Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When I'm feeling thin and unbloated, dressed in something kind of drape-y and messy-sexy that makes me feel like a Parisian hipster. Nothing must touch my waist, or I'll be constantly reminded of my stomach which is not acceptable.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Oh, sure, all the time. I notice older women with dramatic, sort of severe style - all-black sculptural outfits with big dramatic jewelry, that kind of thing. I notice cool girls with outfits that are just a tick more interesting and mismatched than anything I dare wear. I notice Indian women in saris or shalwaar kameez and think it would be great to dress everyday in such bright and beautiful colors and have it be a normal thing. (Ironically I wear almost nothing but black, gray and navy).
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I admire women who are organized and diligent enough to figure out what beauty products and hair regimens really look good on them. I mean, I wear makeup, but usually only acquire a new product every few years. How do I know if I'm wearing what's best for me? Am I supposed to buy everything in Sephora and try it all out?
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?
When I was 16 or so I realized that if I didn't wear steel-toed boots, spiked hair and a dog collar, nobody would think I was a weirdo. Before then I figured that my weirdo-ness was so obvious I might as well dress it up. But then I had the realization that people only know you by the way you present yourself to them. They can't read your mind. So if I dressed like a "norm," people would think I was. Sometimes, when I'm dressed like an average office worker or yoga mom, I still feel like I'm wearing a costume.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
If it has to be tailored, don't buy it. Because I know perfectly well I'll never get around to that. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. If it can't be returned, don't buy it. If it's not right for your body type, don't buy it, no matter how good the sale.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Either boobs or legs, but not both. That whole Coco Chanel thing about "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off" (I always do this, and I think it actually makes my looks more boring, since I am already pretty minimalist). Don't even consider wearing uncomfortable shoes if you have to walk somewhere. You'll be sorry.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Now that I think about it, I hardly ever talk about fashion or style with my friends or family, except to occasionally gossip about somebody else's questionable taste or to talk about what we bought on sale at Target.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
I'm pretty practical and pragmatic, which I think actually rules out a "unified way" of doing things. I just do what works at the time.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Black shirts. So many black shirts. I like black, and I like a minimalist look set off with bold jewelry. But I also think I'm on some level embarrassed by my rather large breasts.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
I've lived in Hong Kong for the past few years, and the first time I came back to the US for a visit I brought all my girlfriends pretty Chinese ceramic beaded necklaces from the street market. Whenever I see them wearing the necklaces, it makes me happy, like they think about me when I'm gone.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Most of them. Backless or keyhole or thin-strap or strapless dresses - fine if you're a cute little perky A cup, not great for a saggy D. Those drop-crotch Ali Baba pants you see on backpackers here in Asia, even though they look really comfortable. I've given in on jumpsuits, though, much to my husband's chagrin.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother is tiny all over - short, thin, flat-chested, narrow-hipped. I'm much taller and curvier. She always complains that she doesn't understand style and never knows what to wear. But it doesn't seem to truly bother her. She's all about comfort - no pinchy waistbands, no heels, nothing too tight. I think I've inherited this pragmatism; though I'm more willing than my mother to be experimental with fashion, I hate to be uncomfortable. My mother's favorite sentence is "do you want to bring a cardigan in case it's coldly air-conditioned?" And now I always do.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
Whenever I'm feeling fat, I wear my husband's pajama pants to sleep because they're bigger and don't pinch my waist.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
As I mentioned before, I was heavily into grunge/punk/ska fashion from the ages of 11ish to 16ish. Then the summer before my junior year of high school I decided I didn't want me clothes to be announcing such a strong message about me. So I toned it way down.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
This week I've been participating in Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, so I've been wearing black shirts with a yellow ribbon, the uniform of the pro-democracy student movement. It's made me very aware of how people look at me when I move through the streets, whereas I'm usually pretty oblivious.
On a much more superficial note, sometimes I feel like I'm making a political statement by not wearing makeup to the gym or to run errands, because Hong Kong is SO into looks and surface, to speak broadly.
16. Please describe your body.
I'm 5'6,'' which is quite average for a white woman, though I always think of myself as tall because I reached my full adult height around age 11. I've always been thin, sometimes thinner than other times. Right now I'm on the curvier side of my normal, which I dislike, but not enough to stop eating cookies every night. For some reason my thinner self feels "real" while the curvier self feels like a fat suit. As mentioned, I've got big boobs, which I don't love (though my husband really, really does). I've always liked the sort of gamine/boyish look in fashion, which is hard to pull off with D-cups.
17. Please describe your mind.
Creative and super-curious. Rational (though probably not as rational as I'd like to think). Jumpy. Yoga teachers (my main, though likely unreliable, portal to Eastern thought) always talk about the Buddhist concept of "monkey mind." I have that. I also ruminate, especially when I'm depressed. To deal with the monkey and the rumination, I have to do things to shut my mind off - I like to cook elaborate meals with the radio on, and I always fall asleep watching TV so I don't have to think. I have a very good memory, especially for facts. I kill at Trivial Pursuit.
18. Please describe your emotions.
I'm pragmatic and relatively unemotional (I recently said I had a "narrow emotional range" in front of my mom, and she freaked out because she thought it made me sound like a sociopath, which I'm not). But sometimes I have to push myself to feel a lot of feelings - watch sad movies, read blogs about dying people. I get annoyed, but rarely outraged (at least compared to my many super-emotive friends and FB acquaintances).
