Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
Dressed for work in the morning in a dress or skirt with leggings/tights, ankle boots, and cute jewelry...kissing my husband goodbye as he sits at the dining table finishing his coffee.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I take stock of many women, as I observe them. Not in a judging way, typically, but because I'm a people watcher and I care about style and clothing somewhat. Because of living where I do (small city in the American Midwest), I definitely sit up and take notice when I see girls and women whose style is very much outside the local norms. For example, a clearly European or Asian influenced style, or even women who are more outdoorsy looking. For example, a suburban woman getting out of an SUV in her North Face jacket does not catch my eye - but a young woman on a serious mountain bike in icy weather wearing an old Patagonia fleece and a Yowie around her neck would certainly catch my attention.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I like to see matching, even when it looks dated or cheesy I just appreciate the amount of time and attention it took the wearer to coordinate her clothes, accessories, bag, etc. In recent years I've also really come to appreciate textures and patterns that are mixed well.
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 have many such moments. One I think of regularly is the teen magazine article I read in the late 1980's about doing a Sixties style cat eye. I was about thirteen at the time, and had actually worn full on makeup since the age of nine! But doing my eyeliner on the upper lid with it very gradually becoming wider toward the outside of my eyelid...that was a huge game changer for me, and became a trademark. I have worn it that way ever since.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I have a no hoodie rule. Around age 30, I decided that for me hoodies look sloppy and boyish, especially when I have short hair. Jackets with a collar or zip up look much better to me and actually make me seem younger than my age, whereas hoodies seem to make me look like a forty year old trying to rock juniors style. So none of that. Another set of "rules" for me is more vague...but there are certain amounts I just won't spend without VERY serious consideration. I'm sure many of my amounts would sound crazy low to others. But for example, I don't purchase a top over $20 unless I LOVE it and KNOW I will wear it very often.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
I mentioned my anti-hoodie rule already. I am also not a big fan of capri pants, especially not loose ones. I think they age me. If I wear any pant that ends above the ankle it must be tight and look very very vintage/retro like a pinup girl. Otherwise it's a no go. I lost more than 100 lb in my 30's and now with an average female figure I refuse to lose it in baggy pants or jeans.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I'd have to say some of the conversations I had with a peer and coworker in my early 20's. She was my age, but much more refined in her style, partly from living abroad. She seemed to dress for herself in a way that I hadn't really considered, while incorporating items that men considered attractive and sexy. She also really knew her figure and how to best disguise her flaws (short legs because she was petite) and so forth. It made me feel a bit hopeful and just sort of opened my eyes, in a lot of ways, even though I didn't have the same sort of style or figure.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
I suppose in many ways I do! I'm extremely organized and regimented in all areas. I am also a visual person. Everything must be appealing and balanced and colorful, in all areas of my life. I am frugal to a fault, yet everything in my living space and everything I put on my body must be somewhat beautiful.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
I always have cardigans in black and brighter colors, leggings in most basic colors, and I must always have several pairs of dark skinny jeans on hand. I keep buying these because they serve me so well and are the items I literally go to in my daily life. I guess tis is also because like the security of knowing I'd have a backup if my black dress was ripped beyond repair, or my leggings got all nubby and worn out.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
Most times, I steer clear of such gifts because style can be such a tricky thing. More often I've given close friends or my mother items I no longer wanted which they previously admired. There's a glass necklace I bought at a department store more than 15 years ago that my mother wears all of the time and loves. I did buy my stepmom a silver ring once with a tiny green stone in it and she wore it for many years, which felt good to me.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Spending most of my teens and adult life (until recently) as plus sized, there are MANY trends I avoided based on my size and shape. To name a more recent trend that I have not followed - belts over layers. I like belts a lot, but I refuse to wear a belt over say, a button-down shirt, dress, and cardigan. Just because it fits and coordinates with the outfit, doesn't make it look good! Even Michelle Obama looks awful in that style, in my opinion.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother and I both have enormous hips and bums, with dainty hands, wrists, ankles, etc. My mother was always very very feminine however, from childhood to present. I would not call myself unfeminine by any means, but I do have a tomboyish side and more of a no-frills, no nonsense approach to style. For example, I have worn pixie-short hair for a number of years and my mother has never strayed too far from long, flowing styles. Also, I have some of my father's genetic makeup of course, giving me a stronger overall appearance with broader shoulders, wider body and thicker waist than my mother's, and I have always had a larger bust.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
