Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When I'm not in a lot of pain, and my favorite clothes are clean, and my hair is clean, and I have somewhere fun to go.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I'm an equal opportunity ogler, so to speak, so some of my noticing women is based from that. Sometimes I notice a great pair of shoes, or if they are wearing a t-shirt that indicates a similar interest, or if they are wearing anything unusual and totally rocking it.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I am a bit envious of people who the patience to do fancy things to their hair. It's not that I'd do it all the time, but sometimes I'd love a fun updo or something similar. I have great hair, but apart from dyeing it, I don't have the patience to style it 90% of the time. I brush it. Sometimes, I put it in a ponytail or a bun. That's it.
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?
It might have been high school when I decided that I should just wear what I want without concern for what other people thought. If I liked it, and if I felt good wearing something (for example, bright blue eyeliner), then I would embrace it.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
Clearance rack first. What? I'm on a budget. And by "budget," I mean, I probably don't need to be buying new clothes at all. Also, I try to encourage myself to buy clothes that aren't black, but I still buy a lot of black clothes. I can't help myself.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
My husband thinks it's weird that I would want 3 of the same cardigan, just in different colors... But, like, it's a really good cardigan, maaaan.
Is that a rule? “Find something you like, and then buy all of them.”
I used to wear things BECAUSE they were slightly ridiculous ― “Look at that bright yellow, fuzzy grandma sweater! And those 6” platforms! I MUST HAVE THEM.” ― but now I don't really have the disposable income to indulge those whims. Those whims, however, are not quite so ridiculous as they were when I was 8 or 16 or 24, but that doesn't mean I don't still appreciate them. Now I'm just more likely to buy things like ridiculous animal pillows or weird coffee mugs.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I'm not sure. Maybe my mom telling me, as a teenager, that I wasn't allowed to wear skinny-strapped tank tops unless I owned a strapless bra because having straps showing was “tacky.” I don't think that's the case 100% of the time, but I suppose it did make me thinking about an outfit's underlying architecture from an earlier age.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Unified? Haha, no. That implies good organization! However, I do try to be kind and not immediately jump to my reactionary, contrary self.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Black shirts. Black dresses. I have to consciously make myself try different colors, and because of that, I don't wear as much black as I used to from elementary school until... Well, probably my mid-20s. Why? I am not sure, other than always liking the color. It's not a vanity thing. I wasn't a 6-year-old goth. Still, I was the one kid with black ballet shoes, and made my mother look for an all-black backpack and a black toothbrush.
Honestly, it probably started out as a way to be contrary, and because I can still insist on being contrary about certain things, it stuck. Still, who doesn't need a bunch of black shirts?!
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
I seem to be fairly good at picking out earrings that my mom will wear, so that's nice.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
I am not so much about the jeggings. And I don't wear neon/lime green.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
I'm shaped like a shorter version of my mom in a lot of ways (she's 5'10" and I'm 5'6"). I've never had defined ankles, ever, and I have hips and ass. Sometimes this makes buying jeans difficult. However, style-wise, my mom and I are not all the similar. She wears a lot of Coldwater Creek.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
The only specific example I can think of is that I have quite a few friends who will wear fun tights, and it's made me want fun tights – either in interesting patterns or colors.
Apart from that, I'm sure I borrowed ideas shamelessly when I was in middle school, since we all do it at that age.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
My style has always been like rock n roll-lite, but I moved more into making comfort a
priority once I had children, and once I developed chronic fatigue syndrome. When the kids were small, chasing after them cut heels out of my life for the most part, and then when my daughter was 5, I became sick, and that made me leave the house less. Now I'm more in the “Yoga pants are awesome!” camp, ha.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
I do have a "Bad Feminist" t-shirt from Roxane Gay, and a "Johnny Fuckin Marr" shirt that I bought after seeing him play, but other than that, not really. I don't think having blue hair is political.
16. Please describe your body.
Cranky and achy the majority of the time because of my chronic illnesses. Size 12 or 14, depending on the brand. I have a large head and broad shoulders, but tiny hands, ears, and toes.
17. Please describe your mind.
Cranky and achy too? Ha. No, it's struggling to write and say smart things through the brain fog and misbehaving chemistry. It's also a rather enthusiastic mind.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Somewhat obsessive, pleased, sad, lonely, full of love --- all of them. All the emotions. Sometimes turned to 11.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
Nine West jeans, black scoop neck t-shirt from Old Navy, pink and blue plaid button-down shirt that has 3/4 length sleeves, no shoes, foundation, blush, mascara, my awesome blue glasses, TARDIS blue nail polish, chipped silver glitter polish on my toes, teal and blonde hair that needs to be washed in a ponytail.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
Clothes overall, or what I'm wearing today, overall? I don't know if I find my clothes anywhere near as important as find other things, but what's important about what I'm wearing right now is that I am not in my pajamas. That means I was able to get out and do something today, and I can't say that every day.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
A few friends, sometimes, but mostly my husband. He's way more of a fashion nerd than I am, and he has way more shoes than I do.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
Well, sure, everyone has an individual taste, and style is subjective. Taste is what you prefer, and style is how it looks to you.
