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Stephanie Taralson

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

After a visit to the hairdresser's, when my hair is clean and blown dry, or when I'm doing something that I'm good at.

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

I love to look at women all the time. I admire women who dress with creativity and care, and who seem like they have a thriving internal life.

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

I'm envious of women who are consistent, simple, and chic, since I favour change and boldness. I admire women who keep some things about themselves secret from others.

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?

My best friend in university taught me how to blow dry my hair, groom my eyebrows, and use make-up and hair as confidence boosters instead of required wear. She made several things "click." I once read that French women buy one expensive and well-made outfit per year and wear it every day, which challenged me to change how I thought about the size and contents of my closet.

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

1. There's no reason to be uncomfortable.
2. If you don't wear it, get rid of it. You can always buy a replacement if you end up needing it.
3. Everything will be in and out of fashion at some point. You're not behind the times, you're probably just ahead of them.

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

I try not to be buried by the responsibility of everything all at once. I do the best that I can and put myself into things with a whole heart, and then live one day at a time.

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

I used to collect purses and bags and use a different one each day. Now I have a distinct preference for dresses. I think my proclivity to buy both of those things stems from my desire for my life to feel special and unique and pretty every day.

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

I continually give clothes and jewelry that I no longer want to my friends, and it brings me a lot of satisfaction to see those items in their closets and on their bodies. Once I ran into a friend and recognized her shirt as one I gave her a couple of years prior. I counted that as a success.

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

I seem to be immune to trendy footwear. Ugg boots, Crocs, riding boots, platforms, wedges, gladiator sandals, Toms, moccasins, Nike, and many other niche styles have never made it onto my feet. I'm not necessarily avoiding them, I just choose to spend my money on other trends.

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

She was raised in a conservative home and her mother chose and purchased her clothing until she was out of school, so she didn't have a strong sense of individuality. It wasn't until she turned 45 that she began to develop her own sense of style. She voices some concerns now about her aging and changing body, but she didn't display any self-consciousness or self-criticism when I was young. Because of her, I think I'm very concerned with being individual and unique and I associate fashion and style with womanhood and maturity.

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

I've learned not to look to my friends and family too frequently for inspiration, because their bodies and lives are different from mine, and I've caused myself stress in the past trying to look like someone I am not. My closest friends and I share clothes all the time. There's often a bag of clothing at my house that I need to return to someone, and items of mine lent out to various people - a dress, a necklace, a bra, etc.

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

I wore all black almost every day during my last year of college. Two years earlier, I was known for never wearing the same outfit twice. I think I was tired of colours and patterns and combinations and wanted to look good with very little effort.

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

I'm conflicted about this question. I believe that women's bodies are canvasses for liberated expression, but my modest upbringing makes me uncomfortable with others' cleavage and skin. My ingrained and antiquated morality is at odds with my liberal politics and support of women's sexual freedom, so I suppose my way of dressing simply addresses my inability to bridge that conflict.

16. Please describe your body.

My body helps me do the things I want to do, and most of the time it is very strong and capable. I like almost all of the parts of it, except the parts that I've been subconsciously taught should look differently than they do. Every day, I'm trying to listen more carefully to my body and what it needs.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind has always been my proudest possession. I can spend almost unlimited amounts of time inside of it and still go back for more. It is where I figure out what I think about the places I go, the people I meet, and the things I learn. There are plenty of parts of it that I don't like, but I'm working on those parts.

18. Please describe your emotions.

My emotions have finally decided to participate actively in my life. For a long time I quelled them, so now that they're permitted to be involved, they've taken on a carnival ringmaster role and are rather running the show of my life. I'm learning to welcome them on the broadest possible spectrum.

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

I'm wearing weekend home clothes to be comfortable in - leggings and warm socks and a soft shirt. My hair is halfway clean and not at all done. There is nothing on my face.

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

At different times I've thought that this stuff was extremely important or not important at all. Right now, I'm realistic about the fact that the way that I present myself affects how others perceive me, and the way that I take care of myself affects how I feel. Those two things are enough for me to assign importance to the way I dress.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My close friends, sister, mother, aunts and cousins, other friends.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I am a classical musician, so there are fairly restrictive ideas around what is appropriate clothing for performance. These mores have an effect, but I am generally unconcerned by them.

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

I have excellent taste but mediocre style. To me, taste is an appreciation for items individually, while style is the combination and presentation of multiple items. Although I wouldn't say that one is any more important than the other, I would like to find more style in my way of dressing and living.

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

A vintage gown that was too small for me from the moment I impulsively bought it.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

Buying second-hand. Also, during the period when I was known for never wearing the same outfit twice, I got a lot of satisfaction knowing that I wore many items over again, just in different outfits. My closet was smaller than most people suspected.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I like to think that I am also a stylish cook and consumer of books.

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?

On my first day of high school, I wore a red sweater because I had read that it was a powerful colour. I wore blue to an important job interview because I wanted to look calm and stable.

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?

Life's constant evolution makes it difficult to know what I like, but I am getting better at being confident in my likes and dislikes. I think of myself as a very discerning individual, except when it comes to relationships. If I am discerning, it likely came from my father's strong opinions and willingness to express them, and from my mother's frugality and practicality. I was taught to evaluate carefully and think critically.

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 remember absorbing a sense that belongings were valuable and we should take care of them accordingly. I was taught explicitly to dress modestly and to save money whenever possible.

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

I wear lipstick, perfume, and beautiful underwear.

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?

