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R L McMaster

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I have made an effort; know that my outfit sufficiently covers/strategically hides my 'problem areas'; am showing my slightly quirky side; and generally, feel confident.

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

The women I really notice are wearing garments and outfits that I would never think to put together but look a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Probably on the quirkier side of things. Risk takers. Confident folk. I guess you might call them fashion forward, but not in a trend sense.

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

I admire that people spend time on looking great. This is something I personally can't care so much about. I like the made-up people, but not in a way that I aspire to be. I just admire that they have the time, but then wonder what the time is at the expense of.
The women I aspire to be like look effortlessly amazing in classic or unique items.

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'm not sure I've reached that moment yet. For a long while there I suffered from the fact that my multiple lifestyle choices didn't fit me neatly in a box for a particular fashion sense. I'm into the outdoors, sustainable fashion, wearing crazy heels, out of the ordinary dresses, not much colour (is there anything other than black available, because I don't see it)... these lifestyles don't really overlap by much, so I felt really challenged about having a cohesive look and a wardrobe that supported all my activities and desires. As for a positive 'click'.... hmmmm more that being a designer allowed me to wear the black uniform almost exclusively... until I started wearing a bit of colour and then people noticed I wore black a lot.

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

Generally I don't buy synthetic fibres, or anything I think won't go well with sweat.
I don't like garments that make bra straps (etc) visible, but I'm starting to get over this, very slowly.
Try to buy ethical/sustainable fashion... it makes you feel good and usually has a great story.
If it looks complicated to iron totally buy it.

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

Nothing matchy matchy. But close.
Interesting jewellery goes with classic or more plain items, and often creates talking points... and draws attention away from 'problem areas'.
Sometimes I like the way I feel in a garment, more than the way I look in the garment. I'm starting to try and wear those clothes (in a bid to wear things that I feel confident in) more often.
I never iron anything until immediately before I wear it. Can't stand an ironing fest.
Typically always iron everything, but probably not that well.

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

Fashion sustainability at the BF+FA in Brooklyn, NYC.
Style - probably a work session where they bought in a style consultant (who proceeded to insult me when I went for a free consultation afterwards, we argued about what my size was... ummmm wtf - I think I know!)
But really, this isn't much a part of my world... talking about fashion or style.

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

Ha. Unified.
No, because I don't think enough about it.
But generally, now, I aim to buy only sustainable/ethical fashion or have a good story about why I haven't.
In the last few years I've been really cognisant of living my values, which is challenging. Especially when you care about the environment and ethics, especially when the market isn't ready to wholly provide/support your values.

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

Black singlets.
Black dresses.
Because they're great staples for any wardrobe (singlets especially for travelling).

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

Not really, I bought a t-shirt for my dad once that he still proudly wears. I think it's because he gets comments on it and wears it proudly when I see him.

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

I'm refusing to participate in fast fashion these days. It's hard!

Short shorts.

Mid drift tops, because I'm too shy to try it out, even though I think I could totally pull it off. I think I might regret that in a few years.

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

My mum wasn't really massively a style icon for me. She dresses well and cares about how she looks, but because I was a bit of a tomboy in my formative years we didn't really share much in this domain (despite being very close). My mother and I share similar body shapes, but I don't think she's really ever nailed what clothing fits her/our shape best (I'm only really learning now)... she's not that keen on finding this info out, which is hard. I'd like to help her with this.
In terms of passing something down... probably conservatism about body shapes.

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

I 'stole' a motorcycle gang t-shirt from my then boyfriend's mum. I grabbed it from her dress up box for a party and then told her I didn't want to give it back... she was cool with it!
Otherwise I'm pretty good with giving stuff back, because that's how I'd want other people to behave towards me!

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

I started wearing dresses, really for the first time in my early/mid twenties... this was a pretty big step. It was the first time I'd really felt feminine. I wore them to work with heels and felt powerful and confident.

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

Not really. Unless dressing in a way that is sustainable and ethical is...?

16. Please describe your body.

Narrow shoulders.
Child bearing hips.
Large thighs.
Mostly good arms if I go to the gym.
Average height.
Large feet.

17. Please describe your mind.

Always on.
Lately, trying not to believe everything I think.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Complicated. And that's okay.
Having recently cottoned on to emotional intelligence, I'm WAY more emotionally driven and I'm really proud of that (especially because I was a bit robotic and unfeeling previously - I was all about efficiency).
Having let my emotions out and about I sometimes wish they weren't as extreme as they can be (mainly when I'm upset, I wish I didn't cry when I'm threatened at work!)

