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Susan Vee

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I feel most attractive when I've been working out regularly. Whether I'm particularly thin or not because of it, I feel like I am more in tune with my body. It's healthier, and so it doesn't seem to matter what clothes I'm wearing.

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

I notice them when they have an outfit put together. This could mean anything from a tailored suit with accessories and shoes, to a thrift shop over-sized sweater and clunky shoes. If it looks like each piece has a purpose, then I take notice.

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

Confidence is such a beautiful thing. But it's even more beautiful when combined with building up other women around you. I love it when I woman's light shines so bright that it forces others to shine, too.

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?

My life changed once I discovered that hair straighteners existed, and my uncooperative hair could be tamed. Subsequently, my life changed once I moved to Mozambique for work, and realized that I could be confident with my curly hair, too. In the same vein, living in another country in which mainstream advertising wasn't constantly telling me that I wasn't good enough worked wonders on my body image. I love myself now more than I ever have.

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

Buying cheap, poorly made clothes. My mother always told me to spend more money on higher quality clothes, and now that I'm older, I believe this. I would encourage others to do the same, but sometimes I just need a quick fix and head to Forever 21...I'm definitely NOT 21. ha!

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

I realized that if I wear lower-cut shirts/blouses, it draws attention away from my stomach and is much more flattering. Everyone has a different body type and comfort level, so I wouldn't say that showing a bit of cleavage is a blanket statement of fashion advice! But it works for me.

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

I've had many. Most of which took place during anguished moments of just not feeling like I was doing it right. All of these conversations seemed to have the same lesson: that having a sense of style is something you build over time, and when you see someone who looks put together, chances are it's because they've worked at it. Nothing is ever effortless.

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

I make plenty of to-do lists! ...and I try to get them done.

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

Oh, lord. I have so, so many V-neck t-shirts. Many of which are black or grey. I try to branch out and buy tops that have more character or originality, but I just always wind up with more of the same. I think it's because I don't have much time or patience to sort through thrift stores (where quirky shirts can be found, I reckon) and I just want a new shirt.

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

I gave my mother a necklace last year for her 60th birthday that consisted of our family's birthstones. She has worn it every day since. That makes me smile, especially since she doesn't usually wear necklaces in general.

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

Animal prints. I don't know why, but I just can't wear anything with an animal print. I think they look great and fine and funky on other people, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Perhaps I subconsciously feel like they're immature.

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

My mother and all of the women in our family are very short, somewhat stout, but with phenomenal legs. My dad's side of the family is tall, lean and fit all-around. I am somewhere in between: medium-height with slim, toned limbs, but with a definite belly.

My mother and I have spent countless hours fighting over fashion. She wanted me to be more feminine, I rebelled by dressing like a skater/surfer kid. My adulthood has been an exploration in more feminine fashion, now that I have been left to my own devices and not having anyone forcing me into a dress! Now, I love dresses. I still won't paint my nails, though.

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

No, not at all! I love my family but we're perpetually informal and fashion-bereft. I will say, however, that my mother was a bit of an outlier, and has always instilled in me the belief that one should look their best whenever they can.

I've taken most of my fashion queues from friends at my first job. They were the first set of friends I had who shared the same beliefs and ambitions with me. We were all gainfully employed, as well, and I realized I need to step up my game. I frequently incorporated their looks into my style.

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

Yes. I had been living in Mozambique for sometime and all of the clothes I brought with me from the US had deteriorated to the point of non-use. It was then that I discovered enormous markets of second-hand clothes, mostly from Europe. It was the first time I'd seen such an array of different clothes, and I felt wholly and entirely free to experiment with new clothes in this environment where no one would judge. I gained so much confidence wearing clothes that I would have never been seen wearing in the States.

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

Unfortunately, no-other than the fact that I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. I regret that it is so difficult to find clothes not made overseas.

16. Please describe your body.

I am 5'6'', with very toned legs (I definitely accentuate those whenever I can-skinny jeans forever!). I carry all of my weight in the stomach area, no pear shape here. I am a runner, so I feel like I looks relatively athletic.

