Women in Clothes: The Survey

I’ve got all the questions below, but there’s no way I could answer them all, so I bolded the ones that I answered.

I’m 100% sure that most of you will be completely uninterested in this, but there’s a few who might like it and maybe you’d like to answer some of those questions yourself, just to be thinky and wordy, which are both good things to be.

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THE FIRST 20 QUESTIONS
1. WHEN DO YOU FEEL AT YOUR MOST ATTRACTIVE?

When I’m wearing clothes that fit well, in bright colours, with a bit of splash; and when my hair is behaving and I’ve got lipstick on and I don’t look like I haven’t slept in a month.

2. DO YOU NOTICE WOMEN ON THE STREET? IF SO, WHAT SORT OF WOMEN DO YOU TEND TO NOTICE OR ADMIRE?

Women who are doing their own thing, regardless of whether or not it’s a thing I would ever want to do.

3. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU ADMIRE ABOUT HOW OTHER WOMEN PRESENT THEMSELVES?

“That’s really interesting! I never would have thought to do that!”

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?

5. WHAT ARE SOME SHOPPING RULES YOU WOULDN’T NECESSARILY RECOMMEND TO OTHERS BUT WHICH YOU FOLLOW?

Right now, I don’t shop for clothes. In the past two years I’ve bought underwear, socks, and boots. Shopping for fabric is much more fun.

6. WHAT ARE SOME RULES ABOUT DRESSING YOU FOLLOW, BUT YOU WOULDN’T NECESSARILY RECOMMEND TO OTHERS?

It’s ok to clash.

7. WHAT IS THE MOST TRANSFORMATIVE CONVERSATION YOU HAVE EVER HAD ON THE SUBJECT OF FASHION OR STYLE?

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a transformative conversation about fashion or style, but it sounds like fun. Would anyone like to have some conversations about fashion or style? I can’t guarantee transformative, but maybe it’s like the monkeys and the typewriters and if we just keep banging away about it, we’ll transform.

8. DO YOU HAVE A UNIFIED WAY OF APPROACHING YOUR LIFE, WORK, RELATIONSHIPS, FINANCES, CHORES, ETC.? PLEASE EXPLAIN.

God no. How boring would that be?

9. ARE THERE ANY CLOTHING (OR RELATED) ITEMS THAT YOU HAVE IN MULTIPLE? WHY DO YOU THINK YOU KEEP BUYING THIS THING?

Red sweaters and pink shoes. Why do I keep buying red sweaters and pink shoes?

I think with the sweaters, I know I need sweaters to be warm and presentable in the winter, but the colour options are usually boring neutrals (brown, grey, black) … and red. I don’t want to get the neutrals so I end up buying red over and over again. I’ve forbidden myself from buying more red sweaters.

The pink shoes are a mystery. They’re more versatile than you might think, though.

10. HAVE YOU EVER SUCCESSFULLY GIVEN SOMEONE A PRESENT OF JEWELRY OR CLOTHING THAT YOU CONTINUE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT?

Nooooo. I wouldn’t dare give someone a present of clothing. Too many opportunities to get the size and style wrong and feel like crap because you made them feel badly.

11. IS THERE ANY FASHION TREND YOU’VE REFUSED TO PARTICIPATE IN AND WHY?

Anything that does not allow for substantial bra straps.

12. CAN YOU SAY A BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR MOTHER’S BODY AND STYLE HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN TO YOU, OR NOT?

Well now there’s a pickle.

My mother’s body has not been passed down to me, at least in part because she’s still using it. Also, I’m taller than she is, usually a bit slimmer, and with smaller feet. She is still in denial of all those facts and insisted on buying me clothing and shoes, when I was younger, that fit her instead of me. As a result I had a lot of clothes that were too big and believed I was a shoe size 8 until after my daughter was born (I’m actually a size 6.5).

I know she also likes colours, as I do; she says she doesn’t care about clothing sizes but she cuts all of the tags out of her clothes, so I don’t know about that.

But we really don’t have much in common. This could turn into its own book-length dissertation; I’ll just say that I hope not much has been passed down to me, and I have a probably unhealthy tendency to avoid doing things that remind me strongly of what she would do.

13. HAVE YOU STOLEN, BORROWED OR ADAPTED ANY DRESSING IDEAS OR ACTUAL ITEMS FROM FRIENDS OR FAMILY?

I don’t think so.

