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Eleanor Slee

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I am in the middle of my menstrual cycle, wearing my favourite underwear, looking in the mirror in our hallway (which is slightly warped and makes me look slimmer).

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

Women who manage to look chic whatever they're wearing. I have a habit of over dressing - putting accessories where they don't need to be. I love to see women who are wearing a breton top and a pair of jeans and just look the most stylish of all.

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

Women who take care of their nails - I've never been able to do that! And who carry big leather holdalls. One day, I will buy a leather holdall and relegate my fit-everything-you-own-in-me rucksack to the back of my wardrobe.

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?

Yes. I was 10. My mum dressed me - probably really sweetly - up until then and I was bullied mercilessly. There came a point where I snapped and I decided I was going to choose what I'd wear. I also remember buying my first copy of Vogue. I was subscribed to it for years - until they put Coleen McLoughlin on the cover. By that point, I was at St Martins and decided I didn't need to hide behind Vogue for my fashion advice.

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

I don't really have rules. Well - I've got much better. I used to have rules like - I'd go into my favourite shop and I would compulsively buy something. My wardrobe is full of these things - and they're things I never wear. Nowadays, I rarely go shopping. So I don't really have rules. When I do go, I try everything on two or three times before I buy it. If I was shopping with my friends or partner, I'd never advise that - I'd get much too bored!

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

You can wear trainers with anything.

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

I've had a great deal of conversations about fashion, with my tutors and my friends from college. I studied an academic fashion course about the history and theory of fashion and have continued to write academically about fashion. I have to say that fashion speaks visually though, so it isn't really conversations I've had so much as outfits I've seen - or outfits I've been complimented on. I think that when you're complimented by someone you respect, you take it with you and wonder, 'how can I be more of the me that they complimented?'

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

A lot of my 'approach' to life involves leaving things to the last minute - except my relationships, which start fast and stay firm. Everything else, I am willing to sit and stare at until I have to stay up all night to finish it.

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

Nike Air Max. They are classic, they're comfortable, they come in limited editions, and my feet are small enough to buy kiddie sizes (and therefore I don't pay tax on them!)

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

I always give jewellery or clothing. Items that stick out in my mind are a pink Prada tie for father's day one year - I went through all of his ties and found a colour he didn't have. He still loves it very much. I once bought my mum a beautiful cashmere jumper with tiny beads on it that looked like the top of iced gems. It was so 'her' - and when she opened it she was so excited, and kept saying 'this is so me!'

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

Anything gimmicky, and anything that reappropriates culture or subculture inappropriately. Like, for example, wearing traditional Chinese or African garments in a Westernized way - it's not designed for me, it's not about me, and for me to wear it would be distasteful. I also felt sad for people, who, for example wear brothel creepers all their lives, and then suddenly find that they're the next big thing, and they look dated if they still wear them. I also have an irrational dislike of ponchos... I just think they're tacky and debilitating. No thank you.

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

My mum is funny because her mother is really, really glamorous, and in a way, we all reject our mothers and the way they try to force their personal opinions about style onto us. I am so much more like her mum than her. My own mum is always mortified that I would spend thousands on a handbag - she can't fathom it - whilst her mum took such delight in that kind of thing.
One of the great things my mum did teach me was to be happy in my body and my skin. She very rarely wears makeup and neither do I.

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

All the time. My two best friends and I are constantly telling each other to buy the same clothes when we compliment each other - 'they still have them, get some!!' Having a sister, this is also totally inevitable although we stealthily steal from each other. Our Nan had the most incredible wardrobe and she cleared it out a few years ago - we got pretty much everything.

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

No. It constantly evolves. When I was at fashion school, I was more inclined to go crazy and wear all sorts of different clothes. I looked like I'd walked out of a different shoot every day. Nowadays, I genuinely don't care so long as I'm not too hot, not too cold, I'm dry and I look acceptable - and by acceptable I mean I wouldn't be embarrassed to bump into fashion acquaintances on the street.

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

I am fiercely feminist and I wouldn't say I am political in the way I dress, other than the fact that I believe I should be able to dress exactly as I wish without harassment or judgement. Perhaps my reaction to people's reactions to my clothing is the most political thing about it.