This may sound conceited, but I'd have to say no. I have typically been the trendsetter. I have shamelessly gleaned dressing ideas from strangers, models, actors, and occasionally coworkers or peers. But never from family or close friends.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
During my teens I went through a couple of major style changes. I would say the changes were a bit more dramatic than average even for a teen. Throughout childhood to about age 13, I always dressed very cute and preppy. At 14 (around 1990) I adopted a goth style but it was actually pretty refined. I wore tasteful makeup and dark dark clothing. Maybe a Cure tee here and there, but not the goth styles of spikes or dog collars. Around age 17 when goth was big, I changed again going a bit more hippie-grunge with flannels, Army surplus, florals and luxe velveteen fabrics. Birkenstocks took the place of my Doc Martens. Then in college, another change. After my first major breakup around age 22-23, I adopted an aggressively "girlie" style. I cut short Bettie Page bangs in my long dyed-black hair and wore exclusively black, grey, white & pink. I was highly into getting my nails done and it all fit with kind of a "bitch" persona I developed during that time. Later on, though, I became more relaxed and adopted a pixie cut. I did stick with more feminine clothing however.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
I wouldn't say so. I guess if I really wanted to get philosophical about it though, I could say that I'm making statements about class and female roles with some of my outfits, and some feminist statements by never wearing heels beyond a low heeled ankle boot. I won't.
16. Please describe your body.
I am tall and well proportioned. I think of myself as a massive curvy Amazon, but the truth is, I'm much more average these days. I don't think I can really call myself "big" at this point, in little skirts and medium tops, so I'll just say curvy and tall. Long legs and arms. Unusually small fingers and hands, and tiny feet for my body size and height. Well disguised flab from previously being morbidly obese. Huge hips that my husband adores, but which still fit into size 10 skinny jeans.
17. Please describe your mind.
Organized chaos at high speed.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Strong & passionate but generally under high control.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
At this moment, I'm relaxing at home in elephant print pajama bottoms (the warmest and softest ever), black and white striped socks, and a brown t-shirt. I am wearing black cat eye (prescription) glasses and my hair, which is a growing-out pixie with shortish bangs, is medium ash brown and currently reeking of cigarette smoke from my office Christmas lunch at a nightclub earlier in the day. I have makeup on, from the same. Light foundation with a dusting of powder, brownish gold tarte eye shadow, smoky gray eyeliner & black mascara. Probably still a trace of Smith's mint rose salve on my lips from earlier.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
It's important in the way it makes me feel (most importantly by far!!) and also in how it affects the way others perceive and even treat me.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
I don't talk about clothes all that much because so few people in my life are interested. I sometimes talk about it with my husband, mother, and even my father. Occasionally I talk about clothes with my girlfriends but they tend to be very negative and simply say they don't care what they wear after having children, can't fit into cute things, can't afford cute clothes, etc. It's quite a drag!
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
Probably a pair of Lane Bryant's Seven for All Mankind jeans that just didn't fit me properly, but I did not return as I'd removed all of the tags. I had 3-4 pairs of these when I was plus sized, and most of them fit beautifully but not the pair in question.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
I generally feel this way MOST days because I pay so little for the majority of my clothes, buying so many items secondhand at thrift stores. When I walk into a room wearing my pristine pale green new LOFT skinnies that cost $1 at the thrift store, I feel like I got away with a small crime.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
Absolutely. I think I have style in all areas, and am known for this.
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?
Absolutely. I don't have a particularly stressful job but I do this when I am nervous about a situation there, or in any situation really. For example, the other day I knew it was going to be a time of chaos at work and I would have meetings but also need to be very comfortable for some physical tasks in the office. I wanted to convey a powerful and capable image while also being very comfy. I wound up dressing a bit like a skier with a long sleeve top, fleece vest, jeans, and Keen hiking sandals in wonderfully coordinating colors. I had freshly trimmed hair and tons of silver jewelry on so I felt polished and professional despite the super casual outfit. It was the perfect costume for the day, in the words of Little Edie.
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?
