Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
In the morning, in my weekend clothes, my favorite fedora on my head and a pair of binoculars (for bird watching) in my hands. And red lipstick. No other makeup.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
Yes, I love watching women. I notice and admire women who look put together but not haughty. I suspect haughty women are insecure and wanting to seem unapproachable. I notice them but I don't admire them, I pity them. I love older women wearing cool hats. I will compliment a woman spontaneously if I think she looks sensational. A women loves it when an attractive woman comments on her appearance admiringly. I love giving this little gift to another woman. I love women.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I admire women who can wear high heels like a second skin. I cannot do that. I know I look like a hobbled goat when I teeter around in heels.
And I admire women who smile, especially back at me. They are presenting themselves as a friend to other women.
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?
When I turned 40. I had the figure I was going to have, and the hair I was going to have, and the confidence, finally, to dress for what suits me. It was the confidence that comes with age, and realizing that getting older is awesome.
5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?
I buy my son's underwear at consignment shops. It's gently used, and I am guessing that would gross some parents out. I buy used sandals for myself and wear them without a second thought. For some people buying something that has touched other skins is not appealing.
6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?
I love wearing hats year round; lightweight fedora in summer, wool fedora in the fall and winter. I wouldn't recommend a hat for every head, however. Hats are not so common that every person is comfortable in one. Nor do hats suit every face.
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
When I was in college, my twin sister and I watched the French movie Emmanuelle, and the women in that film were anorexic-thin. Afterwards my sister and I both admitted that being thin is very important to us, perhaps the most important part of our appearance in general. I have never forgotten that conversation, and the look of being thin is my look.
After having my son, I've become bustier, and this infuriates me, as having a full bosom doesn't fit my personal aesthetic.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
Yes, I live with sustainability in mind in everything I do. I shop almost entirely consignment, in order to minimize my personal fashion footprint. If I buy something new, I make sure it's made fair trade, locally even, and is composed of organic fibers if possible. I care about how the fiber is grown and dyed and how the people who make the clothes are treated. There is so much waste in the textile industry that if I can make something last and last then I am doing my part to minimize further waste.
I also do not buy on sale since that sends the message to companies that their workers deserve even less. I care as much about the clothes I wear as I do the food I eat. Since I do not shop sale, I simply purchase fewer items, of higher quality.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
Yes, raglan sleeved sweatshirts. I find them in thrift stores or consignment shops and I love them. They are more casual and consistently fitting of me than a sweater, and I can sleep in them if necessary. Nowadays sweatshirts are acceptable daytime wear with fitted pants.
10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?
A pair of Haida engraved silver earrings to my twin sister. That was the year my then-husband and I bought all our family holiday gifts at a single gallery selling Northwest Coast art, and supporting the little gallery and giving my sister something one-of-a-kind was important to me.
11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why?
High heels, more than anything. I think they look sensational on other women, but I can't do them. My lifestyle involves a lot of walking so I have adapted my look to always look cool with sneakers, no matter what I have on. That said, I don't wear skirts often either, even though my legs are one of my favorite features.
12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?
My mother is beautiful, and people always told me she was beautiful. She never lets it go to her head and has presented a modern woman to my sister and I; one who is comfortable in her own skin, embraces her vanity without guilt, and has the world's best sense of humor. She has never used her looks to get ahead, or in a way to thwart anyone. She loves other women, and isn't a threat to them for being beautiful because of the way she carries herself in life. I have always tried to be like her in this way--a woman who is a real friend to other women.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
Yes. When I was 18 I borrowed a pair of shorts and a tiny short sleeved black sweater from my step mom. My step mom was a stunner when she was young, and had wonderful clothes that fit my twin sister and I even tho our step mom was 5 inches taller.
I borrowed her shorts all the time and can't remember what happened to them. I do remember what happened to the sweater. I gave it back to her covered in cat hair and all pilled. She was furious and I was a little shit--totally non-contrite. I said something shitty like, "well you should have known better than to loan it to me!" I was a jerk, and I regret it to this day. I think I apologized about it years later, and by then she had forgotten about it.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
I started wearing a lot of black when I was 13. before then I was sort of a tomboy/sporty pseudo jock. I was never going to be a popular kid, so I decided if I couldn't be popular, I would at least be memorable. So I was the goth jock. I dyed my hair black and was the best distance runner in the school. I wore only black.
I carried on that look into my early 20s more or less, then stopped dying my hair different colors and let it go natural. I have continued to have black as about 50% of my wardrobe. But since my early 20s I let go of the goth look completely.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Yes, I dress so that I do not attract attention from men on the street, nor threaten women around me. That means I do not ever dress in a way that could be interpreted as sexual. I prefer to think that I am sexy in a very understated, librarian kind of way. The politics there is my calling out to other women that I am a sister.
16. Please describe your body.
I am petite, thin but curvy. I have a very short waist where my ribs end and less than an inch later my hip bone starts. Finding dresses that fit in the torso is nearly impossible because the top half of most dresses are too long and bag out. I wear a lot of separates.
