Read Surveys (By Author)
1. When do you feel at your most attractive?
I feel great about myself when it’s just all working. There’s something really satisfying when I love my outfit and my clothes fit perfectly, my skin is perfect and my makeup is done, and my hair is on point. Of course I think that a lot of this is in my head and I’m not entirely sure if I feel great because I look great or I look great because I feel great. But when it all comes together – that’s the best.
2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?
I live in Boston and it can be a really obnoxious city to get around in. I’m always annoyed with everyone when I’m on public transportation and when I'm walking behind tourists and I know that it shows on my face, so when I see a woman get off the train or on the street and she’s just looking like, “What? That was great! I’m having a great day!” it’s amazing and I admire that and know that I will never be that.
3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?
I love when a woman looks effortlessly put together. It’s probably a very cliché way to describe it, but I just love when a woman looks like she’s not really trying – when she just looks cool. I love women who can marry classic pieces with trend pieces and women who walk with confidence. I’ll sometimes see a woman and just think, “Yup. I love what you’re doing. I love all of this.”
7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?
The Black Girls Talking ladies just had a conversation about this and it was interesting to hear everyone talk about their own personal journeys and how they would describe their style. We’ve only met once, which is kind of insane when you think that we’ve been doing this podcast for over a year, but there were definitely some nods in agreement when they would each describe their style, which I think means that you can learn a lot about someone’s style from their online presence. We’ve also spent a lot of recording time sending each other links to outfits. I’ve not bought a lot of skirts because Alesia told me not to. It’s also comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who seems to be coming into their own in terms of defining myself – that we’ve all had some phases that we’re less than proud of (Heeeaaayy, Delias catalogue) and that personal style is a learning process for a lot of people.
8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.
I've accepted that I make mistakes when it comes to all of those things, but also that I need to change when I recognize a mistake. I bought this skirt months ago and thought I loved it at the time but haven't worn it since and kinda hate how it looks on me right now -- It's gotta go. This person really meant something to me at one point in my life but hanging out with them now just stresses me out -- It's time to say goodbye. I get anxious when I wake up to a messy apartment -- pick your clothes up off the floor before you go to bed, Ramou. I guess it's just remaining aware of how I'm feeling and why, just checking in with myself every once in awhile, and making adjustments as necessary.
14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
I totally got into grunge in 8th grade until this boy, Alec, called me a poser in front of everyone and tried to ruin my life. I think Alec's in a Christian rock band now.
15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?
Is -- I know who I am. Do not fuck with me -- political? This is at least what I hope to project in the way that I present myself.
16. Please describe your body.
My body is soft, sturdy, and feels like home, like a Queen-sized hardwood platform bed with 1000-thread count sheets.
19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?
It's morning and I am in bed wearing lacy underwear and a tan v-neck. I smell like the cream I slathered on my body last night and my hair is up in a high bun.
20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?
I really don't understand people who say that they don't care how they look or present. Or maybe I just don't believe them. It's also a privilege to feel this way since we are so often judged not only on first appearances, but on the perceived thoughts about us based on how we look. There's too much stereotypical and racist nonsense projected on black women for me to fuck it up on my own by looking a mess. Maybe that's fucked up in its own way. (It is.) It's important to me -- how I look and feel and how these two things are related -- because I'm in my body everyday and out in the world most days. Feeling good about being in my body, looking the way I look, wearing what I'm wearing, sets the tone for so much else.
23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?
This is tough because I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about the differences between the two. I guess I think style is exclusively in how you dress and how you present yourself to the world. Taste is more an overall aesthetic to a person – walk into their house and their house looks great, you always want this person to choose the restaurant and the wine, and they always know the best places to stay when you travel. I am not that person.
25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?
Ugh. Spanx. Spanx are probably killing me and I do not give a shit.
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?
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of weekend nights in trying to calm myself. I like to come home and deep clean my tub, soak for a bit with a bath bomb for Lush, moisturize the hell out of myself, and then lounge for like an hour in a caftan before passing out. I feel very Beyoncé in a sheer caftan.
30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?
I've discovered the power of lipstick and I feel sexy as all hell in a bright magenta.
38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?
