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Silly Little Outfits: Jenny
73 questions with a (self-described) gremlin
For this Silly Little Outfits, I talked with my friend and former coworker Jenny about accessibility, anime, and being normal. This one’s got custom illustrations and a playlist!
And since our names are so similar, we chose emojis to use in this interview:
👼 = Jenna
🌸 = Jenny
Jenny is a professional problem solver and hobbyist problem maker (intentional and accidental). Her personal style goal is to make the child, teenage, and elderly versions of her proud.
👼: So if you had to describe it in 5 words or less, what kind of clothing do you gravitate toward?
🌸: I think it’s 6. “I’m just here to have fun.”
🌸: The thing about me… a lot of the things I do are just like, a really long bit that maybe should have been stopped. Like, a while ago.
👼: So when you’re getting dressed, it’s a symphony of the bit?
🌸: Yeah, plus a culmination of things I like. And building on that chain of like, oh, I tried this, let me try this other thing now. And all of that goes by like… I can’t snap, but pretend I'm snapping really fast. That’s my mind, when I'm dressing.
👼: So all that is like rapidly shuffling cards in your mind.
🌸: Yes. I do want to acknowledge that we both have Christmas tree brains.
👼: How would you describe that?
🌸: You know how they do those scans for neural activity, and some people’s brains go blinking really really fast? Like a Christmas tree? Fast associations, making a lot of connections where maybe there shouldn’t be?
👼: Damn. Yep.
🌸: And the way I organize my closet is pretty in order, organized, so I can see everything at once and flick through it really fast.
👼: So you don't even need the virtual closet from Clueless.
🌸: No, because I organized it to be easy for myself. A lot of elements I’ve picked up from accessibility. A lot of organizational systems are not very accessible to people who are neurodivergent or disabled. I'm neurodivergent, and there are certain things where if I can’t see it, or if it’s too hard to reach, I will reeeeally not be able to upkeep that system.
👼: It’s interesting that you keep everything in your line of sight while also acknowledging how, when you’re choosing what to wear for the day, you’re mentally going rapid-fire through a series of intermingled concepts. A combination of a physical system with… another, but much wackier, system.
🌸: That’s definitely how my brain works—systems, frameworks, how to put things together.
👼: Part of why you’re a designer!
🌸: That’s not why most people go into design, though, I think. But I do like applying that approach to anything creative. I really enjoy that combination—a mix of analytical and expressive activity.
A multimedia conglomerate
👼: So as you’re deciding what to wear, rollerblading at the speed of sound through your mind palace, what would you say are your biggest style inspirations?
🌸: A lot of it comes from music, what I listen to, what I imagine people who are also listening to it are wearing. Like, if I were to go to a concert, what would other people be wearing? [Related: an autobiographical playlist Jenny made, below.]
👼: You think about what other people would wear to a concert of the music you’re listening to?
🌸: Yeah, or a music video. And what the artists themselves are wearing. Musicians were a lot of my early style inspiration. Also, anime—a lot of punchy, colorful styles that don’t really adhere to rules of reality. The spiky hair. Come on.
👼: How’re you doin’ that? How's that stayin’ up?
🌸: Anyway, one of my faves is Keep Your Hands off Eizouken!, where three high school gremlins form their own animation club, and they make short films.
👼: How has that one inspired you?
🌸: It’s a really good reflection of who I am as a person, as a high schooler and now. And not just how the character designs look, but the overall scenery, colors, cinematography… the general vibe. It’s a very good show. It’s almost sci-fi-y but has elements of fantasy, with a little bit of realism. And they’re just high school girls, they’re not like superheroes. Just three creative high schoolers who also do shenanigans. I also really like Mob Psycho 100.
👼: What the fuck?
🌸: It’s about this awkward middle schooler who has incredible psychic powers and represses his emotions a lot because of childhood trauma™. And he’s trying to find himself, figure out how he wants to navigate the world. And the best part is his mentor is a scam artist. A good guy who’s also a scumbag.
👼: How would you say you channel both those vibes in your clothes?
🌸: Very normal, but also very fun. Very colorful. I'm very driven by a sense of comfort. If it's not practical for me to wear, I will not reach for it. What I mean by “normal” is: I’m no longer trying to compete for Best Dressed, nor do I have anything to prove to myself and others anymore.
