It’s always intriguing getting to know someone a little behind a public or media persona, if, that is, they let you. Behind the 2-dimensional “Neat Sheet” that is her public interface, you’ll find a very real person called Karen Vitt. Yes, Karen Vitt has some well-developed perspectives on fashion, but she’s also very busy just living Karen’s life, and I was fortunate to have a chance to explore a little of both with her. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Karen Vitt grew up in the news. As a young teen, the native Portlander started working in the sports department at The Oregonian. “Yeah I was a 16 year-old Goth sports clerk,” she laughs (for the record, the Goth phase came after the preppy, new-wave, Hall & Oates phases, but before hippie, grunge and Ally McBeal skirt-suits). From there it was on to become the editorial assistant of the A&E section, then a lead writer for The Oregonian’s P.S. style section, and in the years since, Vitt has covered style, fashion & shopping for everyone from Oregonian, to Lucky Magazine, Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, Oregon Bride… you get the picture. All this not withstanding, “I’m not gonna be a fashion figure,” Vitt asserts, “I’m a journalist. I’m a women’s writer. I grew up in a newsroom.” In fact I think it’s fair to say that Vitt is at least somewhat uneasy even about what she calls “media covering media,” which, granting the rather generous assumption that this Examiner constitutes “media,” is exactly what we were up to.
Out on the town, Karen Vitt of The Neat Sheet with contributor Erin
Flesch. Photo: Peter Greene, ONSCREEN Imaging
Around a year & a half ago, when The Oregonian’s roster began its incredible shrinking act in earnest, Vitt found herself laid off and looking for work. “I was job-hunting and job-hunting,” she recalls, “and wasn’t finding anything, but I was still on the press-release mailing-lists for 15 years worth of contacts, so I just started blogging from press releases and it developed into something.” Something… is The Neat Sheet, and I think it is a fair statement that, at present, it is the only comprehensive, daily, feature-based, non-advertorial coverage of fashion, style & shopping by a professional journalist in Portland. Many have come to rely on The Neat Sheet as a hub for this kind of information, which is exactly what Vitt has in mind; “We write about things we think women will want to wear, try, buy and do,” The ‘Sheet will open up advertising opportunities later this summer that Vitt says will be easy & affordable.
So why fashion? How does a 16 year old Goth sports clerk wind up hovering over a laptop for, what I can assure you, are more hours than you want to think about, covering fashion, style, arts & shopping? “It’s kind of weird, actually,” Vitt remarks, “I’m a little bit like the anti-fashion fashion writer. These days I’m in jeans & t-shirts and I’m out in the wilderness a lot, but it’s not just ‘fashion,’ per se. I’m a women’s writer.” Tending to look at fashion with the body-conscious woman in mind, and either appreciating it, or not, from that very perspective, Vitt says “It’s not a new sentiment, but it’s still profoundly true. You can change the way you look by what you’re wearing… your whole perspective. Clothing & fashion can be a confidence-builder, and when you have confidence, you can do anything… you can be who you really are.” Admitting openly to a high school obsession with Hall & Oates (I can’t bag… at the time I was probably busy being obssessed with Miami Vice), Vitt says she wore the associated suspenders, lace-up Oxfords and baggy trousers. “That’s where it started for me, the point being that no matter what it was, I felt good about myself. So whether it’s a hot top today that shows off your figure, or it was Hall & Oates, or New Wave back in the day, or taking my mother’s 1960s lavender chiffon prom dress, shredding it & dyeing it black [laughs], that’s what fashion can do at its best no matter what it is. It can refelect who you are. It enables you to feel good… to feel like you.”
Vitt gets a snapshot with designer Seth Aaron.
Along with contributor Erin Flesch, without whom, Vitt comments, the Neat Sheet wouldn’t have been possible, Vitt has invested countless hours over the last 6 months getting the Neat Sheet off the ground. With everything from hard-coding, designing, logo & branding, social media and editorial content flowing from her hands & mind, it is safe to relay that The Neat Sheet takes a toll on its creator. It’s fitting then, that there should be a chance for Vitt to take her nose off the grindstone for a few hours and enjoy a launch party for the publication, complete with a showcase of local boutiques. The “Up in the Air Summer Affair” will serve nicely, and along with organizer Will Levenson of Popina Swimwear, CRAVE Portland, Mabel & Zora, Parallel, Physical Element, Idom, Moulé, Lizard Lounge, Solestruck, Covet and Oh Baby, the event will benefit Willamette Riverkeeper. The evening will include a fashion show of summer styles on the rooftop runway, DJs, appetizers, cocktails from New Deal Vodka and Deco Distilling, and of course, Karen Vitt & The Neat Sheet.
“Up in the Air” Summer Affair: The Neat Sheet Launch Party + Boutique Fashion Show
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 9
Hotel Deluxe rooftop, 729 S.W. 15th Ave.
Tickets: $10; read more and buy tickets here!