I definitely think that I dress for other women and I want other women to think that I have my shit together in public. I’ll go through phases of what I want to present. Sometimes it’s a put-together businesswoman and other times it’s a carefree Black girl. I’ve been doing more carefree Black girl lately. It surprisingly takes a lot of effort to pull off carefree Black girl though. In terms of my ambitions, I work in the legal field and my office is relatively relaxed and no one is required to dress up unless we’re going to court, but I still try to be at least business casual at the office and would say I’m one of the best dressed people there and also that they could all read this and would say, “She right though.” I’ve been side hustling as a writer for awhile now and don’t think I own enough hoodies to look like a writer yet.
39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?
I think that a lot of dressing up has to do with the fabrics. More sophisticated fabrics like silk or chiffon I am less likely to wear on a Saturday Target run. Dressing up requires a lot more intention and thought I think than just getting dressed. But I’ve been told a lot at work recently that I look “dressed up” and I’m usually just wearing a dress. Dresses are the easiest way to look dressed up because it’s just one piece and you automatically look pulled together. There isn’t a lot of thought put into it. So maybe that’s not right. Maybe I don’t think there’s a difference between dressing and dressing up other than that it’s in how you feel about how you look. You can feel dressed up but not necessarily appear that way and you can feel like garbage but look dressed up because you put a dress on.
40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?
A black shift dress, a blazer that fits perfectly, and pointed toe flats.
42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but I don’t think that I realized it until I was a teenager. We did do a lot of shopping at Goodwill and I was embarrassed about it as I got older. I am sure that this is where a lot of my animosity towards hipster culture and the overuse of the word “vintage” comes from. We had to do this shit because we were poor! Not because Refinery 29 told us to! Now I regularly shop at these places and have a favorite consignment shop, but I didn’t start embracing these places until maybe five years ago. I wouldn’t say that my background has influenced how I dress now though.
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 really wanted to get into a crop top this summer but I was too afraid of letting my chubby stomach out into the world like that.
70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?
Oooooh, I would love the opportunity to do this. I would buy a lot of classic pieces – black pants and pencil skirts that fit me great, collared shirts in neutrals and jewel tones, three pairs of great fitting jeans, soft t-shirts tailored to my body, and perfectly fitted blazers. And a bunch of patterned bodycon dresses and a black wool trench coat. This actually sounds like something that is completely doable. I would need to get rid of my work-like blouses that were inexpensive and I bought on a whim but never wear and my shapeless sweater dresses.
72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?
I bought a tan Michael Kors leather tote off of Rue La La about four years ago. It was at a time in which I had a lot more disposable income and I still can’t believe I spent that much money on a bag. It’s a very grown up, professional lady goes to work bag and that’s what I was wanting to project at the time, but I didn’t really use it regularly and I think that may have been because I didn’t really see myself that way and was still really into buying trend pieces, which ultimately led to me having too many damn bags. About a year ago I started using it almost exclusively as my work bag. I am a grown up professional lady and I think it fits my aesthetic more now. Just recently one of the straps started to come apart and I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle it. I’ve never had anything that I cared enough about to get tailored or re-heeled or repaired in any way. But I decided that this bag is worth it and Yelped and found a repair shop and have decided to take it in rather than trash or donate it. I realize that this is an investment piece and I love the bag and it would be ridiculous to not spend the $20 to fix the handle. I’ll probably have that bag forever. (In the months since I've first filled this out, I have not repaired it. This is hard for me.)
74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?
I try to clean out and organize my closet every few months and throw out any items that I can't remember last wearing and feeling great in. I always feel amazing and productive right after I do this but have trouble keeping up with it.
81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?
Smith's Rosebud Salve is almost always in my bag.
What’s your birth date? Where were you born and where do you live now?
June 6th, 1983. I was born in Urbana, IL and now live in Somerville, MA.
Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.
I identify as black. My mother is a white lady from the Midwest and my father is from The Gambia.
What kind of work do you do?
I identify as a writer. I pay my rent as a paralegal.
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 told a friend that Black Girls Talking was asked to participate in this and she didn't understand why because we don't necessarily talk about fashion. She didn't understand the project and why we were relevant to it and I had a hard time articulating it to her. What a hater.
How do you feel after filling out this survey?
Having to examine yourself in this way can be exhausting. I think I should've filled out more answers than I did.
Ramou Sarr is a writer in Boston.