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Ellen Shay

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

Naked in bed with my husband

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

Confidence- all components working together

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

Willing to spend more money than me

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?

When my mom made me wear a panty girdle to church in 8th grade- it was so horrible. I decided that day that I wouldn't be the kind of woman who will suffer to be beautiful, or put up with any BS at all

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

buy a lot of the same thing if you know you really like it- they'll take it away sooner than you expect

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

funny T-shirts into my 50s

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

When a friend told me when i was about 21 that I'm actually very particular about what I wear.

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

Comfort, comfort, comfort. I also don't like to change clothes during the day, so clothes and shoes that go anywhere

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

Black cotton boot cut stretch pants- the only thing fat ladies should wear IMO. Pettipants for wearing skirts- chub rub sucks

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

Earrings that they really love

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

Midi skirts. Gaucho pants. Low cut jeans. Wonder bras. Stiletto heels.

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

Not. She put a panty girdle on me in 8th grade and I made the decision right then that I wouldn't be that kind of girl, the kind that would ever wear a panty girdle. I've also never worn curlers or pin curls at night. Suffering to be beautiful, no thanx. That principle continues- I refuse to shave or wax my pubes or anus, or wear Spanx, or use Botox, and so on.

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

My mother had some old clothes from the late 40s early 50s- they were heavily constructed, form-fitting, high quality. I've bought a few vintage items like those, and she gave me a two piece short-top that I worn for awhile. I was really well made but all cotton- we're spoiled with stretchy fabrics nowadays

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

We moved the summer before 9th grade. The new school allowed girls to wear pants. I only wore a dress two or three times for all of high school

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

Women shouldn't be hobbled by their footwear, and shouldn't have to squeeze or expose or not expose their bodies to avoid censure

16. Please describe your body.

Built like a buoy- hips bigger than breasts. I've been every size from 2 to 4X, currently the 4X.

17. Please describe your mind.

Restless, questioning, somewhat defiant. I think I'm very funny also.

18. Please describe your emotions.

It's hard to get me mad or upset, but once that happens then I'm going to be mad or upset for awhile. I'm generally pretty calm, but get irritated by people who suck all air out of the room with pointless drama

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

all loose and comfortable, including the underwear- barefoot, no makeup, ponytail pulled back with a Buff

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

Which stuff? Almost nothing is really important

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

barely at all with anyone

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

they don't, that I can think of

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

Clothes should be flattering, should not emphasize figure flaws, but should also be comfortable. Women should feel free to bare their upper arms or wear shorts if the weather requires it for comfort

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

A raincoat I bought on sale at Nordstrom's when I was shopping with a shopaholic friend- wore it once

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

I can pick up a shirt that's inside out and position it correctly so when I put it on it's right side out and not backwards.

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

Whimsical, offbeat

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?

Keeping more covered up to avoid male attention when travelling alone.

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, and yes. My discernment comes partly with impatience with people who strain to feel superior in some way or other, whether with fashion, pretentious connoisseurism, general snobbery, outspending

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 said I shouldn't wear red or pink because of my "ruddy" complexion. Her mother also said that bright colors and obvious makeup were for prostitutes- this was probably true back in Norway

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

Loose hair, airdried so it's wavy. Cleavage, sometimes

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 not worrying all the time if you're doing the right thing at the right time. Some one will criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you really want to do. Confidence is what attractive leaders have, even if they are actually insane and totally wrong. But it sure smells good compared to the scent of Nervous Nellies.

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?

Dressing should reflect your immediate goals- focusing on things other than fashion, trying to be sexually attractive, being prepared for unexpected events, etc.

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

Health, self-love. People I get to know and love look more and more beautiful to me, and the opposite is true for people I don't like or trust. They look more and more creepy to me, regardless of how "attractive" they may rate objectively to the general public

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Obvious boob jobs, silicone injected lips when photographed at a bad angle, too much makeup, poorly fitting clothing especially if it looks uncomfortable. Most tattoos, especially on head or neck or hands. Facial piercings.

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?

Good at it now. Used to buy individual items that I like but didn't match up with anything else I owned.

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?

Just try and make sure my clothes are clean, my hair isn't too ratty.

