Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
Odd question for me…. Hmmm…. I don’t give much thought to feeling attractive, per se. I guess that question would be for younger women who want to “attract” a men or a partner. I feel comfortable when I get dressed to go out. But I do admit to really feeling special when I wear a sari of which I have three that I had made for me while in India. Any time I wear one, I get a lot of attention which is probably what you mean by “attractive.”
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I notice everyone, but no longer feel the need to have the kinds of judgment thoughts I used to have when I was in fashion. I tend to just assume folks don’t have awareness of style and are merely dressing to be covered. I do notice that on television there is an overwhelming persistence in dressing the female actors as provocatively as possible with breasts hanging out, arms exposed, inappropriate wearing of high heels even when they are going to be chasing a villain, and an over-abundance of makeup. At this moment I can’t think of any sort of fashion statement that I “admire.” At least, they don’t all wear jeans, tee-shirts and sneakers on television.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
Never wear jeans other than to ride a horse, work in the garden, or while perhaps moving from one home into another. The way women wear jeans and tee-shirts is incredible to me. The other odd fashion habit is the wearing of tennis shoes with any and everything. They go with jeans as a most unattractive approach to feeling comfortable. Give up the use of make-up unless you have horrible burns on your face is another idea. If you don’t want flies and or bees to be attracted to you quit wearing perfume and other fragrances; it’s unnatural and must in some way be polluting the planet. And, what the heck is the reason for wearing high heels? It is detrimental to women’s health in so many ways. I’m sure I have more, but there’s no need to infuriate and alienate everyone. (teehee)
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
Transformative for whom, me? I have to say that because I taught costume history, I saw my students be transformed regularly in discovering the history of women’s apparel. It was also a shocker for them to learn about the history of men’s apparel. I truly enjoyed teaching those courses and believe more folks would give up their lackadaisical approaches to dressing if they knew more about the History of Fashion. I also spent numerous years teaching young women style of dress under the guise of “model training.” Mothers of those young women were always exceptionally grateful for what their daughters learned and what they would subsequently share with their mothers as it relates to “style.” I’ve had a few students see me out in public and share how those classes changed their lives. Being knowledgeable about fashion and style builds confidence.
As it relates to your second question; I rarely talk about clothes anymore. It holds little interest for me. I have my style of dress and am comfortable when I go out. I’m no longer in the fashion business and so it is a mute topic for me.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
I own five pairs of Dansko’s (shoes) because once I purchased a pair and found them to be the most comfortable shoes ever, I purchased four more pairs in different colors and textures to go with my clothes. They are the only shoes I wear when I wear shoes.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
I live alone and was never comfortable sharing clothes. If someone is in need of something, I will give them something I have that I believe matches their style/personality. And when I was in my twenties and in fashion I was influenced by much until I established my own style. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Armani were major influences for me in my twenties and early thirties. But I now am most influenced by Indian attire of which I purchased quite a bit while in India. I combine Indian styles with the boat-load of clothes I purchased about ten years ago from a small store called Tienda Ho in Oakland. I also have a closet full of Flax label by Jeanne Engelhart. These are my comfortable clothes made of natural fibers. I may have a few other designer pieces left from the old days, but most of what I own falls under those three categories.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Not consciously. While in graduate school, my Indian professor stated that the reason she only wore black was for a political statement and she expressed disappointment that I didn’t do the same. She felt I should be associated with the Black Panthers for obvious reasons. I would rather dress to make a spiritual statement which is why I wear so many Indian clothes.
16. Please describe your body.
Thin and lanky. My entire family is full bodied with what I consider to be huge breasts. When I was eleven I prayed NOT to have breasts like my mother and both grandmothers who were D to H cups. I was blessed to be small enough to not wear a bra since I was 21. Both of my daughters, however, are full breasted. They all have full butts and I’m blessed to have a flat butt. I gained some weight while working on my dissertation and so weight about 125 now at 5’ 7”.
