Cover image for Women in clothes
Women in clothes
Heti, Sheila, 1976- , editor.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), [2014]
Physical Description:
515 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 23 cm
"An exploration of the questions we ask ourselves while getting dressed every day, and the answers from more than six hundred women"--From back cover.
Introduction: Clothing garden ; Questions -- Surveys -- Conversations -- Poems -- Projects -- On dressing -- Surveys -- Collections -- Wear areas -- Compliments.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT1720 .W65 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GT1720 .W65 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GT1720 .W65 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GT1720 .W65 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Women in Clothes is a book unlike any other. It is essentially a conversation among hundreds of women of all nationalities--famous, anonymous, religious, secular, married, single, young, old--on the subject of clothing, and how the garments we put on every day define and shape our lives.

It began with a survey. The editors composed a list of more than fifty questions designed to prompt women to think more deeply about their personal style. Writers, activists, and artists including Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon, Kalpona Akter, Sarah Nicole Prickett, Tavi Gevinson, Miranda July, Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham, and Molly Ringwald answered these questions with photographs, interviews, personal testimonies, and illustrations.

Even our most basic clothing choices can give us confidence, show the connection between our appearance and our habits of mind, express our values and our politics, bond us with our friends, or function as armor or disguise. They are the tools we use to reinvent ourselves and to transform how others see us. Women in Clothes embraces the complexity of women's style decisions, revealing the sometimes funny, sometimes strange, always thoughtful impulses that influence our daily ritual of getting dressed.

Author Notes

Sheila Heti was born in Toronto, Canada in 1976. She studied playwriting at the National Theatre School and philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Heti runs Trampoline Hall, a monthly lecture series, and writes regularly about the visual arts. Her title The Middle Stories was Shortlisted for the 2001 Upper Canada Writer's Craft Award. Heti was voted Best Emerging Writer in NOW magazine's Reader's Poll in 2001. In September 2010, Heti's book How Should a Person Be?, was published by Henry Holt in the United States in July 2012. It was chosen by The New York Times as one of the 100 Best Books of 2012 and by The New Yorker as one of the best books of the year.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The three adventurous instigators of this sartorial confab writers and The Believer editors Heti (How Should a Person Be, 2012) and Julavits (The Vanishers, 2012) and graphic novelist and memoirist Leanne Shapton (Swimming Studies, 2012) asked hundreds of women from around the world about what they wear and how they feel about clothes. The trio now shares the 50 questions they asked and the 639 responses they received from artists, writers, editors, journalists, activists, and actors. The result is a delirious assortment of conversations, essays, journal entries, and photographs of everything from collections of hats and sunglasses to actor Zosia Mamet's hilarious Poses from Various Fashion Media. This big, busy book feels like a thrift store brimming with jumbles of clothes and accessories and alive with women's voices. Their comments and stories are canny, funny, incisive, twee, surprising, and caring, as thoughts and anecdotes about clothes touch on everything from gender to beauty, sex, mother-daughter relationships, aspirations, money, human rights, health, work, creativity, and violence. A uniquely kaleidoscopic and spirited approach to an irresistible subject of universal resonance.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Thoughtfully crafted and visually entertaining, this collection, edited by Heti (How Should A Person Be?), Julavits (The Vanishers), and Shapton (Swimming Studies), uses personal reflections from 642 contributors to examine women's relationship with clothes in a deceptively lighthearted and irreverent tone. Reminiscent of women's collaborative book projects from the 1970s, women (and a few men) are quoted in survey responses, essays, artworks, and recorded snippets of conversation. Though the book satisfies voyeuristic pleasures, on a basic level, it also inspires meaningful questions by virtue of its structure; contributions are well-organized in short sections (participants like Lena Dunham and Cindy Sherman are granted longer entries) with surprising juxtapositions-for example, rapid-fire answers to the editors' survey questions about shopping sit comfortably next to an essay on the political and personal implications of wearing a head scarf. The prose is spliced with striking visuals, such as photos of actress Zosia Mamet (Girls) imitating 50 poses from fashion magazine covers, and many passages yield deeper revelations: "What I Spent" uses a diary-style record of clothing and toiletry purchases to examine the effect that physical difference, such as scoliosis, has on self-presentation and confidence. A provocative time capsule of contemporary womanhood, this collection is highly recommended. B&w illus and photos throughout, 32 pages in full color. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



COLLECTION LUISE STAUSS 's over-the-knee socks INTRODUCTION CLOTHING GARDEN JANUARY 8, 2014 Skype meeting. Leanne and Heidi are in Leanne's studio in New York. Sheila is in her apartment in Toronto. Leanne has recently cut her hair. SHEILA: Oh my god, look at your hair! LEANNE: I know. (laughs) SHEILA: I love it, I love it! It's so good. LEANNE: Are you wearing fur? SHEILA: No, I'm wearing a throw. HEIDI: I have no new hair to share, no new hair. Sheila, are you growing your bangs out? SHEILA: Not intentionally. LEANNE: This is how our book should start: Hi, are you growing your bangs out? What are you wearing, are you wearing fur? We're like a bunch of chickens squawking at each other! SHEILA: You look like Peter Pan. HEIDI: Have you ever had short hair like this before? LEANNE: Not this short. Well, when I was ten. HEIDI: Yeah, that's the last time I had short hair, too. Sheila, have you ever had short-short, pixie-short, boy-short, hair? SHEILA: Yeah, in high school I had like concentration-camp short. That's what my mother called it. HEIDI: Oh my god. LEANNE: So wait, in terms of how we want to write the introduction, I like the essays we wrote a year ago when we first started thinking about the book. I think we should just rewrite those to some degree. And I also like your idea, Sheila, of talking about what's happened to us since we began the project. HEIDI: So why don't we, right now, ask each other questions that we can use as connective tissue in the intro? So I might say, Sheila, how did you get dressed this morning, what did you think about that's different from what you might have thought about eight months ago? SHEILA: Well, I didn't really get dressed. SHEILA Until this year, I never put much thought into clothes. I bought my silk 1930s ivory-colored wedding dress in about half an hour, made impatient by the task. I wore black shoes that hardly matched, but which were in my closet already. What changed to make me more interested in dressing? I suppose it was that (a few years after my divorce) I began living with a man who cares a lot about dressing and clothes. I had never, up close, seen what that looks like. I'd always assumed the well-dressed just happened to be that way--not that it was an area of life that people excelled in because they applied thought, attention, and care to it. Living with my boyfriend, I began to see that dressing was like everything else: those who dress well do so because they spend some time thinking about it. Clothes and style became more interesting to me. For someone who is fascinated by how people relate to one another, it's hard to overlook personal style as a way we speak to the world. One day I just decided, Today is the day I'm going to figure out how to dress. I biked to a bookstore--one of those very big bookstores--and went to the section where there were fashion and style books, looking for one that would tell me what women thought about as they shopped and dressed. But there was nothing like that. There were books about Audrey Hepburn and books filled with pictures from Vogue, but nothing that felt useful to me at all. I thought, I'll have to make this a project. I decided to begin by asking some of the women I knew the very questions I'd hoped to find answered in a book. FROM: Sheila Heti DATE: Sun, Apr 8, 2012, AT 1:00PM SUBJECT: fashion survey TO: Heidi Julavits Hey Heidi, I might write a little piece about women's fashion and I was wondering if I could bug you (as a fashionable lady!) to fill out my survey. Please answer as many times and in as much detail as possible to each question listed (if you're interested!). xo Sheila ps: I was partly inspired to think about dressing after reading your latest novel. Also, I'm not sure if the q's are exactly right. QUESTION 1 What are some dressing rules that you have for yourself, that you wouldn't recommend to other people necessarily, but which you follow? QUESTION 2 What are some dressing or clothing rules that you think every woman should follow? QUESTION 3 What are the shopping habits you follow? Ex: are you always looking? do you only look for particular items when you need them? do you shop online? do you save up for great pieces? QUESTION 4 Which people from culture, past and present, do you admire or have you admired, fashion-wise? Are there any people you took as models who you tried to emulate, even if only in details, not the whole? QUESTION 5 Are you a fan of certain brands and labels, and if so, what are they? QUESTION 6 What is dressing about, for you? What are you trying to do or achieve when you dress up? FROM: Heidi Julavits DATE: Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 7:45PM SUBJECT: Re: fashion survey TO: Sheila Heti hey sheila! sorry i've been on west coast and not online--but i LOVE these questions!!!! maybe you and i should write a women's fashion book that isn't stupid like all women's fashion books. i was just reading in three cities and believe me, i gave questions like this way too much thought--actually packed a whole suitcase and wore the same outfit for two days, and on the third i wore a dress i bought in seattle, which was white and see-through (muslin, basically), and i hadn't brought any white underthings, just black, and the store woman suggested that i "own it," so i did, and wore the dress with very visible black underwear to a reading and i kind of liked that the people in the audience might think that they knew something about me that i didn't know about myself. On Fri, Apr 20, 2012, at 7:38PM, Sheila Heti wrote: I think this could be a great book collaboration! I was trying to find a smart women's fashion philosophy (philosophy of style) book this weekend, and not one! I love your black-underwear story. I've added some more questions. Are we missing anything? Do you think any should be cut? QUESTION 7 How does makeup fit into all this for you? QUESTION 8 What's the situation with your hair? QUESTION 9 Describe what you're wearing on your body and face, and how your hair is done, right this moment. FROM: Heidi Julavits DATE: Sat, Apr 21, 2012, at 9:25AM SUBJECT: Re: fashion survey TO: Sheila Heti i think these are all great! i'm just going to throw some other questions out there that may cant this in an "identity" direction: QUESTION 10 Do you ever find yourself channeling an old outfit of your mother's (i.e., from your childhood), and is this a good or bad thing? (but maybe we don't want to drag mothers into this.) Also, the idea of sharing clothes--I had a roommate once in my twenties and our closets became essentially conjoined--and even though I was the greater benefitee of this arrangement, the whole idea made me sort of uncomfortable, and I found it to be a boundary I didn't like negotiating. Thus, QUESTION 11 Do you share clothes with friends or roommates? and QUESTION 12 What are the rules about "copying" an obviously original look? Say if your friend wears a down vest over a bikini top . . . Can you copy it? Or is it only ok to copy from strangers? xx FROM: Sheila Heti DATE: Sat, Apr 21, 2012, at 10:19AM SUBJECT: others TO: Heidi Julavits Heidi, I think we should ask Leanne Shapton if she wants to be in on this project. Leanne would be wonderful to get to pass the survey around, as she knows many people in lots of different countries, and many artists, too. Perhaps she could also provide illustrations, if we wanted them, and do the cover and lettering inside. Already Leanne has added some good ideas (I sent her a survey, too). She thought there shouldn't be photographs of the women we're profiling. That made me start thinking about the book differently. I think the one thing we want to steer away from is pronouncements on fashion from people like Coco Chanel or Diane von Furstenberg ("A woman's style is in direct proportion to her misery" or whatever, i just made that up). I think we'll want regular women, not only the most fashionable. People who aren't that fashionable may be quite smart, nevertheless, about what they have on. We should send surveys to whoever we're curious about and inspired to learn about and hear