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

I'm wearing a kowtow dress (that is too short for me, but I'm at home all day today and it's hot).
My fringe needs a cut, and is in my face, so I've twisted it up, a high pony tail.
No make-up (the norm).
Olive moisturiser on my legs.
Bare feet.

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

This stuff? I recently met a woman that was really concerned about her identity (which made me really interested in how she presented herself). It made me think that this 'stuff' really does form our identity, and reveals some of our values in a non-spoken way. And it's tied up with confidence and therefore happiness!

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

Anyone that is interested in sustainable fashion (most recently)!
Otherwise I would only talk about clothes with my flatmates, boyfriend or mum.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I definitely dress depending on the activities and people I'll meet during the day???

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

I think I've got reasonably good taste.
And every now and again reasonable style, but style is so fleeting, and unless it is a classic style doesn't really fit with my sustainable ethos (which invariably means I don't buy clothes every 5 mins so don't keep up with 'the stylish folk' per se).
Taste, implies values and transcends seasons!

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

Hmmmm not really. I'm a bit Scottish/tight with my money! I've bought dresses because I've broken them in the changing room - but they've turned out to be great purchases (that could be fixed).

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

Scarves can be good for black dresses that get worn repeatedly.
I wear shorter dresses in winter because I can wear tights/pantyhose with them and not feel so fat/like I've got ugly knees and thighs!

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

Yes. I'm a designer!
I definitely consider my overall style aesthetic in most areas of my life... especially (as my boyf says) in interior and food design.
(Difficult and thought provoking question!)

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?

Yes. Wearing 'crazy pants' fixes everything. (Think MC Hammer pants).

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. I typically know what I want, or like, even if I can't afford it.
Discernment, yes. But acting on it is more difficult because I typically like things outside of my financial reach.
I definitely can't say definitively where my discernment comes from, other than being a product of my experience, and my values. Other than liking quirky, left of centre, thoughtful things.

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?

Not really!
I remember being angry at my mother last year because a friend let slip that you're suppose to wash things in hot water that are prone to sweat (gym gear, occasionally).
I'm probably not being fair to my Mum. She probably wanted to tell me stuff, but I just wasn't engaged as a teenager. My parents somewhat encouraged me to follow my own style (unless it involved 'grunge' - my Dad set fire to a pair of vintage flares I loved as a protest in the 90s because he despised them so much). This just spurred me on to wear crazier stuff. He never did that again.

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

Generally wear make-up and care about my hair.
That said, I know one way to do my make up and about three ways to do my hair.
Maybe nice lingerie (the very little that I own).

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?

Some clothes just make you feel more confident than others. Maybe you think you look great in them. Or you're portraying who you want to be. I'm always on the hunt for clothes that make me feel confident... but I could never describe what that is, it's just a feeling you have when you put the right garment on.

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?

(my dream philosophy that I aspire to...) Clothes that were ethically and sustainably produced (that also promote good post-purchase care) are classic and well produced/good quality, transcend seasons and fads. Are made of fibres that feel great both for their textural feeling and the story behind their production. Probably a minimal palette.

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

Being natural.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Trying too hard. And excess (too much make up, too many labels etc)

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 wish I could say yes to this. Still working on it!

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?

The other is a judgemental son of a b*#@%h.
Pretty much my harshest critic. And definitely a skinny person.

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

Sometimes I wake up with a clear idea of what I want to wear. Other times I literally try on half my wardrobe and hate everything. Probably because my favourite items are in the wash, and I have too much stuff in my wardrobe that only works with certain combos...

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

Feeling confident and representing myself well.

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

Really caring about what I wear and how I'm perceived OR how I want to feel. Somtimes it's just a gold sparkly shoes day just to lift spirits.

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


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

Me: interesting/unique/uncommon design features, probably in black or predictable colours.

What is not me: bright, colourful patterns (fine). Pastels (never owned any). Frilly. Overly girly. Sleek. Slinky. Too figure hugging (much to my boyfriend's disgust).

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

Cultural background hasn't really shaped how I dress I don't think. Pretty mono-culture European without the cool bits.

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 a teenager I used to dress to shock people, and I loved it. And I felt confident about it. Somewhere along the way I grew out of that (and just this moment am regretting it).

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

Iron my clothes.

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

Dress better than other people there (but not overtly).

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?


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


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?

I definitely do not have an archetypal outfit.

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 typically wear mens clothing if I want to wear it. I wore a shirt and tie (and skirt) to my graduation.
Sometimes I think dressing as a man would be easier, less options (i.e. no skirts or dresses).

