20 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of an Outfit: Styling a fancy casual outfit with gobs of pearls

Styling an Etro jacket on BrendaKinsel.com

Styling a casual outfit using this Etro jacket required more than I thought!


My big splurge for the summer was buying this colorful, radiant Etro jacket on triple markdown at Nordstrom. The first time I tried it on in the dressing room I felt like a queen! Etro is known for its prints, and boy, this one was right up my alley: the color, the luster, the easy shape…oh my! The fiber content reads silk, viscose and 17% metallic. It sparkles, shimmers, and gleams. The entire jacket is edged in a quieter print. The lining of the jacket is a vibrant purple silk.

In my long ago past, I designed one-of-a-kind jackets using different piecework techniques like Seminole patchwork, trapunto, and quilting. I always wanted the inside of the garment to be as beautiful as the outside. The esthetics of this Etro jacket had me in a reverie about those rich, wearable art years.

When I tried it on, I thought this would be great to wear for art openings, fancy affairs, maybe even a wedding. I had those kind of activities coming up. I could see myself waltzing into each of them wearing this jacket and feeling totally appropriate. It’s a look-at-me type of jacket (at least it makes ME look at it over and over and over again!) and would make a lovely grand entrance.

I wanted another opinion. I showed it to my friend and fashion muse, Mariam, and asked her what she thought.

“Oh darling, you’ll have this jacket forever. It’s a collector’s piece. It’s so Asian and unique. You can even wear it with jeans,” she said.

I was sold. If I could wear it with jeans, that meant I could wear it tomorrow!


Styling the jacket for its first outing

Even though fashion life has gotten more casual, I’ve shared with you that I like adding something fancy to casual outfits. Personally it suits my style; in the big picture it’s right in line with my campaign for visibility for women over 50, 60, 70 and beyond; and really, no one knows how much time they get to grace this world so why not use the best stuff now rather than save it for some day that may not arrive. I’m not saying that in a morbid way; it just makes sense in a practical way. Love what you wear; wear what you love!


Doubled pearl necklaces on BrendaKinsel.com

Doubling up chunky pearl necklaces



Etro outfit closeup on Brenda Kinsel.com

Adding big earrings and bold bangle to the mix


The support pieces for this outfit are my ruched ivory tank (from TJ Maxx, a thousand years ago) and the So Slimming Girlfriend Ankle jean by Chico’s. I’m wearing a sand collared wedged sandal by Gabor. So far we have denim jeans, a textured tank, and a practically nude sandal, almost a blank canvas.

I slipped the jacket on and started working out the accessories. The jacket demanded big time wattage to go with it. Probably those great gemstone necklaces from Rodeo Drive, the ones that actresses borrow for the red carpet. But I don’t have any of those.

Wattage…okay, I said said to myself, let’s add the pearl baubles I bought on that last shopping trip with Mom, okay? (They’re the ones in the top right photo of the photo collage above.) I’ve never seen this happen before but that thick strand of pearls didn’t make a dent in the wattage department. I was surprised! Usually it goes the opposite way: I have to take them off and try something else on because they’re too much for an outfit.

Well, maybe it just needs double the baubles, I thought. I added the vintage looking Alexis Bittar (another TJ Maxx find) oversized pearls. That did it! The necklaces together held enough design weight to balance out the jacket. All I added after that was my chunky Lanvin bangle and large gold edged crystal drop earrings (also Alexis Bittar).

Off to work we go


Wearing my fancy jacket in a casual chic outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

BK and EK at the end of a client appointment


Erin and I were working the whole day with a client. We started the morning with some shopping at the Village Shopping Center in Corte Madera and then went to our client’s home where we put together new outfits and documented them on wardrobe charts so our client could go to her summer home and have outfits for the whole season.

Truly, I think this jacket infused with me extra energy because at the end of the day Erin asked me if I’d go back with her to the Village and look at a dress she wanted me to see. I said yes! I think I just wanted to prance around some more in my outfit before heading home. There’s a bumpersticker I’ve seen that says: Too cute to go home. That’s how I was feeling!

I’m so grateful to Mariam for suggesting I could wear this jacket with jeans. Now that I’ve styled it in a “fancy casual” way, I bet I find a lot more opportunities to wear it in my normal, everyday life: for work, on weekends here in the wine country, even to a lecture.

And now there is that wedding coming up this weekend. I could go back to my original thought and style it for that!

Have you had surprises when you’ve purchased an item? Maybe you thought it was going to look one way but when you started working with it, it transformed into something else? Do share!


