31 In Getting Dressed

Anatomy of an Outfit: A gray dress shines!

Summer dress

Excited to wear gray!


I have this beautiful linen dress that my fashion muse, Mariam, designed for me last year. I hadn’t worn it yet this season and gosh, that just seemed like a crime. The fashion police were  minutes away from putting me in handcuffs and arresting me for neglect. I decided to dress in this dress for work that day.

Erin and I had back-to-back client closet appointments in what can be the chilly side of Marin: Tiburon and Belvedere. I knew I’d need a cardigan or jacket for warmth if I was going to wear the gray dress. I tried a couple of them on but it just wasn’t right. What if I layer a T-shirt underneath instead? You fashion mavens out there know what a big trend it is to wear a T-shirt under a dress.

First I thought of a white tee. Tried it, didn’t like it. I wish I had a gray T-shirt, I thought. Staring right at me in the gray department of my closet was a longtime favorite grayish T-shirt. I say grayish because it’s more like a dark mushroom color. There’s a lot of brown in it. I adore it, but do I wear it in summer? No, it’s been a spring, fall, or winter layering piece. But I pulled it out and took a look. Hey, this is going to work!


Silk tee for layering

Mushroom gray silk tee is the perfect layering piece


The added style benefit was that I LOVED the contrast of the close-fitting, bias-cut silk T-shirt with the more impulsive linen fabric. I know not to expect linen to be free of wrinkles; I mean that’s just craziness. I don’t mind the rumpled look of linen but giving it some grounding with the silk knit made me really happy! Now this outfit was 80% rumpled and 20% smooth.


Chico's necklace

The outfit is 80% rumpled and 20% smooth

Wanting to wear this sparkly tiered necklace but there was a problem


Gray Chico's long necklace

A perfectly great necklace but it wasn’t working


Then came the accessories. Months ago I bought this mulit-strand sparkly gray beaded necklace at Chico’s one day, hastily. I was at the counter paying for a jacket and saw this necklace on the sale counter. The color couldn’t have been more perfect for me. The charcoal gray tones picked up the sparkly natural highlights in my hair. I love wearing shades of gray (not quite 50 of them though) and figured I could use it in a dozen outfits immediately. It was half off. I didn’t think twice.

The thing is, I didn’t wear it in twelve outfits. I couldn’t find a single thing to wear it with. Every time I put this necklace on it looked dowdy to me! How could that possibly be? Maybe it had too many strands. Maybe I needed to take one or two or three of them off. It bothered me because I really liked it and it should work! Next to the lustrous gray linen dress, it begged to be part of this outfit.

I started talking to myself.

Brenda, this can’t be this hard! Figure out how to shorten it! It’ll work if it’s shorter. The reason this looks frumpy is that it hangs around your bosom and not your neck! Besides, it’s better for the dress if it’s shorter. Then it won’t clutter the bosom area which already has gathers and a self-time belt.

Well okay then! But how do I shorten it in thirty seconds? I’ve got to get moving! I have clients to see!

I saw the velvet ribbon that the strands came out of and did the simplest thing: I tied knots on both sides of the necklace to bring it up a few inches. Elapsed time? 10 seconds. Now I had time to finish the rest of the accessories!


Gray necklace fix

A simple knot at the ends lifted the necklace


Look at the difference between this picture on the mannequin and the first one. Now the necklace is covering up the writing on the mannequin  close to the neck where the original design shows all the writing on the mannequin. You can see the lowest strand sits right at the bosom. Not any more!


Gray Chico necklace short

Shortened, this necklace rocks!


I wanted to play with texture so I went to my bangle/bracelet department. Going for sheen and shine I grabbed my Calleen Cordero black leather studded cuff. For the opposite wrist I added my super textured metal bracelet that buckles closed. I knew which ring I’d use: the arty ring with small diamonds. Since the necklace demanded so much attention I kept the earrings super minimal, just a faceted dropped charcoal bead.


Black and gray Beauty Bundle

Jewels to play off the gray dress


I put on the black and silver cuff, the buckle bracelet, the ring and earrings and decided I needed something more to punch this up. I wanted the extra thing I added to have a focal point. That way it would stand out amidst the rush of silver and charcoal pieces. I chose one of my Alexis Bittar cuffs. This one is lucite with stones all around it. There’s a hint of gold in it in places and of course, more sparkle. The face of it looks like a watch face. What time is it? It’s luster time! It was my unexpected piece to make the outfit just a little more arty.


Gray accessories

I’m liking the focal point of the Alexis Bittar lucite cuff


It all came together!

Can I just say that wearing a dress is divine? This turned into a windy day and feeling the fabric moving against my legs once we were outside of the closets was just divine! It was fun to be back in a color I adore, gray, and to be adding textured accessories to the textured dress. I did put on a full slip under the outfit because the linen is just a bit see-through. I added my platform Cotelac sandals that I’ve had for about five years. All of the ingredients in this outfit were things I already had. It was only the Chico’s necklace that had never been worn. Now that I “fixed” it, I truly will wear it a lot!


Gray linen Mariam dress

Loving my new-to-me outfit

Linen dress by Mariam

Nothing feels more luscious than wearing a dress with movement!


Thank you glorious outfit! You really made my day!

What was the last thing you wore that you felt glorious in? Can’t wait to hear about it!

