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Clodagh Deegan

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I have just showered & when every item of clothing I'm wearing is freshly washed. When I'm wearing good underwear and one of my favourite perfumes. When the day is crisp and clear and windy.

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

I'm not wildly impressed by a lot of women I see on the street. The ones I notice tend to be older & rock a lot of black (which doesn't suit me) or younger, very romantic-looking women. My feeling is usually a weird sort of relief, that a stylish woman exists, even if their style isn't mine. My thoughts are: "Kudos, lady!"

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?

Two things happened in the same year: I wore a school uniform so this observation is actually pretty scientific: I noticed that boys didn't notice me when I had my hair scraped back in a ponytail but did when it was loose (blonde curly bob - Madonna era)
I went to a party wearing a black polo-neck, black mini skirt, thick black tights and black brogues. I felt like instead of just being fashionable - which I often was - I was expressing something crucial about myself.
*Post Survey thoughts: I realised long after finishing the survey that I bitch about my hair a lot. However, I think having bad hair is like running interference. I dont want to be noticed by the kind of man who would only notice me when I'm looking a very particular way. I just want to go about my day.

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

Our first Christmas together I bought my now husband a cashmere sweater. He was amazed by it ("It's light but it's warm! I went outside and it was fine!") & I've now created something of a monster, which is fine by me. Being embraced by a man - by this man - wearing cashmere is wonderful.

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

Unconsciously initially, then once I've become aware of it I stop.

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

Is not emphasising my waist political? I feel like a person first, female second. I want to be heard before I am seen, and that doesn't mean I dress in an asexual or even tomboyish way, I just dont draw attention to my female physicality. Ireland is not socially a particularly sexist place but my being a woman feels mostly irrelevant to me so by dressing the way I do it should be irrelevant to everyone else too

16. Please describe your body.

Kind of athletic (I like my shoulders), but going to seed.

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

I am wearing a very beautiful Hoss Intropia summer dress, a sort of tunic shaped thing, sleeveless, in lingerie colours: pale green and peachy/nude with black trim. Minimal make-up, ie BB cream and mascara. My hair is in a top knot. It's Saturday, there's a heat wave.
*Post Survey thoughts: my husband took a photo of me in this dress when we were on holiday. It is not flattering from behind!

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

Well, I make a living from communicating imaginary people's socio-economic and interior lives through their clothes. It can be too easy then to 'read' people but forget that they are more than their aesthetic. Like, I'd know from his shoes whether a man had an un-used home gym and a samurai sword on his wall, but I have to remind myself I don't know f'r'instance if has he siblings, did he ever want to be a father, whatever.
Every now and again I consciously try to apply this knowledge to myself, to try to match my exterior to my interior. I only really know I've succeeded when peers comment on my clothes.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

I am so lucky! I get to talk about clothes every day in work

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

Wearing a dress is the quickest & easiest way to look pulled together, and all you have to do is put on matching (or not) shoes! Also discovering cashmere bed socks has improved the quality of my life ten-fold

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 was a pattern cutter, my mother made a lot of our clothes. Both were very stylish. We never had any money, so care of clothes was very important. At the same time Dad sometimes brought home samples from wherever he was working so I have a simultaneous, contradictory attitude of "easy come, easy go"

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

I wear nice matching underwear as often as I can. Sometimes it feels like self-preservation. I don't dress "sexy" but I am a bit of a ho for good fabric. I wear a lot of silk and a lot of cashmere. I buy obscure perfume. I open an extra button on my shirt or I wear a dress/skirt. I like wearing heels but my husband gets very impatient if I can't walk quickly or long-distance in them.

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

The way good fabrics drape. Leopard print. Shimmery beading. The colours grey and midnight blue.

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

I'm pretty careless really. If I'm working I lay out my clothes the night before with the proviso that they be clean and practical for what I'm doing eg: no open toes if I know I'm going to be doing any heavy lifting, only jeans with stretch if there's running or climbing. I believe all the colours I like co-ordinate - this may not be true - so I never think about colour.
If I'm not working I will sometimes wear whatever's nearest the bed - I've a real facility for looking homeless - and sometimes dress for my imaginary life (this requires a lot more grooming and no walking anywhere)

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

I'm trying to acheive different things at different times; Sometimes I'm wearing clothes because otherwise I'd be naked, sometimes I'm trying to convince the world of something & sometimes I'm trying to convince myself of something. By day I want to look clean and expensive, by night I want to look dirty and expensive, like a Frenchwoman or a Tom Ford-era Gucci woman. Mostly though I'm just trying to look taller and thinner than I am.

