Read Surveys (By Author)

Alyse Butler

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel rested and happy so that with or without makeup, regardless of the clothes, I feel like I look good. Dusk also makes me feel like I glow for some reason. And being in the middle of a really good, intense conversation makes me feel attractive.

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

Yes. I notice the women who are different, whether they are experimental in style in a femme or butch way, if they have different hair or shoes, if they have tattoos. With these women, I almost always find something to admire-- it could be their confidence, something in particular they are wearing/doing with their style, or just their different-ness. But I also notice all women. I'm a big people-watcher, and I compare myself (like, that wouldn't look good on me, could I pull that off, would people choose me over her, etc.) just as much as I observe in a more objective, absorbing-it-all way.

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

I love when women take risks that others don't take. I'm usually one of those women, so it's nice to find kindred spirits who see themselves as canvases in a sense, too. But I also really admire women who don't wear makeup and are completely ok with however they present themselves. I almost always have makeup on, so I really admire women who don't seem to feel that same need.

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 feel like I'm always experiencing these 'clicks.' For example, within the past year, I realized that I didn't have to wear tight, form-fitting clothes for my body to look good and that some looser clothes are actually MORE flattering. For the two years prior to this revelation, I had been living in Mongolia, where the women wear tight clothes and are talking about each other's bodies constantly, so wearing tight clothes was the norm. When I got back to the States, the tight clothes didn't fit in as well, and I also just didn't feel as comfortable in them anymore. I'm still looking for comfort and attractiveness in my style, but the tight clothes was a big hump I had to get over.

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

When I shop, I always try on the clothes, but if it doesn't look right, I will pinch it here or pull it there to see if my hand-tailoring would make it look better. If I think it would, I buy the article of clothing and then sew it later at home. Almost everything I buy has been tailored by me, and I also have a lot of clothes I made entirely. But that's not something I can easily recommend to others.

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

When I dress, I am looking for comfort, sexiness, and different-ness, not necessarily in that order. So with the clothes I buy/make/wear, I ask myself, is this comfortable to wear for long periods of time? Do I feel attractive? Do I stand out (in a good way)? I prefer all three to come into play, so if I have something that is only comfortable but doesn't look sexy to me, I won't wear it. Similarly, if something is sexy for two minutes but makes me want to suck in for the remaining ten hours, then I will maybe wear it once but not more than that.

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

To be honest, the most transformative 'conversation' I have ever had on the subject of fashion or style was reading Women in Clothes. I have always been interested in clothing and fashion, but I have felt a lot of shame over the years for having such a preoccupation with it and have rarely brought it up with others. But when I read this book, I felt liberated. I felt like my interest wasn't overly-materialistic or frivolous. It was simply my own process of dealing with something that everyone has to deal with every day. The book allowed me to pursue my own idiosyncratic interest in this area while giving others the freedom to pursue it in their own ways and to celebrate the vast difference. I felt like I had had a conversation with six hundred women, and we all came away a bit more self-aware and generous toward each other. I don't think transformative is too strong a word for that.

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

Delayed gratification. I get the worst, hardest part out of the way first, and I save the fun for later. I knock out my chores quickly so I can relax. I finished undergrad in three years so I could straight to grad school in the fourth year. I didn't have any significant others until after grad school. I have chosen hard jobs (the Peace Corps, foster parenting) as my first jobs post-school to see how I do in them, and now I will go to less-taxing jobs.

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

I have multiple leggings, dresses, jumpsuits and rompers, purses/bags, shoes, jackets-- it's kind of embarrassing the things I have a lot of. For the leggings, I have a lot because I've worked with children for so long that they serve as a staple in my 'uniform'. They are comfortable and let me move while making me feel cute still. For dresses and jumpsuits/rompers, those are for when I'm not working with kids. I wear them all the time because they're comfortable but still make me feel stylish. For shoes, I am getting better at not buying/lusting after so many, but shoes are important for finishing an outfit, I think. I don't want to get stuck in a situation without the right pair. Jackets are similar to shoes. Purses and bags I keep because the different sizes and kinds are good for different jobs (grocery, traveling light, traveling heavy, overnight, fancy, work at the cafe, etc.).