The two are inextricably related. They both indicate self-assurance, satisfaction, security: the sense that the person is uninhibited by criticism or doubt. When I am comfortable, I'm not concerned about what others think. If I am confident, it is because I am at peace with myself.

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

Honesty and transparency. This applies to dressing and relationships and all other areas of life. I admire things that are, or at least seem to be, untouched by artifice.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Desperation and vanity. I don't find anything appealing about things that try too hard, and I'm particularly put off when I see something or someone who seems to be proving their "beauty" at the expense of others. Attention-seeking trends often serve to make people feel badly about themselves.

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'm getting better! I try to ask myself where, when, and with what I will wear an item of clothing before I buy it. I also avoid impulse buys and instead purchase things that I've noticed are missing from my closet.

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?

She is more experienced, more assertive, and more sexual than I am. She is a bit harder around the edges. I think this other version that I sometimes create gives an outlet to certain incongruent parts of myself. She's a caricature of attributes I have that haven't had an opportunity to flourish.

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

I first consider what I'll be doing that day and how long I'll be doing it. Next I try to find something that I haven't worn lately so that I remind myself it's another new day.

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

Functionality and emotional expression.

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

I've been more affected by my religious upbringing that my cultural background. I suppose my background is one of modesty, practicality, and restraint. In some ways, those values have been preserved, but in other ways, their influence is mostly expressed in my rejection of them.

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?

I dressed a bit wildly in my first years of college. I liked bright colours and patterns and I wanted to look different and bold every day. I don't feel that same impulse to be noticeable anymore.

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

In my professional life, I prefer clothing that is well-made, well-fitted, and cared for. I feel capable and intelligent in clothing like that.

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

I like to dress with enthusiasm. Looking professional and wearing clothes that bring you enjoyment are not mutually exclusive.

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

I wear an apron to cook in and black performance clothes to play classical music in.

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

I often wear jewelry while performing, and I am rarely satisfied with basic concert-wear. I try to find a way to feel special within the confines of a dress code.

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

Both. It's a creative challenge that I welcome in certain contexts, but it would be frustrating to experience those constraints in all aspects of my dress.

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?

A plain white dress. It makes me feel light-hearted.

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?

No, I have always felt very contented in a female body. When I was young, I was frustrated that men could take their shirts off in the summer and I wasn't supposed to.

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

I like the creativity that was required to dress well during the 1940s. I would have found it stimulating to try to dress in a way that avoided looking austere, but I would have enjoyed the simplicity and polish of the styles.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Yes. I think I often look better in photos than in real life.

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

"Not too bad."

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

Often. Shoes are important in my dreams.

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

I wouldn't enjoy doing full hair and make-up every day. I like saving that for special occasions.

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?

If my stomach was flatter, I would wear things on the extreme ends of the spectrum: very fitted and very loose.

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

I want to attract people with whom I would want to spend time - people with similar interests.

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

I wear it very rarely, and it's a conscious choice when I do. It makes me feel secretive and sensual.

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

I feel best when I am clean and prepared for an occasion. I dislike being dressed for the wrong activity.

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

I'm conflicted about it. I enjoy playing with color and experimenting with make-up as a tool, but it very quickly becomes a crutch and an expectation. I want to feel secure in my own skin, with or without make-up.

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

A lot of black. My jewelry is mostly collected from places I've traveled to.

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 just cleaned out my closet and got rid of everything that I never wear. It was brutal but in the end it felt wonderful.

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?

Good shoes, coats, and bags. Everything else comes and goes.

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

A dress that was handmade for me by a talented friend. It's irreplaceable.

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

Buy fewer things and spend more on quality items.

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

I invested in black dress pants and a suit jacket. The pants stopped fitting, but I still have the jacket and wear it.

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

I bought a pair of dress shoes and expected them to last, since I had spent a little more money than usual. They wore out within one year, and after that I resolved not to waste money on mid-quality things. Either buy cheap and disposable or high-quality and well-made.

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

A leather jacket.

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

They're clean at the start of every season, and then things steadily deteriorate into untidiness.

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

My younger brother gave me the most beautiful earrings as a gift once. It was the first time I realized that he had grown up into a man - one with good taste, too.

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?

I bought a pair of shorts that weren't particularly exciting, but they turned out to be the most useful thing to wear for all kinds of unplanned activities: camping, gardening, hiking. Now I wouldn't dream of getting rid of them.

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

I try to dress into my future. I mean, instead of dressing the way I've always been, I look at photos of myself and try to imagine how this person would be described, and then dress myself in a way that aligns with how I want to be described.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I want to spend money on things that bring me enjoyment. Sometimes, that means clothing. I try to keep my clothing spending in balance with other areas of pleasure spending. If I couldn't buy any new clothes because of money (and that has been the case in the past), I could still be happy and satisfied.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

I wear three plain metal rings every day and never go without them.

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

I've received compliments about my body that have made me feel flattered and obsessive at the same time. The comments that people have made about my style have perhaps made me feel restricted, like it was necessary to continue to impress them.

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 remember choosing cheap jeweled rings from the treat box at the dentist's office and wearing them.

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

Spring 1990. I was born and raised in rural Canada and I recently moved to Germany.

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

Middle-class, white, conservative, religious.

What kind of work do you do?

I am a musician and currently work as a teacher.

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


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

I'm at a point in my life where a lot of things are changing - relationships, work, finances, living situation.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I've spent far more time on this than I was expecting to. I feel a bit hungry.


I'm interested in other people.

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