from. xo S On Sun, Apr 22, 2012, at 11:03PM, Heidi Julavits wrote: i so admire leanne and would kill to work with her. LEANNE First I took cues on how to dress from my brother and drawings from children's books. Then, as a teenager, from movies. I knew other girls knew more than me. I had subscriptions to Seventeen and Sassy and loved looking at and reading them, but could not relate. Then at twenty-eight I bought a bikini with another tomboyish friend. A magazine could never have convinced me to buy a bikini, but the afternoon I shared with this friend did. When I started dating my future husband, he was the editorial director of an international stable of magazines. Many of the women he had dated were fashion editors, models, or socialites, women who knew how to put themselves together and wore and could afford beautiful clothes. Women who were photographed. During our first years together he bought me designer clothes, which I wore uneasily. I dove into fashion magazines and read them regularly for the next seven years, absorbing the language of promotion and hype and enthusiasm. I met designers and muses and terrifically photogenic people and went to fashion parties and the Met Ball and the Oscars and places where what women wear is noticed and noted. There was constant gushing about clothes and style, and beauty and power. But to me, only a handful of people looked truly great. SHEILA A problem I've always had with fashion magazines is that women are encouraged to copy other women. While I suspect that many men enjoy copying other men (consider the idea of the alpha male and beta males), and while part of what makes a man "superior" is how close he can get to "embodying manliness" (in clothing terms: the suit), I feel it's the opposite for a woman. The most compelling women are the ones who are distinctive, who are most like themselves and least like other women. There is no other Marilyn Monroe. There is no other Anaïs Nin. And being as iconic and inimitable as they were would be better than being like either one of them. It's almost as if fashion magazines don't understand what a woman wants. I think she wants to be unique among women, a creature unlike any other. HEIDI I don't check out men on the street. I check out women. I am always checking out women because I love stories, and women in clothes tell stories. For years I watched other women to learn how I might someday be a woman with a story. Even when I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be stylish, because to be stylish was to be poised on the precipice between reality and fiction. I grew up in a house that bordered a private school I didn't attend. These girls, and the clothing they wore, told stories about places to which I otherwise had no access. To understand their style was to be a tourist in the habits and traditions of a strange world. To watch them was not terribly different from reading a book. I learned that style isn't what you wear, it's how you wear it. I learned from one girl that I should wear my big wool sweaters inside out so that the threads and seams were revealed. I learned from another girl that instead of tying my anorak arms around my waist when I wasn't wearing it, I could tie them with one arm over one shoulder and one arm under the other, so that the sleeves crossed my chest diagonally. But style, I also learned, is not about strictly copying others, because style is not transferable. There are too many variables. I once followed a woman down the street in New York. She wore white clogs and a flowered headscarf and a long skirt. She had high cheekbones and a long neck; she looked like an early-twentieth-century immigrant from Eastern Europe who'd just arrived at Ellis Island, though of course she was probably an artist who lived in Brooklyn. I loved her style but knew that I couldn't pull off a headscarf. My cheekbones aren't high enough. My neck is too short. But the white clogs, those could contribute a small and beneficial mutation to my existing wardrobe. I bought a pair. Twelve years later, I wear them still. JANUARY 8, 2014 Skype meeting. SHEILA: So right now I'm wearing this, like, black silk slip that I wore to bed last night, and then because it's sort of cold here I put on these black tights, without feet, and then this scarf. Because I was only going to be seeing you guys over Skype, I didn't feel the need to get dressed today. But I think it looks better than . . . like probably, a year ago, I would have been in a sweatshirt. I don't know. I basically feel like if you guys came into the house now, I wouldn't be embarrassed. HEIDI: Wait, you would or you would not be embarrassed if we came into your house? SHEILA: Wouldn't. Even though it's basically pajamas, it's still an outfit. HEIDI & LEANNE: (laugh) SHEILA: I have a little more appreciation for the aesthetics of an outfit, and take more pleasure in it. I guess a year ago I thought there would be some big change in me once the book was done, but it's more like a slight shift in the way I see things. I now feel like--my choices are my choices and that's good and that's enough. I realized there was nothing so terribly wrong with me. Whereas a year ago I felt like there was something terribly wrong with the way I approached clothes. LEANNE: Right. SHEILA: I think other women have that same feeling, too. Yet reading all the surveys makes me see that none of us are doing anything terribly wrong, and that realization gives you the confidence to make deliberate choices. LEANNE: I don't care in the same way about dressing anymore, and that's interesting to me, and it's probably got to do with childbirth and having your body torn apart, but I agree with what you're saying--you just have that thing on and you're not going to be embarrassed. HEIDI: For me what's changed is, well, I always thought that aspiring to have the right clothes and style meant trying to look like somebody else. But now my aspiration is to look like some former version of myself in a specific time or place. Not like "I wish I was fourteen again, so I'm gonna wear hot pants"--not that I ever wore hot pants when I was fourteen--but it's more about trying to have some sort of emotional connection to a part of myself that I feel I could lose touch with if I don't re-inhabit it every once in a while. LEANNE: I love the idea of a version of yourself. HEIDI: It's not just an age thing, it's also a place thing. This has been coming up a lot in the last few weeks because we lived in Berlin this fall, and I really don't like being home. For four months I had worn only what I brought in this one suitcase, and while I never thought, "Ugh, I'm bored, I wish I had my other clothes," I did have these moments of missing certain items, and occasionally I'd think, "I'm so excited to get home and put them on." But instead I've come home and I just keep living out of my suitcase, which three weeks later I still haven't unpacked. And those things I thought I missed so much, I haven't even pulled them out of my closet. SHEILA: Why? HEIDI: The only analogy is like, when you haven't seen your boyfriend or your husband or your partner in a month or more and then you see them and you have to have sex with them again. You want to have sex again! But the first time can actually be sort of awkward, and you put it off a bit sometimes, and then you're like "Fuck it, we just have to have sex now, get this over with." I'm sort of having that with the shirts in my closet. SHEILA & LEANNE: (laugh) HEIDI: I open the closet and I'm like, "Oh, I know we know each other really well, but I'm just not ready to have sex with you yet." LEANNE: Have sex with your clothes already! LEANNE After those seven years immersed in women's fashion magazines, I still dress as I always have--in used men's clothes and lots of vintage--but I can afford better vintage, and can appreciate great design after paying attention to it. I still buy fashion magazines. I cut them up, responding to what I'm drawn to, and paste these clippings into scrapbooks. In this way, I've tailored my formerly uneasy relationship to the fashion world. JANUARY 8, 2014 Skype meeting. LEANNE: Have I told you about my stoner/gay theory? Like, everything successful has to have some aspect of stoner and some aspect of gay. HEIDI: Male or female? LEANNE: Both. SHEILA: You mean successful in fashion or successful in anything? LEANNE: Anything. Just that, if you look at a painting, a book, a room, a meal . . . things that really appeal to me have a certain laid-back quality and also a certain kind of truth and surrender, and I realize it's because I am not a stoner and I am not gay, yet I probably want to be a bit of both. So now I sort of dress like I want to impart a little bit of stoner into my wardrobe and a little bit of gay. That's where it's left me, because they are versions of myself that I'll probably never be. So rather than how you, Heidi, are going, I want to be a version of me, I'm going, My dream version is just me, but that little bit more stoner, and that little bit more gay. I want to give expression to it in some small way. So like today . . . HEIDI: Yeah, let's talk about the stoner/gay aspects today. LEANNE: Today my stoner aspect is maybe these army pants, and maybe the gay aspect is . . . HEIDI: . . . the dandy boots? LEANNE: I love equestrian wear--there's a sort of S&M aspect to it. And it's all a little bit androgynous. SHEILA My boyfriend talked about his interest in clothes (and my recent interest) as a "hobby" and said that the important thing about a hobby is that it allows you to relate to people you wouldn't normally relate to. It gives you something to say to everyone you share that hobby with, which is important--to have something to say to anyone you might encounter in the world. I had never before thought about an interest in clothes as a "hobby" or that this was one of the important functions of a hobby. JANUARY 8, 2014 Skype meeting. HEIDI: You know, a couple of years ago I decided I was going to be a gardener--I wanted to have a garden in my backyard. And I'm by no means a professional decorator or a stylist or anything, but I have some, possibly incorrect, sense of myself as a person with an aesthetic point of view. I figured, How hard will it be for me to make a garden? I'll just go out and plant one. I gave no thought to making things grow, mind you, which I also could not do. My focus was more about how--inside this little container of land--can you create something visually pleasing. Then I realized I had never in my life, not once, looked at gardens! So I thought: Well, okay, where have I put my visual energies, where have I paid attention? And that's when I realized: I've paid attention to women--at the expense of gardens, I guess. How women dress and present themselves is a subject of study, and for better or worse it's where I've put my energies. That knowledge I'd gained felt really sedimentary, really layered, and it gave me more appreciation for the topic of dressing as something worthy of excavation or exploration. Seeing my thoughts about dressing from that angle--of trying to figure out how to grow a garden--ennobled all that learning in a way I'd never considered before. LEANNE: Maybe we should call it "Clothing Garden." (laughs) SHEILA: What, the whole book? LEANNE: Or the intro. Maybe it should be a German word-- Clothinggarten . HEIDI: It could be a German compound word! LEANNE: And actually, when you think about it, a clothes garden, it does make sense. It's seasonal, and you do all these things, and then you prune away and you plant stuff and you nurture stuff . . . HEIDI: (laughs) It's true! SHEILA: It's interesting that we've all said the same thing of nothing much having changed in the past year. Like, in a nice way, there was no dramatic difference, we just feel a little more confidence and a little more ourselves. LEANNE: It makes me think--like the way your hairstyle always defaults to whatever hair you have, there's probably a default to how individual women present themselves in dress. No makeover's going to actually work, because you'll just default to who you are, ultimately. SHEILA: What's been kind of a revelation is seeing that other women think about this stuff not so differently from me, and have some of the same problems, the same anxieties. It makes it a bit more pleasurable knowing that everything you're feeling you share with other women. It makes the act of getting dressed seem more like a communal thing. LEANNE: So thinking back to when you wanted to go to a store to find the book to tell you how to care about your clothes and be stylish and stuff--if this is that book, then what we're saying is: Don't bother reading this, you're fine? HEIDI: (laughs) Stop reading here! Read no further unless you want to remain exactly who you are. SHEILA: Well, or even that the cultural difficulty of being a woman is that you feel you have to be a certain kind of woman. I experience the conversations in this book as a liberation from that. To me it's also talking about how it's okay to have your own identity in the face of all this pressure to have some other identity. Working on the book and seeing women on the street, I immediately began to feel I loved them more because I could see inside them in a new way. I had a new way of interpreting their outsides. HEIDI: What reading the surveys made me want are beliefs. Not rules or guidelines or tips, but beliefs. I was struck by how many people had idiosyncratic and highly personalized beliefs about clothing and its role in their lives. To me, that felt so . . . I don't want to say spiritual, but it felt like people's habits of mind were on display. LEANNE: I think what these conversations do is eliminate a certain amount of nervousness and shame around dressing. We're surrounded by tons of imagery on a daily basis that says: Here are all these things you should admire, and things you can do to mask your insecurities and body, and you should not admit to feeling weird about this stuff. And this book is one huge admission. People might get some relief with it. SHEILA: What kind of relief? LEANNE: Just the relief of saying, "Yeah, I'm anxious about this, too." Or, "Look! Now I don't have to be anxious about this anymore!" Everyone is capable of feeling intimidated or scared or nervous about what they're wearing, and feeling judged by or judgmental of others, and admitting to that gives such relief. You can laugh about it. COLLECTION TANIA VAN SPYK 's dress sets part I INTRODUCTION QUESTIONS The book is based on a survey we invited women worldwide to complete. The survey consisted of an ever-evolving list of questions. