Ultimate PMS Skirt

When she’s not at her day job, my pal Ms Eileen* is doing remarkably well keeping her camera focused on people/places/things. Between photography classes, wanderings, and a few paid portrait sessions she continues to develop her skills at an amazing rate…a rate that actually manages to outpace that of her photography-related purchases!

While I’ve been keeping up with the results of her studies, there’s nothing like seeing her in action. And this weekend I was fortunate enough to experience just that as she worked with a client who’s gearing up to go back on the job market.


During the shoot, Eileen did all the hard work; I, on the other hand, swanned around making color-related suggestions and holding up things like an AWESOMELY LARGE diffuser so that light would bounce around and make our subject look all dewy-skinned and rested.

Not that said client and her camera-ready smile needed much help, but don’t we all have enough “photojournalistic” snapshots with unflattering shadows and glares to last a lifetime? Give me reality-plus anytime.

[Through reverse-side and cover design hocus-pocus, this diffuser even permits metallic colors to reflect back on the subject; you better believe I asked to see how the gold interacted with our captive’s lusciously warm skin tones. Answer: Beautifully.]

As a reward for stalwart holding of objects and so forth, Ms Eileen humored my request to capture the true glory of a piece I had created back in December: my Ultimate PMS Skirt.

Having worn ourselves and the client out with a loooong working session, we went old-school: dash down a side street with just a camera, grab 10 minutes of shots, and hit the road.

The result? The skirt was put through its PMS paces and came out a winner—and even held its own against my growing ever-more-ancient Awww Ya Big Lug Boots.

Custom Clothing for the Cranky: Key Benefits of My Ultimate PMS Skirt

1. Stretch fabric and slight A-line design allow one to blow off steam by running, jumping, and kicking 

2. Elastic waist accommodates water retention and/or hormonally-influenced eating

Neither rain nor...rain...can keep my Utimate PMS Skirt from displaying its bright, non-binding ways

Putting my Utimate PMS Skirt through its paces

3. Cheery color + mild Eurotrash sheen boosts mood OR fools others into thinking one is in a good mood so that they venture close enough to hear vent/sob of the moment

4. Color + pattern are bold enough to justify pairing with no-thought-needed, simple black or white pieces reminiscent of classic Pink Panther looks

Though it doesn’t give me the longest, leanest line, I generally pair my skirt with black or white for that classic Pink Panther look

5. Deconstructed hem irritates Mr Vix, my talented tailor/drycleaner, and any other perfectionists I encounter, thus satisfying my latent oppositional defiant disorder tendencies

My Ultimate PMS Skirt: more-or-less front and back + deconstructed hem

I had actually asked the Mellow Glamazon to whip up the skirt—born of last summer’s Missoni fabric by the yard haul plus a lining of sturdy-weight black jersey—for a reason: I wanted to indulge my inner Persnickety Bohemian (love child of my Minimalist Magpie and Contrarian Classicist style personas) when I went to Southern California this winter.

[And boy, did my barely boho side adore Venice Beach!]

Since the skirt entered my closet 5 months ago, I’ve been wearing it perhaps-overly-much with my multitude of VaderWear tops, sweaters, and blazers. Though I generally stick to monochromatic or tonal color combinations—the better to elongate my short legged/long torso’d self—what can I say: sometimes I like to go wild with a choppy, high-contrast look.


Because if so, just give me a moment to slip into something more comfortable….

* I must wish the talented Ms Eileen a very Happy 40th Birthday week! May your year be filled with wonderful clients and fabulous camera accessories.

The Case of the Emerald Green Pencil Skirt

It was a grey November day ending in “y” and I was just a downtrodden dame on the qui vive for a chunky slab of upholstery-friendly goodness. After ducking into a cavernous fabric-filled warehouse I was wandering around with the other bedraggled nobodies when a bit of lightweight herringbone sashayed in front of me and demanded my help.

It was the last of a bolt, see, and feared for its life.

