Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When dancing: in Zumba class (I teach) or at a party.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Often if I see a woman on a bike who is dressed for work I'll compliment her, since I also bike to work.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
If a woman looks at ease and can move quickly and confidently.
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?
A major shift was when I became a mom. I wanted to be able to do anything and not be constrained by my clothes. The experience of trying to iron an outfit before a major presentation, on a rickety ironing board in a hotel room with a curious toddler underfoot, made me give away everything that wasn't machine wash and dry. It's really simplified travel, and shopping, and dressing, and life. I wanted to be able to come home from work and hug my daughter, even if her face was covered with jam or spaghetti sauce, and not yell "Don't touch mommy! Don't touch mommy!" And coming home from the hospital, it's nice to be able to fling something straight into the washer.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
As in the last question, I now only buy machine wash and dry items. I guess I would recommend it to anyone in a similar situation. I work long hours, often after the dry cleaners closed, and my work clothes were often held hostage for weeks.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
I also tend to wear outfits to work that can quickly transition to working out afterwards. If I have bike shorts on under a skirt, or pants I can move in, and a sports bra or tank top underneath my blazer, I can go straight to the gym or class without changing. It's very motivating.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
When I was in medical school my roommate and I avidly read fashion magazines whenever we had any free time. Although she and I had different styles it was an ongoing conversation about developing a style that suited us: practical (we were both med students), affordable (both on a budget) and chic (both rabid francophiles).
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
You get one life so you might as well make it the best possible. Do things that are meaningful and don't spend too much time on things that are not.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Yes! If there is something really good I buy it in different colors.
Pants by Lucy that go from work to workout.
Cole-Haan Mary Janes that go from work to workout.
Prada boots, ditto.
A Norma Kamali top that converts to skirt or even a short, strapless dress. Best travel item ever.
Most recently, a sleeveless dress from Lands End that I bought 8 of, in different solids and prints.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
When I gave away all my heeled shoes to two students with the same size feet, they hauled off 5 grocery bags worth, and would show me what they were wearing whenever I saw them, including at graduation (gold Donald Pliners.)
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
I used to wear heels, but now I've found so many really adorable flats, including by Ferragamo, Prada, Cole Haan, Nanette LePore, etc. Oh and very affordable ones by Puma that have a little tab in front that I decorate with floral or jeweled hair clips. People compliment me on them all the time.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mom used to have her clothes tailored for her and and they were amazing--I learned to appreciate retro styles from that era, and precise tailoring. But she's much shorter than me, and curvier, so I can only "borrow" specific items.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
When I was in college I raided my mom's closet and one time she said "where are you going in that?" It was a white minidress I planned to wear for a party. She thought I had shortened it, but I showed her the hem, it was exactly as she had worn it, to many other parties. She protested "You're taller than I am so it's shorter on you!" but she let me wear it. I think she was secretly pleased.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
One: I became a doctor. I had to dress professionally.
Two: I became a mom, so I had to streamline my time (see prior answers re not dry cleaning.)
Three: I re-discovered dance, and became an instructor, and realized I could recapture my prior body, and energy, if I made time to dance or exercise everyday. So I started dressing to make that possible. I now want to dress in a way that gives me maximum options per day.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Only if it's political for a woman to be able to do whatever she wants. I guess I'm always struck by how some styles seem to physically constrict or handicap the wearer's movements, and men usually won't stand for that.
16. Please describe your body.
Capable. I've always been small-busted but gradually learned to appreciate it, and part of that was being a mom (my mother-in-law, who was "well-endowed", doubted whether I could nurse my baby but I did.) Now I dance and it's actually easier to be small-busted. I feel athletic and like my body doesn't hold me back.
17. Please describe your mind.
Active: I want to learn about and do all kinds of things. I'm never bored. I'm always curious.
18. Please describe your emotions.
I'm optimistic and energetic, and I see humor everywhere even, or especially when, there are serious things happening.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
Hair: chin-length because I donated 10-12 inches to Locks of Love. I've done this, growing it out and then donating it, ever since my mother-in-law died of cancer.
Face: eyeliner and shadow, moisturizer with SPF, and lip gloss. I stopped wearing foundation because it looks so fake in the sunlight, and this is just polished enough but looks natural.
Body: retro cardigan by Lands End over a tank top (so I can work out if I have time), Lucy pants, Prada boots. Mostly black, but I love jeweltones too.
Accessories: pearls almost every day, which dress up everything. Plain wedding band, no diamond, with both white and yellow gold, so it goes with everything. Waterproof watch by Skagen with metal mesh band, also goes with everything.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
Clothes should allow you to do everything you want to. I've chosen my wardrobe now to move easily from one role to another without wasting time. People ask how I have time to do it all and a big part of it is having the right clothes!
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I'm Chinese-American, so I look best in black or jeweltones, not neutrals or autumn tones, and I often include a little something with Asian influence, a scarf or piece of jewelry, or something in the fabric or neckline. It's not everyday, but it makes me happy when I can.
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! Men's clothes are boring and unimaginative. Their best items look better on us (blazers and vests, boots.) Like Annie Oakley sings: "Anything you can do, I can do better."
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
I like it here and now. We have so many choices.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
Yes I do actually. I spent my teen years in glasses and braces and once they came off I was surprised by how much nicer everyone was to me. I think I'm still surprised, but in a good way.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I'm a doctor so no fragrance at work, but when I can I like Tuberose by Jo Malone. A friend gave me a rare, precious bottle when they discontinued it, but now they've just brought it back. Yeah!
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
I like eyeliner, because I'm Asian and it accentuates one of my best features, and I like a berry-colored lip balm or gloss that I can put on without looking in the mirror. If I'm going out for the evening, a red lipstick. Moisturizer with SPF everyday. Everything else is optional.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Jewelry: My wedding ring and waterproof watch I wear 24/7 and both go with everything. Pearls almost everyday for work. And then often a little something extra: a bracelet made by a patient, a little pin with sentimental value. Clip earrings for going out.
Clothes: all washable and versatile for work, travel, working out. Mostly black, but I also love jeweltones like purple, royal blue, turquoise, and red.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
I have two:
Pearls: real, but freshwater so they were very affordable, and they have a jeweled magnetic clasp that makes putting them on in the morning effortless. They are round enough to look like a classic strand, but ever so slightly irregular if you look closely, so they're unique.
Prada boots: flat-heeled, ankle high, black patent. I bought these after a Vogue article and I've resoled them twice. I live in them fall to spring. I wear them to work, I've testified in court, I've given lectures in front of hundreds of people, but I've also worn them doing Zumba and kickboxing.
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. Maybe my daughter will wear it, but even if she doesn't, I'd like her to have the option.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
The Prada boots (see question 65) definitely.
80. How does money fit into all this?
I love sales, but the most important figure isn't overall cost, it's cost per wear. A friend was amazed I bought pants at Lucy for $70 but I've worn each pair dozens of times. The Prada boots were $300 or $350 but I've worn them hundreds of times now and resoled them twice.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
1963. I was born in NY but now I live in CA.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
Chinese-American, grew up in Wisconsin and learned over time to embrace my heritage.
What kind of work do you do?
MD at Stanford, so I take care of patients, teach, travel, and wear many hats (not literally, usually)
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married, with one daughter.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
Actually I think the survey questions were so good they provide the context! Everything relevant to the survey is in the answers.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
I love that you're doing this! I saw an article in the SF Chronicle and had to do it. It gave me a chance to think about ideas and opinions I hadn't really spelled out before.
Mom/MD/Stanford professor/Zumba instructor