Honestly, although they divorced when I was not yet teenaged and are two very different people, I think both my mother and father taught by example in just being very well groomed, attractive, reasonable people who dress properly for any occasion.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
My general makeup and hygiene routine makes me feel sexy and polished, which goes a long way for me. It is also important to me to take the occasional day for DIY spa treatments, like mani pedi and body scrub. It just makes me feel good. I NEED to have my toenails painted a bright or pretty color at all times in order to feel cute and feminine, so that's always one of my top priorities.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
What I consider ugly is fakeness, such as extremely dark tans and contoured makeup and eye shadow/eye makeup that looks like a porn star would have. I really hate fake eyebrows that are overly groomed or completely drawn on and look black and/or waxy. I don't like clothes that look uncomfortable or very very high heels, because I find them uncomfortable myself.
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 feel that I am a pretty good judge of this, but from time to time I have been surprised and in both directions. I recently bought a loose weave cream sweater and pictured myself throwing it over all sorts of fall and winter outfits, but I rarely wear it because it's an awkward length. It needs to be either 5" longer on me, or much tighter all over. It just doesn't work. On the other hand, I bought a coral colored tank that I didn't expect to wear much and it works under a ton of things as a very important layering piece. This seems to happen to me a lot with jackets too. The ones I think I might wear "once in awhile" become my favorites, even if they might seem to be an odd color or style.
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 think I tend to "see" myself from the eye of someone slightly older and more conservative than myself, for whatever reason. I don't always listen to that person in my head, though!
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
Usually I think briefly the night before about what I'd like to wear, and generally do follow through on that in the morning. Sometimes the outfit in my head doesn't work out as well and I go to something else in my closet. However, this happened much more often when I was overweight than it does currently.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I want to feel great and look good to others, especially my husband. I want to show the world who I feel I am, which is a responsible yet artistic 30-something woman with class.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
cute dress that ends above the knee and has short sleeves. Can be worn with tights or leggings and boots, or bare legs and sandals. Can be layered with a cardigan if desired. That would seriously work for me always, although I only wear it 1-2 times per week usually. It is certainly very "me"!
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?
Of course I dressed very differently as a teen than I do now in my late 30's, so I'll leave those comparisons out. There was a period shortly after my first marriage in my 20's when I think I dressed rather like a lesbian gym teacher. I wore plain shirts and sweaters, hoodies, Mom jeans, and Uggs or sneakers or sometimes those rain boots from L.L. Bean. It was a very unsexy look, especially with my pixie cut and minimal jewelry. I felt like it showed restraint, maturity, and even wealth. It wasn't much fun though! I dress much more girly and young now, actually.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
Although my HR job in a manufacturing facility does not require professional dress or a high level of grooming, I do come to work every day feeling polished and ready for work. My face is always done and my hair clean and groomed. That makes me feel rather professional. I have known many women who would come to work (especially in the medical field) with still-wet hair slicked back into a ponytail and no makeup. That's never been my style. Although I can wear jeans to work almost anytime I like, I generally dress it up a notch with a great top and cardigan or colorful blazer & cute boots. Also, I wear a lot of skirts. It's a bit of my own insecurity I suppose, but I never want to come face to face with a well dressed outside sales rep and feel childlike and sheepish in baggy jeans and Converse, even though technically I could wear that at my job with no ill effects.
48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
I have always detested the very idea of uniforms. My first job in a drugstore at age 16 was chosen primarily because I felt the dark blue polyester "smock" with snap closures I would have to wear (over my own clothing) was highly preferable to the actual full uniforms of fast food and other positions available to high school students.
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?
A long sleeved olive green top worn with jeans and black footwear of some kind. I have owned some version of this since age 12 and still do. It's not particularly appealing to me but it just feels comfortable to me somehow.
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 have never wished this at all, honestly. I am very happy to be female.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
I do think I am somewhat photogenic. I seem to look either 5X worse or 5X better in any given photo. Photos seem to have a way of making my teeth look completely pearly and straight, which they are not. I've even accused my best friend of photoshopping my teeth to make them look whiter and better, she thought I was insane.
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
I used to think "OMG I am so fat!" and now I think "OMG I look thin" or "Wow, I am really starting to resemble my parent (either one)".
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
Many! I've had so many clothing related dreams, especially after losing 90% of my wardrobe in an EF-5 tornado...every night for awhile I had tornado dreams and they often involved my favorite pair (at the time) of jeans.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
I would have a hard time wearing and "owning" a very very sexy look. Picture someone like Sofia Vergara or even Jessica Rabbit - with the vavavoom body conscious dress and heels. That just is not me. I would feel more attractive in a schoolgirl uniform, a cape and superheroine outfit, even a Disney Princess costume.