I have long thin legs and thin forearms. These are my favorite features.
17. Please describe your mind.
I have an active interior life and am very independent while also being loving and loyal. I am a better friend than lover.
18. Please describe your emotions.
I feel things deeply and then move on. I am an optimist.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
it's August and I am at work. I'm wearing black capris, black ballet flats, a navy Theory t-shirt and an H&M olive tank underneath it. Every single item I am wearing today I got second hand.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
Dressing is supremely important.
1. Clothes protect us from the elements
2. They identify us as being part of a tribe
3. Buying clothes supports people's livelihood and artistry
4. Wearing clothes supports creative expression
5. An article of clothing can transform someone
6. An article of clothing can create memories
7. Clothing can comfort
8. Clothing can seduce
21. With whom do you talk about clothes?
My mother and my twin sister
22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?
I work someplace where the dress code is "Business Casual," and that suits my style perfectly. I could never wear a suit and heels but I could never wear jeans to work either. I like somewhere in the middle.
24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?
Yes, I bought an exquisite sequined tunic dress, originally from I. Magnin, probably the early '80s. It was outrageous, but it was too long and too big in the shoulders. It didn't cost a lot initially (it was used), but I spent a fortune getting it altered, and it never did fit. I ended up giving it away, never having worn it.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Yes, wearing a different scarf the next day when wearing the same rest of your outfit. No one notices. This is not original at all, but it's completely a trick that works.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
yes, I decorate my home with care, and collect artwork that I am proud to own and that has some consistent pattern to it. I shop almost 100% consignment for everything in my life so I am never getting the same stuff that others own from shopping at IKEA or Pottery barn.
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. I remember a fight with my then-husband (before child), when I changed into my pajamas and fetched my beloved cat Francis (a real, live cat) and clutched him to my chest. I wanted to feel just softness and no constriction on my person, and it worked.
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 have discernment. Since I shop mostly used, the things I buy stand the test of time, and continue on forever with me. I like good quality and am willing to pay more for something that will last.
I definitely know what I like, too. I don't have a lot of money so I have to be selective. Always having a limited budget has made me more selective.
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?
I learned to love hats and good quality clothing from my mother. I also learned my love of thrift-shopping from her. She is an incredible thrift shopper, even better than I am.
I learned more about fit when I worked for a dressmaker, and then in theatre costume shops. Since then, I've been more conscientious of when something can fit better, and I take things to a tailor. I learned how to care for clothes when working in theatre--all the tricks for repairing clothing and relying on cobblers to keep your shoes going.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
Hair is my bane. I have thin, blah hair. When I blow out my hair with lots of product, and it's clean, and I have on red lipstick and fill in my eyebrows and apply a little mascara, I feel sexy. I can be wearing anything. As long as my hair looks good and my face is pretty, that is what matters to me to feel sexy and alluring.
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?
Dress to suit your figure, and buy things that will last and look good together.
33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?
Great hair is beautiful. On a woman. Short or long, when the hair and style suits the wearer and she exudes health, that is very beautiful to me.
34. What do you consider very ugly?
In clothes, I think overt branding is very vulgar. I do not care for sports team attire, and I think young white men who let themselves get fat and then criticize society are very ugly. Anyone who lets themselves go in this way loses credibility, especially white men.
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 try everything on, so I know if it will fit, which means then I will wear it. I have not had any luck clothes shopping online. When I gave that up, I became a much better shopper for items I will keep and wear.
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?
My twin sister is my outer eye, and she almost always looks better than I do at an event. Plus we are identical, so I am always comparing myself to her. Her hair is often much more expertly done than mine, and her makeup more sophisticated. She's a knock out. I'm the earthier one, I guess. If she comments on my look, I listen and heed her advice. I used to be bothered by it, but for years now I know she is right and her intention is very loving. She's my best friend, and wardrobe consultant.
37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?
I am considering what will wear well under my cross body Filson bag that I wear to work everyday. I walk 3 miles to my job every day so I have to wear something that I can both walk in with a heavy bag, and that is work-appropriate.
I wear a lot of pants and knit tops, sometimes sweaters (but I have to wear a coat or the bag will wear on the sweater). Also I must wear presentable (as in hip and clean) sneakers to wear into work.
Once I get to work I swap out the sneakers for my work shoes. I keep several pairs of nice work shoes in my desk drawer. These shoes are like pampered babies--they have never touched the sidewalk or cement, then know only the soft carpets inside my building.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I am trying to show authority for my role, and confidence in my presentation. And I want to look pretty and show that I have a nice figure, but that I am not overtly sexual. I'm your cool kid sister.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
Dressing is looking presentable for every day, like work or the weekend. Dressing up is wearing a cocktail dress and heels, and swapping out my Filson cross body bag for a clutch that holds practically nothing.
