25 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of a Tough-to-Style Outfit

Styling a jacket that I thought would be easy

The jacket that took a while to style


I was down in Marin and decided to do a good deed by stopping by SAX, the consignment store my daughters own in San Anselmo, and returning the lipliner that belonged to Erin but somehow got into my purse three weeks ago. My intentions were to walk through the front door, hand her the lipliner right there at the front counter, and leave.

I walked in the store and a black, orange and tan print jacket was hanging on the hook right behind the counter. It was on the hook where all the latest aquisitions get hung before they’re tagged. It started talking to me.

I’m not even sure if I said hello to Erin. I pointed to the jacket and said, “That’s mine.”

“Yeah, Mom,” Erin said. “I thought it looked like you.”

It was a 100% linen jacket in the mildest of tie-dye prints. I was never much of a hippie, but this seemed like a hip, fun jacket that I could wear all summer in the heat we’re expected to have sometime soon. The color combo was bold, but soft bold. It was gently dramatic which is the right kind of dramatic for me.

I tried it on. “What do you think?” I asked Erin.

She was busy with other people. I decided to take a chance. It was $48.

But styling it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Some things seem like they’ll be easy but they aren’t


Michael Kors jacket goes through a styling session

Here’s the jacket that took over 30 minutes to style


This jacket seemed like a no-brainer. You guys know me. I like to take something I bought and style it and wear it within 24 hours. Russ and I were going to our favorite place on the square, Oso, for the best coffee and small bites on Saturday. I’d wear the jacket!

“Ready to go?” Russ said. “Yup, just five minutes,” I replied.


Kors jacket with blouses

Starting the styling session with prints

First I tried mixing patterns

The jacket was a bold print so I figured I could pair it with tops that had a smaller print and shared at least one color with the jacket. My first try was a Babette knit top that actually was pretty much in the same color scheme. It’s a snakeskin print but it looked too busy with the jacket. My next try was an Equipment silk blouse, also an animal print with shared colors, black and tan. But it was the same thing. It wasn’t interacting the way I wanted it to.

More than five minutes went by. “Just a minute, Hon,” I said.


Trying a white blouse with my SAX consignment jacket

White wasn’t quite right


Next I tried a white shirt. Everything goes with a white shirt, right? I showed it to Russ. He agreed that it looked better but wasn’t quite fabulous.


Trying black tops in my styling session

Trying textured black and then a black tunic top

My fourth and fifth tries were solid black tops. I know these pics make it look like they are both navy blue but they are black. The #4 choice is a Babette crinkle top. It was not interesting.

I went back to my closet. I was beginning to wonder if I’d purchased a lemon. I don’t usually work this hard putting an outfit together!

Since nothing was really working, I decided to go out on a limb and try an asymmetrical top by Simpli. I had purchased this knit top years back while shopping with the Bellas. It too had seemed like a no-brainer top but I ended up having a hard time working into a single outfit I liked. Wouldn’t it be curious if these two misfits were a fit?

It turned out that I liked it! The asymmetry added the interest I wanted. This looked more artistic, unexpected.


Mixing hemlines on BrendaKinsel.com

Mixing the hemlines were fun

Jewelry turned out not to be easy either!

I pulled out all kinds of necklaces to try with this top and jacket. I tried layering necklaces; I tried wearing one strong piece at the neck; I tried a beaded necklace in cinnamon colors. Nothing worked. I’m not quite sure why I reached for my gray pearls but I did. I liked how they filled in the bare skin portion of my neck. And then, because the tunic top was longer, I decided it needed a long necklace to keep it company. I chose my handcrafted cross that I’ve been been hanging off a multi-beaded and gold chain. I liked the way the sheen of the pearls related and played with the shiny beads in the long chain. The jewelry seemed elegantly organic.


Adding accessories to my linen jacket on BrendaKinsel.com

Accessories weren’t easy either


I considered adding a black bangle or a cluster of gold metal bangles but again, it tipped it over into being too much going on. I got excited when I saw my Lanvin bracelet. I put it on and was thrilled. It was one bold shape that related well in color to the teabag-white stripe in the jacket.

But then I had to find a handbag! Okay, 30 minutes have passed for sure. I’m glad Russ is a patient man!

