Read Surveys (By Author)

SJ Kurtz

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel in control of my life

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

I really look for older women and women of size who have swagger.

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

I'm always looking for role models for the next phase, and powerful people who don't worry about how the world perceive them are key to my future.

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 wore a costume in a play and no one recognized it was me. That character got a lot of positive notice I never did

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

Shopping isn't buying. I sew most of my own clothes, and alter the rest. So shopping is browsing. You can always come back to it if necessary.

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

All black shades go together. All prints go together.

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

Onlne with women of size

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


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


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

I developed a metal allergy and had to give away all (ALL) of my handmade jewelry. It was made by me, for me, picked out by me; a very personal collection and very idiosyncratic. I gave it all to my sister and my niece; it's nice to see it on them.

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

When I was a kid, I had a swim teacher whose feet had formed into Barbie foot shapes - the toes at a permanent angle to the arch. Scared the crap out of me.

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

My mother was very thin (skeletal thin) all her life, and was the slacks/turtleneck lady all year long.

I have always had extra weight and a booty, so this has never been a look for me.
I do love turtlenecks.

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

I had the favorite plaid men's shirt I stole from college boyfriend for many years. I wore it out.
What cracks me up now is watching my teen son wear my high school friend's cross country t shirt, that I stole from him, 40 years later, to his cross country meets.

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

I had a shoulder injury about two years ago. I had to stop lifting weights, I couldn't pull things on over my head, my arms got bigger, and I was just through with menopause. That confluence of events cleared out my closet pretty dramatically, even more than having babies and leaving my office job did.

I decided I wasn't going to save anything I couldn't put on right now (no saving stuff I might be able to wear - that's just humiliating) or wear if I suddenly broke into a streaming sweat. I discovered home made dress shields. I had to get rid of my 'someday' wardrobe of cute little vintage dresses and shoes. And the handbags to go with them, because they hurt to look at.
About the same time, I stumbled into the internet land of I Will Wear What I Like. Not as designer driven as the NYC crones. Much clashing color.

I have never looked back

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

Probably. I do dress to please myself, which can get pretty outlandish some days. And I do cosplay, which has it's political aspects to it.

I do know how to dress to fit in. And I always feel like I'm in drag when I do.

16. Please describe your body.

Box like. Sturdy. My father once made a sad comment "It's too bad about your legs" (I have always had joint issues, hip dysplasia from birth) and I took that to heart for a decade or two. He meant well. I got over it; they work well enough.
I have been gifted with a booty of staying power. I dress it up more than I did as a kid.

17. Please describe your mind.

Sharp. Partitioned. I can think my way out of this.

18. Please describe your emotions.


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

I am wearing my glasses. I spent a lot of money on them and I love them.
My hair is about two inches long in some places. I use a pomade on it to keep it off those nice glasses.
My acne cleared up when I turned wait. Still hasn't happened.
Oily skin is a great wrinkle preventative.

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

How we present ourselves and how we perceive ourselves is a part of who we are. The more we talk about this stuff, the better perspective we can have on it.
Presentation is a form of power.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

A couple of other old ladies on the internet. And the people I sew for.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I dress appropriately to the situation, except when I don't (and that is appropriate for me when I am making an exception I think needs making)

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

I have no taste. My style is a matter of taste.

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

I bought a designer dress I thought I would get a lot of use out of. And then I lost that job.

It was $150, but that was in 1984, so it was a big hunk of a paycheck for me.

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?

Getting married. I was...uncertain about the family situation that was happening with my future inlaws (and it's just gotten weirder over the years) so instead of the white dress I had, I wore the navy blue strapless dress. I did look like a million bucks, but I wore it to piss them off.
It certainly did. I felt much better.

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?

I am less and less certain about what should be as I grow older. At 58, I honestly feel like I really know everything and nothing, more the latter than the former. At 38, I knew a lot. At 18 - damn, I had it all figured out.

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 mother taught me to sew, and taught me to buy the best I could afford and not buy a lot. So I feel like I've spent my clothing selection life searching for one really nice suit I can never find. There's always an unfinished seam or a cheap zipper between me and almost all the clothes in the world, and I can hear my mother (who died over 30 years ago) tell me: do you really want to fix that? Is it worth it? What else is wrong with it?