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had with someone on the subject of fashion or style? • With whom do you talk about clothes? • Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you? • Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion? • Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain. • 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? If you're not so sure about your clothing choices, would you say you're better in other areas, or the same? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it (or where the lack comes from, if you don't have it), and why? • Can you say a bit about how your mother's body and style have been passed down to you or not? • What is your cultural background, and how has that influenced how you dress? • Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing, or style? What lessons do you remember? Did they tell you things directly, or did you just pick things up? • What sorts of things do you do, clothing- or makeup- or hair-wise, to feel sexy or alluring? • What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves? • Many people say they want to feel "comfortable," or that they admire people who seem "confident." What do these words really mean to you? • Do you care about lingerie? • Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice? What sort do you tend to admire? If not admiration, what is the feeling that a compelling woman on the street gives you? • 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? • What is really beautiful, for you, in general? • What do you consider very ugly? • 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? • When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, what is this "other person" like? What does she like, dislike, what sorts of judgments does she have? Is this "outer eye" based on someone you know or knew once? • What's your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering? • What are you trying to achieve when you dress? • What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up? • If you had to wear a "uniform," what would it look like? • What would you say is "you," and what would you say is "not you"? • 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? • What sorts of things do you do, clothing-, makeup-, or hair-wise, to feel professional? • How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace? • How do institutions affect the way you dress? • Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity? • Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms? • Is it comforting or constraining to have a uniform? • Was there a moment in your life when something "clicked" for you about fashion or dressing or makeup or hair? What was it? Why did it happen then, do you think? • Are there any dressing tricks you've invented or learned that make you feel like you're getting away with something? • What are some dressing rules that you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others but that you follow? • Are there any dressing rules you'd want to convey to other women? • 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? • 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? • If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be? • Do you consider yourself photogenic? • When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think? • Send a photograph of your mother from the time before she had children, and tell us what you see. • Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from? • Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes? • What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try to achieve? • Have you stolen, borrowed, or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family? • Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about? • Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you? • 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? • When do you feel at your most attractive? • Is there anyone you are trying to attract or repel when you dress? • Do you like to smell a certain way? • What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it? • What's the situation with your hair? • Please describe your body. • Please describe your mind. • Please describe your emotions. • What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable? • How does makeup fit into all this for you? • What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment? • 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? • What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc.? • Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing- and jewelry-wise? • What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own? • 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? • Is there any fashion trend you've refused to participate in, and if so, why? • Looking back at your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy? • Is there an item of clothing that you once owned but no longer own and still think about or wish you had? What was it and what happened to it and why do you want it back? • If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep? • If you were building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time? • What's the first "investment" item you bought? Do you still own or wear it? • Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life? • What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for? • Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing? • Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened? • Do you address anything political in the way you dress? • 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? • Did you ever buy an item of clothing or jewelry certain that it would be meaningful to you, but it wasn't at all? What was it, and what happened? • How and when do you shop for clothes? • Do you have any shopping rules you follow? • How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself? • How does money fit into all this? • Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing? • Is there an article of clothing, some makeup, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day? • 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? • Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about? • Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level? • In what way is this stuff important, if at all? COLLECTION CLAUDIA DEY 's fedoras ON DRESSING GOOD MORNING ELIF BATUMAN Last summer, when I was living in Istanbul, Sheila Heti asked me to compliment a series of women on their clothes and record our subsequent conversations. The women were supposed to be strangers, and I was supposed to meet them in elevators. There were many, many reasons why I never did end up asking strange women about their clothes in elevators in Istanbul. The only place where I used the elevator was at the gym. I felt like the women at my gym already weren't that crazy about me, and to be honest, their clothes were nothing special. I did once compliment the Pilates instructor, a former ballerina, whose insistence on relaxing and natural breathing seemed somehow fraught with anxiety, on her amazing earrings: one of the tiny silver studs was connected, by a long, fine chain, to an equally fine necklace. I didn't have a tape recorder, but luckily she just smiled politely. She was folding "resistance bands." Later that week, I had lunch with the writer Elif Şafak. We had first met some months earlier, when she accidentally walked into me at a huge dinner in London. She had been walking backward, for some reason. This was our second meeting. She was wearing marvelous clothes, about which I remember only that each article had a different texture, everything looked expensive, and all of it was black, though it was July. When I told her how wonderful she looked, she gave me a look full of compassion and, reaching across the table, wordlessly squeezed my hands. All summer, antigovernment protests raged in Istanbul, and in cities all over the country. My apartment was often full of tear gas, and also full of journalists and protesters and, on one occasion, a protester's small, demanding dog. One journalist had come from Bulgaria; most mornings starting at seven, he was reporting to Bulgarian national radio, speaking very loudly, since it wasn't a good line. Every day, one or the other of my parents called, urging me to come home to the U.S. early. Nobody was sleeping, or getting any work done. Feeling overwhelmed, I packed a bag and took a commuter ferry to Heybeliada, an island in the Sea of Marmara. Though Heybeliada is in the Istanbul municipality, stepping off the boat was like landing on a different planet. There were no police vehicles, no police, no protesters, no gas masks, no gas, no graffiti. It was as if the past weeks had never happened. "Where are all the police?" I asked when I reached the pension where I had booked a room. "We have four police on the island," the owner replied. "They mostly concern themselves with picnickers." When I stepped outside the next morning, a beautiful orange cat rubbed up against my leg. The sun seemed to pour over your whole body in a way that was full of love. Walking downhill toward the sea, past the ruined white Ottoman houses that resembled, with their gingerbread trim, heaps of old lace, I came upon a woman sitting on the curb. In her forties, deeply tanned, she wore a headscarf, and a severe expression. As I approached, I felt that she was actually glowering at me. "Good morning," I said cheerfully, hoping to defuse the atmosphere, even as I wondered whether the woman was religious, and how the people who lived here felt about women traveling alone. The woman's face was suddenly, utterly transformed, by what I realized was a smile. "Good morning," she said, beaming. "I was just admiring your skirt. That's why I was looking at you like that." SURVEY WOMEN LOOKING AT WOMEN "Sometimes I'll see a woman dressed in a way that makes me think we must be similar, like in another world we'd be friends." --SASHA ARCHIBALD ANN IRELAND Often, I'll spot a woman crossing the road who is wearing just the narrow gray-black pants I want. Or sneakers that are just one color with no ugly stripes. Maybe I could get away with that Indian dress! Those Jesus sandals are just the ticket--I bet they're comfortable, too. Then I crave it, a sort of low-level fever that won't lift until I've located the desired item and seen whether it works for me, too. VANESSA BERRY A woman selling vegetables at a market stall once complimented me on my wool shirt. Every time I looked back she was looking at me. I took it as a good sign that I should wear this shirt when I want to impress someone. ALESIA PULLINS I like complimenting other black women--women of color in general--because I feel like a lot of times the only people giving us compliments are other women of color. It's not a conscious thing where I'm like, "I'm going to go in here and find the two black girls and load them down with compliments." It's just something I tend to do because I realize, "Look, I see what you're doing over there, I see what you're working with, and I like it." ANA KINSELLA When I was about nineteen, my friend and I were sitting outside the lecture theatre, smoking cigarettes and commenting on every girl who walked by and what she was wearing. We thought we were very cool and trendy and edgy. In retrospect we were idiots and I in particular looked like a fashion-crazed fool. But after an hour or so we figured out that the girls we considered the best-dressed were not the girls who wore the clothes we may have coveted most, but the ones who had a consistent style, a steady palette, and knew the silhouettes that worked best for them. I realized then that style is about knowing what you like and why you like it, more than anything else. GRACE DENTON In university, there was a girl who lived on my floor. She once came to my room and asked if her outfit looked okay. In the natural way young girls have with people they don't really know yet, I said, "Yeah, you look great!" She was probably wearing something middle-of-the-road and vaguely hippy. Then I asked, "How about me?" as a kind of social exchange. She said, "Hmmm, yeah, I don't know. You kind of look like you're trying to look wacky." This was a horrific revelation. Who the fuck . . . ! Why did she . . . ! I was wearing a polka-dot spaghetti-strap dress I loved, with a T-shirt underneath. It later became apparent that she had multiple social strangenesses, but the comment stuck. I still occasionally look at myself with her eyes and think, "Okay, trying too hard, take it back a step." This makes me sad. JILL MARGO In my early twenties, there were a bunch of girls who swapped clothes or, rather, borrowed clothes from our most alpha female, who was very communally