10 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Anatomy of an Outfit: A vintage clutch goes to the movies

Vintage needlepoint clutch

Keeping my vintage clutch the center of attention


When Erin called and told me she had a colorful vintage clutch that she thought I’d like, I was eager to see it. Later that day when we finished working with our client and got outside, I headed straight for the trunk of Erin’s car. Out of a rumpled bag she pulled out this homemade needlepoint clutch.

I can’t tell what era it was. Do you suppose it was the early ‘70s when psychedelic colors were exploding everywhere and hippies were embellishing their clothes? (Thank you Summer of Love San Francisco 1969 for turning fashion on its head.)

She handed it to me but made it clear it was only on loan.


Handmade colorful clutch

A vintage bag explodes with color


Time to style my on loan clutch bag

So when Russ and my twin brother were going to the movies with me on a recent Saturday, I built my first outfit around this foldover clutch.

This is an unusual sized bag for me to carry into the movies. A bigger bag would be the practical choice given I often want to bring a water bottle, an extra scarf, cashmere fingerless gloves, and a beanie to keep my head warm. Most movie theaters where I live are so cold, and I detest the frigid air that shoots down from the giant ceiling fans. Brrr!


Jean outfit for movies

Jean outfit goes to the movies


Because I was compelled to bring this clutch, I was willing to suffer the temperature drop in the movie theater without my just-in-case items. I’d rather be cold than be without my new-to-me clutch from Erin. I have the feeling she may forget her claim on it and it’ll be mine indefinitely. One can hope, right?


How much color will I add to my outfit?

With so much color in the bag, I decided to let it be the center of attention and keep everything else pretty simple.

I started with my base jeans. I added a deep blue long-sleeved silk T-shirt by Eileen Fisher. It has an easy drape, not clingy…thank you very much. I thought about doing a thumb tuck with the T-shirt into the jeans, but that proved to be quite unflattering. You know how I’m trying my best to work around my expanded waistline.

I turned to one of my waist-defining tips.


Styling Tip: Create the illusion of a waist by wearing a belt and then adding a jacket. People see about six inches of belt across your middle. With the jacket covering the rest of your waist, no one’s the wiser.


Defining the waist with a bet

Sharing my belting trick


I knew I’d be wearing a jacket so I decided to experiment with a belt. How about adding a belt in a bright color? I said to myself. That way the clutch will have a color friend. I found my hot pink patent leather belt in my belt basket, put it on, and bloused the t-shirt just slightly over the belt.

I felt like I needed to add bold, geometric color in one other place if I could. I went to my scarves. Did I have something that felt like it could have been worn in 1970?



I decided to add this super long print tie from Chico’s that’s orange and white. Because it’s so narrow I could wrap it and wrap it around my neck and with enough left over to tie a small square knot in front.


Adding the slick jacket

I’m currently in love with this Phillip Lim jacket I spotted at Caitlin and Erin’s consignment store, SAX, in San Anselmo. You know me and words—I just love them! This baseball style jacket is surprisingly cozy. It’s not a puffy coat, which would be appropriate for some theater settings, but it does capture heat and keeps it there.


Phillip Lim baseball jacket

Baseball style jacket is warmer than it looks


Choosing shoes from a small shoe wardrobe

There aren’t colorful shoes in my shoe wardrobe so I couldn’t be tempted by red or orange or turquoise. But in the end, I might not have chosen a colorful shoe anyway. Sometimes I find matching a shoe to something colorful in an outfit is just too obvious. I went with my Rosa Mosa oxfords with white soles and laces. I liked how the white picked up the white lettering on the back of my jacket. The jacket was black and white and so were the shoes.

I felt sort of Bohemian, like I could have been browsing City Lights Bookstore back in the day picking up Charles Bukowski or Ken Kesey books and maybe even running into them in San Francisco’s North Beach area. Maybe I’d even have a cigarette dangling out of the side of my mouth. It would help if I could smoke. I gave it a good college try when I entered North Dakota State University in 1970. I gave it a week and failed seven days in a row. My twin brother claims it’s the only thing I’ve failed at. That’s a laugh!

