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Anisse Gross

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I just recently bought a vintage Valentino nightgown, and I can tell you I feel pretty fucking attractive when I put that on. I swish around the house, looking for my wine, reading poetry in that thing. I feel the most attractive when I’m wearing something that suits my mercurial nature. I like something that is feminine but almost borderline opaque. So the nightgown, for example, is long and not see-through.

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

I admire women who can be sexual in their dress without seeming like they are compromising themselves for the gaze of the other. Like a woman in a pant suit and heels with a revealing top? I couldn’t do that. I like women who own the way they dress.

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?

I think I once saw my dowdy but beautiful english teacher wear red lipstick. All she ever did was wear grey sacks. I was like, oh I can be the grey sacks lady and also once in a while wear red lipstick. For the most part I dress pretty gender neutral and then occasionally, out of the blue, get all dolled up. Maybe high school, and seeing my idol do it, made it click.

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

Always buy vintage lace. Never buy cheap lingerie. Invest in some bitching shoes. Buy the best coat in town.

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

Wear black whenever you don't know what to wear.

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

Probably the conversation I had with my mother about the relationship between the coat and the womb. She had given me a cashmere coat, and I tried it on and as I sat shrouded in the warm fabric, looking at her, I realized her womb was like the original coat. Maybe that seems like an odd leap of the imagination, but it felt right. Suffice to say it was the most unusual fashion conversation I’ve ever had.

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

My approach to life is wholly impractical. But I do like to find things that age well. Life is so ephemeral - I kid myself by trying to find things that age well. It's like my trick that keeps me from going bonkers.

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

Calvin Klein basic bras. Crazy comfortable.

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

I would never do that.

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

Almost all of them. I don’t do onesies/jumpers. Isn’t that why we graduated from preschool?

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

I think I look like a way worse, dowdy, wannabe version of my mother. My mother always opted for her own brand of style and never was trendy. My mother wears big statement pieces, things people remember and talk about. I’m the same way. I’d rather have people stop me on the street to admire my coat than have people saying, she looks great. She also is/was very feminine while seeming like she could cut your balls off with one glance. That’s what I aim for as well. I don't get close to my mother's grace and beauty, but at least she set a good bar.

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

I steal whatever I can from my mother - literally and figuratively. I never wanted to dress like anyone, except a girl from my high school named Bliss Lau, who was like a hipper Wednesday Addams, and is now a famous jewelry designer.

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

High school. I realized, wait a second, these people are kids. I can do whatever I want and it won't matter what they think. I guess that was an advantage of being a weirdo. Once I found an inch of bravery I started wearing 30's and 40's industrial wear and shaved my head, and this was in Hawaii, to give you some context of how weird it was.

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

Not really. I mean yes, inadvertently, or subconsciously, I guess I'm afraid of dressing in a way where no one would take me seriously, because I'm a woman. That feeling that when I'm in a short dress no one will think I'm smart, is an outdated feminist idea that somehow seeped into my mind at a young age.

16. Please describe your body.

I would say I'm a very averagely tall-seeming white girl. My figure is completely vintage. I look like the kind of woman who could accomplish any task except for running long distances, and who wants to do that anyway? I can give you at least three children, and my body lets you know that I have always indulged myself in life’s pleasures.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is on all the time. It's kind of intense and unrelenting, but also whimsical and driven almost solely by obsessions, desires, fears, and curiosities.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I mean I don't have a degree in meteorology - if I did maybe I could then explain or describe my emotions, which to me are as complex and elusive as weather patterns.

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

I'm wearing a weird psychadelic mushroom print tank top and underwear shorts that I got at a garage sale. It was a garage sale where one sad girl was going through a break up and selling off her old lover's clothes. She said, "Will you buy this psychadelic mushroom matching underwear set and make someone happy?" What could I say?

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

I mean it happens every day. I think things that happen every day become important just through their cumulative effects.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

Lots of people - also I take part in clothing swaps. You can't help but talk about clothes there.