minded. They were considered lucky clothes--the ones that got us laid. Recently, I saw a photo from back then of my friend in one of the outfits. There is no way those things looked as good on any of us as they looked on her. What were we thinking? OLLA NAJAH AL-SHALCHI In high school, I started wearing a hijab, and was still trying to find a way of dressing like my peers, while also respecting my religion. So I would wear black pants, a beige shirt, a vest that was black and beige, and a beige hijab. But I love color, and this outfit was boring and lacked color. However, one day my friends told me that my outfit looked "sophisticated." This got me thinking about how I didn't really need to care about dressing like my peers. Dressing "sophisticated" made me feel better about the clothes I was wearing. KELLEY HOFFMAN It's not just my clothing that changed my first year working at Vogue . I also picked up cues on how to speak and act. Whenever my editor would ask me to do something, I'd say casually, "No problem!" But when I heard another intern, who was much more sophisticated than I was, say, "Of course," to this same editor, I thought it sounded much more refined, so I started saying "Of course," too. JOSS LAKE My ex-girlfriend said, "You don't have style, you have styles." I'd always felt like I was failing to construct a coherent style--so it became a sort of Whitmanian mantra, not only for fashion, but for my personhood: "I contain multitudes. I contain multitudes." STELLA BUGBEE Sometimes when I see a woman with particular charm or confidence or just interesting personal habits, I actually want to be her. And it's not one kind of woman. Wildly different people inspire that kind of interest and awe. I never think that way about men, though. AREV DINKJIAN For the past few summers, I worked at an Armenian Youth Federation camp. My outfits consisted of gym shorts, a dirty T-shirt, old tennis shoes, a messy bun, and a face with no makeup. It's less than glamorous, yet I leave each year with more confidence than ever. I'm surrounded by girls who look up to me, who mimic my every move, who want to look and be just like me. They tell me every day that I'm beautiful and ask me to do their hair and pick out their dresses for the dances. I feel at my best because they look up to me in my most natural state. And I find them just as beautiful. LILI OWEN ROWLANDS I live with four girls and our wardrobes are an extension of each other. However, I find there's a competitiveness in it. I love to borrow but hate to lend. Sometimes I make up excuses about wanting to wear items of my own wardrobe so others can't wear them. I never understand where this sheer meanness comes from, but it happens and I hate it. I fear our slow homogenization. I've started wearing lots of yellow because I have told myself it suits only my colouring. I like to make a point of this sporadically at dinner: "Yellow only really works with a dark fringe." KRISTI GOLDADE Last August, I was at an art fair and there was this Russian woman. She looked so pretty and dainty, her hair was cut in this shiny black bob, and she had a scarf around her neck. She was with her husband and kid. More than her look, I wanted her essence--it was so artistic and effortless. So in November, I cut my hair into a bob and now I try to do the seamless, sophisticated thing. I'm into it as a form. UMM ADAM When I was thirteen, I dressed like all my friends in a simple shalwar kameez with a dupatta around my neck. There were a few girls in my school who wore the hijab, but I thought that was a little too extreme. I did not look down on them or think they were old-fashioned. I respected their style, but felt that style was not for me. One day, my mom was showing me pictures from her trip to the U.S. and I was a little surprised to see that there were Muslim girls there who wore hijab. My mom said, "I wish you could cover like them." That's when I put my dupatta on my head and decided to wear hijab. SZILVIA MOLNAR I love noticing women who have a panoramic view of their environment when they're walking down the street. Women who are engaged in the moment and are interested in looking at who or what is around them. HEATHER MALLICK When I was a child, we were on the subway in Montreal and I saw a beautiful black-haired young woman with perfect skin. She was in a red skirt with polka dots and was biting into a pistachio ice cream with her perfect large white teeth. I stared in awe and thought, "One day I will move to the city and live in my own apartment and dress like her." Who was that woman? I think about her often. AMANDA M. At school, a Muslim girl spoke about why she chose the burka. She said, "You American girls have it rough. You constantly have to be thinking about what looks good on you, how to look hot, how to hide flaws. You're slaves to fashion. I'm never self-conscious about how sexy I look." When I see women in full coverings now, I wonder, "Are they freer than I am?" HELEN DeWITT Once in Paris a woman pulled up to the curb in a red Ferrari to exclaim over a pair of black stretch trousers with a white faux-Chinese-character pattern which I had bought for ten quid in the Roman Road. DIANA BECKER I was in line at the Guggenheim with my favorite cousin, who is a stylist. There was a woman in front of us and we couldn't understand her. She had a beautiful sixty-something face but she felt like a girl. Her outfit was perfect, her body svelte, not yoga-tight or anything extreme. We were obsessed with her and labeled her one of the "young-old." We still hunt for them and wonder if weather or cultures inspire more of them. What's their secret? Do they have good taste, or is it their mental state, diet, exercise? And why are they mostly not American? COLLECTION LYDIA BURKHALTER 's gray sweatshirts SURVEY Leopoldine Core What do you admire about how other women present themselves? I admire well-groomed women whose clothes are clean and fit them perfectly. Conversely, I admire women who rock a more feral look. I can't decide which of these women I'd like to be. Clean or dirty? I pinball between the two. When do you feel at your most attractive? I feel attractive when I don't have any zits and when I'm having a good hair day. Hair and skin are the top priorities for me. But I feel spectacular when I'm wearing a dress because I like the air on my legs and I can wear my boots with the little heel. If I wear a dress and have exposed legs, I like a big sweater on top, kind of hanging off me, like a Kurt Cobain sweater. I can also feel very attractive in jeans and sneakers and an old stained hoodie with no makeup. That feels very youthful, and I'm turned on by the idea of someone being drawn to the face I actually have, the clothes I actually own. If someone likes me all raggedy, I feel powerful, like I don't need much, and that's hot. Okay, I'm now realizing when I feel the most attractive. It's when I'm wearing someone else's well-chosen and wonderfully lived-in clothes. Like when I borrow a friend's shirt or pants or shoes. I look in the mirror while wearing these clothes and think, "I would never have known to buy this." And then I walk out into the world wearing whatever it is with a certain feeling--a sexy feeling. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? What I have a lot of is pajamas. Nightgowns are important to me, too, because I spend more time inside than out. Being in bed feels the most natural to me, I even write in bed. I grew up in a very cluttered apartment; my mother was a hoarder. The only uncluttered place was my bed, so I learned to do everything there. I have many flannel pajama bottoms and many large sleep shirts, which are just oversized T-shirts that are soft from being washed so many times. I also call these shirts "eating shirts" because it doesn't matter if you spill, they are already so stained. I think I keep collecting these things because I like being naked but not totally naked. I like for there to be a loose wall between me and the world. I can't wear regular clothes while I'm home. It doesn't matter what time it is, when I get home I immediately strip down and put on pajamas or just underwear and a robe. I find regular clothes really restricting. I can't really relax until I'm wearing something loose and crawling into bed. How long does it take you to get dressed? It actually takes me a very long time to get ready, but I never feel a sense of urgency in the morning. I often leave late and with the sense that I look like shit. A good breakfast is very important to me. Making my egg and toast and tea comes first, then I make my way to my dresser and start rooting around. I think it takes me forty-five minutes including all the distractions along the way. What are some dressing rules you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others but you follow? I follow my mood and that can get me into trouble. I'll arrive somewhere and suddenly feel like a slob. The thing is that I can't get all tarted up if I feel depressed or lazy or if I'm too immersed in a creative project or a TV show. I wouldn't recommend this personality or soul or whatever it is that chooses my clothes. I'm hopelessly inconsistent and weirdly vain. I'll curl up with myself at home and think, "God, you're gorgeous," then at the party I'll realize it really would have been a good idea to take a shower. What are some dressing or shopping rules you think every woman should follow? Don't buy anything to prove yourself to a sneering salesperson in a fancy store. In upscale stores I've so often felt judged to the point of purchasing clothes I didn't truly want or need. I did this to prove I wasn't poor or a thief (even though I am poor and used to be a thief). Sometimes that devil head is my own and it's telling me I need a $300 sweater. But I don't. That said, I think it's important to get a few really nice, sometimes pricey items. I have these Swedish clog boots that were sort of expensive but I adore them and wear them everywhere. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to buy a lot of crap, like thirty things off a sale rack rather than a few beautiful items. I think it's our demented way of getting to feel rich, buying tons of cheap little junky dresses. It feels so much saner to have a lean wardrobe you dig. Is there a dressing thing you wish women would stop doing? I wish women would stop fetishizing notions of perfection. Look at American Vogue --it's so safe. We are ashamed of our excess and that is the saddest thing in the world. It's why women keep getting nose jobs. They take the most beautiful thing about themselves and lop it off so they look like everyone else. In fashion it's the same. Anyone who gets an outfit perfectly right turns me off. Or I don't even notice them. It's "offness" that is key in fashion, I think. On a more specific note, I find the "It Bag" repulsive. Often I'll see one swinging on the arm of a wealthy woman in a tracksuit--it's a charmless staple of female wealth. And think about what a purse really is: an externalized pussy or womb. So to have the "right" one and the most expensive one--that sends a chill up my body. Taste is a wink, not a thud. Are there any dressing tricks you've invented or learned that make you feel like you're getting away with something? "Skater" dresses are hugely flattering on me. They hug the ribs, with a free-flowing skirt over the lower belly, so I can eat a huge dinner and my bloated stomach will be obscured. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style? I remember talking to my ex-girlfriend about our experience of each other when we first met. I was wearing a striped button-down shirt, jeans, and navy Keds. My hair was tamely side-parted and I had daubed the purplish caves under my eyes with concealer. She said I looked like an intense private-school girl. "So I looked smart?" I asked. "Oh, definitely." I've had so many conversations like that, where someone describes me to me and I think, "How could that be me?" I looked intense to her because I was nervous. Although I am intense, I mean, she was right. Instantly she struck me as a genius because of all the things that she said. It didn't matter that she was wearing a holey old T-shirt, she was an intellectual. She was the intellectual in the old shirt and it made the shirt special. I still remember that shirt. It was gray and battered and sheer. It's burned in my mind. Would you rather be perceived as having great taste or great style? When I think of taste, I think of the home. People with great taste have the right furniture, that kind of thing. It seems like a whole religion. "Style" feels looser to me, and sexier. I think of partial strangers saying this: "You have such great style!" It's the thing we say about the traveling circus that is our bodies. I love for people to look at how I move through the world and think, "Wow." Do you consider yourself photogenic? No. I think I look moon-faced and shadowy in photographs. Ghoulish and sad, like someone who works in a factory. The truth is that I panic when someone whips out a camera. And of course I try to suppress that horrible ringing feeling but I can't. It's the face of fear that represents me in most photographs. I think I'm beautiful in action, so that loss of my animation has always been deeply unflattering. