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Mary Millar

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

Usually right after a work out, which is slightly ridiculous, given how sweaty and non-make-upy I tend to look, but the combination of endorphins and sense of accomplishment, not to mention instant positive body image, can't be beat. Deadlifting more than more own body-weight? Insta-super-model.

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

I do - generally women who are dressed either really simply and classically (I aspire to be chic, but will likely never truly pull it off), or who put together unconventional elements in an interesting way. So I suppose I notice both extreme timelessness and the very current...but not much in between.

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

I admire women who seem to have a very strong sense of self that comes through in their style, who don't seem too beholden to the current season, without looking out of date or faded. I suppose it's a matter of admiring women who know what works for them, and have the confidence to adjust it at will without caving to the crowd.

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?

As an undergrad, I finally learned how to deal with my massive curly hair (diffusers are your friend!), and to avoid the bedraggled mop/frizzy triangle perils. I suspect it happened then because it was the first time in my life I wasn't around people I'd known since I was a child, so there was a greater incentive to make a greater effort (and no risk in being called out for the dramatic change).

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

Buy quality over quantity, and try and keep your closet size to a minimum (there's only so much one can realistically wear). Really consider buying shoes a half size too big, and using insoles (particularly expensive leather shoes). The more French the outfit, the better. Consider how the purchase melds with the clothing you already own (and your personal and professional sartorial needs...leather jumpsuits are amazing, but unless you're a backup singer or fashion blogger, there may be few opportunities to wear one...)

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

The only jeans are skinny jeans, no predistressed clothing, balance proportions on top and bottom, try to avoid monochromatic outfits (unless it's black or white), rotate your shoes, no high heels on a daily basis (um, ouch), sneakers are only okay on the weekend, dresses and woolen tights are always a win, and the button down shirt is your best friend. Accessorizing is a losing game, simplicity is best.

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

It's bizarre, but when I was a Masters student in Switzerland (I'm Canadian), my supervisor, a middle-aged Canadian man, once complimented me, after I'd lived there for about a year, on ditching my backpack and fixing my hair. It struck me as really strange, but also made me happy, as I took it as a sign that I was successfully assimilating to dress like a European and, by definition, presenting myself in a classier fashion. (It also struck me as incredibly condescending and perhaps a bit sexist, as it was insulting my previous self-presentation, but did give me something to think about).

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

Make a plan. My general approach is it's best to have a plan, even if it's not a great plan. It can be amended or abandoned as necessary, but some sense of how to get from point A to point B is my modus operandi.

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

I have a ton of patterned day dresses and dark blue stovepipe skinny jeans. And a large number of cream coloured shirts and blouses. I think I find these pieces really versatile, and generally feel good when I wear them, so I continue to accumulate them. I also have way too much workout gear for the same reason.

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

I give my sister the BEST clothing and jewelry presents, but because I live in Europe and she lives in Canada, I can relatively easily come up with stuff she'll love, but can't get at home. Having very similar senses of style really helps, so that I can predict if she'll like it. :) Current winners on that list are dresses by Miss Patina, Hunter wellies (shiny and red), Kanken backpacks, desigual handbags, and Kate Spade bracelets.

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

I don't wear high-heeled shoes causally (except boots), and I definitely don't do wide-legged or flared trousers. They're simply unflattering (and don't work without the heels!)...and give horrible high school bad fashion choice flashbacks. They're also really logistically challenging to cycle in, which is a problem.

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

Neither, I think. I'm much taller than my mother (by over 5 inches), and while she's very lovely, we have very different styles. She teaches primary school, and wears a lot of matching twinsets and sweaters with snowmen on them etc. Which isn't really my thing (or, at least, not yet ;) ). That said, I think she's just really internalized the mom/speech therapist social roles, and on the rare occassions where she's picking out clothes for some other event, I often like the things she picks. I think she's perhaps too context-sensitive.

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

Yes...when I moved to Europe for the first time, I consciously studied what my European girlfriends were wearing in terms of proportions, colours, etc., and attempted to adapt this to my own preferences. I wanted to stand out less as a North American, and also to change my style to match my new lifestyle. (No more hoodies and sneakers).

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

Moving to Europe at 22 did it. I now wear dresses more than once a week (and often without anyone asking me what the occasion is!), own several pairs of expensive leather shoes, and no longer dye my hair. At all. Starting my first professional job was also a bit of a change, but it felt more like playing dress up to perform a role than a reflection of my personal style, which remained relatively stable.

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

Sure - I don't wear suits in professional environments, I only do (formal, business) dresses and skirts. This is in part because I'm an academic that works in politics (and often with the military), and I want to directly confront the old-school ideas that one must dress masculinely to be taken seriously. I'm also highly opposed to the use of military camouflage used in fashion for any purpose, and refuse to wear it. I also, where possible, attempt to buy and wear fair trade clothing.

16. Please describe your body.

Average. (Almost by definition - I'm a US size 6-8, and can generally wear off-the-rack clothing without getting it adjusted at all). I'm 5' 8", often feel slightly chubby, but in general am in pretty good shape. Work out multiple times a week, so quite muscled (if not always toned). Lots of curly unmanageable hair, very pretty blue eyes, good smile, strong face. Basically, I look like the girl next door that you would totally stop to ask for directions, but that would maybe take a conversation or two before you decided to ask her out.

17. Please describe your mind.

I've got game.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Somewhat prone to panic/anxiety spirals regarding creative work and deadlines, but generally, fairly even-keeled. Keep things under control with structure and exercise, usually able to maintain healthy perspectives on things, and have a fairly optimistic and sunny outlook. But when I get sad...look out. Takes forever to bounce back.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment? jersey dress to the knee, 3/4 sleeves, twisted neckline, belted at nature waist, black opaque tights, and black brogues. (Having a classic day). Minimal makeup, just powder and mascara, and really (really) big hipster glasses, slightly wider than my face. Hair's curly, shoulder length, down, with bangs growing out.

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

I suppose I use it to signal membership and aspirations, both to myself and to others (probably more so myself). I want to be chic, well-read, sophisticated, and cool, and thus try to make myself so by dressing like I am. It's all performative (thanks Butler). Since my life now is a lot different than it was where I grew up, I suppose it's also a process of (re)making myself daily into the new me, and reminding myself who I am now.

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

I once paid $400 for a pair of beautiful leather brogues that massacre my feet every time I wear them, and that need to be resoled every month or so. (And yes, I still wear them - you heard how much they cost).

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

11 May 1986. Born Leduc Alberta Canada, now live oxford, United Kingdom

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

Ukrainian-Irish Canadian, but Western Canadian is the operative factor. Lower middle class growing up, now about to finish a PhD in the social sciences, so upper class in UK. (Bizarre transition...)

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'm currently a starving student with expensive tastes (and a socialist, an aspiring champagne socialist). I also move (a lot), and adapt my style each time.

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