14. WAS THERE A POINT IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOUR STYLE CHANGED DRAMATICALLY? WHAT HAPPENED?

Up until the end of grade 8, I dressed pretty much like an elderly bag lady. Please don’t ask why. I have no idea.

Between grade 8 and grade 9, I decided I should dress like a teenaged girl with a home instead.

I also got a job, which made buying those clothes easier. I had a green corduroy mini-skirt I wore a lot, and I cut off an atrocious perm I got in grade 8. And life got better.

15. IS THERE ANYTHING POLITICAL ABOUT THE WAY YOU DRESS?

No. I guess the fact that I don’t wear logos, but otherwise, I want people to have to get to know me before they know what I care about.

16. PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR BODY.

It is perfectly adequate, except for the bum pancreas.

17. PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR MIND.

Clever, sharp, analytical.

18. PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS.

Hypersensitive. Easily exasperated. Cautious.

19. WHAT ARE YOU WEARING ON YOUR BODY AND FACE, AND HOW IS YOUR HAIR DONE, RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT?

I am at home in my pajamas. Nothing is done. It’s glorious.

20. IN WHAT WAY IS THIS STUFF IMPORTANT, IF AT ALL?

It’s important because we think it’s important. If we didn’t think it was important, it wouldn’t be.

Humans are pattern-seeking and we like to find meaning in everything, including the patterns on grilled-cheese sandwiches and the way tea leaves fall to the bottom of a cup, so it’s not surprising we would find clothing important and try to find patterns in that, too. That we also make the clothes that we later look for patterns in adds more complexity to it; there are meanings there, but they’re not always accurately conveyed or interpreted. Goodness only knows what people think about me when I wear my red winter coat with my pink winter boots and gloves. Maybe they think I’m colour blind, or that I’m stupid. Really I just like pink and red together.

21. WITH WHOM DO YOU TALK ABOUT CLOTHES?

Other people who sew. And it’s all about patterns and fabrics. It’s a very different way of talking about clothing, because it’s more intentional and more personal, at least if you want it to be.

22. HOW DO INSTITUTIONS AFFECT THE WAY YOU DRESS?

I strive not to get arrested or fired due to clothing.

23. DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE TASTE OR STYLE? WHICH ONE IS MORE IMPORTANT? WHAT DO THESE WORDS MEAN TO YOU?

I hope I have style. It’s more fun. Probably I have neither.

24. DO YOU REMEMBER THE BIGGEST WASTE OF MONEY YOU EVER MADE ON AN ITEM OF CLOTHING?

Actual finished clothing–there was a fashion corset I bought one year before Christmas and then ended up with no fancy parties I could wear it too. It’s so pretty–I still have it. But it wasn’t that expensive.

Clothing-to-be–so many beautiful pieces of fabric that aren’t clothes yet. I feel most guilty about the alpaca flannel and the cashmere suiting. Gorgeous and expensive and sitting nicely folded in my fabric closet.

25. ARE THERE ANY DRESSING TRICKS YOU’VE INVENTED OR LEARNED THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GETTING AWAY WITH SOMETHING?

Fuzzy socks in boots in the winter, worn to work.

26. DO YOU HAVE STYLE IN ANY AREAS OF YOUR LIFE ASIDE FROM FASHION?

I don’t know. I’m not sure if my house is cohesive enough–or tidy enough–to count.

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?

Yes. Once when I broke up with someone, and a week later we got together for coffee to talk about whether or not we could stay friends, and I wasn’t happy about having broken up with him, so I wore his favourite t-shirt to see him. It was yellow and had pleats around the neck and was very, very flattering–not tight at all but draped perfectly. We ended up getting back together. In retrospect that was a very bad idea, so I should have worn the stained concert tee, probably.

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 know what I like. But I like an awful lot of stuff.

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?

Not even a little tiny bit.

30. WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU DO, CLOTHING OR MAKE-UP OR HAIR- WISE, TO FEEL SEXY OR ALLURING?

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?

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?

If dressing were the only thing I did, I would probably hurl myself from a tenth storey window. I also cannot conceive of a universe in which I am considered an expert on dressing.

33. WHAT IS REALLY BEAUTIFUL, FOR YOU, IN GENERAL?

Spring ephemeral wildflowers. That’s probably not what you meant, though.

34. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER VERY UGLY?