16. Please describe your body.

I'm neither short nor tall and neither fat nor thin. I have a very small waist compared to my breasts and hips. I suppose I'm an hourglass shape. I have a lot of self harm scars and eight tattoos. I started growing back my pubic hair about a year ago and I love it very much - I can't believe I used to shave it off! I hate my feet. My feet are the ugliest part of me.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is at once bigger and smaller than I think it is.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I am very, very depressive. I'm also highly anxious. A lot of the time, I wonder if I can ever be happy. When I am happy, I feel removed from myself.

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

I haven't brushed my hair since I washed it this morning (it is 6pm). I'm not wearing any makeup. I am wearing a pair of black, high waisted skinny jeans from Cheap Monday. I like them because they do a 29 inch waist. I am wearing a navy blue top and a Norwegian jumper that used to belong to my Grandma. It is covered in giant pink and red hearts and it is fairly itchy.

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

The stuff I am wearing right now? The jumper is important to me because I love my Grandma and it reminds me of her.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My family, my friends, my boyfriend (he can never believe how I can fill wardrobes and wardrobes full), my editor, my supervisor, designers, shop assistants...

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

This is a funny question - I wrote my thesis on how institutions affect the way we behave. I don't know that institutions DO affect the way I personally dress. But for others it may be different.

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 both. I think style inches over to being more important; you can have taste but never exercise it, and style seems to me to be innate.

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

Ahhh. I've wasted a lot of money on a lot of clothes. Possibly a pair of Louboutins I bought and wore to the ground and never had re-heeled. At the time they seemed like an investment; now, I think they might have been a stunning waste of money...

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

Not really. When I have an event to go to, I like to have an idea of what I'll be wearing about a week before. Chances are I'll end up wearing something completely different, but having that mental backup is a lifesaver sometimes.

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

I have an obsession with interiors. I spend money on things for my house that I would never spend on clothes nowadays.

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. When I went on a first date with my current partner, I dressed 'power lesbian'. (He is a man.) I texted my good friend who really is a power lesbian for backup. She said this would sort out the men from the boys - and it did.

I also have a pair of Interview Shoes as I refer to them. They're black leather Dr Marten lace-ups. I love them; I think they make me look like I mean business.

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?

No. I only know that I like it when I see it. And feel it - feeling it is important too.

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 dad is always immaculately dressed, and used to buy me a dress every year for my birthday. My mum would always be upset when he took me out shopping, because I'd come back with a beautiful wool Burberry coat, and she couldn't fathom how something could cost SO MUCH and STILL not be lined. It was a funny dichotomy.

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

I like my hair to be huge. It's quite thin, so I have a habit of tying it up in a top knot and then taking it out intermittently - this poofs it up no end. I also overplucked my eyebrows as a teenager and I always feel much better when they're pencilled in. I spend a lot of money on underwear, too.

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?

I think they're interlinked. People who SEEM confident often aren't. People who are comfortable are usually confident.

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?

It's all about the Air Max. Get me a gin.

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

My boyfriend's back.

34. What do you consider very ugly?


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?

Yes. I covet it for weeks. I try it on twice. If it's not perfect on, I don't buy it. If I love it, it's coming home with me, no matter what it costs.

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?

No, it's just me. I'm not too concerned about the outside.

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

Mostly if it's raining and what is going to be my best bet staying dry on a bike.

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

Comfort. But I must be trying to achieve something else as well because I mostly wear black, with gold jewellery.

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

When I dress up, I put on makeup, first and foremost. It's probably about being a bit more OTT than I would normally be. But there's another aspect of my personality - my friend and I have a website where we develop 'characters'. They wear wigs, and clothes I'd never ever wear, and take photos, make videos, and do interviews with these 'women' (all of whom are me). I guess that for me is dressing up - in the childhood sense of the word.

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

I suppose I kind of do wear a uniform. Black high waisted trousers, a t-shirt, and either trainers or Dr Marten shoes. Normally an oversized boyfriend coat, always tiny gold claddagh earrings and my gold bamboo ring.

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

Lots of things are 'me'. I'm not really a tomboy, I love a good dress... but not me... probably really short skirts and really high heels together. I don't wear a lot of low cut tops, either.

