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 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: , , , , , , , ,

Fizz flies the coop with a pocket full of prints [pt 1]

It’s so sweet when friends solicit one’s advice about birthday plans. This spring, my pal Fizz asked me how I wanted to celebrate another year on the planet. “Come with me to the fabric store!” I chirped, only to be met with much scoffing.

What, I should celebrate in a converted church with a vodka-and-fig-purée cocktail?


As I was planning on having a couple of summery tops made up as my happy-birthday-to-me present, a little scoffing wasn’t going to harsh my mellow. Especially as approximately 10 seconds after we crossed the store’s threshold Fizz was holding every other bolt up to her face and wondering how it would look as a shirt.

Hey, wasn’t this MY birthday outing?

Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’m getting ready for a 3 week vacation in Europe and haven’t had much luck finding interesting tops that work with the other stuff I own.

I’ve got neutrals and solids, but I don’t want to be stuck with ONLY neutrals and solids!

So…what do you think about this print?”


Despite my seething envy, the thought of her leaving town without an overstuffed suitcase made me weep a little.

After all, sartorially Fizz had been through so much this year. She’d left behind her self-described “PLAN TO FAIL” shopping strategy and wardrobe management system, faced a near-empty closet, and put together a compact new PNW “urban casual” wardrobe full of core and accent colors that magnified her foaminess factor.

Touched that she was willing to take (secondhand) advice from a woman whose first custom fabric selection led to the Dress of a 1000 Nipples, I attempted to share everything I’d ever read, heard, observed AND REMEMBERED about selecting a print with her.

Fortunately that “remembered” part saved me a lot of time.

I started by moving us far from the traffic patterns of hell-bent quilters. Then I shared a little technique that I may have invented…but more than likely did not.

The Semi-Serious “10 Feet” Test for Assessing Prints You Want to Wear Near Your Face

Note: To increase your odds of success, try a print that echoes your eye, hair, and/or lip color.

  1. Stand at least 10 feet from the mirror with the print held up to face. If print is on a bolt of fabric, drape yourself lavishly. Optional: Ignore employees’ withering stares.
  2. Does your head look like it’s floating on top of the fabric? Put it back.
  3. Is your head completely unnecessary because the fabric totally dominates you? Put it back.

::: interlude :::

Dark-haired, peaches-n-cream skinned, icy-blue-eyed Fizz used the above to evaluate some ready-to-wear abstract floral prints that made lavish use of her core colors.

Though her headless state undermines my field report…

trust me that she looks AWESOME.

[Or at least try to admire her summery shades, scarf-tying prowess, and colorpalooza necklace.]

::: end interlude :::

Back in calico country, Fizz and I needed to get serious about print selection. As she was looking to have about 5 tops created for her small summer capsule, rather substantial cash was at stake.

While the “10 Feet Test” was a great place to start, we needed super-specific, professional-quality advice. Luckily for Fizz, I had an expert (hazily) in mind.

Next: Part 2 of Fizz flies the coop with a pocketful of prints, aka “Style Rx” guru Bridgette Raes says WHAT?

The Accidental Capsule

While I am quite analytical—about topics other than myself, even!—I am a not a particularly organized or forward-thinking person. In fact an impartial observer might very accurately say Vix : Planning :: Earth : Pluto.

But this summer I started thinking that in addition to exercise and Vitamin D supplements and full-spectrum desk lamps and yellow walls and chocolate, I should use my clothing to help combat my seasonal affective disorder.* I figured it wouldn’t take much to move me away from my Fall/Winter fallbacks—aging wool separates and ho-hum knits in black, brown, and grey—toward more chipper horizons. This was before I actually took more than a vague LOOK at my wardrobe’s innards, though, and realized I had a black (naturally) belt in self-deception.

I had to get busy if I wanted to get my closet in shape for the rain and cold.

Unfortunately, despite reading many a clothing-heavy Edith Wharton novel, I wasn’t really sure what “get busy” looked like. Now apparently some home sewers say, “Hmmmm, there’s a new season on the horizon; I think I’ll make sure any/all new items work with each other. Then I won’t have to rely upon item- or outfit-based shopping to perk up random grizzled items!”