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own? This might sound absurd, but right now it's my bra. I've had horrible luck with bras but this one fits like a glove. It's a Lithuanian bra my ex bought for me last year when she was teaching there. I still can't believe she just looked at it and knew. I think it's a teen bra, and it's hideous, purple with yellow, orange, and blue stripes, but it feels perfect. What's the first "investment" item you bought? A pair of $200 shoes for my high school graduation. They were black with ribbons that tied up my legs, and my toes spilled out the front. They were a mistake, but at the time I was proud of how expensive they were. Was there a point when your style changed dramatically? When I was fifteen, my mother and I parted ways. Before, I had lived in an apartment in Manhattan with her, where she slowly went crazy. Eventually she was so dysfunctional that she had to move to L.A. and live in her brother's guest room. I moved with a friend of the family upstate to finish high school. I went from going to LaGuardia High, where you could wear a bathing suit without getting in trouble, to a really repressed high school with a dress code and no queers in sight. I went from dressing in an exciting way to dressing in a bland, brand-hungry way. It was sad. Before I moved there, I was making shirts out of stockings. I had oxblood Doc Martens, cool vintage old-lady coats, and weird little dresses that were my mom's from the '70s. I was awesome. But upstate I became this nobody in, like, Steve Madden platform boots. What is the difference between dressing and dressing up? Dressing is just finding something comfortable and leaving the house. Dressing up is a more strenuous journey. It means rubbing scented oils into my frizzy hair and putting on some makeup. It means wearing a dress and my little clog boots and some sheer black stockings (Wolford are the best). Do you care about lingerie? I do, though not in an ambitious way. If someone were to buy lingerie for me I would wear it. But I'm more interested in finding well-fitting underwear and bras. I think cotton underwear can be sexier. Sometimes lingerie feels old-ladyish. I also don't like how certain "sexy" underwear is so tiny. I like more coverage on my ass. What are you trying to achieve when you dress for the world? Some days I want to be invisible. Other days I want to look interesting and pretty and like an animal. Looking unraveled but not too unraveled feels sexy and smart. It's part of being a writer. I like looking like someone who was probably lying around with her thoughts for a while and then took a shower and groomed herself a little. How has your background influenced how you dress? I grew up in the East Village in the '90s. It was a dirty, stylish time. The goal was always to stand out and look different, not to aspire to be one kind of woman. Punk felt right. When I was young and pretty, there was a part of me that wanted to destroy that image. I was realizing that the corridor of women is all YES and I wanted to say NOOO. But I also wanted certain boys to want to fuck me, so it got confusing. I wore a lot of eyeliner and hoped to be ravaged. Have you ever dressed a certain way to gain a sense of control? When I feel too exposed, I put on a loose button-up sweater and instantly relax. My skin is pinkish, and color floods to the surface if I'm having a feeling. It's like looking right into my thoughts, and that can make me nervous. Frequently at an event I'll cover my naked arms. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment? Shu Uemura oil on my hair and coconut Skin Trip lotion on my body. Then I put aloe gel on my face to calm the pinkness. I'm wearing an illuminating concealer under my eyes, some mascara and blush. I also use a Chanel eyebrow pencil to shape and define. Some days, I won't wear any makeup at all. What are some things you do to feel presentable? Shaving my armpits is important. It feels so good to get clean and smooth there. I need to wash my face and clean my teeth. I always floss. My shirt should be clean because a dirty shirt is a stinky shirt. Is there a part of your body that feels most distinctly you? I like my back. It's slender and muscly and pretty. I think it's the most sexual part of me. Would you ever do anything like cosmetic surgery? No, that scares me too much. Cosmetic surgery is actually really dangerous. You open yourself up to all sorts of infections. And then usually you look crazy. How do you care for your body? I don't exercise much. I try to eat lots of vegetables and lean meats and I take various green pills. But I have off months of swigging coffee and eating lots of candy. It takes its toll on me when I do that. I try to steer clear of inflammatory foods. Cucumber juice is excellent for my mood and skin. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, and chores? I think I'm a bird in a wind tunnel, and I'm working on it. I'm not as organized as I'd like, but my passions are deep and true and they move me to work really hard. I'm an intense little candle. If I love you it's really like a light coming from the bottom of my soul and you have my full attention. Same with a poem or story. Then other parts of my life suffer. I'll forget to pay Con Ed and suddenly it's dark. How important is all this? I hate when people say they don't care about clothes, because it's a lie. It's like when writers say they don't care about plot. Lie. We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, to be fucked, to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I'm poor, I love myself. It's the quiet poem in the waiting room, on the subway, in the movie of our lives. It's a big fucking deal. Please say anything you like about yourself. I'm a feminist. I'm bisexual. And at twenty-eight, I'm more myself than I've ever been. What I mean is that the inside is pouring out more than ever before. Maybe twenty-eight is the magic year. The year of my lion heart. CONVERSATION YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I DEAL WITH THE WOMEN FROM THE PODCAST BLACK GIRLS TALKING ALESIA : What are your favorite fabrics? FATIMA : Leather. AURELIA : Leather is always great. ALESIA : Yeah. Leather, chiffon, lace, sequins. . . . AURELIA : Tulle, I love tulle. I have no place in my life for tulle. But I love it. RAMOU : Oh, I totally want to have a tulle wedding dress. My wedding dress is gonna have to have tulle. AURELIA : I love the Pinterest boards with girls wearing tulle skirts and jean jackets, but that wouldn't function in my life. ALESIA : I own a custom-made tutu! It has like three different pinks: hot pink, regular pink, and like a petal pink. And it has a black bow belt. Really, it's awesome. It was my birthday tutu. I think for a while I was going through some shit and I just really needed something that made me feel all right, and I was like, "I'll get a tutu!" RAMOU : Now I wanna wear tulle for my birthday this year! AURELIA : You should. But I will just say, with the tutu--you can either wear a tiara on your birthday or a tutu. You can't do both. (Everyone laughs.) FATIMA : Aurelia, how would you describe your personal style? AURELIA : Oh my god, I don't know. Maybe a post-apocalyptic Audrey Hepburn My Little Pony sort of thing. FATIMA : That sounds amazing! AURELIA : Yeah, I kinda landed somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and Stevie Nicks. ALESIA : I wear dark clothes because I think they look great on me. Also, it's an homage to Janet Jackson. Her Control era, the Rhythm Nation era. . . . FATIMA : She looked great. ALESIA : She'd always been the chubby kid with the chubby face, and that's how I've looked most of my life. But she didn't wear baggy stuff, she wasn't trying to hide her body. She embraced her curves, and everything she wore, it looked like it was tailor-made for her. She may have had insecurities, but you couldn't tell it in the way she dressed. I think that's been my style inspiration for who knows how long, with little adjustments here and there. FATIMA : For me it's sort of a three-pronged thing between nineties Morticia Addams--like in the Addams Family movie--and Grace Jones, because I'm very drawn to androgynous kinds of looks, and Diana Ross, because I love that really glam stuff. ALESIA : I spend a lot of time on my eyelashes, and it's definitely because of Diana. AURELIA : I love lashes. Solange is a little bit further left-field than I am in my day-to-day life, but I wish I could dress like her on the regular. But my life doesn't really allow for that. RAMOU : I love Solange, but you're right. I could not wear what she wears every day and make it work for me. I used to be really into accessories, like I would overaccessorize. And since I've cut my hair, I'm pretty much all about my earrings. But when I first cut it, I was very self-conscious about still appearing feminine, so I'd wear these big, very girly earrings. . . . ALESIA : Me, too. When my hair started transitioning to natural, I wasn't comfortable with not having straight hair anymore, and I would try to girly it up a bit by wearing huge, chunky, feathery, neon, sparkly earrings. Like, "Hey, I'm still a girl!" RAMOU : I was definitely like that. AURELIA : I didn't do the big chop. I got a weave, and I had a big curly weave until my hair grew out enough that I wanted to wear it out. ALESIA : That takes a lot of patience. I was, like, ready to rock my stuff immediately. AURELIA : I did cut all of my hair off a while after that, but that was a fashion statement for me. I knew what I was going to look like. I think it's because my mother and my aunt had really short hair, like these boy cuts, and I always thought they were so gorgeous, so I was like, "I want to be like my mom and cut all my hair off." But then I grew it all out because I thought my boobs were too big, and it made my head look really small. (Everyone laughs.) ALESIA : I went natural because I thought my head was too big, and wearing my hair straight was making me look odd. Everyone was always, "You have the best hair, it's so thick, you should just wear it." And I was like, "You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know what I deal with." But then I'd notice that when I had a curly weave, I looked really great, like my head looked proportional, so I finally decided to do it. But then I had a little problem where I just didn't feel like I looked . . . presentable. RAMOU : I think, especially for black girls, it can be very contentious--natural or not natural--and people are very sensitive about their hair. But I'm realizing that before I cut my hair, it was more about my own worries. Like, nobody cared about my hair. And now that I've cut it, I just feel more confident with it, and it feels like more of a style, because I was very self-conscious when it was straight. It was very damaged and I would straighten it all the time and I would always wear it pulled back. So it's a whole different look for me. I do get a lot of compliments on my hair now. AURELIA : I got more compliments when I cut all my hair off, which was weird. I thought it was gonna be the opposite. When I cut all my hair off, I got a hundred percent more attention from men. But at some point I decided that's not how I want to look anymore, so I grew it out. I constantly have this idea in my head of what I want to look like, and I just go with that. ALESIA : There's four different types of hair on my head--like, curl patterns. I'd say my hair ranges from 3c to 4c. When I let it do its own thing, no one wants to see that, apparently, because I get no compliments. Other black women are like, "Good for you!" But I know they would never do it. But when I have my hair in twisties or a braid-out, where there's a defined pattern, I get a lot of compliments and I'm just like: "Save it. I know why you're complimenting me!" FATIMA : My confidence grew when I stopped straightening my hair and started wearing it in its natural state. One, probably just because I was less exhausted from all this damn straightening, you know? (laughs) I looked better because I looked fresher--I was getting more sleep! And I wasn't constantly worried in the summer, when it's humid, about my hair going back to its natural curly state, or if it rained--all that stuff you worry about when your hair's straightened. It just went out the window. I've now cut it after about five years of growing it out, and I realized I should have kept it short the entire time, because I once again feel very free. There's this idea about very long, curly hair, and it being ideal, and I think I bought into that, even though it was more work for me, because it didn't really have a shape. RAMOU : It's funny, we all have these similar hair journeys. I think the problem is . . . I know for me, I didn't grow up with a lot of black girlfriends with natural hair, or black girlfriends period. So part of my struggle with cutting off my hair was I felt, Oh I don't know anybody else who's going through this. But it does seem like this is a very kind of common thing that black girls go through. ALESIA : What's really sad about that is that, yeah, I didn't have a community of black girls until very late in life. I mean, I'm not sixty, but until recently. Especially when I was transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair, I was looking for a community to guide me through it, and I was lucky enough that I found someone who gave me this book called Thank God I'm Natural that's written by a black woman who has all these natural recipes and she tells you what to do straight up. Because looking at the blogs, they were so vicious, it's a miracle I didn't just say whatever and put my hair in a fake Yaki weave or something. AURELIA : I went natural because there were enough people out in the world, at the point when I decided to do it, who were natural, so I got to see it more and say, Wait a minute, this is exactly what I'm trying to accomplish getting these relaxers every six weeks and getting straw sets. It looks exactly the same! ALESIA : That's an advantage of living in an area that's populated by actual black