Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
Mornings, while happy, while having sex or dancing, after exercising when I feel strong and able-bodied.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I notice and admire women with unusual or unique personal styles. I notice women with styles that align with mine or that I aspire to. I also notice women who are conventionally attractive or dressed more revealingly, but I think this is from social conditioning, and is not a characteristic that I admire in myself.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
Flair (in the older, non-slang sense), uniqueness or difference from dominant local culture, flamboyance, comfort (when the woman looks to be comfortable herself) and self-assurance, style in an upper-middle-class sense (solid colors, quality fabrics and cuts, etc.) applied to countercultural outfits (successful/stylistically coherent mixing of normalized and countercultural styles), skill in pulling together a look from secondhand or otherwise diverse component clothing items.
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?
Not really. There was a period where I learned about effects of different hair care routines on my hair's appearrance, and I feel like I better understand this now, but I didn't experience it as a "click".
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I make the occassional impulse or boredom-influenced purchase.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Not mixing blacks and browns, or red and purple. Trying on clothing that's a size too small.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I would say that my opinions or feelings on fashion or style haven't been shaped strongly by conversation with others. Having been strongly anti-fashion as a teen and young adult, reading about and discussing the ways that looking down on femme presentation can be a symptom of patriarchal culture helped me develop a more nuanced view of fashion.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
In the sense that acting ethically and with compassion in all areas of my life is important to me, yes. In the details or mechanics, however, I tend to approach tasks in life and work from an organized, begin with a review of goals, principles, and values then developing a plan step-by-step; while my home is less organized and , about half the time, don't complete all the steps in a chore in one round. I also no longer keep a careful spreadsheet of my finances, plan out future purchases, make weekly menus and grocery shopping lists, etc., as I once used to.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
I have been searching for the perfect oxford shoe, and have multiple versions that are close but not really exactly what I'm looking for.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
Yes. I have one or two people whom I regularly give jewelry to, and I have never felt bad about my choice afterwards. I have given ties or related items on fewer occassions, but likewise with no regret. In fact, this question struck me as odd at first, since it's not something I've ever encountered or would tend to worry about.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Lots, at least passively. I know what styles I like and don't tend to follow shorter-term trends.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
We're similar in many respects. My mother worries much more about how her fashion choices signal success and respectability, however. I have a greater affinity for her style period when she was in her 20s. Recently, she has started looking to me for fashion inspiration (especially with respect to hair style, since our hair is quite similar). I'm a bit uncomfortable with this, since lately I've also sort of come quite late to feeling a desire or need to differentiate myself from my mother. Our body shapes are not unrelated but not as similar as our hair.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
I used to wear some of my mother's old clothes from her 20s that she no longer fit into or hand-me-down flannel shirts from my father (until they wore out). I borrowed or adapted ideas and styles (but not actual items) from friends more as a teenager. My style has varied since then, but not a great deal.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
My appearance has shifted as increasing disposable income has allowed me to better instantiate the ideas I've held, but not dramatically. At one point, both men's and women's clothing styles changed to the point that I switched to wearing women's pants; and now I can afford brands that fit better or more comfortably overall. The most major shift was probably when I started wearing bras more regularly in my mid or late 20s. I had to dress more professionally for work and styles available in stores were changing, so the shirt options that I had no longer looked put together or were comfortable without a bra - the shaping assumed breasts slightly higher on the torso.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
In that I explicitly do not follow short-term fashion trends or strive for gender conformity, yes.
16. Please describe your body.
Athletic, average height for North American women, average weight but distributed with a greater proportion as muscle than fat, medium or medium to small breasts, narrow hips, not as narrow waist. I am not as strong as I used to be, which has advantages in finding clothing that does not constrict my upper arms, thighs, and calves, though I wish I were still as adept at climbing rocks and trees or bicycling, running, and hiking long distances. I'm still fit and athletic, but not exceptionally so.
