10 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of an Outfit Sparkly Style

Adventures at the Madeleine Albright exhibit on BrendaKinsel.com

Meeting Katherine at Madeleine Albright Read My Pins Exhibit


When I saw that the Madeleine Albright “Read My Pin” Exhibit was here in San Francisco at the SF Legion of Honor I knew I had to go. I extended the invite for others to join me and they did! We were a mix of a Facebook friend, colleague friends, a client and people related to me. (Hi Erin and Russ!)

When a well-styled woman walked through the door of the museum I knew it had to be my Facebook friend, Katherine Cramer. We’d met once before … wow … maybe fifteen years ago (she’ll tell you that story) at Nordstrom in Walnut Creek. I distinctly remember seeing her in the distance with a person I would learn was her mother. The love they shared for each other was palpable. I was smitten.

Smitten is the word to describe how I felt about Katherine’s outfit that day at the Legion of Honor. It was so charming, engaging, fun, expressive and well-thought out. Every detail mattered. I insisted on photographing her (even in the not-so-great lighting in the museum) and writing about the Anatomy of Her Outfit. She gave me her consent.

Here’s the deal: I was busy trying to find the right light for photographs and by the time we were saying goodbye I realized I hadn’t gotten the details of her outfit, only my personal impressions.

“Katherine, would you mind sending me some details about your outfit?”

She agreed. Only she took it a giant step forward, writing me about the outfit, her thoughts behind it, how she chose it, and also sharing some tender sentences about when we met and about her dear mother who passed the same year mine did. She told me I was free to edit but when you hear her voice, you’ll know why I haven’t.

So here are Katherine’s words about the Anatomy of Her Outfit.


Katherine’s Side of the Story

What do you wear when you will meet your Fashion Guru face-to face? The only guideline I had, was to wear my favorite brooch since the occasion was a gathering of Brenda Kinsel readers for a Docent Tour of the Madeleine Albright Brooch exhibit at the SF Legion of Honor Museum. I knew which brooch to wear and started building an outfit.

Outfit Building With Katherine

I didn’t want to look too dressy or unlike my casual comfort core style. My favorite brooch works well with my 2016 Fall/Winter color crush for wine red. I realize that red color was likely chosen by some Miranda Priestly-like Icon several years ago. The Fashion Food Chain has conveniently reacted and I shopped that wine color beginning with the Nordstrom Pre-Season Sale with a nubby Halogen sweater coat in charcoal with red accents. Continuing down the fashion chain to affordable–where I most often shop–yielded a Loft Outlet paisley scarf in charcoal and wine and a Talbot’s ¾ sleeve wine top with folds at the neck.

Speckled glasses on BrendaKinsel.com

Choosing Brooches

My favorite ‘ruby’ brooch is part of a demi parure (brooch and clip earrings) from Garden Party Collection Vintage Jewelry that I birthday/self-gifted from my mother, 8 or 9 years ago. I wore the brooch as a closure piece for the open sweater. I rarely wear jewelry sets together (too matchy) so I added Sorrelli clip earrings (not vintage) that coordinate. Since ruby is my birthstone and I have other red-family costume pieces—I added a second brooch to an H & M sparkly envelope handbag. My thinking was that the comfy casual look of the sweater would ground my sparkly (over-the-top?) tributes to Albright and would doubly satisfy Brenda’s brooch request.


A sparkly beauty bundle

Katherine’s brooches and her earrings

Adding wine red

I have been slowly adding wine red fashions to my winter palette. My XL and 1X size can limit choices. I had been on the search for wine-colored velvet jeans and a Lucky bootie in beet red. Both pieces were ordered yet had not arrived in time for the museum meet-up. I opted for slim knit black pants that offered contrast to the charcoal sweater. For additional sparkle as a tribute to the Madeleine Albright exhibit, I wore INC jeweled flats with a lips design.


Sparkly shoes on BrendaKinsel.com

Katherine’s shoes fit into the sparkle theme

Beauty Bundles Katherine Style

I have a ruby beauty bundle with a ruby rhinestone bangle from Serrahna (Indian clothing theme) store in Oakland and a ruby ring from a collection of architecturally cut gem stones. Does anyone remember this jewelry trend from 10 or more years ago? I was a bit obsessed with gems (most often lab-created) that were cut in sharp angles to show-off gem color. I still enjoy this gem category for its contemporary statement.


Part of a sparkly beauty bundle



My eyeglasses were a hasty choice. I have somehow misplaced my deep red Juicy Couture eyeglasses. In response to a Brenda Blog on eyeglasses, I was inspired to go for a bright color frame. I wanted Brenda to see my red frames since she was the inspiration. My red eyeglasses are hiding somewhere so I opted for some multi-colored frames from The Optical Underground rather than my usual tortoise frames. I was already sporting a sparkly theme with brooches and speckled sweater–so my bright, multi-colored eyeglasses added to a dotty pattern theme.


