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Anna Helena Russ

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I wear clothes that aren't overly feminine yet still emphasize parts of my body that I like. I wear a lot of black because for me attractiveness has a lot to do with power, and I feel powerful in black. I feel attractive when I feel strong. Being comfortable is also essential, I hate being cold or wearing clothes that itch or rub. I want to show off parts of my body I am proud of whilst also being comfortable.

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

I have a fixation with shoes, for me the cornerstone of a good outfit is good footwear. I religeously catalogue peoples appearances and I admire people who have a concrete style and have made an effort, even if I would never wear their clothes.

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

I like people who present themselves with effortless confidence. I find mystery, and perhaps the stereotype of the 'bad girl' the most attractive. I have immense respect for women who choose a persona and channel it convincingly, and for people that have a natural charisma that is expressed in their style.

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?

Earlier this year I realized that aesthetically I would say 'alternative' style is what I feel most comfortable in, and that I should stop compromising my vision of myself with other peoples expectations. I finally have a hairstyle and colour I really like, and have overhauled my wardrobe a little. I cemented my realization that I should stop pandering to other peoples opinions of attractiveness by getting a tattoo, which I had wanted to do for a long time but put off because people kept trying to stop me.

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

For me the quality and the fit of garments is incredibly important. Because I am financially able to, I also buy quite a lot of clothes, but if it came down to it I would rather spend a little extra on a few things that fit well and look good. Also never let someone convince you to buy something against your gut feeling. I find that if I don't love something when I buy it, I probably won't wear it much.

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

I have a thing about proportions - can't quite explain it but if the proportions of the outfit are off I won't wear it. And shoes are of paramount importance to the whole outfit. If I feel like I might get cold I always take a jumper because I hate nothing more than being cold.

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

With a male, straight friend, getting ready to go to the club "Berghain" in Berlin which has a very strict, very techno dresscode of all black. It was interesting to have someone else analyse my style for it's ability to fit in in a very uniform environment, especially because of the judgements that preceede style and straight men.

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

I overanalyse everything. My life built on lists. Lists of ideal things and situations in my head and on paper. I also have a bad habit of breaking people down into personality trait shaped chunks. I guess you could say I rigorously compartmentalise everything.

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

I own a lot of jumpers, because jumpers to me are the pinnacle of comfort. The same goes for socks and jackets, they feed into my fixation on being warm and comfortable. I also buy multiple items of certain kinds of clothing because I am constantly on the hunt for the mythical ideal thing - for example the perfect jeans, which I'm not sure I've found yet.

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

I only feel confident about presents of jewelry or clothing if the person has expressed an interest in the item and I have later bought it. Otherwise I am not sure how good I am at giving other people gifts relating to style.

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

I hate pastel colors, and audacious rhinestone costume jewellry on me. I can appreciate the aesthetic on other people but I feel dressed up and uncomfortable in those trends.

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

My mother has imparted very good body image on me - we never had scales growing up and my apperarance was never negatively commentated. My mother dresses very brightly oddly so I suppose she has made me fearless to a certain extent. She wears what she wants. Although our styles are very different we go about dressing in a similar way.

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

I feel I've always been very much my own person with clothes. Not many of my friends share a very similar style to me. A friend gave me my favorite skirt though - she bought it on a whim and it didn't suit her, but I love it.

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

My style changed dramatically when I went to university - over the past year I have gone from a very conservative, private school enviroment where the kind of style I identify with was frowned upon, to studying in Manchester in the UK where even alternative isn't that alternative and people don't bat an eyelid at green hair.

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

I suppose I try to reject the impracticalities of traditionally 'feminine' clothing. I do show my body but I don't often wear skirts or dresses and definiteley not high heels. I suppose part of my way of expressing my feminist ideals is by rejecting 'feminine' colors and shapes to a certain extent.

16. Please describe your body.

I am 5'7, weigh 7 1/2 stone and am of medium to slim build. I have quite a small frame but long legs and arms and a short torso. Small breasts, small waist and a larger bum and thighs. Very small feet and hands for my height.