Anyway, this seemed like the perfect movie to be going to in this outfit. It was Blaze, the true story about blues-country singer/songwriter Blaze Foley. He was a songwriters songwriter. His fans included Lucinda Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt. The movie is directed and co-written by the music loving actor Ethan Hawke.

If you blinked, you missed it. Here’s a good review of it.


My twin brother

Brent and Brenda


Brent fills in the rest of the story

I learned a lot about Blaze Foley in this biography of his life—not an easy one at all. My twin brother, Brent, is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Texas songwriters. We went to dinner afterwards. Brent told us about another movie’s worth of material about the guy. He was disappointed by the fact that they’d not included crucial facts. But he was awfully happy to hear more of his songs than he’d heard before.

On the way home from the Santa Rosa theater I surprised Brent by pulling up Blaze Foley on Spotify so we could listen to his tunes all the way home.

I was alone in the car a few days later listening to yet more of his songs. The song If I Could Only Fly is heartbreakingly beautiful. It made me think of Mom and I cried for miles.


What’s this clutch’s next adventure going to be?

The afternoon I brought my vintage clutch to the movies is the afternoon I became a Blaze Foley fan. This clutch is as unique as Blaze Foley was. It’s as colorful as my brother Brent is. It wins me over with the color and geometric shapes and the fact that someone’s fingers made that bag come to life, like characters in a movie.


Storing clutch bags

Colorful vintage bag awaits its next adventure


The clutch went got stored in a bin of clutches. I’ll pull it out again soon and make a different outfit with it. I can’t wait to see what it’ll be.

Do you have favorite pieces of clothing or accessories that you wear even when it’s not the most practical choice? Do share!



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  • Reply
    October 25, 2018 at 3:05 am

    This post is inspirational! I love the colors and pattern of your clutch — it’s funky and lively. I Goodwilled a handmade macrame bag long ago when I thought it was dated but regret it to this day because it was well designed and executed like your needlepoint clutch. There is something about someone’s hands creating such works of art that make it special. I love, love, love an evening clutch I made out of vintage obi fabric and use it every chance I get so I can admire the exquisite fabric. Your new bag makes me think I should make another obi bag, maybe in a tote style to use for day wear.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2018 at 3:23 am

    I have a favorite pair of leopard kitten heel shoes I wear in fall almost like slippers! Daily if I can. They are fun, remind me of my youth and always put a smile on my face. Sometimes they are the odd bit of an outfit but that’s ok. My clothes are like family and who doesn’t have a few odd members? They usually perk up family gatherings and give everyone something to talk about. My mom was an avid quilter. I had that clutch in Browns, gold and rust colors. Thanks for sparking my memories!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2018 at 8:21 am


    • Reply
      October 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      And you do it so well, my love!

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    October 25, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Love that bag! It’s so hippy chic! I just love how you write and describe your choices. Here’s a big hug for you – for missing your mom. Much love! Cindy

    • Reply
      October 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm

      You are a dear, Cindy! I felt that hug and I send one back to you. I like how you described the bag as hippy chic. I’ll think of it that way from now on. Much love to you!

  • Reply
    Nicole K
    October 25, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Love everything about this outfit. I would have grabbed that Philip Lim jacket if I could get to Sax more often. Such a wonderful shop your daughters have created. I love that I have never gone in there without feeling welcome and sparking a conversation with a fellow clothes lover. That space has always been nice, but there’s a special magic now. New life. And everyone’s welcome.

    The convergence of the art of fashion, film, music and words is another kind of magic.
    Thanks Brenda!

    • Reply
      October 27, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Hey, Nicole, I love your comments! I feel that same magic when I go to SAX and I feel more confident right now that it’s not just because I’m related to the owners! It really is a great meeting place for fashion lovers. I’ve been in there and gotten into conversations myself…in cognito of course! Happy shopping!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2018 at 5:30 am

    That clutch looks like a Kaffe Fassett design, He was big into needlepoint and knitting before designing fabric and quilting. And, I think he lives in San Francisco!

    • Reply
      November 27, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Jill, I met him once at a book signing. I was wearing one of my button bracelets at the time. He paused, looked at it, touched it, and gave me a compliment. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I thought it was in England. You brought back great memories for me!

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