5 In Getting Dressed/ Series/ Style

A Classic Outfit Gets Playful in this Anatomy of an Outfit

Classic black and white with a twist on Brenda Kinsel


This was me on Monday. I got dressed that morning by following my style recipe which is:


Modern, sophisticated

Whimsical glamour

Soft drama



My style recipe helps guide my outfit compositions each day. Every word doesn’t need to be represented in every outfit. My 80% foundation word is probably “modern” with “soft drama” playing a key role most days. The rest of the words play a 20% role. “Playful” needs only about 20% of expression to show up in my personal style. If it was 80% playful I might be mistaken for a carnival clown and not an image consultant!


What “playful” in personal style expression means to me


Part of being playful for me is the sense that I’m getting away with something. I can do that with fashion even though I can’t do that in real life. I don’t get away with anything. I’m a lousy liar, I don’t have a poker face, I can’t think of a single thing I cheat at. I’m super gullible. Straying off the path that was imprinted on me by my hardworking, humble Midwestern parents (“Be nice, Brenda!”) would give me tremendous anxiety.

But I can be playful with clothes, like this:


I can wear something upside down or inside out and give myself a chuckle.

I can look at a belt and imagine it as a necklace and layer it with other chains and no one knows but me. I give myself a knowing wink when I see my creation in the mirror.

I can spot a bathing suit cover-up at TJ Maxx and know I’d never wear it poolside but the pattern in it is so darn tantalizing that I’ll buy it and wear it as a tunic over a mesh, sexy t-shirt, add skinny satin pants, high heels and a long pendant and be delighted (and feel supreme!) when the hostess in the restaurant says, “Gee you look great!” (I don’t tell her about the cover-up!)


I am rambunctious when it comes to pulling off the not ordinary fashion mix. But I’m also not flamboyant, although in this non-golden age of fashion where anything more than yoga pants and a hoodie stands out, someone might challenge my personal assessment.


I’m tenacious about style


As a style and wardrobe consultant, this trait makes me fearless and flexible, creative and determined. I love figuring out other people’s style recipes so I can dress them to look exactly like themselves. I’ll go to any lengths to help them interpret their style and see their true, fabulous self reflected in their outfits. It’s my personal mission to help others enjoy looking and feeling great in fashion. Style paves the way. It’s the jewel in the crown when it comes to getting dressed.


Vintage hat on Brenda Kinsel

Erin spotted the hat at a thrift store and texted me.


How this vintage hat worked its way into my style expression


In the early part of January my daughter Erin texted me a picture of an extraordinary vintage hat that was for sale at a thrift store she checks out occasionally in San Anselmo. They displayed the hat backwards on the head form. I’ve worn vintage hats before but this fanciful plume made me hesitate. Was it too much? Would I really wear it? Erin texted the price—20 bucks—and encouraged me to snap it up. Since I was in Sonoma and wasn’t going to buzz down to Marin to try the hat on first, I took a chance. A twenty dollar chance. It paid off.


Pearls and vintage hat on Brenda Kinsel

Bulky pearls get balanced by the plume on my hat.


The cream hat with the black plume was definitely glorious in person but it remained in the hatbox until this week. Somewhere in the middle of the night, about 3 a.m. on Monday, I woke up thinking about that hat. I started to put an idea together for an outfit but fell back to sleep. Monday morning when I was getting ready to go to work that outfit idea started to come back to me.

“Wear the cream colored hat with the black plume with more cream and black,” my barely conceptualized thought said. Okay!


The Anatomy of an Outfit


So I pulled out this silk cream blouse purchased years ago from the Barney’s outlet in Napa. It’s got that cut out design on the front looking a lot like like a doily—sort of old fashioned. I wore a black tank underneath it so black peeked out through the holes. I added one of my most favorite jackets. It’s by Per Se (a branch of the Carlisle Collection) and is softly dramatic. It has pleats across the back of it and has a great sheen to it. It reads kind of dressy. In fact, it’s the jacket I wore over the bathing suit cover-up with the high heels!

I wore simple black Not Your Daughter’s Jeans Ponte knit pants with a bit of a flared leg (super comfortable) and my patent leather oxfords (to tame down the femininity of the outfit).

