Read Surveys (By Author)

Mari MacDonald

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

Not. Do not feel attractive right now. sometimes when I look in the mirror my eyes sparkle a deeper blue than usual.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

yes. all the time. right now I am really admiring older women (70+) who are really strutting around. Sometimes the colours, boots, haircut, purses, etc. are just so sharp. I notice a lot of young women/adults who are really looking great. so innovative, interesting. I like colours, funky patterns. I am really loving young people's hair colour - it is so luscious.

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

Shoes. I am loving shoes. But I am also really loving the comfortable special things that people have. I have a friend who doesn't shave, refuses to wear bras, and wears old style hippy dresses. Generally I would not suggest anyone emulate her, but I love that she loves her own look. She's quite pretty in her own presentation.

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?

about 4 years ago when I bought a book about aging and mid-life fashion that was about reviewing your own body. I don't know why, but it suddenly occured to me that I could dress what I have today in a coordinated way - that I could play with how it looked to others. I have had a love-hate relationship with clothes - I was too cute as a teenager and it made me uncomfortable so I've always dressed in baggy clothes. I never knew how to connect how other people relate to me with what I wear. I'm doing better; experimenting, but it sure is uncomfortable. My latest thing are big rings! :)

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

coloured tights. I love coloured tights. Not necessarily great for a mid-aged lady, but I love them. I am also a bug-bear for quality. Many people need economy so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

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

ALWAYS wear earrings. Not everyone's thing. Don't wear the same shirt twice in a row. Don't shower every day (don't confess that one too much). Wear roomy shoes.

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

With my daughter, who explained that you can't put on another person's clothes. What you choose is very uniquely you, even though you feel (I feel) that I am just a number in a mall. 2nd was with my mother, who I suddenly noticed took a lot of care with her clothes and skin care. Why did I not know she loved expensive shoes?

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

Unified. Hmm. I seek harmony. I seek vibrational resonance. I seek to communicate on a sub-human level by using vibrational colours; telling mini-privatge stories with talismans, rebelling by wearing old rotten underwear (trying to get over that one).

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

Oh. Shirts. I think I should have them. Cheap shoes. I think they will do. Fluffy vests. I think they are in fashion and I find out, sadly, that they are not. Many scarves, which are all great. I do not have enough scarves. Dresses. then I'm afraid to wear them. Pleated skirts, which stick out like a fan around my generous butt and hips.

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

Gave my Naturopath's secretary a really great set of vintage jet black beads. They were perfect for her. I buy my partner earrings all the time. Many of them are total winners. I gave my Mum a pair of brutalist multi-metal earrings and she wears them all the time.

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

Well, I did jumpsuits at the time. I think peplums are weird. I DO NOT like workshirts. I haven't been able to wrap my head around sheer blouses though I think they look great on others.

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

Body. She's thin and small and I'm chunky, but we both have narrow shoulders and wider hips. She's ultra tidy and attentive, and I'm a bit sloppy. But she has a lovely sense of colour and I have that. She loves fabric and so do I. She has great hair colour and so do I. She loves to dress formally and so do I. I have her handbags now - the fancy ones - clutches and so on.

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

I've stolen a vest from my partner. I'm a bit embarrassed. I have stolen the idea of those thick scarves from my daughter. Women my age don't get into each other's closets enough.

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

Many times, often connected to my self esteem. I got super preppy in my first university, and then super sloppy in my 2nd university. Then I went vintage, and then I went business formal (suits). Then went back to more casual, men's suit jackets, rolled up sleeves, etc. Then I became kind of the amorphous student. Now I'm trying on 'mature women' look.

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

Always. Everyone's politics are on their sleeves. But I think you mean ethical choices. I try and pay for quality, Canadian clothing, smaller manufacturers, local designers. I think it's hard to prevent or sort out fair trade. Many people really earn a living at working in slave like conditions in factories. I like companies that inspect, but honestly, I buy what's on sale, too.

16. Please describe your body.

average height. plump and curvy. I'm just over the obesity line for my height. relatively fair. natural hair colour is chestnut with gray sparkles. green/grey/blue eyes. chubby cheeks. full lips. I'll make a pretty good grandma someday. hair is wavy/curly, bobbed. big hands and feet. good ankles (like my Mum). strong. my partner calls me a sturdy pony.

17. Please describe your mind.

mercurial. intelligent. questing. creative. lateral thinker. Can't remember the grocery list. numbers dyslexic. can't keep appointments. homing pigeon - can find my way back even if I've only been there once. great spatial orientation. pattern recognition. very big library with drawers overspilling with files. can usually find information on anything. Only I know the system.