17. Please describe your mind.

My mind is difficult to describe. I think quite visually, I am bilingual so I switch between German and English and I have quite an intense internal monologue.

18. Please describe your emotions.

I am seldom on the fence about things. I can have quite extreme opinions both positive and negative.

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

I am wearing black glasses, halfway between nerd and secretary frames. I have a black nose ring in my right nostril and 5 piercings on my ears, all on the lobes, with different studs in them. I am not wearing any make-up. Am wearing pajamas: longsleeved black and grey striped men's t-shirt from thrift shop, cotton sweat-pants with peeling school logo, very faded, with large holes trodden into heels, navy blue. 3 rings on my hands: 2 on my left ring finger, one on the right, all silver. Dark red nailpolish on fingers and toes.

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

My nose ring and my jewellry singles me out as a certain kind of person I guess. I think the fact that I would open my door in these clothes and my glasses suggests that I like to be comfortable, but my unwillingness to go out in them that I do care quite a lot about my appearance.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

With my friends and my mother, basically anyone who I think will be interested. Perticularly with people who's style I find interesting or inspiring.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

I have to alter my personal style for any sort of smart casual dresscode and take out my nose piercing which I like a lot. I have always had a distaste for institutional dresscodes but I enjoy the challenge of still feeling like I am staying true to my sense of style.

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

I don't like the word taste - I think it can't shake off a sort of classist tinge of superiority. After all, who decides what is good taste and what is bad? I think I have style. At least I hope I do. Style for me is simply having a cohesive vision of what you want to look like rather than just throwing clothes on.

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

An Adidas NEO puffa jacket that I wore twice because I bought it in navy blue which is a color I actually hate.

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

The back of my head is shaved so even when I am in a setting where I have to wear clothes that I don't necessarily feel reflect my style I have a little bit of rebellion hidden under my hair.

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

I am very perticular about all my posessions and how they look really. Especially with how I decorate rooms.

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?

When I feel that I need an extra barrier of protection I wear my Dr Marten's, my 'Stompy Boots', I feel the way other women must feel in killer heels in those shoes - ready to take on the world without compromise.

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?

I am incredibly particular about clothes and style, sometimes I get led astray by other people which is why I prefer shopping on my own. I got my discernment from my father who uses the German term "Geschmacksfaschist" or taste-fashist to describe his approacht to style. I think my leaning toward alternative culture comes from the fact that I have always felt like an outsider and looked for a way to define that for a long time, interspersed with periods of desperately trying to conform to the status quo. My quest for somewhere where I fit in lead me to fashion blogs, and a lot of my style is informed by finding things online that I like.

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?

My father is a big believer in quality and looking after your clothes, he also buys many of the same thing when he finds the perfect thing. My mother likes to thrift shop and has passed the hunt for something you didn't even know you were looking for down to me.

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

I have a long black bob with a short full fringe - I feel more attractive when my hair is down and sleek. I wear dark eye make-up. I like my legs a lot so I wear shorts. I do like to wear clothing which defines my figure, I like to have a defined waist because it makes me look taller and I like the proportions it gives me.

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?

Comfortable for me has a huge amount to do with the actual feeling and fit of the clothes. Nice materials, being warm or cool enough, everything being as tight or loose as it is meant to be, everything being the right length. I also feel most comfortable in clothes I can move around in freely. I feel uncomfortable in anything bright or impractical e.g. sequins and other embelishments.
Confidence for me is a product of being comfortable, in your clothes and in the social situation you are in.

32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?

Buy clothes of good quality, wear nice shoes, carry your outfit off with conviction and make sure the proportions are good and you won't be cold.

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

Things that have a sincerity and a conviction about them. A purity of design or form. I don't mean plainness necessarily, but for example I think IKEA BILLY shelves are beautiful, and edwardian gilt mirrors.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Things that have an unapealing texture, or no cohesive idea behind them. Things that don't fulfill their function properly.

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?

Not sure if I have as of yet. I'm getting better. But my style just underwent a huge change so I can't tell. I think tendentially I buy too much and I should just cut down on the money I spend on clothes.