But I think they’re the last women on the planet to do so.

[Well, other than my invisipal Heidi. So make that sewers, Heidi, and possibly some ultra-rich women who buy only couture. Though for all I know even wealthy, couture-buying women have a bunch of pieces that don’t work with anything else, making them EXACTLY LIKE MERE MORTALS.]

Me, I just knew I had to force myself into technicolor’d textiles while keeping various limitations in mind:

  • a certain amount I could justify spending
  • a workplace need to dial down my clothing’s formality
  • a relatively new understanding that despite bitching about the drawbacks of a small, aging wardrobe I preferred picking and choosing from fewer, spendier workhorses

When I’d run out of money, I found that I’d ended up with a little stand-alone capsule. Fancy that!

Of course I wasn’t totally clueless: when I was ordering individual pieces…all color-colors, YES…I knew every item would work with a ton of stuff I owned. I just didn’t cotton to the fact all (3) tops would work with all (2) bottoms until everything trickled in and I was contrasting and comparing.

I mean maybe my subconscious was helping me out, but frankly I don’t think my subconscious is that smart.

In fact, considering that 4 of the 5 pieces came from local shops and I amassed them on the Item-a-Month plan, I’m thinking there might be a tiny corner of the universe that likes to play paper dolls:

Above: The Sporty Spicing it up crew (who each get their moment in the sun 1 2 3) meet a brownish-plum wool-mohair skirt…and a pair of prune cords that photograph annoyingly dark (below)

Given that post-intervention I’m a fairly classic, non-trend-focused dresser with Garanimals-lovin’ tendencies, I’m also thinking I may attempt to intentionally buy capsules in the future.

Especially as I’m fortunate enough to live in a place full of thrift, consignment, and vintage shops. And to be a sporadic-but-loyal customer of two stores with owner/designers who are happy to talk about their upcoming wares, passionate about showing off their bolts of beautiful fabric, and willing to customize or custom-make designs.

[All at price points in line with standard mall stores like Gap/Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft/Ann Taylor, and J Crew. AKA a bit of a stretch for me and many, but we’re not talking insanely expensive.]

The only downside of this approach is the non-instant gratification. And yes, the PLANNING. It can all feel a bit chaste and bloodless. But I love the outcome. Plus mix-and-match capsules are kind of like a litter of puppies, or something:

So I’m leaning that way. I mean more vs less strategy certainly can’t hurt MY closet’s life—or my ability to get dressed and out the door for work or play in under 10 minutes. After all, as the much more practical and goal-oriented Ms Fizz said after we got done with her massive wardrobe overhaul:

Unless you are really out there studying stores, fabrics, and fit as well as making relationships with the right shops and vendors, you’ll still find yourself foraging for whatever you can find in a pinch.

The whole PLAN TO FAIL approach leads to much more work and stress, just like in any aspect of life. Yet I never thought that such a concept applied to dressing well. It never occured to me to plan out a wardrobe, ensure I had specific pieces, and make outfits in advance. I guess I never went to ‘girl camp.'”

Make room on that bench, Fizz, because I have a feeling we might have company.

* For more on dressing to combat the winter doldrums, visit AlreadyPretty for Sal’s how-tos about using color, shine, texture, sound and scent to boost your mood. Just don’t stand next to my allergic ass if you ladle on the latter.

Ringside at Fizz’s Genie/Bottle bust-out [pt 4]

Before she could arrive on the other side of her major wardrobe overhaul, Ms Fizz had to confront her self-titled PLAN TO FAIL shopping strategy, address her frustration with fit/find/flatter challenges, and do battle with her foaminess-flattening forces.

Thanks to the sometimes-conflicting body shape experts mentioned earlier in this sprawling tale, Ms Fizz and I set off on our multiple shopping excursions with a pretty good idea of what shapes would best flatter her busty, height-challenged, H/Rectangle shape.

Unfortunately for us, however, Fizz has never had any professional color-typing done. Given her blue eyes and peaches-and-cream complexion, I suggested she turn her wardrobe into the love child of Tom Wolfe and the Blue Man Group, but nooooooo…she wanted to venture farther afield.