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

I made a friend of my sister's a dress with some fabric she gave me that her ex-boyfriend's mother had given her. She wanted a dress like one in a window of an expensive store at the local mall, and I found a picture of it online. I didn't take her measurements, and I didn't even have a pattern for the dress, but I copied a dress I had and changed it slightly to be more like the one she wanted. Surprisingly, it fit her, and she said that she wore it to the Opera shortly after I finished it. She thanked me, saying it served as closure for a part of her life, and even though it felt like a lucky fluke to me, it still made me feel good that I could help someone emotionally with something personal like a handmade dress.

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

The grunge, oversized look doesn't suit my personality, so I don't really take part in that.

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

My mother was always criticizing her body when I was growing up. She self-proclaimedly has never had a sense of style, and her clothes were used more for covering than for enhancing. So a lot of my insecurity and fear of growing old into an unattractive body comes directly from her and her view of her body, and my preoccupation with style and fashion could have something to do with her indifference to/ignorance of it, though I also just think I was interested in it for reasons separate from her.

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

I'm always checking out people for ideas of dressing and adding to my style collection, so even if I'm not currently using some of the ideas I've taken, I have at least tried out several over the years.

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

I think my junior or senior year of high school, I decided to be more dramatic and forward with my style rather than hiding it in my bedroom with my best friend as we flipped through Vogue. So I tried out the styles I saw in the magazines, wore heels more, tried out different ways of accessorizing-- played more with it in the public eye than just in private, something I still continue to do all the time. And I think that switch was really important. I got Best Dressed for the senior superlative, and as silly as that is to remember, it shaped how I saw myself: I was someone who had style, who got fashion, and I have tried to be worthy of that title ever since, not for the title's sake but because I am interested in it and want to continue honing this image of myself as chic and put-together.

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

Not intentionally, but I like giving the impression that I am pushing boundaries, that I don't follow convention, and that I will test people's definition of beauty by subtly forcing them to accept a broader definition of it.

16. Please describe your body.

I would say it is disproportionate but doesn't look so immediately. I have disproportionately long arms and legs compared to my short torso (which is possibly short because I have pretty intense scoliosis). I have disproportionately large boobs compared to my small waist, and I have hips and a butt that might actually be proportionate to my body. I have a long nose and long toes. I think that my body looks more pornographic than model-like, though I wish the reverse were true.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is a place of connections. It doesn't stop going, and it sees how everything is interrelated all the time. Whatever book I'm reading at the time relates to everything that happens in my life. When I was in college, my experiences outside of the classroom always had something in common with what I was studying. My mind is a place that connects any dots, regardless of how disconnected they seem.

18. Please describe your emotions.

My emotions are strong. I get high on excitement, and I drown in sadness and self-doubt. They don't swing very quickly all the time (though they can), so unless something happens to change an emotion, I will usually sit in it for a while. I find my emotions are most affected by my interactions with people (and my thoughts about those interactions afterward). They aren't usually as strong if I'm just by myself.

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

I am wearing off-white lace shorts, a long-sleeved, fitted grey knit top with an open, criss-cross design on the back so my upper back is showing, and my black ballerina slippers I wear around the house. On my face, I'm wearing mascara like I wear every day and concealer to cover the redness and pimples. My hair is a pale lavender, chin-length bob.

