9 In Series/ Style

A simple style exercise to define your personal style

Brenda explores her style

Brenda explores her style


Every spring I do style exercises. Since style evolves, I’m always curious about how my personal style has evolved over the last year. Once I do my style exercises, I feel more comfortable coming up with a shopping list of items to add to my wardrobe. It makes my shopping very efficient plus I stay out of style ruts. Here’s one of my favorite style exercises.


Tic tac toe style

Here’s what you need for this style exercise: a tic tac toe grid, a pen, and a visual of something you love. (Not like, love.)

Tic tac toe to style on Brenda Kinsel website

Start with a tic tac toe grid


I’m crazy for tulips. Usually I buy red, orange, or purple tulips but last week I was attracted to these pink ones. They call them fancy tulips. It was right around the first anniversary of Mother’s passing (March 25th) and I had her on my mind. When I looked at them, my heart felt lighter. I brought them home, put them in my ceramic owl vase and then watched them do their thing over the next few days. They started out a blush pink but when they opened up, wow, they had a lot of color inside!


Tulips lead to style words on Brenda Kinsel website

Tulips have so much personality!


Expressive tulips on Brenda Kinsel website

So expressive! Not timid!


lovely tulips on Brenda Kinsel website

Lovely tulips


Tulips do their thing on Brenda Kinsel website

They have a mind of their own.


Describe your loved visual object

Looking at my vase of tulips on my office table, I start to describe the tulips. I use the center square of the tic tac toe to write Tulips + BK Style. Then I use the other squares in the grid to capture the words that come to me as I think about these tulips.


tic tac toe style exercise on Brenda Kinsel website

Doing my style exercise


Question to ask oneself: Do you feel flattered by these words if they were used to describe you?

The next step is to look at the words and ask yourself: Would you feel flattered if people used these words to describe you? The trick to this exercise is that when you choose an object you really love and describe it, chances are you’re describing yourself!

So, let’s see if these words are words I’d feel flattered by if someone used them to describe me.

Dynamic yet feminine: Yes, I’d be flattered.

Inviting: Absolutely.

Lovely: Why that would be lovely!

Unpredictable: Maybe. I need to think about that.

Carefree: I wish! Seriously, I’d like more of that in my life.

Fun: You betcha.

Beautiful: Wow, I don’t even know if I can take that in but it would be nice.

A mind of my own: Well, yes! I’m in the decade of my life where I enjoy this mind of my own.


Next up is to use these words as your style direction.

This morning when I got up I challenged myself to create an outfit that used some of these style words.


A floral silk top is my base on Brenda Kinsel website

A lovely floral silk top started my outfit creation.


When I looked in my closet, this newer sleeveless top seemed to fit the “lovely” part of the equation. Funny, I was curious when I bought it. I usually don’t go for dainty, feminine prints but I was very attracted to it. It’s graceful, has an ease about it at the neckline, and the floral print is…lovely! Then I added the chunky necklace which represents “dynamic, yet feminine.” Maybe even a little “unpredictable.”


A styled outfit using my spring style words on Brenda Kinsel website

Feeling like me in my outfit.


I was going to be shopping with a client and I felt like wearing my black Theory slim fitting ankle pants. It was chilly so I wore my Dior-inspired blue Jigsaw jacket. Now that I think about it, next time I’d wear my blue “carefree” silk knit “creative” cardigan. And to add more “fun” to the outfit, I’d get a pair of flats for spring in red or orange. (They are going on my shopping list!)

I’ve added my blue eyeframes and on my ears are a lovely pair of earrings by Alexis Bittar, earrings my daughter Erin encouraged me to purchase this month. I thought for sure I’d be returning them for something else because they were so feminine and well, lovely, and I wasn’t sure if I’d wear them. (The joke is on me!)

Now I’m eager to play with these words and move my style more in this direction. I’m ready to have more “pink tulip energy” in my life!

Will you have fun with this exercise? I hope so! Do share!


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  • Reply
    Marjorie Sargent
    March 31, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    I noticed the droop of the pink tulips and wondered if you had used the tip of putting a straight pin through the stem, just under the bloom before putting them in water.
    Cheers, Marjorie

    • Reply
      April 3, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Now that’s a new tip for me! I used the copper penny trick on these which is supposed to make them stand tall as well. But in the end, they just keep delighting me no matter what. I just had to toss them, they’d lost their color but I will definitely buy more fancy tulips! I don’t have a dog but I do have tulips. Very entertaining!

      • Reply
        January 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

        The copper pennies (best to use several) only work if they’re from before about 1982. In the early ’80s they began using much more tin or zinc in pennies than copper, so the amount of copper in later pennies is negligible and your tulips won’t be helped. Check penny dates & keep some old ones with your vases.

    • Reply
      June 14, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Yep, pricking the neck is an oldie and a goodie. I do it as the droop begins. I’ve shared your article. I love it

      • Reply
        June 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm

        Thanks so much, Clare!

  • Reply
    Nancy Madlin
    April 1, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I love how you use exercises to point to personal style, and I love the blue and black combo – so dynamic and beautiful! I really enjoy doing style exersizes, too, so I did this one along with you… My beloved object is a funny one – I have a dog statue about 12″ tall which sits in the middle of my dining room table, and is visible when people enter my front door. The dog has an assortment of seasonal outfits it gets dressed in – such as Easter bunny ears on top of head and cape with Easter eggs on it… My daughter and I bought it when she was small (now 22) and I kept it because it makes people smile as they walk in my house — and me too as I walk through.

    The words I wrote are: Classic yet Irreverent, Fun, Noticeable, Friendly, Relaxed, Iconic, Expressive, Happy. I don’t know about describing me, but this is the way I tend to dress, I think. I love classic shapes, but usually with a twist of some kind. When I first started more consciously embracing style (through your books and What Not To Wear), I tended to choose clothes that were a little too dressy for my environment. Now I feel free to embrace more ease, as well as style.

    Other times I have done this exercise I chose less “noticeable ” items – a favorite vase, purse, etc. So I can say perhaps this is part of a new style phase for me! (At the moment I am thinking how weird it is to have a dressed up dog on my dining room table, much less to write about it! Haha. Well, I’m turning 60 this year — definitely not used to that idea — and what good is it to be a Wise Woman if you can’t like what you want to?!
    Best to all, Nancy

    • Reply
      April 3, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Oh Nancy, this delights me so!!! And I LOVE those words. When people share words as you have (and keep the dog right where it is, it pleases and delights not only you, but your guests…in my humble opinion) it inspires others to borrow them for themselves. I’m intrigued by them and want to borrow a few myself for my style. Thanks for sharing your exercise with us!!! I see a wise woman at 60, plus an expressive one, an iconic one, a related, expressive, happy one. And a friendly, noticeable fun one. Oh and a classic yet irreverent one. You inspire! Go for 60 and do it all!

  • Reply
    Imogen Lamport
    January 11, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Love this post Brenda – it’s so important to keep evolving your style – not to get stuck!

    • Reply
      January 12, 2017 at 9:18 am

      I totally agree with you! There must be a hashtag we could create for that.


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