17. Please describe your mind.
Active, agile, creative, and highly trained.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Passionate, balanced, compassionate, though tending toward introspection and loneliness.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
Jeans; wool socks and mary jane style shoes; tank top layered with short-sleeve sweater layered with 3/4-sleeve sweater, both sweaters in soft, comfortable fabrics, solid colors in shades of green with cream top layer, but necklines with some small detail of interest. Cotton scarf also in a solid shade of green. Hair is cut in a short-medium length, growing out at present, kind of a modern style, slightly on the white-afro end of things, with a couple streaks of different colors (blue, red, orange) along one side (professionally dyed). Acne medication and moisturizer combination on my face.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
It has very significant impacts on how people treat me, the assumptions they make about me, the treatment I receive from strangers or passing acquaintances, and my interactions with subordinates and colleagues at work. It has some, but much, much lesser, impact on my romantic options and relationships and social interactions with friends.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
Other female friends, women on internet forums.
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
Expectations for professional appearance have influenced my wearing/not wearing bras.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
Taste connotes a hierarchical ranking of styles, to me. I definitely have my own preferences and style, but strive not to impose that on others as taste.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
There was a dress that I tore the arm of the first time I wore it, that cost a larger proportion of my disposable income at the time, so that was quite disappointing. My disappointment centered more around the actions leading to the damage than the initial purchase, however.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
Yes: approaches to work or problems, writing, dancing, etc.
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?
Gain control: no. Calm myself: I will wear particularly comfy clothing on days when I'm feeling down or dreary.
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?
Yes. In other areas of life, I often but not always know what I like. I can trace some of my tastes to family and upbringing, othets to values I've been socialized with or as a reaction against suchbsocialization. Some is just based on a curiosity about everything, and an appreciation for variation - in culture, subcultures, landscape, etc.
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?
Yes: my mother taught me rules about matching colors, attempted to convey her sense of dressing professionally or appropriately for different contexts. The fabrics that I wear now are not all the same as the fabrics that I grew up with, however, so my routines for clothing care have changed noticeably. Likewise for hair care and styling.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Comfort is an important component: feeling confident being the most important aspect to feeling alluring. There are some items of clothing that I own that I think look particularly good. How I wear my hair to feel alluring varies by day. I don't wear make-up.
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?
The commonality between the two is that they refer to states where thought over my appearance or how I'm being received by others recedes into the background or disappears entirely: both involve freedom from the distraction of self-consciousness, or merely experiencing pleasure or joy in inhabiting my body.
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?
That's a rather limiting and desulatory alternative reality to consider.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
This question feels overly broad; I'm not sure where to start?
34. What do you consider very ugly?
Likewise. I suppose meanness, hatred, and selfish obliviousness to others. Lack of greenery or nature, sterile landscapes, obvious environmental pollution, oppressive landscapes.
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?
Yes. I pay attention to how I'm feeling when trying on clothing. I also have fairly consistent tastes, and fairly consistent body image.
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?
I don't look at myself from the outside like this.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
Weather, my tasks for the day, professional versus social appearance, comfort.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
Comfortable temperature level, comfortable and pleasant fabrics against my skin; sometimes looking professional, sometimes looking attractive, sometimes functionality (clothing that will facilitate my participation in a planned activity); to some extent, presenting as interesting or distinct; a background component would be not feeling overly exposed, eg. wearing a bikini at a formal dinner in a cold room; I do pay some attention to expectations for dress in different contexts (work, formal events like weddings and funerals).
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
I think dresding up connotes a bit of an act - like playing dress-up. It can be fun, but isn't the default me.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
Ideally: kind of a James Dean, rockabilly look. Oxfords, jeans, plain t-shirt, sensible sweater, cool jacket. Or grunge-hiker-bohemian: long sleeve polypro top under t-shirt, flannel shirt or big sweater for warmth, jeans, boots, bandana.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
Too broad; not sure how to answer.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
New England, 2nd-generation hippy (we overlapped strongly with grunge in the early 90s, but with a more hiker-functional element), working or lower middle class, feminist, white, straight but with lots of exposure to 80s and 90s gay and lesbian culture. Stylistic influences from rockabilly, ska, folk, and 80s stone butch styles. My fashion style is very much a product and reflection of these influences.
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?