people. (laughs) You get to see other black people living relatively normal lives, with bangin' hair. I only found natural communities because I was having scalp issues and I knew it was probably related to getting relaxers, and I was just Googling, and I was like, What else can I do? Then I found natural hair, and I kind of just waded my way through the murk. ALESIA : I think that's why when I see someone in a really bad . . . sorry to keep talking about bad weaves, but they're ruining our community. (laughs) It's a real problem, you guys! When I see people who have terrible weaves, I'm just like, Look, there's a better way. Which probably comes off as weird, but. . . . FATIMA : My hair now looks healthy and it has a style, and it's manageable, and I just feel better. I just feel more like myself. RAMOU : I think in the last few years I've also figured out what my style is. I sometimes like looking at fashion blogs and seeing trends, and figuring out which trends work for me and which don't. But I'm also somebody that, if I like a trend, I'm not going to stop wearing it next season or whatever, right? AURELIA : Yeah. When you find something you like, it goes into your personal fashion library. RAMOU : Like leopard. I'm never going to stop wearing leopard. I'm just always going to wear leopard, I think. ALESIA : I'm so with you on that. RAMOU : I'm wearing leopard underwear right now! ALESIA : Most of my lingerie is leopard. My favorite nightie is this leopard-print Betsey Johnson negligee. It's got hot-pink bows on it, it's so tacky, it's so Peg Bundy, I love it. AURELIA : That sounds amazing, are you kidding me? COLLECTION ODETTE HENDERSON 's raincoats CONVERSATION I'M ALWAYS ON THE FLOOR AND WORKING FASHION DESIGNER MONA KOWALSKA OF A DÉTACHER SPEAKS TO HEIDI JULAVITS & WRITER/CHILDBIRTH EDUCATOR CERIDWEN MORRIS CERIDWEN: When you think about clothes, do you think more about day-to-day, practical, non-event-focused dressing? MONA: I don't really care so much about looking sexy or smart. People want to feel a certain way. That is almost more important than how things look. So I try everything on, because I want the clothing to feel a specific way. I do all my own pattern-making, I do all my own muslins. I like to feel strong in my clothes. CERIDWEN: I just turned forty-five, and the look that's being pitched to me is about being MILF-y, sexy--but whatever you do, don't look like you're forty-five. Like the idea of being a capital-W Woman is not so great. We should all look twenty-eight. MONA: And the result is these terrible human collages. Sometimes you see someone from the back and they're all worked out and wearing skinny jeans and then they turn around. . . . HEIDI: Eep! And they're seventy! MONA: I'd prefer someone dressed in a dowdy way. CERIDWEN: I feel like the stuff you design is younger than anything else out there, in the sense that it's childhood young. I recently tried on your dress with the ruching around the bottom. You said the design was inspired by the act of tucking your dress into your underwear. MONA: My assistant from Australia always tucked her dress into her underwear. I thought, That is so smart, so I did it, too! Now if I'm wearing something fluid in the summer I always tuck it into my underpants, because I'm always on the floor and working. CERIDWEN: There's this youthful aspect to your clothing and at the same time it's very much about being a grown-up woman. Everyone else is seeking to be right in the middle, at twenty-eight. Which, by the way, is a wonderful age. HEIDI: It's not a wonderful age, actually. CERIDWEN: It's a rough age, that's true. Thirty is a bit better. HEIDI: I feel like forty is the best age. MONA: I was at a dinner in France recently. Most of the women at the table were in their late fifties, and at some point somebody said, "What age would you go back to?" And all of them said forty. It was amazing. They could have said anything! They could have made themselves sixteen. Everyone said forty. You're at the top of your game, you're at the top of your career, you're at the top sexually. But here in America we don't have this appreciation. I don't find America particularly youthful, for all the emphasis on youth. HEIDI: You really appreciate the influence of older women. MONA: That ruched-bottom dress came from the "Grandma's House" collection. I feel like one's grandmother is a big clothing influence. HEIDI: More than one's mother? MONA: I think so. A grandmother is your first contact with vintage. Grandmas are pile-ups of the old thing, the acrylic thing, the crazy thing. There's the thrill of sorting through Grandmother's stuff. HEIDI: What was your grandmother like? MONA: She was a very elegant woman. One of the things in the collection inspired by her was this big wallet. She used to wear a big wallet between her bosoms. When she needed money, she would, just like a magician with a rabbit, pull this wallet out of the top of her dress. CERIDWEN: I store lots of things in my bra. I have my phone in there. Credit cards, money, keys. When you don't have pockets, you have to stick it somewhere. HEIDI: Was your mother an influence? MONA: My mother was head of an atelier. There were two companies that dressed all of Poland under Communism, and my mother worked for one of them. She had a lot of private clients, so there were always women in and out. You know, wives of party members, who could afford to have clothing made. Our apartment was the size of your pocket, so when someone arrived, that's what was happening that day. I remember her doing wedding dresses. She thought it was a particular kind of gift to make a wedding dress. CERIDWEN: Have you ever made a wedding dress? MONA: I made one for one of my oldest customers, a person who supported me when I first opened. But I would never do it again. HEIDI: You had misgivings about the dress? MONA: I didn't. I just don't have a lot of connection to the idea of the wedding dress. I planned my wedding in two days. I wore a '40s silver jacket and black pants. So I wasn't connected to the intensity of choosing a wedding dress. You know, when a person is trying on a wedding dress, we say it looks nice, and then we have to start over and say it again. It's this "You look great" loop that goes on for two hours. CERIDWEN: I have one of your sweaters and it's a little itchy, and there's something about the itchiness that's so intentionally contrary to the Juicy Couture comfy adult sweatpants culture. MONA: I wear those sweaters on bare skin because I'm such a maniac. I always say, It's nice to feel your clothes. If something's a little tight on your bum, I don't think that that's an issue. You'll walk differently that day. Like a little panty line, and that funny way of walking. . . . HEIDI: I love the panty-line detail. When you moved to Baltimore, was your mother still making your clothing? MONA: Not so much. We moved in the 1970s, when I was nine. CERIDWEN: Baltimore has a specific aesthetic--the whole John Waters thing. Was that relevant for you at all? Or '70s American culture in general? MONA: Just '70s American culture in general. I really have an appreciation for that era. That was when we finally took the remaining stuffing out of the clothes. After the '80s, it's more about bulking up again, but in the '70s we were almost naked. There was this feeling: a little bit naked--powerful and naked. If I think about clothing, the 1970s is one of the decades for which I have a deep appreciation. I think it's the decade that influences me the most. Although it's less about the way the clothing looked. It's more about that feeling of a sense of freedom. No bras, a natural body, you'd always see somebody's nipple. I have a girlfriend, she has a big bosom, and if the dress permits it, she'll go without a bra. I think that looks great. HEIDI: Do you wear bras ever? MONA: No. I mean, I'm so tiny! HEIDI: You work in the back of your store. Do you ever come to the front and give customers advice when they're trying on your clothes? MONA: Generally I try not to give advice. I don't really want to worm my way into people's lives and closets in that way. If I say something to a customer, it's usually along the lines of "That dress looks really beautiful with your hair color," because I think sometimes people don't see those things. Someone with dark hair will try on a navy dress, and all of a sudden their hair has this blue cast and it looks really beautiful. But rarely do I give advice like "You should wear this with this," because I don't know. I don't know what people should wear. You don't know about people's lives. HEIDI: Do you ever learn things from watching people try on the clothes? MONA: Women love pockets. Sometimes when we do sales, a buyer will try something on and I'll see her do this (hands-searching-for-pockets gesture), and then I will add pockets. HEIDI: Are there other people who've inspired you? MONA: I worked for Sonia Rykiel in Paris, and she was really into the accidental discovery. She was the first person who did the inside-out seams. I think she just put her sweater on inside out one day. As a designer, you pay attention to these accidents. CERIDWEN: What are some of your best accidental discoveries? MONA: One day I walked out of the shop and saw an older woman with her raincoat on. She'd put her dickey on over her raincoat, and I thought, Ah! HEIDI: What's a dickey? MONA: It's just a little partial shirt, it usually has a turtleneck, and you wear it under things. But she wore it over her coat, and I thought, "She couldn't find her scarf and so she just threw that on." She was a little Hispanic old lady, she wasn't doing a "look." I pay attention to older women. I find they just do these things. CERIDWEN: What was the first thing you owned that you were excited about? MONA: I remember some jumpsuits I had when I was in high school. I had one that was made in India. CERIDWEN: Did you listen to the Abba record Arrival ? The Abba ladies really worked the jumpsuit. MONA: I had immigrant parents, so we had no music at the house. When I said I wanted a backpack, they were like, Oh my god, no, you're going to look like a runaway. So I couldn't carry a backpack or wear jeans. HEIDI: Do you always wear heels? MONA: I prefer heels. Last week I wore Birkenstocks and at the end of the day I just felt so bad about myself. Like, Okay, my feet don't hurt, but my morale is really low. I think I'd rather have feet that hurt a little bit but a higher morale. HEIDI: Do you think about how the body gets canted differently depending on the heel height? That posture becomes part of the whole look. MONA: I have one pair of try-on shoes, they're a pair of old Miu Miu shoes that have a high heel and a very simple banded front. They are in horrible condition, they are so beat, but if I try on a muslin and those shoes are not there, I am almost in tears. I turn over the whole back room, like, "We gotta find the try-on shoes!" There's something about the way these shoes sort out my body--all of a sudden it's the proportion I want to see. It's that extra three inches on the leg. It's not about the shoe so much. It's the proportion that shoe creates. CERIDWEN: Since I've got bigger boobs, I like to wear bigger shoes. Because if I come down to a point, I'm feel like I'm teetering. MONA: If you made your hair big, then it would be nice to teeter. HEIDI: Do you ever make super-delicate shoes? MONA: I prefer a strong, sexy shoe. I like things that aren't just one thing. When you accomplish that in a design, it allows everyone to find themselves in it. I like these dualities. They're open-ended somehow. People will come in and they'll say of a dress, "It reminds me of something my mother used to wear." That sense of finding yourself in something is important. That's where the resonance comes from. CERIDWEN: Sometimes you need fishnets to balance the wool sweater. MONA: I think about the very beautiful woman who dresses down. She could dress up and be a total babe. But people like a more complicated presentation of themselves, I find. HEIDI: How do you balance wanting your aesthetic to be embraced by many women with that proprietary feeling of, "Hey, fuck, that's my look." MONA: I only have one thing about which I feel proprietary. When I wear men's shirts, I turn the collar in. I have a friend who does it and it makes me crazy. It brings out the teenager in me. You know why I resent it so much? Because I share everything. For example, I make a little dish rack for my house, and then I make it for the store because it works so great. I share everything! So that collar thing makes me so crazy. I want to say, "Let me just have this one thing." Oh, it just makes me so cross, you have no idea. COMPLIMENT "WATCH" Shibuya, Tokyo. Saturday night in a department store. Two young Japanese saleswomen stand together. One is wearing a black miniskirt, tights, and a loose gray sweater. She is also wearing a watch with a brown leather band and, in its face, golden exposed gears and parts. KATE: I like your watch! WOMAN: Oh, thank you! (The woman and her coworker giggle.) HER COWORKER (in Japanese) : Her watch is handmade. (The woman holds it up for the others to see more closely.) WOMAN: Handmade by an artist in Japan. KATE: It's beautiful. WOMAN: Thank you! PROJECT WEAR AREAS | GINTARE PARULYTE 1 I am obsessed with cleaning my ears. When I was small, my mum used to roll a small bubble of cotton onto a matchstick and clean my ears with it. My brother developed the same obsession, probably for the same reasons. A few years ago, during my shopping routine in an organic supermarket, I stumbled upon a tiny tool: a small Indian hairpin-looking device to clean (or rather internally massage or tickle) the ears. I couldn't believe my discovery. This small nothing represented to me the materialization of my siblinghood, a secret obsession we share and always will. 2 I was born with a stainlike birthmark on my left butt cheek. Since I grew up in the Soviet Union and Gorbachev had a similar one on his head, I was convinced that every citizen of the USSR had one on some part of the body as an anatomical manifestation of being united as a community. My interpretation was backed by the fact that my brother had a stainlike birthmark on the exact same spot, on the exact same butt cheek. 