Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
Happy and relaxed and not even thinking about it.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes. There isn't a type so much as people stand out for different reasons. Some people have presence and it's not straightforwardly related to what they are wearing.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I love the body, I admire the body, and I admire women who showcase their natural features. Also, I like quirkiness, as long as it's wholehearted. Sometimes people can't carry something off because they are timid about it.
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?
Kinda. When my daughters were in their late teens/early twenties, they took me clothes shopping. They picked out one or two things I wouldn't have chosen but mostly THEY MADE ME GET PROPERLY FITTED FOR A BRA. When I was a young woman bras only went up to a C cup. What a difference a well-fitting bra makes to the bosomically inclined! I could see my feet. I could stand up straight!!! No shoulder ache!! I could run and jump! I HAD A WAIST.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I don't have rules, I'm rubbish with impulse buys and I hate shopping anyway. No-one should follow my advice. I also buy clothes that don't fit through optimism - very bad, wasteful, unhappy-making idea.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
I don't have rules, but I don't like frills and supa-feminine anything doesn't suit me.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I don't think I've had one of those. I think my issues (body shape, culture) are something I've had to muddle through on my own.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Kinda. How things look, how things feel, long wastes of inactivity interspersed with thorough, meticulous activity. I'm very visual and I like creating tableaux/spectacles/artwork/spaces that have a lot of referencing and echoing and...internal rhymes and fine detail. And also skills. And empty spaces, for the accent.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Yeah, elastic-waisted wide-legged dance trousers. Easy to wear.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
Yes. I used to make some clothes out of African fabrics but found it very hard to choose a style that suited me. (I looked awful in them.) My friend took two of those dresses and she looks great. I'm happy because they were very well made with lovely detailing and notions, and the way she looks repays the effort that went into them.
I've also started crocheting, Grandma-style, and a couple of scarfs have gone down well.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
I'm not a standard size at all and most trends have looked stupid on me. I can't think of one (Western) trend I've been into! Well, maybe mini skirts when I was about 13.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My poor mum was immensely shy about her body and overweight all her life, I think I have some of her shyness, especially when I'm overweight too. She could dress up on occasion but she did have spectacular mistakes as well. She was a very all-or-nothing person.
But I don't have any of her personal style because she was a completely different body shape, and background, to me.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
Yes. My daughters are all very different in their styles. I have appropriated a couple of things from the most expensive one.
I have a double-breasted waspy-waisted baggy tweed suit of my father's from 1948 which I can't get into but may do one day.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
Kinda. I lost two stone in my 40's and stopped wearing baggy shirts all the time. But I had slowly got used to hiding my figure after having children. It was a process.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Yes. Sometimes I dress to express my heritage, which means I will wear African-accented clothes: but modified, with a bi-cultural look. I can wear European clothes or African clothes depending on context, but that isn't political, it's circumstantial. The fusion look is a political look for me, and it's carefully accented.
16. Please describe your body.
I am short with big boobs and a slight bone structure. In fact, I am a small person with big boobs! At present I am overweight by about 2 stone.
I have small hands and feet.
17. Please describe your mind.
My mind is reflective, quirky and calm. It works well without words. It is frightened of numbers in sequence. It is noticing.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Mostly calm, a bit too sad.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I have three years growth of dreadlocks (shoulder length) dyed midnight blue. Where my hair is white it has picked up the blue. Otherwise it is black.
I'm wearing a grey marl cowl-necked top with quarter-length sleeves and a pair of old elasticated black tracksuit bottoms on which I had to take the hem up by about 5 inches. They belonged to one of my children. Glasses, no makeup. Bare feet.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
Attitudes to self, culture, inside and outside. Confidence. Signification. Dreams. Images and ideals. Aspirations. Being grounded or being deluded. Creating a reality; conforming to a reality. Whatever.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
A very good friend of mine who is a bit of a dandy some of the time. A beautiful man.
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
Sometimes one needs to appear respectable. Even to go to the shops.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
I do have taste. Taste on it's own can be boring. Sometimes I can have style. Style is more of a state of mind really, like proclaiming something. Performing something, not necessarily TO anyone else.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
I have at least 2 dresses I have never worn since they were bought several years ago. £40 and £35.
I spent £50 on an evening dress recently, reduced from £130. It's in the cupboard gleaming. It's not a waste because it is beautiful.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
No. Wear clothes that fit. Try things on first. Spend money on good underwear. Big pants are better than their reputation.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
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?
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?
Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing?
No, I have a non-standard body shape and size and it has taken me a very long time to understand what suits me clothes-wise. I do know what I like in other areas. I tend to take strong dislikes to things (authors? Films? Tendencies?) and avoid them. I have very definite preferences, including sensory preferences.
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?
They certainly did not. When it came to clothes my mother had an ideal child in her head who looked nothing like me. Not her fault.
Also because I'm small people have always thought I should choose pretty things and fussy, frilly things. I prefer plain lines and clean shapes. So, no guidance, I've had to find my own way.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Take everything off?
Simplify and get rid of clutter.
You know what, if someone is into you, it doesn't matter what you look like or what you are wearing.
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?
Comfortable means you can sit or sprawl as you would like without pain or embarrassment or indecency or cramp.
Confident means, apart from common courtesy and consideration, you're not bothered.
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?
Express yourself. Stay comfortable. Experiment.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Openness, engagement, self-acceptance. Looking.
Being present, appreciating the body and the sensory world.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
The results of plastic surgery: an appearance that apes naturalness but doesn't reflect the reality it belongs to.
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?
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?
Badass Mama and a Ninja.
Actually that's wishful thinking.
But: a person who knows what they are doing and isn't wishy-washy. A competent person who is a bit kind.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
Roll out of bed, loo, cup of tea. Throw on clothes.