I pulled out my basket of small bags. (I’ll have to show you one day how I store my handbags!) There was my vintage python bag on top. Gosh, the color was great and again, it added interest without overpowering the jacket. I loved the scale of it.

It took a few tries to find the right shoes but these platform sandals that are over five years old were perfect. I liked how they gave me height. I added my woven black J.Crew hat and guess what? I was ready to go! Yes, go ahead and say it … FINALLY!


Working to get my outfit just right was worth it

It was worth it!


Quite a range of styling emotions went into this outfit

In the time it took putting this outfit together I had quite the range of emotions. I started out high and excited because I really liked the jacket and how useful it could be for me. And, let’s face it, scoring it for $48 was exciting too. To me it looked like a Prada or Marni jacket, a more expensive label than Michael Kors. Then I got a bit disappointed at how it wasn’t coming together very easily. Then I went hit regret (Why did I buy this?). I felt like I’d fallen into the trap that my clients fall into sometimes when they buy something that they think will work so easily and it doesn’t. Then I even had a moment where I wondered if I’d lost my talent altogether!

Hey, but in the end, all those ups and downs made the glory that much better. Russ and I did go to Oso. We sat at the bar in the high stools. Meg, the bartender, knew to start the French pressed coffee for us. Two ladies came in and sat next to us. They looked like out-of-towners. I asked them where they were from. San Diego. And then one of them said, “You are such a fashionista! Look at this cute outfit you’re wearing!”

I said, “Oh, thank you!” I didn’t add another word. Was I going to confess my difficulty and doubts? No, I just let them fade away and enjoyed the afternoon with my honey in my new outfit.

Have you had the experience of working so hard at styling an outfit? What was the outcome? Do share!

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  • Reply
    May 2, 2017 at 12:58 am

    I love love love that jacket, and well done for working so hard to make it sing! I think I would have given up, or more likely my husband would have left without me… your Russ is a diamond. It just goes to show, if you make an effort you can find a match for the most unlikely pieces: I need to do this more with some things I’m not wearing.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Yes, first of all, Russ is a diamond! I think we get into patterns of how we wear clothes. It just turned out that this jacket forced me to work outside of my usual choices. Playing in one’s closet coming up with new outfits is probably a great brain activity. It keeps us looking sharp and being sharp. You think?

  • Reply
    May 2, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Cute outfit! I love the blazer and the hat! Actually, I love you in hats so much I went out and bought one myself! Kinda excited to change up my look! I probably would have gotten frustrated and not worn the jacket until I had time to try on all the possible support articles in my closet. I admire your fortitude. I plan all my work outfits the night before and layout all of the jewelry I will wear…not a spontaneous kinda girl. I love that you pulled together a very modern look in 30 minutes!!

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks, Kathy! Well, I wasn’t sure how long Russ would hang out waiting for me to get an outfit together so thankfully it came together in 30. Otherwise I would have had to throw on something, any old thing as they say, but I wanted to look nice for me and for my sweetheart. I’m glad it worked out and it’s fun sharing it with you!

  • Reply
    Cindy La Ferle
    May 2, 2017 at 5:00 am

    Wow, you did a wonderful job putting this outfit together — and yes, that jacket is worth the effort, so sharp! You reminded us, especially today, that fashion is an art, and that putting together an outfit is a creative act. You inspire me to look at things I own in a new way, and to try different combos.

    I also have a few pieces from the Simpli line — I love the drape of the fabric and the asymmetrical hems on the tunics, but never tried mixing them with other items in my wardrobe. Once again, you’ve got me thinking out of the box! Speaking of Simpli, I also have a pair of their lantern pants (or tulip pants?) which can be hard to style. I don’t think I’ve seen you wearing those?

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Cindy, that pant that you describe is EXACTLY what I need in my wardrobe! I was just telling my daughter that the other day. I need pants that are less structured. I have to solve this this summer. I’m so glad you brought it up! There’s a store about 30 minutes from where I live and they carry Simpli. I’ll have to stop in and check it out. Thanks for steering me in that direction!