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

Do I need to brush my hair today? Where do I need to go today and when? If I need to look trustworthy I might wear a plain T-shirt instead of one with something funny on it

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

Don't want to seen out of house with dirty clothes. Never expose rolls or fat

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

I rarely dress up. When I need to go to a fancy event I wear more jewelry and might wear a little makeup. I have onegown I've worn to many parties and weddings and such things

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

Me- comfortable, low maintenance
Not me- frilly, uncomfortable

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

College educated immigrants' children- getting out of the rural areas to go to the big city

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?

When I was bodybuilding I often wore sleeveless shirts, or midriff-revealing tops

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

Fingernails short, filed, clean. Hair braided and back.

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

No workplace, lucky me. When I worked as an RN I usually wore scrubs they supplied. One head nurse objected to my red sneakers- I kept wearing them anyway.

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?

The red shoes in #45. They were my most comfortable shoes for standing a lot.

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

constraining- unless everyone is wearing the same thing like the units where everyone wore the same scrubs provided by the hospital

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?

Jeans, T-shirt, sandals, earrings

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 used to envy men for not being expected to do hairdos and makeup and being able to wear comfortable shoes and relatively comfortable clothes. But then I realized that I could do that too. Men's clothes and shoes are a much better value- I love men's loafers and sneakers

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

Can't think of one better for me than today.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Yes, generally.

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

I can look very different in photos, so it depends....

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

I loved Angela Davis and Edie Sedgewick and Patty Hearst's Tanya and other figures of the 60s and 70s.

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


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

Tight anything. Anything with corsets or heels. Super feminine- things with extra bows, non-functional features, tie belts, trimmings

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?

Jeans, tube tops, shorts, shorter skirts

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

Attract unconventional men, repel creepy men.

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

Don't reveal anything you don't want to reveal. Don't wear anything uncomfortable unless you have a good reason.

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

Like to smell my bottles and wear it, only sometimes like the perfumes of others

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

No food spots, no visible underwear, hair brushed at least every few days

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

Rarely wear it- occasionally enjoy looking less blotchy and having longer eyelashes and wearing dark lipstick

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?

almost all of them- they look contrived and require more shopping, which is the plan for the corporate masters

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

Comfortable but cool, no extra frilly features

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

jewelry- Earrings that are lightweight plastic rings- coated with gold leaf

Clothes- a duster length black acrylic cardigan - my cape

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 pair of very low hiphugger elephant bells, in a white and pink plaid. I've worn them, but they require tall platforms. I found them on the ground near a water tower.

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?

Black, cotton, comfortable.

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?

A fur coat, I think seal, with a high collar and lots of secret pockets. I bought it for $3 and for several years thought it was fake, until it wore out even more and i could see the pelts sewn together. It had a super smooth satin liner which contained all the pockets except for a set up near the collar.

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

My old jean jacket

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

not sure

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

A summer weight two piece Donna Karan outfit- still own it, can't wear it though

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

A gruesome skull Tshirt I bought from the Last Gasp Comic catalog in 1973

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

A heavily beaded jacket with fringe on the sleeves- I'm making a beaded jacket, but no fringe (yet)

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

Overstuffed, alas, but sorted pretty well

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

Jewelry, yes. I used to buy earrings at Pike Place Market in Seattle and some friends bought me more of the them from my favorite artists

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?

black acrylic duster purchased for 25 cents

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Only as needed

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Theorema by Fendi

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

I don't think of myself as ambitious, except somewhat intellectually

80. How does money fit into all this?

I buy what I want, but I don't shop all that much or at expensive stores, so overall I don't spend much

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

something to pull my hair back into a ponytail

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

In college a friend told me that I was very particular about what I wore. I had never thought of it that way, but she was right.

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?

One of my first memories is being in a kitchen full of adults who started laughing at the back of my shorts- there was a picture of a skunk and it said "I'm a little stinker." I was really mortified and pissed off about being made a laughing stock without my prior knowledge.

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

1956. Northern Idaho. Silicon Valley

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

Reverse snobbery, parents both raised by homesteaders, northern European. Dont get a big head, don't call attention to yourself, don't complain

What kind of work do you do?

RN, housewife

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

married - two "adult" children

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

i wouldn't have done it if I didn't like the book

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

pissed off about how long it took me- I almost didn't even start because of the length- but I like the book so I went ahead

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