Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
Is it awful to say “after I’ve had a stomach flu”? Yes, decided, awful. Though, in all honesty, when my body looks tight, or the clothes I’m wearing make it appear so; when the curves that identify most of us as women don’t reside on my stomach, but just on my breasts, butt, and hips. Also when I’m looking put together, with some quirk and individuality that isn’t everywhere on the sidewalk. When I feel like I’ve got something someone else doesn’t, when I have a mark, an identity, an enviable one. When I’m wearing something that augments my positive physical traits, and erases, hides, or otherwise obstructs my negative.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
Confidence. Chutzpah. I really admire women who look interesting on a daily basis, probably because that’s something I only achieve sporadically. I love when women pull off a strange item and work it. I also love retro elements, as I am eternally nostalgic for pasts in which I’ve never lived (or, in reality, never wanted to live in as a woman).
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
This survey! I think I give fashion a stigma of vacuousness that I know is unfair. I realize people won’t think I’m any less erudite if I talk about chiffons, or less of a serious writer if I ask about empire waistlines, but I worry. I’d like to have some transformative conversations though. I hope this book gives me an opportunity to do so.
9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?
1. Flamboyant belts — there’s just something amazing about being cinched in by a belt that looks like it might have come from a wrestling championship, or straight out of a Diana Ross disco number.
2. Long-chained necklaces – I think the length of your necklace is directly proportional to your age (perceived, desired, or actual): the longer, the younger. Perhaps I want to be 12. But really, there is something lovely about a longish chain with a pendant hanging right where your ribcage flares out. I wonder where this draws the eye — stomach? Which would be interesting as that is my least favourite body part.
13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?
Mostly strangers, actually. People I see on the street, or in media. However, I have taken the plunge into a trend after seeing a friend do it successfully. A friend once impulsively bought huge, black plastic-rimmed geekster glasses, and she inspired me to get the cat’s-eye specs I’d been secretly admiring.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
No dramatic changes, no. I’ve always tried to experiment, so my style has consistently been a bit here and there. I have noticed that as I age I am revealing less and less skin. Perhaps this is because my body is evolving away from the twiggy, sixteen-year-old Western ideal. The feminist in me is disdainful of this new inhibition.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
PJs! A volunteer shirt I received for my shifts working in the beer tent at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in 2008 (I got to see so many wonderful shows for free), and blue and purple tartan boxers (did I mention my Twitter handle is @Tartaned_Maple?). Nothing on my face except my all-too-necessary prescription glasses.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Not a dressing trick, but a posing-for-photos trick! Putting your hands on your hips not only makes you look sassy, but thins your arms.
26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?
I think it would be really interesting to compare a writer’s clothing and prose style. Do chic writers use compact sentences? Flamboyant dressers purple prose? As for me, I write poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and my style comes through in my writing. I love imagistic, dense word-clumps; atmosphere; and hilarious human interaction. I think I also have a convictionist style as a person: pro-art, feminist, aware of unfair privilege.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I dress to withstand the elements (minus 30 ain’t no joke). I dress to make myself a moving painting, to be as interesting as the Tate (lofty ambitions, rarely achieved). I dress to insert myself into social strata, to be accepted, to pass. I dress to ruffle feathers, to be the content of twitters. I dress to further the cause, breasts hanging un-brad, nipples protruding. But I shave my armpits, so people won’t gasp. I dress to be the least contorted, shaped, infringed upon. But then I wear a corset. I dress to make people think I’m someone they want to know.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
I am a Canadian of (distant) Scottish, English, and Swiss heritage. The only link between my clothes and background is that I have a strange affinity for tartan, which is admittedly affected. I often stress about dress and cultural appropriation. I so intensely admire clothing of other cultures — brightly-coloured and glittering Indian saris, intricately patterned Japanese kimonos, sonorous First Nations jingle dresses — and would love to incorporate elements of them in my own fashion, but wonder as a privileged, white, first world woman with only a surface level understanding of these cultures if it is appropriate for me to do so. I have similar reservations about cultural appropriation in my writing.
51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?
65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
1. “Ugly sweatshirt dress” — term coined by my partner, with which I disagree; a grey and salmon striped cotton dress, just above the knee, with a bit of elastic in the waist to give shape, scoop-necked; the most comfortable item I own. I can wear it without anything underneath and the ease it gives me is superb. I have a fast-paced day out in the world, buttoned up, hoisted, teetering, and I can let it all go by slipping everything off, and one thing on: my ugly sweatshirt dress.
2. “Yeah, I’m the birthday girl dress” – term coined by my friend, on my birthday, when I wore this dress; black, sequined, and highly reflective; just above the knee, quite fitted, sleeveless but with a turtleneck and a cut out on the back. I feel svelte in this dress, a little like a Bond girl. It is very tight, but never pinching. You can’t hide in this dress, no wallflowering is possible. You feel empowered. Wear it to the symphony, wear it to the club. Either way, someone’s going to think it’s your birthday.
80. How does money fit into all this?
I rarely buy clothing. I am 27 and my current spending priorities are 1. food, 2. travel, 3. socializing, etc. I’m not sure where clothing fits on the list, but I doubt it's top 10. I feel I have the creativity and style necessary to look amazing every day, but I rarely do so because of my priorities (time spent sleeping, reading, talking, eating vs. getting ready; money spent reading, talking, eating vs. buying clothes). It’s not that I don’t have the money. I could spend it on clothes, but I think travelling, investing, and career-building are more important. Damn that sounds haughty. Maybe deep down I think that people who spend time and money on their appearance are vapid and immature. Yet I envy every stylish woman I see walking downtown. Contradictions!
Caitlynn Cummings has an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. She is the Creative Writing Program Specialist for the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program and CCWWP, and is the former Managing Editor of filling Station magazine. A chapbook of her short fiction, entitled Chloe, was published by 100 têtes Press in 2013. Her work can also be found in CV2, This Magazine, Alberta Views, The Calgary Project, dead (g)end(er), Cordite Poetry Review, Glass Buffalo, ditch, New Writing Scotland, and Women in Clothes. Follow her on Twitter @Tartaned_Maple.