I wore the big giant pearls at my neck. I purchased these with my mother on our last shopping trip together in Fargo, North Dakota. It makes me happy to wear them and think of her. But they seemed too bulky on their own so I took a double strand necklace of crystals and pearls (a Christmas gift from a friend) and wrapped it twice around my neck to create more layering interest and to break up the bulkiness of the pearls. I loved how it made it a little messy at the neck. Messy necklace combos are going to be big for spring.


Showcasing my vintage hat in this classic outfit on Brenda Kinsel

This combo puts a smirk on my face–I’m getting away with something!



I added the hat—wearing it with the label in the back so the plume actually comes forward, not backward like they had it displayed in the thrift store. It’s a little eye-catching I admit. But what’s more adorable than a plume? And the cream color of the hat makes it innocent. It’s just innocent fun.

I added my gold-rimmed crystal earrings and my gold ring with little diamonds in it and my gold bangles. The heart on one of the bangles felt perfect for the week of Valentine’s Day.

So what does this outfit do for me?

  1. It makes me smile to myself all day.
  2. It makes me feel elegant and ladylike.
  3. It reminds me of Mom. How she’d have loved to have seen this picture of me! She’d have chuckled!
  4. It makes me feel modern and sophisticated in the black and cream color combination.
  5. I feel like I’m honoring the classics by wearing pearls (so Coco Chanel!) although I’m doing it in an irreverent way because of the scale and the layering.
  6. Using the vintage hat as the centerpiece of the outfit makes me feel like I’m getting away with something because I’m taking something old and making it look fresh and current in this February 2016 outfit.
  7. I am entertaining others. For fashion loving people including fashionistas at Nordstrom, my getup made them smile and giggle. I saw my makeup person, Vanessa. She smiled and looked at me and did a waving hand gesture move in front of me from my head to my waist and said, “This whole outfit is so ‘Boom! Hi!’” I knew exactly what she meant! It felt great to be so boom, hi!


I can’t say I do it every day but on Monday, I dared to be seen! And it was fun! How do you dare to be seen?


Be Seen in 2016 fashion mantra on Brenda Kinsel


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  • Reply
    Erika Alvarez
    February 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I am loving these recent “going behind the style” posts, Brenda! And your outfit from Monday gives the permacasual culture of Northern California a much needed shot of fun!

    • Reply
      February 10, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Erika. It made me chuckle. I love your assessment of the fashion culture here in N.California! I think I will do my best to give it a little nudge from time to time!!

  • Reply
    Nancy Madlin
    February 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, my, you look ADORABLE! and I love your smirk!!!!!! It looks like a little stop-motion giggle… And so great that is has that link to your mom through the necklace… Also interesting that it combines your two themes of black and white from last year…

    This curious person wants to know — did you feel good in this all day? Where did you wear it? Were there moments when you felt uncomfortable? (I’m not saying that’s not OK — being fashionable isn’t always comfortable, I’m just curious as to your experience…) Will you adjust it in any way next time?

    Thanks for these “outfit anatomy” posts — I’m really enjoying them!

    • Reply
      February 15, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Well, I think you’re right, Nancy. It’s easy to smirk in this outfit!!! Thanks for catching that!

  • Reply
    Gail Guinn
    October 20, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I have been struggling and struggling to find my “fashion/style ” words and you just handed one of them to me in #6 in the list above!! I love to feel I’m getting away with something too!! I think it all started back in the 1980’s or early 90’s when the Delaurentis restaurant opened in L.A. It was very difficult to get a reservation, and was very sophisticated and fancy. I was in the restroom when an obviously VERY wealthy woman complimented me on my outfit and asked where I had gotten it. It was a white off the shoulder gauze sundress with a thick macramed belt. ( I have since learned that my response was NOT what you recommend, however…) I told her I had gotten the dress at the Orange County Swap Meet and that my roommate had made my belt. I so enjoyed the incredulous look of initial horror and then admiration on her face that I think it stamped me for life! I’m a mildly rebellious type and like to mix expensive with thrift store items!!

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