18. Please describe your emotions.

roller coaster. really big lows - really bad. effervescent when I'm good. sleeplessness. harsh - can be vindictive. generous.

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

baggy sweatpants. yesterday's sports socks. Old comfy bra. long sleeved t shirt. little zipper jacket made of old pop bottles. haven't combed my hair yet (it's 2:30 pm). no make up. haven't put my face cream on yet.

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

good snapshot. what I wear and who I am is tied up together. I want some nicer writing clothes (I work from home). I want to go out with a spring in my step. I don't want to be embarased when I meet people.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

my sister (I have 5 so this is the one closest in age). she has a completely opposite body to mine so its hilarious but I learn a lot from her. she dresses well for her body and she looks good in a corporate environment, out on the dance floor, and, I suspect, in bed.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

they have a heavy footprint. the places I work, the worlds of entertainment, the institutions that make clothing, the media, the protest media.

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

no. i don't have taste or style. I often get it wrong. too complicated, ends up being fussy. maybe I overthink it.

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

no. i remember the time I scared the crap out of myself by buying a really expensive leather jacket. I spent all the money I had on it. i took it back and i argued super hard with the owner that I couldn't afford it. she was really, really mad. but really, I make mistakes. I'm getting use to it.

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

not quite "getting away", but making "taking advantage." I've learned that having a wider ankle on my pants proportionately balances out my butt, so I don't look like an upside down triangle. I've learned that cinching my waist levels out my curvaceousness, though I still feel better when it's all snug against my body.

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

Style feels like a word that belongs to someone else. I have strong senses of what I like and don't. I let my partner be the style maven around the house. I love design - I like form especially. Things have to have clean lines.

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?

I have favourite jackets (fleece, zip up) that I wear when I feel insecure. I wear my biggest underwear when I feel insecure. But I also make myself insecure in my dress to face some challenges.

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?

No, i have difficulty knowing what I like. I don't trust what I like. I am sensitive to others critiques. I might not have it because I think a lot, or it might be because i moved a lot as a kid, and changed families a lot. Nothing was stable and I was always trying to fit in.

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 mother taught me to be tidy. to iron. to be economical. to wash carefully. to care for clothes. she also taught me that clothing is fraught with complications; they are a means to hide the body. My father taught me to be "you" - he is not a style maven, but he looks good all the time. He really lives in his clothes.

30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

Lately absolutely nothing. I colour my eyebrows. that's about as sexy as I get. Feel blue about this. i used to like to wear a v-neck - it's a shape that looks good on me, but no more. now I'm too pillowy there. it just looks like a butt crack.

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. giving in. letting my belly hang out. stuff that's pilled. old stuff. stuff other people tell you to throw out. confident. bold. great colour. defined style. takes you somewhere.

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?

it's important to complement your person and your body. think about who you are, how you like to move, and what makes you happy. The colours, textures and fit of clothes are YOU. At the same time, clothes are part of social interaction. There are many tips to enhance the way you fit in clothes and to portray the image you want to give. People often don't realize the messages they are sending with their clothes.

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

Not to me? For me? You mean on me? When scarves and hair and eyes spark each other; kind of dance in colour symphony. Shoes with gorgeously textured leather. Rings that are bold and interesting (not the diamondy kind of things). Jackets of soft wool that have a colour with depth.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Fabrics that repel the eye because of texture (stiff, cheap). Lots of weird cheap bling. Often times corporate dress.

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'm getting better now that I know more about how to fit my body. I still impulse buy, mostly things that are too romantic. I am buying accessories to make the clothes work, too. I'm matching the colour to me better. But I'm also starting to get rid of good clothes that didn't work (pleated skirt I love, french cuff shirt that is good but I hate, red faux fur vest that I love but makes me look like a tomato).

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?

the Other Eye looks at me and says I am too flamboyant. It doesn't matter if I am wearing all black. Always too flamboyant. I put on clothes and take them off so that I look more like I fit in. Then sometimes I go all out and it's too over the top because I have no practice. But I have pictures of myself that I love in these really outrageous clothes. The best is a disco dress - almost nothing too it, spaghetti straps, spiral perm with a henna, platform shoes in wood with spiked heels and burgundy velvet suede tops.

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

usually comfort since I work at home. I like my waist loose. But when I go to work, I think about fitting in. coordinating colours textures. weather. will I be dry, ventilated, have options for being warmer (zipping up, or a scarf) will my clothes be safe (not get salted, wet). does anything hang out

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

fitting in. (social goals). Secret ends; coding my earrings (like Madeleine Albright).