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 confident, and has something cold about her. She isn't a 'good girl'. There's a bit of Margot Tennenbaum and Wednesday Adams and my flatmate who is effortlessly cool and collected. She is a snob.

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

I either pick something I know will be very comfortable if I am pressed for time, or I will have planned my outfit the day before. I always look at the weather to make sure I won't be cold / wet / in any other way uncomfortable. If I have to amend the outfit I generally go for the set comfort uniform.

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

I am generally trying to prepare myself for the elements whilst still looking good according to my parameters.

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

Dressing is something I do because I live in a part of England that is cold for most of the year. Dressing up is something I do to exude that persona on certain days and perticularly nights out. It's a form of escapism from the drudgery of reality I guess.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

Winter: tights, fishing socks (extra warm), thermal top as base layer, jeans, crew neck jumper as middle layer, boots / trainers, big jacket, scarf, beanie and glasses as top layer.

Rest of year: shorts / jeans t-shirt / jumper, with trainers or comfortable sandals.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

Me: lots of black, crew neck jumpers, trainers, boots, glasses, thick scarves, denim cut offs, worn in t-shirts.

Not me: girlie stuff in general, pink, 50's skirts or dresses, feminine jewelery, high heels.

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

I am white, and German by nationality but have grown up in England and would say that my sense of style is informed by England's very liberal youth culture. However, my interest in practicality and functionality is very much German.

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 used to wear almost everything on my 'NOT-YOU' list regularly, except for high heeled shoes. I think I was trying to distance myself from the person I was the last time I wore a lot of black. I was also still experimenting with style, and at the time the easiest affortable option was second hand clothing, which was easy to find in bright retro styles.

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

I put on shoes other than trainers, wear smart trousers and tops and put on some light make-up as I usually don't really wear any day to day.

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

In all of my workplaces I have found ways to twist the rules a little and accomodate my personal style.

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

I have had various forms of dress codes my whole life in schools, jobs and internships, but not currently.

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

At school or work I have always worn slightly inapproprate footwear and pushed boundaries with my hairstyle and piercings.

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

I find it constraining to have a uniform, but I don't mind having a flexible dress code.

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?

Jeans and a t-shirt. I feel like this outfit has had many incarnations as my style has changed, and these changes have always been visible in that outfit, yet it is a trusty staple.

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?

I do wish that sometimes. I wish I commanded the kind of respect many men do with their bodies, and I wish I was stronger. Female bodies still carry a connotation of weakness, despite the fact that we can take more pain than male bodies. I also wish that my body being treated as an object was not the unpleasent reality it is.

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

Early 90's northern England. For the audactious fashion and youth culture.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

I do not. I don't feel like I look like myself in photographs. partly because I never know what face to pull.

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

I think I look odd. Not as attractive as I do in the mirror.

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?

I like Patti Smith, the DJ Maya Jane Coles and Joan Jett.

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

Not that I can remember.

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

Any sort of twee 50's housewife look, or a classic club-minx look really. Anything that requires me to wear a dress and high-heeled shoes with conviction. I would probably most despise anything preppy 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 don't see any limitations in my body. Sometimes I wish my bum was a little smaller so clothing would fall differently, and my breasts were a little bigger maybe. But it's not a big issue. I like my body the way it is.

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

I try to look attractive in general to people my age when I make an effort to dress up, wether it be women or men. I think I uninentionally repel older people with my style - people sometimes sit away from me on public transport or give me disapproving looks.

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?

Don't let anyone limit you!

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

I like perfume, and I notice when other people wear it, but I often (like make-up) forget to put it on.

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

I hate wearing dirty clothes, but I have quite a flexible definition of presentable around people I trust or don't care about. If I value the impression I make on someone I try not to wear tracksuit bottoms or perticularly mismatched or dirty clothing in front of them. I also hate looking tired.

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

I like to play with it sometimes, but I only wear it about twice a week, and sometimes not even when I go out because I know I will just sweat it off on the dance floor. Make-up is a projected persona rather than me for me.

63. Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?

