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Audrey Brooks

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

Naked, after sex.

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 who look confident and mature. I also notice women who dress like little girls and I do not admire them.

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

I admire when women do not rely on tropes to express their attractiveness. Women with short hair, or long skirts, or in pants, who aren't trying to approximate some simulacrum of a sexually attractive woman are the most striking to me.

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?

I remember when a high school friend teased me (good-naturedly) about wearing American Eagle jeans. She said it was time for me to start wearing designer jeans. That was the first time I realized that not all clothes are of the same quality. That winter my family went to New York City, and I bought black Sevens at Bloomingdales. I felt very proud of my purchase.

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

Only shop online. I find stores overwhelming and I would rather wait for something to arrive to try it on, than to bring five different outfits back to one small dressing room.

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

I always dress as if I may be working on the floor that night. (I am a restaurant manager, and so dress up to work on the floor.) This means that I am often "over-dressed" for my daytime meetings, but I prefer to feel prepared for a night in one of the restaurants.

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

I can be quite spartan in style. After traveling so much during my late teens and early twenties, I developed a habit of not acquiring many possessions. That attitude has permeated many aspects of my life; I prefer to have fewer friends, belongings, activities, so that those that I do have are all of quality.

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

I have a number of big sweaters. Growing up I felt shame about my big breasts (which actually aren't all that big -- 32D -- I just developed earlier than my peers so they seemed big in comparison) To this day, I feel most confident when my upper body is obscured. I also find bras uncomfortable, so hiding my breasts under sweaters allows me to "get away with" going braless.

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

I love "handing down" clothes to my little sister. She is the most stylish, beautiful woman I know, so I feel good when she likes something I used to wear enough to wear it herself.

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

So many...most trends that make women look like little girls, particularly as I am quiet and have a girly face. I want to counteract any perception that I am soft and girlish.

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

Not really. I feel that I have a very distinct body type, and that which looks good on other women rarely flatters me, and vice versa.

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

All through school, college, and grad school I loved to show skin when dressing. Once I started working at a restaurant, however, I had to be conscious to cover myself and dress appropriately for the floor. Since starting my job over two years ago, I almost exclusively buy clothes that I can wear at work, and just expect them to do double duty in my personal life.

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

I like clothes that make me feel powerful. Sometimes I feel powerful when I show off my body, but usually I feel powerful when I dress conservatively but strikingly. I like to put forth an image that says, "I am a strong woman."

16. Please describe your body.

I have a classic, hourglass figure. I grow softer by the year, but I am lucky that my weight tends to settle on my hips and ass or breasts. I like having a "womanly" body. In middle school, some boys said I had a "butter-face," as in "her body's hot but-her-face is not." Hearing that hurt at the time, but now when I think about it I feel proud to have a pleasing body and a striking face. Plus, no one has ever complained about my face since.

17. Please describe your mind.

I am more intelligent than I seem, for some reason. I'm not sure why people tend to underestimate my intelligence, perhaps because I am a conventionally attractive woman. This causes me to constantly want to "prove" myself, which can wear me out. When I feel worn out, I am comfortable with letting people down.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I am prone to anxiety and introversion. When I am feeling delicate, I like to wear "tough" clothes so people will leave me alone.

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

From toe to head: navy socks with green toes and heels that shrunk in the wash so my father gave them to me; black cotton Calvin Klein thong; eggplant purple Rag and Bone jeans; light purple tank; black and white generous Theory sweater; YSL mascara; and my hair is undone and scraggly.

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

The way we dress ourselves is a language through which we try to convey something about ourselves to the world at large. Some of us are less or more fluent, and some of us don't care at all. For me, the ability to tailor other people's perspective of who I am is incredibly empowering.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My sister. I don't really like to talk with other people about my clothes, though I often find myself complimenting those around me about what they are wearing.

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

I have taste, I don't really have style. I know how to select well-made clothing that is generally flattering: taste. Those clothes, however, run the gamut and it would be hard to stay I have a particular "style" of dress.

24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?

I can think of many! Last winter I felt pressured to spend my work-allotted clothing allowance before the calendar year was up. I ended up buying a $300 black Theory dress that was a size too small and was cut for a woman without hips or breasts. I only wore it a couple of times.

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

Wearing black skinny pants with black chunky high heeled booties makes my legs look so long! For someone with proportionately short, curvy legs, this is a revelation.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I have style in my friendships. I am a good, loyal friend, who cares deeply about those people I consider friends. I am also very loyal and kind with the people who call me their boss.

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?

Many. I prefer to dress androgynously when I feel intimidated or anxious, with a heel to make myself taller, and in dark colors. I like to look intimidating to keep away those people that are intimidating to me.

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?

I have a great deal of discernment. Or, as I frequently say to friends and family, "I have a lot of opinions." I think this comes from many years of private education where I was surrounded both by liberal thinkers who questioned norms, and by wealthy families who could afford to buy pieces of quality.

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?

My parents didn't teach me a great deal about style but they did inadvertently teach me to shop for quality. At a young age they started giving us a clothing allowance, and would not give us any more money after we had gone through our monthly allowance for clothes. I learned to be frugal with how I spent that money, saving up for quality items rather than spending it at once on cheaply made things that would quickly lose their appeal.

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?