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
More upper-middle-class styles, but not too "corporate" for the academic context. Wool dress trousers with a less formal top (something on the edge of blouse and t-shirt), or jeans with a dressier top (t-shirt in solid color and blazer, or nicer shirt and cardigan), casual shoes but not sneakers.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
My work allows me to dress in a style that I am comfortable with and often overlaps with my non-work default. I "rebel" with more unusual hair style and color-highlight choices.
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?
I've never had a uniform.
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?
See #40. I like the androgyny and the functionality.
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?
I was not initially comfortable with growing breasts. I have never wished I were a man or had man's body. I have often wished I could dress like a man, and have done so to the extent that the clothing available and affordable to me has allowed.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
Early 90s northern New England.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
Not especially, but neither do I consider myself not photogenic. When I look at photos of myself, they seem to lack a spark or essence that I feel and that I tend to see in the mirror; but I'm not uncomfortable with my photgraphed image usually.
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
Not too many specific people, but generic photos of rockabilly style, young people of various backgrounds and styles from the 70s, and butch style.
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
Not that I remember.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Waif, anything too femme in a modern sense (I can do Rennaisance femme, as dress-up), more macho (less androgynous) masculine styles.
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?
I'm pretty comfortable with my body already; about what I wear currently.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
Attract: in some social situations, specific men that I am attracted to.
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?
Only in rare instances; I'm not a fan of artificial smells, and generally avoid strong smells. Where I live, many workplaces have scent-free policies, and strong perfumes or colognes are not a common cultural feature.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Wash my clothes. I feel more comfortable with a morning shower, but that's more about comfort and less about presentibility. If my hair is too greasy, I'll wear a bandana over it.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
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?
Not expected by anyone I regularly hang out with. I think general societal expectations are that I present in a more feminine way than I often do, but my style is not sufficiently androgynous or non-normative that I get hassled for it. I got a small amount of push back for not shaving as a teenager, but that was very brief. I have the advantage of very light hair (both in color and in coverage), so haven't gotten any negative comments or obvious disapproval of my lack of shaving for years.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Seven or eight pairs of fashion boots (mainly low or no heel), hiking boots, snow boots, mud boots, about eight pair of generic shoes, a couple pair of heels (generally in bright, entertaining colors), a few pairs of sandals, sneakers, other sport-specific footwear. Underwear for almost two weeks, mostly functional rather than fancy/lingerie. A combination of lightweight, smartwool, knee high, and athletic socks. Several pairs of jeans, cotton slacks, wool dress pants. Two knee-length cotton a-line skirts, an ankle length great circle skirt (good for twirling in!), a jean mini skirt, a few summer sundresses, a couple silk (from saris) wrap skirts. Three or so pair of shorts. An assortment of tank tops and t-shirts, mostly in solid colors. A few 3/4 length and several long sleeve shirts, mostly bamboo, solid colors, about half with boat neck or similar. A couple cardigans, a couple wool sweaters, a couple cotton sweaters. Two dressy suit coats, one courduroy suit coat. Several cotton scarves, a couple bandanas. A 70s style slightly puffy vest, outdoorsy jackets at light, medium, and winter weights, a motorcycle-style cotyon jacket, a lightweight and a warm dressier 3/4 length coat, a very fancy wool coat that's a hand-me-down from my grandmother, rain gear, a london fog (full length). Yoga/jogging pants (couple pair), couple pair long underwear tops and bottoms, couple pair wool technical (hiking) mid-layer tops. A few dressy dresses and cute/dressy blouses. A couple button-down shirts. A few smaller weight necklaces and earrings.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
I don't really have one favorite item.
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 groomsmaid dress from my brother's first wedding: I have no occassions to wear it; it seemed rude to get rid of initially after the marriage, and I haven't really thought about it recently.
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?
Good quality items that lasted a while (shoes, suit coats), really comfortable and well-fitting dress pants. Shoes that fit my (narrow, small) feet.
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?