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

That's funny. I'm originally a geordie, but I moved to London when I was 19. I used to stick out like a sore thumb back at home, because everyone would fake tan and I am so luminously pale. And I'd dye my hair a rainbow of colours, and had tattoos, and wore very different clothes to all my friends - the aforementioned short, bodycon skirts and extra high heels. I mean, I own all of those things and it's fun to wear it - my version of it - when I go back home. But I think the influence that my background has on the way I dress is in that I reject it entirely.

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?

When I was at school, and still wanted to conform, I'd wear hair extensions and fake tan. It was short lived. Boys never noticed me back home because I was different - in a bad way for them! - and I CARED. Nowadays, I couldn't give a shit and I am much happier in my skin.

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

Brush my hair. I often forget to brush it and it makes a HUGE difference. I put on makeup if I'm going to do something 'professional' - but I'm a PhD student so that is rare.

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

There are none. My workplace is the library, or home. I guess when I go out to interview people, I try to look neutral. I don't want them to be influenced by me, or anything my clothing might say to them.

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

No. But I loved my school uniform. It was so malleable and could look so cool if you wore it in certain ways.

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

I used to. Our school uniform was a black blazer, a striped tie, a white shirt and black trousers or skirt. I would wear fishtail skirts and military trousers with gold buttons all up the back. School was a fashion show for me.

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

I find it comforting - but only if its OK to mess about with it a little.

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?

Probably a shift dress, black tights and flat black shoes. I like my legs, so this shows them off. It's something I wear less now, but I haven't completely done away with, and still pull it out when I need something I know works.

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?

I do dress like a man sometimes. But mostly - no. I think men are weaker than women. I think their bodies are weaker, and their brains are weaker. I do think the British mens fashion industry is more exciting than womens at the moment - but you can still find exciting pieces for women. You just need to go understated and tailored, like menswear.

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

There are a few. French neo-classical. We don't give them credit for what they started - but basically, it was underwear as outerwear. Obviously postwar Paris, when the New Look kicked off. I'd have loved to have been at St Martins in the late 80s, early 90s, when the greats were there. And LA in the 70s, for the Halston, baby.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

To the point that I'm a disappointment in real life.

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

I wish I could be seen just from that angle, all the time.

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

So many. I have a folder on my computer of incredible images I find of beautiful women. At the moment top of the list is probably... Gene Tierney, Vali Myers, Nicki Minaj. But there are so many more.

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

I don't remember my dreams.

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

I don't think there is one. Unless I was going to be asked to wear hundreds of ponchos. I would be so uncomfortable with that, I feel itchy just thinking about it.

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?

I am pretty comfortable with my body. I've accepted that there are things I don't want to wear because of the way they look on me - but that's OK and I don't really care.

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

I often dress to look angry. My sister once said me and my best friends look like an angry girl band when we go out, and men must be scared of us. I feel like that's the look we are going for.

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

Be happy with it. And don't let it make you late. You don't look as bad as you think you do.

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

I do wear it. I love it. I have recently gone from wearing Penhaligons' Vaara to Lidl's Madame Glamour - which is only £3.99 for 50ml and smells like Coco Mademoiselle. I'm pretty happy with that. I've sort of started to realise that until I find a scent that I identify with entirely, I am happy to move around and try things out. I have gone through many perfumes in my life and each one reminds me of a specific time when I smell it. But I'm looking for the perfect signature scent, definitely.

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

Make sure I/we smell nice. I have an obsession with washing myself. I also like to iron, but haven't had one in years. An ironed shirt is a must.

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

I don't wear it every day, but I love makeup. I spend quite a bit of money on it. At the moment, my skin is very very bad and hiding behind makeup on a night out is something I am doing a lot of. I am thankful it exists.

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?

I feel that way about a lot of fashion. I just see what I like, and I like it. If I don't - it doesn't matter.

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

Too much clothing. Very few bits of very special jewellery that belonged to my Grandma. I have a string of pearls my mum bought when I turned 18, and various other bits of special jewellery, and then a lot of Topshop tat.

