at home and I also spend considerable time on my farmland harvesting fruit, harvesting firewood, mowing fields and doing lots of other tasks that are physically demanding.

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

That's an interesting question. Clothing and fashion have always been important to me for several reasons: 1) because dressing well makes life more fun than it would otherwise be, 2) because dressing well gives me confidence, 3) because a well-dressed woman enjoys advantages sometimes not available to women who don't pay attention to fashion and clothing (e.g., employment opportunities, dating opportunities).

I've always had trouble understanding women who don't dress well and don't seem to have an interest in clothing and fashion.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

Female friends.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

There are no institution that have an effect on the way I dress.

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

Yes, I do think I have taste and style.

I guess taste is more important.

For me, the word "taste" connotes "class" whereas the word "style" refers to a manner of presenting oneself which might or might not be tasteful.

A person with taste has style, but a person with style might not have taste!

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

Once I bought a really expensive business suit that I wore only once or twice because, after buying it, I didn't think it flattered my figure. It was an impulse buy.

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

Yes. It's the oldest trick in the book - I certainly can't take credit for having invented it: When a woman wears high heels, it makes her look much slimmer than she would look without high heels.

Also - now that I'm a bit overweight, I don't tuck in shirts and blouses. (This is another old trick, of course.)

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

Yes. I'm currently building a house I designed myself, and I will be furnishing it tastefully (but in a somewhat rustic way).

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?

While I was going through the Divorce From Hell a few years ago, I gave considerable thought to the clothing I wore in court. I wanted to appear competent and together yet at the same time I didn't want to appear so strong and self-reliant that the judge would decide I didn't need much money in the divorce settlement!

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 definitely know what I like in the area of fashion and clothing. I also know what I like in all other areas of life except, perhaps, when it comes to serious relationships with men. My track record in this area is less than stellar.

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 parents always insisted my siblings and I dress in clean clothing. Other than that, my parents didn't impart much advice or information about clothing.

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

Nothing in particular, other than choosing colors and styles that are flattering to me.

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?

To me, a person who is comfortable or confident is a person who seems sure of her own actions and ideas in spite of what other people might think about them.

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?

Dress tastefully, and dress in a way that accentuates the positive things about your body and masks the negative things.

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

Nature - trees, plants water, animals.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Really fat people, and people with really bad teeth.

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?

There have been times in my life when I've bought clothing that ended up not being worn. Thinking back, I realize those articles of clothing were things I bought when I was sad or stressed and was using shopping as therapy. These days, I tend not to make such mistakes.

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'm a bit overweight (but have not always been). I have a full-length mirror in my house, and I think it might be a bit of a "trick mirror." I say this because when I look at myself in that mirror, I usually think I look okay - but when I'm out, in a mall or a shopping area, sometimes I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a store window, and I think I look heavy. So I'm actually not sure if other people see me as a fat person, or not.

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

Most days, I just throw on old jeans, a tank top, a flannel shirt and work boots - plus some additional layers in cold weather - and I'm good to go. As mentioned above, I work at home, and I spend a fair amount of time doing physical work on my farmland.

When I'm going out and want to dress up (this happens 2-3 times per month), I usually think about what I'm going to wear for at least a day or two in advance, so there are no big decisions to be made when I'm getting dressed to go out.

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

I want to look as young and slender and possible.

Also, I like an outfit that is "fun."

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

Everyday outfit is worn jeans, tank top, flannel shirt and work boots - plus additional clothing in cold weather.

Outfit for a casual social gathering is new-looking jeans or maybe a denim skirt, a nice sweater or top, shoes or boots with some kind of "flair," a denim jacket or other casual jacket, and my backpack (which is small, leather and plaid, and kind of looks like a purse).

Really "dressing up" would be something like a strappy black dress, shoes with very high heels, and a small purse. I almost never dress like this, though.

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

I've always liked the uniforms worn by the Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

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

In terms of fashion, I like a lot of black, and I like my clothing to be fun or unusual yet still tasteful.

I don't like pastels and I don't like super-feminine, puffy, frilly things.

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

Hetersexual white Angle Saxon Protestant lower-middle-class American female.

One reason clothing is important to me is that I've always striven to rise above my lower-middle-class upbringing, and dressing well is a way to facilitate that.

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?

In high school and college there were a lot of mini-skirts - sometimes pleated. Shoes were white sneakers or leather boots. There were a lot of kneesocks and sweaters.

A few years later, there were some sundresses and also a lot of knits.

Then, during my accounting career, I wore beautiful business suits with high-heeled shoes and matching purses. There were a lot of silk blouses.

In the 1980's I changed careers, moving from accounting to IT. I quit wearing business suits, started wearing jeans with boots, starting carrying a backpack.

With my current work-at-home/homesteading situation, I hesitate to even use the word "fashion" in connection with my everyday outfits - which, as I've said, usually consist of old jeans, tank tops, flannel shirts, and work boots.

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

I tend to dress just a tiny step "above" what is expected.

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

Not applicable to my situation, as I work at home.

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?

Not applicable.

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

I've only had to wear uniforms a couple times in my life. This was years ago, when I had moonlighting jobs at fast-food restaurants. The requirement to wear a uniform only added to the humiliation I was already feeling because unfortunate financial circumstances had forced me into that kind of work.

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?

Same old thing: jeans, tank top, flannel shirt, work boots.

Given my lifestyle, which includes a lot of physical labor, this outfit is perfect.

Also, the fact that I wear the flannel shirt kind of like a jacked (not buttoned, and not tucked in) makes me look more slender than I would look if I tucked the shirt into my jeans.

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?

I don't ever wish I were a man.

I do dress kind of like a man a lot of the time, though. In fact, many of my shirts and jackets and boots are men's shirts and jackets and boots.