17. Please describe your mind.
I have a truly mystical mind and slip easily into inner states of being. I am an excellent Intuitive and make money as an Intuitive Spiritual Life Coach. But I am also a gifted intellectual who is often told a speak miles above most folks heads. I love being a doctor of philosophy and religion even though I haven’t found a way to make money at it yet. My mind is most attracted to Nature above and beyond hanging out with the average human, however.
18. Please describe your emotions.
I am an exceptionally emphatic being and express my emotions easily. They cover the range of emotions and though I used to be embarrassed by how emotional I am because my mother was so opposed to emotional expression, I am now pleased that I have full range of the entire spectrum of emotions with no concern or attachment to them as the flood or flow through me. I am not my emotions; they are just energies that pass through me depending on how I am experiencing a particular situation.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
The only thing on my face is my glasses. I have on a pair of flax loose fitting trousers and my dreads are tied up on my head by a hair band.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
It is not of much importance to me, other than that I wouldn’t particularly want to go out in public naked. And I suppose clothes for me is a creative act; one that allows me to express myself without speaking by just walking into a room.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
Yes. I definitely have a unified (my word would be integral) approach to my life. I am an urban shaman who is strongly connected and influenced by nature and all things natural. I see myself as solidly founded in a spiritual approach to life and am very comfortable be a loner who is an inspiration to and for others. I don’t stress about much that others get overwrought about and consider my appearance, the appearance of my home, and etc as quite artful. The one flaw I am struggling to transform is a steady income. I live rather like a monk in that I refuse to do just anything in the name of money and so have everything I need without striving to acquire more. When I need something in an emergency, the universe comes rushing to my aid and contrary to the way my mother raised me, I have been blessed to have folks give me money when I need it. I believe I am Blessed beyond the norm and that shows most obviously as my particular Style of living and one that I believe influences others who cross my path.
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?
Well, the reverse would be true, I think. My father wanted me to go out with his boss, the captain of a police division in Chicago – I was in my twenties and trying to reconnect with my dad. I put on one of my favorite pant suits for the occasion and both men insisted I go change into a mini-skirt. I was uncomfortable the entire evening and was furious with my dad. I am however rarely scared in any situation, especially related to dress, and have literally scared off men attempting to rob me who had guns – though that had nothing to do with dress; they just thought I was a good victim since I was walking home from work late at night. My mother was the only person who engendered fear in my heart and that is a whole different story, some of which you have been given a clue about.
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 father was gone from our home because of his job as a porter on the railroads most of the time and so I have very little memory of him growing up. My mother divorced him when I was seven. My mother was the sole breadwinner and she took immense pride in being able to do so, declining to accept child-support from my estranged father.
Much of the answer to this question was given above; but I’ll be more direct. My mother insisted on our knowing about how to appear well-to-do based on apparel. Taking care of your clothes was right up there with getting great grades. The lessons I remember are much more trauma based as she never made getting dressed fun; it was an obligation to her to always look good. It had absolutely nothing to do with how either of us felt. Just spending hours sitting in the shop (the hair salon, if you will) after school would be the closest example of lessons offered. It is a cultural thing about growing up in black beauty shop. Here you learn about the importance of how a woman looks and how she can expect to be treated based on what she wears. And what she wears includes her hair style and the amount of make-up worn. It was never just about the clothes. It was always about the entire presentation which includes the shoes, matching bag and belt. Every article was a statement: high heels versus flats, a flower or barrette in the hair, plucked or unplucked eyebrows, lipstick or gloss, pressed or kinky hair – every iota of one’s appearance made a statement and one never ever went out of the house for any reason not fully cognizant of one’s appearance. We weren’t even supposed to associate with folks who dared leave their home in fluffy slippers or with rollers in their hair; they were not to be trusted; they were considered to be sloven. The purpose of a job in my teens was in order to purchase my own clothes; the purpose of any job was to insure what had the appropriate appearance. Clothes make the person was the main message growing up. And this message was not something you randomly picked up; it was a mandate, a requirement.
