Never knowingly underdressed 


I've been reading this book called Women in Clothes about why we wear what we wear and how these everyday garments define and shape our lives.

More than 600 women of all nationalities from hundreds of different backgrounds answered around 50 questions designed to prompt women to think more deeply about their personal style.

Questions like, Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What sort of things do you do, clothing - or make up - or hair-wise, to feel sexy or alluring? What sort of women do you tend to notice on the street? What do you consider very ugly? A whole myriad of questions to help form some ideas about our relationship with clothes prompted me to start thinking about my own.

I haven't answered all the questions but I've chosen a few which I hope will give some insight as to my own personal style decisions. How would you respond?

With whom do you talk about clothes?

Anybody and everybody unfortunately (for them). It's a passion I just can't help sharing.

Do you remember the first time you were conscious about what you were wearing?

I remember, as a child, visiting my aunt's immaculate wall to ceiling mirrored home in a prestigious area of London and being told that if I kept wearing trainers my feet would get flat. At the time I was super sporty at school and although I didn't understand what would be wrong with flat feet, I did know that I wanted to be more like my glamorous aunt and so began a love affair with heels.

What item of clothing, makeup or accessory do you carry with you or wear every day?

Tinted lip balm, perfume and mascara. I don't wear much makeup but always have some lip tint on hand to make me look at least half decent. I love perfume and the way you leave a scent trail wherever you go. (I was once told that if you can smell your own perfume you're wearing too much but I've never really adhered to that piece of advice.) And lingerie of course.

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

I'm wearing a pink playsuit teddy from Bluebella, my mascara is predictably smudged and my hair is still up in a bun from work.

Please describe your figure?

Slender and toned.

When do you feel most attractive?

When I've been completely waxed, my hair and eyebrows have been recently done and my complexion is clear. I don't spend a lot of money on makeup, I spend it on skin care so that I don't have to wear makeup. I'm even considering giving individual eyelash extensions a go so I don't have to wear mascara!

What is an archetypal outfit for you: one you could have happily worn at any time in your life?

I hate that I'm about to say this but it's true. Black skinny jeans, ankle boots or Converse and a black silk cami. When I modelled this was our uniform and I've never really grown out of it.

Is there any fashion trend you've refused to take part in?

Well it was Uggs before my ex bought me a pair...

Would you rather be perceived as having great taste or great style?

Hmm. I think great style. I know that what I wear isn't to everyone's taste and to be honest I'm glad it's not. I like to feel independently led in my dress sense.

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

Always overdress rather than underdress. I feel like tall people especially tall girls, like it or not, stand out more than most so if I walk into a room I would much rather people stare in awe than in disgust but this does make you centre of attention and not everyone wants that.

What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

I've learned to look like I know what I'm doing no matter where I am. When I went skiing for the first time, people said I looked like one of the French skiers who were born and bred there. No matter that my actual skiing was no where near the same standard, I had at least achieved the style.

What do you admire about how other women present themselves?

I'm always in awe of women who just seem very together. Women who never spill food down their tops or wrinkle their linen skirt after a full day in the office.  I aspire to be like one of these women. One day. Maybe. Currently I still use a whole roll of paper towel to cover my chest if I'm eating while wearing white so I probably have a way to go to.

What is your favourite piece of clothing or jewellery?

I love the ring I got from my dad for my 30th birthday and my postcode bangle from a company called Whistle + Bango. I'm not really into jewellery but the ring represents a turning point in my life and the postcode I chose on my bangle represents the home that was my refuge after a painful divorce.

Do you look like your mother?

Very much so.

What are things you need to do in order to feel presentable? 

When I was just out of university I somehow managed to get an interview with fashion house Christian Dior. I knew I could do the job with my eyes closed but I was so incredibly nervous that I was sweating in my clothes, spilt the contents of my handbag all over the floor while waiting in the reception and was a rambling wreck in the interview. Since then I've learned to dress simply but expensively and without anything fiddly or ungainly. And I also make sure I'm wearing a killer perfume.

Do you have style in areas of your life other than fashion?

I've been particularly obsessed with home decor and soft furnishings for almost a decade now and I definitely know what I like.

Is there one item of clothing that you once owned but no longer own and still think about it wish you had?

Haha brilliant question. There was a beautiful cream, backless dress I swapped with a friend years ago in exchange for her gorgeous green woollen coat which I still wear. She, on the other hand, has never worn my dress so recently when she wanted a new bikini I bought but never wore, I said she could have it if she gave the dress back - and she did!

If you were to build up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

Where possible I would only buy leather shoes and all my clothes would be made from natural materials. This is more or less what my mum used to tell me and what her wardrobe looks like so I'm basically turning into my mum and I'm okay with that.

Women in Clothes is compiled and written by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton.

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