Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
I very infrequently dress to seem attractive. It isn't a feeling I really have as a goal, which doesn't mean I don't still sometimes feel bad about myself or get angry that I am not pretty enough. I am 25, and although this is still young I already feel that there are many things I am too old to pull off. It doesn't bother me, I just think about what is "appropriate" in a way that I didn't use to. I feel my most attractive, so to speak, when I am dressed up severely to meet people I know I will be nervous around. I aim to be intimidating, which I assume will be attractive to the female friend I want to attract. So far this strategy has not worked.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes. I like to look at their clothes and particularly their shoes. I tend to notice the age content of what a woman is wearing, which I think about in relation to physical confidence. For example, I noticed a woman of about 20 at the grocery store yesterday who was wearing a long, flowing tank top over shorts that were totally covered, and these thick, clunky heels. I know that I would be very uncomfortable in that outfit, afraid of attracting attention. Maybe that is confidence for her, but it would scare me as vulnerability. I admire more shadow-clinging, black, severe clothes because it seems more like the more safe way to be in the world, to me.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I admire women who are working on a distinctive aesthetic, who wear unique and somewhat strong pieces to express their individuality. I think I also admire women who are willing to wear something like sweatpants out to run errands, because it suggests they don't waste time on frivolous self-worry.
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 think the biggest transition for me, the closest thing to a "click," was deciding not to dress like a teenager anymore. For me, it was a part of growing up to stop marketing myself all the time with low-cut, too-expensive clothes that were from popular stores. It was a way of signaling to myself that I don't exist for other people, that it wasn't the best use of my time to put on loads of makeup and do my hair every day. I think it happened when it did because I reached a point of feeling confident in my interests, more involved in watching the world than in constructing myself around visual edibility. I was also many years into a relationship, and I knew that I was imposing more pressure on myself to be some mainstream attractive than was truly a part of my romantic or sex life.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
Absolutely no open backs or low backs (I have acne scars). Short sleeves not preferable. Buy neutrals. Animal prints are ill-advised. Do not ever fall in love with a pair of flats because they will be destroyed in no time (you can still buy them). I recently do not like to buy anything I couldn't sleep in.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Unless all my comfortable "basics" are dirty, I never wear my nicer or work clothes at home. I think a person can feel special just wearing something nice on a regular day at home, though, and there's no reason not to enjoy your wardrobe for you.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I was talking to my sister about wearing clothes that are evocative of other cultures. She had showed me a pair of paints that were vaguely inspired by... I couldn't even say where. They just seemed to have a sort of ethnic appropriation going on, in my opinion. I said I liked them but couldn't feel right wearing them as a white woman who studied anthropology. She said that it was their very ambiguity that made them fair game, and it made me think a lot about how uncritically avoidant I have been about some looks out of fear or unarticulated white guilt.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
I'm not even sure what that would mean, so I guess not. I suppose if anything I try to be comfortable, which is not necessarily responsible because I have too much dread about finances and so don't address them.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
I have multiple of "basics" in different neutral colors, for the reason people recommend you have them. Also they are comfortable and I feel safe when I am wearing a clean, crisp long-sleeved cotton shirt that is just a literal piece of clothing. It feels like taking care of myself. That is also why I buy so many cotton shirts. Plus I hate to do laundry.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
I gave my best friend a shawl with a cut velvet pattern on it. I doubt if she wears it much, but it is a nice, unique piece that I am confident she admires. It is the sort of thing one is happy to have, even if it's worn only once a year. At least, that's how I think of it. Plus I haggled down the price for it in an antique store, and am surprised that was successful.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
T-shirts with phrases on them. Tacky. Also any words across the butt.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother has handed down a lot of clothes to me throughout my life, since she is thin. As a middle-child and teen, I often dressed up out of her closet when I had an event. Now the kind of long, buttoned dresses she wore when I was a baby seem very lovely to me because I like to imagine her as a young woman. I have a few but don't wear them often. In general, I don't think we dress very alike and I know she has thought many of my clothes are/were ugly.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
Not really from family. I have tried to think more sharply about my clothes since I met my best friend, whose discernment I admire. I think most of my ideals in clothes now I have in common with her.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
When I got my first job after college I was in an office for the first time, and I worked consciously toward accruing more formal clothes.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
I don't dress for men, which I think is political in and of itself.
