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Talita Soares

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

That's very hard to answer. "Attractive" has always been a dilemma key-word for me - its literal meaning, i.e. someone who attracts others, who has a quality that's appealing to most people, means basically everything I want to be, and aim towards when I choose what I wear, but I feel a bit confused about the particular archetype that's evoked by the word itself. When I think of the word attractive the image that comes to my mind is of an average-looking woman, that kind of obviously straightened hair whose ends look like they've been delineated with a felt pen, wearing something that's blatantly meant to cause an impression - either a really expensive dress, a lot of make-up, some sparkly sleeveless outfit and a very particular kind of excitement, dressing up, looking attractive. It's just a very particular archetype of - I don't know, glamour? A desirable lifestyle? So much about appearance is more about what kind of person you appear to be, and who you're attractive to, rather than sheer beauty.

So I guess I feel attractive when I know what kind of person I want to be, and I feel that my outside appearance suggests it accurately. For most of my life people have described my style as "grungy" and "girl-like" (as opposed to woman-like). But that's because for most of my life I have felt like a girl, obviously, and I wanted to be the kind of girl who looked relaxed, friendly, not intimidating, casual, and maybe with a bit of luck, brainy and interesting. When I was 16, I did feel The Glow of feeling at my most attractive just as much as any other girl, it was not at all like I didn't care about it. I felt The Glow when I was, for instance, sitting outside during a party smoking, wearing my dad's sweater and worn-out jeans, and a cute guy sat next to me. I knew what he was expecting. I was witty, deliberately non-flirtatious, a bit rude, and what I wanted them to think was, "What a nice girl". I wanted them to think I was attractive.

Now I try to avoid the grungy nice-girl look because I don't want people to have that impression of me anymore, I want to look more like an impressive woman. But the basic feeling is exactly the same.

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

I had some intense conversations about it with my husband when we first met. It first came up the first time he suggested we go shopping together, for fun. I had never gone shopping for fun in my life. I laughed and said I wasn't sure he was going to enjoy shopping with me, and he got really upset. It took a while for me to understand the way clothes were important for him, the buzz he got from wearing nice clothes and watching people move in nice clothes. Fashion had never been about pleasure for me. But seeing the way in which he feels particularly attracted to me when I'm wearing certain things sort of established the psychological link I hadn't had before, that wearing nice clothes is sexy. I like sexy clothes now, I like wearing something that makes me feel sexy, but it's a feeling very much indissociable from my relationship to my husband. I don't know what other guys consider sexy and I think I would have a really stressful time trying to figure it out.

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

I don't think I do, and that's why I find it so hard to craft a personal style. I do what feels right, but dressing up seems to be all about little personal rules and pet loves and hates, and I don't have that really. I don't have a clear idea of who I want to be or how I think things should be done. So it's hard for me to make statements through dressing in a particular way.

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

I can't think of anything I have now, but when I was 13-14 I used to own several berets. I bought one nearly every time I passed through a flea market or a charity shop. I wore a beret every day - and every day the same one, curiously, even though I had so many - because I went through a period of really (REALLY) hating my hair, so I cut it really short and spent about a year hiding it under a beret. I don't know why I kept buying them, though - I can sort of remember what I thought, which was an immediate reaction of "wow, cool!" whenever I saw a beret, and if they cost anything under 5 reais (about 2 dollars) I had a "what a bargain!" reaction and bought it and I guess it brightened my day, the way charity shop purchases do. I think it's just something I associated with a coolness beyond ordinary clothing items, and something I associated with me, my personal style. So whenever I saw one I sort of felt like it was there for me.

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

I have the exact same body as my mum - long fingers, long legs, big feet, small waist, all the fat goes to the thighs and belly. She's taller than me. She's a tall woman, I'm more average height. Her face is totally different too. She has a very delicate, young face, and I have very strong features. Clothes that make her look cute and light generally make me look ridiculous. It took me a long time to understand that. My mum feels very strongly about style, and has very strong dislikes, namely big brands and high heels. I like high heels, especially boots, but I don't think I've ever worn them in front of my mum. I sort of avoid being photographed when I'm wearing high heels because I don't want my mum to see me. She dresses really hippie and vintage-y and doesn't seem to have a single piece of clothing that's just ordinary. She doesn't give a shit about what's flattering, as long as it has character, and I got that from her and regret it. I'm having to slowly learn what is flattering on me. Also, she likes to sew clothes for me, but she isn't very good really, so I've had more than my fair share of ill-fitted handmade clothes.