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

Dressing up is waaayy more fun. Sometimes it's even more fun than the event for which you are dressing up.

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 think in the 90's I dressed like the man I would've liked to go out with. This is partly because the early 90's was really weird for womens casual clothes, but I wonder if I was also trying to conjure someone up?
Now I sometimes wish I had a man's body because the clothes I like look better on a flat chest

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Absolutely not.

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

I think "Oh Jesus, how do I continue to leave the house every day? I am so weird looking. And sort out your hair!"

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'd wear what I wear now, it'd just look better! Also I'd wear more heels. I don't mean stripper heels, just beautiful feminine shoes. I love the way throwing them on with a pair of jeans instantly raises the sartorial game. However, I started wearing them in my teens and my feet (30 years later) have now had it with me. Also I feel my life is very uncarpeted for some reason. Carpet would help with the whole heel issue.

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

I love really good perfume, not the stuff that's advertised on TV in the run-up to Christmas. I have a favourite Summer & Winter scent, both of which cost quite a bit, but I like to think they're part of my signature. A colleague once explained a particular job to me by saying "You just have to do that thing you do where you're calm and you smell nice"
As a self-hating smoker, this shit is important to me.

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 am constantly surprised by my clothes. There are compliment magnets I love, (eg My new JW Anderson X Topshop black silk tennis dress) compliment magnets I tolerate but will wear when I'm currying favour, (A Comptoir de Cottoniers shirt I bought in a charity shop) and there are pieces I adore that no-one has ever, ever commented on (Asymmetrical dusty pink linen pussycat bow blouse from Topshop)
*Post Survey thought: The latter is not particularly flattering I suppose but it carries so much associative baggage: 1)Asymmetrical makes me think of those Belgian designers 2)Dusty pink = Ballet, which I loved as a kid 3)Linen. As an Irishwoman I feel it is almost an obligation to own/wear linen and finally 4)Pussycat bow reminds me of when my mother went back to work in the late 'Seventies and spent all her money on blouses.I'm not so much wearing a top when I wear this top, I'm wearing intellect, race & love/nostalgia.

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 the first time I dressed myself, and what I put on. We were living in my granny's house at the time, and my sisters (all older than me) were already dressed and playing in the garden. I'm not sure if my mother did this deliberately, but she left me waiting in my bedroom for aaaages on a sunny day when I just wanted to go out, and so I decided I'd get dressed without help. I was three I think. I put on a stripy t-shirt and a pair of jeans and ran into the kitchen where she & my aunts and uncles and granny were still sitting over the remains of breakfast. I remember them all complimenting me on dressing myself - and now I think about it, it was obviously a ploy on my mother's part to get me dressing myself - and I ran out into the sunny day, incredibly proud of myself and loving my ensemble.
*Post Survey thoughts: A stripy T-shirt and jeans? CLASSIC!

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

31/03/69; born Dublin, Ireland; Live Dublin, Ireland

What kind of work do you do?

Costume Designer & Wardrobe Supervisor in Opera & theatre

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

Married, no kids

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

I feel like I could have said a lot more but I was worried I'd come across as a wanker. Many people think that if you care about style you must be terribly shallow or mean, and maybe I am both, but I try not to be. Caring about clothes is as much a part of me as having blue eyes. Luckily my husband is okay with this, and okay with my forbidding him to wear certain things in my presence. (Seriously, those trainers make him look like a rapist)
*Post Survey thoughts: I think my initial answer was quite flippant. The questions stayed with me for a long time after I had sent in my answers & I found myself expanding on them. I would hope that some of these questions will feed in to my work and give any character I dress a greater resonance.


Clodagh Deegan, 45, is a Costume Designer working in Theatre and Opera, based in Dublin, Ireland.

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