16. Please describe your body.
Average height. I am what people usually seem to think is thin, but I know I am much softer than I used to be. I think I am well-proportioned and I mostly like my figure. I do feel very limited by its schedule of eating/sleeping. I know I should embrace it more.
17. Please describe your mind.
I am intelligent, strict, curious, nervous, determined, and active.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Ugh, I feel so many ways. I would say my predominate feelings relate to intellectual excitement and social anxiety.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I am wearing a long linen dress that my grandmother gave me. It makes me feel like Sarah Plain and Tall or Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I do not wear it out of the house. My hair is out of the way in a bun, no makeup, no shoes, no bra. I'm wearing my wedding band and a ring my best friend gave me on my other ring finger. I wear glasses.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
I think it's important because the conversation about women's clothes should not be unilaterally provided by marketing and fashion magazines. Women's feelings and thoughts are largely not represented in an authentic way in the media, and the importance of this project is in exposing some of the truth of our lives.
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?
My answer to #1 kind of addresses this. Basically, my clothing-related response to social anxiety is usually to attempt to dress somewhat severely. Not provocatively, necessarily, just seriously. In a stylish or a reserved way. Not exactly to be unapproachable, but sort of as a filter. When I am at home, I calm myself by wearing sensible, clean, cotton clothes (see my #9).
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?
Yes, I think in clothing as well as in other areas of life I have a relatively strong sense of what I admire and what I find becoming. I try to be really diligent in thinking about how I want to be, how it would be useful to seem in various contexts, and I try to understand where I would draw lines of how I identify. To me, discernment just seems like an inevitable component of being interested in the world.
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?
Above all, I consider how well my makeup conceals my acne.
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. For me the only interest in the idea of wearing men's clothes or men's-inspired clothes is in wearing them as a woman.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I like 1920s women's fashion quite a bit and think it would be fun to dress that way without it being seen as a historical affectation.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
Attract female friends, repel pretty much all attention from men.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I love perfume and I wish I had more fragrances. I don't wear it every day. Mostly just when I go out or if I want to feel special or sexy. I think noticing a fragrance on another woman in public also gives me the impression that she is financially stable, since it is so inessential. So I also wear it when I am going to be with older, wealthy people.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
I don't think it's presentable to be seen with wet hair in public, so I really try to avoid it. I usually do make sure I've recently shaved my legs if I'm wearing a skirt without tights. I like to wear earrings because, as something one would never wear while sleeping, I think they imply a little more effort.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
I would get more black clothes, more comfortable clothes, and higher-quality shoes.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
I have never owned a quality pair of black leather high heels. This versatile piece would be a nice thing to have confidence in. I've not really transitioned to buying quality shoes, though, mostly because they're so expensive.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
Oh my god, no. The only clothes that aren't perpetually strewn around are the ones I should probably get rid of because I never wear them.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
I have a perfume that I associate with studying art history. That is my most special scent, and I use it rarely.
80. How does money fit into all this?
Mainly I just have a much less focused wardrobe than I could imagine for myself. I hang onto things that I have decided don't work for me for any number of reasons simply because it would be irresponsible to get rid of clothes I can't afford to replace.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
I can't think of anything relating to clothes, but when I was in high school my boyfriend and one male friend told me of two things that other boys said about how I carried myself. One was that it was as if I had a "sign" on me that was kind of saying "don't mess with me" or something, which he said was why no one had ever tried to hook up with me. The other was that someone had described me as "dripping with hormones" in my supposedly slinky mannerisms. The first surprised me but didn't bother me. The second was kind of weird to hear. I don't think I ever really tried to change my comportment in response to either comment, though.
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?
The first consciousness of clothing that I can recall was when I was about five. My family was going to a portrait studio, and my mother wouldn't let me wear the frilly, peach-colored dress I loved because it had a stain on it. Instead I was forced to wear a black and white dress that I thought made me look like a sailor. I scrunched up my face in the photos.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
b. 1989. Born in Florida. Currently living in California.
What kind of work do you do?
I am trying to write.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
I got married just over a year ago. No kids.