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Martha Gifford

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel healthy, have gotten enough sleep, and I've dressed comfortably and appropriately for whatever the occasion is - whether it's working in my home office, hiking the local trails, or at a formal dinner.

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

Yes, indeed! Women who catch my attention are those whose clothes are interesting, i.e., a little different from the ordinary, or classy or well-fitting. Unfortunately, women whose clothing is ill-fitting - especially too tight - or sloppy, also catch my attention, but not in a good way.

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

Some women use color in powerful and exciting ways. This is a way of dressing that I admire. I also admire women whose clothing conveys that they are confident in their choices but not obsessed with how they look.

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?

There was not so much a moment, but a series of them, when I realized that I looked too much like other women in my profession. I started shopping with a more open mind, spending more money to get clothing that was extremely well designed and made.

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

What an interesting question! I make it a rule never to shop when I am busy or pre-occupied with a work issue. If I am traveling, I edit my shopping choices strictly, keeping in mind that it may be very difficult to return something once I'm home and an item isn't as attractive out of the setting where I found it!

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

I never wear skirts except in the summer, when I wear long, lightweight skirts. Pants are more flattering on me, and much easier to move in.

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

Honestly, I can't identify one. In my profession (I am a lawyer whose clients are generally large companies), my interest in style is unusual. I've met only a few other women like me who openly discuss their interest in fashion. My views and uses of fashion and style have evolved from my own observations and reading widely about these subjects.

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

I keep lists - what I need to do, what I need to buy, what I want to read, gifts for others, vacations I want to take. You get the idea.

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

Turtlenecks, both casual cottons and dressy wools and silks. I love how they look, and they keep my neck warm! I can wear them with jeans, corduroys, dressy trousers and suits.

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

Yes, many times. I have very good taste in this regard. The best choice was a handsome stone necklace that I gave to my best friend one Christmas. I'd given her jewelry in the past, and she's always liked what I chose, but this time she said that she was stunned by how perfect my gift was.

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

Short shorts - horrible.

Platform shoes and spike heels - horrible and dangerous!

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

Mostly, it has not. She is 5'2", with nice curves. I am 5'9", and only developed curves when I put on too much weight! However, she has "peasant legs", which are actually and unfortunately a result of poor circulation, and I have, also unfortunately, inherited the same feature. Undoubtedly this is a reason why I don't feel comfortable in skirts.

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

From some friends, yes - but ideas and styles, not items. My sister-in-law wears scarves beautifully, for example, and I finally learned how to wear them from her.

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

By necessity, my style changed significantly when I graduated from law school and started working. I had no professional wardrobe and had to build it from scratch.

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

My wearing pants almost exclusively was at one time a type of political statement, in the sense that women lawyers are still warned not to call attention to their clothing. I started wearing pants suits long before any of my female peers did, including to court.

16. Please describe your body.

Reasonably tall, slender but muscular, legs that are larger than one would expect with my torso, good shoulder breadth, long neck.

17. Please describe your mind.

Focused, inquiring, imaginative, disciplined, very quick.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Optimistic but cynical, disciplined, down to earth, direct, subject to depression.

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

No make-up; I almost never wear any other than some eyebrow pencil and lipstick, sometimes a concealer. My hair is clipped back at the temples because I've been working at my computer all day; otherwise it's loose. I'm wearing clothes that are comfortable for sitting in my home office: jeans, crew-neck shirt, flannel overshirt, clogs.

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

I express who I am in part through how I dress, so it's important. Just like that.

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

Sept 18, 1951
Providence, RI
New York, NY and Bristol, ME

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

New Englander for many generations, raised in a just barely middle class family, first woman and third person on either side to attend college.

What kind of work do you do?

Lawyer in private practice.

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

Married, with two step-children and five grandchildren. No children of "my own".

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

I love the visual arts - almost all arts, actually, but I'm very visually oriented. At my home in Maine, I could sit and look at the landscape for hours if I didn't have to work. I think that my love for fashion and style comes in large part from this aspect of who I am.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Delighted. Great questions. Wish I had time to answer all of them.

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