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  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    August 9, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Brenda, I love your outfit. It matches you perfectly! I love all the gray tones with your hair. I’m assuming the jewelry could be called a “beauty bundle”, a concept I’m finding very useful. Thank you for setting a terrific example for all of us.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Brenda, Beautiful!! You look glorious. The necklace is wonderful, perfect idea to shorten it. You mixing up all the bangles and cuffs together has really inspired me to pile them on. I have large wrists and a small something just doesn’t cut it. The dress with T shirt under is great, and you are so right, that is all the rage right now. I love linen anything, have it on right now, and the wrinkles give it character. Pressed is a nice look, but will not last as soon as you sit down. Go have fun.

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin
    August 9, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Would you please dress me everyday???? You’re the best!!!!❤️

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      I’d love to, my dear!!!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 12:20 am

    I have a pale grey dress which is similar. Good idea I will try wearing a T-shirt underneath. Our UK summer is so cold at the moment.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 2:30 am

    This is a wonderful combination. That dress could be quite severe, but the accessories and T shirt make the outfit fun and sparkly. You look amazing, as always.

  • Reply
    sandy blaxland
    August 10, 2017 at 4:24 am

    What a beautiful dress and t-shirt! And yes, they’re perfect for each other. I don’t own grey (other than a cardigan and a pair of fall trousers); but you’ve made me look at this color in a different light. It’s quite elegant, isn’t it.

  • Reply
    Lisa White
    August 10, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Exquisite! This outfit is so shimmery stunning and the necklace really elevates the beauty of it! Love how you adjusted this necklace. Love this look on you! It is always a delight to find you in my inbox….what a great way to start the day

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 6:52 am

    You look like a million bucks! I love wearing gray too but find it hard to get the right shade that looks good on me….the darker gray like your jumper and tee look best on me. I think I commented on your necklace on IG ….do you think Chicos still carries that particular one? I’ll have to check out my local store or on line for it.

    In the summertime here in hot as you-know-what Alabama I wear a gray tee with white pants and gold jewelry.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I love contrasts. The sparkly / dressy necklace with the down to earth linen-perfect! I’m wondering if you might try the same approach with some slightly sexier shoes? I’d be curious what you think…❤️

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      I felt this outfit was better suited for a shoe like this. I got lift/height and it felt right with the vibe. I do have some gray pumps which I tried but it looked too formal. Maybe I just don’t have the right kind!

  • Reply
    Peggy Z
    August 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I love it! Your style has so much whimsy! Thank you for working your way through the accessories so we can see the thought process.

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I love that word, whimsy. Thanks for using it!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 9:50 am

    LOVE the gray & accessories. Linen is so wonderful.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Ah, a linen lover!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

    This look is so simple and gorgeous – YOU shine!

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Another great combo. I have frumpophobia, and have been vigorously avoiding going all grey, even though I know grey suits my faded blonde hair. You’ve shown me a way to make it work without looking at all frumpy – quite the opposite: all bling and sparkle. Great job. Though I’d probably end up choosing red shoes and red earrings…

    • Reply
      August 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      I really like these different shades!

  • Reply
    emma cook
    August 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Everything! Jewelry! My favorite so far! Must find some layering tees!


  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Love the dress….and someone made it! Such talent!!! Adorable on you! I love gray…so soothing and not as harsh against my skin as black. I had a beautiful pair of peach shoes with rhinestones and beads….I got them in New York on vacation…I loved them. I felt so sexy and elegant! I was sure everyone had shoe envy! Just looking at them made me smile. I’ve never felt that way about another pair of shoes. Funny how something so simple can make you feel beautiful.

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Oh gosh, you are so right about that. Today I got such pleasure from looking down at my wrist several times and admiring two bracelets I’d teamed up. We need these moments in our days, don’t we? I LOVE your shoe story and it tickles me to hear such appreciation for beautiful things.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2017 at 8:57 am

    I really enjoyed this post, in fact I kept it open on my browser so that I could revisit it again and again. The progression from dress to accessories was fascinating and fun! Thank you for the peek into your style process!

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Oh you’re so welcome! I just love breaking it down so it looks possible and probable that anyone can do it!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

    GLORIOUS……………..outfit well it willNOT be TODAYS LOOK!

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Tell my kids that, Elizabeth. I’d LOVE grandchildren but I’m not holding out hope. Out of my three kids, there is one that may gift our family with a baby someday. In the meantime, I’ll just tell you all my stories!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2017 at 9:48 am

    The lines and proportions of the dress are truly lovely. And you made it even lovelier with accessories!

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      And it was so much fun!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Very creative, the layering you do. Also I love your skill w accessorizing. I have a lot of close-fitting, dressy-ish T-shirts I love, but I generally steer clear of dresses because they rarely seem flattering. For instance, I avoid sleeveless dresses — exactly the kind you like to layer! — because I have a lot of saggy armpit flesh. Is there any advice you could share about what to look for in dresses specifically with this kind of layering trick in mind? Maybe I’d buy dresses if I had some layering strategy. Thanks!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    You know, I never think of my accessories adding texture to my outfit. I don’t wear too many clothing textures except smooth and “unbulky.” Thank for giving me a new way to think about my various elements! Super impressed you can work with all of those bracelets on your arms!

    • Reply
      October 2, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Cuffs are super easy to work in. They just stay in place. If my arm adornment makes any noise, I ask my client if the noise bothers them. If it does, I take off the parts that may be hitting into each other. I really love how wrist adornment can add so much to an outfit. I keep playing with the notion!

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