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Nicole Larson

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I'm in good physical condition (toned, not much flab, etc.) and have good to high energy. I tend to feel better about what I wear then, too.

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

Sometimes. The ones whose appearance makes them stand out, positively or negatively. The ones I admire wear hairstyles and clothing that suits their physique. If it's someone I know and her hair and clothing suit both her physique and her personality, I express appreciation for that. Otherwise, I will compliment her appearance.

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

1. Physical fitness
2. Hairstyles that complement facial features and the shape of the face, as well as the hair's texture
3. Clothes that suit the physical form and the personality of the wearer
4. Women who are comfortable with/as themselves

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 thought I understood what I should wear when, during high school or college, I found out which set of colors worked for me. I learned over the past 2-3 years that my "style" is actually "comfortable business casual" in shapes and colors that suit my body and complexion. I'm not sure exactly when I figured that out, but it helps me focus on those items and not waste time on things I'm not likely to wear much, if at all.

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

Before I buy anything, I ask myself:

1. Do I really like this?
2. Do I already have at least one of this that currently fits me?
3. Do I know where it is/they are?
4. Does my husband like this on me?

Only after all these are "yeses" does anything else enter the picture!

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

1. Thoroughly adjust undergarments to make the best presentation
2. Carefully layer the bottom piece with the top or tops
3. Make sure the colors and textures work well together

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

I don't really remember any...

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

Somewhat. I am a biblical Christian, and this is the core of who I am and what I do. Some of these areas are working better for me than others, but that is my guiding principle.

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

I have a lot of turtlenecks, basic T-shirts, jeans, and plain khakis (black, grey or navy). These are staples for me, and they work well for work and/or general use.

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

My husband's wedding band, and lingerie for a friend's wedding shower. Both were big hits!

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

Sheer clothing worn over bare skin. I am pretty modest.

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

At least most of the women in my mother's family, including me, generally look(ed) alike. My mother had a very classic style, which I basically copied for part of my life, but I have adapted that to suit my work and activities.

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

My mother always liked short jackets. I tend to look for them also.

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

College! I basically threw off everything from pre-college and didn't pay much attention to anything, including my clothes. The only thing I focused on was building and maintaining relationships with other people. I have continued that focus, but I am also taking care of myself, living a much more disciplined life, etc.

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

Not unless you consider environmentally conscious clothing political!

16. Please describe your body.

5'3.75", somewhat muscular, but a bit flabby. At my best, I wear size M on top and size 8 jeans. I currently wear sizes L and 10 or 34.

17. Please describe your mind.

Very intelligent, creative, people-oriented

18. Please describe your emotions.

They vary frequently. I am generally positive, but I sometimes get angry or upset if I run into something I consider wrong or can't easily resolve.

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

I am in a flannel nightgown. My hair is short and combed back from my face, as usual.

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

It's part of what makes me, me!

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My husband and one or two woman friends

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

They don't!

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

I have both, but I'm not sure either is more important. Taste is a sense of what works together, propriety, etc. Style is harder to explain--it's what a person puts together and how they put those things together to decorate a home, clothe a person, design a workspace, etc.

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

Someone convinced me to buy an expensive (trendy) dress that did not suit me. Fortunately, I was able to return the dress the next day!

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

Pulling in my stomach makes almost everything look better!

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

My home!

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?

Job interviews, etc.

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 usually do, yes. Over 50 years of experience helps a lot!

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 grandmother had been a seamstress; my mother showed me the differences between well-made and other clothing, and she also taught me how to launder, store, and otherwise care for different materials.

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

Since that's just for my husband, I change into silky, lacy lingerie.

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?

Comfort is ease and/or satisfaction with oneself and/or one's environment. When I say I am comfortable in my clothes, I mean that they look nice and conform well to my shape.

Confidence is the knowledge that one is able to handle a situation or makes a positive impression. In the past, I often lacked confidence, but I have learned that I have a lot to offer in a variety of settings.

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?

I would say that personal style depends on what one likes and doesn't like and, in conjunction with that, what looks good on one's body. For example, I love Aran-patterned knits, but a dress of typical "fisherman" style would not work for me: I am short, a bit plump, and knits show "bulges." On the other hand, a fisherman sweater would be fine.

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

* Nature
* Children's laughter
* Most music
* Flower gardens
* Seeing the Bible in practice in daily life

34. What do you consider very ugly?

* Abuse
* War
* Destruction (including environmental, particularly when caused by human agents)

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?

It took me a number of years, but I am pretty good at judging this by now. Almost everything I buy is used frequently.

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?

What I look for is not a different persona, but whether what I am wearing accentuates the real "me" in a positive way. If you had asked me this question when I was a teenager or in college, I would have answered quite differently.

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

I put on my underthings, then socks or nylons if I need them, then my skirt or pants, and then the top(s). I consider what I will be doing that day, the weather, and if I will be doing several types of things, where and whether I can change into something appropriate for each activity. If that is not possible, I may postpone one or more things.

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

A positive impression without discomfort

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

Dressing is pretty much everyday. Dressing up is for "special occasions," like a party or a theater performance.

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

Dark pants or skirt with a light or bright top

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

"Me" includes the following:

* Clothes--usually jeans or khakis, sometimes a skirt, with either a blouse or a sweater; I sometimes also wear dresses. For dress-up, I will use "fancier" fabrics and styles.
* Books--fiction, especially fantasy, sci-fi, some mysteries, and the classics; I also read career-related books
* Magazines--information (Consumer Reports, health, etc.), decorating, crafts, etc.
* Activities--Zumba, dancing, walks, enjoying nature, knitting, modeling clay, etc.

