Read Surveys (By Author)
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes. I’ve always noticed women, I think, or maybe that’s hindsight talking. I always look at women with short hair. I love short-haired women; I admire them and date them and sometimes want to be them, but I’ve never had the courage to cut my own hair. I also notice older women that look fabulous, and make mental notes on how to do the same when my time comes.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Yeah, bras, but only because I have big boobs! Crass? Sorry. I had to get choosy after about my sophomore year of high school, when my breasts came into themselves and I realized that all the supportive bras they make are aimed at women 75 and older. So I have a selection. I buy the nice mesh ones with the flowery lace when I have the money, and the cheap lacy, garishly flowery ones in the scary section of department stores when I don’t.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
I stole a lot of my dad’s button-down shirts when I was younger. It was great.
I’ve also always wished I were more punk-looking than I am, so I started cutting, tying and reassembling t-shirts when I was 14 or 15. Spray painting followed. All the cool riot grrrls did it, and I wanted in!
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
45 Wyllys Ave
16. Please describe your body.
5-foot-5, generously proportioned in the chest area, hourglass shape, oval face, brown eyes, full lips, toffee-colored skin.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Right now, this moment? I don’t know how to fully describe a thought process—it’s like a train that picks up cars on the way to the station. My emotions are running high and low.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
Black jeans, yellow Modest Mouse t-shirt that was my roommate’s a couple years ago, a flowery pink bra, a red and black plaid flannel, glasses, one blue sock, and one blue-and-pink striped sock. My hair is curling out from under a gray hat.
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 do! I know what I like. It’s more concrete with clothes than it is with music or art or people. With clothes, I’ve come to know what I like based on what colors and shapes that I think feel and look good on me, and those that do not. I can still like something, even if I wouldn’t wear it myself. And so I have a personal “style,” or whatever you want to call it. This discernment came with practice, and doesn’t change much, because my body doesn’t change much. But with the other things, music, art, people, I think I’m more open. Those things aren’t on my body, and aren’t in my immediate physical world all the time. They have lives/minds/aesthetics of their own; the clothes I wear are inextricably part of my life/mind/aesthetic, so it’s easier to judge their worth in terms of myself, my body.
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?
They let me wear what I want, for the most part—except for when I was 4 and insisted on wearing a dress every day, or when I was 13 and my dad wouldn’t let me wear the pair of jeans I’d drawn all over with Sharpie because he was just certain someone would mistake something I’d drawn for a gang symbol and stab me. Aside from those and a couple skirts of questionably short length, I had free reign.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Mascara—it makes my eyes look bigger, which makes my innocent/come-hither faces more effective.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
It’s not as rough as it used to be. One of the perks of getting older, they tell me. Underwear and bra based on what I want to wear over them; consider what I have to do that day and who I’ll see, whether or not I have to look professional and/or avoid scandalizing someone or if I can just wear whatever I want. Dress accordingly. Maybe a sweater.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
Good question. It's a long story, and it's about my hair. I am of mixed race, and my hair is at the center of a mess of emotions and politics, both public and personal. I’ll describe it briefly: kinky, and braided into tiny braids all over my head. The bottom quarter is dyed a faded mulberry color, and the right side is shaved from my ear to my neck. I am not always conscious of it. People (mostly white people) always want to touch it.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
I braid my hair to make the dyed parts and bright hair wraps kind of blend into the rest of my hair, and pull it to the side to cover the shaved part. And I can rock a blazer if I need to. Cover my tattoos. I usually feel a bit underdressed for everything, though, because most of my clothes are mysteriously kind of worn out. I usually also feel like I’m dressing a part when I dress “professionally,” and not doing a very good job disguising my laidback approach to professionalism. Maybe we’re all just dressing a part when we put on the clothes we’re expected to wear in particular situations? Maybe my nonchalance is a small rebellion.
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’ve never had a serious desire to be male outside the moments of anger that come from having to Be A Woman In the Patriarchy. I’ve never found penises appealing enough to want one for myself, and as far as clothes go, women have a lot more freedom on the gender-presentation front. I can wear a dress if I want, but it would be a bigger deal to everyone watching if I were a dude wearing a dress.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
No, I don’t. Seeing myself in photographs really freaks me out.