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

dressing up. fancy in the sense of the social world. black, glitter. impresses others. more expensive clothes.

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

Spock. sort of a onesy with zipper pockets and printed pattern blocks of colour. boots that were sleek. A hat. Sort of a peter pan hat that I could wear on a jaunty angle. A matching jacket with roomy sleeves. A utility belt type thing that would hold the things for my job.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

not me - bows. fluff. white shirts. navy. purple. sunglasses. sparkle. short dresses.
what is me - tweed (not actually tweed but that kind of direction). darker colours. secondary colours. subtle detail. Hats. earrings.

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

i have a bicultural hispanic/north american background. from the hispanic (south american) side, I get wools, textures, knitted things, scarves, sunglasses, a bit of outrageous colour, flat sandals. from the north american side I get fine tailoring; texture, hats, social occasion matching, clothes that are not too tight. from both sides. great shoes.

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 had a job in the corporate world and I was trying to fit in. suits. didn't work.

44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?

tie it down. put a suit jacket on. wear black sensible shoes. wear shirts. put on my fancy watch. always the fancy watch. not my more outrageous earrings, more often the metal ones (silver, copper, brass). less handcrafty look.

45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

there are few rules in the world I work in, so nothing much to rebel against. In fact, it is hard to figure out because there is no standard. it's fraught with difficulties.

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

no. A running shirt when I race.

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 don't really like uniforms but I've never really had one. they always look ill fitting.

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?

yes. jeans, t-shirt, zip up fleece. it sounds pretty bad, but it's mostly black, it's tidy, the fleece is inside out so the shiny side is on the outside and the cozy part is on the inside. it has zippers in contrasting colours (copper and clear plastic). great shoes. a good coloured scarf and interesting earrings. I wear glasses, too, you haven't asked about those. I've had glasses since I was 11. My first were like Nana Mouskouri and I'm still trending that way.

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?

yes. I want to wear men's suits and shoes. men get to wear such great colours - dark plaids, tiny stripes, matching ties, really great shoes.

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

upper crust 18th century. I love the tiny buttoned shoes and paddle board corsets. I like the tiny flowers and plaid. I love the textured fabrics and undergarments. i like the bird cages in the hair and the white powdered faces (which were often lethal). I love the bosoms spilling out (what were they thinking?)

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

no. I'm always trying too hard. I'm a good sport though. somehow the angle of my face always looks fatter than I think.

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

oh, so fat and blobby. unfashionable. trying too hard.

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?

No. Mainly Janice Joplin, Pearl. Hmm. that might be a problem.

55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?

only the naked dream but that has nothing to do with clothing.

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

tailored. i look terrible in white shirts.

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?

cardigans. they look terrible on someone with a tummy. shorts.

58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?

I am always trying to be fashionable for young people. I always want to attract a punk/indy music crowd. I want to be startling and reflective. The actual achievement is opposite. I am unremarkable in my dress. Unless you come in the backyard where I am wearing gumboots and a skirt.

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

you mean "do's and don'ts"? Please, please don't wear a grey baggy jacket that you have had for years. Cut your hair to match your face. think about your shoes. Do not wear ballet flats unless you are in the house.

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

i like perfume. I used to have two perfumes - Oscar de la Renta, and a Georgio. however, then I developed really bad allergies and I couldn't afford perfume any more. Now I have some very soft Indian sandalwood cream I sometimes put on the back of my neck. that's all. I really don't like over-perfume. I read some on-line erotica where some man (apparent man) talked about "that girl smell" and it made me think of all the things that have smell that are not perfume. I smell like my house. kind of spicy and sort of mustardy. West coast dampness.

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

Things need to be tucked in. the colours need to be matched (like secondary colours to secondary colours). I need to feel like the clothes touch my body.

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

I wore a lot of make up when I was younger; then I didn't wear make up for about 20 years from the time I became a mother until recently. then I thought why not? And a friend who I work with took us out to a cosmetics counter. the young lady raved about my pale colouring and skin. it was quite racially embarrassing as my friend is dark and the young woman who was doing my make up was Asian. Luckily everyone was cool about it. However, I walked away from that with my old hunger sparked. I shop the sales though, so I have a lot of lipsticks I don't like.

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?

i am not interested in work clothes. maybe I'm not interested in work. I just can't connect to that world of proper dressing. this is a problem.

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

some jeans, work clothes, a couple of fancy outfits for going to the theatre, a normal number of shoes, too many big underwears... a lot of useless belts. not much brand to it. a closet full, a chest of drawers full. some sports clothes. two good bathing suits. a bikini.

