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Elizabeth Kaiser

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

I like a woman who knows what suits her body and "look". I believe in knowing your decade, like, I have a 70s body (flat chest, long limbs, hide the hips in a maxi dress) and a 60s face (which means I look good in black eyeliner and a pale lip). My best friend only wears 40s tailored skirt suits, and I'm trying to get my boyfriend to go 50s as that would suit him. I hate when women wear things that don't suit their body/decade--like a willowy hippie looking lady in a ralph lauren polo dress. blech.

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?

In high school someone told me I looked like brigitte bardot ( I don't, but I do have big blond hair and puffy lips) and after that I devoured all things bardot and came up with a look that mimicked hers as best I could. I never leave the house without wing tip black eyeliner--I love fake eyelashes too, and wear them whenever I can stand it (I don't find them the most comfortable, and in this new orleans heat they tend to slide around). I love a pale lip--I put concealer and powder on my lips and then a gloss. very mod.

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

It's so hard to find cotton/linen/natural fabric plain (no pattern) simple, shirtwaist dresses, that when I find one that isn't a million dollars (why are they all so high end?) I buy as many as I can. I have 5 blue day dresses right now, and am having more made in peach by a seamstress.

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

I'm a school-a-holic: 3 colleges for undergraduate, 2 masters degrees, and now I'm in school forever as a professor. Everywhere I go there's one girl I think is especially fantastic--I mentally (or actually) record her look (sometimes I even sneakily take pictures, even if we're friends) but don't implement anything until I've moved. My other favorite stolen goods are from my mother--her muumu-y dresses from when she was pregnant, that I now just wear on the unpregnant regular.

16. Please describe your body.

Pear shaped, tallish, soft and unmuscle-y. Yoga's helped me get more toned, but it's not in my nature--I'm 5'8", with the bird bones of my 5'1 mother.

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

I'm at home, so that means no make up, pajamas/lounge clothes, hair out of my face. I'm a leo, and that means we looove to dress up, but the moment we get home we need to be absolutely bare faced and comfortable.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I feel like everywhere I've lived has nudged me into a uniform--clogs look good in washington but dowdy in new orleans; fluorescents look amazing in the south but cheap and tacky in the northwest. That's one of the reasons I hate flying: whatever you're wearing when you get on looks terrible once you've got to wherever you're going. Vacation packing is a chore for this reason, too. I've never the right outfits.

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 know what I like in all these things, but especially clothes. None of it is intuitive, all of it is learned--I had to figure out, over time and experimentation, what worked for me. I've stuck with it throughout my 20s and I plan to stick with it for the rest of my life--adjusting to age of course. In terms of home decor and music, it took me a long time to figure out what made me happy and not--I was depressed in the 90s, and I swear a lot of that had to do with the terrible music (marcy's playground, anyone?) and the florescent lighting in high school, not to mention the forest green and brown ensembles. Now I throw scarves over lamps and only listen to tunes made before 1980 (1994 for dance parties), and I'm much happier.

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?

My mother was absolutely beautiful, cheerleader-meets-60s-model beautiful, and she raised me to have zero vanity and to have no interest in clothes. One thing she always pushed was stocking up on cheap clothing--better to buy six low grade skirts instead of one nice one. Of course I'm the absolute vainest now, and a quality over quantity girl all the way.

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

I'm a washington born girl who was meant to be a southern belle, or maybe more specifically, a 70s country western star. I like big hair, fake eyelashes, lots of liquid eyeliner, and a frosted lip. It does make me feel sexy, as I feel more like myself (as long as the whole mess doesn't go too far into tammy faye baker territory). I always say a false eyelash is my most natural state.
I still wear egyptian goddess musk from high school (do you all remember that stuff?) and it still smells as sexy as ever.

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

I think dressing for location and season is beautiful--my best friend only likes winter so she wears wool coats in July, sweating madly. This drives me crazy. I like flying from NOLA back home to washington and stepping off the plane properly dressed--swapping my more festive carribbian wear for fleeces and dansko clogs. Meet your environment with sartorial grace.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

I think blindly following trends is ugly. I also--and this is a secret--detest tattoos and piercings, also unnaturally colored hair. I'm 32, so that means all of my friends have these things, and all of them hurt my eyes.

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 have two mirrors: a skinny mirror and a reality mirror. Before I leave the house I sort of squint and glance at the reality mirror, just to make sure my eyeliner isn't smudged down my cheek and my slip isn't hanging out. Then I prance around in front of the skinny mirror and get jazzed up to go out. In a way I truly feel like the skinny mirror reflects my true self--my ideal self, who I am meant to be, anyway. It doesn't feel like a lie.