Speckled spectacles on BrendaKinsel.com

Loving Katherine’s speckled glasses

Mothers and daughters

I have outlined my curation of an outfit in response to Brenda’s initial request and her unbounded enthusiasm. Yet the most significant part of my experience meeting Brenda at the museum– is her kindness and warmth. Brenda is delightful to meet in person. I first met Brenda in 1999 while shopping with my mother. I imagine Brenda saw us together and thought of her own mother. In one of Brenda’s brave moments, she dared a conversation with strangers. We talked about our love of fashion while pondering the costume jewelry display at Nordstrom Walnut Creek.

Brenda invited us to a Fashion Show she was to narrate within the hour. We joyfully watched Brenda in her element and became devotees of her books. At that time, 40 Over 40: 40 Things Every Woman Over 40 Needs to Know About Getting Dressed was recently published and I was in my early 40s. Adding Brenda’s generous offerings of wisdom, heart and playfulness over the years on Facebook has been a deeply appreciated companion especially since my fashion loving mother died in 2015. I miss my mother and our conversations about Life and fashion. Similar experiences and remembrances of mothers who love fashion, has been heartfelt and celebratory within Brenda’s virtual family-like Community. Reading Brenda and the stories of Brenda’s fashion-loving readers, provides countless sparkling moments that I deeply cherish.


Mother and daughter having fun on BrendaKinsel.com

Two Katherine Cramers (both named Katherine) having fun together


Additional Brenda Notes

Okay, I have tears in my eyes. I’m moved by mothers and daughters. Katherine’s love of fashion and her relationship with her dear Mom inspired me then and inspires me now. And I’m moved by this growing community of people I come in contact with — like Katherine — who love fashion and expressing beauty and personality. It’s such a joy to learn from others.

Thank you, Katherine for gracing us with this guest post!


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  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    January 9, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Brenda, thank you for another wonderful post. I love your “anatomy of an outfit” descriptions, and the pictures are not nearly as bad as you suggested. I’ve been inspired by you, and am trying to wear my very small collection of pins. They are all at least 25 years old and have been hidden away in my jewelry box for years. The ones I kept after a major jewelry purge a few years ago are my favorites. One of them, a just over one inch wide gold butterfly, I gave to my mother about 30 years ago. Now that she is gone it’s mine again, and I want to figure out how to wear it.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Oh, Cathy, I so encourage you to find a way to wear that gold butterfly. On the brim of a hat? On a handbag? On your cuff? It sounds like a wonderful treasure. So happy you’re inspired to take a second look at your pins. WooHoo!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2017 at 5:08 am

    Another fun post Brenda, I look forward to them very much! I especially love Katherine’s description of how she chose each part of this outfit and also have fallen for the deep reds this fall. Now I want to wear those colors today so I have some new inspiration as I go to my closet. Thank you for being a fashion muse to so many of us!

    • Reply
      January 10, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Thanks Deanne and thanks to Katherine for helping us see things through her eyes. I loved her description of those reds too! Three cheers for inspiration! I appreciate your comments!

  • Reply
    Ann Simon
    January 10, 2017 at 7:37 am

    I woke up this morning afraid to read the latest political headlines and worried about another rain storm here in Marin. Then I saw my email from Brenda and thought I’ll read her first , she’s always got something cheerful to say. I wasn’t disappointed, this was a great story…thanks to you both.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Ann, what a compliment! And I love being an alternate choice to the news! We’re getting plenty of rain up here as you probably are in Marin. Stay safe and warm. Glad to have brought some cheer to your morning!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    January 10, 2017 at 9:53 am

    You are welcome Ann! Like you, I awoke this morning concerned about the rain and political storms. Seeing Brenda’s post opened the clouds. I so enjoy reading and learning from Brenda and her community. We can support each other and celebrate our differences through our playfulness, love of fashion and care. Thank you Brenda and all her lovely Readers.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Brilliant! Yes, we can! Wasn’t that a political slogan, not to get into politics or anything but yes to playfulness, yes to love of fashion and yes to caring for one another. I’m so happy to tell this story about your inspiring outfit. It brought joy to me and is bringing joy to so many more! It’s a great day!

  • Reply
    Ruth essex
    January 11, 2017 at 12:28 am

    I love that Katherine cares so much about how all the little pieces come together and make the whole outfit glorious. She has a great eye for styling. My mum hasn’t died but in 2015 she had a stroke that left her needing 24hr nursing care so I have her still and I don’t. I miss her opinions on taking a gamble on a black wooden cape with raised cream woollen dots, or a pair of shoes that I definitely don’t need but her saying they will bring you happiness every time you put them on your feet. Anyone who has enjoyed a relationship with their own mum that sparked joy like this are the lucky ones.

    • Reply
      January 12, 2017 at 9:16 am

      This is so gorgeous, Ruth. I can relate to how you speak about your mum. You speak of “listening” to her opinions. I just want to chime in and agree with what she’d say about those shoes. Yes, buy them, happiness on your feet brings lightness to every day. Hugs to you!

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