Kristen Ramirez is a redheaded beauty whose wardrobe reflects her energy and openness. She mixes and matches several colorful pieces to great effect: a lime green vest over a darker green top, with a powder blue jacket, a black skirt with embroidered flowers, blue tights, green flats, and an orange necklace. She always looks pulled together while exhibiting a sense of fun. As a visual artist, Ramirez's work has been seen lately at Davidson Contemporary and Gallery4Culture. Most recently, she was part of the 24-hour paint-a-thon at CoCA and, with Laura Wright, enacted a bit of street art: On First Thursday in August, Ramirez and Wright sewed silk-screened patches onto people's clothes with a bicycle-powered sewing machine. Three men took off their pants to get a bit of DIY art on their denim.
Find out where Kristen Shops.
The Vintage Modern
Where do you shop? Pretty much everything I wear, except for socks, shoes, and underwear, is from thrift stores. I joke that I've developed "thriftdar," a rare condition in which particular thrift stores speak to me. I know that on a given day, I must make a stop at the Goodwill on Dearborn Ave., or the Capitol Hill Value Village, or the Buffalo Exchange on the Ave., or my old standby, the Value Village in Crown Hill. Part of it is the thrill of the hunt. I found a '40s skirt that is beautiful. It's lined. I never have to wash it. The same skirt would cost me $100 at Anthropologie, and it would fall apart in the wash.
Are there aspects of Seattle style you dislike? When I first moved to Seattle [in fall 2002] to begin the MFA program at UW, an instructor told me that I needed to turn down my palette. I thought he was referring to my artwork, but he clarified that my clothes were too loud for Seattle. I replied that I'd sooner die than turn to the Eddie Bauer bruise palette. Generally speaking, I find plenty of eye candy here in Seattle, particularly within the youth culture. . . . However, the complaints I do have about Seattle style are as follows: The Utilikilt, it's just wrong—it's ridiculous. No matter how much time I spend in the grandeur of [the] Pacific Northwest's wild places, I will never don Teva sandals. Ick. And socks with sandals? This is a travesty. Fleece, khaki, and the utter casualness of it all.
Where do you find fashion inspiration? I just returned from a month-long trip to Brazil and Argentina. Argentines suffer from a complex that makes them believe they are European and not South American, but boy, do they know how to dress! Lovely leather jackets, crisp ironed jeans, wool and cashmere sweaters, pointy boots galore.
What do you think of the $200 jean trend? Bah. I have so many things I'd prefer to spend $200 on: live music, travel, a good meal with friends, art books, shoes! My style is informed by thriftiness, seeing if I can get away with certain combinations; it's about reusing things, about finding a well-made skirt that's 30 years old. I do not believe in the fashion machine. I think it's damaging, from the sweatshops that produce some of these clothes to the debt people carry.
Is there a piece of clothing you bought on a whim that languishes in your closet? I have many '40s-era vintage dresses that I love but sadly neglect. I can't find a place to wear them, or maybe I'm just getting more casual, too. Pants are just easier. And I have maybe five pairs of gorgeous high heels that I just don't wear.
Any parting advice? It puzzles me that people are so afraid of color. I'm an introvert—I don't like to be the center of attention. But at some point I stopped worrying that people were looking at me, because they're not. I've been able get over my fear of wearing color and take some risks. Now I've got a devil-may-care attitude.