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Michelle Berry

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel slim. When my clothes aren't tight. When there's no chaffing/rubbing/achy feeling from my clothes. If I feel slim, I look slim. I stand taller. If I'm uncomfortable I feel fat, and I slump.

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

Standing out! I had a friend, Connie Rooke, who used to wear the most lovely materials – flowing beautiful clothes that whisked around her when she walked. Silks and sheers materials. Stunning colours and patterns. Every day she looked different. She always looked comfortable and stylish. I admire women who have a style. Their own style, not something copied from a magazine. I admire women willing to take risks with their clothing choices. Women whose look reflects their confidence.

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

I have to put on my socks before I put on my pants. For some reason it feels awful putting socks on after the pants. I can't do it. This is a rule. I definitely wouldn't insist others follow it. But maybe you're asking a different question – like not wearing white before the May 24th weekend and not after Thanksgiving? Socks and sandals. Not a good look. Never wear flowing skirts in a high wind? That's a good rule to follow.\

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

Besides the arguments (“your skirt is too short!”) with my kids? Nope. No one bothers to talk to me about fashion – seriously, look at 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 a lot of different coloured t-shirts – scoop neck or v-neck or straight neck. Blues, greens, pinks, reds, purples, all different colours. T-shirts are comfortable, can be worn dressed up, or dressed down, don't clash because all one colour. I'm always looking for t-shirts with patterns, but I never find any I like. The more I fill out this survey the more I realize that I'm trying to disappear with my clothing – I'm not standing out in any way. Sigh.

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

I have a neighbour who dresses nicely and I sometimes think, that would look good on me and I go out and get the item. But then I see that she sometimes does the same with me. So it's like we borrow each others' style, no one steals. Yes, I often see something someone is wearing and try to find it for myself. I get all my inspiration from other peoples' choices.

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

Yes. I was waiting for this question. When I was a teenager I thought I was the height of fashion. Always getting my hair done to the latest style, wearing all the new trends, etc. Then, in university I took risks with my clothes – bought red shoes with metal plates on the heels in Germany, flowing strange dresses, etc – and was later told that people remembered me for my choices. Then I had kids. And I stopped caring about what I was wearing. I stopped wearing jewelry because they would pull my earrings/necklaces off when I was holding them. Usually I had spit up on everything I wore. I wasn't sleeping, so there was nothing I could wear that would hide the exhaustion. A mask, maybe. I also started to realize then that what you wear does not define who you are. I met women in business suits who were terrific mothers. I met women in ripped jeans who hadn't brushed their hair in weeks who were also wonderful mothers. I was also home full-time at this point, writing, taking care of the kids, hiring a nanny part time, balancing everything. So buying clothing was not an option, there just wasn't time/energy or money. I guess I've stayed in that lazy-habit now. I'd rather buy a new couch or have better kitchen counters than buy clothes at this point. But every time I'm invited to do a reading or give a speech or teach a class, I panic. Because that closet full of comfortable clothes is suddenly not adequate. Or I don't have the right shoes for the outfit. Or I have to wear something that is now too big because I've lost weight. So my style changed dramatically in the fact that I stopped caring too much about style. Instead of hair that took me 45 minutes to “do” in the morning, I now have hair that just is.

16. Please describe your body.

I have very short legs. I am big boned. I'm shapely. I have a waist – I mean, you can still see it. I have smallish breasts. I'm muscular and in the best shape I've been in my whole life right now. I bike 3 times a week. I eat low-carb (basically no white food and rarely any sugar). I am 7 pounds less than I was when I got married. I'm happy. I would like longer legs, but what can you do?

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

I just got back from my biking so I took a shower. I'm wearing cream coloured shorts and a red t-shirt that has some indian pattern and some buttons on it (it's v-neck). And here I've been telling you I don't wear patterns! I have ruby earrings in (gold), from my mother's godmother (I usually always wear silver), a silver watch, my wedding band (gold and diamond) and my engagement ring (solitaire). I'm wearing my black glasses (I have brown ones too) and thinking about putting in my contact lenses but they still hurt and are a hassle putting in, so I'm not sure. My hair is wet, ringletty, dripping on my shoulders. It's nice and cool because it's really hot out. I will pin my hair up on the sides later when it dries a little more. I have Chanel No 5 perfume on (tiny bit) and deodorant. And body cream. I'm wearing my indoor Birkenstock sandals. I'll wear my Tevas if I go out. I'm set for the day.

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

There are those padded bras.... ha. Seriously, though. Although because I'm big boned the padded bra just makes me look fat. Black, of course. Slimming (although always covered with lint, for some reason). I like flowey clothes, I figure I can hide in them or they are cooler. Tricks: maybe put your deodorant on after you've put your shirt on? That's a good trick. It's a trick just for me to get dressed in the morning.