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

This stuff is important because it is an expression and an extension of myself. I put thought into it because I put thought into how I want to be perceived, into the message I want to convey. It's important because looking in the mirror either boosts my self-esteem or brings it down, and I'd rather it be the former. This stuff is important to me because it is where I choose to devote my attention, and just because it may not be as important to someone else shouldn't mean it's not important at all.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

I occasionally talk about clothes with a gay male friend I have who lives in a different state (and whom I met during our service in the Peace Corps), and in high school my best girl friend and I would browse magazines and dress each other up all the time, though now I usually keep thoughts and ideas about clothes to myself.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

Growing up, I would wear what I liked and what my mom let me wear to church, only to be told it was too short or revealing in some way. Both in school and in church, my clothing was policed a lot, and even as an adult, there are times people have told me that the way I dress is a concern. I think that I try to be respectful of the institutions I will be entering on a given day, but generally, I still dress according to my own rules.

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 both, and I think both are important. To me, taste refers to any single item, and style refers to the fluid way of putting things together and making one cohesive 'look.' So if I pick out a weird ring or some multi-colored shoes, that could be taste, and then the test of style would be how I incorporate them into a 'look.' I think it's fun to experiment with both.

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

I've wasted a lot of money on clothes, unfortunately. I've bought shoes and dresses that I never wear, and that makes me sick. The fact that I've done it more than once makes me even sicker.

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

I never wear bras with wires. I forego bras altogether when I can, but on the days I feel they're necessary, I wear either lace bralettes or nude/black bras that don't have underwire that I buy from Target.

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

I think it all blends together: I put up pictures or flowers to accentuate rooms in the house/apartment; I like color harmony; I like tidiness; I like photography and experimenting with style there; I like poetry and play with style in that way. I think style is a way of life, really-- how everything blends into one, like I mentioned earlier.

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 think that my interest in fashion, especially when I started making it public in the way I dressed in high school, was a way of dealing with the social anxiety I've always felt. I've always been very introverted, so it's easy to feel like I have no control when I leave the house and get into social situations. Dressing is a way to ground me, to give me a sense of control in that I consciously made the decisions I did to put together this outfit, and therefore it is my armor. I don't have nearly as much social anxiety as I did when I was a teenager, and I think that dressing now is more an extended habit from those times, but I still think that the way I dress and the reason I dress that way has to do with the need to feel grounded by something, to control something.

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?

I do know what I like in areas of fashion and clothing and other. Of course, what I like has evolved over the years, and I try to allow it to continue to evolve. But at any point in time, I have been able to say, Yes, I like that, or No, that's not me. I think that comes from my intuitive nature. Like I've mentioned, I've always been introverted, and that has allowed a lot of introspection over the years and also quiet observation of others. I think that the combination of knowing myself and others has allowed me to create an image of myself to project and also to know how to best frame that image (like with clothes or posture).

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 parents have had more of a utilitarian view of clothes, and with four children, clothing care meant separating colors from whites (at best). So, no, I didn't learn about clothing care or style from my parents. I learned from friends' parents, from friends, from magazines and watching movies, and taking classes on sewing (once I was an adult).

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

I am strategic about what shows. I feel sexy if a shoulder or part of my back shows rather than my breasts (which could be because mine are so large that they show all the time anyway). I don't really change my hair to feel sexy, but that could be because I've had such strange and different hairstyles the past few years that I do it every day. With makeup, I might go dramatic with cat eyes and red lipstick, but I usually feel prettier and more enticing with the simple mascara that I usually wear, just a bit more of it. I guess it's the subtle sexiness that make me feel most sexy, as opposed to the blatant sensuality that a lot of makeup and boobs present.

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 I can move around without feeling self-conscious of a flab or pooch showing OR of having the clothes constrict my movement. Confident means that whatever I'm wearing or doing, I am completely me, not worried about how it looks or what people are thinking, just content in myself and therefore able to be fully present for others.

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?

I would say my style philosophy is to experiment and personalize. First borrow a look from someone, and then try it on it various ways until it becomes your own. Or take a few different things and mix and match until you think something works for you. Style is something that so many people have but don't have in the same way. So if you don't think you do have style, the best thing to do is be true to yourself. What do YOU feel good in? What do YOU like? There are no laws here in the realm of style. Don't be afraid of getting caught for doing something bad. Try. When something sticks, keep it; when it doesn't, try something else. It keeps things light-hearted.