“Whatever you do, whatever you buy, make sure to get me out of here,” it pleaded. I gave it my thousand-yard stare. “Don’t leave me here to be turned into teddy bear pinafores!” it hissed, pressing its silky smooth weave against my hand.

I turned my back on its lustrous threads and looked over toward the polyester blends, thinking hard about reality, about bills and bank balances. Could I afford to turn it into a something that would do its magnificent drape justice? Not right now, not a chance.

But it was a deep dark cobalt-flecked green, a green that seemed like it would let me say sayonara to summer and hello to spring.

And me, well, I’m a sucker for a green that isn’t afraid to flaunt a moody blue undertone. It’s just how I’m wired, that’s all, and if anyone’s got a problem with that then I’ve got a bunch of fives I’d like them to meet.

So Emerald ended up in my fabric stash.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not copping to being one of those quilting or seamstress types—drop by my place and you’ll find closets full of towels, not textiles. But maybe I have a few things tucked away in a box, yeah. I keep it lithe and light, grab-n-go. Emerald was #2 in my stash, and I figured it could warm up a certain icy blue tropical wool til I knew what to do with one or the both of ’em.

Spring rolled around and I had other problems, other environments—other fabrics—on my mind. I knew I couldn’t two-time them with Emerald without putting us both at risk. But this fall things had changed again. They always do. After I craned my head pretty good around my closet and scrawled a few notes, I thought, “Why don’t I try to make a go of it with the devil and the deep green sea?”

A pencil skirt seemed just the ticket.

I got together some scratch and went to this doll I know, one who’s gotten me out of a few fabric jams in the past. I asked her what she thought about knocking off an old Theory skirt I had, one with curving seams and double vents in the back that made it easy to strut my stuff. She was into it.

I heard Emerald resisted my plans at first—I guess it’d dreamed big ballgown dreams inside that little closed-up box—but eventually it came to see the choice was easy: a pencil or nothing.

Lightweight, 100% wool herringbone skirt in (blue-flecked) green meets its lining

For all the drama, Emerald turns out to be game as hell: it’s raring to be part of less sedate pairings, but settles down to brown without much fuss.

While I have less sedate pairings in mind, who can resist the Gnome-y pairing of green + brown? (and the trippyness of this ancient print?)

A funny thing happened when I put it on, though—a bit of déjà vu:

I guess reading all the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories when I was 6 left a more lasting impression than I realized

Am I wearing a big ole dollar bill from waist to knee? Yes, but thanks to 2 vents vs 1 center vent, I can move super-freely in it

I have to cite Theory's "Golda" skirt as ye olde precedent for how the skirt's curved seams lead to a double-vented back

I admit I’m getting a kick out of dressing like one of my style icons. So much so I’m wondering if I should buy a purse that lets me channel her amateur-sleuth-fabulousness even more.

Am I kitschy enough to traipse around with a purse made from one of my childhood favorites? Hell ya. And Etsy.com seller Retrograndma tempts me....

I’ll ponder it a while longer, but anyone who’s seen my love of kitsch-smothered accessories knows there’s no need to hire a detective to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

(Wool) Jersey Grrrl

Given my Irish genes, I don’t understand why I can’t acclimate to the PNW’s cold damp weather. Maybe I need less green tea and more Jameson’s?

While my beloved ferns adore the oozy clammy environment*—and I adore that they adore it—it doesn’t change the fact that when our region’s dank air seeps ever-so-stealthily into my bones I feel like a decrepit 103 vs a mildly arthritic broad of 41.

Then I roast when it’s dry and over 75, go figure.

[As a devout hypochondriac, I’m sure this state of affairs is due to one or more of the horrifying medical conditions Dr. Google has diagnosed for me; as neither my Western-trained nor CAM-focused doctors seem particularly concerned, however, I’m trying not to borrow trouble.]

The combination of my regional and personal characteristics means that fall through hmmm, July I tend to layer up in silk longjohn tops, silk knits, and sweet Georgia Brown wool. O how I worship wool’s breathable, moisture-wicking, water-, mildew- and mold-resistant, insulating, and often washable goodness!