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

I’m modest in most areas, but I believe I have great taste. That means that when I tell you your outfit is amazing, you can take those words to the bank. My style means less to me than my taste, because taste extends towards everything I do, every curated facet of my life.

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

Cutting off the sleeves of old cashmere sweaters and wearing them as legwarmers.

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

Decorating and painting walls. I choose good colors.

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?

If I’m feeling down I put on vintage long underwear, a little cardigan and cashmere socks and light some candles. Works every time.

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 parents taught me to buy used clothing because it was cheaper and had more character. I still buy most of my clothing used. Also I was encouraged to make my own clothes, which I did throughout college.

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

Long eyelashes, blown out hair, fabric that moves.

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 see comfort and confidence as separate with regards to fashion.

Comfort is like sweatpants and chips.

Confidence is a women who just wears the clothes. Clothes can often wear a person and that doesn't look good. You want to be in control of the outfit.

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

For me, beauty is when someone is so true to themselves. I mean you can see a woman in an ugly track suit, but if it's her, it's beautiful, at least to me.

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?

Actually I buy whatever I like even if it doesn't fit me. Like I have a habit of buying amazing shoes even if they are a size 7 and I'm a 9 and half. That's because I can't help it. And then like 5 years later I'll be able to give them to a friend who happens to wear a size 7. I'm terribly compulsive.

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?

If I do try to see myself from the outside, I just wonder, will they think I look interesting?

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

I'm considering very little since I work from home. If I want to be productive, I dress a little better, and pretend I'm in an office with co-workers.

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

I’m trying to seem both approachable and formidable at the same time. So, I want to seem serious and not too feminine. I want to seem like I’m the most competent person you’ve ever met, but that I’m also totally naïve and playful and have no idea what I’m doing. So, essentially I’m building contradiction into my fashion, but at the end of the day I want you to know I’m not fucking around by wearing a baby doll dress and stupid ballet flats.

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

There’s a big difference! I hardly ever dress up, and it feels like a chore to be honest. When I dress up, I usually just throw on a vintage floor length dress and some fancy heels, and call it a day. The key to dressing up is not too much. A dress, shoes and a clutch. Make sure your hair is ok. When I look at pictures of people at the Oscars and the opera and stuff, the whole outfit is supposed to go back up to their face. You can tell when they didn’t pay enough attention to their face because they spent the whole time focusing on all that stupid jewelry.

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

Me: black pants, vintage coats, heels, big purses, no frills.
Not me: Little dumb dresses, flats (what a waste of an opportunity to tower over someone!), tiny purses, clutches, jewelry, shorts, short skirts, scarves, hats. So like everything.

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

I have no cultural background - just a white mutt - but I’m from Hawaii and I grew up without wearing much, so my reaction now is to overdress. I’m a prudish east coast type at heart.

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?

Man, when I was like 19 and 20 I was such an experimental dresser. I played around. I mixed things. I wore garments in ways you weren't supposed to wear them. Like I wore pants as jackets and things like that. Now I dress more like an adult, which usually means less experimentation, sadly.

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

It's a relief that you don't have to think about it, and no one will complain about your style. But after a while it's very boring and you just dream about what you could be wearing. Two years in catholic school, all I did was think about the day I would eventually wear something of my own choosing to school.

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 and a black t-shirt. It's comfortable and gender-neutral and invites nothing. You can do whatever you want in that outfit and no one will pay you any notice.

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?

No. Never.

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

I'd like to be a teenager in Tokyo right now.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Not really, unless I'm taking the pictures myself. I think I look misunderstood when others render my image.

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

I think I look like I expected. I feel like I see a plain person, even though I know I'm not that plain.

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

Just my mother. She is the absolute most glamorous person I’ve ever known, and the most beautiful. She used to cook dinner in high heels. She knows what shade of lipstick she wants to be buried in. She wore Chanel perfume even though we lived in a jungle. She turned our childhood bedrooms into walk in closets when we were old enough. I admire her style because it is feminine and fierce and relentless.