👼: I know in the past we’ve talked about how comfort in clothes is the most important thing for you—what are you doing in an ideal day that your favorite outfit allows you to do?
🌸: I mean… [lol] mostly sitting in front of a computer. Walking around. I'm looking for basic mobility. A lot of looser silhouettes, softer fabrics, things that are easy to clean for the most part. But I also have a few things in silk. Yes. Me putting on clown makeup. But sometimes you just see a silk shirt, and it’s an interesting design, or has a fun pattern. I’m willing to maintain nice things to keep them for a long time.
Personal stylist for pretty anime men
👼: So you’re an incredible artist. You draw so much shit, and all of it blows my mind. You’ve made me bespoke The Nanny fan art. You gave her a gun, and I really liked that.
🌸: I had to draw so many guns! I gave her a gun, she was in a scene where multiple people were pointing guns at her…
👼: It somehow became Fran’s adventures as a spy.
🌸: I feel like she’d be a terrible spy though.
👼: Absolutely. She’s too expressive and too hot.
🌸: She doesn’t wanna blend in.
👼: So your art focuses a lot on movement and texture. What kind of clothes do you most like to draw? Are those the same as the clothes you most like to wear?
🌸: I’ve always wanted to talk about this! I draw a lot of styles I normally wouldn’t wear or buy for myself—street style, runway looks, editorial looks—things I can’t make in reality, I put into my art.
👼: Things you can’t access for one reason or another—price, availability, comfort?
🌸: Yeah, I live vicariously. I feel like drawing clothes is a way to express wanting to wear certain clothes but not actually being able to. I just like practicing how folds work, how different materials are, and styling things I wouldn’t style for myself. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it.
👼: But you still like to draw it, even if you don’t specifically like it?
🌸: Yeah. Trying to get at someone’s personal style, someone who’s not me, is very fun to do. Figuring out what their background is, what they like doing, their personality.
👼: How do you decide what you want to draw someone wearing? What makes a good outfit to draw?
🌸: It’s like, do they have good, interesting silhouette shapes? Is it a unique style? Plus that whole runway principle of having cool concepts—trying to express an artistic vision versus wearability. Just drawing shirts and jeans isn’t interesting for me, unless I'm making a character whose schtick is being a normal person. And that could be fun! OK, I’ve changed my mind mid-conversation. And I also like to draw characters wearing my clothes but who are different from me in personality, build, or appearance.
👼: You’ll draw your own clothes on someone else?
🌸: Yeah, just to see how that will look. I think there’s comedic value in taking a tall pretty anime man and slapping on clothes I wear.
BDE (Big Design Energy)
👼: In our previous conversations, we’ve talked about asserting dominance through clothes in some way—sometimes tongue in cheek, but sometimes very seriously. I was curious if you could walk me through how or why you do that.
🌸: OK, I'm gonna play the minority card, the gender card, and all the other cards I’ve got. I'm part of all these demographics that are seen as more disposable than others. So I use clothes to have people acknowledge me, to take up space, to pay attention to me, and make them listen.
👼: Intentionally presenting yourself fully in a place carries a lot of weight.
🌸: I'm an East Asian woman, and East Asian women are often taught to put others before themselves, not consider their own needs and individuality. So personal expression through voicing opinions and beliefs, or even just speaking in a loud voice—there are a bunch of ways you can assert yourself in situations. For me, it’s important to do all those to feel a strong sense of self.
👼: How’d you learn to do that?
🌸: Honestly, it’s instinctive—I know who I am, and I don’t let people tell me otherwise. You can imagine the kind of teenager I was. I know people like to use that whole “I'm not like other girls” thing in a joking way, but I'm semiserious—you can look at me, look at my background, and point to a lot of objective reasons why I'm not like other girls [lol]. I'm talking about if you just look at my demographics and the percentage of Americans who are in those demographics. It’s all about exercising personal autonomy through how I act, how I look, what decisions I make.
Teenage gremlin to Fashion™ pipeline
👼: How would you describe your ~~style journey~~ up to this point in your life?
🌸: My style journey didn’t really start in my teenage years. That wasn’t my focus then. I was looking at inspiration but wasn’t able to try anything out until I got my part-time job and could buy stuff for myself. But I wasn’t super experimental with fashion yet, because I wasn’t really confident in myself yet. So jeans, graphic tees, fun shoes.