Although angora fibers make me itch and cashmere at my price point is often too scratchy for my princess/pea’d self, sheep’s wool does me right. Depending on the season, I put my T&A in everything from spiderweb-like wool gauze to dense flannel—but as a sucker for anything soft and stretchy, it’s wool knits that have the firmest hold on my heart.

Which is why I was mega-excited to see that the fashion world’s recent infatuation with drapey 1940s looks segued into an even more recent fascination with 1990s-era materials, silhouettes, and colors.



Oh well; win some, lose most.

Having already blown a huge chunk of my fall/winter clothing budget on black and grey business suiting, I knew I needed some colors to keep my soon-to-be sunshine-deprived caboose from plummeting into moods as dark as my closet tends to be.

So I headed off to the fabric store, found what I wanted, and called the Mellow Glamazon to let her know I needed her help getting a few wool jersey pieces in my cold little paws.

For the first bit of fabric—a deep blue that’s refreshingly neither too bright nor too dark for me—I’d been debating one of the semi-sheer jersey items with cowl-y or off-the-shoulder necklines I’d seen in LUXE DARLING LUXE online shoppes. But as a) I have commitment issues and b) I prefer the way lower necklines look on my body shape, MG suggested a detachable whatchamacallit might best meet my needs.

I’m sure I’ll wear the simple scoopneck version most frequently, but I do love me an option or two….

Semi-sheer scoop neck wool jersey sweater (worn with sleeveless underlayer til temps lower) has a detachable cowl/stole

Same top with detachable piece worn as stole...because apparently I hanker to look like a Senior Yearbook photo

For the second closet addition, I’d found an appealing medium-weight jersey in a muted red-violet shade; it seemed like a good bet for the browns, roses, and plums I’ve been sloooowly accumulating since Project Anti-VaderWear began in earnest last fall. As I’d been mulling over one of those unlined cardigan-jackets that were (once again and amen) showing up here and there, I decided to take the plunge.**

Heavier weight, muted red-violet wool jersey jacket/cardigan (unlined)

While I knew the general shape I wanted, the Mellow Glamazon came up with these cuffed, slightly belled sleeves that I think are the cat’s pajamas. That goes ditto for the lightweight layering piece beneath the jacket, aka the Strawberry Fudge Ripple Top’s long-sleeved, fully-backed sibling. [Alias the WHOOPS I DID IT AGAIN textile.]

Slightly belled sleeves on jacket...and the long-sleeved sibling of the Strawberry Fudge Ripple Top beneath

Now: most of my jackets hit at my high hip, the better to elongate my proportionately short legs. But for this project, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go a little longer. I’m certainly happy with the result—for one thing, I’m partial to the way deeply V’d cutaway jackets do an awesome job of avoiding a Rectangle/H shape’s natural habitat: blockiness.

Wool jersey jacket partnered with patterned knit pencil skirt and jeans

But between the color and the cut I fear I’m looking rather in need of a horse and stable boy.

Hmmm: between the period-referencing color and the cut, maybe my new jacket DOES look a bit like an Edwardian riding habit....(c 1900 -1920 habit from the V&As collection)

As I’m off the market, however, I’ll have to leave the Lady Chatterley-esque romps to other Jersey Grrrls. My advice? Keep the rolling as far from the hay as possible….

* Cold damp air apparently = Sword fern heaven: they (and the clematis) provide year-round green and give the dining room a halfway decent view

Backyard ferns in 05, about the last time the yard looked moderately tidy

** Around the time I was working out my jersey jacket shape, Pseu of UneFemme posted several RTW examples of the genre…if you’re so inclined, venture over to her Minimalism Made Easy post

Have you hugged an Oregon berry today?

To date, I think the best strawberry I’ve ever had was a dainty alpine variety picked from a Virginia field; as if eating the berry wasn’t enough of a sensory experience, its fragrance was so intense that a few small boxes of the fruit perfumed my entire car in minutes.