Actually she wanted to venture WAY afield into the ubiquitous bright reds and purples that have marked many a “Pantone Fall.” No question, the shades in question would have been fine for accessories or below-the-waist items, and who doesn’t love a cheerful red during a long grey winter?

Since we’d agreed to the “Glow or No?” method of assessing face-friendly colors, however, I dared her to look me in the eye and and tell me jellybean red and popsicle purple made her look like a dewy-eyed faun. Luckily the coral sweater she’d picked out (on her own, GO FIZZ) called her bluff.

In the end, we arrived at a non-scary core palette that mixed her existing browns and blacks with deep blues and cool greys. When worn together, the core shades create a fairly toned-down look. To counterpoint the core’s more somber colors, though, she also chose some make-your-presence-known items in zippy shades.

And should she be overtaken by the urge for extra-frisky ensembles? What then?!! No worries, man—she just has to facilitate a little accent-to-accent afternoon (or evening) delight.

Fizz’s Fall/Winter 09 Color Palette

Top: Core colors — Bottom: Accent colors

All Fizz’s delightful new duds cried out to be immortalized. So, using my legendary powers of persuasion and probably the smallest dab of eau de Guilt Trip, I convinced her to let me document some of the key pieces and colors snuggling up to her now-sparkling self.

Given the Dickensian lead-up, it feels a bit anti-climactic to post the results of her time, effort, and money: relatively simple styles that, with one or two exceptions, aren’t particularly connected to must-have trends.

But then that’s the point. Because unlike the almost-70 Lily, Fizz doesn’t feel the need to be plugged in to every trend on the street (let alone to wear them all at once). She didn’t close herself off to options when we were out looking, but she stayed focused on her goals.

Fizz’s Wardrobe-Update Requirements

  • Skew “PNW urban casual,” feminine, fun, versatile, flattering
  • Include some double-duty dress up/dress down pieces
  • Keep skirts right below knee to downplay knee/calf transition zone
  • Shape torso area: draw attention from stomach area; create/emphasize waist; define bust
  • Elongate neck and legs

...neither Von Unwerth nor Meisel were available to shoot Ms Fizz, so she had me showing up at her door (repeatedly)…

Vix, I worry I won’t be able to sleep without seeing a breakdown of Ms Fizz’s closet. Tell me all, or at least what you remember!”


Midnight Blue heavyweight jersey dress :: Bright Navy velvet blazer :: Medium denim wrap skirt with peacock ribbon trim :: Navy V-necked, long-sleeved T :: Lapis V-necked, long-sleeved, vertically-ruffled, ruched T :: Twilight cotton camisole :: Navy/ivory cotton blouse :: Ink thinwale trouser-cut cords [not pictured] :: Bright Navy fabulous new everyday bra [neither worn nor pictured]

[existing items] Dark denim pencil with red contrast stitching :: Bright Navy cotton cardigan  :: Medium- and dark-wash bootcut jeans


Espresso cord blazer :: Dark brown deep V, double-weight jersey top :: Brown/black patterned knit skirt :: Medium brown, knee-high stacked-heel boots

[existing items] Medium brown layering shell :: Dark brown cotton sateen faux-wrap blouse :: Dark brown cotton cardigan


Black knee-high, stacked-heel pull-on boots

[existing items] Black deep V faux-wrap top :: Black flat-heeled knee-high boots :: Black cotton cardigan :: Black wool-blend trumpet skirt :: Black deep V cotton sweater :: Black satin A-line skirt :: Black velvet blazer


Slate silk blouse with horizontal ruffle detailing :: Medium grey, V-necked long-sleeved T :: Medium grey surplice/ruched jersey sweater [not pictured] :: Grey/Navy diagonal stripe T [not pictured]

[existing] Medium grey camisole :: Grey/navy/brown/ochre sleeveless ruched top :: Grey wool-blend pants