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  • Reply
    June 27, 2017 at 3:05 am

    Just love the jacket and styled with the pearls it is superb. You are right it is an “heirloom” piece.

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Thanks! Yes, busting it out for the first time with a jeans outfit is going to let me enjoy this piece so much. I like the sound of “heirloom” piece. I wonder, do people become heirlooms, too?

  • Reply
    June 27, 2017 at 5:33 am

    Love the look of the big pearls! Sometimes when I need a bit more of a ‘boost’ when even the big ones don’t quite do it, I will add a fantastic vintage brooch in the same tones. Most of them will fasten between the beads then I just turn that to where it looks best. My husband loves to tell people ‘she made that herself’. You certainly keep inspiring with your wisdom. Hope the relaxation was as great as you hoped. The jacket is stunning and you are right, will stay in rotation for many years to come.

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Wow, Diane, what a clever tip you’ve just shared. I LOVE that idea. And good that your husband recognizes your magic too! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    June 27, 2017 at 5:48 am

    It’s such a statement piece, Brenda!! I love that you added the pearls with it, and don’t you just look spectacular??!!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Oh, thank you, Jodie!

  • Reply
    June 27, 2017 at 9:02 am

    You look darling!! Your best accessory is your gorgeous smile and then everything else is icing on the cake. I love how you love clothes and dressing up!! You inspire me. I have a pearl bauble necklace, I need to get it out!!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:34 am

      Oh, Kathysue, I can see that pearl bauble necklace right now! Yes, get it out and let it play!!! Thanks for your kind words!!!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    June 27, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I love this outfit! Etro is wonderful, but I must not be shopping the right sales. Adding the hat is inspired since , with the jeans, it makes the outfit somewhat casual. Brenda, I really admire your skill in combining pieces that most of us wouldn’t think of using together, and also your sense of proportion (always just perfect). Thank you!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Cathy, you do point out such an important piece about styling outfits and that is proportion. I will mess around with an outfit for a while to get that all just right. I’m a stickler about it! Thanks for pointing that out. And I like your point about the hat too. I hadn’t thought of it that way but you’re right!!! I’m always learning!

  • Reply
    June 27, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I purchased a lovely gray long sleeved light weight dress…floor length whic I wore in fall with dress boots and a low slung belt….in spring I wore it with a long floral kimono over it…it looked very feminine compared to the original way I wore it….I was surprised! Reading your blog has helped me to see other versions of my clothes and myself….I can rethink outfits and make them express how I am feeling.
    Love the pearls and the jacket. I see it with a satin skirt and clutch for a dinner date!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Kathy, you’re inspiring me! This morning I thought of a pair of wide leg satin pants I have which may be able to substitute for the satin skirt that I don’t have presently. I loved hearing how you restyled your lightweight dress for the different seasons. Clothes are so entertaining and delightful. We might as well be enjoying them like crazy! Thanks for your share!

  • Reply
    elena daciuk
    June 27, 2017 at 10:19 am

    ok – can we start with the pearls? lordy! i have a similar set of pearls…but i haven’t had the pleasure of putting it on and thinking it needed a bit more…can’t wait for that day! and the second piece (tj maxx find) wow…gorgeous…and looks vintage…at first i thought you had one necklace on! love the etro jacket…i usually live in my jackets…and have always paired them with my jeans…it just makes me feel more put together then just jeans and a blouse…looking fabulous, my dear! xo

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin
    June 27, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Okay, I think I need to shop more. Love all of your finds. You just look spectacular!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks, Sandra! Wouldn’t it be fun to do with our little blogger group! We’d have fun!

  • Reply
    Briar Gregory
    June 27, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I love the way you wore that wonderful jacket to work, Brenda! You’ve inspired me to search that ‘other’ wardrobe to find some pieces to put into circulation. That idea of saving our best clothes is so ingrained for many of us older women, it’s quite a struggle to overcome it, so thank you for reminding me to have some fun with my clothes. And please show us how you wear the jacket to the wedding.

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Yes, it is a hard one to overcome. I will keep on mentioning it so it doesn’t fly out of our heads! I just today figured out the wedding version. I was trying on two different outfits for my daughter Caitlin (a pro at wedding attire) and hands down, she voted for the outfit that used the jacket. I can’t wait to share it with you!!!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2017 at 9:19 am


  • Reply
    Nancy Karpen
    June 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I love this! The jacket certainly makes everything else look more expensive I want to see how you add ‘dressier’ pieces to the jacket

    • Reply
      July 3, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      I’ll share soon! I wore it dressier to the wedding on Saturday but no pictures of it! So I’ll have to recreate it for you!

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