Maybe that's not very fashion-y of me, but I think that's what the words mean, at their essence. What's more important is knowing what you like, independent of what other people think.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
It was only $11, but I bought a pair of clearance jeans that I thought I liked, wore once, forgot about just long enough to not be able to return them, tried them on again and decided I didn't like them. I don't know if that's the BIGGEST waste, but it's the first thing that came to mind.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
I am surprisingly steady-handed when it comes to liquid eyeliner.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
I like to buy art from local people when I can. Apart from that, I am trying to learn how to furnish a home that doesn't just look like, “Here's some crap I acquired.”
Since I spend more time in bed than I used to, I am quite pleased with my menagerie of animal pillows. One is an astronaut bear, one has two love birds, and another is a pigeon in a fedora, smoking. I did buy one shaped like a bat, but my son took it.
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 definitely know what I like and have no memory of NOT knowing what I liked, even if it's changed over the years.
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 have a distinct memory from when I was around 5 of asking my mom if red and pink matched. She said no. And she used to get on me about my part being straight in my hair, and she's the type to separate whites and colors in the laundry and I'm... lazy about laundry. But in general, she'd just let me do my thing as a kid because any suggestions on her part were usually met with resistance. (This might still be the case now. I know, I know.)
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
I enjoy a good v-neck and good eye makeup.
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?
Rocking whatever you choose to wear and not being concerned about what other people think about it. I can't say I succeed at this 100% of the time, but most of the time, I feel in the range of really good to indifferent about what I look like.
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?
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Unusual images, confidence, being good at what you do, intelligence, fabrics that feel nice to touch, hands, forearms, shoulders, water
34. What do you consider very ugly?
Pessimism, not having your own personality, willful ignorance
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?
I try it on and if it immediately feels good, and I have the money, then yes it will be worn. I generally don't buy things with a "Maybe..." feeling.
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?
That other person is usually my husband, whether I ask him what he thinks of my outfit or not. He's honest with me, but he doesn't have to like something for ME to like it. If there's a pattern that I like and he's like, "Wow, that's really ugly," I get all "WELL NOW I HAVE TO HAVE THIS BAG" or whatever it is. But inside my own head, if I think, "Do I look okay? I haven't worn these pants in awhile," I can imagine his voice saying, "You look good, settle down."
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
I have some health problems that occasionally make wearing a bra annoying. So sometimes it's a matter of “Do I put on the bra, or do I put on the cami with the built in bra-like thing?” (Underwire is almost entirely out of the question.)
From there, it's a matter of what's clean, where I have to go, and what other levels of comfort I need. If there's somewhere I have to go first thing in the morning and I have to be on time, then I'm the type to think about what I'm going to wear the night before, even if it's just jeans and a t-shirt (It usually is).
Really, I don't go out much. I don't have a regular job, and sometimes I'm just pleased to be in the house wearing pajamas and a great pair of socks.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing up quite often literally involves a dress. Or I might bother with jewelry.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
Jeans and a v-neck t-shirt.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
I tend to like solid colors over patterns, and dark colors over pastels. You won't see me in anything bedazzled or a sweater twin-set and khakis. No blonde-with-blonder-highlights. No polo shirts.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
Pick a country in Europe, and I probably have at least a splash of it, so I guess it makes sense that I'd take a melting pot approach to clothes.
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?
I used to be more concerned with labels when I was in middle school. We all wanted Calvin Klein, Levis, Nike, and Adidas stuff. By high school, it was more about who found the strange sweater at the thrift shop or in their grandma's basement.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
My "profession" is writing and organizing art and music-related shows, so it's more about having clothes that feel like they fit well rather than any sort of stereotypical "professional" appearance.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
I am my own overlord, so it occurred to me that I could have whatever color of hair I wanted. I'd done all the "normal" colors, so that's why it's mostly teal now.
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?
Once again, we're back to the jeans and a t-shirt!
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?
Buying pants is probably easier, but other than that, not really.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I think I still dress like it's the 90s, except my pants aren't as baggy. If that's too recent, probably the late 60s to mid-70s would suit me well.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
Sometimes, but I'm also really good at blinking in photos.
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
I do get hung up on doublechin issues or that I look bigger than I think I do in my head, but most of the time, I try not to let it bother me. I know I'm capable of a good photo, so I try to remind myself of that.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
I wish I had the patience to do rockabilly hair, but I don't, so I'll just admire it instead.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Suburban soccer mom.
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?
If I had ankles, I'd have greater shoe options. Ankle straps or riding-style boots are sometimes a difficult fit.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
Dress for yourself.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I do wear it, though not every day. I have two that I alternate between. One is called Elige. Mary Kay sells it, and my aunt gave it to me years ago, and I've kept asking for it for various birthdays and Christmases. The other is just a cucumber-scented Dove body spray. I like that one for warmer days.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
I hate that I feel like I need to shave my legs if they are going to be exposed. It feels like a waste of energy, but I also don't want to be hassled about what my legs are "supposed" to look like. It's such a bullshit standard that I totally buy into.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
I like makeup, but I'm not one of those people who spends hours working on it. 15 minutes, max. I don't wear it every day, but if I go out, I almost always do, to varying degrees. The minimum is foundation, concealer, blush and mascara. I love green, blue and purple eyeliner, but I've been known to occasionally do a black cat-eye. Lately I've been getting more into lipstick, and I prefer darker colors, like the teenager of the '90s would!