Concrete, and the entire aesthetic of “modernism” which seems to mean “let’s pretend that what is churned out en masse by machines has aesthetic value.”

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?

Usually. But then also, when I am buying clothes I’m not buying very much, so I usually ended up having to wear it by the end of a week if I liked it when I brought it home or not.

I’ve learned that I do not have a body type that can buy cheap clothing. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. Joe Fresh, H&M, etc.–their shirts are two-dimensional and, past a certain bra size, a shirt that does not account for breast tissue is going to be unflattering no matter how cute the style or fabric.

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?

37. WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS GETTING DRESSED IN THE MORNING? WHAT ARE YOU CONSIDERING?

Will I be able to sit for eight hours at my computer in this outfit and work comfortably? And does it look ok enough, in terms of professionalism?

38. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE WHEN YOU DRESS?

For work: I am a smart person and you should believe what I say.

At home: I am your loving mother; let’s sit around and read books together.

Most of the time when I’m out: I am a regular person who you can safely ignore.

Rarely, when I’m out: Look!

39. WHAT, FOR YOU, IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DRESSING AND DRESSING UP?

Dressing is putting on clothing so as to avoid being arrested once leaving the house.

Dressing up means arranging clothing, jewelery, make-up etc. so as to make a particular kind of impression.

40. IF YOU HAD TO WEAR A “UNIFORM” WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?

41. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS “YOU” AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS “NOT YOU”?

I could not possibly answer this question. There are too many Mes.  Sometimes what’s Me is the tight pencil skirt with the rear flounce and a button-up snug peplum blouse with heeled boots; sometimes what’s Me is the stretch jeans with the concert t-shirt and a ponytail; sometimes what’s Me is a weekend in my pajamas, sewing.

42. WHAT IS YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND AND HOW HAS THAT INFLUENCED HOW YOU DRESS?

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?

44. WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU DO, CLOTHING, MAKE-UP OR HAIR-WISE, TO FEEL PROFESSIONAL?

Eye makeup. Hair back in a clip.  No jersey below the waist. No blue jeans.

45. HOW DO YOU CONFORM TO OR REBEL AGAINST THE DRESS EXPECTATIONS AT YOUR WORKPLACE?

46. DO YOU HAVE A DRESS CODE, A SCHOOL UNIFORM, OR A UNIFORM THAT YOU WEAR FOR AN EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY?

47. ARE THERE WAYS IN WHICH YOU CONFORM TO OR REBEL AGAINST THESE UNIFORMS?

48. DO YOU FIND IT COMFORTING OR CONSTRAINING TO HAVE A UNIFORM?

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?

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.

51. IF THERE WAS ONE COUNTRY OR CULTURE OR ERA THAT YOU HAD TO LIVE IN, FASHION-WISE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

52. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF PHOTOGENIC?

Not particularly. I have my moments.

53. WHEN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN PHOTOGRAPHS, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

“I look tired.”

54. ARE THERE ANY FIGURES FROM CULTURE, PAST OR PRESENT, WHOSE STYLE YOU ADMIRE OR HAVE DRAWN FROM?

55. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DREAM THAT INVOLVED CLOTHES?

56. WHAT WOULD BE A DIFFICULT OR UNCOMFORTABLE LOOK FOR YOU TO TRY AND ACHIEVE?

Boyish.

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 think it would change much.

58. IS THERE ANYONE THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ATTRACT OR REPEL WHEN YOU DRESS?

59. ARE THERE ANY DRESSING RULES YOU’D WANT TO CONVEY TO OTHER WOMEN?

God no.

60. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF PERFUME? DO YOU WEAR IT?

It gives me a headache. I don’t own any.

61. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO YOUR BODY OR CLOTHES IN ORDER TO FEEL PRESENTABLE?

A good bra.

62. HOW DOES MAKEUP FIT INTO ALL THIS FOR YOU?

I am usually wearing some when I go out. I have very light eye lashes that are not visible unless I put mascara on them, and it makes me feel self-conscious. Often I’ll wear some bronzey or coppery or goldy eye shadow. Sometimes lipstick.

Makeup can be fun to play around with. Unfortunately I have very sensitive skin that makes most products off-limits most of the time, unless I want to deal with major reactions. Yes, I’ve tried everything, including what you’re about to suggest. My skin just wants to be free.

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?

Groomed eyebrows.

Yoga pants.

