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Originally published Friday, August 23, 2013 at 11:06 AM

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Pretty dirty: Busy gardeners need not look a mess

Garden Girl offers durable clothes that look good enough to wear out for a trip to the nursery to buy another flat of flowers.

Special to The Seattle Times

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MIGHT GARDEN fashion be more than an oxymoron since stylish Garden Girl clothes have been featured in Oprah magazine? With the tagline “Designed by Women — For Women,” this Swedish company sells stretchy, flower-sprigged garden-wear that won a compliment from the Prince of Wales when he stopped by its booth at the Chelsea Garden Show last spring.

Ever since the 1930s, garden fashion has been severely and thoroughly British. Picture Vita Sackville-West striding around Sissinghurst in starched white shirt, oilcloth jacket and knee-high wellingtons. Seems a bit pretentious. Why dress up to get down and dirty in the mud?

Here’s what you really need for a good day in the garden any time of year: Sunscreen and a hat. Comfortable, sturdy shoes in summer, and hoseable, waterproof boots in winter. A thick headband to keep your ears warm on cold days. Pants that repel dirt and wet — and don’t hike up or restrict movement. Long shirts that cover your back and hips even when you’re bent over digging. Gloves that are protective, yet feel as if you’re not wearing them. A comfy old fleece and a vest to layer over it in cold weather. And when it’s drizzling, a waterproof slicker to top it all off. What more could a girl want?

It turns out Petra Maison, founder of Garden Girl, thought we should expect much more. Maison fell in love with gardening when she bought a house and big garden in Sweden. But she was disappointed by the lack of clothes made for women gardeners. She wanted durable, tough clothes that looked good enough to wear to the nursery when you run out to buy more flowers. After all, don’t boarders and bikers, golfers and sailors, have plenty of functional and stylish clothes to choose from? Why not gardeners?

Maison started out with a design for carpenter’s pants cut for a woman’s body. These flowered bib overalls are still one of Garden Girl’s best-selling items. The clothes are mostly made of heavy twill with plenty of stretch. They look fresh in clean Scandinavian colors, with stripes, lots of girlie pink and plenty of pockets. The fabrics get softer with every washing.

“Our tops don’t really scream ‘gardening’; you can wear them for hiking or running errands,” says Linnéa Geiger, spokeswoman for Garden Girl USA, based in Denver.

Started six years ago, the company has gone global, offering clothes in retail stores in 20 countries and by mail-order (). Garden Girl has expanded into pink clippers, saws and other lightweight, durable tools to fit women’s hands. But the heart of the business remains clothing; a flower-bedecked skort is the new best-seller. “Our clients range from young, urban P-Patch gardeners to farmers with acres,” says Geiger. Different ages buy the same clothes for different reasons. Older customers like the functionality and the stretch. Younger customers appreciate the color and style.

Petra Maison, who just turned 40, models clothes on Garden Girl’s Web page and in the catalog. All the models work for the company, and they are strong, attractive women who look at home in pink pants with kneepad inserts, wide brimmed sun hats, flowered wellies and the popular, neoprene ballerina clogs that are both feminine and hoseable. But that chocolate-brown quilted vest tied in back with a pink ribbon? Sorry, it’s sold out.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.

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