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

I love elegance and graceful lines, floral patterns, ethereal designs. I love things that look natural and rustic, that aren't jarring to the senses but still grab your attention. I find beauty when there isn't clutter, and the sparseness intensifies the form of the objects/shapes that are present.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Anything jarring or cluttered. I don't like forcing things together; I like finding ways of smoothing things together in a harmonious way. Also, I find camo very ugly.

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?

If I feel like I have to suck in in the dressing room, then I will most likely not feel comfortable enough to actually wear that article of clothing outside of the dressing room. But if I see something in the dressing room that looks good from various angles without my having to adjust any part of my body to make it so, then I will probably want to wear it every day.

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 when I'm still at home looking at myself, the 'other' is an admirer, someone who will appreciate the makeup or the dress or different-ness, but when I leave, then I become flooded with anxiety from an 'other' who judges and criticizes my choices. This 'other' could be a woman in a restaurant who looks out of the corner of her eye and then whispers to her friend, or, worse, is someone who looks at me with such pity because I'm so obviously seeking attention. These people might not actually exist, but the minute I step outside, I'm afraid I will encounter them. Maybe this comes from those women at church who would take me aside and tell me that what I was wearing was inappropriate; I'm not sure.

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

I think about what I'll be doing, who I'll be seeing, where I'll be going. Going back to my response to one of the first questions, I think about comfort, attractiveness, and different-ness, and the weight I put on each of those varies, depending on the answers I have for the what/who/where.

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

Comfort, attractiveness, different-ness.

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

There's often not a difference. I like to wear dresses or nice jumpsuits, so I can easily go somewhere nice or casual. Really dressing up can mean I wear heels and one of my nicer dresses. But that is so rare I don't really count it.

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

A knit tank or tee with knit leggings and my black ballerina slippers I wear in the house.

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

Things that are me have high, defined necklines (or just interesting necklines), are form-fitting, and look like they could fit just as easily in a different era. Things that are not me are running shoes, sports clothing, cargo pants, or anything baggy or with an obvious logo.

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

My cultural background is pretty solidly southern Illinoisan, which doesn't mean anything to most people, but if it has had an influence on me, it has only been to push me toward more urban fashion and fashion in general rather than the rural idea of clothing.

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?

There was one summer when my sister and I hitchhiked around Ireland WWOOFing (working on organic farms). It was our first time out of the country, and I somehow confused the idea of 'backpacking' with 'hiking,' so I only packed huge hiking shoes that my sister and I came to refer as my Dinosaur Shoes and hiking-worthy clothing. This was fine for the days we were working in the gardens or farms, but for sight-seeing or meeting new people, it was embarrassing. It is not a period of my life I remember fondly, fashion-wise, and I learned my lesson for traveling and finding ways to be chic regardless of where I am.

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

Again, I don't do a whole lot different from what I normally wear, though I try not to show too much skin.

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

Currently, I work at home, so I set any expectations there might be.

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

Not right now.

48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?

I usually find it constraining, though sometimes it's comforting. But mostly it's constraining.

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 sometimes wished clothing draped as nicely on me as it does on tomboyish girls' bodies, but I've never wished I were a man. I've always liked the female body and being a female.

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

Country: France; Era: the fifties. I love borrowing from a lot of different eras and cultures, though, so really I think that the current era is the best one to be in because of all that we have at our disposal.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Sometimes. There are times when I feel natural or can see how the photo will look, and I can angle myself or smile a certain way to make it look good. But sometimes I just look terrible and don't photograph well at all.

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

Sometimes I think, Wow, I look really good, and I had no idea at the time! And sometimes I think, is that what I look like all the time?! And then I'm disgusted and also amused.

