Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
When I'm in a good mood & feeling confident. Often I like the way I look when I'm feeling that way no matter what I'm wearing. But it works both ways - when I'm in a good mood & feeling confident, I often put more effort into choosing my clothing and accessories.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I don't consistently notice women. When I do, I usually notice women who don't look good. Maybe their appearance is tasteless - clothes that are seriously too tight for their body types or really badly fit in other ways, too much skin showing in inappropriate situations, or clothes I think are just plain ugly (my own opinion, of course).
Sometimes I make a point of noticing women, when I'm thinking about styles I like or don't like for myself. I sort into 3 categories:
1) Styles I like, for a whole variety of reasons
2) Things I don't like (see above)
3) Just plain boring. This is the most common in the area where I live, and the way I often dress myself. Dungarees, turtleneck or T-shirt, very little accessories.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
A talent for finding & wearing unusual clothing and accessories. Being able to accessorize so that the most bland outfit looks stylish.
Buying a lot of unique things from local shops, crafts fairs, and artisans.
And also being able to look great without spending a lot of money, like the people who look totally awesome and say, "Oh, I bought this for $10 at T.J. Maxx".
Looking really current without buying the latest new fashions.
Being able to stand up straight and look confident and at the same time be friendly and approachable.
Sometimes wearing silly clothing or accessories and being able to carry it off without looking silly themselves.
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?
No. But it happens again every time I try to shop in a mall. I realize there isn't one single thing there I want. I also get smaller moments every time I try to get dressed in the morning because my wardrobe is incredibly boring.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I never buy anything online unless it's from a small, independent vendor's site.
I knit a lot of my accessories myself.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Comfort first - I refuse to wear uncomfortable clothing. No high heels, although I love the way they look.
I don't like low cut tops/dresses, or other clothes that I have to worry about making sure everything is in place.
I don't wear make up. I stopped wearing it years ago on principle, but I don't really care now. I'm just not that good at it, and don't want to take the time.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
I have gray hair, sort of thin & limp, that goes to the small of my back. I always, always wear it in a braid.
I hear constantly at work "You should cut [dye/style] your hair. It would look so great short." I keep hearing that message loud & clear, and it made me feel defensive.
Then one day someone passing on the street said "I like your braid". I suddenly realized how often I hear that, too, but that message was never getting through.
From that moment, I stopped being defensive about anything about my appearance. My style (and often lack thereof) is my choice, and it's my choice to feel good or bad about, but no one else's.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Panic, procrastination, always behind schedule, never enough money.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Handknit lace shawls, because I love to make them. I also have lots of basic turtlenecks (winter) and nice T-shirt-style tops (summer) & plain black pants because I can wear them with the shawls for interchangeable outfits.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
Showing my midriff. I think the style looks awful.
Multiple piercings other than ears. I think they're impractical and unattractive.
Buying things with brand name logos on them (not if I can help it!)
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother is heavy-built with large breasts and was somewhat shapely when she was young. I was mostly raised by my grandmother, and I have her body type: thin with no shape.
I often look at my hands, though, and think, "These are my mothers hands".
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
'60s. I was a serious "hippie". I still have a lot of that time in me, but it seems I kept the practical (dungarees & T-shirts) rather than the flowery.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Yes. I'm anti-mall, anti-chain store. I don't want to be told how I'm supposed to look this season. I won't buy clothing with brand name logos on them (well, sneakers, but I don't think you can get around that).
I would be incredibly unhappy working in a corporate environment where I had to wear a suit or appropriate office clothing. I haven't had a job like that in decades, and I don't think I could ever accept one now.
16. Please describe your body.
5'4, 117 lbs. Very thin, and almost no shape. Very small breasts, and totally flat behind. I have trouble buying pants because they always want to fall straight off. I can't wait for low-rise jeans to go out of style, because it's really hard to find jeans I can wear.
The only fat I have all goes right to my stomach instead of somewhere it could be more "useful".
17. Please describe your mind.
Intelligent, curious, selectively interested in a lot of random things but a little too scattered. I want to do too many things at once.