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

I am a first-generation American. My parents were from Austria. I have a few traditional Austrian pieces in my wardrobe, but I don't wear them very often other than during "free time." I appreciate other cultures, though, and have incorporated some items from different places into my wardrobe. One example is a pair of Chinese pajamas. Another is a traditional shirt from Morocco.

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, I dressed mostly "preppy." I went to a college-prep school, and at that time, preppy was "in." I was quite obsessed with following the trends my classmates wore as a teenager. Now, I know what works for me and only follow trends in accessories, if they work with my general style.

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

I prepare my outfit the day before and make sure it fits well, isn't wrinkled, and sets me off to best advantage. My goal is to make clients/customers feel comfortable with me.

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

A lot of people think they have to wear suits. While I have a few options in that area, I prefer not to appear what I call "stuffy."

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

No, but for Zumba, I wear Zumba pants I bought online and the T-shirt from my instructor's studio.

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

I don't currently participate in anything that requires an actual uniform.

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

In some ways, it makes getting dressed easier, but it's also rather restrictive. I once worked at a store where we had a uniform (store shirt, black pants or skirt, black shoes), and I would get tired of wearing that same shirt all the time.

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?

A turtleneck and a pair of jeans. Easy to put together, comfortable, looks good!

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?

No. The only thing I wish women had that men have is a much easier and body-fitting selection of clothes and shoes.

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

That's a tough one! I have "played in" the Elizabethan era for a number of summers, but I would not want to wear those styles 100% of the time. I sometimes incorporate pieces of that era into current outfits, but I'm most used to current American fashion. That sums up my answer: I incorporate items from other cultures and/or time periods, but I generally wear what I'm used to and what suits me.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

I have drooping eyelids. I often appear sleepy or have my eyes closed in pictures.

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

Audrey Hepburn. I love her style, and at least many of the types of things she wore would also work for me.

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

Not that I remember...

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

The full corset of the 1800s. That deformed women's bodies to such a degree that many died before they were 50.

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?

Similar things to what I wear now, but perhaps a bit more form-fitting.

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

My husband!

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

Don't wear something that isn't comfortable for you. Some women can wear 6-8" stilettos. Most of us can't.

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

It depends on the type. I like subtle, natural scents. I don't wear it often.

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

I make sure my tops don't show my bulges. That's about it.

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

I usually don't wear any, but if I do, I make sure it doesn't have any toxic materials or anything I can't easily identify.

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?

Can't think of any!

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

Several pairs of dark khakis
Several pairs of jeans
A few slim skirts
A few dresses
Numerous T-shirts, including boatnecks, regular T's in solid colors or with graphics or patterns, and longer-sleeved semi-fitted T's
3/4-sleeve blouses
Wool or wool-blend sweaters
Jewelry: A few precious stones, mostly semi-precious or costume jewelry, generally small but striking pieces

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

Favorite jewelry: my engagement ring and a necklace, both of which have emeralds. Emeralds are my birthstone, and I love the color.

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?

I have a reddish purple wool dress I haven't worn in several years, because it doesn't fit me at this point. I keep it because I plan to get back to size 8, at which point I will wear it again.

There is also a black evening gown/dance dress that I don't wear often, but it is a dress I enjoy wearing when I have the chance.

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 khakis, work-appropriate T's, and turtlenecks. They get a lot of use.

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 smocked sundress with small white flowers all over it. I had it in high school. I don't remember whether I outgrew it or whether it got damaged, but I loved that dress and would like to find a close replacement. I found a 50's retro sundress this summer that comes pretty close.

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

Only one? I'd want to keep an entire outfit! Probably a pair of black khakis and a blue or fuchsia turtleneck.

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

Make sure everything, starting with the underwear, fits properly and is streamlined, and put everything in its correct place so I can find it easily.

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

I made a green woolen cape, with my mom's help. It's still in my closet. I enjoy wearing it when the weather permits.

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

Important? My wedding dress!

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

A sundress to replace the one I remember from high school

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

I want to, but we have a lot of boxes blocking the intended storage areas in our bedroom. I want to get the bedroom cleared out before the end of the year.

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

Yes. My mother gave me a watch from my deceased grandmother's estate, and she also had a ring made from an old personal item.

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 remember!

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Either on a regular stop at Costco, or for an hour or two at Marshall's or TJMaxx. I rarely buy clothes anywhere else.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Just clean and fresh!

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

I want to be a community resource and to be a healthy and fit person. My clothes reflect that.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Most of my clothes don't cost very much. I don't want to spend more than $2-300 on clothes and shoes per year, and that's only if I have to replace several things.

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 have a favorite necklace. My sister-in-law made it. It is silver-toned with a heart, a ring, and a cross on it. It symbolizes my faith.

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

I was surprised when my husband told me he thinks I'm sexy...

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?

It happened several times in grade school. I grew up in a very snooty area, and people made fun of my clothes.

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

I am 51, born in Chicago, and I live in its suburbs.

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

My parents were from Austria. I am a first-generation American.

What kind of work do you do?

I educate consumers about insurance.

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

I am married. No kids.

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

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of conformity, although many rebelled at this. I only conform as far as it works for me. I know what I like and what suits me.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Some of this was hard to complete, but it was interesting. I learned a few things about myself!

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