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Emma Aylor

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I feel most attractive in jeans and a soft gray t-shirt, wearing red lipstick, on a day off from work, reading and writing in a public but quiet place.

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

Yes, absolutely. I admire women who present a facade that I hope to have--dressing for themselves, confident in themselves, having made their choices in dressing and sticking by them. I'm afraid that I'm not the kind of woman that other women would admire or notice on the street; I feel self-conscious in what I'm wearing sometimes, and vacillate between feeling too ornamented and too plain.

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

I admire resting bitchfaces, huge bags, and delicate but interesting jewelry.

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 took dance classes as a teenager, I wore my mother's old leggings to jazz one evening and I remember a classmate saying they were "really '80s"--not unkindly, necessarily. It was almost as if she admired that I didn't care how outdated they were (this was probably in about 2004, maybe a little earlier--I was 12 or 13). Of course, leggings soon became hugely popular again, and I remember realizing how arbitrary those kinds of changes are. I also decided that the kind of person who cares enough to judge another person negatively on their style choices is probably not the kind of person worth trying to impress.

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

I seldom spend more than $200 on any one item, and it had better be pretty special--a leather bag, a trenchcoat. On leather boots I might spend up to $150; on a really nice dress, up to $100. I graduated from college very recently and still do not have a lot of disposable income, so other than these investment pieces I tend to stick under $50 for items of clothing that aren't outerwear or everyday accessories like bags. I feel like you can buy quality clothing (at least in my simple style) for under that price point.

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

Oh, I have so many. I have an hourglass shape--very broad shoulders, small waist for my frame, thick through the butt and thighs--so many of my personal "rules" center on highlighting my waist. I am not the type who can wear a big t-shirt or billowy top, because the width visible then is at my hips, and I'd much rather my smallest point be visible. I end up looking like myself at 10, straight and unfeminine. I don't wear shift dresses without waist shaping. I don't do anything in particular to downplay my shoulders or butt/thighs, but I do try to keep an eye on how they look in proportion. All that said, I think I do this with an eye towards what I like about my figure rather than what I dislike. I don't hate my thighs or hips by any stretch, but I love my waist and shoulders, so I favor those body parts.

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

Remember when Conan O'Brien was going through the keruffle about the Tonight Show a few years back? He said that the tenet to live by was to "work hard and be kind." I feel strongly that it's the way to go--most of the problems I've had are easily resolved by either getting off my ass or by helping someone else up off theirs. Work hard. Be kind. I'm not sure what else there is.

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

I have quite a few gray tops in all shapes--v-neck, scoop neck, crew neck; t-shirts and tanks and long sleeves; linen, cotton, wool. I'm not sure why I gravitate to gray so much. I do know that it looks good on me--a warm gray especially flatters my very pale but warm-toned skin. I like not having to match--with a gray top I can wear a patterned or colorful skirt, or plain jeans with a bright cardigan, without much thought. But I also just have a visceral, immediate reaction when I see a gray top on sale. The color calms me and softens me, I feel, but also supports those parts of me that are not calm or soft.

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

I've done a good job with presents I've given my mom, I think. She doesn't wear many accessories, but I gave her a simple silver ring with an oval citrine stone when I was eighteen and she's worn it since.

Honestly, I don't give many clothes. I feel that it's very hard to pin down someone's style from outside, and the possible issues with sizing or personal taste are just too many. I'd rather take someone shopping, I think, than buy them an item of clothing.

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

I don't wear leggings, but I don't hate them on other people. They're just not my most flattering item. I have thick, athletic legs and hips, and while I love them most of the time, leggings sure don't do much for them. Jeans work better for flattering my bottom half.

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

Until she had me at age 31, my mother's waist was 25 inches around. I'd probably surpassed that by 13--I have my dad's skeleton, I always say, big-boned and sturdy. While it has come in handy to have the body I do, I always felt jealous that my mother was thinner than I was, that she's still thinner than I am even though she's 53. I simply didn't get that gene, I guess. It's hard to love my own body when the one I grew up loving--my mom's--is so different. Sometimes I will notice a similarity, like the way my calves, though much thicker than my mom's, are shaped the same way, and it makes me so happy to find it.

Our faces and hair, though, look very, very similar. We have the same cheekbones, same nose, same thin curly brown hair, same rosacea, same natural downturn of the mouth that makes men on streets tell us to smile (to which both of us readily reply with snark). I love that my face is so much like my mom's.

My mom is a farm girl at heart (we were both born in central Virginia, and I actually call her "Mama"). She favors clothes that are practical and simple, and though I have more taste for dressing myself than she does, my clothes are all pretty simple. I stick with classic, understated clothing, usually in dark colors or gray, and let my "costuming" come out in jewelry and makeup.

16. Please describe your body.

Soft but overall pretty thin, size 8 by most standards; very pale (northern/western European almost entirely); warm toned; visible veins everywhere, showing greenish blue across my shoulders and chest and down my inner arms; freckled most of the year, but fading in and out as the sun does; exaggerated ski-jump nose; good cheekbones for my weight; broad shoulders; thick arms; big ribcage; deep belly button; small breasts; small pelvis but big butt and thighs; athletic calves.

I love my eyes most, I think: they are blue with a starburst of yellow around the pupil. My brother's are almost exactly the same. I think they're a mix of my parents' eyes: my mom's, which started out blue, turned hazel with bursts of gold around the pupils as she aged, and my dad's, which are blue with rings of ice. I like to think that my mom's gold filled in those white rings in my dad's eyes to make my brother's and mine. Once I had an optometrist tell me that he'd never seen eyes like mine. (Also a stoner grocery clerk; a Facebook comment; a classmate. List goes on.)

17. Please describe your mind.

Impatient and calm in measures.

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

- Hair down and air-dried with a bit of mousse, as I do it every time I shower. It's naturally curly and I love the texture, although it can get a bit blowsy sometimes.
- Heathered gray linen t-shirt, skinny dark wash jeans, black leather flats with patent toe caps.
- Emerald ring my boyfriend gave me for an anniversary on my left ring finger, thin gold bangle I bought for $15 in the Village on my left wrist, thin silver ring with a ball on it from Etsy on my right pointer finger, two thin stacking rings from Etsy on my right ring finger.
- Band-aids on my heels (I am breaking in my shoes).
- Mascara, blush, undereye concealer, and sheer pink lip balm/stain.

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

I was born in May 1991 in Lynchburg, Virginia and raised in Bedford and Forest, Virginia (neighboring Lynchburg). After college in Williamsburg, Virginia, I now live in Fairfax, Virginia and work in D.C.

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

When I was young my family didn't have much, but we have many of the cultural advantages provided by being white in Virginia (or, you know, anywhere). My parents have saved more money as I've gotten older and moved out, and I feel incredibly lucky to have that safety net, but so far I haven't needed it. I work for a low salary, but I have insurance, a retirement account, and have just started out.

What kind of work do you do?

I work in educational assessment, writing grade school standardized tests in English. I never saw myself doing this, but when I graduated getting a job was tough, and I do like it okay. I plan to get my MFA in poetry when I can and hopefully will work in publishing later on.

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

I am single in the census sense, but I live with my boyfriend of six years. We are literal high school sweethearts. We are your grandparents.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I feel like I want to leave work and spend some time dressing!


Emma Aylor is the author of the chapbook Twos (dancing girl press, 2014) and a staff writer for The Female Gaze Review.

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