38 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Anatomy of an Outfit: Styling the challenging-to-me dress

Peacock Dress by Giselle Shepatin via ArtfulHome.com

Visiting a friend in my Peacock dress from Artful Home


I’m a Brand Ambassador for Artful Home. You don’t have to call me Ms. Ambassador, I’m still Brenda to you. As a brand ambassador, I get to page through the latest catalog–in this case, it’s the Winter Collection–and pick something to work into an outfit.

It’s a little bit like being on one of those chef reality shows where you’re given ingredients and then it’s up to you to come up with a winning dish.


The Artful Home winter collection is here!


This styling challenge brings me outside of my comfort zone

So pretend I’m a contestant on a fashion reality show. I look through the catalog and pick the Peacock Dress. The clock starts ticking.

I’m nervous from the get-go.

Why? If you look in my closet you’ll see solid colors, checks, and stripes but not many (maybe zero) painterly prints. This dress isn’t trimmed in the painterly print; it’s an all-over print.


An artful color mix in the patterned mesh fabric for the Peacock Dress


The next thing that makes me nervous: It’s a mesh double-layered tulle dress. I love mesh and tulle in bits but in a whole dress?


The Peacock Dress challenges my Style Ancestory

I tend to feel more secure in sturdy dresses, dresses with stiffer fabrics. That could come from the classic, formal part of my Style Ancestry. Afterall, I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. You have to be pretty darn sturdy to survive. My parents modeled how to be strong in harsh situations like when the corn crop is destroyed by hail, or rains never come, or there’s too much rain, machinery breaks, the hired hand shows up drunk, and oh yeah, you have to be able to endure some very bad winter weather and mosquitos the size of birds in the summer.

Maybe that’s why I see myself as more yang than yin; being the driver, not the passenger; taking care of rather than being taken care of; being in control rather than going with the flow.

So knowing that about me, listen to this description of the Peacock Dress by Giselle Shepatin:

Painterly strokes and serene hues dance across this flouncy, feminine dress created from two layers of lightweight mesh tulle. Known for her dreamy fabrics and free-spirited flair, Shepatin creates pieces that are flattering, feminine and easy to wear.


Wearing gray shawl over Peacock Dress

Feeling like a butterfly in the Peacock Dress and soft shawl


Okay, so can you spot the words that are outside my Style Ancestory comfort zone? Yup, feminine, free-spirited, dreamy.


“Feminine, free-spirited, dreamy” are all qualities I want more of in my grownup life. More and more I want to explore what it means to be feminine, free-spirited (less in control) and dreamy. I’ve earned this chapter. It’s my time!



How I styled my two layers of lightweight mesh tulle dress

I’m styling this dress in winter. My first decision is to bulk it up a bit. I’ll slim it down when spring comes along.

The next decision is to belt the dress.

Remember this Calleen Cordero handbag that I wear quite often? It came with a shoulder strap but I don’t use it. I always carry the bag by its handles. I’ve stored the shoulder strap in my belt basket. You know where I’m heading with this, right?


Mushroom brown handbag

Calleen Cordero mushroom brown handbag


I look through my belts and spot the lovely mushroom brown shoulder strap. It would blend nicely with the print of the dress. My eyes start twinkling. I could make myself so happy by using it in a way it wasn’t intended.


Handbag shoulder strap worn as a belt

Using a Calleen Cordero handbag shoulder strap as a belt


Using handbag shoulder straps as belts

I love the hanging toggles of the belted shoulder strap


Next, I go to my necklace section and try a few pieces on but in the end I go with a necklace I haven’t worn in a long time. It’s got a chunky-ish gunmetal chain and a violet pendant with a leaf overlay. I love the violet shade with the colors in the dress. Yum.


Choosing the right necklace for the Peacock dress

Gunmetal chain and violet pendant


The wrap comes next. It’s California chilly outside and I need a wrap.

Now, this is interesting. At the very beginning of the fall fashion season, like maybe in July!, I bought this lightweight fluid gray wrap. It’s not a shawl, more like a ruana. I LOVE the color. But alas, I haven’t worn it. I’d taken the tags off already so I couldn’t take it back. I had a “what was I thinking” moment. Really, Bren? Another gray scarf/shawl/what-have-you?

I am SO glad I didn’t take it back because it’s PERFECT! This wrap is lightweight like the dress. I feel dreamy wearing the two pieces together.

Bonus points: Looking at these three pieces without the dress in the picture, you can see a Beauty Bundle being born. In this Beauty Bundle unit the pendant, “belt”, and shawl can easily travel together and transfer to other outfits.


Putting together a Beauty Bundle

A Beauty Bundle comes together for the Peacock Dress


I also want to see what it’s like with a distressed jean jacket. Jean jackets and dresses generally work well together.

This picture looks darker because it’s taken indoors. In the light or in the dark, this is a great pairing.


Jean jacket over dresses

Peacock Dress paired with jean jacket


When two layers of mesh just aren’t enough

While styling the dress, I’m intent on listening to what else it wants.

It says, “More sheerness.”

Okay! I reach for this gray sheer crinkled Petit Pois layering piece. It gives me a layer of warmth under the dress. The weight is great and the colors blend. Picture a black mesh top instead: it wouldn’t work.

Another place I can add sheerness is with fishnet stockings. I choose brown ones (again, black would have been too harsh). I follow that color path and add my brown suede knee-high Aquatalia boots. I feel suede works better than a shiny leather would. It’s softer, more feminine this way!