Those words go hand-in-hand for me. I can only feel confident in how I am dressed if I also feel comfortable in my clothes. Anything that I have to tug, or stand in a certain way, destroys my confidence.

33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?

The naked body. I strongly believe that everyone looks better naked than clothed. Ironically, clothes that show a lot of skin, or cling to close to the body, are the least beautiful.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

I consider thoughtless dressing to be ugly.

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?

I have developed a sort of uniform over time. I tend to wear one of two types of outfits: 1) a chunky heel or slim flat, skinny dark pants, and a loose top (billowy blouse, oversized sweater, etc.); or 2) a short-sleeved, hourglass-cut dress with a black cardigan. As long as I buy clothes that adhere to one of those two styles, I will wear them. When I deviate, those clothes tend to find their way to the back of my closet.

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

I don't own a car, so my first consideration is my mode of transport: scooter, bike, foot, and/or public transportation? This affects what clothes I can wear based on how I need to be able to move, or how flashy I can be. Then I consider the weather, as all of my modes of transport require me to be "out in it." Then I look in my closet to see what is "next to wear." (I hang my clean clothes to the left in my closet, and pick out outfits from the right, so I move through my clothes in a "fair" manner.)

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

Dressing is how I clothe myself everyday, dressing up is dressing for a particular occasion. When I dress up I will be a bit more adventurous and venture outside of my usual style.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

I attended private schools when I was younger, and wore a uniform for seven years. This lead me to be a bit more uniform in my style of dress because I would rather have a reliable style that I can wear every day, than have a great deal of unique pieces that would require effort to pair. Attending a small, liberal arts college in upstate New York took some of the preppy-ness out of my dressing habits, and living in Madrid for two years made me accustomed to women who dress glamorously. I don't feel uncomfortable if it looks like I put more effort into a daily "look" than the women around me because it is natural for many Spanish women to dress dramatically even for day.

46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?

I danced ballet for over a decade, and became very used to the pink tights, black leotard uniform. Those outfits are unflattering on all body types, and yet they are incredibly equalizing. I loved standing in front of the mirror with my classmates, analyzing my hip placement or my extension, and not noticing if I looked attractive or not.

48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?

I like having a uniform.

51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?

I wish we all still dressed like the early 60s in the US. There were great social imbalances at that time, so I don't wish to return to that culture, but I do wish that people took the same care when dressing as men and women did back then.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

No. At least I hope that I am not! I do not like the way I look in photographs, so I hope I look better in real life.

53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

I think I look like my dad. He is a warm, handsome man, and yet he always looks so uncomfortable in photographs. I like to think I am the same way: warm and genuine in my life, uncomfortable when asked to pose or posture.

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 am comfortable with my body. I am lucky to have a healthy body that allows me to do all that I wish to do. I feel frustrated when I hear women pick at details of their appearance.

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?

Please dress with a little more structure! Leggings and thin fabrics are unflattering. Women of every size look great in tailored, structured outfits.

60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

I love perfume. I don't wear much deodorant, so I like to wear perfume so my natural body smell mixes with the nice smell of my perfume.

61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?

I need to brush my teeth and put on mascara, at the very least.

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I adore makeup. I like getting to create my own ideal face with some swipes of the brush! I pity men who do not seem to have this option.

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?

Any look that infantilizes women does not interest me. Women become more sexy as we mature, not less sexy.

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

I bought an expensive (for me) dress in London while staying with my father in his company flat and working on my Master's thesis. I took a walk one day to clear my head, and visited a store that Pippa Middleton was supposed to like. There I found a cream dress with navy and pale pink stripes. The material was thick, but stretchy, and flattered my hourglass figure perfectly. It made my waist look tiny, and my hips and ass look voluptuous. I bought it without converting pounds to dollars beforehand to see if I could actually afford it, and ended up spending over $400 on the dress. Three years later, however, I am still complimented every time I wear it!

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?

I would keep my oversized pale pink cashmere sweater. Cashmere is perfect as it combines luxury with comfort. Plus, I love when friends reach out and rub my back just to feel my soft sweater.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

I had a boyfriend who did a really good job of picking out necklaces for me. I used to feel frustrated when my mother would buy me jewelry because she would always buy expensive jewels that I couldn't wear on a daily basis. It felt like I was a doll that she was adorning. This boyfriend, however, bought necklaces that I could wear every day. Six months after our first kiss, we returned to my place after a night out, and on my pillow was a small box with a black diamond necklace in it. It was extravagant, but the gesture of sneaking into my place while I was out to leave it on my pillow was so touching and romantic that I feel filled with love even now whenever I wear it.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I shop for clothes online when I feel like I can afford them or I feel like I really need a certain article of clothing.

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

I am a strong believer in dressing for the job you want. I feel no discomfort with being the best dressed person in the office!

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 always carry a hair-tie, lipstick and lip balm.

82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

Even before becoming a manager, I was often asked to speak with women at the restaurants where I work about their clothing choices. My own boss told me, "you've got such great style...give them tips." That astonished me as I had never felt like a stylish person!

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

August 2, 1988. I live in Baltimore, MD.

What kind of work do you do?

I am a restaurant manager: I oversee reservations for four busy restaurants in Baltimore.

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

I am unmarried and without kids.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

It feels good to put into words that which I try to express every day with my clothes.

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