👼: What changed? Since you mentioned earlier that knowing yourself has been so pivotal in how you dress.
🌸: I guess just looking at music videos and seeing other people—particularly Asian women—that’s why I put a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in that playlist. Karen O was someone where I was like, oh, we [Asian women] can do creative stuff.
I also learned a lot from that subreddit /r/femalefashionadvice. Nobody had really taught me how to put clothes together. People around me seemed to have already figured that out, and I was still very confused. So for me, learning systems, learning the rules, how to construct things, all while learning about art and design in school, really helped shape how I think about clothes.
👼: So a lot of you coming into yourself, becoming more comfortable with yourself and your style and stuff in college, seems like a combination of very literal internet-forum guidance plus more abstract, humanistic learnin’.
🌸: Yeah. I was also at a college where other people were just better than me at dressing. So I was learning from watching them. That’s also when I discovered thrifting, or when it became easier at least, because I went from a suburb to a city. So being stylish just got cheaper and more attainable than before.
👼: Something that comes up a lot in these conversations is this idea of who you’re dressing for or what you’re trying to evoke when you get dressed. Would you say you’re always dressing for yourself? Do you ever dress for other people?
🌸: I think sometimes [I dress for other people]. We can go back to the “asserting dominance” thing. I grew up as someone who was shy, awkward, who didn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to clothing. Dressing for self improvement and having other people acknowledge me—in college, and early in my career, I guess it was a little bit dressing for other people. But it was more to get a reaction.
👼: What kind of reaction?
🌸: Well, for example, during an internship one day, I was just walking around, and a guy was like “I like what you’re doing!” He looked me up and down in a way I felt was not creepy and in a way that emphasized he just thought my style was cool.
🌸: Probably, yeah.
👼: Our culture in general tends to pair aesthetics with desirability. I’ve seen young women on social media talk about the difficulty of decoupling personal style from dressing for the male gaze. How does our culture’s sometimes-obsession with sexualizing clothes and fashion affect you or not?
🌸: So I'm on the ace spectrum, I'm gray, somewhere in the middle. I feel like it’s actually easier to reject the things I don't feel comfortable with. And that’s useful for me, considering those overlapping minority groups I'm in. The past couple years, you can really see how people can treat people who look like me as inhuman.
👼: That sucks.
🌸: There are some people who are just not gonna like me, not gonna notice me, not think I deserve be alive. So I’m not gonna really respond to it, because it’s not really worth my time. I don’t need to waste my time trying to justify my existence to these idiots.
👼: How do you embody that in your approach to choosing clothes?
🌸: By truly narrowing in on what I want to do and how I want to dress. I'm only here for myself. And as far as desirability… my version of desirability is like “Oh cool! I really like what this does!” Or like, a sense of joy. But I mean, if someone likes what I'm wearing, I’ll gladly take any compliment.
🌸: [lol] No.
👼: What makes a good compliment?
🌸: With being ace, it narrows in on the kind of compliments I’ll respond to. But when it comes to comments surrounding desirability, I’m like, that’s no good, that’s creepy, and just toss it out.
👼: Into the same bucket as like, people saying random hateful things?
🌸: Yes. But if someone’s gonna compliment me on the decision I made and how much fun I'm having, and if they also want to have that same sense of joy, then we can have that conversation together!
Unapologetic melty joy
👼: Speaking of decisions that bring you joy, can we talk about the green coat?
🌸: So, sad news. I went to my parents’ house, and my dad threw it in the dryer. He didn’t know how to handle fake fur. So some of the parts melted off or burned. Some parts have a very different texture now. And it now sheds aggressively—even more than before.
👼: Oh god.
🌸: It’s fine. I just can’t wear black with it. I’ll live with it. It’s got character now.
👼: It’s such a good coat. And I almost forgot to ask: what right now is your favorite outfit?
🌸: Probably this sweater—do you see this detail? They’re like, cloud jellyfish. I got this in China when I went there with my mom in 2018.
👼: Can you describe what “this” is for people reading?
🌸: A…sweater… coat… sweater coat? You know what, I can just draw it for people. I don’t have to describe it.