I'm definitely an introvert - figuring this out was a real revelation of my 20s. Suddenly I got that I was not a failure for being bad at networking and chatting at cocktail parties, I just wasn't wired for that stuff. But I do like to socialize a lot, so long as it's mostly with people I know and I get downtime afterwards.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I'm wearing a pair of nylon athletic shorts, white athletic socks, and a white sports bra. I just came from a cycle class at the gym. I took my shirt off so I wouldn't get the couch sweaty. No makeup. Hair pulled back.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
There's no escaping the fact that how we choose to dress (assuming we have a choice, and are not living in poverty, in prison, etc.) reflects how we want to present ourselves to the world. There's no way of making a non-choice. Even dressing as averagely as possible says something.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
My girlfriends. My husband. My mother.
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
I work from home, so not much.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
I'd like to say 'style,' because it suggests a striking personal vision that goes beyond the polite, agreed-upon value of 'taste.' But I probably worry more about taste myself.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
I bought a $250 dress not too long ago when I had to make a TV appearance. It was too small and it gave me quadriboob. Since $250 is about the max I've ever spent on a garment (wedding dress not included), that was a very big waste for me.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Spanx? Not really a secret.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
I think my apartment is pretty cute.
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?
I used to have a wild fear of flying. So for a while, I would dress up when I had to travel. Nothing crazy, just nice - a dress, boots, a trench coat. I thought if I looked like a nice put-together businesslady on another routine flight, I might trick myself into thinking I was one. I think it worked a bit.
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 know too well. I tend to stick in a narrow zone of "my style" and "my colors," and should probably mix things up a little bit more.
I think I'm good at discernment, which probably comes from my being a generally pretty confident person (at least in most areas of my life).
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 mom taught me how to do laundry, though I never obey the "colors" vs "whites" rule. Other than that and some other practical information, neither of my parents tried much to influence my style, other than to remind me that people judged me by the way I dressed (this being mostly applicable when I was a dog collar-wearing teen).
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Lipstick! This is a new thing for me.
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?
Well, I think they mean they admire people who seem comfortable and confident AND look good. Nobody really wants to be the gray-haired lady in the cat t-shirt dancing like nobody's watching at the street fair, do they? If they say they do, they're probably saying it with some ironic reserve.
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?
Find your style and stick with it.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Even though I wear mostly black and my apartment is mostly white, I really love color. Oriental rugs. Saris. Cobalt glass. The color blue on its own its incredibly beautiful to me. Just an indigo wall or a peacock-blue tapestry or those Yves Klein paintings.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
The color orange. Flared jeans. Fake tans (see "orange").
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?
Pretty good, and getting better. I've figured out that in addition to looking good, it has to be super-comfortable or I won't wear it much.
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?
The older I get, the less sharp my "outer eye" becomes. When I was younger I always had that feeling that I was on a stage, that a committee of people in the audience were constantly commenting - "she's so elegant!" or "she's gained weight." But those voices are mostly silent now, and I admit I miss them a little. Because now I feel less visible.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
Process: how much time can I spend eating breakfast before I have to dress? Considerations: How hot it is, how much I'll have to walk, who I'm going to see.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing up means making myself feel special, or making someone else feel special because I've gotten dressed for them. Usually both.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
In Hong Kong summer: black sundress, big red beads, big man's watch, white Bensimon canvas flats.
In other seasons: slim dark jeans, black shirt, big red beads, big man's watch, black knee-high boots over jeans. Trench coat.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
Me: black, gray, navy, sailor stripes, boots, jeans, flats.
Not me: floral prints, neon, cleavage-baring, heels.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I was raised in an upper-middle class professional family in the American South. Maybe I've rebelled just a tad against my parents' bourgeois lifestyle? Though mine's pretty damn bourgeois at the moment and has been for quite some time.
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?
See above mention of dog collars, combat boots, spiked hair. It was about letting my outsides reflect the misfit feelings on my insides. It was also about showing contempt for the "boring" "sheep-like" values of those around me (probably because those people made fun of me).
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
I rarely need to feel professional, but if I do it certainly involves makeup and maybe blow-drying my hair.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
My workplace is my couch, and I very much conform to it by wearing pajamas all day.
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?
Jeans, French striped t-shirt, Converse. It's an outfit that's comfortable, fashionably boyish, slightly indie, always age-appropriate.
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?
Only in the sense that men have much less work to do to look presentable in our society. But I've never really wished to have a man's body or be able to dress like one.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I've always envied Indian women their saris.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
Lately I think I look tired.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
This is ridiculous, but the character of Zoe the journalist on House of Cards made me go out and buy an army coat. She always looked very chic and comfortable wearing jeans and the army coat with her hair pulled back. It's an outfit that's very me.
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
In the months and weeks leading up to my wedding I had innumerable nightmares involving wedding dresses. Wedding dresses that fell in the mud, wedding dresses that got wet, wedding dresses that couldn't be found the moment I needed to walk down the aisle.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Anything strapless or backless. Fucking boobs.
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 my boobs were smaller and my belly a smidge flatter I would love to wear tissue-thin t-shirts over jeans with no bra all the time.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
The cowboy boots I bought for myself in Nashville when I was 25. I've worn them across many different countries, through several different jobs, and through a number of life transitions. I even wore them under my dress at my wedding.
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?
My wedding dress, for all the usual reasons.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
When I'm back in the US on vacation, because shopping in Hong Kong is expensive and demoralizing. There are rarely good sales, and no such thing as an outlet mall. Brands which are considered mid-price in the US, like J Crew or Nine West, are wildly expensive here. Also, at local shops I am frequently, like, a XXX-Large, even though I'm a size 4 or so in the US. The outrage!
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
My wedding ring.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in 1982, raised in North Carolina, and currently live in Hong Kong.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
Upper-middle-class white reform Jewish
What kind of work do you do?
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married, no kids yet