18. Please describe your emotions.
Too tightly controlled.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
I'm home late in the evening and it's very cold out.
Long underwear, sweatpants, turtleneck, old sweatshirt (a little shredded), old sweater, socks, my very nice pair of around-the-house slippers that were a gift from my cousin.
No accessories at all. My hair is long, undone & messy because I'm going to wash it when I finish the survey.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
I'm interested to see what I learn about myself from the survey and the book.
I want to contribute to this awesome project.
I think I'm going through some kind of style transformation, but I'm not sure where it's going. I know is I want to have more fun with my style and enjoy the way I present myself to the world more.
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
Some of the crafters I know. Otherwise, just random people.
I try to avoid talking to anyone at work about clothes, ever
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
Not much. There are no rules for work. My own rules is I don't wear shorts, or T-shirts/sweatshirts with stuff printed on them (like souvenir T-shirts, etc.).
I live/work in a tech/science area, so dress isn't a big issue anywhere. I see very few people going to work dressed in suits.
I don't know if finances count as an "institution", but I don't make enough money to have a clothing budget. That seriously affects what I own, clothing-wise. It's part of the reason my wardrobe is old and feels inadequate and boring.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
Taste is what you like, and applies more to a single item - clothing, a painting, music, whatever.
Style is how take the different elements of your taste and put them all together.
Neither one is more important.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
I remember many wastes of time knitting clothing or accessories that didn't fit or that I didn't like.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
When I see something basic in a store that I like and that fits, like dungarees that fit perfectly, or a perfect style of shirt that comes in different colors, buy several.
Stores change inventory so fast now, that if you go back next week for another one, they won't stock them anymore.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
Maybe in the way I look at things and think about them. Maybe it's a style that's waiting for a way to show itself?
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?
Comfort dress (like comfort food): It might be a good-fitting basic shirt with my favorite shawl. But the appropriate clothing depends on where I am. It would definitely be my favorite clothes that fit the best that are appropriate for the environment (work, play, home, social gathering).
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?
Yes, I know what I like, and what I don't like.
I'm more intellectual, and have a good sense of discernment in other areas. Books, absolutely.
It comes from being well educated and well-read. I come from a family that valued education on both my mother's and father's side.
My mother's side is very intellectual and well-read. It includes 2 writers and 2 Unitarian ministers. I take after that side.
On my father's side, my grandfather was an artist, my grandmother a dress designer, and my father toyed with the theater. That exposure gave me an appreciation for creativity, but didn't make me a very creative myself.
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?
Nope, they didn't teach me anything that I can remember.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Sexy? I don't think I own a single thing (lol)
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?
Comfortable means, well, comfortable. Physically comfortable or just generally at ease.
Confident is more a state of mind. It can be a general attitude or it can relate to a certain thing. I feel confident about knitting, for example.
32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?
Find articles of clothing and accessories that you like. Never mind what anyone else says. Just anything that catches your eye. Forget about brand names or "the latest thing" or spending a lot of money.- your style is not a competitive sport.
I urge people to shop local and/or "shop small", i.e., from small businesses, designers and craftspeople.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Walking on a historical tour in a very small group, in a beautiful new city, with a knowledgeable guide.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
Playing follow the leader instead of thinking for yourself.
Tall office buildings.
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?
No. I have a very hard time visualizing clothing on me. One reason I detest shopping is nothing I bring to the dressing room ever looks good or fits. I get frustrated after the 5th item.
I have lots of accessories I love and lots of ancient clothes I hate because such a hard time figuring out what clothes to buy.
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'm not sure I understand the question.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
1) What am I doing that day
2) Listen to/look up the weather forecast
3) Think about whether I care what I look like that day
4) Find something clean
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
Be comfortable and presentable. Have the most style I can with the little clothing I have to work with. That means accessorizing.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing is putting something on, be it sweatpants or a dress.
Dressing up is out of the ordinary, pulling a special-occasion something out of the closet that I never get to wear. It's for a special event, whether it's a wedding or Halloween.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
Dungarees or comfortable pants. I'm pretty flexible on the rest as long as it's comfortable and modest. Not that I have a rule about being modest, but uniforms shouldn't be revealing or too tight.
