Read Surveys (By Author)
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I love pretty, sort of French-looking women who have found the perfect red lipstick. They have two looks. There's the going-to-the-gallery look, which might involve knowing how to wear a scarf properly. Then there's the riding-a-bicycle-with-baguette-and-daffodils-in-the-front-basket look. They can’t look too conservative or uptight though. That ruins it. I’m also in awe of women that wear great shoes.
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 just turned forty and I've finally figured out my eyebrows. I stopped over-plucking them and saw a professional brow gal. I'd had the arch in the wrong spot for decades! Now my eyebrows are fuller, more shapely, and better suit my face. I'm still kind of in love with them.
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 friend who buys horse shirts in multiple. She’s younger and cooler than me. The only thing I buy in multiple is pajamas. I have a slight pajama problem because I often work at home.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
A couple years ago, I taught myself to sew infinity scarves at a shop where you can rent sewing machines by the hour. I felt so good making them, in the cozy shop on a winter day, amid the thrum of sewing machines and the hush of scissors, and women mumbling with pins in their mouths. One of the three people I gave them to seemed to particularly cherish it. She wore it immediately and it'd looked perfect.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
I look like the storks brought me into the world. My mother is a petite brunette with curly hair. I'm the opposite—big, blonde, with hair that's straight.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
In my early twenties, there were a bunch of us girls who swapped clothes, or rather, borrowed clothes from our most alpha female, who was very communally-minded. They were considered the lucky clothes—or in other words, the ones that got us laid. Recently, I saw a photo of my friend from back then in one of the outfits. There is no way it looked as good on any of us as it did on her.
16. Please describe your body.
Tall and festively chubby. Even at my most fit—when I was boxing—I kind of looked like Britney Spears on steroids and cream puffs.
17. Please describe your mind.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Lush to florid.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I mentioned that I have a pajama problem, right?
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
I think I have taste, which, to me, means I have standards that make me look presentable and put-together. I'd like to have more style. That would require a lot more effort and resources.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Sometimes I use my flat iron to straighten a hem.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
In general, I’m very into aesthetics and design. For a picnic I will wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and gingham napkins and tie them up with rustic jute twine. I'm also always designing and improving my environment, albeit on a budget. I’m known for being able to buy things at Dollarama and make them stylish. For example, my lion book ends are just $2 garden ornaments, but somehow they work.
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?
The colour pink calms me. Most of my pink clothes are in the form of pajamas though. If I’m scared or overwhelmed, I definitely spend as much time in my pajamas as possible.
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?
Cover up—for instance, nothing too far off the shoulder (it was the 80s). My father on wearing too much black: “ Who died?”
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
I think voluptuous hair is sexy, maybe because I’m a Leo. Mine is fine and flat. If I want to feel sexy or alluring I try to give it some volume. It rarely works. So then I console myself with my lips, which are actually quite lovely and full. I try to stand up straight too—not rigid, but like I have a strong core.
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?
As I get older, I’m starting to realize that an arm is just an arm and a thigh is just a thigh and a head of hair is just a head of hair. We’re all the same animal. Who cares? Beauty isn’t owed to anyone.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Most anything that isn’t smelly, dirty, gross or soulless can be beautiful. There are always exceptions. Like slugs having sex. Totally gross, but weirdly beautiful.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
Smelly, dirty, gross or soulless things.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I think I try to match or improve my mood. If I’m grumpy, for example, I can’t wear a cheerful dress with ponytails and cowgirl boots. That’s why black dresses are good—they can harmonize to lots of moods.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
A pretty dress, cute cardigan, leggings and boots. Oh, and I also sometimes fantasize about a writing uniform. I've been thinking about overalls, like a mechanic wears, with a name patch.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
Dresses are me. Pants are not me. But the word pants is fun. Pants.
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?
I wear dresses every day. The exception was in my early thirties when I was boxing and working as a bouncer, so I also wore cargo pants and tank tops and hoodies. At first it was just practical, but then it became a temporary identity. I felt very strong. I also enjoyed having pockets.
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've only ever wanted to be a man when I've had to pee in the woods.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
I worry that I am a sumo-faced, marshmallow person.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
There are numerous svelte looks that I cannot achieve. For instance, I once had a friend who wore a sexy unitard for a racy encounter. It was ripped off of her from neck to crotch even though she spent good money on it. If I wore a sexy unitard, I’d look like an inner-tube. I guess that’s an extreme example.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
I want to keep my fella interested and attracted. I constantly apologize for spending so much time in pajamas. He’s an excellent feminist and doesn’t think I should be tyrannized by thinking I have to look a certain way. Anyway, I try to buy cute pajamas.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Cleanliness is very important. I’d never go out with unwashed hair. I also don’t go out in my glasses—contacts only. Plus, I always wear at least a little bit of makeup outside of the house. I’m very pale and if I don’t wear blush people think I'm unwell.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
I'm very fond of my chunky silver ring.
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?
I have a pair of, um, pajamas, that are torn and no longer wearable, but I can't bear to throw them out because the pattern is so pretty and reminds me of the calico dresses I wore in the 70s.
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?
Leggings and cardigans are my staples. I hate being cold.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
The perfect bra.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
Very neat and organized by type of item. Ruthlessly culled.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
A friend, who I worked with in the early 90s, but was just getting to know then, came into work one day wearing two great bracelets. They were big, chunky cuffs that somehow reminded me of both Wonder Woman and The Lady of Shallot. I said that I loved them and wished they were mine, so she promptly took them off and gave them to me. It was so magnanimous.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
When I have a windfall of some sort, and often when the seasons are changing. I dislike shopping for clothes. As a “plus-sized” woman, I have about five places I can shop with depressing names like "Addition Elle". Just because it’s in French, doesn’t mean it sounds better. And what the fuck is up with the term "Queen Size"? If I had more money I’d have my clothes made for me and/or I’d learn to make my own. I feel that I would be much more stylish if I had that kind of control.
80. How does money fit into all this?
I've been in university for eight years. My clothes are cheap and my wardrobe is small and somewhat insufficient.
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 can really get into lip tint. Burt's Bees "Fig" or Revlon's "Adore", for example.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
I had a male friend who was always panting after women of a body type that is the polar opposite to mine. Even though I wasn’t interested in him romantically, his range (or lack of it) kind of pissed me off. I thought he watched too much porn and was too hard on women. But then one day he said to me, “I love looking at you.” And I said, “No you don’t.” And he said, “Yes, I do! I love the way you look.” So, I guess I learned that I’d been measuring how appealing I was by whether or not someone wanted to shag me. It made me wonder why I over-valued the confidence I got from sexual-confidence.
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?
Frilly knickers when I was three or four. The rows and rows of lacy frills went along the bum, but I put them on backwards so I could lift my dress up and look at them. I was caught doing this at a family holiday dinner. There was much guffawing so I ran away, threw myself on a bed and cried.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Moses Lake, Washington in 1974. I live in Toronto.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I grew up working class. I slummed it for years as a high-minded low life. Now, I almost have an MFA and live a respectable low income life.
What kind of work do you do?
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Betrothed. Child-free by choice.
Jill Margo lives in Toronto, Ontario with playwright Andrew Templeton, has been published here and there, and is working on her first book. She also recently launched The Jill Margo Mini-Mag: tinyletter.com/jillmargo