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

I can think of two. One was the year I spent living in a commune in Portugal, I shared a dormitory with other 20 women and a bathroom with about 40, and a washing machine with about 100 people – and had a single square shelf where I could keep all my clothes. Also there was no mirror in our dorm. What happened was that I became increasingly detached from my appearance, and for a while I completely gave it away to circumstances. During the summer I took a lot of satisfaction from going for a swim in the lake after lunch with my clothes on and just letting them dry on my body as I walked about the place running errands, and from deliberately not combing my hair and noticing, excited, several times throughout the day how I was not worrying about it one bit! I stopped shaving my legs and armpits and my everyday fashion decisions were almost entirely weather based, which felt great. Having so little personal space and being in such close contact with other women's personal routines made all the appearance-related little rituals and ticks and embarrassments feel almost theatrical, in others and in myself. I couldn't keep one going for long enough to grow attached to it.

Another key turning point was when I moved to England and in with my husband, two years ago. He's 10 years older than me and for the first time I felt the genuine desire to impress the people we met, to look proper, mature, adjusted. Since my life up to that point had been being in high school, then living in a commune, then moving to England, my first few months here were really my initiation into the adult world. I probably spent more money on clothes than I had in the rest of my life put together.

16. Please describe your body.

I'm lean in a flaccid way, like a 40 year old who smokes too much and forgets to eat lunch sometimes. I don't look like I exercise, but I'm not fat. I'm 1.70m tall and I generally weigh somewhere between 52 and 55kg. I have medium-to-large sized boobs depending on how much I weigh. I have browner skin than most people in the UK, and people here normally assume I'm Spanish or Portuguese based on how I look. I have wavy, long, dark brown hair, and I-don't-know-what-colour, not-dark eyes.

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

I'm wearing jeans and a black and white stripy sweater, and my hair is pulled up, in a strictly-a-little messy kind of way.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My husband.

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

Honestly, I don't really think I do. I'm pretty clueless about what looks good on me or other people, and I get it wrong all the time. I guess I associate those words primarily with someone who “knows what they're doing”. They're able to inhabit their own identity, their likes and dislikes, as well as other people's judgements and expectations, with endless joy and confidence, and just juggle all the rules + a marvellous sense of being the creator of your own life, being able to be whatever whatever you want + a pleasure in existing in this world and having this world's particular tools and resources available to them - which I don't have at ALL. Seriously. Gosh, that's the opposite of how I am.

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

Not anymore, but I used to think my eyebrows didn't match my face when I was younger, and had these really thick bangs to cover them. People had to be really really close to me, and beg, before I'd let them see my eyebrows. And when I did it was always this really solemn moment of crossing the final of my boundaries, these really quiet few seconds as they took the new sight in, before they smiled and said "They're not that bad", and I knew I would never have to hide anything from them ever again. To this day I have this sort of tick that I think comes from that - whenever I'm about to say something difficult, or that I'm embarrassed about, I sort of pull my hair back with my fingers.
Also, as I wrote before there was the beret era when I hated my hair. And I did the classic never wearing anything remotely tight because I felt ashamed of my body. Now I consider my appearance pretty acceptable, I don't really think there's anything about it I should try to hide. It's a I-just-got-lucky kind of feeling. I envy women who love the way they look, who are in love with themselves - I'm definitely not one of those. My confidence in my appearance is very superficial and rational, and it does evaporate from time to time. I'm trembling writing this now, afraid that it will be taken away from me again.

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

Wow, good question. I can't think of anything, but I'll feel so uninteresting if I don't say yes. Yes, I do. I care about the spirit of things, like I'd much rather travel by land than by plane, that sort of stuff. I think that's what style means in my life, it's thinking about the spirit of things, and what things give me a buzz because of how I feel when I say them - "I'll take the train to Switzerland", or buying a cute Pacman phone in a flea market, you know rather than on Etsy. It's indissociable from activity. Everything I do is indissociable from the activity itself, my enjoyment of it and my feelings about it, as I'm doing it. I'm not so focused on the final product, even though it can certainly make me feel better, if it looks good.

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?

No, but that sounds like a cool idea. I might try that sometime.