My first job as a teenager was at a Dunkin' Donuts in 1970. Miniskirts were in. The owner hired me, handed me the uniform, looked me up and down and said, "Take it home and shorten it". Not appropriate.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
Me: Anything I like.
Not me: Business suit.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I'm a WASP from New England. Think brown with beige or maroon accents. Brown with brown accents. Black with beige. Maybe some white thrown in. What's color, again?
I was partly raised by my grandparents in the late '50s-early '60s. My grandfather was a Unitarian minister and my grandmother believed a minister's wife should dress conservatively. Take the WASP New England style (above) to a more conservative level.
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?
Disco!! Perm, lots of make up, leotard, the whole bit! I'd insert a photo here if I had one handy.
It was a lot of fun. Going out, dancing, all the glitter and lights and swinging Danskin skirts and lights.
It was also not the kind of thing that makes a lasting impression on one's life.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
Not much. Change up the jeans for office-casual pants. I have a couple of pretty ordinary black blazers. Same make up, same hair.
But I usually get a lot of compliments from people I meet because I accessorize a lot with that outfit.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
There are no official dress expectations at work so there's nothing to rebel against. In an earlier question I talked about co-workers who are always telling me to change the way I look, and now I ignore them. But I don't think that counts as rebellion.
46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?
47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?
48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?
I used to think it would be constraining. But I'm starting to think it would be comforting, depending on the uniform, of course. Not the aforementioned Dunkin' Donuts miniskirt! (#40) But I'm not really sure, since I haven't been in the situation since 1970.
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?
Dungarees & a T-shirt.
-They've been appropriate for most of the situations I've been in during my life
-Jeans are a totally ingrained part of me
-T-shirts are comfortable and have meaning for me for the places I've been, things that are important to me, etc. I've given away all the T-shirts that don't mean anything to me.
-The outfit is comfortable.
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?
Men get all the pockets. Even women's suits don't have pockets.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
Some of this, some of that. I love the clothing of the indigenous Andean cultures. The textiles, sewing and embroidery is gorgeous. And the style, the way they put is together, is beautiful.
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
I think how unphotogenic I am and I wish I photographed well.
I think how much I look like my grandmother now.
Lately I notice I'm even thinner than I think I am
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
I can't name one in particular, it's a real mixture.
55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?
Other than the standard finding myself naked in public one, no. lol
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
Sexy. I don't believe I'm sexy, I don't think I have the body for it, and I'm not that interested in appearing sexy.
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'd have some shape, so:
-I'd probably wear more dresses because they would hang flat and straight down
-I might have newer clothes because they don't make clothes for people with no shape
-I might have a couple of things that had a little bit of cleavage because I'd actually have some cleavage
-I'm very shortwaisted - my waist is about 3" below my bust. With my new "fantasy" body, it'd have a lower waistline which would also open up some clothing options.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
Follow your own rules, not someone else's.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I used to wear it frequently. I still do occasionally at random times when I think of it.
I like the smell of most perfumes, but most people put on way too much.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
I used to wear make up. Then in the '60s-'70s I stopped as a matter of principle. Then the disco era came and I started again just for fun. Then I stopped against out of laziness.
So I don't have strong feelings about it. But I don't know how to apply it well. And I'm lazy and always running late.
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?
Usually whatever the latest thing being advertised is.
I often like the "latest thing" but not what's forced on me by advertising and my daily walk through the mall to get to work. It's usually something offbeat that I hear about from friends or from selected social media.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
Clothing: Lots of basic comfort clothes. Jeans, turtlenecks, basic but nice T-shirt cut tops, and a few nicer tops. Lots of knitted lace shawls. A few dressed. A few pairs of identical black work-casual pants. 2 black blazers. Pretty boring. I bore myself when I get dressed every day.
Accessories: I really like my accessories. I feel naked without earrings every day. I have a lot of bracelets. I've picked up most of them traveling or at local crafts fairs.