64. CAN YOU DESCRIBE IN A BASIC WAY WHAT YOU OWN, CLOTHING AND JEWELRY-WISE?

Hmm.

Jewelry, very little, most of it odd. Embroidered necklaces, hunks of rock on a chain, a sapphire hourglass, bright beads on strings. A ring from my maternal grandmother by way of my aunt that has a lot of sentimental value for me, and which only fits on my left pinkie finger. A gold or brass oak leaf vein tracing. A little brass bear and a heart on a chain. That kind of thing. This is making me want to go out and buy jewelry. Thanks! 😉

Clothing, I don’t think I can. I have clothes for all the different Mes.

65. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF CLOTHING OR JEWELRY THAT YOU OWN?

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?

A pair of Guess boot cut jeans that I bought when I was 23. They fit perfectly, when they fit, even though the knees are torn out and the ass is going. So I don’t get rid of them. Currently, they don’t fit, but I have hope.

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?

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?

69. IF YOU HAD TO THROW OUT ALL YOUR CLOTHES BUT KEEP ONE THING, WHAT WOULD YOU KEEP?

The one-piece jumpsuit with a built-in bra that would be somehow suitable for sleep, work, and relaxation, which I do not currently own.

70. BUILDING UP YOUR WARDROBE FROM NOTHING, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THIS TIME?

71. WHAT’S THE FIRST “INVESTMENT” ITEM YOU BOUGHT? DO YOU STILL OWN OR WEAR IT?

Can I shoot whoever decided that wardrobe items can be “investsments”? They’re not investments. They do not appreciate and they do not pay dividends. Let’s kill this phrase forever, please.

72. WAS THERE EVER AN IMPORTANT OR PARADIGM-SHIFTING PURCHASE IN YOUR LIFE?

73. WHAT ITEM OF CLOTHING ARE YOU STILL (OR HAVE YOU FOREVER BEEN) ON THE HUNT FOR?

74. WHAT ARE YOUR CLOSET AND DRAWERS LIKE? DO YOU KEEP THINGS NEAT, ETC?

75. WERE YOU EVER GIVEN A PRESENT OF CLOTHING OR JEWELRY THAT ESPECIALLY TOUCHED YOU?

My grandmother’s ring.

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?

77. HOW AND WHEN DO YOU SHOP FOR CLOTHES?

78. DO YOU LIKE TO SMELL A CERTAIN WAY?

79. HOW DOES HOW YOU DRESS PLAY INTO YOUR AMBITIONS FOR YOURSELF?

I’m pretty happy with who and where I am, so most of the time, I’m dressing for the life I’ve already got.

80. HOW DOES MONEY FIT INTO ALL THIS?

Less than it should.  When I buy my clothes I go shopping only twice a year, so it’s cheap, relatively speaking. When I sew my clothes I am forever in the fabric store adding to my stash, and I end up spending a lot more money on 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?

Mascara. Insulin pump. Wallet.

82. DID ANYONE EVER SAY ANYTHING TO YOU THAT MADE YOU SEE YOURSELF DIFFERENTLY, ON A PHYSICAL AND ESPECIALLY SARTORIAL LEVEL?

When I was in grade 9 or 10 and walking home with a friend, we were talking–I can’t even tell you why at this point–about our legs, and I mentioned that my legs were long in proportion to my body, and if my legs were in proportion I’d be a few inches shorter. “It’s a good thing,” she said; “if you were shorter you’d be much too voluptuous.” I’d always thought of myself as too skinny and very flat, so it was the first time I’d ever thought of myself as curvy. It took a while to accept it, but yeah, voluptuous is (or at least was) probably not a bad descriptor.

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?

Nope.

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6 thoughts on “Women in Clothes: The Survey”

  1. Interesting. I sometimes use clothes as armour but otherwise just like them. I loved your comment on investment dressing. I have a bag that the magazines say appreciates about 20% per year but when I asked my finance guy about it he simply thanked me for giving him his laugh of the day. It’s the same logic that tells us we are saving money when we are really just spending it. Frustrating.

  2. Your answer to #7 had me laughing! I honestly hate talking about fashion/style because normally it is someone trying to tell me what I am doing wrong. Always fun.

    1. ! Kay, that’s awful. I volunteer to have a clothing conversation with you in which I never once point out anything you are doing “wrong.” So long as you don’t get arrested when you are in public wearing your clothing I can’t see how it’s possible to do something “wrong.”

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