Dressing up is fun but it also means discomfort--either physical or not having my notebook when something occurs to me that I must write down.
Dressing up is also me, but more glamorous. I can do glamour and not feel ridiculous, and I love to look pretty. But I thank my lucky stars that I do not have to perform the glamour role every day in order to meet my baseline. That would be exhausting.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
scarf, tight cords or olive khakis, loose sweater, sneakers, a fedora and a long coat, navy or black.
41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?
full coverage, subdued neutral colors, minimal patterns, natural fibers--that's "me."
Anything branded, neon, shrunken or sheer--that's "not me."
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I am a West Coast left wing wasp and grew up around beautiful, educated women who wore ethnic prints and jewelry whether they were black, white, Asian or Latin. I also grew up around birders and hikers, and all of these things influence how I dress.
I am ready for the weather, ready to walk where I need to go, but with flair and attention to how I look. I believe utility and style are not mutually exclusive.
44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?
I blow dry my hair and use thickening product to make it fuller. I wear tinted moisturizer and makeup to work. This makes me feel more put together and not like I just rolled out of bed. Seattle is a pretty casual place depending on where you work, but I feel I need to put some effort into being professionally presentable. Makeup makes me feel more professional now that I am over 40, whereas I never used to wear make up when I was younger.
45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?
I have these sports socks with Obama's face on them that only cover my feet so I wear them with my sneakers on the way to work in the summer. Wearing socks with Obama's face on them isn't that big of a deal where I work since we are all left wing in my office. It's fun to surprise my coworkers with these socks.
Aside from that I am pretty much a rule follower for our work place dress code.
46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?
aside from above, no.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?
53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?
She needs to relax more! But mostly she looks OK, maybe a little skinny.
54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?
Yes, Dorothea Lange, Martha Gellhorn and Rachel Carson.
56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?
A mini tube dress. I have both a bosom and a round butt. a tube dress would ride up and down and never work. it would be a nightmare, in fact.
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?
I wish my hips were narrower. I would wear blue jeans all the time if I had narrower hips.
58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?
I am trying to repel catcalling leaches.
59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?
Scarves and hats are wonderful.
60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?
Cloying. I do not wear it.
61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?
Clean hair, red lipstick. Clean clothes.
62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?
I wear tinted moisturizer to even out my skin tone, mascara, eyebrow pencil, and red lipstick. Most days now that I am over 40.
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?
Tevas and gortex. I live in the land of REI and find the outdoorsy style so lacking and unflattering. I look to the English aristocracy for how to dress for the outdoors, and follow their lead.
64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?
neutral knits and sweaters and pants for work and weekend
some workout gear for running
earrings, mostly dangly
5 cocktail dresses
sneakers, work shoes and a few high heels
3 awesome hats, one for each season
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
favorite piece of jewelry is a pair of Haida "shark" motif silver engraved earrings from my mother.
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?
A fox stole worn by my grandmother that is shedding and completely no good anymore. I should bury it. It is gorgeous and doesn't smell, but it sheds too much to restyle or wear ever again. It's over 75 years old.
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?
cardigan sweaters and black work pants
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?
a silk chiffon floral cocktail dress with pretty draped detailing on the bodice. It was vintage, probably from the early '60s. I cut the bodice off and made the skirt into a separate, but it never really worked. I kick myself that I cut off the bodice, as it fit really well as a dress. I ended up tossing all of it after a while, realizing I would never use the leftover fabric for anything else.
69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?
My black hooded wool Theory coat.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?
Gucci slip on kitten heels for my twin sister's wedding. I no longer own them, but got a lot of wear out of them afterwards.
73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?
I am happy with my wardrobe at the moment.
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
I have padded hangers for my sweaters and black matching hangers for everything else, and I roll my pants and knits up to fit in drawers neatly. That is about it, however.
77. How and when do you shop for clothes?
Alone, usually after work about once a month.
78. Do you like to smell a certain way?
I don't like to smell of body odor. I would prefer to always smell neutral.
79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?
Yes, I want to seem mildly artistic (I am a freelance writer), so I dress with a bit of alterna flair--never totally mainstream
80. How does money fit into all this?
I shop used in order to fuel my passion for clothes.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
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 was three years old and my mother put me in a bikini. I walked around with my hand over my belly button because I felt vulnerable to sexual attention if anyone should see it.
From an early age I was aware of the possibility of sexual harassment and did whatever I could to avoid drawing attention to myself in that way. I hated being called pretty when I was little, I found that very threatening.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
12-21-1973 Born in Seattle, WA and reside there still.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
Wasp, middle class, college educated.
What kind of work do you do?
Health care administration and freelance journalism
Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
Separated, one child
Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.
I'm gen X, grew up in the Riot Grrrl era, and feel nostalgic for the 90s sometimes (but NOT the fashion of that era).
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
I have really enjoyed this. My words just tumbled from my brain into the keyboard. I have been thinking about these things for a while.