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1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
While teaching (work). I wear my best clothes during this time. My husband doesn’t care what I wear at home or out and about, and we are very happy and in love with our and each other’s bodies. If the clothes I wear to work are expensive, I feel badly, but if they are unique and inexpensive, I feel good. Again, patterns and colors help with this. Also, shopping at a resale store means what I am buying is not “in style” at other stores, meaning that I’m almost guaranteed not to see someone else wearing it.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
Women who can wear heels every day and walk well in them blow my mind. Heels look authoritative to me. It’s both the loud sound that says, “I’m coming!” and the fact that we all know heels are not comfortable all day, yet someone is standing up for hours in those heels to teach American History or whatever. I don’t really feel the same about these crazy heels I see younger women (and even teenagers) wearing. I think they come from the website justfab.com or stores in the mall. Those shoes look unique, but also a bit desperate, dangerous, and, at times, trashy.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Always wear two sports bras when there is a chance of being sweaty. Again, I’m heavier, and I also have a size 44D chest. Never wear pants that taper. According to What Not to Wear, pants that taper means there is obviously one part of the pant that is the smallest (at the ankle) and one part that is the biggest (this becomes your butt or thighs). Straight leg pants that have the ankle and the knee match in width diminishes the effect of one part of the body being bigger.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Really, watching What Not to Wear is helpful. Even though the show is sold to audiences with two dramatic leads, they really do have logical suggestions that I wouldn’t think of, like ankle width matching knee width and large-busted women not having a button-up blazer that only goes to under her breasts (large breasts look droopy with the button only goes to under her breasts).
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
No. If I’m not wearing something vibrant or unique, I’m often not happy, though this may not apply out of work.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
One time when I was 20 a drunk friend gave me some of her clothes. At the time, I wore a lot of stuff she hated--she thought she was super fashionable and bought a lot of new clothes with most of her paycheck--so she, in a drunken state, gave me some tops. Later, she demanded them back, so I put them on a dog, took pictures, then gave them back.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Mostly in high school, though I guess that’s true of everyone. I had a female friend who convinced me that we should wear her brother’s huuuuuge pants around 2002. I wore a lot of Metallica shirts in 1999, and though that was my personal choice, it didn’t hurt that handsome metal boys were into it too. Being really, really poor in 2008 meant my style choices were limited. When I was teaching, I wore the same pair of black stretchy pants every time.
16. Please describe your body.
5 feet 4 inches. 240 pounds. 44D bra size. Sweet caboose.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
Brown platform sandals, a light grey “sweat skirt” that has shorts underneath, an orange “boho” blouse with magenta and white flower pattern, light grey zip-up sweater with hood, glasses, no jewelry at all, top of hair pulled back in a barrett. During the summer I work in a fitness center (just making sure everyone swipes in) and there are rules about how to dress: no flip flops, no jeans/jean shorts, no tee shirts or shirts with something printed on them (these are the rules that affect me most).
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
I miss that teenage Metallica person I once was. No one would guess my musical tastes based on my clothes, although this may be true of all adults.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
Because I already own clothes that I like, I have no process. Anything I wear will make me happy.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
Mostly, a sense of authority over any challenge that comes my way. I don’t want my clothes to become a reason, even a subconscious one, for people treating me like I’m stupid. I am a plus-size woman, and I’ve noticed that many plus-size women feel hopeless and dress in loose-fitting clothing to cover what they feel ashamed of. However, wearing clothes that don’t hide the body, ones that fit, are colorful or have bright patterns, or have a “business tone” to them
can help with how the plus-size woman is treated and her attitude. So, I’m dressing for size and stereotypes about women who are larger, but I also have to dress for teaching college students. Most of the time the students are younger than me, but that’s not always the case. In addition, I’m 28, so my youngest students still aren’t that much younger than me. I have to look like I have authority and I desire to look a little older to command respect. This is another reason why I was so happy to get married. Having a ring as an accessory is also a sign of authority. It says, “Look at me; I’m old enough to get married, I have more experience than you, and I’m a grown up.” I’ve heard that the most mistreated teachers are women who are young and petite; though I’m not sure where I heard this, I do believe it’s the truth.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I am so “white bread” that I feel lost, culturally. I worry that when I dress in bright colors or paint my nails atypical colors (like blue or yellow) that I look like I’m trying to appear flashy or bright, like an African American woman. I don’t talk to anyone about this, and I might be stereotyping, but it is how I feel.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
Born May 5, 1985 in Mount Pleasant, MI. Current home: South Bend, IN
What kind of work do you do?
Adjunct instructor of composition, literature, and creative writing. I also organize virtual book tours for authors.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married, no kids.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
Clothes are a struggle without money. Money isn't always there, so a person has to improvise from time to time.
Melanie Page is an adjunct instructor and the creator of the site Grab the Lapels, where you can find reviews of and interviews with women.