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

At some point in the last few years, the words sexy and alluring started sounding stupid to me. Am I sexy to myself? Alluring to whom?

If I want to feel good, I put on something really comfortable.

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?

People who don't take any crap from anyone and wear sensible shoes they can kick ass in.

i guess that would be 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?

You shouldn't waste your time worrying about what other people think.

It's a goal, it's a journey. I didn't say I was there yet.

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

The smell of wintersweet in February; it just reminds you that life is full of gifts and is worth living.

34. What do you consider very ugly?


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?

Not buying has solved a lot of that dilemma.

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?

I am stuck with my father's judgement in my self-observation. He paid me about $2000 to wear high heels on my wedding day. It was worth the sell out.

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

Weather. Not clashing. Do I get to wear the new favorite shirt/pants/shoes today? What works with them.
(I walk/bus)

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

Power. And weather appropriate clothing. Temperature related comfort.

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

Dressing up is wearing clothing that is appropriate in a formal setting.
Dressing up is also cosplay and dressing for fun.
I distinguish one as "adult cosplay" and the other as "everyday wear"

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

In the past, I have made myself 'uniform' outfits for jobs with a lot of customer interaction. I had a set of machine washable dresses I could wear with flats for the arts jobs; they were monochromatic and stylish without being flashy. They almost always had jackets (with interior pockets) that went with. I sewed them all.
My adult version of this resembles a Chico's store. Pants, jacket. I miss the big jewelry.

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

'Not you' is girly.
Everything else is 'you'

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

White middle class, working with white upper class bosses or clients.
I either dress to camouflage or to stick out like a sore thumb, depending on the situation.

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?

Office job. My boss got to tell me if what I was wearing was wrong. Or to send me to buy a bra on my lunch break. Or to shove a pair of nylons in my in-box.
Now I get to make those choices.

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

If it's office, to be inconspicuous.
If I'm doing costuming, I wear the best sewn thing I have. If that involves sequins or a feathered hat, that too.
I don't wear make up; I never look good in it.

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

It's about the when/where. If there are clients, I dress to make them think I'm what they expect (and that varies WILDLY).
If I'm just out and about, it depends on the day. I'm more outlandish in the summer.
What I really need is a over the top winter coat.

46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?

Not anymore

47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?

I used to (lots of rhinestone pins on the lab coat)

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

If we don't get a uniform from our bosses, we tend to create one for ourselves

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?

White turtleneck / black velvet overalls. A nod to my mom, something black, and velvet overalls, which are ridiculous and wonderful all at once.

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've never wished to be a man, but I've worn menswear ever since I was a little vintage shopper. I have a very nice tuxedo cutaway jacket and a couple cummerbunds. I am most partial to wingtips.

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

I would like to go to the 40s in America to shoe shop.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

No, but I blog, so I've learned to cope

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

Too many cookies. Either live with it or change it.

Because of digital and camera phones, there are a lot more photographs around. There are about five photos of me from age 0 to 8. (1959 to 1967). We just didn't own a camera; that was a hobbyist's activity. There are about a billion photos of my son't first month.

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

Louise Doktor, from NYC, from the 60s to now. She's my muse, and I'm sad that Bill Cunningham is no longer alive to take her photograph.

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

Shoes. I go to the Trippen store in Berlin and buy shoes.

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

Why would I?

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 do wish I was taller. I think I've adjusted to that reality however.
If my feet weren't so damn wide, I'd buy more Converse high tops.

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

Attract: smart people, people who want me to make them clothes.
Repel: trolls and wild animals.

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

You make your own rules. That's the rule.

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

I can't wear it anymore. I can't deal with smelling it anymore either.
This is pretty sad.

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

Keep them clean and mended. And ironed.

I enjoy ironing. It's soothing.

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

It doesn't. Youthful acne prevented me from experimenting, and now it just seems like a fakeout.

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?

I am too old to care.