True trauma came when I turned about fourteen or fifteen and wanted to assert my own style of dress; no longer appreciating the way my mother wanted me to dress. But don’t get me wrong here. There was never a time when one in our family could dress rebelliously like I’ve seen with young folks dressing “Goth” or with piercing. Heaven forbid! I just no longer wanted to dress sensuously, as did my mother. She was exceptionally voluptuous and dressed to reveal her curves. I chose to dress in long flowing clothes that draped without showing any part of my body during one phase of my life and she announced that I was imitating nuns (which I was).
I actually remember various phases in which she and I banged heads. In the 8th grade I wanted to wear “stockings” like the other girls for graduation. She insisted only women could wear stockings; so I was the only one in my class who had to wear socks at graduation. I was 15 before she let me wear heels and stockings and I was naturally mortified to be held back that way. When I decided to wear my hair in an Afro in my early twenties, she quit speaking to me for a year since she felt I was an embarrassment for a woman who made a living pressing and perming Black women’s hair. There are few words to express how ashamed she was when in my mid-twenties I began wearing mini-skirts for a while; but it didn’t take me long to figure out that attracted all the wrong people. I was one of the first to resort to maxi-skirts with long tunics and have remained a fully clothed individual ever since.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
I do everything within my power to never ever appear “sexy or alluring.” I spent years in fashion doing that and finally was able to realize that was not working for me. I attract men like honey attracts bees and flies. And though I no longer pluck my eyebrows or wear any type of make-up and dress in comfortable, though attractive, attire, I still have to ward men off – I’ve even found that I attract women – so being “alluring” is not something I find necessary or desired. The closest I come to make-up is wearing a bindi in the center of my forehead which I do quite regularly because I prefer to dress in Indian clothes a great deal of the time.
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?
First, dressing to feel comfortable is mandatory for me. I like being able to move around in my clothes and feel like they are an extension of how I communicate. Because I dress comfortably, folks seem to be comfortable around me. I wear a lot of linen and cotton and natural fibers and because my clothes are always flowing and drape my body without attracting attention to my lankiness, I inspire confidence in others to share and connect with me. I admit, that even men comment on how comfortable I appear in my clothes which gives the impression that I am comfortable in my own skin. And by not wearing make-up, they know I’m not trying to appear to be someone or something other than my natural self. By the way, wearing my hair in dreads gives an additional impression which speaks for itself.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Everything in Nature is Beautiful, even things other people find scary or ugly.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
I find very ugly the unrecognized perpetuation of societal poverty; the ignorance of racism, the manifestation of intergenerational child abuse and neglect, the unnecessarily biased attitude about homelessness and mental illness, and the way our government would rather fund the repair and construction of prisons rather than fund dilapidated schools and our educational system. And that is just for starters.
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 was an excellent judge of whether I would wear what I purchased; I wasn’t raised to waste money on clothes. The way to know in advance is by knowing exactly what your own style is rather than buying something because it is a fad or because someone else said they want to see you in it.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
The image I currently strive to achieve is one of a spiritual leader or mystical woman. And I believe I do a fabulous job of doing so.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I am a senior Black woman who has just (this May 2013) received my doctorate in Philosophy and Religion and who was raised by a tyrant of a mother needing to impress the world with her self-sufficiency. She was the most profound influence in my life and I suspect you have a sense of how she impacted my various adventures in style and dress.
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 believe I’ve already answered that question somewhere up above.
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?
Oh my gosh NO!