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

Yes. I think I'm outgoing and have lots of friends. Too many sometimes. My house is lovely and I spend a lot of time decorating it and moving furniture. About once a month I move furniture (and I mean move it – like the dining room becomes the living room or my bedroom becomes my office, etc). I drag things across the floor using rugs. I do it all before my family comes home and they come home and say, “is this a new house?” I love the feeling of newness in my house. I really love decorating. I move paintings on the walls, I tidy up. I hate cleaning, though, but I love tidying (big difference: vacuum = no, cleaning counters = yes). So I guess I have style in my house. I would rather spend money on my house than on my clothing. I like to paint walls. I'm not a great cook, but with a glass of wine in hand I love to cook. I hate gardening, but my garden is beautiful (thank you, previous owners of my house!). My cottage is lovely and I'm constantly bringing up new things to make it even more beautiful. So I do have style – just not in my clothing.

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

It takes me about 15 minutes to get dressed. I have to have my coffee first. Then I wash my face, wash behind my ears, my neck (I don't know why, I just do. I shower at night), clean my ears, put cream on my face. I pull out pants/shorts first and then match that to a t-shirt/sweater. So it starts with the pants, I guess. I'm usually ready before my husband but, to be fair to him, he has to go out and see the world so he has to look better than I do sitting here at my computer.

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

My number one goal is comfort. I don't always succeed with this – too high waisted, too tight on the legs, scratchy material – but it's a priority. Second goal is not clashing. When I was in grade school people teased me if my clothes clashed. I've never forgotten. This makes me a boring dresser, however, as I tend to balance solid colours. Third, some sort of balance between trying to dress my age (45), but not looking like a teenager.

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

I was born in the States (San Francisco), lived in Victoria, B.C., now live outside of Toronto. My relatives are from the States. We have Irish, British, German roots. None of this affects my style. But the town I live in definitely affects my style. Once I was visiting my parents in B.C. and I bought what I thought was a great winter coat. But when I hit Toronto I realized I looked completely out of fashion with Toronto standards. So I gave it away. In Victoria you used to have to dress up to go to the bars – no jeans allowed – in Toronto you can wear jeans to the Opera and be sitting next to someone in a fur coat and diamonds.

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

I love a certain lipstick someone gave me (I forgot what it's called) and wear it when I remember (which is not often) – it's a peachy colour. I will wear mascara and lipstick. Sometimes I use a bit of foundation if I have dark circles under my eyes. The occasional dab of eyeshadow. But this is only when I go out somewhere nice. My everyday make up is cream (Lubriderm) all over my body and face every day and Lypsol. Perfume. Deodorant. I'm ready to go.

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

I have many favourite pieces of jewelry from a great shop in Peterborough called Hi Ho Silver. All silver stuff – necklaces, rings, earrings. Usually small, but sweet stuff. Nothing big and wild. I'm not into that for myself. Right now my favourite jewelry is a necklace my daughters' bought me for mother's day. I have a comfy pair of Old Navy faded jeans I love and wear all the time. And a long sleeve Gap t-shirt that is teal green that seems to fit me perfectly. See – comfort clothes. Oh, my good winter coat. I love my black good winter coat.

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

My clothes are folded in my drawers. In drawers that go with their item (ie. T-shirts in the t-shirt drawer, etc.). My pants and dresses/skirts/blouses hang in my closet. My pj's are on the floor of my closet in a pile, very messy. When I panic about getting dressed for some occasion my clothes will be strewn all over my bed. But I always hang them up again when I decide what to wear. I tend to wash clothes after every wear – mostly to shrink them back down to the regular size (ie. Jeans tend to stretch by end of day). I throw everything in the wash at once, on cold water wash, never iron anything or dry clean. Everything in the dryer. If it shrinks or the colour runs, I don't want it. This comes from having two kids who are hugely into sports and having to do wash every day or resign to being buried in it.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Value Village for shirts. Old Navy. H&M. Winners for pants. I'm pretty cheap when it comes to clothes. I work at home and so only occasionally need something great for an event. I love riffling through Value Village racks and finding the best deals – although they've caught on recently. Now the “name brand” Value Village clothes are always much more expensive than the no-name brand. When I travel I try to pick up something that goes with that culture, but when I try to wear it at home it ends up looking out of fashion. I used to be really really into shoes. I have lots of shoes. Not anymore, though. I tend to spend money on my kids' clothes (two teenage girls) and suffer myself with nothing. They always look better in things than I do so I figure, what's the use? Also, whenever we go out shopping for me, we inevitably end up buying for them. Ah, selfless mom that I am (ha!).

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

Lypsol. Because I have chapped lips, or because I'm addicted to it according to my husband. I panic if I don't have it with me. I even bring it biking. I also have to have sunglasses with me. I have sensitive eyes.

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

Born: San Francisco, California, May, 1968.
Now: Peterborough, Ontario

What kind of work do you do?

I'm a writer – I have 7 published books (another coming out in Fall 2014). I also teach creative writing at U of Toronto (online – continuing ed) and at Trent University (continuing ed) and am a freelance writer/reviewer.

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

Married May 1990 – 23 years this year. Do you have kids? Two girls, Abby (17), Zoe (14)

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