If you're in the We Love Vikki VI Facebook group, you've probably seen some of Jennifer Cram's photos and comments. I recently had the chance to get to know her better. I already knew she was an Australian writer/marriage officiant, and so much more.
Any biographical details you’re willing to share?
I live in a leafy and quiet suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, a city I moved to in order to take up the position of Director of the largest public library system in Australia. In terms of career, I managed a series of libraries including school, community college, public and corporate libraries for many years, and continued to do so for nine years after diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.
Five years into that journey I saw an advertisement for officiant training. The Marriage Act had changed, and it was now possible to apply to be authorised to officiate marriages, which seemed to me to be a happy thing to do, something that used all my skills, and something that could take my life in a different direction. So I did my due diligence, signed up for the course and applied. Juggled ceremonies and full time work for 2 years and then "retired" to become a full-time celebrant. 900 legal marriages, 300 naming ceremonies, and numerous non-legal ceremonies for couples renewing their vows or making a commitment later and I'm still at it.
I have one son, no pets since Mrs McGregor, our cat, died at the ripe old age of 23, though Until that point I'd always had both dogs and cats - from early childhood. The family story goes that I cut my teeth chewing on my father's blue cattle dog's ear.
What's your personal history with plus size clothing in general and Vikki Vi in particular?
While I've never been really skinny, I was well within "normal" size range and never had any problems with clothes until surgery and treatment for breast cancer resulted in my developing severe lymphedema, which meant my arms quickly swelled to the point where finding anything to fit was difficult. The Tamoxifen I was prescribed to block estrogen triggered lipedema, a condition where the fat cells between the waist and the ankles and at the back of the upper arm keep growing in size. There is no cure for it, and shockingly, it is the most under-diagnosed condition in women, with an estimated 1 in 11 having it. It has both a genetic and a hormonal link.
So I was getting bigger very quickly, and continually letting out my clothes. At the time most of my linen work suits had gored A-line skirts or pants with elastic waists, so they were pretty forgiving, but after my arm swelled through the day so much that I had to get a member of my staff to take a pair of scissors to my sleeve seam to unpick it, I got the message that I needed to look for stretch. All I could find in Australia had skinny sleeves or were t-shirts. At that point I found Vikki Vi. First, I have to confess, on e-Bay, and second hand at that, so I bought a couple of pieces to try for fit. Loved them. And the rest is history.
Jennifer's current favorite piece of clothing: I live in Vikki Vi Petite Jersey Black Wide Leg Pull on Pants (I have 4 pairs). I do have one white pair which are saved for special occasions in summer. So, in terms of longevity, they have to be my favourites.
Her all-time favorite: Of every garment I've ever owned the one I am most nostalgic about is a black wool jumpsuit that was a winner in the Australian Wool fashion awards when I was young and slim. I splurged! High neck, long sleeves, wide legs and a beaten silver buckle on the matching belt. Hell to go to the bathroom in on a cold night, but it always made me feel like a million dollars.
Jennifer's Style Tip: Less is more. My grandmother's tip was to always stand in front of a full-length mirror before leaving the house and see what you can take off! She also said that a woman should wear her clothes, not vice versa. I keep coming back to that in 2020 in relation to masks. So, elegant simplicity.
Shoes, Handbags, Makeup, Jewelry - which one is her obsession?
None of the above. My shoes are flats, practical, and comfortable, though with a bit of style, and when I find a shoe I like I will buy it several pairs, mostly in black. My handbags have to be very light. My makeup restrained, and I've worn the same pieces of jewellery for decades - a string of pearls, a pair of Mikimoto pearl and gold earrings bought as my only souvenir on a trip to Tokyo, a 1920s rose gold bangle that used to belong to my mother, and a watch (analog with roman numerals because it is easy to read the time with no more than a casual glance). Scarves, though. that's a different story. I have drawers full!
Do you prefer skirts/dresses or pants?
I love the freedom that pants give me to stride, bend, stretch, and sit with my legs apart if I feel like it. As a marriage celebrant (wedding officiant) I definitely can't afford to flash, need to be able to walk up and down stairs without having to clutch a skirt, and need to be able to have a level of modesty that doesn't offend anyone present, so keeping ankles, elbows, and backside covered, with no visible cleavage meets those standards.
That said, I do love the combination of the Vikki Vi Maxi Tank dress with the Kimono Duster. The Vikki Vi black jersey wide Leg Pull on Pants are my go-to, and I also have a goodly collection of the classic pull on pants and pull on pants with pockets. For ceremonies in hot weather I wear the jersey pants with a light top (not the Vikki Vi jersey tops as they are too tight on my arms). In cooler weather it is a tank and trousers or tank dress with the kimono duster or pants and the cardigan. I have used the capsule wardrobe methodology for many years and appreciate being able to replace individual pieces
I used to sew for myself - and many people thought my whole wardrobe was designer items. I also knitted, did needlepoint, made patchwork quilts, refinished furniture and did all the painting and decorating. Developing severe lymphedema put paid to any activities where the muscles in my arms were contracted and immobile, which basically is all of the above. So I'm now left with a hobby that is indistinguishable from my work - I write books and blog posts about various aspects of ceremonies together with articles for bridal press. I also read - forensic detective stories being my fav genre.
When younger, I was a photographic model for high-end jewellery, and as undergrad I was the official choreographer for the University's Ballet Club. And I won't eat oysters, but love liver and tripe. I think they'd also be surprised at how picky I am about who I give my money vote to, so I don't do fast fashion because of exploitation of the workers, for example, and that I automatically calculate project cost per wearing when I'm considering buying a piece of clothing. (Vikki Vi delivers great return on investment particularly when compared with fast fashion. You can't beat fractions of a penny.)
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Something that has become my mantra "You never know what is good luck or bad luck except in hindsight. What looks like good luck often turns out to be bad luck, and vice versa"
Anything else you'd like to say?
The thing I love about Vikki Vi is that it is unmemorable (aka understated). While that might sound negative I see it is an immense positive as it means I can wear the same pieces for years without anyone realising. I mostly wear black for weddings because I try to blend in with the men, and not compete with the mothers. (This sometimes includes wearing my McDonald tartan sash for Scottish-themed weddings or a witch's hat for a costume wedding.) If I want to dress it up, for a social occasion, a scarf does it. I also coordinate my eyeglasses frames with my clothes (or vice versa really). I realised that having more than one colour in frames was a business statement years ago when a colleague commented that I was so incredibly organised, even my glasses matched my clothes. And now, by keeping my frames current, no one picks that the outfit is 10+ years old.