3 I can move my small toes sideways. I see it as a playful, secret gift. It empowers me and makes me feel special. COLLECTION KATE RYAN 's tote bags SURVEY BREASTS "I rebel against the idea of pleasing men, but I think lingerie is beautiful, especially on women over fifty." --ELLEN RODGER KRISTINA ANNE GYLLING I'm pretty happy and comfortable with my body. I wish my breasts were bigger so that I could wear dresses that had bust cups or a bustline that accentuates the breasts. When I see women wearing those types of dresses, it embodies a certain part of womanhood that I don't think I'll ever experience. I think I'll feel like I'm trapped in a little girl's body forever. MEGHAN BEAN FLAHERTY I care a great deal about lingerie. Where I fail in clothing, I ace all tests of underlace. I have a pathological desire to match the bra and panties, the silk stockings to the garter belt. Each new piece becomes a character in me--a heroine, an ingenue, a bawd. I keep them in a perfumed box. TALITA S. My mum is sort of anti-bra. She wears Lycra tops and says anything else gives breast cancer. I used to wear Lycra tops when I was younger, but I felt embarrassed about it. My lack of decent bras made me feel like less of a woman. So when I moved to London, the first thing I bought was a bra. I went to the shop that makes bras "by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen" and had a fitting, then spent 180 pounds on a bra at Agent Provocateur. It is still the only piece of actual lingerie I own--that bra and the matching panties--and it always gives me a buzz to wear it. If I have to wear old or dirty underwear, I spend the whole day missing a big chunk of my self-confidence. ZARA GARDNER Lately I'm very interested when women deliberately present themselves as small-chested by wearing an unpadded bra. I see this as an act of liberation, rejecting how men and society might wish them to look. I'm small-breasted myself and gradually moving toward bras that are about support over cleavage. I feel it's a sign of growing confidence and strength somehow. TAMARA SCHIFF I think smaller breasts would be more conducive to the types of tops I like to wear. I wish I could go braless with certain tops without feeling inappropriate. It's not my style to dress in a sexy manner, but sometimes I think my boobs, which honestly aren't even that big, make things a little more va-va-voom than I would like them to be. KRISTY HELLER I travel the country with the Renaissance Festival. My circuit takes me from North Carolina to Arizona to Minnesota to Louisiana, and everywhere in between. Every weekend I dress up in "garb" and everything I put on for the shows accentuates the female form; waists are taken in, hips are lush and womanly, breasts are everywhere. When women put on an outfit like this, they can feel this incredible surge of power. JUDE STEWART Getting a real bra fitting is no joke when you're expecting. Those boobs really do swell on you, for a surprisingly long time, and going braless occasionally becomes a thing of the past. I used to wear a 36B and am now a 36C at least. I hate the smoothly robotic-neutral color of most maternity bras, but it's too much effort to fight that tendency entirely. ASHLEY C. FORD My breasts are always bigger than I think. I look fertile. I'm not. SZILVIA MOLNAR I have an almost bodily memory of a new sweater I got one Christmas. I was fourteen, and my mother had knitted me a cream-colored sweater that came out a lot tighter than planned. I liked it, but it was the first time I let my quite newly budded breasts get so much recognition. I felt they were exposed to the world for the first time, since the sweater held on to them so tightly. I ended up only wearing that sweater at home during the holidays. EMILY BROTMAN In high school, girls with names like Molly and Cate wore sports bras that curved fantastically around their shoulder blades--I could see through their gym shirts when it rained. It made their chests look taut and perky. REN JENDER In a cruisey, sexual way, I like women with generous bodies, perhaps because even at my heaviest I've never had big hips or breasts. BETH FOLLETT If I find a brassiere that suits me, I buy two or three, as it seems almost a Murphy's Law that bras I really like will become obsolete in two years. I am not a standard bra size and I've had trouble finding bras that truly fit. I don't want to wear my breasts like bullets. MIMI CABELL My ex-boyfriend really liked it when I wore a garter belt and stockings, and he would get really turned on, but as he got turned on, I would sort of shrink away into myself. I knew that he was into me in the lingerie, but it was hard. I guess I feel at odds with the way that sexy is portrayed, because the closer I get to how I think I should be presenting myself, the less like myself I feel. I feel like an alien, or not alive, or nothing at all. RACHEL WEEKS When I worked at this nonprofit to help garment workers, there was a faction of women there who could not believe we were considering partnering with a manufacturer that was making bras for Victoria's Secret. I mean, these women were just livid . And I sat there and I thought to myself: Every woman in this room is wearing a bra. And do they have any idea where that bra was made? Like, are all their bras ethically sourced? I doubt it. It's one of the most complicated garments in the world to make--it has over thirty-five components, and it's a very complicated piece of apparel with a global sourcing story. CARISSA HALSTON I have a very small back and a very large front. How I wish I could buy a $10 or $15 bra from H&M. I can't even buy a $40 bra from Lane Bryant. Because I'm a 32F, my back is too small to shop in plus-size stores and my cup size is too large to get a bra anywhere else. And if I wear the wrong-size bra, my posture is awful and my clothes fit me like a tarp. MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE I don't enjoy wearing bras. I also think they are bad for your health, so I keep my eye out for clothes that suit this. I'm Asian, so I have small breasts and can get away with this more than women with larger cargo. KATHRYN BOREL I never let a button-up shirt bulge around my boobs. You know when that little opening is created between two buttons? Fuck that. To myself I will say, "Suck it up, get a larger size." ROXANE GAY I would get a breast reduction and lift. I want the girls to fly high. KATE ZAMBRENO I have a rather large bust but a small frame--the last measurement at a bra fitting was a 32DDD. I have to buy new bras every six months, otherwise I am already on the last hook and everything's stretched. My bras are like military equipment. It's a really costly thing I have to do. I know that when my clothes don't fit then I need to buy new bras. JASON BARKER Trying to pass as male with 38DD breasts was quite a challenge, so I wore a tight elasticated binder to keep my boobs strapped to my chest and then a beige fleece vest on top, like a psychological binder on the outside. There's a photo of me standing outside the pork pie shop in Skipton and the outline of flattened breasts is quite clear, like I'm trying to smuggle two very large pita breads under my clothes. Then, last autumn, I bought myself a padded sleeveless jacket from a shop that sells outdoor gear and I loved the whole shop. The clothes are all presented according to purpose. There are no tricky patterns or designs, nothing to call attention to the wearer in a "Look at me in my new clothes--I think I look great!" sort of way. The huge photos they have of bearded men and laughing women enjoying the outdoors were very appealing--to be free from fashion and free from the pressure to "express myself" through clothing. Truth is, I just want to look like everybody else. COLLECTION DOROTHY PLATT 's wrap skirts ON DRESSING STAYING HOME ROSE WALDMAN From my closet I pull out a straight black skirt, my go-to on most days. I choose a cream-colored T-shirt to go with it, then the lace blouse I always wear over the T-shirt to hide the fatty bulges on my back. A perfectly good outfit--in Williamsburg, among my fellow Hasidim, that is. But for tonight's event, I'm feeling doubtful. The outfit seems too overdone. Too formal. The blouse goes back. So does the shirt. I try a dark purple T-shirt instead. Now I look somber. Off it goes. I want something summery, light. I'll be conspicuous enough wearing long sleeves in ninety-degree weather among the halter tops I imagine everyone else will be wearing. I try the cropped white shell with the turquoise cotton sweater. I like it. Maybe this will work. Tonight's event is a reading at a gallery by one of my fiction workshop classmates. When I got the invite, I e-mailed her, I'll be there. Can't wait! But in the end, I don't go. All the shilly-shallying over clothes has been for nothing. As usual, at the last minute I chicken out. Some clarifications before I continue: When I use the word "T-shirt," I am talking about the "Hasidic T-shirt," which is the same thing as a regular T-shirt but the sleeves are longer. Cropped shells are also a Hasidic invention. They are long-sleeved T-shirts that end in an elastic below the bust. They're quite brilliant, actually. We can now buy pretty much any sleeveless top, wear it with a cropped shell, and voilà--instant sleeves! After supper, I lie down on the couch with my sudoku and feel a bit guilty. I should be out there supporting my fellow writers, especially this woman, who is one of the loveliest people I know. Here's how I justify staying home: I'm generally not a night person. After six p.m., my body and brain stop cooperating with me. So it's not really my fault, but my body's. I squeeze a lot into my days. I deserve to relax with a book or a crossword puzzle or sudoku in the evenings. It's really hot and humid out there, and I'm allergic to humidity. It always puts me in a foul mood. I have so many obligations in my real life--my Hasidic life--weddings, bar mitzvahs, engagement parties, charity events, and so on, that I cannot get out of attending, that it's not my fault if I have no energy for these extracurricular experiences. These reasons aren't bad. And they're also true. But they're not the real reasons. Or at least, not the only reasons. The fact is, I'm self-conscious at these events. In my panty hose, long skirt, long-sleeved top, and wig, I feel like "that girl." My rational mind tells me that in New York City, where people dye their hair green and wear knee-high boots in the dead heat of summer, my Hasidic wear barely merits a second glance. But like most people, I operate by emotion, not rationality. And my emotional self feels conspicuous and self-conscious. These days, when people compete for ever more imaginative ways to make themselves stand out, when all of life is one big exhibition and if it's not on Facebook and Twitter it's like it never happened, I suppose many people would enjoy standing out. But that's because they don't have to stand out. Standing out is their luxury, not their necessity. It bothers me that I didn't go to the reading. Clothes should not have such power. POEM | TEXTILE NAMES I Bird Doris Gossips Rooster Princess Tulip tree Les violons Spring rain Deer season White trellis Field flowers Flower heads Scattered pins Vegetable patch Orange blossom Triangles and lines Pennies from heaven CONVERSATION YOUR JEWELRY IS YOUR STOMACH NOVELIST KIRAN DESAI SPEAKS TO HEIDI JULAVITS HEIDI: You recently mentioned that you're at a fashion crossroads. KIRAN: Yes, but also a life crossroads. I realized that I've been doing everything wrong. (laughs) HEIDI: Let's start with clothes and then we can explore the other aspects of your wrongness. KIRAN: I grew up in India, so you have to learn a whole new way of doing clothes when you move to the West. Fashions don't carry over, so if you fly between places you will inevitably look wrong in the country you're going to. Definitely going to India you look bad if you go in your Western clothes. Everyone comments on how awful you look right away. The sky is different, the street is different, the dust is different--only Indian clothes work. HEIDI: So do you have both of those wardrobes? KIRAN: No, I don't. I always look wrong when I go back to India. But then, I feel extremely unhappy in New York, too. HEIDI: New York is where I've always felt the most wrong. Even when I manage to feel right on occasion, if I see a picture of myself when I felt right, I look horrible to myself. KIRAN: I feel ashamed of myself when I feel right in New York, because there's something wrong with this place. I'm always stunned when I walk into a party and I find all these women are really wearing little high heels, and girls are dressed in tiny clothes that look really horrible in fact, and they're so miserable in the cold of winter, wearing tiny little high heels in the snow. These women have no pride. HEIDI: Many people see saris as being more uniform, if they don't have an eye for where the differences lie, where personal flair comes in. KIRAN: That's right. It's in the way you tie them. But also, every tiny community and all the weaving families, they have