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

I have a necklace which my friends bought me when I moved away. I have two best friends, and they are very possessive - they hate me making new friends. Anyway I was moving and they made it clear I couldn't make any new friends by having necklaces made. One friend got 'No', the other got 'New' and I got 'Friends'. That is pretty special, but it's hard to put a finger on what is the most special thing I own.

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 lot of things. A lot of ballgowns. I'm always sure I'll go to a ball and so I need like 35 ballgowns. I know I probably don't even need one, but I keep them anyway.

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?

I bought my wedding dress for £2 at a costume sale. It's oyster-coloured silk satin with a huge fanned trail, cut on the bias, original 1930s, with tiny buttons up the sleeves. It is beautiful and I will wear it on my wedding day. So... that was a steal, and very valuable. Investment pieces, too - like handbags and coats. They're always good.

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?

Yes! A pair of 1970s high waisted black flares, which never looked good on me and which I could never quite work out. I gave them to my friend and she put them on - and I realised I'd been putting them on backwards all those years!! I was heartbroken.

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

Probably something my Nan made me or my Grandma gave me.

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

I wouldn't buy so much frivolous shit! I have so many party dresses and not enough t-shirts.

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

Probably a Dolce and Gabbana dress. It is turquoise silk. Very beautiful. I haven't seen it in some time but I probably would wear it next time I have occasion to... like a super fancy cocktail party or something.

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

When you buy Chanel, you never have to buy another handbag, really. And that changes everything!

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

A great trench coat. A beautiful silk shirt. And for that matter, silk pyjamas. Silk everything. Everything is better in silk.

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

I colour co-ordinate my wardrobe. It goes from black to white with the whole rainbow in between. And I've bought items of clothing just because I knew they'd look great in there - mint green sequins or an ostrich feather skirt. That's a terrible thing to admit...

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

My beautiful Nan made me a pair of trousers when I was young. I never wore them and found them years later and I cried and cried. They were beautiful and she had hand painted stars on them. I have tears in my eyes now. When we're young we don't appreciate beautiful things like that.

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?

I have probably done that a few times... But I never sell clothes, so I'll never know.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

That depends. Sometimes I do just get an urge to go out shopping. Most of the time, though, it's online, straight to my door - either that, or I enlist the help of stylist friends to pick me up freebies from shoots.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?


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

I can't say that it does really, any more.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I used to spend all my money on clothes. Now I spend the majority of it on my home, and splash out every so often on an item of clothing.

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 wear my Dinny Hall gold bamboo ring, and my gold claddagh earrings. I go through phases with jewellery and I saw a girl on the train a few years ago who was wearing beautiful fine gold jewellery and I wanted to look like her. Up until then, I used to wear a silver wishbone necklace every day - that got lost somewhere along the way. I also have a precious ring that my mum made for me which I wear sometimes for weeks at a time.

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

Sometimes, when my friends say I am beautiful I feel like I do look more beautiful. I think people find it difficult to summarise my sartorial 'look' really, and so probably don't say things about it so often. Once, a bitchy gay I worked with told me my ass looked terrible in the shorts I'd worn all summer. I stopped wearing them.

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?

When I was two, almost three, my Nan crafted me an entire dressing up box. I had a wedding dress, a fairy dress with popper-on wings, a floral ballgown... it was amazing. She even brought in all the accessories - a beautiful pearl encrusted bridal veil, strings of pearls... The first thing I did was strip down naked, cover myself in jewels, whack the veil on my head and THEN put my wedding dress on. I was a bride. So much more grown up than my little sister. (This could be a memory - or I could just be remembering the intense documentary photography that occurred that Christmas...)

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

I was born in Peterborough and I live in London

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

I am white British, I grew up in a poor area of north eastern England and went to the local comprehensive school. My father worked for the University and my mother is a primary school teacher. My mum's dad was an actor and her mum was - amongst other things - a dancer, and is an excellent seamstress. My dad's dad was a teacher and his mum worked for the government. We didn't have much money when I was a child but for some reason, clothes were always a big deal in our house.

What kind of work do you do?

A PhD.

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

I live with my partner and our cat. I think we'll probably have kids in a few years time.

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

I think I've said much of it. I was interested in doing this survey because of my academic background in fashion and because I have personally loved it so long.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Really self absorbed.

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