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

Make up tutorials always tell you to start with the eye make up first, then the foundation, and don't get dressed until your face is done, lest you drip on your outfit. I need to get dressed in order to know what sort of make up to wear--what face goes with the body. I've just gotten into facial yoga--I do it along with dry brushing before showering and dressing, before lotion and putting on make up. Whenever I set out an outfit the night before, it always looks too fussy in the morning. I'm a chronic over-dresser, which embarrasses me, so I'm always striving to look more casual. I only wear dresses, so as I'm running out the door in the morning I switch my heels for flats, a jacket for a sweatshirt or something. Sometimes I just end up looking sloppy, but that's better than looking like I'm trying too hard.

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

I'm a professor in new orleans, and for some reason--and I don't know when this happened--the white professors wear like gardening clothes, not even the rumpled professor type outfits but like paint splattered junk, and the black professors look crazy sharp, always in suits and ties, hats, canes, and for the ladies, heels and church hats. I'm white but I vote for fanciness, and since it's new orleans, I get to carry a parasol around campus (I do this to protect my skin but everyone I'm sure thinks it's to seem eccentric, a big plus here). My first semester here, I guess I was wearing more flowy dresses, and I have long sometimes a little messy hair, and my students asked me if was a "flower child." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it inspired me to step it up in any case, and now I choose more streamlined pieces, and keep my hair back. I love my flawy natural look, just not for work.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

I am crazy-photogenic, and am always insulted when people tell me so--it makes me think, what, am I not as gorgeous in real life? The answer, I know, is yes. It's natural, but I have tricks too--it's always better to stand straight ahead, leaning slightly forward so your bottom half looks tiny (don't stand at an angle! this is not actually a good look, despite reccs on the web), tilt your face up to avoid double chins, and have a signature move you know if flattering--mine is a huge smile with a hand on my hip. A hand on a hip keeps away the arm fat smash.

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?

Oh lord, a slew of things. The summer I graduated from high school this amazing thrift store was going out of business, Blue Moon, and I bought everything--cotton and linen 50s day dresses galore, a full length silk yellow kimono, red and purple cowboy boots, two sets. I got to college, joined a sorority, and suddenly vintage looked sloppy and weird. I got rid of everything, and, now, at 32, when one of those dresses costs 250.00 on Etsy (And isn't even as cute) I still miss it all.

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?

This has happened with all my favorite items! How can you really tell in a store, before you've gotten it home and worn it around a bit?

I bought this dress just sort of for a laugh--I was living in florida and decided to get something sort of hooker-ish (I'm a modest one) and florescent. I told people it was my "italian prostitute" dress. Then I happened to be wearing it when I heard I got my first exciting publication; I wore it to the funnest party where I ended up befriending a police officer who took me for a moonlit ride on his horse. I still wear it now tongue in cheek, but aware of its magical powers. My boyfriend says it's his favorite.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I tend to sharp hardest in the spring, when I for some reason get a little depressed and plump. What I should do of course is spend money at the gym/focus on getting skinnier and happier, but instead I buy clothes, so that when summer hits and I'm feeling better, my new eyes see trendy, over-sized dresses I would never in my right mind buy. oy.

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

The first time someone told me I was pretty I was seventeen, and I swear to you I willed it. After that it was sort of an avalanche of compliments. I had been willing prettiness for years, and suddenly it had happened. I was wearing a blue cotton 50s day dress, which I still wear fourteen years later, tattered as it is. I always feel pretty.

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 no idea what I looked like, really, or cared at all, until I was like, sixteen, if you can believe it. I knew I wasn't pretty and so I directed my gaze elsewhere--I remember squinting in the mirror to keep things fuzzy. The first time I really looked at myself I was sixteen, had my first boyfriend, and was confused about why he liked me.

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

born in indianapolis, IN, grew up in washington state, now live in new orleans.

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

I'm very, very german and lost a lot of sleep as a child worrying I was descended from Nazis. I still worry.

What kind of work do you do?

I'm a writer/professor

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

single, don't want kids, only want to get married for the wedding.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

so fun! I've always been so embarrassed that not only am a self-indulgent writer, I'm a vain one at that. I read somewhere that the stupidest thing a young writer can do is spend money on clothes. this survey makes me feel so much better about myself, like maybe it's okay to care about art, and that maybe as artists our bodies are not the worst canvases?

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