Those Virginia berries had it easy, though. Like other Pacific Northwest denizens, Oregon berries spend a lot of the summer shivering in the cold and fending off the rain—which the Oregon Strawberry Commission cleverly spins as a plus:

Unlike strawberries from other regions around the globe, Oregon strawberries hang on the vine longer, resulting in a gradual ripening process that develops the sugars more fully so they taste significantly better and have a more vibrant red color throughout.

In a study by Oregon State University’s Food Science and Technology Department, Oregon strawberries outperformed California varieties in all measures of taste and nutritional quality. Oregon berries had the highest levels of total sugars; higher marks for overall fruit quality and aroma; and higher levels of anthocyanin, a potentially powerful antioxidant.”

Now between spending tobacco money and plugging ham and peanuts, Virginia doesn’t care if you love THEIR berries.

Oregon, however…Oregon wants to win you over to their berries with low-key, subtle messaging:

Click to visit the Oregon Strawberry Commission's recipe- and tip-containing website

Putting my wistful memories of wee alpine goodness aside, there’s no denying Oregon farmers produce a quality, red-all-the-way-through berry. [This color consistency really is so much more aesthetically pleasing than the white-centered design common to California and Florida strawberries, no?]

c. The Oregon Strawberry's FACEBOOK page

With the clock ticking down on the extremely short growing season and our own berry starts looking pretty much identical to the day they were planted, Mr Vix and I hit the fields this weekend to pick glorious, antioxidant-laden strawberries…and blueberries…and raspberries:

A crappy photo since I'm wallowing in at least 2/7 deadly sins with freshly-picked Oregon berries: Hood, Puget Reliance, and Honeoye strawberries + Duke blueberries + Meeker raspberries

Enthusiasm comes easier when picking is a novelty vs a job.

While I was planning another few farm visits before the fields were plucked bare, now I’m thinking I should do more to support an industry that’s seen a shocking contraction in the last decade. Here I’ve been taking our strawberries for granted, and they’re doing more upstream swimming than the region’s salmon.

[L]ike so much of the natural Northwest, the Oregon strawberry is endangered.

The crop has plummeted from 100 million pounds in 1988 to 32 million last year, according to the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service. Strawberry acreage harvested peaked at 18,300 in 1957, dropping to 3,000 in 2002 and just 2,300 [in 2005.]”


Though I admit I’m still mystified by the scrambling. I mean whether they’re in a pint box or processed, berries are one of the things Oregon does best. Strawberry. Blackberry. Huckleberry. Loganberry. Marionberry. Boysenberry. Blueberry. Raspberry. BLACK Raspberry. Tayberry.

Maybe we need Christopher Guest to get behind the cause?

Given our state’s current crisis, I want to encourage non-Oregonians to support their local berry farmers. Work that ounce/prevention, folks!

Just make sure to keep Oregon’s berry-laden jams and delicious berry syrups in mind, too. Because if you’ve never tasted a pacific huckleberry, you’re REALLY missing out.

Fizz flies the coop with a pocket full of prints [pt 2]

Previously, I shared my lazy woman’s guide to potentially effective print selection [the “10 Feet Test”] and described how my pal Fizz went from bemused fabric store bystander to focused, in-need-of-printed-fabric-for-tops demon.

Fizz’s amongst-the-bolts decision to stop her frustrating hunt for ready-to-wear summer blouses and instead go for custom tops put her in a bit of a pickle.

With her forthcoming vacation a hard deadline and the Mellow Glamazon pressed for production time, my effervescent friend needed to find various bits of fabric that worked with her unique characteristics AND melded with her existing summer basics AND aligned with how she wanted to dress when meeting up with European friends and family.

She had a handle on shapes that flattered her busty, H/Rectangle figure. And she knew the colors she wanted, so she was set there too:

Key shade combinations for Fizz's summer wardrobe

But after decades of a mostly-solids wardrobe, I was still getting the hang of finding prints that took my personality, coloring, preferences etcetera into consideration. Could she do in 5 minutes what I’d struggled to master for several years?