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
I'm very fond of a top that I bought years ago in Asia. It was hand-made and hand-batiked in Indonesia, but it's not traditional. It looks like it done by a designer. Other than that, I can't describe it.
My 3 favorite accessories: Silver earrings my uncle brought me from Ireland, silver earrings I bought in Ecuador, and a big bracelet that was a gift, handmade made in Kenya from recycled beads and safety pins - you have to look really closely to see that it's safety pins.
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?
-A silk skirt my grandmother bought on the same trip to Asia when I bought the top in #65. It's much too small for me, but I keep it because it was hers and she bought it on that trip.
-A top that my other grandmother made in her dress shop in the '60s and gave to me. It's ridiculously out of style, I don't think it fits and I'm afraid of damaging it. But I keep it because she made it.
-A pair of cute ankle boots I bought at an Icelandic flea market. They're now in pretty fragile condition, so I don't wear them, although I keep meaning to when the weather is perfect some day.
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?
All the yarn I knit with. Not only did I get the finished clothing or accessory, but I got all the pleasurable hours of making them. And I've become part of a large community of other crafters as a result of it, too.
Probably those 2 black blazers. Pretty boring, but they sure come in handy when I have to go to a work function.
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?
Not that I can think of.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
One of my shawls, but it would be really hard to decide which one. I'd probably have to pick 5 of them, and then put on a blindfold to make the final decision.
Other than that, it might be a blessing to throw out my entire wardrobe and start from scratch.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
I'd be more conscious about my purchases and choose things based on how much I like them as opposed to how inexpensive they are or emergency purchases.
I'd buy more clothing when I travel, since answering this survey, they seem to be some of the ones I value most.
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
I've never had a lot of money, so I'm not sure I've ever had an investment item. Those 2 black blazers again, if you can call $40 an investment item.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
I don't think so.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
The perfect-fitting dungarees.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
They're surprisingly neat, compared to the rest of my apartment. Hmm, curious. I never realized that before. I wonder why that is? I'll have to ponder that.
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
I love the pair of earrings my uncle gave me from a trip to Ireland. One year he gave me a necklace, the next year matching earrings. I love those earrings. It was shortly before he died, and the earrings have taken on a special meaning. I wear them at certain times that are special to me, or when I'm my family.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
I can't afford to shop, and I hate to shop, so I rarely do.
I shop haphazardly. When I have time, but I usually get frustrated with shopping and leave without anything, or with something that doesn't quit fit or look right.
Or else in because I need something immediately, which isn't much more successful than haphazardly.
One kind of shopping I really enjoy, though, is shopping from artisans and small businesses at open markets, crafts fairs, etc. This isn't always successful, either, because the choices are usually limited and I can't always find something that I like that fits. But I enjoy it anyway. And I feel doubly good about the purchase because it helps them and me.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
Other than clean, no. Unfortunately, I probably usually smell like cigarette smoke.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
I think about how I would like to dress more than I seem to be able to change my appearance.
80. How does money fit into all this?
In a big way!!! In every way!!! I don't have any money. So I usually can't afford to buy clothes. That's probably one reason I like accessories (besides being fun) - they're affordable.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
Earrings. I'm naked without earrings. I've been known to run out and buy a pair of earrings if I forget to put them in. Even if I have to go to the drug store and buy a cheap pair of hoops, I have to wear earrings.
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?
I don't remember.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
May 8, 1954. I was born in Salem, Massachusetts. I've lived in Somerville, Massachusetts for about 40 years.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I was brought up WASP in New England.
My father's father was an artists and they came over from Europe during WWII.
I spent time growing up with different relatives and at different schools, and went back and forth between near poverty to Fifth Avenue with equal comfort.
Class is a little hard to say. I spent time as a child having to move again & again because the rent wasn't paid
What kind of work do you do?
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
I've never really fit the norm. The only time I totally feel like I fit in is with other people who don't feel like they completely fit in.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
It's too long a story to make a short bio. Let's just say it was pretty unusual: By the time I (sort of) finished high school, I'd lived in about 12 different places and attended 9 different schools. And that was only the first 16 out of 60 years.
Let's just say it's been an unusual ride so far.