Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When Prince is playing and the dance floor is just getting going.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I always fall for the gamines--the Audrey Hepburns. Maybe it’s because they’ve got something very different than what I’ve got. I’ve tried to imitate their style—my pixie cut turned into a bowl cut, and I felt like a gym teacher. Their complete lack of body fat concerns me. I don’t like that I envy that, but I will admit that I sometimes do.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I admire those women who really have their shit together - the women who iron their clothes and flat iron their hair. Basically, anyone who does any ironing of any kind.
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 grew up in a Northern California surf town, and everyone constantly looked like they were about to go swimming—Uggs and lowrise yoga pants. I don’t surf, but I tried really hard to look like I did. I wasn’t very good at this masquerade, but I kept it up until college. At art school in New York, clothes were suddenly allowed to become the centerpiece. It wasn’t about utilitarian sportswear. I also didn’t have to chase the right surf labels anymore (O'Neill and Roxy). My new college friends shopped for cheap at thrift stores. We’d take ferry trips to Staten Island and go to Everything Goes. I liked that you had to hunt for something stylish, reclaiming past styles. I thought I looked great in a newsboy hat and Goodwill trench. The trench didn’t fit me. It took a while for the hodge podge to look like style rather than an accident.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
In chaotic thrift stores, I like to follow someone stylish around the store and see if they put something back, then I grab their castoff and try it on.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
The more contrasting patterns the better. Throw on a striped shirt with polka dot pants, and when you look like a used car salesman, you're doing it right. I'm fascinated with contrasts - a girly party dress combined with sneakers or motorcycle boots.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
I have more cardigans than anyone else in Southern California. A good cardigan is like a little portable home—the couch of apparel. It’s comfort that you can’t often buy. I also standby my well-made leather shoes (my Frye boots and Dansko clogs). They stay with you like faithful pets—every year you can have them cobbled and start fresh. Just like cats.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Having grown up in the epicenter of Hippie, Birkenstocks do not amuse me. They strongly represent anti-fashion, which is probably why they're popular. Still at the very sight of them I have patchouli flashbacks.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother and I have very similar faces but completely opposite coloring. She looks Italian and I look like Ron Weasley. So we notice our differences more than our similarities. She's always said my legs are prettier than hers, which is a nice compliment, but I never thought her legs were ugly to begin with.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
I have a feeling I'm in the midst of an evolution. I turn thirty in a year, and suddenly baby doll dresses feel ridiculous. I want to dress like a woman for the first time in my life. Of course, that brings up the question, what does a woman dress like? I'm still trying to answer that.
16. Please describe your body.
Naked I look like a Renaissance painting - pale with a nice little stomach pouch.
17. Please describe your mind.
My mind works overtime. She's focused, relentless and occasionally fanciful.
18. Please describe your emotions.
My emotions have a flair for the dramatic.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I’m wearing plaid, high-waisted grandfather shorts and a striped V-neck T. No makeup. My hair is out and about on its own.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
I talk to my mother about clothes. I'll call her up while I'm in the store and describe something I'm thinking of buying. Or I'll take a picture of a dress and send it to my father's cell, so that he can show it to her (she can never find her cell phone). Her approval is very important, particularly while I'm trying to make a decision. As I try to grow myself up, I'm not sure I want to always run to my mother.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
I bought a pair of spiked Sam Edelman heels. The heels are literally covered in metal spikes, and since I bought a size too big on sale, they don't really fit me. So as I hobble in them, trying to keep them on my feet, I often scrape the tops of my feet, sometimes drawing blood. But I look really stylish. Everyone says so.
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?
In high school I had a pair of “test-taking” shoes. They were Oxfords made of gray flannel, and I liked to look at them while I studied. Then in the morning, I’d ceremonially put them on, tying the laces tightly. I wore them with black clam diggers. I looked like a pilgrim, and the puritanical severity made me feel ready to face the test. The look also got me teased, but honestly I probably loved the attention. I embraced my catch phrase in high school, “I don’t get out much.”
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 mom is a painter, and she definitely dressed me differently than the other kids. There were no jeans throughout all of elementary school. Instead I remember playing kickball in a blue romper, with a sort of illuminated manuscript floral pattern and puffed sleeves, which I loved. If only there was a video of that outfit puffing around the bases, past the jeans and T’s. Eventually, of course, I demanded my own pair of jeans in those teen years where you just want to look like everyone else. Now, that I’ve come out the other side of that, I’m back to puffed-sleeve rompers.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Bed head and smoky eyeliner makes me feel like my evil twin. It’s a cliché, but I feel like she might be mistaken for owning a motorcycle and or drinking whiskey. It’s enough to loosen me up in all the right ways…
34. What do you consider very ugly?
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?
No, I have no idea.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
Cardigan, dress, moccasins. It’s garage sale chic. I hope.