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

The style icons of the fifties, like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, as well as some edgy modern women, like Sonya Tayeh.

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

I have dreamt about people in costumes, about me in a certain dress, people in robes or lack of clothing at all. Clothing isn't always important in my dreams, but sometimes it does play a role.

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

Anything that requires a flat chest. I love how clothes lie on women with small chests, but those same clothes look completely different on my large breasts. It's disappointing.

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 would wear tighter things. I already mostly like my body and wear what I want, but there are some styles that cling to the stomach that I would like to wear if I my stomach were completely flat.

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

If I'm trying to repel anyone, it's those who can't find it in themselves to appreciate a different kind of beauty. But I'm really just trying to attract admiration from people for being willing to try something new that most people don't try.

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

Dress for yourself, first and foremost. Whether it shows a lot of skin or none, whether it clings or hangs, wear it if you want to, not because you think others want you to or because you want a certain reaction. Dress yourself in a way that elicits the response from yourself that you want, and those who matter will admire that about you.

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

I love good scents. I have a strong sense of smell, so certain scents give me a headache. But I put on scented lotion every day and evening, and I put lotion on my babies every day to make them smell good, too. I wear perfume when I leave the house, and sometimes I'll even spritz myself if I'm just staying in. I love smelling good; I love for the environment I'm in and the people I'm around to smell good, too.

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

Makeup (at least concealer and mascara), hair not in bed-head mode (which sometimes doesn't require any effort, sometimes requires a lot), clothes on. If I can't brush my teeth, I put a piece of gum in my mouth. Deodorant. And, for whatever reason, I feel most presentable if I've had a good poop that morning in addition to the above.

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

It is a finishing touch to make me feel ready for the day, even if I'm just staying home.

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

I own some cardigans and a zip-up sweatshirt, a few jackets and coats, several dresses, several jumpsuits and rompers, several pairs of knit leggings, some tees, and only a few blouses, skirts, and jean-type pants. I own several bracelets, rings, and earrings, but not a lot of necklaces. A lot of the clothing is a combination of black and white, though the outside layers might be colorful. The bracelets are thin and passed down from family members, and my earrings are colorful and dangly.

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

Currently, my favorite piece of clothing is a subtle purple jumpsuit with a low waist and dropped crotch. It is so easy to wear, makes me feel thin and edgy, but doesn't look baggy.

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?

Some of the things I keep because I think I might be able to use the fabric on them for some sewing project in the future. I do have an emerald green coat with a fur collar and sleeve cuffs that I have never worn, but I keep it because I have the hope that I'll have the nerve to wear it when I move to a colder city.

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?

Shoes were definitely valuable because I wear the ones I like out completely. Cardigans and flattering dresses were also valuable because they last for years and can dress up or down.

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?

My aunt gave me a purple vintage dress from the forties or fifties that I never got to wear out of the house but kept just in case I'd have a place to wear it to or a sewing project to use it in. I've moved so much since then that it could still be in a box somewhere at my parents' house, but I'm not sure. It makes me sad to think that it could be lost because it was a really pretty, unique dress.

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

This is hard. I would probably keep one of my comfortable, flattering dresses, just because it could be worn in a variety of settings.

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

I wouldn't put the stuff in it that I wished fit me better or made me feel better but in actuality doesn't do that at all. I wouldn't ever add the items that I think might be useful for some future task. I would only add the things I like that make me feel good.

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

I would say my sewing machine was the best investment item I've ever gotten. With it, I can at least try to make the clothes I want. I don't always succeed, but the fact that I can keep trying is a source of creativity and energy for me, and it inhibits my buying clothes that are ready-made.