a code of symbols, and the patterns can be handed down six, seven generations. They're so complex. The wedding sari will have its own special symbols--it's this huge code. They're beautiful. The plants and shells and creatures and birds . . . I miss that, because in America, you don't have animals all over your clothes. Well, you do sometimes, but I'm not a fan of leopard print. HEIDI: Just actual leopards. KIRAN: I lament having to give up Indian clothing now that I'm here. It's one of the most fun things about being an Indian woman. But it's really time-consuming. All these people manage to have clothes like that because they have servants. With the saris, you wash these great lengths of fabric, then you hang them on huge lines or down your balcony, then you starch them and then someone stands on one end and you stand on the other end and you pull it to make it tight and starchy, and then it's ironed. So it's a lot of work. HEIDI: I never think of saris as being starched. I think of them as being more flowing. KIRAN: Well, the cotton ones are starched. Traditionally they're dipped in rice water and then starched, so you walk around so stiffly. Then gradually the humidity and sun get to them and they become really crumply. HEIDI: They wilt. KIRAN: Starched clothes also sound so different. I once interviewed weavers in different parts of India, and they were telling me how important the sound of silk is. If two women are going through a door together, and they rub saris, they should make a kssshh . They complained that cheap Chinese silks are flooding the market. They don't have the right sound. It should be rustling. HEIDI: Instead of that nylon-y, slick sound. Do you have recollections of learning what to wear once you moved to England, then America? KIRAN: I remember starting to wear the most basic T-shirts and jeans and being unhappy in them. If you haven't grown up wearing a lot of jeans, they're very uncomfortable. HEIDI: They have grommets on them. That dig into your body! KIRAN: Why did they become so popular? Remember after September 11, when everyone was terrified that anyone who looked strange in New York would summarily shoot something? Well, my aunt has only worn saris her whole life, and her son told her, "You've got to try to wear jeans." So they put her into jeans and she couldn't sit down. (laughs) I kept saying, "Sit down," and she'd say, "I can't!" (laughs) HEIDI: So what made your misery come to a head? KIRAN: I don't know. It was building and building and I realized I'm not . . . anything . I'm not living the life I want. I'm not living according to my ideals of life. I'm just sort of embarrassing myself. One option for me now is to come up with a kind of uniform. HEIDI: And you feel that figuring out a uniform is a starting point? KIRAN: Well, you have to have some sort of self-respect in the end that doesn't alter depending on where you go, which place you travel to. Ideally, the uniform would be something I'm happy in, that's not dull, but also that I could wear all the time. HEIDI: Gustav Klimt used to work in a blue caftan. It was a painter's smock, and it was linen, and almost looked like a monk's robe. KIRAN: With exciting fabric, you could wear that with your long johns in the winter! I feel like when I find the right thing, I'm really going to go for it and stick with it, because it's taken me until age forty-two to be in this miserable place. KIRAN: I'm writing a story right now about these women going to visit the family jewelry in the bank--these precious stones mixed with beads and glass. That was your inheritance, and it mattered a lot, as any Indian woman knows. And the grandmother keeps giving it away to the granddaughters, then reclaiming it because she can't bear to let it go because . . . it's like her stomach is missing. I've seen it so strongly, the jealousy, greed--having to pass on your jewelry, feeling your jewelry is your stomach, in a way. It's that much the center of your life--your saris, your jewels. There are women in my family--their eyes, their entire expression changes as soon as they're in front of a sari or old jewels they've handed down. Something really old comes up. I remember my grandmother had these jewels, and whenever she had to give one away, she felt like an organ was missing. HEIDI: And she had to give it away because. . . . KIRAN: Because you inherited it. You have to give it to a daughter when she gets married. HEIDI: So in the story you're writing, they're going to visit the jewelry in the bank? KIRAN: Yes. HEIDI: That's fascinating--the survival worry that, as a woman, you're only worth what you show up with. Like you have this clothing, and this dowry with these linens, and these jewels. KIRAN: Yes. I have some jewelry that was divided among all us grandchildren, and I have my grandmother's nose ring. It's huge--it covers your whole mouth. Why don't I wear that? PROJECT MOTHERS AS OTHERS | PART 1 Send a photograph of your mother from the time before she had children and tell us what you see. Excerpted from Women in Clothes: Why We Wear What We Wear by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Alesia and Faitima and Aurelia and Ramou From the Podcast Black Girls TalkingMona Kowalska and Heidi Julavits and Ceridwen MorrisKiran Desai and Heidi JulavitsHeidi JulavitsMakiko Yamamoto and Stephanie ComilangJuliet Jacques and Sheila HetiChristine Muhlke and Kerry Diamond and Heidi Julavits and Leanne ShaptonKim Gordon and Christopher BollenDina Goldstein and Jonathan GoldsteinBack-Juliet Landan-Pope as told and Sheila HetiNikki Hausler as told and Mary MannMac McClelland and Sheila HetiAlexander Nagel and Sheila HetiSemi Chellas and Sheila HetiCath Le Couteur as told to and Heidi JulavitsTalita and BenIda Liu and Heidi JulavitsJulia Wallace and Kuch Naren and Sophal and Vantha and LeapLeslie Vosshall and Heidi JulavitsJagoda Wardach and Sheila HetiCindy Sherman and Molly RingwaldLucy Birley and Leanne ShaptonMonica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass and Leanne Shapton and Heidi JulavitsAlex Wagner and Leanne ShaptonPamela Baguley as told to and Leanne ShaptonRuth Reichl and Heidi JulavitsSheila Heti and Leanne ShaptonHeidi JulavitsMichele Oka Doner and Francesca MarcianoSheila HetiAmy Rose Spiegel and Mary MannMonika Chhy and Anna Clare Spelman and Jennifer LiebscbutzThando Lobese and Heidi JulavitsMiranda Purves and Leanne ShaptonHelen King and Sheila HetiBarbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman and Heidi JulavitsReba Sikder and Sara Ziff and Kalpona AkterNellie Davis and Kate ShepherpMira GonzalezLeanne ShaptonMiranda JulyHeidi JulavitsMicah LexierLeanne ShaptonZosia Mamet and Leanne ShaptonMargaux WilliamsonLeslie VosshallThessaly La ForceLeanne Shapton and Heidi JulavitsEmily StokesJosh BlackwellKate RyanRuth van BeekTavi GevinsonRachel Perry WeltyKatherine BernardKarin SchaeferpSheila HetiElif BatumanRose WaldmanSadi SteinKatie KitamuraMary MannSarah Nicole PrickettRenee GladmanUmm AdamSheila HetiEmily GouldCbhristen CliffordMansoura Ez EldinIda Hattemer-HigginsShani BoianjiuAmy FusselmanMary MannChrista ParravaniHeidi JulavitsHeidi JulavitsGilda HaberLeanne ShaptonLisa CobenLisa RobertsonKate RyanStarlee KineStrarlee KineMary MannLisa NaftolinSheila HetiKate RyanLeanne ShaptonStrarlee Kine
Clothing Gardenp. 3
Questionsp. II
Leopoldine Corep. 21
Lena Dunhamp. 81
Sherwin Tjiap. 155
Milena Rosap. 183
Young Kimp. 201
Souvankham Thammavongsap. 319
Trytje Kramerp. 491
You DonÆt Know What I Deal Withp. 25
Im Always on the Floor and Workingp. 29
Your Jewelry Is Stomachp. 41
Maybe a Lot of People DonÆt Do This Ly Ky Tran as told top. 65
Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberriesp. 77
It's This Mystery, IsnÆt It?p. 89
Four Women at a Clothing swapp. 91
Anyone Can Look Coolp. 99
A Schmatte Looks Goodp. 127
You're Never Going to Get That Moneyp. 145
I Always Liked the Pearl Snapp. 151
If Nothing Else, I Have an Ethical Garterp. 171
The Surfer Is Nothing Without the Wavep. 187
I DidnÆt Buy the Baby Any Clothingp. 197
1989p. 211
If You Like It, I Like It Morep. 213
Billionaire Clients-p. 217
Clothes on the Ground-p. 225
Flower X-p. 253
Oh My God, Who Wears That?p. 265
I Had a Little Pegboard-p. 281
You Really Are the Most Disagreeable Girl-p. 297
Put On a Tux and Go-p. 307
The Pantsuit Rotation-p. 313
An Older Woman Going Through Her Closet-p. 317
A Perfect Peach-p. 383
A Brief conversation about dressingp. 385
The Wetsuit Is Not Fashion-Renate Stauss as told top. 405
The Dress Goes over Your Head-p. 407
It's a Good Fleece-Kerry Barber as toldp. 413
You're Lying with Your Face-p. 419
Gentle, Conservative Styles-p. 425
An Outfit for a Turtle-p. 443
The Delirium of Desirep. 447
IÆm Not a Fucking D-p. 453
A French Girl Hoeing-p. 461
The Factory Collapsed-p. 467
The Eight-Year Dress-p. 481
Textile Names Ip. 40
Whatever closeness-p. 305
Textile Names IIp. 395
Textile Names IIIp. 454
Mothers as Others Part Ip. 45
A Map of My Floor-p. 84
Ring Cyclep. 105
Yes?p. 136
The Outfit in the Photograph Ip. 150
Thirty-six Women-p. 157
A Map of My Floor-p. 170
Stylus-p. 191
Stains-p. 218
Posturing-p. 233
How to Dress in This New World-p. 246
This Person Is a Robot-p. 257
The Outfit in the Photograph IIp. 269
My Outfits-p. 275
Bag Dancep. 278
What I Spent-p. 289
Plastic Baskets-p. 302
Shopping Trails-p. 324
Mothers as Others Part 2p. 331
De Moeders-p. 365
Color Taxonomy-p. 375
Fixes-p. 410
Ow ow ow ow-p. 415
The Outfit in the Photograph IIIp. 422
Warp & Weft N08. 1-6-p. 458
A Map of My Floor-p. 477
The Outfit in the Photograph IVp. 484
On Dressing
Good Morning-p. 15
Staying Home-p. 39
Magical-p. 59
Let One Dream Come Truep. 69
Survey Diary no1-p. 85
What I Wore to Fall in Lovep. 121
Calamity-p. 131
I Do Care About Your Patty-p. 137
Survery Answered with Phrases from My Diary-p. 179
The Pink Purse-p. 223
Mother, Daughter, Mustachep. 241
I Refused-p. 273
I Stopped by the Store Every Dayp. 345
At the Checkpoint-p. 355
The Mom Coat-p. 357
Too Much of Me-Vedrana Rudanp. 363
Survey Diary no 2-p. 393
Filthy White Daisies-p. 397
Lost Mittens-p. 401
Summer Diary-p. 423
A "Muff Dog"-p. 429
Covet Diary-p. 433
Seams, Hems, Pleats, Darts-p. 473
Nothing-p. 497
Women Looking at Womenp. 17
Breastsp. 35
Manates of Placep. 61
How does makeup fit into all this for you?p. 71
Economics of Stylep. 73
I feel most attractive whenp. 75
I feel most attractive whenp. 87
Advice and Tipsp. 97
What's the situation with your hairp. 100
What do you wear every day?p. 123
Dress for Succesp. 133
Colorp. 141
Wornp. 147
Unintentionalp. 177
Modest and Nakedp. 207
First conscious of what you were wearing?p. 215
Protectionp. 221
Handmadep. 249
408p. 263
Please describe your mindp. 266
Shoppingp. 271
Balmp. 277
Sistersp. 285
First "investment item?p. 294
Men Looking at Womenp. 327
Do You consider yourself photogenic?p. 348
Strangersp. 351
Gut Feelingp. 361
Glamourp. 379
I Feel most attractive whenp. 381
Smellp. 389
Daughters and Sonsp. 411
I feel most attractive whenp. 421
Closetsp. 427
Please describe your bodyp. 435
Messagesp. 439
Style as Characterp. 451
More Advice and Tipsp. 455
Do you ever wish you were a man?p. 462
Fathersp. 479
I feel most attractive whenp. 483
Lostp. 493
Luise Stauss's over-the-knee socksp. 2
Tania van Spyk's dress sets part 1p. 10
Claudia Dey's fedorsp. 14
Lydia Burkhalter's gray sweathirtsp. 20
Odette Henderson's raincoatsp. 28
Kate RyanÆs tote bagsp. 34
Dorothy Platt's wrap skirtsp. 38
Kristin Anthony's braceletsp. 58
Lisa Naftolin's swimsuitsp. 64
Amy Rose Spiegel's false eyelashesp. 72
Annie McDonald's Clogsp. 76
Andrea Walker's floral-print shirtsp. 80
Joyce Wall's lipstick blotsp. 88
Veronica Manchester's earplugsp. 96
Mae Pang's safety pinsp. 120
Shelia Heti's nail polishp. 126
Delia Marcus's friendship braceletsp. 132
Tift Merritt's handmade guitar strapsp. 140
Pavia Rosati's cashmere sweatersp. 144
Shelia O Shea's hand-me-downsp. 154
Gwen Smith's concert T-shirtsp. 176
Heidi Julavits's striped shirtsp. 182
Julia Leach's jean jacketsp. 186
Sadie Stein's brassieresp. 196
Miranda Purves's shirts with Peter Pan collarsp. 200
Jemima Truman's spare buttonsp. 206
Lisa Przystup's marled socksp. 210
Bay Garnett's leopard-print topsp. 220
Benedicte Pinset's white canvas sneakersp. 240
Amy Pinkham's bobby pinsp. 248
Melinda Andrade's aviator sungassesp. 252
Tara Washington's knitted hatsp. 262
Kristin Gore's gump. 270
Gina Rico's hairbrushes and combsp. 280
Emily Shur's prescription eyeglassesp. 288
Molly Murray's vintage three-inch heelsp. 296
Mary Mann's floss sticksp. 304
Heather O'Donnell's Catholic jewelryp. 312
Charlotte Yoshimura's navy blazersp. 316
Heidi Sopinka's Levisp. 326
Christine Muhlke's identical dressesp. 344
Melissa Walsh's scrubsp. 350
Alicia Meier's blotting papersp. 354
Lorna Shapton's tsinelasp. 360
Sarah Brubacher's handmade dressesp. 382
Jane Larkworthy's lip balmp. 388
Paula Black's hair elasticsp. 392
Mitzi Angel's unworn neckacesp. 396
Jenny Schily's cigarettesp. 418
Kim Bost's tightsp. 432
Rachel Hurn's stolen boyfriend shirtsp. 442
Constance Stern's black cotton underwearp. 446
Ivory Simms's spronsp. 466
Aria Sloss's white nightgownsp. 466
Marlene Barber's fursp. 472
Senami dÆAlmeida's digital wristwatchesp. 478
Tania van Spyk's dress sets part IIp. 490
Leanne Shapton's white trousersp. 496
Wear Areas
Gintare Parulytep. 33
Rivka Galchenp. 103
Ana Buncicp. 153
Jinnie Leep. 185
Aditi Sadeqa Raop. 209
Jill Margop. 231
Anna Backman Rogersp. 295
Margo Jeffersonp. 353
Alicia Bernlohrp. 441
Annika Wablstromp. 457
Lithe Sebestap. 471
Watch-p. 32
Dress-p. 63
Jeans-p. 130
Glasses-p. 181
Bra-p. 251
Scarf-p. 315
Wallet-p. 391
Coat-p. 414
Skirt-p. 426
Acknowledgmentsp. 499
Contributorsp. 501
About the Authorsp. 515
Clothing Pattern Painting-Emily Hass