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Claire Z.

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I feel most attractive when I have time to prepare and someplace to go: time to do my laundry, time to pick an outfit, time to do my makeup and hair, and somewhere to get to after all of this so that I don't take *too* much time and over-analyze it all.

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

I notice women who seem at ease in their skin and wear bright, happy clothing that doesn't look like it came off a manikin at the mall. I enjoy seeing women who've put together a fun color palette.

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

Confidence, unconventionality, ease, looking put-together without being ostentatious, lack of overt status symbols, color, a sense of being more interested in what's around them than in 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?

Things started clicking when I was in my late teens and began to buy my own clothes. It felt good to make my own decisions and decide how to invest money in my appearance.

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

Avoid shopping at places that do a lot of advertising. Check out the junior's section before migrating to more expensive departments.

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

Go for understated hints of nerdiness. Justify intense accent colors by repeating them in a pair of socks. Favor rings on the pinky, pointer, and thumb.

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

I don't think I've had one.

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

I don't think I do.

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 cardigans and camisoles of the same cut, but in different colors. I buy them because they work for me and are easy to mix up. I also have a lot of scarves, even though it's usually too warm to wear them, because I favor colder weather and enjoy the color they add.

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

Yes! I feel good about earrings and pendants I've given my mom and best friend, and also about shirts that I've given my dad. All the items get a lot of use and enjoyment.

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

Yes; I avoid trends that don't work for my body type, are too obvious, or just look silly to me. I'm not a big fan of exaggerated silhouettes.

When ombré was a big thing, I refused to participate for a different reason: I couldn't stand the word "ombré." As a digital artist, I call the same thing a gradient. "Ombré" sounded pretentious to me, and I couldn't look at a piece of ombré clothing without feeling annoyed. This was a bit silly, as I didn't actually mind the look and might have bought it if it had been named differently.

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

My mom and I both have "ruler" shaped bodies, very straight up and down the sides. We both like bright colors and playful jewelry, but we favor different shapes and cuts in our wardrobes.

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

As a teenager, I admired my best friend's unusual blend of slightly funky and geeky style. She had a strong sense of graphic design, which inspired me to be more playful with my clothes years later.

I've "stolen" jewelry (with permission) from my mom, temporarily or permanently.

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

I don't think so... the changes have been gradual.

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

Possibly. I prefer to steer clear of traditional Western femininity, because it tends to make me feel timid and conservative. Instead, I lean toward clothes that are pretty but bold or slightly boyish. I feel that this allows me to define my gender on my own terms. I like the word "gamine."

16. Please describe your body.

Long and thin. Not a lot of curves or muscle. I need to strengthen my core.

17. Please describe your mind.

Creative, curious, focused, quick to understand, sees connections, finds imperfections, sometimes self-absorbed, sometimes hypochondriacal.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Sensitive, empathic, humorous, receptive, delighting in laughter, cautious of extremes, harder on myself than toward others.

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

Typical pajamas: a 15-year-old oversized t-shirt with an airplane on it and a pair of flannel shorts with owls on them. I don't give a flying hoot about matching pajamas.

My hair is slept-on and my face has traces of yesterday's makeup, which I was too tired to wash off before sleep.

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

The pajamas? They're important because they're comfortable and keep me from walking around the house naked.

The other things are important because I value having a style that shows my personality and artistic sensibilities. I think my clothes look more extroverted than I naturally am, which perhaps draws me out of my shell a bit.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My mom, when either of us wants an opinion; my friends, when we like each other's things; occasional strangers when exchanging compliments.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

The fashion industry obviously gets into my wardrobe, though probably in ways that I don't even perceive. I've often gravitated toward trends before they've been defined as trends. This worries me a little. How controlled are we?

Working in an office makes me want to look more put-together, though I stay away from looking formal.

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

I think I have some of both, but I'm not sure which is more important.

Taste is a grasp of aesthetic quality that affects what you choose to wear and how harmonious it is together. Style is the combination of shapes, colors, textures, and attitude, resulting in a composition that has a definite look and feel. In other words, taste is a matter of judgment, and style is a matter of design.

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

I've bought things online that haven't ended up fitting, and have neglected to return them. Oops.

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

If you're wearing a bright accent color that feels too random, echo it somewhere else in your outfit. The echo can be tiny, but it'll justify your choice.

Make friends with the color wheel. Enjoy complements and split complements and triadic color schemes and all that good stuff.

For more fun at the office, pair graphic tees with flowy layers and unusual but pretty jewelry.

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

I hope so... I'm an artist! I think about aesthetics all the time in my work.

I make awesome salads. I think that they look and taste well-balanced and fresh, which I consider stylish.

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?

Yes. On days when I've felt like crying, I've sometimes worn mascara to discourage it.

I gravitate toward soft colors and shapes when I'm anxious. Once, when I was in the middle of a health crisis, my mom bought me a sweater with hearts on it. I found it comforting then, but have had trouble wearing it since then because it reminds me of how worried I was.

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?