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?
Nope, and good thing. I have enough expectations I place on myself without involving fashion.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Fairly casual with a nice assortment of dress-up items. Only a few pairs of earrings, a few necklaces, a few rings.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
My Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds t-shirt because it's black, comfortable, and I bought it after I met him!
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 gold dress that I wore to prom when I was 16, and once for Halloween as a “Dead Prom Queen” when I was probably around 26. It's kind of a muted gold and it's beautiful, and even though I don't really fit into it anymore, I love it too much to get rid of it. Who knows, maybe my daughter will wear it.
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?
Things that I could wear for a long time because I don't buy clothes that often.
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 had this yellow cardigan that was like fuzzy granny-square knit lined with polyester. I found it at Goodwill for $3 in high school and people called it my "big bird sweater," and it was ridiculously fun. It started to fall apart on me and I gave it to a friend who knits and thought that it was so delightfully odd. I don't know what she's done with it. I would take it as a pillow now because I don't know if it would fit me as well as a sweater.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
That Noel t-shirt.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
Not much of anything different. I tend to get rid of what I don't wear anymore, so what I have now is all worn for the most part.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
My wedding ring. Even though it technically wasn't my money, I picked it out. It's platinum with a small cluster of diamonds in the center. I have tiny hands, so a big diamond would've been silly on me.
Actually, the other ring I most often wear, I picked out, but my grandmother bought. It's gold with a fire opal. She wanted to buy me a ring for my sixteenth birthday, and thought I might like a ruby, since that's my birthstone. Once we got in the store though, I liked the opals better.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
I'm not even sure what this means!
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
I am still sad that I never bought the bright yellow Doc Marten boots that had small black illustrations of stereotypical British things on them (Big Ben, Bobbies, etc.). They were so ridiculous and awesome and I saw them at an outlet for something like $25 in the mid-90s. I ended up buying a bright blue pair instead for a similar price, but I still think about that other pair. I should have bought both.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
I have limited space so I TRY to keep the folded stacks neat, but only semi-succeed.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
My husband, knowing my penchant for ridiculous animal things and love of t-shirts, once made me a fake team shirt that said "Spokane's Mighty Marmots." I wore it often until it wore out.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
If I need something more urgently (say, favorite pair of jeans have finally gone to jeans heaven), or if I feel like a new outfit for an event, then I'll shop. Usually though, it's when things wear out.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
Not sweaty? Apart from the times I decide to put on perfume, I don't give it much thought.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
Since I'm a writer and a local art/music promoter, I suppose my style looks like the sort of person who might do that. I like band shirts and Doctor Who shirts, and I like Converse and my flats with skulls on them, and my hair's not a "regular" color.
I suppose I want to be able to look however I feel like looking and still be able to do what I want.
80. How does money fit into all this?
We don't have a lot, but we make do. If we had more disposable income, it'd be my husband buying up all the clothes, not me.
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 would say my wedding ring and my opal ring, but lately I've had some major dry skin on my hands that has kept me from wearing rings all the time. It still feels a bit weird. I usually have lip balm of some sort either in my pocket or in my bag.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
A guy I once went out with said to me, around 2 years after we dated, "You carry yourself really well," meaning I was confident, and it must have been the first time I'd really heard it because it felt awesome.
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?
One of my earliest memories is waking up on my third birthday, and the first thing I noticed is that one of the pompoms on my socks had fallen off. I doubt I felt anything more than, “Huh. I don't know when that happened,” because it was my birthday and I had CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE-ing to do. As is a 3 year old's wont.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in 1983 in Great Falls, MT. I live there now, but I've also spent considerable time in Spokane, WA, and a few years in Missoula, MT.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I suppose growing up we were just a middle-ish class white family. My dad was a police officer and my mom was home most of the time. Nothing remarkable other than its stability, I guess.
What kind of work do you do?
Writer, editor, arts/music promoter.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married for 12 years, 2 kids -- our daughter is 10, and our son is 7.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
My self-esteem is more based in intellect than in appearance. Times that I've been made more acutely aware of my appearance still surprise me. Even by having blue hair, I'll be like, "Why is that person looking at me like that?.... Oh."
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
This was a long-ass survey and perhaps my answers are unusual in their caring enough to fill out all these questions as someone who is often indifferent to fashion.
Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable (Nouveau Nostalgia, 2012), a collection of micro-fiction.She is a staff writer for Persephone Magazine and blog editor for Word Riot. Her work has appeared on The Rumpus and Pajiba, among other venues, and you can also find her at Glorified Love Letters or @sshabein.