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

Anything ball gown sexy. Or anything fun and flirty. Like a sort of girls gone wild cheerleader is something I couldn't do no matter how hard I tried.

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?

Short shorts - if my ass was bigger.

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

Yeah, I mean I'm trying to get compliments from people and not get hit on by men.

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

Less skin. I just think the imagination needs people to be a little covered up.

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

I'm obsessed with it. I wear it. I buy samples from, so I can try every perfume, especially the ones I can't afford. Nice to be able to wear a 600 dollar perfume for a few times.

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

No – I don’t give a shit about being presentable unless I’m teaching or going to a meeting. I can barely fold my clothes, which is why I take my laundry to a wash and fold.

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

I have the same makeup routine I always have. I’m not adventurous. I wear a tinted moisturizer (lady’s foundation), pencil in my eyebrows lightly, eyeliner, and the best mascara money can buy (Dior Show). That’s it. No lipstick. I don’t want people to be too distracted by my face that they forget my personality.

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?

Skirts. I have no interest in them. My boyfriend likes them, but what can I do? Wear them even though I don't want to? No way in hell.

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

I own a lot of basics in terms of pants and tops, and then everything else is vintage and unique.

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 little knit xmas dress with pom poms on it. I don't throw it out because maybe one year I'll be the kind of woman who will wear it, even though I know I never will. It's like a reminder of a possibility.

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?

A t-shirt I made with puffy paint - I drew my name on it and a lonely kite flying with no one attached to the end. It was just very me, and that's why I want it back.

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

My lilli ann coat. It's honestly so nice I should frame it.

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

I would buy some nicer dress pants that are long. I would also buy some more classic dresses. All my dresses are very eccentric.

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

Oh god, I can remember the day I bought it on ebay for like $250, which was a lot of money to me. It’s a two piece set – a vintage dress and coat made by designer Lilli Ann. It's wool and it looks like an airline flight attendant outfit. Every single time I wear it out on the town I make at least two new friends. It’s like people want to give me a book deal just because of that coat.

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

Yes. That matching Lilli Ann dress and coat. I have never worn it without getting stopped on the street.

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

I’d like some vintage tapestry boots, a Fendi bucket bag, and a dress for the opera (does that sound pretentious?)

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

A mess. A royal mess. The clothes come folded from the laundry service, and yet I still can't manage to get them in the drawers folded.

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

This red ring that my mother gave me hasn’t come off my finger in twenty years.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

When I feel like I have an entire day alone with no commitments. I shop alone. Always. Unless I'm accompanying a girlfriend or boyfriend on their shopping trip. But for myself? Alone is my preference.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Yes. I like to smell natural, and if I wear perfume, I like for it to be unforgettable, but almost unrecognizable.

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

Luckily most of my ambitions take place behind closed doors where I can curate what the world thinks I look like at any given moment.

80. How does money fit into all this?

It doesn't really. If I had more money I would just buy more, but I wouldn't necessarily buy more expensive things. I might have nicer handbags.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

Mascara! Also, I usually have one of my coats in tow, just in case it gets cold which it’s bound to do in San Francisco.

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

Are you kidding? All the time. People have at various points either loved or hated the way I look and dress. I feel like my body and style are more contentious than I intend them to be. What can I do?

Some people have complained I dress too prudishly. I care little now about what people think. Back in my 20s it would hurt my feelings.

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?

Yes, when I wore a generation x t-shirt to school and everyone thought an adult must have purchased it for me, but actually I purchased it myself.

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

I'm a triple scorpio born in October. I was born in Hawaii and I live in San Francisco currently.

What kind of work do you do?

I'm a writer.

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

I have a very handsome partner and we don't have kids.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Like I thought about something I don't think I think about but I actually do think about a lot.


Anisse Gross is a writer living in San Francisco.

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