Stages of Lady Development

Beginner Lady:
Apply sunscreen
Own belt
Own black dress
Wash face at night
Eat crudites with drinks at all receptions
Consult drugstore aisle for skin problems
Wear earrings

Intermediate Lady:
Apply moisturizer
Paint nails pail pink
Use dry shampoo and anti-frizz hair goop
Visit dermatologist for skin problems
Establish actual foundation color
Own black blazer
Eat full plate of crudites before drinking
Own bag made out of leather
Wear necklaces

Advanced Lady:
Paint nails greysh (a lavender/grey color)
Take off nail polish when chipped
Blow dry hair with brush
Use hair curler for “soft-waves”
Pin-point conceal blemishes
Contour eyeball with dark crease shade
Own clean blending brushes
Combine retinol with other active and yet not irritating skin care ingredients
Own two blazers (one winter weight, one summer weight)
Walk in high heels
Go to dinner and have a full meal before attending reception
Own handbag, tote, and clutch
Wear cuffs and “stacking rings”

Women in Clothes

I am savoring this book, doling out a little at a time for myself. However much I like the book, though, it is nothing in comparison to how much I LOVE hearing people I know talk about this stuff. So I now want everyone I know to respond to the survey. Thank you, D, for being the first.

Like D, I have only answered the questions that I find interesting:
2. Do you notice women on the street?
Absolutely. I notice and admire many of the women I see, but I am also incredibly judgmental. However, I have found that the older I get, the more I am likely to find things to like about other women’s clothes than to dislike.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair?
There was a moment maybe five or six years ago when I realized that I had a vision of myself as this very cool rock and roll dressing girl, but this vision of myself had no basis in reality. Like, in high school and college, I made sure that you could look at me and know, “oh, she’s obsessed with Minor Threat.” And I held on to that vision of my reputation in spite of the fact that I was gradually starting to dress in a way that no longer announced my taste for subcultural music. It’s taken me years, but I think that I’ve finally been able to make peace with the fact that nobody would ever be able to look at me and know what music I like. The fact that it took so long for me to stop wanting constant validation for my taste in music is really embarrassing.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, etc.?
I WISH! The only thing that unifies my life is my constant search for a unified approach, which I naively believe will be the solution to all of my problems.

11. Is there any fashion trend that you’ve refused to participate in?
All of them. For most of my teenage and adult life, I’ve been very contrarian when it comes to fashion (see #4). I feel bad about this, like I’ve wasted a bunch of time that I could have been using to develop a good eye/taste.

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
When I got pregnant with my first son, I was really disappointed with the maternity options available to me. I couldn’t afford any of the really nice maternity stuff that Cup of Jo blogs about, and I got too big to just take the “wear slightly bigger versions of your wardrobe approach.” So I ended up wearing a whole lot of basic-ass clothes I never would have been caught dead in before. But to me, it was okay because it was such a short amount of time. What I didn’t realize is that (in my case) after giving birth, I was a) still huge for quite some time and b) nursing constantly and thus in need of tops that could be easily lifted/stretched/etc. I hadn’t yet weaned my first son when I got pregnant with my second, so I’m still trucking along in a bunch of clothes I don’t really like. I haven’t worn my favorite dress in three years, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to wear it again.

12. How has your mother’s body and style been passed down to you?
I have my mother’s exact body. I can tell that I am going to have her precise shape when I am her age. I am kind of okay with this. I think I might have her myopia when it comes to knowing what clothes suit my body. I am not okay with this.

50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?
When I was a teenager, I used to be jealous of the way that men could look so cool so easily. My best friend and I used to lament that it took so much time and effort for us to dress ourselves, but that men could basically wear the same great outfit day in and day out. All of that was very tied to my misogyny, and my belief that only a select few women could ever be as cool as guys. Super embarrassed that I ever felt this way.