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
“Do I look feminine enough? Is that something in my teeth? Oh god, my boobs look weird. I need to tweeze. Is my nose ring going to offend anyone? I look extra Latina today. Do I look black/white enough today? My hair looks funny/tousled/stupid/awesome. I should wear this color every day, I love it.”
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Put on chapstick and tweeze my eyebrows. If that’s all taken care of, the rest is just details.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
I don’t wear it. I used to dab concealer and stuff on my face, but then I lived in rural Michigan for a couple months and realized that I didn’t need to. My face looked fine without it. I wear mascara when I feel like it and lipstick when I’m in a bad mood, or feeling dangerous. But other than that, fuck it.
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 was just thinking about this the other day! A couple years ago, in a rush to move out of my house and make it to the airport in time to fly back to the Midwest, I left a pair of glittery, silver high-top sneakers in the front room. I only remembered in the car on the way to the airport, and I was tempted to break in through the window and get them, but I didn’t want to risk missing my plane and/or facing breaking-and-entering charges. Those shoes were awesome, though. They probably just threw them away. Hopefully someone rescued them from such an awful fate.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
Last summer, I stayed with Candice, a woman who inspires me very much. She cleaned out her closet one day and gave me some of her old clothes, including a baggy, boatnecked shirt with a fish pattern that looks ugly at first glance. Her mother had sewn it for her when Candice was 18, and Candice had kept it for 18 years—she was about 36 then, so half of her life. I was 19 when she gave it to me, and she made me promise to take care of it. And I promised myself I’d wear it for the next half of my life. I love it. The fish are geometric, slightly abstract, cordoned into squares that make up a patchwork of different colored fishes in different colored waters.
80. How does money fit into all this?
I’m cheap. I really am. I usually can’t stomach spending more than $25 dollars on one item (shoes usually notwithstanding). Due in large part to my age-appropriately liberal/environmentalist leanings and to my abiding cheapness, I usually only shop at thrift stores. In the last year or so, my shopping practices have become part of a larger philosophy. As I learn more and more about where the products I consume (eat, wear, etc.) come from, it gets harder and harder for me to use or buy them in good conscience. I stopped shopping at more and more clothing stores after briefly looking into their awful employment practices—somehow I can’t get over feeling traces of the hands that made my clothes, as creepy and/or uselessly bleeding-heart as that might sound. So I made the decision to only shop at thrift stores, and stop contributing to the numbers of sweatshop-made clothes sold. I have this theory: I think that if we stopped production now, today, and didn’t manufacture any more clothes for at least 50 years, we’d still be able to clothe the whole globe. The world is packed with discarded clothes, from closets to dumps, and so many of them don’t get worn. But thrift stores take those discarded clothes and give them the chance to live a new life, with a new owner. When I shop at thrift shores, I feel like I’ve taken a big step away from the sweatshop production cycle. And I like thinking that the clothes I wear have stories before I put them on. That’s also the reason I get so many of my clothes from freecycles or from friends—those clothes have been places, seen things. I like to imagine the person that wore that gem-encrusted peach taffeta prom dress, or why someone parted with the lovely flannel I’m wearing now.
(The only hitch in this plan of mine is underwear. It’s the only thing I still buy in regular stores. Thrift shop underwear is there for braver souls than mine.)
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
The times when my friend tells me that someone pointing at me asked her, “Who is that girl? She’s so striking.” I’m flattered, obviously, but it also reminds me that people are looking at me, which I sometimes forget, and that maybe I’m better-looking than I think.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
December 11, 1992. I was born in Chicago, spend most of the year in Connecticut, and am currently living in West Virginia.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
African father + European-American mother = me (multiracial).
What kind of work do you do?
I am a student. Reading/writing/thinking/worrying/working odd jobs
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
In a relationship. My first long-term one, actually, and it’s comforting and terrifying.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
I feel self-conscious about the way I write about myself, or maybe the way I write in general. I use 6 words when 3 will do, I think. But I’m excited about this book, and I feel good about putting all these thoughts about body and clothes and gender into words.
Jackie Soro recently received her bachelor's degrees in History and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and is currently seeking gainful employment.