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

I keep things neat-ish. The drawers and closets are organized roughly into type of clothing (shorts, jackets, dresses, shirts, etc.), but the folding isn't consistent, and I don't worry too much about how they're hung.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

Both my Granny and her niece have given me bracelets and rings that I cherish and wear whenever I can. I find a way to work them into an outfit, and I love looking at them and remembering where they came from and who has worn them. I think they're lovely, and I love how they quietly connect me to the females in my family.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I used to shop online when I wanted new clothes, and now I shop online for clothing patterns to try to make the clothes I want. I also stop by clothing sections of the stores I'm in if I go to Target or shopping somewhere with my sisters or mom.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I like to smell good. I change the scents I wear every day and every time one perfume or lotion runs out, but I like to wear a scent that is not overpowering and that doesn't give me a headache but still leaves an impression on people's memories.

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

I don't have much ambition for myself, other than to keep trying things out and see if they stick (jobs, places, relationships), so I guess the way I dress mirrors that pretty well.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Money is necessary to buy clothes, to buy fabric, to buy shoes, everything. To be clothes-focused, there has to be money available to make it a hobby. You can be thrifty and buy things for little cost, but it still costs something. And if it is a major point of interest like it is for me, then the extra money I get consciously goes toward fabric and clothing rather than some other pastime.

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 carry chapstick, and I like to have concealer on me when I go out just in case I'll need a touch up (and sometimes I also bring my foundation and mascara). Also, I always wear my watch, and I always wear underwear.

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

In high school, my best friend-- the one with whom I'd spend afternoons browsing Vogue and playing with clothes-- described her own style in the car as something glamorous from the sixties and my own as 'either a little girl from the fifties or a little boy from the seventies.' I was hurt, but I also realized that I needed to get out whatever childish fashion phase I was obviously going through if I wanted to be taken seriously. I always hear that in the back of my head now when I think of an outfit to wear and try to choose the more mature option.

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 remember as a young child, maybe five, having an outfit with girls who had crazy hair and their legs hung down past the end of the shirt so they could move. The leggings that went with the shirt were colorful, and my mom would do my hair like the girls on the shirt. I loved it. I remember a lot of the outfits I wore during childhood-- the Oxfords I insisted on in kindergarten, the clogs I wore in third grade, the blue shirt and shorts set I chose one summer. I think I've just always had an idea of what I liked, and I've always liked clothes.

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

My birth date is May 3, 1989. I was born in Taylorville, IL, and currently live in Houston, TX. (I'll be moving to Chicago this summer.)

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

I grew up near St. Louis but in a rural town, so I was surrounded by country style yet had access to a more urban environment, which my best friend and I took advantage of all throughout high school. I grew up the second of four children in a middle class house, wearing mostly hand-me-downs, aside from the holiday outfits my Granny would buy for us all. I always wished we had more money, but I think it's better that we didn't now that I can look back in retrospect. I learned how to work with what I had and what I could get my hands on.

What kind of work do you do?

Currently, I'm a foster parent. Prior to this, I was a youth development volunteer in Mongolia for the Peace Corps. After this, I am hoping to be a floral designer.

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

I'm single.

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

In several places I mentioned that I like to look different. To give some examples, a few years ago I shaved the sides of my head and wore my really long hair in a bouffant-type style on top of my head and trailing down my back in a sort of mohawk. Then I shaved my head completely when I moved to Mongolia. In Mongolia, I let the top grow out and one side grow a little longer to blend into the top, but kept the other side almost shaved-short. When I got back to the States, I let my hair grow out into a pixie, now a bob, and recently just dyed it a pale lavender. The clothes change every day, so their different-ness is harder to describe. But I think my changing hairstyles are pretty indicative of how I like to stand out.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I feel tired, but I also am happy that I got to answer these questions. When I read the book, I so wanted to be one of the respondents. And now that I am one in a way, it feels good. I have a feeling I left some stuff out that I'll think of later, and I wish I were more interesting. But it's nice to have written what I wrote down.


I am a foster-parenting, yoga-doing, occasional-traveling, nap-taking, classic movie-watching, amateur seamstress and haircutter.

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