What I like in fashion is more defined than what I like in a lot of other areas. I have more rules for fashion, but that doesn't mean that my discernment in other areas is weaker. Whatever discernment I have probably comes from the desire to seek integrity--self-consistency, clarity, and honesty.

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?

I mostly picked things up.

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

I make my hair shiny, play up my facial features with subtle color, and wear colors that make me glow. I'm not big on lingerie, but I'll wear my newest underwear.

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?

These words suggest that a person isn't preoccupied with herself/his self, and is able to look outward to engage fully with the people and situations around 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?

Have fun. Play around. Laugh at yourself and find what makes you smile.

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

Forests, mountains, deserts, animals, outer space.

Generosity of spirit.

The face of a kind-hearted person.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

The paranoia that comes with power.

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?

Generally, yes. I usually know if I can picture wearing it with something I already have.

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 don't think I have an outer self. If anything, I wonder how I'd react if I saw someone coming along dressed like me. It's most important to me that I like my outfit.

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

I consider how to balance the shapes in my outfit, what patterns to include, and how to use the color wheel.

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

A sense of play and optimism.

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

Dressing is the act of becoming not naked. Dressing up is the act of preparing for a special occasion and borrowing some of its aesthetics for your own use.

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

Cardigan, soft tee, slim jeans, feminine oxfords.

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

Color, graphic elements, and simple lines are me.

Frills, exaggerated silhouettes, and lots of skin are not me.

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

White and nerdy. There's some geek chic in my wardrobe. I live in a casual culture, so most of my clothes are soft and un-tailored.

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?

Childhood. I really didn't care about matching anything up. If a shirt had something on it that I liked--an animal, probably--then that was great.

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

I put on makeup, blow-dry my hair, and dress in modest layers. That usually does it.

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

I'm more colorful than most people at my workplace. I'd love to dye my hair purple.

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?


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

Comforting, unless the uniform is uncomfortable or inconvenient.

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?

Jeans and a t-shirt with sandals. I like that it's good for doing nothing or going on adventures.

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?

Not really, but I like to wear menswear-inspired shoes. I'd like to try wearing ties more often.

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

Mod-era 60s.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

I'm skinnier than I realize, my hair looks different from how I expect, and one eye crinkles more than the other when I smile. I usually think I look fine in photos, but better in person.

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

I'm sure a lot of figures have influenced me, but I can't think of anyone who's dominated.

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

I've had dreams about accidentally leaving all my clothes behind before flying somewhere.

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

Jessica Rabbit.

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?

Probably the same things. I might show my legs and arms more if the muscles were more defined.

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

I hope to attract people with a sense of play, humor, and open-mindedness, and repel anyone who expects "hotness" or conservative femininity, neither of which I'd be comfortable with.

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

Not much. I suppose I'd rather not see whether they're wearing thongs.

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

I like to catch a whiff of it, but I don't like smelling it constantly, so I don't wear any.

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

Shower, blow-dry my hair, wear blush and lip color, pick complementary shapes and colors to wear.

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

I have a modest collection of makeup that I use when I want to feel put-tother. I think it makes me look pretty and more mature. I have a very youthful face, and people often think I'm a teenager if I wear no makeup.

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?


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

Colorful, fairly basic clothes that can be combined in lots of fun and unusual ways; unique and slightly eccentric jewelry.

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

A pair of polka-dot jeans.

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?

A sophisticated black wool-blend coat that my mom bought me when I was a teenager. She got it for me for a formal occasion, but it doesn't go with anything I own now. I keep it out of sentiment and a vague hope to use it some day.

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?

Fun earrings. I use them forever.

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?

Not really.

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

An old t-shirt from my favorite coffee shop.

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

I'd include more loose, flowy tops.

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

A blue coat. I still have it, and want to repair the missing buttons.

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

As far as clothing, perhaps my first cardigan.

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

A pair of simple, snug, tall boots.

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

My clothes tend to drape over the back of a recliner. Sometimes I put them away in a fit of tidiness.

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

Yes; a pair of earrings from my mom. She noticed me admiring them when we were shopping together and surprised me later.

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?

A warm, fuzzy scarf that proved useful when I moved somewhere cold.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I typically shop for clothes if I've changed my hair, want something for a special occasion, or need to replace something that's worn out. If I like what I've gotten after one of these shopping trips, I might go back later and get more. I shop sporadically and with specific things in mind.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I prefer to smell like nothing.

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

I try to project my creativity in my dress, and I suppose this might motivate me to stay creative and keep thinking of fresh approaches to art.

80. How does money fit into all this?

If I invest a lot of money on a piece of clothing, I try to make sure it's something I'll use and enjoy a lot. Otherwise, I try to stick to modestly-priced items.

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 almost always wear blush, and I have some rings that I wear fairly consistently.

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

In elementary school, a girl once looked at my random outfit and asked "How does that match?"

"Uh... it doesn't?" I replied, not really caring, but also struck by the insight that some people did care about coordinating their clothes.

It didn't immediately affect how I dressed, but I never forgot it.

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 had a blue sweater with cats on it when I was 5 or 6. I loved to wear it because I loved kitties.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Curious to read others' responses.

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