Of course she did have a little help from the print selection guidelines Bridgette Raes details in her book, Style Rx.

Unlike intuition-advocate Gavin “The Gift of Fear” de Becker, Raes notes that her clients’ instincts about prints often run counter to their personalities and style goals. And their coloring. And the size of their body and facial features.

My people!

Having latched onto the book’s instructional text and helpful photos several years ago, I’d never let go. Now, with limited time and Fizz adrift in a huge warehouse of prints, I knew we needed to implement Raes’ “first pass” tips. STAT.

Bridgette Raes: The Basics of Picking Prints

  • Consider personality: bold types should think twice before undermining their personal power with “ditzy, irreverent” prints; demure types are frequently overpowered by mega-dynamic prints.
  • Print scale isn’t just about body size, but about facial features: smaller-sized women can have larger features and vice versa.
  • The boldness or softness of one’s personal coloring is one’s “intensity level.” It’s the relationship created by the contrast between hair/skin/eye color, and it can be bold, soft, or somewhere in between. If skin/hair tones change for any reason, intensity can change.

Let me visually sum up Fizz’s coloring, features, and personality with a charming stand-in (though admittedly her mouth is not Ms Caron’s shape):

Should a remake of Gigi ever see the light of day, Fizz is standing by


Having attempted to complete the above evaluation, we moved onto Raes’ next suggestion—a real humdinger.

More Bridgette Raes: A Somewhat Nutty But Surprisingly Effective Tip for Picking Prints

The best print styles mimic the way your facial features move.

  • Horizontal eyebrows and smile, almond-shaped eyes, pronounced bridge of nose? Choose a geometric/linear print and avoid soft, rounded prints.
  • Softly arched eyebrows, rounder cheekbones, soft smile, prominent tip of nose? Choose soft, rounded prints and avoid horizontal lines.
  • Diagonal shaped eyes and movement, angled eyebrow arch, angular-shaped nose and smile? Choose angular prints like argyle, avoid rounded shapes.
  • Combination features? Choose prints that have soft lines and hard angles like watercolor-y flower or abstract batik prints.

Is that the craziest thing or what?

The specifics of our Fizz-centric assessment are below, but our interpretation of Raes’ advice led us to look for:

prints in her best colors (blues, cool browns, pinky corals) :: rounded shapes with angular movement :: sizes no bigger than her hand :: colors that didn’t read as super-high contrast :: prints that skewed on the bold side


Silk tank with darts for shaping and an arresting "rounded boxes + dots" print

Luscious, lightweight silk jersey in a bold MIAMI VICE/NICE print + 70s silhouette

Supple, shaped silk + a deconstructed paisley print + narrow flutter sleeves made for breezy summer days

Strappy-but-regular-bra-friendly, fitted-torso abstract floral cotton meets very dark denim...work it, Fizz!

Getting up close and personal with the cotton top's spiky petals + rounded shapes

In our completely biased opinions, the final selections harmonize well with her features, size, and eau de Fizz. As 4 out of her 5 tops were practically whipped from the sewing machine into the suitcase, though, Fizz will be road-testing responses as she travels.

[And thank god she left town before #5 got started, because with her out of the way I finally got MY happy-birthday-to-me printed summer top!]

Happy trails, Fizz….

Fizz's very orange guest bedroom holds her (carry-on only!) suitcase-ready neutrals + prints

“Vix, can you put my curiosity to rest by running through Fizz’s complete, amateur-hour assessment?”

The basics: extra-bold personality :: petite height + small-to-medium frame :: smaller-featured face with prominent, arched brows :: “medium bold” intensity [our best guess!] due to dark hair, slightly warm freckled skin, and pale blue eyes

Facial movement: combined features (arched brows :: rounded cheekbones + chin :: linear smile :: pronounced tip of nose)

Bonus feature Fizz and I considered: her gorgeous curly hair!


Filed under: appearance, color, starring select friends + invisipals | Tagged: , , , , , , , ,