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Jude Stewart

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When you’re 30 weeks’ pregnant at age 39, that answer is very particular to this time and place. Oddly, I find the best looks for me right now are more fitted, not loose or blousy. You gotta see the basketball clearly outlined and enjoy its exaggerated (and unambiguous) shape. Another odd sartorial observation: maternity clothes are usually swamped by horizontal stripes, and this seasonal EVERYONE is wrapping themselves in stripes, so summer 2013 is officially a stripe-a-thon. While horizontal stripes don’t generally favour the non-pregnant, for the pregnant they’re an optical-illusion bonanza. Practically everything I own this summer is striped; I am literally a Zippy Mama.

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

Here’s a funny thing about the women whose style I admire: most of them are all dark-skinned black women. Given that I’m a Teutonically pale blond, this is quite a reach – a look I could literally never replicate on my own person. I love the look of nubbly or super-shorn hair, the subtle sheen of their skin, the flash of the eyes, the colors that make them look smashing (but render me sad and washed-out). If I were only a black-skinned woman, I would never stop wearing dashikis and bold prints.

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

This will sound vain but honest: I work out a lot, so my pregnancy hasn’t rendered me very fat. So I rock a lot of fitted clothes that emphasize that fact. I also happen to be quite tall and long-waisted, with short spiky blond hair. This particular look tends towards tomboyish unless you counterbalance it with jewelry, a plunging neckline, some clearly feminine detail. There is probably no more feminine detail than a preggo belly: one of my top sartorial conundra, temporarily solved.

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

I rarely talk about clothes, actually. Most of the conversations I recall about fashion and style were not quite friendly ones from adolescence, between my mother or older Southern-lady relatives pressuring me to wear something more formal or girly and me stoutly refusing.

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

I wrote a book called ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color, so unsurprisingly I rock a lot more color than most people. (My husband calls me fashion sense “Sexy Clown”; I’m merely grateful he chose to include the qualifier “sexy” in there.) If I ever expend unusual amounts of effort in shopping for clothes or furniture or anything else, it’s usually in pursuit of colors that veer well away from the usual, “serviceable” colors. Like Anne of Green Gables, I hate “serviceable” colors everywhere they turn up their inoffensive little noses.

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

I bought two wrap-style black maternity shirts because they were jaw-droppingly cheap: $12 each. And I’ve worn both like a madwoman. Maternity clothes are really given to this idea of multiples and buying the same go-to shapes that flatter you. For the wrap-shirt, it just highlights all your emerging curves perfectly - those enlarging breasts and the bump – while demarcating the fact of your slender self underneath. Other shapes that recur constantly in my preggo-wardrobe: ruching (magically stretchy! Hugs all zee curves!), skinny jeans with the secret panel, colourful flats (luckily I favoured these before pregnancy, as they’re incredibly useful now. Swollen feet need room to expand; eliminating the need to tie your laces removes one more awkward gesture from your day.

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

Yes. In high school I dated a straight-edge punk boy named Butch; that era was dominated by concert tee shirts, black black black. We had our first kiss at a Sick of It All concert. It was heart-rending to break up with him later before college, but necessary. I slowly aged out of the 100%-black thing, most likely bored with its ubiquity and consequent lack of wit.

16. Please describe your body.

I am tall, sturdily built but fairly thin (140 lbs before pregnancy, currently 160). I wear the same de minimis makeup every day: lipstick, undereye concealer, blush (I tend towards paleness, so this is key) and brown mascara. I have very short blond hair cut crazy-fashion; I highlight this myself. My hair when longer was actually lovely, but I’m bad at “doing” hair and would rather eliminate bad hair days from my life entirely, something you can achieve with an excellent short haircut. I will be wearing this look when – if – I reach 80.

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

I have, and want to have, more style than taste. Taste is execrable: about fulfilling others’ expectations, dutifully filling in a blank. Most of those arguments with my Southern family revolved around battles between style and taste.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

It was a game for me to see how long I could stretch wearing non-pregnant clothes. Only at 30 weeks now am I reaching the point where most of what I’m wearing had to be bought in a maternity store.