  • Reply
    Marcia Miller
    May 2, 2017 at 8:25 am

    ARGHHH! Yes. I have a skirt that I continue to struggle with. It is sort of a tie-dye in a taupe and white but the white is not really white. It cannot be matched. And the taupe is too pink for some things and too brown for others. I have one t-shirt that goes with it OK but it is too long. I think I need to go with a completely different contrasting color like a baby blue. I really like the skirt but boy I struggle with it. I will keep working on it.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      I’m behind you 100%. I really like your idea of just pairing it with another color altogether. Good luck, Marcia!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Great outfit!!!

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks, Keira!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Doerzbacher
    May 2, 2017 at 9:17 am

    So what did Russ wear? Do you dress to complement each other? Similar colors?

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      No, no dressing to compliment each other. Actually, the two women who were in Oso with us wanted to take a picture of us with Russ’ phone. They did but unfortunately, they didn’t turn out well. Otherwise I would have shown you! Next time you’ll see Russ too.

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    May 2, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Whew! Thankfully you also have struggles pulling together an outfit. You’ve opened my heart to being gentler with myself when I’ve spent too much time. I agree with Spags–that Russ is a diamond. Patience is a virtue! Once you’ve found a combination that sings, the aria seems to be extra stunning due to the invested creative juices. Notice the cool framing where the pendant is highlighted by the light color stripe. Very artsy! Thanks Brenda for sharing your process that links and encourages our struggles.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      Gosh, it’s great to hear this. And yes, gentler is probably a good idea but as you can tell from the post, I was getting close to giving up on myself and doubting myself big time! That negative self-talk can slip in even when we have the gates up! I love the things you noticed. It’s fun seeing it through your eyes!

  • Reply
    Susanna Singer
    May 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I have a skirt like that; gray/brown fine wool with fabulous coral/peach and sage embroidered flowers across the front in a big splash. And it’s lined! And it was $20 on sale in my favorite catalogue! How hard could it be? Really hard, it turns out. I finally took it shopping with me a couple of weeks ago and found a shell that picked up the green and a shirt that picked up the coral. Then it still took an episode with all my cardigans and jackets to find the right olive long cardigan. And then there were the shoes …! But finally I got all kinds of “OMG what a great outfit!” comments, so it was all worth it. (Oh, and did I say I got the skirt TWO YEARS AGO!!!?)

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Oh Susanna, I LOVE this comment! I was there with you at every juncture. Actually, I took a class from Tziporah Salamon. She has a book out that I’ve got to order. She’s photographed a lot, lives in New York, and was in the Advanced Style movie and the first book. Anyway, she told us about how some pieces take years to come together and she’s willing to wait until it does. She’s a real curator of clothes and buys mostly vintage and thrift store pieces. They are gorgeous! It was fun to watch her put together an outfit and tell us where everything came from. I’m so glad you got all those “OMG what a great outfit!” comments. Love, love, love hearing about this!

  • Reply
    Emma Cook
    May 2, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Turned out amazing! Love it! Learning so much from you!

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      I’m so glad, Emma! Thanks for chiming in!

  • Reply
    Karen H.
    May 3, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Brenda, this is a smashing outfit on you! Amazing how you can work those items into a great style. Please do show us soon how you store your handbags. I always look forward to your posts.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks so much, Karen! I’m making a promise: I will show you how I store bags! How about in a post next week? Stay tuned!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    I love that it all started with the intention of walking in and walking out again…

    The outfit is totally awesome, and reminds me of something I once read – that horizontal stripes don’t need to be avoided because they can be as (if not more) flattering than vertical stripes, and you’ve proved it! I just love how the long sides of the top soften the otherwise boxy look of the jacket, creating a sleeker silhouette than if it cut off at a higher point on your body.

    I love your anatomy posts so much!

    And yes, please – I’m desperate to know how you store your bags.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 8:31 pm

      It’s great to hear you describe how you see that outfit. You’re right. And that’s what was fun about it is that the solution was in something I hadn’t thought of. It was just a lark to try that piece because nothing else was working! Okay, I’ll start posting how I store stuff. I think that would be fun to share too. Thanks, Laurice! Always fun hearing from you!

  • Reply
    Meredith Leamon
    September 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Brenda. Just looking at you on Pinterest and see you are styling/ wearing the jacket l just bought. I have similar pieces and tastes. Love your friendly accessible writing.
    Cheers Meredith

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks so much, Meredith! How fun!

  • Reply
    Kathe Hughes
    November 14, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    I absolutely love this jacket. Where can I find something similar

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