17. Please describe your mind.

Well, now. This is a tough question. Creative and analytical. Eager and open. Tinged with anxiety, but filled with love. For myself and others.

Does that work?

18. Please describe your emotions.

Default is joy, gratitude and happiness. It's a bit of a roller-coaster with the ongoing endeavor of graduate school, but more often than not, positivity is there.

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

I am wearing a long white linen tunic with a dark mauve colored open sweater, black leggings and brown boots. I am also wearing a Timex watch and a necklace with a malachite oval necklace.

My hair is in a loose, low ponytail, with my ever-present side-swept bangs hanging out.

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

The necklace is important to me because my dad (now deceased), loved malachite. Whenever I wear it, it reminds me of him. The whole outfit is important in that it affords me the opportunity to be comfortable but appear business-casual at my office job.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

I talk about them with my roommate a lot. We share similar feelings of being unable to piece an outfit together. I also will send pictures of my outfit to some friends in other cities to ask if it looks okay.

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

So many times!! I used to never try things on, and would get home excited to wear a new piece of clothing only to find out that it didn't fit. I would never find the time to return the item.

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

The trend over the past several years I've seen is to make long, flowy tunics or blouses, that really only look good on very slender women. I wind up getting these blouses for some reason, and then safety-pinning the back so it shows more of my waist. Then I wear a cardigan over it. I don't know if that's necessarily "getting away" with something...I just wish I could find NOT flowy tops! ;)

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?

Sometimes I get anxiety about going out with friends, so I'll put on heels to make me feel powerful.

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

I always have to have eyeliner and mascara on!

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

Nature. In a world of glowing electronic devices shoved in our faces constantly, I always try to take time to get out and be outside. Being in nature makes me feel humbled.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Jealousy, competition, judgement.

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 know much better now than I ever did before: try things on in the dressing room. Stare at it for a long time. Spin around. Try it on with the pants/shoes that you would wear with it.

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

Getting dressed is always a fiasco. I am always comparing myself to other people and how good they look. It can be very frustrating because I don't have a car and I have to walk or take the bus to wherever I'm going. This means I need to wear comfortable walking shoes and however I do my hair in the morning is no longer a thing in this humidity. So I get down on myself when I get to school and see these girls in flats and heels and other things that I can't wear because I sweat too much. So it's a lot to consider when I just want to look nice.

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

I'm not really sure anymore. I think, more than anything, I just want to look put-together. Like I woke up and tried.

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

From a lower-middle class, blue-collar town in the Midwest-not a whole lot of fashion there. People go out to the store/bar in their pink bunny slippers and pajama pants. Sigh.

Anyway, we never had much money at all. I would be grateful if we could go shopping for school clothes and I would have enough shirts not to repeat them in the same week. I guess this is why I have always had a complex about clothing-I never learned to piece anything together, because I never had enough clothing to do so, and I always worry that people will think that my clothing is cheap. I'm self-conscious around people who I can tell can afford to shop at higher-end stores.

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 in high school, I dressed very differently than I do now. Very masculine. I was so afraid of being feminine, and I believe it is because my mother always tried to get me to be more feminine. As an act of rebellion, I would wear men's board shorts and sneakers, with long shirts from surfing companies. Mind you, I lived off of Lake Erie, not the Pacific! I don't know who I was trying to fool, but it felt authentic at the time.

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

I am a big fan of wearing pants that are the "skinny" style, but are black, or khaki. That way I feel like I'm still wearing jeans but they're not denim so I feel like it's OK. This stems from the fact that I have never found a pair of business pants that I liked, not for extreme lack of trying, either.

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?

Did you just read my mind? I think about this ALL of the TIME, dear friends. All of the time. It's so easy for them: one style button down shirt in 9 colors, slacks and the same shoes everyday. What a privilege, indeed! The idea of having to piece an outfit together is so wrought with stress and anxiety for me. I envy men, for many reasons (like getting paid 100 pennies to the dollar and getting respected in the workplace, you know...), but not having to be creative with clothing is one of the main reasons.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

"Girl's got 5 chins."

