Read Surveys (By Author)

Leah Czaley

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I'm comfortable and happy, when my hair looks like I want it to, when people are paying attention to me, or perhaps when I'm wearing amazing shoes.

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

I always notice women on the street. I especially admire those who are being bold, or wearing a combination of colors/styles/outfits that I've never noticed before. And people, also, who dress cohesively, which is something I sort of fear. On the east coast, I noticed that I always felt underdressed compared to other women.

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

I admire confident women, confident people, those who have clearly Dressed Creatively, those who speak boldly and with empathy, who have a unique perspective and engage it readily across conversations. Those who listen deeply. Great haircuts or hair styles - that one can verge into covetousness.

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've had negative and positive clicks. When I went to college I felt totally at sea in fashion, where everyone seemed to be dressing down in these really circumscribed ways that I couldn't figure out. I basically wore everything that hid my body, everything earth tone, just because it seemed so confusing. Before that I had a sort of eclectic attraction to things that were bright, bizarre, spontaneous. I ruined a pair of jeans in high school with developing fluid and painted over them with white paint and wore them, sometimes borrowed my sister's teal miniskirt and wore it with t-shirts, had these weird tall cork wedges from Claire's in middle school which were totally impractical for clambering around stairs on campus. Somehow, in college, I felt the need to disappear from those things, to hide my body and what seemed too eclectic, and didn't sort of re-click with them until perhaps junior year, when I was in New York and seeing everyone on the streets, some of my friends as well, dressing interestingly. I think college felt acutely normative at first, in terms of body consciousness and gender, and I have typically instinctively rebelled against that feeling and such environments by dressing less femme and less distinctively. I had a nice post-college "click" when I bought a few great pairs of shoes at once and felt really terrific about wearing them. My hair is unruly and I'm unwilling to take a ton of time with it, but I do go through strong feelings of needing to have (relatively) short hair or (relatively) long hair and identifying strongly with it in those times.

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

Overthinking shoe purchases?

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

I really don't have rules exactly. Maybe it's a problem.

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

My friends encouraging me to buy statement coats or pants in high school was super influential - just the "I can't pull this off"/ "No, you're who CAN pull it off!" conversation. I'm still fascinated when clothing is "wearing" its person, and the line between those things, which is much more apparent when people aren't feeling confident. It's also fascinating that you don't appear to others as you appear to yourself. Putting energy into dressing most often has to do with how much energy I feel. Another one of my friends encouraged me in word and deed to embrace single statement pieces, outrageous or more ordinary, which is the way I sort of tend anyway, so I loved that a lot. It's not a conversation but I loved when I discovered White Lightning's blog back in 2010 or so. I loved some of her outfits but most of all her complete narrative, her complete cohesion of non-cohesive things, and turning ordinary things unusual. A visionary dresser.

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

Loving, capricious, hard-working, empathetic, moody. So, not super unified. Unified mostly by aspiring to be better, and being more comfortable than most people (?) with the incomplete.

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

No, but I wish I did when things wear out. I have a lot of certain things, like sweaters.

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

Yes! I am great at finding things occasionally for my best friend that work out really well, and jewelry for my sister. It really doesn't work like clockwork, though. I have to just encounter these things.

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

Deliberately ripped jeans. I kind of like how some of them look, but I think of my dad and how he made sure that our clothes were whole, and I just can't do it. The other piece of that is, of course, the nastiness of industrial distressing, but it's only the most flagrant with hole-y jeans.

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

For most of my early life, my mom dressed in very utilitarian clothes. Some femme-y trappings, like purses or dresses, she deliberately avoided, not to mention things like makeup or nail polish. These attributes informed me hugely. I'm still unwilling to spend a lot of time on making myself look polished because, nothing special, it takes away from time that I'd rather be reading or lying in bed with my boyfriend. *I should note that as I got older, I understood that my untidy tendencies could pass because I have a certain kind of hair, literally, and economic privilege. I saw the same things with other white people in professional settings, especially in certain cities.* I don't have a love per se of perfecting a hairstyle, though I love certain clothes and styles and even braiding my hair. At times, my mom now enjoys dressing and I enjoy that. The other body thing requiring mention is that she never, ever once commented negatively about her own body in my hearing. She never commented negatively on our bodies. Ever. She never said women should be valued for their actions or words rather than body size or appearance, either - she just embodied her own ideas on the topic. We sort of thought it went without saying in the larger world for a long time. I love and admire fashionable, image-conscious women, but this is also fundamentally who I am.

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

Yes! Most everything truly timeless and fashionable that I own belonged to my grandmother, an inspired and inventive dresser.

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

When I lived on the east coast, I embraced dresses, which had mostly seemed impossibly fancy for the everyday on the west coast.

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

I think how we all dress is totally politicized, especially inasmuch as our expressed identity and perceived ideas are political! I still hold revulsion towards the (old, gender normative, but also persistent) idea that women have to *try hard* and men do not. I guess I like to reserve the right to not dress entirely one way or another, to have some outfits that are contradictory, and have that all be me, represent me. Not being coherent.

16. Please describe your body.

I am medium height, probably medium size too. I have very long arms.

17. Please describe your mind.

Digressive, passionate, lazy, agreeable, flexible, sometimes stubborn.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Obsessive, influenced by many things, capable of being very purely positive or negative.

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

Facial sunscreen and a cheap bb cream. A long sleeved shirt and pin striped pants. My hair is down with one clip in it.

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

It's important as a source of joy, a linchpin of identity for ourselves and in our communities, as a negative identifier, as a connection between generations, as signifier of attention, rebellion, sickness and wellness. A visual and tactile culture.

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?

I wore red shoes as a small child, which I loved. Looking at them walking down a sidewalk in front of me. "Hopping down the street in my new red shoes," I sang. "They're not exactly new," said my dad. I just remember an enjoyment of wearing them.

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

1984. California, and California.

What kind of work do you do?

I work in a museum.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Interested. It was thought-provoking! Thank you!

Share This Page

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