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

Since I moved in with my husband my process of getting dressed to go out has been very attached to him, and it actually leaves me feeling a bit clueless whenever he's not around. He's really into clothes, way more than me, and loves it when I wear certain things, it's also a very sexual thing for him so it's like getting dressed has become this very private, one-on-one interaction between my husband and I, and now when I dress to go somewhere without him I feel kind of like I'm talking to myself. When we go out together I dress for him, there's no question about it. I know there is a certain look that he likes, and that is what I aim for. Of course sometimes I just "wear whatever" - oh, that expression, right? I don't wear literally whatever, who does. I guess I just wear whatever doesn't make me look like I'm trying to look a certain way. So, jeans and a plain sweater and sneakers.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

I don't know, I guess I'd have to say Converse, jeans and some boring, cleavage-revealing casual-chic sweater, but I'm not proud of it. I wish I had something stronger to say, but I can't think of anything.

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

I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, so I guess some clarification is in order in that respect. I suppose Rio is a very appearance-oriented city, but it seems to be a uniformed style, for those who comply with it and for those who defy it. "Stylish" people all dress pretty much the same, and there's only a few brands and range of styles available really, compared to any big city in North America or Europe. I spent a year in New Zealand when I was 16 and felt it was the same there, so it wasn't hard to figure out the rules and follow or deliberately not follow them. Living in England I feel really lost in that respect. "Dressing well" seems to be a more broad concept here than just "dressing like a ______". People seem really worried about having a personal style, which I had never really thought about before - it used to be all about who I wanted to copy.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

NO NO NO. I'm the least photogenic person you'll ever meet. I'm tempted to say I do mean that literally. I do look ugly in MOST pictures I'm in. I have maybe ten pictures of me from when I was 12-15 years old, because I dreaded seeing myself in pictures so unbelievably much I just stopped having them taken for a while. I look so wrong in pictures. Everyone else seems to look the way they look, yeah, photo-version, photo smiles and everything, but they still look like themselves. I don't. Seriously. I despise photo-me. If I were photo-me I would probably kill myself.

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

Cute. I spent my life wanting to be cute and delicate, because I felt so small and shy, but unfortunately I've never had the looks. I'm starting to slowly own my tropical-rainforest stereotype of beauty. Also, it took me a while for me to accept that I wasn't "oddly beautiful", but just plain old beautiful. My husband said that to me once, grabbing my boobs during sex, "you're just plain old HOT, aren't you?". It's true. There's nothing intrinsically interesting about my looks, and I have to try really hard to look unusual. If I don't wear anything special I just look like a pretty girl.

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

I almost never wear makeup because I just don't know how to. My mum never ever wears makeup and I think sort of looks down on it. So I just never learned. I don't really know what it's for. I don't know when you're supposed to wear it, etc. I feel a bit threatened by it, like I'm less of a woman because of it, and I've felt that way for as long as I can remember - I remember being 5 and some girl bringing make up to school and all the girls making a mess rubbing their faces all over it and loving it, and me just sitting quietly in a corner doing something else, feeling really repulsed by the whole thing. When someone asked me why I didn't want to join them, I normally said it was because my mum didn't let me. But that wasn't true, she had never said a word about it. I'm really not sure where it comes from.

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

I have very few clothes actually, but I wear regularly everything I own, and I give things away as soon as it starts to be a drag having them in my wardrobe. I don't own any skirts, which is odd, because I really like skirts. I just can't seem find one that suits me. I have a ridiculous amount of jeans and none of them fits me properly, I don't know why. They are all too tight or too loose. I don't have any jewellery, and I've never had my ears pierced, which I guess is noteworthy. I'm just not switched on at all to the particular jewellery dimension of reality, I wouldn't know where to begin.

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

A red overcoat I got as payment for helping an artist install a show, I got it from a standard-fancy-store in Covent Garden. It has those cool horizontal Sgt. Peppers buttons, and a fur collar. What I like is single items that establish a concept for a whole outfit, and that coat definitely does that. Also I like it when you can sort of make an occasion out of wearing it, like saying "I'm going to wear my red coat" means something, and it means you are going to have a good time.

71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

A flannel shirt when I was 11, I think. I don't have it anymore but I do have a flannel, I've always had a single flannel shirt and it's always been an improvement on the previous one. The one I have now I consider pretty much the perfect flannel. It's a delight to own it. I wear it often.

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

Born August 16, 1993 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Currently live in Winchester, in Hampshire, England.

What kind of work do you do?

I'm trained as a nursery teacher, and I like to write sometimes. Currently I'm unemployed and I'm really into zines.

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

Married, no kids.

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