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

I had a dream the other night in which I forgot to put on a bra and I spent the entire dream attempting to get back to my place to get a bra. There's no way these girls could comfortably flap freely in the wind.

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

I still feel like a little girl trying on her mother's make up when I put on red lipstick.

Or I feel like a clown.

Or I feel like a sex-worker. Which is fine, you do you girl, but not the look I'm going for.

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?

More free flowing dresses that don't need a belt, or long sleeved shirts. It would be nice not to feel like I have to hide behind a cardigan all of the time.

Also, mustard yellow. I love mustard yellow. It is NOT my color.

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

I used to have a lot. Then I realized it came from a place of devastating insecurity. I'm not 100% better, but I've realized that whatever a woman wears is fabulous. Every item has a reason. I don't think we should be fashion-policing any women. The world is hard enough for women as it is, let's all be a little bit kinder to each other.

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

It's great! But not overwhelming. I love Lucky Brand perfume but, as you might have guessed thus far, I can't really afford it right now.

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

I always make sure to iron my clothes if they even slightly need it. I will lose a lot of respect for a person if I see them out and about wearing wrinkled clothes. Come on, now.

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

Make up makes me feel great! I am kind of a late bloomer in that respect though. I'm 28 and just started wearing mascara this year. I never really learned how to do the whole make up thing.

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?

Ok, I know what I said earlier, that we shouldn't fashion-police each other, but can we please, please just get rid of Crocs and other mules? Please?

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

Cardigans, button-down shirts, sleeveless blouses, dresses, skirts. That's the way my closet is organized. My dresser drawers have t-shirts and pants. Nothing is too terribly exciting. I'm in graduate school so I don't go shopping that often. Jewelry-wise, I have a lot of necklaces.

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

Gold hoop earrings.

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?

There is this cardigan I have this is white and yellow stripes. I never, ever wear it. But I always tell myself that I will. I think because it is patterned, and I should only wear it with a white shirt. But I don't have a white shirt to go with it. Dumb! I'm putting it in the donation pile. I don't think an article of clothing should be that complicated.

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

Thinking about this question honestly just overwhelmed me so much right now. Shopping is just so stressful. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

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

A suit for an upcoming interview 4 years ago. I only wore it once, and I probably won't wear it again.

Well, maybe I'll go get it tailored. It cost a lot of money from Express.

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

No! I would love for that to happen. Does that happen?

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

A paradigm-shifting little black dress. Have you seen any?

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

A disaster. I cannot keep things neat in my dresser.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Occasionally on payday, online.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Clean and good. My one luxury item is shampoo and conditioner.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I keep telling myself everything is going to be different once I'm done with school and get another "big girl" job. I'm hiring a stylist. I just can't do this on my own. Particularly now. I hardly have money for bills and food, let alone clothes. It's always been like that, since I was old enough to care about what other people thought about my clothes. It will get better!

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

Eyeliner. Always.

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

I had a pretty mentality-altering conversation a few months back with a good acquaintance who told me that I always look good, that I always look like I took the time to put myself together before coming to school. I'm not doing it justice here, but it was significantly affirming on a physical/attractiveness level and ever since then I haven't been so down on myself.

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

February 1987. Born in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently residing in Atlanta, GA. Planning on relocating to Baltimore/DC area next year.

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

Eastern-European, blue-collar, Midwestern.

What kind of work do you do?

Public health. Currently getting my masters.

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

Single and super ready to mingle. Just kidding. I don't have time. xoxo

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

I really like that I have an ability to connect with people. Perhaps that's why fashion has always been placed on the backburner-I value fostering relationships and building my self up professionally over things like shopping...though as I've gotten older I see the value in building up a decent wardrobe, of course.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Actually, pretty good. It has helped me understand things about myself a little bit better. Also, it's reassuring that this survey and book even exists-to know that I am not the only woman in the world to have such an emotional relationship with fashion make me feel much better!

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