The first really nice sweater that I bought with my own money (it was on sale), was just the right shade of red, a nice mix of yarns (even a little bit of cashmere), and fit just so. It was also one of the first items of clothing that I had that required different laundering than the clothing I grew up with. I was visiting my parents for the holidays, not long after purchasing the sweater, had to do laundry during my visit, and had indicated to my mother that I'd deal with my laundry myself because some things couldn't go in the dryer. Rather than listening, she attempted to help, put everything in the dryer, and the sweater shrank to about toddler size. And I've never been able to find as nice a sweater at an affordable-to-me price in the twelve or fifteen years since then, and it still makes me sad (and laundry has been a tricky issue between myself and my mother ever since).
I also used to have a pair of hiker's cargo shorts in a nice shade of red from back in the early 90s when outdoor outfitters in New England made fairly generic, unisex styles, that were the best shorts ever. Now hiking gear is cut to exaggerate differences between the sexes, and neither men's nor women's pants or shorts in pretty much any of the major brands fit me well anymore; and the women's clothing is now made much more cheaply and less durably. Those shorts wore out a while back.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
Probably my lace-up black boots. It took years to find a pair of lace-up boots that didn't also have a zipper.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
If I could afford to buy really good quality clothes, I'd plan a smaller but equally functional wardrobe. But given financial limitations, probably I would do little differently.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
That would be the sweater from #68, that met it's dryerly and untimely demise.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
Important, no. Paradigm-shifting, perhaps my first underwire (eg. not sports) bra, when I started wearing bras regularly.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
Flat heel, well-constructed, classic oxfords in the right shade of brown, in a women's size, and not too wide. Also, washable trousers (eg. courduroy) in a wide leg style (kind of a 70s wide leg but not bell bottom sillouette), but cut in a way that fits me at the waist.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
Relatively neat, yes. Stuff is folded and organized by category; closet clothes are hung by category mostly as well. There are a few things that still aren't put away yet from my most recent move two months ago, and my clean laundry tends to stay hanging on the drying racks for a couple days longer than necessary.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
A super warm, fuzzy housecoat.
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 generally consider for a bit before buying amy clothing. I did get a scarf/wrap (cotton jersey) once because I was a cold, and visiting another city without backup or extra clothing, and I have been very happy with that purchase of necessity under very constrained circumstances (I basically only had one shop to choose from).
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
Usually when I need something specific, though occassionally just for entertainment. Usually when I am visiting other places and can find a wider selection of items and styles than is available where I live.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
I like to smell like me, for the most part, not like any other added scent.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
I'd have to think about this at greater length.
80. How does money fit into all this?
It has historically been a significant limiting factor for me. Even once I started earning a decent salary, becoming comfortable spending money on myself through clothing took some adjustment.
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?
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?
I'm sure I was conscious of my clothing before the earliest memory that I can recall presently. My very early memories are mostly of events with strong emotions attached; so I remember having to wear a dress that my grandmother gave me. I used to get a dress from her every Christmas (and maybe birthdays too?) when I was a toddler, and they not uncommonly had scratchy, uncomfortable, lacy collars, in addition to being impracticle for running around in underbrush, climbing trees, etc.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
July, 1978. I was born in Maine, and now live in the Canadian Maritimes.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
White, working class.
What kind of work do you do?
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Single, no children.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
Socially disconnected. Some of the questions seem to assume a level and type (in terms of what sort of worries or concerns it exhibits as) of discomfort or disconnect from one's body that I do read is exceedingly common in women, but is an almost negligible for me, or else presents with different symptoms. I have had a lot of frustrations over clothing, and a fraught relationship with fashion; but for me this has been due to not being able to find clothing that fits me well and comfortably and that is made sturdily enough for an active lifestyle, and in financial constraints significantly limiting my choices of clothing styles. Slightly worse about my body (usually I don't spend so much time thinking about or reflecting so deeply on some of the issues raised in the questions), but at the same time, almost a little bit guilty about how much more self confidence and comfort in my own body than I'm surmising most other women have. Also, I am sad, remembering the lost sweater from question 68, and thinking back on changes in my relationship with my mother. But I'm curious about this project and looking forward to reading the results. (I took the survey first before reading any other women's responses.)