I have absolutely no interest in looking different from everyone else. Because I like alternative culture people expect me to be obsessed with chasing the next trend, but I try to go on what I like, and less what is exclusive.

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

Various items of silver semi precious jewelry and plain silver creole earrings.

A lot of black quite basic clothing, tendentally more sporty and minimalist. Lots of comfortable jumpers, t-shirts and socks.

Lots of trainers.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

My favorite piece of clothing is a maxi skirt with two side slits up to the knee that is made of a sheer textured black material with a sort of very small chevron pattern to it. It has a mini underskirt and the sheerness makes a very cool, dappled shadow.

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 keep two pairs of hareem trousers that I bought in Thailand when I went travelling there. They have fond memories and I do like them, but I never seem to find an appropriate opportunity to wear them and I don't find them all too flattering.

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?

Basic, good quality garments that were not subject to trends, such as jeans and t-shirts made of nice materials.

68. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it, what happened to it, and why do you want it back?

An ex-boyfriend lent me a really cool knitted jumper on extended loan in exchange for a jumper of mine wich is one of my favorites. Sadly I had to give the jumper back to get mine back.

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

My old school tracksuit bottoms. They are irreplaceable, everything else could probably be bought new.

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

I wouldn't be so easily mislead by the first thing, and I would buy less ill fitting stuff online.

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

1st pair of Dr Martens. I've just replaced them because they were far to big but I didn't know that you had to buy a size down when I bought them. They live on in my mothers shoe closet.

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

It was probably the purchase of my first bottle of hair-dye? Since then I have loved dyeing my hair. That was about 4 years ago now.

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

The perfect jeans. I've come close with American Apparel Easy Jeans, and Spray-Ons from Weekday but something always isn't quite right. They need to be high-waisted, but also accomodate my bum and thighs comfortably, so strechy, have nice back pockets and be the right length in the leg, so down to my ankles exactly.

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

About half the month I keep things analy tidy, the other half everything is strewn around. It depends how much spare time I have and how stressed I am.

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

My mother gave me a ring that my father had made for her, it's probably my favorite piece of jewelry even though they weren't even together anymore at the time.

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 an old american varsity jumper from a second hand shop and it is my favorite jumper. it just turned out to be so comfortable and so warm, with the perfect cuffs and the perfect length. It was also in a very neutral color so very wearable so thanks Temple University!

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I quite often search online for specific things, and then buy impulse buys in physical shops. I shop a lot, especially online, it is my weakness!

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

I like the smell of vanilla a lot, but I don't shower all that often so it's not imperative for me to smell of it, I just don't like to smell of sweat.

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

I'm not sure if I have that much career ambition, which I guess shows. But my ambition for myself was always primarily to be true to myself and be happy, of which dressing the way I want is a massive part.

80. How does money fit into all this?

I think I am lucky to have the money I do for the clothes I wear, but if I had to be more frugal I would find a way.

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 my three rings every day, mainly because I can't be bothered to take them off but also because I have been wearing them for so long that my fingers feel funny without them.

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

A lot of people have told me that my hair looked 'shit' when it was pink, but these aren't people that I think understand that sort of hairstyle, but it does always upset me, because I would never have the audacity to tell someone they look shit. I think a lot of my parents generation does not understand my clothes, but I don't understand this need to judge peoples appearances, seeing as I certainly don't tell them they look 'shit' even when I feel they do.

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 think it was when I was 6 or 7, I was wearing a pair of cycling shorts style shorts, and a matching t-shirt. They were both navy blue with white daisies printed on them. I was happy and comofortable in that outfit for playing outside. It was my first proper set of favorites.

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

04/08/1994, born in Frankfurt a.M. Germany, living between Manchester and Oxford in the UK.

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

White German Academic family, middle class.

What kind of work do you do?

I am a student and have done a variety of part time jobs in the past.

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

Single w/o children.

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

I think I am still at the very beginning of my sartorial journey, I am only 20 after all.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I'm glad I did. It was interesting to pose these questions to myself, there were questions that I'd never thought about.


Born in Germany, raised between Germany and the UK. University student in Manchester, aspiring writer.

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