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

I have a pair of jade earrings that are like balls fitted into an upside down cone, with two rings of saturn around them. the cone is patina of brass-coloured. I love them. They move, their small, dark, yet match much of my clothes. the metal is perfect.

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 pleated Planet skirt. I always try it on and it never works. I keep it because it is fully lined with satin and it is so silky against my skin. the skirt is really high quality. I love it's fullness, I love the pattern on it. But I look like a peasant woman in 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?

the very high quality. I was in a panic for a gala event and I was away from home; I rushed out on the afternoon and bought a ridiculously expensive jacket of nubby silk in pumpkin colour (very good on me) and a shell with a double layer of silk, the top layer made of sheer material with little square dots woven in, and cinched up with two cream fabric flowers of the under material (satiny). It is gorgeous and it makes me feel gorgeous. Otherwise the things I wear are the most valuable to me. I've been on a bit of an experimental buying spree, buying out my comfort zone. I've bought comfy things that don't look good, and work wear that is good but I don't wear. My latest uncomfortable purchase was a deep plunge v neck one piece swim suit.

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?

I wish, really wish, I could have the pleated wool highlands skirt my mother passed down to me. It was too small and I let it go, but the fabric was to die for.

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

my Jones New York black viscose long sleeve t-shirt. Sounds dorky, but it is really high quality and the scoop neck on it is perfect for me. it always looks good - it never sags or bags. I've had it for 18 years. It dresses up really beautifully.

70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

think about my figure. buy better shoes. get good jackets.

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

I bought a sweater made of acrylic which had shoulder pads in about 1980. It was tan. I did not want to buy it and it was really expensive, but the sales lady talked me into it. I wore it forever. I let it go when shoulder pads were way, way passe. It was an excellent investment piece.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?

i think the most interesting are ones that shifted who I think I could be. The disco dress that "made me," the discovery that aqua/sea green is an exquisite colour on me.

73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

good tights. an excellent pencil skirt. but mostly I want a dress I love. casual, but not cold. or a fancy jacket to wear out.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

Totally organized. short sleeve t-shirts with short. summer clothes in a separate trunk to be rotated out. running clothes in a bag ready to go. shoes in a shoe hanger. clothes to be mended in a basket.

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?

this is the secret of clothing, isn't it? i bought a long wool vest with a brass zipper. It's the sort of thing Maude would have worn. Dark grey. I bought it in 1997 in Montreal and I have worn it forever. It goes with everything; it's a little stylish and modern without seeming to make a big statement. sometimes it hides my tummy (when I need it). it never looks wrinkled. it can be warm when I need it to be.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

when my partner shops. I buy what is on the sales rack next to what she is buying. this is all mainstream dept. stores. However, lately, I've found a little boutique I love and go back over and over again. I still shop the sales rack (and I don't need to).

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Smell is not a big part of me. I am usually au natural. I have lots of allergies. However, I bought some must lotion for my legs and I Love it. My partner hates it.

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

I try and dress above my station. I often, therefore, feel uncomfortable in my clothes. Maybe I shouldn't do this.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I am a pretty modest shopper. I always hated that about my mother; and one time I yelled at her because she wore a lot of fortrel. I still feel badly about that. It was unnecessarily personal. She did improve though, afterwards. I often don't let myself dream big. I lived out of thrift shops because I had to for a long time; you don't shake that easily.

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 wear earrings. they are different every day, and they are usually not expensive. I coordinate my wardrobe with my earrings. For example, I have a pair of walrus bone earrings with abalone in them, and when I wear those I have complicated rules about textures and colours and styles that I can wear with them or not.

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

Physically - one of my boyfriends in my twenties pointed out that the women in Playboy were curvaceous, not skinny. this made me feel a lot better, like I had a secret power.
Sartorial. I'm a pretty straight person. I'm not sure I've used those two words together (me + sartorial). ON the other hand, clothing is costume to me and I play at being other people all the time.

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?

when I was small; I loved my red shoes and I hated buttons. I wanted to wear sweaters all the time. I wanted a barrette in my hair. i like my hair tied back.

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

I'm a gen-X/boomer border person.

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

part Hispanic, look white.

What kind of work do you do?

work from home ; am a writer

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

partnered, with adult former child. lesbian. 22 years with partner. big family of origin with many sections.

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

I work at home; I write.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

clearer about the power I have to change things. this was quite interesting. I didn't know I had so many rules, or such antipathy to corporate wear clothes.


I feel like I've revealed a lot in this synopsis. It says how much clothes say about you that i now feel naked.

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