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 pretty happy with my body but if I didn't have flab or "flaws" I'd probably dress a lot like younger women, for example some of the beachy looking styles like a slightly belly baring tank under a very baggy cardigan with white shorts and tan legs and maybe some mocassins. That's not really me, but I could see myself getting away with that sort of style if my body was a bit different, for sure. I tend to gravitate toward various styles like the one named, and then go for a figure-friendly version that I can wear...lengthen the top, switch the shorts to skinny jeans, that sort of thing.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I do not wear perfume. I like a slight bit of fragrance in the hygiene products I use such as my hairspray, hair products, shampoo, lotion, and such. Those are pleasant to me. I'm not anti-perfume at all but I am very picky in this area and tend to associate most fragrances with my former marriage and a lifestyle I've left in the past. I would welcome a new fragrance and possibly wear perfume again, but I don't tend to like most widely available scents nor do I bother to seek out obscure ones.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Toes painted, nails neatly trimmed, makeup on, shaven legs and armpits. Decent hair, which for me usually means washed and groomed a bit.
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 few items that fit this description even though I try to clean out my closet very regularly (more than seasonally, even). One that comes to mind is a very high quality (thrifted, of course) mustard yellow sweater vest that is double breasted with gold buttons. Last year it was slightly too small for me and really needs to be worn completely done up to look cute. This year, it fits well, but it's just far too dressy for most occasions so I have yet to wear it.
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?
Jeans have been hugely valuable to me. Certain types of footwear as well. Boots always seem to be a good purchase for me even though they average around $200 compared to the $40-60 I spend on most other shoes. Sweaters tend to be a purchase that is worth spending a bit more when they last for many seasons.
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?
There are so many concert t-shirts I lost in a 2011 tornado and really wish I had again, especially Sonic Youth and Cure shirts from the early 1990s. Other than that however, I don't have many garments I really miss. I was about 10 sizes larger for most of my teens and adult years than I am now. So none of it would fit me now anyway!
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
I would keep my favorite coat. It is nothing fancy, just a red microfiber coat with a cozy grey lining. It has an odd style that can be dressed up to look professional or dressed down to look nearly athletic. I've not seen many similar styles. It cost only $3 (thrifted). But it's so warm and wonderfully comfortable.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
I've actually done this several times over the past 4-6 years, due to a tornado and extreme weight loss. Mostly I've rebuilt it all a bit younger & more stylish each time. I feel at age 32 I had the wardrobe of a 55 year old school teacher and as I've revamped and gotten smaller it now looks like the wardrobe of a 32 year old graphic designer, which is much closer to the self I'd like to present (at 38).
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
Probably my first pair of tan Uggs in 2003. I finally tossed them around 2010 but for $200 I felt that 6+ years of wear was well worth it. I know Uggs catch a bad rap but they really brighten up a Midwestern winter and make the baristas in coffee shops treat you a little better. Bizarre yet true.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
For me, the experience of buying skinny jeans and Victoria's Secret underwear for the first time at 36 was inexplicably wonderful after being a Lane Bryant shopper since age fifteen.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
I need the perfect dove grey cardigan!
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
SUPER neat and color coordinated to an extreme.
80. How does money fit into all this?
I am cheap and very frugal. I buy about 80% of my wardrobe secondhand. However, I'm a DINK so I can always justify the spendy jeans or a few hundred per season on boots.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
so many...you don't even want to know.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born November 3, 1976 in Joplin, Missouri and I live in Joplin, Missouri now as well. (Have lived other places in the interim however)
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I grew up middle class and Caucasian. Christian family but I am agnostic and have identified as such since middle school.
What kind of work do you do?
HR at a manufacturing facility. However most of my professional background is in social services and nonprofit auditing. I have an English degree and have done lots of public speaking.
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Newlywed after marrying for the second time in 2013. First time was 2002-2012. No kids, vehemently childfree by choice.
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
I've always loved myself a lot and have been my own best friend, even when I weighed 307 lb. I never had trouble getting dates either.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
A bit guilty because my gorgeous husband is waiting to go to dinner and I've spent far too much of the day lying on the sofa reading Women in Clothes.