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
I used to see myself as photogenic since I was in the fashion business and stood in front of a camera on a regular basis – heck, I was an expert in make-up in those days. Today I don’t think much of how I look in photographs since I no longer place a great deal of attention on such things or wear any make-up to look made up. If I know I’m going to be photographed, like for a poster or flyer or some such, I will put on make-up, but that doesn’t happen much anymore. I like being a spiritual leader and so don’t care much for appearing to be other than natural.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
There is no look that would be difficult for me to achieve since I spent more than 20 years in fashion (even teaching costume history and fashion merchandising) just to prove to my mother and ex-husband that I was NOT the ugly duckling they insisted on calling me. But I won’t be comfortable wearing clothes that are revealing or “popular.” I am most comfortable dressing to stand out in the crowd as an artsy, unique and original individual who is spiritually focused.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
I guess I would like to believe that I am attracting spiritual seekers unconsciously/subliminally; those who are looking for a spiritual teacher or someone who is interested in their spiritual development. I know that I am attempting to repel any man who thinks he should try and “hit” on me; it saves them grief if they get the message since I have no problem telling them to buzz off if they don’t get it.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
I’m not much into perfume, but folks are always telling me how good I smell. It is obviously all the incense I burn at my altar and throughout the house.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Not much. If someone showed up at my home and I was in my pajamas, I’d just go change. I’m quite over the need to be “presentable” after outgrowing my mother’s demanding concern for such unnecessary issues.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
I actually can’t remember when I last went shopping for clothes. I have plenty and they are all very, very comfortable. Oh, I remember. I went shopping for clothes just before my first trip to India in 2005.
80. How does money fit into all this?
One needs money to buy clothes. I would rather spend my money on books.
82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?
Well, another interestingly worded question. Because people today don’t seem to have a clue about how to dress usually showing up anywhere in jeans and a tee-shirt, and because I do NOT for any reason wear jeans and can’t imagine wearing a tee-shirt out in public, I have people comment all the time about my appearance, usually in a complimentary fashion. There have been times when invited to an event and the host will single me out to say, this is a casual attire event because folks assume I’m always dressing up. But what is casual for me is perhaps over-dressing for them. Even when I attend a black-tie event, folks consider I am more dressed up than they. But their comments in no way make me feel or see myself “differently.” I just assume that folks today have no understanding of “style” and have resorted to just throwing on whatever is convenient; most folks don’t seem to have a reason to assert their own individuality via dress, you know.
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?
Yes, I do. I was about five years old or even younger. Being conscious of how we looked was a mandate handed down by my mother because she was overly zealous about what other people might think about her. Of course, she perceived both her daughters as extensions of herself and how she was perceived, not just by the neighbors, but especially by church-folks. It was her reigning concern. We were especially never allowed to get dirty or mussed in any way at any time for any reason. How we looked at school and especially at church was a dominant concern.
My mother was a beautician and believed that if we didn’t have a certain image it would impact her business, mostly her image in the eyes of others. She was also divorced and seriously concerned that people would see her as less than capable if we didn’t look well-kept. Monday was her day off and she religiously took us shopping on that day to buy new clothes so she could appear to be sufficiently well-off.
Our hair also had to be immaculate. My memory of being over-concerned about my appearance included being traumatized when, in the third grade, I tripped and fell and tore my dress on the way home from school. I knew there was no way to hide the tear and rushed home to attempt to mend it. Though adequately repaired it was only a matter of time – when she washed the clothes – before she found the mend and ruthlessly punished me for damaging something she had spent good money on purchasing for me. Her regularly announced effort to work hard to make us look good was an over-riding concern for her and the source of much of the abuse I incurred from her.
I also remember trying to do my own hair the day before I started first grade. I cut an entire braid off and attempted to replace it not understanding that once cut it was not something I could reattach. There is acute trauma behind what happened the morning she was dressing me for school.
Actually, mentally reviewing the various events surrounding clothes and appearance from my childhood is almost retraumatizing. Appearance was such a huge issue for both me and my sister even though we are both still considered to be exceptionally well-dressed. I have more clothes than anyone I know and though my sister is a “full-bodied” woman, she is also considered an exceptional dresser. I have entire room dedicated to my clothes; the closet room.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
Born in Altadena, California; live in Kansas City, Missouri.
What kind of work do you do?
Intuitive Spiritual Life Coach and Urban Shaman
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Divorced 42 years and happily single. Two grown daughters, four grandchildren and one great grandson