And then this is a t-shirt I got at the Smithsonian. It’s by Yuko Shimizu, a Japanese artist. In Japanese mythology there are thunder gods—but no thunder goddesses! So she created her own original design to add to mythology. I really like the colors, the design, the artist’s personality, her backstory. Very assertive, very impulsive.
👼: You’re channeling that?
🌸: Yes. Someone who’s driven by their own goals and desires, carving their own path—both the artist and the character. The artist spent a few years in corporate PR, then realized the glass ceiling that Japanese women face, then went to art school to become an illustrator.
👼: You lived in New York when you were in your early 20s after studying design. You’ve said watching people on the subway was pretty illuminating, right?
🌸: Yeah. I saw all sorts of styles there on the train from Queens to Manhattan. You could see a lot in terms of people-watching. And I saw a lot of Asian women around my height who are also artistically inclined—what are they doing? I wanted to copy them. Plus architecture students adhering to a certain aesthetic.
👼: And that’s something you didn’t see before?
🌸: Yeah, before, I’d mostly see high-achieving women who were gonna be “successful” career-wise, climb the corporate ladder. Lawyers, doctors, corporate, etc., etc.
👼: So on the subway you’d be like… people-watching all kinds of people while also examining that element of inaccessible cool among a certain artistic type.
🌸: Yeah, and trying to figure out that style and crack the code. And I did! It was not very satisfying though. With design, you have to justify a lot of things and have reasons for why you're making specific choices. But with clothing as art, like what you choose to wear—you're not being paid for it, you’re just here to enjoy it.
The real journey was the pants we wore along the way
👼: You went to Japan recently! Did that trip affect your style journey at all?
🌸: Yeah, I got inspired again, especially by the alt stuff! And there were definitely micro trends that you start to notice. With people our age, there’s one very specific style—idk what the term is but it’s kind of a… soft latte style of clothing?
👼: Soft latte!
🌸: That’s just a term I made up.
👼: Just in terms of like, colors?
🌸: Yeah, color-wise, but also the articles of clothing. A lot of soft natural colors. Cardigans, soft materials, blouses, skirts. Very cozy and very girly. [Jenny later specified this is a style she’d like to include more in character designs but not her personal wardrobe.]
👼: I see a love of beige and neutrals in the US right now, but it’s more… harsh, I guess? Feels more masc or more focused on activewear.
🌸: It was also cherry blossom season, so there was a lot of pink everywhere. Lots of cherry blossom trees planted everywhere—parks, neighborhoods, mountains.
👼: Did you notice people wearing a lot of pink? Or is it like, you don’t wanna compete with the trees?
🌸: I actually didn’t notice a lot of people wearing pink. I was wearing pink cherry blossom pants with a green shirt, but I think I was the only person who dressed to the environment like that.
👼: I want to talk about the older fashion designer with her own shop in Harajuku.
🌸: Yeah, I was just walking down a street with some stores, and saw one that was basically a wall of clothing and mannequins on the outside. And I was like oh, this is really cool. It was called Yellow House. The shop was actually downstairs [below street level]. It was very claustrophobic, a little underground shop with no sunlight coming in. Clothes packed wall to wall.
She had a lot of photos of celebs she’s worked with or who have shopped at her store. It’s like, hey, I'm 2 degrees removed from some of my favorite artists [like X Japan and Miyavi]! I went browsing around and found a very cool pair of pants with a fun texture. It reminds me of tree bark.
👼: And you got to talk to the owner-slash-designer?
🌸: Yeah, she’s a little old lady who had been at is since the 70s? 80s? It was unclear whether she stayed small on purpose or if she wanted to make it big and it just never happened.
👼: We’ll choose to believe the former! Did she seem happy?
🌸: I think she was happy that there was someone from the United States who wanted to buy something. It was also very intimidating knowing she has met very cool people. So I was very awkward. But overall I definitely took inspiration from punk or pop punk style on this trip. And in Kyoto, I bought a pair of khaki pants that are very much y2k.
👼: Very Rocket Power.
🌸: One day, when we see each other in person, I will wear some of the outfits I mentioned.
👼: Including your now-threadbare green fuzzy jacket because your dad keeps putting it in the dryer.
🌸: He only did it once! He learned from his mistake!!!