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

Pregnancy is marvellously clarifying about your choices. Like everyone, you consider the day’s obligations, the weather, your mood, and what’s clean. When you add pregnancy as one more factor in your list, your list of options is usually whittled down to just a few clear favorites. Often there’s a valedictory feeling about getting a final wear out of those pieces: so long, fitted turquoise sweater! I’ll re-inaugurate you next winter with baby drool.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

I find myself quite unphotogenic, not because I’m actually unattractive but because I’m really bad at posing myself attractively for the camera. I’m always moving too fast or getting visibly impatient in the shot. Sometimes I wish I possessed this skill to a greater degree, but then I think: that’s a really douche-bag thing to wish for.

56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?

Once my extremely preppy Southern friend and I dressed in each other’s clothes for Halloween – this was in college. I wore a crisp polo shirt with khakis, penny loafers with no socks, and felt miserable and mannish. She wore some absurd long crocheted black sweater I owned, gray leggings, weird shoes, and a punk T-shirt. We were both itching to change back within the hour.

Other strong sartorial boundaries I dislike to cross: I’d always prefer not to tuck anything into my pants. I eschew navy blue more heartily than most blue-eyed, pink-cheeked blond women would. I wore a navy blue Catholic school uniform daily for 16 years straight. My personal lifetime quota on that color is totally full, thanks.

64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?

Lots of jeans and brightly weird shirts and sweaters. Copious number of gray sneakers (well, three pairs) and at least six pairs of yellow shoes. The bottom of my closet is littered with a jumble of bright-rainbow flats, all variously comfortable or not.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

My favourite pieces of jewelry are two bracelets. One is a battered metal cuff, fairly wide, which used to be coated in silver which rubbed off accidentally while I was trying to polish it. Now it’s a gloriously hard-to-pin-down metallic hue, wavering between silver and copper. The other bracelet is simple wood, slimmer, painted in yellow lacquer. Style rule: you can never own too many pairs of hot yellow shoes, and acid yellow jewelry oddly always works as an accent.

79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

I’m a writer and work at home, so I celebrate the slob look of a freelancer. Although honestly “slob” is an exaggeration for how I actually dress. Mostly I’d describe what I wear to every occasion as remarkably consistent in a reasonably smart, hopefully witty, informality.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I am cheap as hell about buying clothes. Maternity clothes are the ultimate miser’s prize: you can literally wear them for a year or so, no more, so why pour lots of money into them? However, I did learn the hard way that certain staples (specifically jeans and jean miniskirts) simply don’t fit well in their cheaper maternity-store incarnations. For those I splurged, paying prices equivalent to the normal-person price to achieve an ideal fit.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

I never cared about lingerie before, but I will say this: getting a real bra fitting is no joke when you’re expecting. Those boobs really do swell on you, for a surprisingly long time, and going braless occasionally becomes a thing of the past. I used to wear a 36B and am now a 36C at least. I hate the smoothly robotic-neutral color of most maternity bras, but it’s simply too much effort to fight that tendency entirely.

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

Birthdate is April 2, 1974. My husband, son and I We live in the Andersonville section of Chicago now, but I have previously lived in Brooklyn, various parts of Berlin, and New Haven, CT. I was born in Philadelphia to a family whose roots all stem to Louisville, KY.

What kind of work do you do?

I'm a writer.

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

Married with one son (currently 13mo old, in my tummy when this was first written).

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

I don’t know where else to stick these observations, but:
While I don’t think of myself as wrapped up in my clothes, often the most moving part of old photos of myself is remembering how it felt to wear whatever I was wearing back then.

I owe two pieces of clothing I find remarkable enough never to get rid of. The first is merely a funny relic of the dot-com boom: I once acquired a T-shirt from the online ad agency Doubleclick that says on the back: “Serving the Internet’s ads since early 1996.” Since early 1996, because that qualifier really mattered back that. Delicious. The other item of clothing is a pair of busted-up painter’s jeans that my grandfather Henry Louis Weickel wore to paint different parts of my childhood home. You can find the colors of our deck, our living room, our bedrooms in daubs all over the paint. I used to wear these myself in college, along with a pair of jeans that fitted me with uncanny accuracy because they used to be my mom’s. The latter wore through on the thighs, so I had them patchwork-reinforced in this dazzling concentric-square fashion, an accidentally great choice by the tailor. Both of those jeans are too precious to me today to wear.


Jude Stewart writes about design and culture for Slate, The Believer, and Fast Company among others. She also blogs about design as a contributing editor for Print. She is the author of two books, both published by Bloomsbury: ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color (2013) and Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage and Other Graphic Patterns (2015).

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