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

Russian constructivist, early twentieth century.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


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

Why do I look like such a retard (I literally look super gammy in photos - I'm renowned for it!). Also, is that how fat I am?

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

Not really. I don't really think about that kind of thing.

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

Usually it's that I'm hurriedly and last minutely packing to go on holiday and I'm trying to work out what clothes to take... and typically I get to the destination (in the dream) and find I didn't pack the appropriate thing (i.e. ski gear for skiing)

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


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?

Slightly shorter dresses, maybe mid-drift showing tops (when in fashion!). Maybe more figure hugging outfits to try and be more at home with my curves.

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

Just general likes

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

Don't wear so much foundation. It looks awful. Especially around the edges.

More on the clothes front... don't wear stuff I can see your butt cheeks in.

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

I like perfume, and yes I wear it.

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

Shave my legs. Sometimes pluck my eyebrows. Paint my toenails and have presentable fingernails. Be clean, and have clean hair!

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

I barely wear makeup unless it is a super special occasion OR I haven't been out in ages and feel like putting it on/feel it is appropes to the situation.

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?


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

A mish mash of different garments typically for specific uses: exercise stuff; outdoors stuff; nice dresses; random not well thought about casual clothing; and generally just way too many clothes. Jewellery wise I've been given some jewellery I don't like but can't get rid of. But am starting to build up some interesting pieces that I really love.

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

My necklace from MoMA. I get a lot of comments about it because it is so unusual.

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?

Dresses that I look good in weighing 10kg less.
Or pieces that I bought on significant overseas trips that I am attached to!

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?

Classic pieces (i.e. beautiful double breasted woolen coat). Super quirky pieces.

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?

Many, and often. Vary widely!

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

Probably a black dress that makes me feel like a little girl cos it's great when you spin in it. Even thought it's bad in the wind.

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

Go quality, and classic and super quirky.

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

Probably a woolen coat (aforementioned) in Venice 6 years ago. I love it, and it's still in good nick.

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

Sustainable fashion for sure!

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

Beautiful japanese aesthetic clothing at my kind of price, in the fabrics I like that fit me!

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

Pretty chaotic.
Not really folded, but sort of.
I have shelves for exercise gear, and then drawers for everything else.
And a shelf for clothes that I've worn once but can wear again before washing again (it gets a bit out of hand).

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

Not memorably so.

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?

I'd say so. Probably my crazy pants. They were cheap-ish. From a place I'd never have expected to buy from. And they make me feel great.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I hate shopping for clothes, so I avoid busy periods and often shop online.
Typically I buy clothes because I'm travelling (and for some reason I always want to be the best version of myself when I'm travelling).
OR I buy when I'm on the road and then I end up loving the item because I bought it in a special place.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Yeah, kind of. It changes every now and then though.
I usually have two or three perfumes on the go.
Generally something fresh like Issey Miyaki and then something like roses.

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

I was once told to dress for the job you want not the job you have. This has been good advice for me.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I am pretty good with my money, and am happy to pay for quality clothing that fits my values (especially because I buy less now).

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

A ring I designed/was given for my 21st birthday that is my version of a family signet ring.
Or a bracelet I bought in China/Japan/Vietnam.

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

I got a lot of flack at one point for wearing exclusively black... it made me really subconscious about it so I started to try wearing colour. It didn't feel right. Plus I didn't really know how to wear it properly.

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?

Probably when I was about four and Mum was making me wear a pretty dress that I hated to visit someone/and have my photo taken in. There's a hilarious photo of mum having done my hair all pretty and I'm in this pretty dress and I look totally pissed about the whole situation.

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

21 Jan 1982. Born in Ashburton, New Zealand. And I live in Dunedin, New Zealand now.

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

I usually tick boxes that say I am Pakeha/New Zealand/European.

What kind of work do you do?

I try and do work that is meaningful to me and aligns with my values. I'm trying to get paid to do things in the sustainability space, but typically I end up doing project management work or exhibition work.

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

I have a partner. No kids - yet.

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

I like that I don't really mind too much what everyone else is wearing. I generally march to the beat of my own drum... but think I could do it more so and be less worried about what people think of me and what I'm wearing (they're not as linked as I think they are)

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Like I've explored a bunch of stuff I've hardly ever though of (and really interested to read the book now)


Just a girl in her mid-thirties that is trying to live her values by engaging in sustainable fashion. And am trying to understand how other people engage with fashion as an in-road to provide relevant and positive messaging on sustainable fashion.

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