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Beth Follett

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I feel most attractive when I am most open and relaxed in my body, no matter what I happen to be wearing at the time. I feel most attractive when my digestive system is working well, as I have struggled with this system all my life, even as an infant, and know I am wholly well when it is working well. I danced in my younger years, and when my body is quickened and alive as it so often was during improvisation, I feel like a million bucks and expect I look like it as well.

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

I admire women who present themselves with simple pizzazz. I admire unconventional, androgynous styles, because women who dress unconventionally yet beautifully suggest playful and flexible characters to me. There's a kind of power in women who have considered the deeper implications of a slavish following of fluctuating trends, and who have subsequently refused to follow. These women are knockouts because of their rarity. Tilda Swinton leaps to mind.

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

mox·ie /ˈmäksē/
force of character, determination, or nerve.

To me moxie is key.

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

Buy second-hand.

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

Black. Keep it simple.

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

A straight friend once showed up to a party with her long hair shorn. She looked and felt fantastic. When I asked her why she had done it, she said she no longer wanted to be a part of the Cult of Long Hair. As a woman who has had short hair most of my life, I loved her comment. A couple of years later, this friend once again has long hair. When I ask her why, she says she cannot afford short hair maintenance. While I now spend $75 every ten to twelve weeks to have my hair cut, there were times when I used to go to Vidal Sassoon's school for $20 cuts or when I would ask friends to cut my hair, so I know short hair doesn't absolutely mean more outlay of cash. But it is true that short hair signals something very profound about modern ideas of beauty and style, and after this transaction between my friend and I, I realized I had almost completely freed myself from external conditioning, from the Cult of Fashion. I would say forty years is about how long it took me to be free, though I have dressed unconventionally my whole adult life.

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

I am a Classic Minimalist in most things: my writing, my approach to publishing, designs I like or approve of, both within and beyond the company. I like brevity and simplicity. It is my practice in this life to live simply, frugally, courageously and beautifully.

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

Brassieres I buy in multiple. Because bras I love inevitably become obsolete.

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

Jeans. No. Not for me. Though I own a pair, castoffs from a good friend.

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

When I was in high school I used to rifle my mother's drawers, and wear her things clandestinely. When I think back on that activity, I see how I was exploring what eventually became a deep love of vintage clothing, as my mother rarely threw anything in her closet away, cared well for her clothes, including those from the 1940s and 50s. Now that I wear almost exclusively "other people's clothes" purchased at second-hand stores, you might say I am always stealing, borrowing and adapting my mother's generation's style.

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

In the 1980s I wore oversized clothes: baggy pants, long men's shirts. I was deeply uncomfortable in my body and in society, struggling to gain control. But as I took up dance I started wearing clothes that exposed the curves of my body. I don't think either my body shape or my style has changed very much because of dance. Whatever change now expressed is due to my internal systems' reorganization. As I've become more cognizant of socializing forces, and as I've aged, taking on spiritual practices, I've significantly lessened efforts to gain control of my body, working instead toward listening to somatic messages, to how I actually feel rather than to messages of how I ought to be.

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

Before I started my publishing company I worked as a therapist, most often with women survivors of sexual and other forms of physical abuse. During my practice I saw hundreds of women who carried deep shame in their bodies, broadcasting that shame and confusion in their gestures, habits and ever-changing manner of dress. I believe all women carry shame to some degree, and it has been my practice to explore where and how mine resides in or moves through my living body. I would rather not hide the facts of my living self through tricks. That said, I do go underground at times, literally and in what I choose to wear, giving up all concerns about style to see what can emerge when I care less. This is one of my practices, a place where much work is demanded of me, because of the inevitable shame that emerges when I give up such a deep habit of careful control. It has taken practice and diligence over forty years to come to a place of self-love and acceptance.

16. Please describe your body.

I am born female, five feet seven inches, one hundred and twenty pounds, with what has been called an hourglass figure. I hold myself tall as a consequence of dance and yoga practices. Very short hair. Small feet.

17. Please describe your mind.

Quick and wide-ranging. Alert. Mindful of itself.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I am highly sensitive but quite reticent to share the quicksilver emotions I experience. Not many people know my deepest inner landscape.

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

I am a 'highly educated' WASP. I think my style, my clothes care and orderliness, my sexual attractiveness and aesthetics, have roots in the ancestral protestant work ethic, though my style generally confounds my family. I wear men's suits, shop second-hand, slightly shameful activities as far as my family is concerned. I have often heard it said that I would look good in anything, because of my height and my so-called hourglass figure. This is not true, of course, but I think projections of this kind signal the powerful hegemonic force of women's conditioning by the arbiters of fashion, who have tried to standardize all women to one particular though arbitrary and ever-changing body type. Who am I? is such an important question for women. Who am I freed of slavish adherence to social conventions? Our clothes signal our relationships to power: the more personal power a woman gains, the less slavish her adherence to trends and conventions. Freedom to be who we feel ourselves to be: that's when something like magic begins.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Slavish adherence to Fashion Industry trends. And the thing many women have been doing with long hair, straightening it with a flat iron and streaking it.

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

1957, Toronto. I now live in St. John's, Newfoundland.

What kind of work do you do?

Publisher/managing director of a fiercely independent Canadian publishing house.

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


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