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

Jeans. Shirts. Too many tshirts. Dresses for summer. Almost all self-made, or made for me.

No more jewelry beyond pins. My wedding ring gives me a chemical burn; you can see where I used to wear my watch. This is sadder than the perfume issue.

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

My blue polka dot dress. It was the toile for a pattern, and it turned out so well, I've worn it to pieces. I'm making another before that one falls off me in a public place.
In that dress, I am invincible. And twirly.

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?

I have hung onto a Issey Miyake suit from the 80s. It's a piece of sculpture more than anything. I barely fit it thirty years ago, I surely do not now. I don't intend to alter it. It's just so lovely.
I also have a pair of leather Nike basketball hightops I got from a friend who was an Olympic marathoner. They are too small now, but they are so well made, I just like to look at them. He signed them in the back, an unreadable signature from a totally different part of my life.

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?

That is, having value? The ones I made and made well. The ones that cost the most money: shoes. Trippens.

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?

I did get it back. It was a dress I made in the 80s, out of some pretty expensive fabric, and loaned it to a friend. Who forgot all about it for about thirty years. And she gave it back to me, totally out of the blue. It does not fit me, it's a mess, and now maybe I should just burn it as a sacrifice to vanity. Or the 80s. Or it's gonna be a hanky.
I think there were mice involved.

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

Besides the Miyake and the hightops, I'd keep the most recent pair of jeans I made. I'm getting really good at them, man.

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

I would buy fewer tshirts. People are going to give me a lot of them over the years, no need to buy them.

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

I no longer fit it, but it was a suit, and it's gone.
I also donated my wedding dress to a prom dress charity for teens.
I'd still have those wingtips if my feet hadn't grown with pregnancies. Nobody warns you about that. Don't get too attached to those shoes.

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

The wedding rings. Damn. That was unexpected.

That and my first pair of knit stretch pull on pants. I don't think anything was as demoralizing as those.

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

The perfect suit. At this point, the perfect jacket. I can wear it with pants.

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

I wish. I go through it and clean and toss a couple times a year. I don't have enough space not to. I come to bed late, so I tend to open closet door, toss in item, and shut closet door. I tidy up once a week.
It's sad in there.

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

As cliche as this sounds, I am ridiculously proud of the boy scout 'Life" rank pins from my sons. They are red enameled hearts, and I value my straight son's work and my gay son's work to get them. They have taken different roads to get to different places, but what they did in that process was amazing.

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?

That polka dot dress.
What is stunning is that I still fit it, 20 years and 40 pounds later, and it still kills.
I don't know that I have shoes I can say that about.

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I don't shop. There's nothing for me out there anymore.
I do thrift shop and alter; I go with my sons. It's a great adventure in recent history, and a good lesson in looking for quality in an item.
Now ask me about buying fabric.....

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?


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

I do cosplay. It's about as calculated as I get in clothes. I am trying to expand my business, so I will dress more outrageously in certain situations. Like at burlesque shows. Or at conventions. Show off what I can make.
And more and more... just in daily life.

80. How does money fit into all this?

It is less of an issue now that I'm over 55. I'm not saving for a house or a vacation, and I have no debts except a mortgage payment and day to day expenses.

I do drop money on really nice fabric.

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 notebook. And a really nice mechanical pencil. Like $50 nice.

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

My father's comment about my legs certainly kept me out of skirts for a decade or two.
I have received enough compliments on the shape and size of my ass that I pay attention.

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?

Costume. High school. See #4

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

Jan 1959. Seattle and Seattle.

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

White suburban middle class. Very stable. My dad was an engineer, my mother a lab tech.

What kind of work do you do?

Data mining. Sewing. Costuming. Burlesque engineering.

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

Married for a hundred years with two sons

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

I am really past my fashion caring period. That was 1984. And no, I didn't wear big shoulder things. I was strictly 40s vintage. So shoulder pads but not super big ones.
My father promised me a custom tuxedo when I graduated from college. He reneged.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I appreciate the thinking


I sew so I don't have to follow fashion. Thank god.

Share This Page

Read more surveys (By Author) Read more surveys (By Question)