Coral tissue merino deep-V, twist-front/ruched cardigan :: Bright olive A-line thinwale cord skirt :: Foxglove pink cotton cardigan :: Medium teal V-necked, long-sleeved, vertically-ruffled, ruched T :: Teal cotton camisole :: Periwinkle merino cardigan with jewel buttons [not pictured] :: Purple/pink patterned, scoop neck knit top [not pictured]

[existing] Pink/Grey confetti long-sleeve T :: Assorted colorful camisoles

Follow Fizz on her summertime wardrobe building: Fizz flies the coop with a pocket full of prints

Ringside at Fizz’s Genie/Bottle bust-out [pt 3]

Earlier, I described how Ms Fizz and I purged her closet; I then shared the technical and logistical challenges she felt impaired her efforts to be more stylish. Now it was time to dig a little deeper.

Like many people or perhaps just me, my friend Ms Fizz looked at her clothing in aggregate one day and realized her method of event- or desperate-need-based shopping had given her a pretty useless closet. The majority of her so-called wardrobe either didn’t fit, didn’t flatter, or didn’t reflect who she was or how she lived.

So she decided to change. She wasn’t looking to be a head-turning fashion plate or an object of desire; she just wanted to look like she thought about style a bit. And color. Because it’s never a bad thing to go a little Pleasantville on one’s closet, as long as one avoids tossing in random shades of non-black willy and nilly.

Bring on the color!

As we immersed ourselves further into Operation Overhaul, I could tell that Fizz had thought through ALL the factors that contributed to her style stagnation. Despite being one of those tantalizingly private types, she selflessly agreed to go public with her shopping skeletons.

Q: Aside from fit and logistical issues, were there any other barriers that brought your closet to this really sad place that does not at all reflect your fabulously-extroverted, very generous, mega-sparkly personality?”

A: “Being driven by the cheapness factor didn’t help; despite being lucky enough to have some savings to spend on clothes, my default is “Why buy 1 expensive top when I can get 3 cheaper things?” I don’t necessarily buy 3 cheaper things, of course–or if I do I don’t buy the things that would really help update my closet.”

Interior demons discussed? Check. Now for the external influences. I knew Fizz had worked in some pantyhose-n-heels places in the past as well as a setting she describes as “no shirt, no shoes, no problem.” [No, not a strip club: a start-up.]

The latter was hardly a place of style inspiration, but what about her most recent job? Oh right: she was part of an organization with a dress code I’d have to label as “Aggressively Casual.” Less Hiking to the Latte Bar mellow, more I Could Kick Your Ass Without Messing Up My Look. With some Just Rolled Out of Bed, You Wanna Make Something Of It? subsets.

Q: If you were a tree in your workplace, what kind of tree would you be? Talk to me about cultural expectations.”

A: “There are places that don’t really care about the larger social signals clothing can send, and I know some people like that.

“But for me, the downside of working in those types of environments is that they don’t support or encourage doing more than basic self-care. People either don’t use clothing for personal expression or they dial their efforts way back so they fit into the overall culture.

“I’m realizing that I have a tendency to subconsciously absorb what others are doing, then incorporate it into my style or behavior. Between my co-workers and living in a very casual city, my wardrobe went into a death spiral without my really noticing it.

“I mean I didn’t give up entirely, I was trying…but I guess whatever I bought didn’t make enough of a difference.”

As I’d met Fizz for a Reunion Recap and seen her positively strutting down the street in her simple post-alteration cotton separates, I knew SHE knew how it felt to be a bit…intentional…about her visual presentation. And being both frugal and luckier than many these days, she had a nice little nest egg to spend on herself and on the economy.

In my completely unqualified eye she was ready, willing, and able to handle the massive amounts of shopping and relentless partial nudity that accompany a major wardrobe overhaul.

I, on the other hand, was in danger. Having spent most (okay, all) of my Fall/Winter update money, I’d have to violate my Mae Westian nature and actually RESIST temptation as I tromped around helping Ms Fizz find gorgeous things for her gorgeous self. Who knew that spending other people’s money could be so tough?

Next: Part 4 of Ringside at Fizz’s Genie/Bottle bust-out, aka Pictorial Payoff