48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
I've always wanted a uniform. In high school I was Vice President of the Student Council, and I tried to pass uniform legislation, forcing everyone to adhere to my plaid and tie dreams. I was met with disgust and speeches about freedom of expression, like I was trying to infringe upon their constitutional rights. I just loved the way school uniforms look, so rather than trying to abuse my position of power, I backed off and started wearing one on my own.
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?
Freshman year of high school I mistakenly thought that if I dressed like the boys I found attractive, they would realize how much we had in common and fall in love with me. I wore a lot of denim vests. This is not a successful mode of seduction.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
Give me a Jane Austen empire-waisted dress any day. So elegant, and according to the movies I’ve seen and books I've read, guaranteed to make you witty.
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’d probably head right to a crop top. I’d wear tighter clothes, clothes that didn’t hide anything. If I completely approved of my body, I’d want to share it more. But this spandex-clad girl isn’t really me. I don’t want to wear tube tops to the office. I like to think I’d dress like I do now, but I’d carry myself differently. I’d walk with my shoulders relaxed and back, my neck gracefully elongated. This version of me is so proud and content. I’m uncomfortable recognizing how happy my physically improved self seems. I don’t want to believe that’s the key to self-acceptance. How do I become comfortable with my body and myself if I don’t look exactly the way I want? At least I know what to wear when this question is troubling me—baggy sweats.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
Perfume is great when you don't have time to shower.
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?
I miss the clothes I played dress up with as a child. I’ve searched my parents’ shed, but I can’t find them. We used to keep them in an old trunk, and if I found it, I imagine it would emit a holy pink light (if you give your child sequins and feathers, her imagination will tend towards the dramatic). But at age six, in a ruffled skirt and magenta leotard, I imagined the woman I wanted to become. It’s also in this outfit that I ran away from home, leaving the note, “I’ve run away to become a ‘motul.’” Although I only got to the gas station at the end of the street, those clothes were their own escape. I’ve reined in my glamorous fantasies a little, but it’s no wonder I still miss my first tool box.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
An oversized wool cardigan, hopefully one that would cover my bottom.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
I would not buy H&M, Zara and Forever 21. Instead I’d buy the same clothes but made humanely. In this scenario I’m a much better person with a lot more money.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
With my first paycheck after college, I bought a leather clutch with studs on it that I thought was just what I needed in my life. I was certain that from that moment on, I no longer needed a big purse to carry everything around with me, because obviously adults never carry anything with them. It was expensive and broke within the first week. I got it fixed. That seemed like the responsible thing to do, and yes, I still wear it for special, lipstick-carrying-only occasions.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
I shop for clothes when things change in my life, when I'm trying to reshape who I want to be. Get a new job, better go shopping. Lose a job, better go shopping. Fall in love, better go shopping. Get your heartbroken, better go shopping. It's a cycle that wouldn't be sustainable except you don't always buy the clothes. Sometimes you just look at them and think about what it would feel like to wear them, to be that person. It's that process of imagining that's addictive.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
I carry Burts Bees chapstick with me at all times. So does my mom. We treat it like it can soothe any malady.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
As a “ginger,” my head’s always been commented on. We lived in Italy for a year when I was four, and the old ladies would follow me around shouting “Capelli stupendi.” It’s a great feeling starting out life knowing that you have stupendous hair. I also felt identified as a separate tribe. I found guidance from Lucille Ball and Anne of Green Gables, and those ladies weren’t afraid to be different or attention grabbing. So naturally, I now wear neon.
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?
I remember screaming “Heart Shirt and Green Pants!” If I didn’t have my outfit, my turtle neck with a heart print and mint green sweat pants, I threw a tantrum. Because how did my parents expect me to be me without them? It’s as if I was a cartoon character, defined by one outfit. I wish I could say that I’ve grown and changed my relationship with clothes, but I still rotate familiar outfits. It’s safer, guaranteed comfort, and no one notices—except for my mother. She’ll smile and say, “Nice heart shirt and green pants.”
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I'm a Leo, born in Rhode Island, raised in Santa Cruz, California, and now I've betrayed Norcal and live in Los Angeles.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
Middle class white with freckles.
What kind of work do you do?
At night I write screenplays, and by day I work behind the scenes at a movie studio.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
Writing about clothes and my body makes me feel silly. I unconsciously expect smart women to be above focusing on their physical appearance, even though I know we most definitely do. I find this is true with many of my girlfriends—besides the odd shoe compliment, we don’t talk that much about our style. Maybe this is because it’s hard to find the language for talking about style, without it sounding like magazines or commercials.
Camille Campbell is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. She's been published on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and DailyWorth. Her viral short, The Hipster Games, was featured on Vulture, Jezebel and Yahoo.