80. How does money fit into all this?
For me, money has always colored every single choice I make about clothing. Because I grew up lower-middle class, new clothes were considered a treat, not a necessity. I remember being humiliated in the fourth grade when a boy made fun of me for wearing the same Guess t-shirt every other day for the whole school year. Until that boy said anything about it, I always felt really rich when I wore that shirt, because it was the only name-brand thing I’d ever been allowed to get. And though my parents never discussed it with me, I knew that even these occasional purchases were made with money we really didn’t have. From about age 8-15, I hated malls because they always made me feel ashamed, guilty and insecure. Even as an adult who controls the purse strings, I feel and have felt guilty every single time I spend money on clothes. This semester, I am teaching at a small liberal arts school where a vast majority of the students are very, very wealthy. Most of my students dress so much better than I do, and they seem to have this ease about their clothes that I am very jealous of. Money anxieties bleed into every time I have to get dressed to teach, because it takes me a million years to find a new combination for the same few pieces of shitty clothing. I am convinced that if my entire wardrobe weren’t from Target*, I’d be able to just throw anything on and it would look great. I have never been able to not worry about money when it comes to clothes. This makes me feel sorry for myself, but that’s dumb because in comparison to most of the world, and really, most of America, I am very privileged when it comes to clothes-buying.

*Minus a very nice top from Zara, thanks to D.




The Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow compact and the Women Clothes book were both gifts. I can say with confidence that both have changed my entire lady game. The compact, which was a gift from C. was one of the most thoughtful gifts that I have ever received.

1) I would never have bought it for myself ($$$)

2) As an object, it is a piece of art

3) It so sweetly references our mutual love of Vivianna and our mutual confusion over “bronzing” and “contouring”

Now that I own this I think we all need to be bronzing and contouring. Suddenly my face is a face. It has dimension and warmth. I wore it to dinner with my brother and he said: “D. you look so skinny! Are you ill?” Which is basically the nicest thing you can say to a woman.


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Contouring and bronzing are two different things, but what is nice about this product is you can kind of do both at the same time. The highlighter is totally buttery and gorgeous.

For a cheaper option you could also try The Body Shop’s Honey Bronze in light matte and buy a different highlighter like Top Shop’s Glow Highlighter. Another option that costs way too much money but is similar is Nars Contour blush.

Women in Clothes

My parent J. gave me this amazing book that is a collection of interviews with women about clothing. 1) I can’t stop reading it 2) I want to be a part of it. It is fascinating in an anthropological sense but it has also helped me understand my own clothes anxieties/joys in a kind of self-help way. I wish I was friends with the authors.
Here are my answers to their questions (their website has all the questions, but I have only answered the ones that interest me):

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

At my exercise classes when I am all spandexed out in my Nux leggings, colorful sports bra, a drapey tank, and my bright pink running shoes. I think I actually have a great body but in normal clothes I feel like I am always fighting with my shoulders, butt, and thighs. In workout clothes I feel most like myself and really confident because I am proud of the push ups I am doing. I also think that I look fierce when I sweat intentionally.

2. Do you notice women on the street?

I notice women in my neighborhood because that is when I am less likely to be tuning out the world. I notice lots of women of an ambiguous age in high heeled clogs, wrecked jeans and impressively soft sweaters. But to be totally honest I am noticing how skinny they are and feeling envious of how great disheveled clothes look on skinny women.

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

I really really admire sleek looking ladies in sack-like clothes. I think there is nothing more chic than an artfully draped sack. I also admire the way these women offset their sacks with delicate and giant jewelry.

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

I only wear 2 and 1/2 heels on my shoes, I never wear true flats with no heels because my legs just loose any shape and my feet hurt.

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

Very recently I had a really good clothes therapy session with my husband. We talk about clothes all the time and he gets tired of hearing me spin out about my body, my lack of interesting clothes, my latest solution (silver bullet). So he really sat me down and helped me figure out that I like dressing boyishly with a kind of Garence Dore’ french girl spin. This helped me understand that my love of makeup is about the way I want the femininity of my face to play off my short hair and boyish clothes.

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

Last year at my professional conference all my lady friends and I were getting ready to hit the conference center and I realized how amazing and similar all their outfits were. Black blazer, black jeans, silky tops, jewelry for days, flats for day, heels for the party at night. This look was so great that I have totally adopted it as my professional outfit. And we all look awesome as a matching crew.

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

Thermal socks, harem Lululemon sweatpants, a ratty J. crew t-shirt, and my Patagonia fleece from 2002. My hair is just washed so it is still calming down from the trauma of shampoo and I am wearing cat eye glasses and no makeup.

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

So important!! Why do I think about it all so often and yet look good so rarely. This is a true conundrum.






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