Considering how to stay out of bed.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing is just for schlepping around. Dressing up is if I have to go do something, make an impression. It's for a performance. For me, work is not performance. But getting to work might be.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
A masculine narrow-legged suit and a big carbuncle (some big, showy, statement jewellery.)
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
clean lines, flat shoes, big earrings, uncluttered. Pockets. Wallet. Silver. Turquoise, amethyst. Cotton, linen. Amber, coral. Texture, marled fabrics. Leather. Light fabrics.
make up, frills, foundation wear, lace, high heels, handbags! Synthetic fabrics. Perfume. Feeling heated.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
African father, English mother, sometimes in my clothes I'm performing my identity. But sometimes I'm just passing as neutral.
I would say performance of gender as an African is pretty strictly prescribed, which makes me automatically slightly non-conforming within that culture.
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?
Yeah, I was very frumpy in my 30's/early 40's. Did not wish to be bothered with emotional complications of looking attractive. Busy enough without it.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
Sometimes I tidy or hide my hair.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
Artists are supposed to be non-conforming.
46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?
47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?
48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
N/a but I would hate it. Because it would be unlikely to fit me.
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?
Soft black wide-leg exercise trousers, black jersey shaped top. Almost neutral but doesn't disguise anything. Comfortable, doesn't crease.
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?
Yes. I have wished to have a man's body, it would be much tidier in clothes. Shirts would fit. Neater all round.
I actually love my father's clothes and have a few of his outfits, African and European. Wearing them makes me feel...at home. Wearing a man's clothes in his country wouldn't be possible for me.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
Now is good. Lots of freedom, lots of inspiration, lots of places to buy, lots of tolerance.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
Not bad, Grandma.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) The Red Shoes. One accent can make the outfit - pinstripe suit, huge tortoiseshell sunglasses.
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
not that i recall.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Full make-up, high heels, shapewear, wrap dress, European-style wig. I would look as if I was pretending. I would be SO uncomfortable.
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?
What I wear now.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
No. I'm mostly trying to look like me. (Instead of an approximation)
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
No, I can't tolerate artificial scents. There's some soaps I wouldn't mind smelling like.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
I should be fitter. Everything else stems from that. And can look after itself.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
Don't wear it, never have.
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?
Respectable middle aged woman? Don't think I could do that one if I tried.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Everything mostly cotton, few linen pieces, one or two man-made fabrics: lots of t-shirts, three jeans, some loose trousers, some shirts, few dresses, three or four maxis, one ancient tracksuit. Some Nigerian outfits incl head ties. Couple leather coats, 2 raincoats, few warm tops. Sandals, boots, 2 pairs trainers. Lots of scarves. Lots of earrings. Some necklaces. Cheap watch. Expensive watch. Nostalgic watch (father's: doesn't work.)
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
1. Big silver cross.
2. Some earrings.
3. Coral necklace (African.)
4. Amber and silver necklace (African.)
5. Black and red jacket, stencil printed, African, sewed by me.
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 father's suit from 1948
67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?
Na. There was a time when I was flush but I don't particularly rate the stuff I bought then.
The things that have lasted best are the Doc Martins elastic-sided boots. Still pristine. Best buy ever.
There was a beautiful light wool woman's navy trouser suit with a jacket like a frock coat but I'm a bit too fat for it at the moment.
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 pair of jade and silver earrings that were my mother's, that I accidentally chucked out.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
Buy only what fits
Buy more ordinary clothes and less special clothes.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
Can't remember. Could have been boots or a coat.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
No. The best things have been gifts.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
Yes. My uncle gave me a big silver cross set with citrines. It probably was originally ecclesiastical jewellery for a bishop or something.
I bought a medium-sized silver chain for it, I wear it when I want to look especially 'me'.
It was amazing he bought it for me as mostly people have wanted me to wear small cute things.
76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?
I randomly bought an off-cut of cloth once, started wearing it as a scarf, it's a super sharp scarf. Navy with deep yellow polka dots.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
Randomly. Year before last I decided not to buy clothes for a year, went shopping once the year was over, don't like the results. Need to have less stuff, not more stuff.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
Yeah, but I don't mind smelling of sweat either sometimes.
I like soaps with fresh, herby, astringent smells, they don't last long on the body though.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
It's fun sometimes to perform 'artist', or 'grandma' or 'ninja grandma'. Sometimes I also perform 'matron' or 'matriarch.' I have difficulty performing 'wife'.
It's not fun to be on all the time though.
80. How does money fit into all this?
Well, money can't buy style. It's not what you got but what you do with it. Buying sometimes is just an obsessive compulsion trying to substitute itself for style.
I have so many unused things in my life I'm thinking of spending a year without buying anything but food.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
I got very offended when one of my children bought me an apron for Christmas once. Poor kid.
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?
My mother made me a dress with smocking on the front. I was intrigued by the mechanics of the smocking. I would have been about 4? Plus it was a pretty dress and it's nice to have the maternal attention.
Actually I was pretty chuffed with puffed sleeves when I was little.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
1955. Born in Nigeria, living in England now.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
Bi-cultural African/English, educated middle-class. Resource rich and cash poor.
What kind of work do you do?
Artist, all sorts of media.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Married, 4 kids, 3 grandkids.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
As a short, slight, busty person, there isn't any fashion that was made with me in mind. It has taken me a long time to find clothes that actually fit, let alone that suited me. I can say from experience that most clothes that look lovely on the model, and pretty good on everyone else, will look amazingly WRONG on me. And I have kind of a weird personality as well, so that makes them even wronger. So I've really had to discard norms to find a style that looks comfortable and right on me. Any time I've tried to just buy the conventional thing I've usually looked ridiculous, like a child dressed up.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
It's nice to be coaxed into thinking about these things.