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

I liked the fashion trends in the 1980's.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Not really.

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

Often I'm surprised at how good I look, because, as I stated in #52, I don't consider myself photogenic.

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

The "Elaine" character on the Seinfeld show. I always liked the way she dressed.

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

I don't think so.

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

Frilly and ultra-femme. I wouldn't attempt 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 tuck in my shirt and would wear belts, like I used to when I was slender.

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

Even though I've sworn I will never marry again and will not enter into a serious relationship with a man ever again, I confess that when I "dress up" I envision attracting a man.

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

Don't wear clothing that doesn't fit properly. Especially, don't wear clothing that is too small.

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

Years ago, I used to wear cologne or perfume all the time, but I no longer wear either. There are three reasons: 1) it seems to be out of fashion, 2) it's probably not healthy for me to be breathing the fragrance of a cologne or perfume all the time, 3) other people might not want to breathe the fragrance of my cologne or perfume.

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

I always shower immediately before going out socially.

I always wear full makeup when I go out socially.

I wear a lot of black, and I spend a fair amount of time removing lint from my black clothing, as I don't feel good about wearing something black if there is a lot of lint on it.

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

I don't wear much makeup - just eye shadow, eyeliner, and blush. I do feel that just this little bit of makeup improves my appearance quite a bit, and I really should wear this makeup all the time. However, I'm a busy person, and I go without makeup most days just because I don't want to take the time to apply it. I do wear this makeup, though, whenever I go out socially.

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'm over 60, and I suppose some people would expect me to dress like an "old person," in some sort of shapeless dress, with orthopedic shoes. I refuse. I have no interest it doing this. Plus, I look quite a bit younger than I am (lucky me!).

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

Lots of jeans.

Lots of flannel shirts.

Lots of black tank tops, T-shirts and sweaters.

Other tank tops, T-shirts and sweaters that are not black.

Some silk blouses and tops.

A couple vests.

A number of sweaters: lightweight ones for dress, plus heavy ones for sport.

Shoes: dress boots, work boots, sandals, and flip flops. Colors are mostly black and white, but some of the shoes are fun, bright colors like red and lime green.

Several skirts - most black. And, I have a denim skirt that I wear often, four seasons, as it coordinates with much of my other clothing.

Legwear: black panty hose, tights, and leggings. Also purple tights. Miscellaneous "dress socks," many of them black. Lots of white work socks.

Jackets and coats: A Bill Blass full-length coat/raincoat, a denim jacket, two Woolrich winter jackets with hoods, a down vest. Also, other miscellaneous jackets for working on farmland.

Undergarments: lots of black bras, plus other misc. undergarments.

Jewelry: Most of my jewelry is costume jewelry. Lots of it is black. My favorite earrings are an inexpensive pair of tiny black stud earrings made for a baby.

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

The denim skirt mentioned in #64.

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?

There is a lime-green summer suit (calf-length pants and a jacket) that I bought about 12 years ago and have never worn. I've gained some weight since buying this suit, and it doesn't fit me now, but I really like it and am hoping I'll lose enough weight at some point so I can wear it.

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?

Interestingly, most of my favorite pieces of clothing were bought for very little money: denim jacket bought at yard sale, denim skirt bought at thrift sale, favorite "dress jeans" bought at second-hand store.

Another favorite item is my Bill Blass full-length cold-weather coat/raincoat bought new about 12 years ago.

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?

Yes. I lost a lot of things in the Divorce From Hell, and one of them was my wedding dress. Even though I was divorcing my husband, I would have liked to have the dress, for sentimental reasons.

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

Bill Blass coat mentioned above.

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

I would refrain from buying sweaters that are so bulky they make me look fatter than I actually am.

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

Years ago I invested in a collection of very nice business suits. I don't own them or wear them anymore because my lifestyle has changed quite a bit.

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

Yes, but it was not an item of clothing or jewelry - it was a house.

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

A hoodedrain slicker that is shorter than full length but longer than jacket length.

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

I tend to keep things neat most of the time.

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

Yes. My mother gave me a ruby broach that I loved, and a cameo pin that I loved. Unfortunately I lost both in the Divorce From Hell.

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?

Not that I can recall.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I usually shop at yard sales, consignment shops and secondhand shops. Once in awhile I buy clothing in a retail store. Just a couple weeks ago I bought a knit shirt at Kmart. Prior to that purchase it had been a year or since since I had bought clothing in a retail store.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?


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

My standard outfit of jeans, flannel shirt and work boots is perfect for doing IT work at home and for doing outside work on my farmland. My current ambition is to improve the homestead I'm building on my farmland.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Years ago I spent A LOT of money on clothing - probably thousands of dollars a year. These days, I probably less than $200 per year on clothing, because I don't need upscale clothing the way I did years ago and also because my income these days is much lower than it was years ago.

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 LL Bean plaid-and-leather backpack/purse.

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

Not that I can recall.

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?

My first memory of discussion about clothing or feelings about clothing is a series of arguments I had with my mother when I was 6-7 years old. She liked for me to wear dresses, but, tomboy that I was, I always pushed for overalls.

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

I was born in Albany, NY, US in 1950. I now live in northern Maine in the US.

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

White Angle Saxon Protestant female, lower-middle-class upbringing.

What kind of work do you do?

I own and operate a small software company. I also work as a freelance writer occasionally. And, I deliver mail part-time for the U.S. Postal Service.

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

Divorced. No children.

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

I decided to fill out this survey after hearing your Sept. 18, 2014 CBC radio interview with Jian Ghomeshi.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Putting into writing my thoughts and feelings about clothing and fashion is something I had never done before. Filling out this survey has forced me to think about my clothing choices, etc. in ways I had not done prior to filling out the survey.

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