Adding sheer to sheer in the Peacock Dress

Adding more sheer parts with fishnet stockings and a sheer T-shirt


This outfit is feeling feminine and dreamy to me. Is it hitting that free-spirited note I want to explore? Maybe so! I look at myself in this picture and think here’s a person who has some tricks up her sleeve. She could be spontaneous and unpredictable, ready to go new places and try new things. Would you agree? Do you see something else that I don’t see?


Shawl and jean jacket over Peacock Dress

Wearing layers over the Peacock Dress


I think the beginning of the year is a perfect time to try something you haven’t tried before. What about you? Have you tried something new? Is there a quality you want to bring into this chapter of your life? We want to hear about it! Please weigh in!



This Anatomy of an Outfit featuring the Peacock Dress is sponsored by Artful Home, a company that supports real women with real bodies…in my humble opinion.

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  • Reply
    January 9, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Once again, a home run! I love the colors in the dress and appreciate your thoughtful processing of each layer. How inventive- a handbag strap as a belt! I enjoyed reading this this morning! I think the biggest change I’m anticipating this year is to stop dying my hair…embrace my natural self! I am sure that will lead to changes in my clothing selections!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Oh my gosh, Kathy, I so support you to stop dying your hair!! It may create a whole new experience for yourself. I’m falling more and more in love with the colors in this dress. There’s even a raspberry color in there. I’m tempted to wear my raspberry lipstick with it!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2018 at 3:53 am

    Wow Brenda. This is quite a departure in some ways, yet there is that jacket in your profile picture. You look great with the print, perhaps more than with an abstract with sharp lines.The colours are pulling out your hair colour as well as your eyes. Great for building on. I think all in all a great choice. This is timely, since I have just finished the ‘moving away from, moving toward’ exercise again, and noticed quite a change this time. I am also exploring more feminine and soft items. I love the words you use to describe your moving toward. The pendant is really lust worthy, and belt is brilliant use of something else. This is why we must not get rid of things until we think it through. Another great post.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      You bring up great points. I LOVE that exercise. It’s my favorite. I need to do it again myself. I usually do it twice a year. I love how being this age feels like a new frontier and anything is possible. Trying new things is such a great exercise. It’s like you can discover parts of yourself that suddenly feel nourished by those new choices. You don’t know how many times I’ve looked at that shoulder strap and thought, There you are again! It was like saving the instruction manual for something you already know how to use. But alas and alack, it was so perfect for this dress! There are some things I know I got rid of too quickly in the past. They surely had another life ahead of them. So I think you’re right: use caution when editing.

  • Reply
    Tracy McBride
    January 9, 2018 at 5:00 am

    Love, love, love the outfit with everything except the jean jacket. Take that away and I can wear the outfit to work, even though it’s a very conservative business.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Awesome, Tracy!!!

  • Reply
    Ann McGrath
    January 9, 2018 at 5:45 am

    This look is amazing styling! How do you feel about the volume from the pockets when you are wearing it?. It looks great, but I am wondering about how it ‘feels’. When I saw it in the catalog, all of that volume around the hips worried me. But I am only 5’3″, so maybe that’s why 🙂 Great look on you!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      I’m 5’5″. It really doesn’t feel voluminous to me. Without belting it, it just sort of drops, doing its creative thing from mid-thigh down to just below my knee, a little longer for you. I love the shape through the waist. It makes me feel skinny.

    • Reply
      Ann McGrath
      January 11, 2018 at 6:14 am

      Thanks Brenda – I have 2 Komarov dresses (that I bought for weddings) and have not worn since…. I’m going to try styling them in a ‘Brenda’ fashion! Wish me luck!

      • Reply
        January 16, 2018 at 1:11 pm

        I definitely wish you luck! We’re all behind you on this one!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2018 at 5:50 am

    Love it all, but most especially with the jean jacket. It was okay with the shawl but adding the jacket underneath the shawl is what made me go wow! Probably too soft for me, otherwise?
    Love all the layers, I did the same yesterday with a flowy top I don’t wear often, added a sheer top underneath and now I’ll add a jean jacket on top. I feel like I’ve channeled my inner Brenda! Thank you for your work and inspiration!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks, Lea. I’m chuckling over here about “channeling your inner Brenda” but I like it! Isn’t it interesting how you can get ideas from how someone styles something and then go into your own closet and tweak something of yours and wear it out the door? I love that!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Happy New Year!
    I like the colors because they’re subdued, but still lively.
    Would you please explain the hem of the dress? Even in the catalog pictures, I can’t tell if it’s gathered or smaller at the bottom, creating a balloon effect.

    All the best!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Oh, I love the way you’ve named the colors: subdued but still lively. I LOVE that. Okay, hand on a minute, I’m going to go put the dress on again. I’ll be right back.

      Okay, let me see if I can describe it. The hem itself is straight across but has that crinkled edge that comes from using a certain machine (I hope I’m getting that right). The flouncy parts make it look more balloon but that’s not the actual hem. I can’t wait to wear this in slightly warmer weather so you can see it better. It’s very creative how the artist pieced this. If it was too flouncy for you, there are a couple of pointy parts in the dress that could be tacked down to tame the volume a bit. That way it would be less balloon-like. Hope that helps, Cara!

      • Reply
        January 9, 2018 at 7:41 pm

        Thanks, Brenda! I was just trying to understand the way it hung. I did get the crinkled edge, but above that looked sort of puffed. I look forward to the warm weather version!
        I do covet that brown, sheer, top!

        • Reply
          January 16, 2018 at 12:03 pm

          I LOVE that sheer top! It’s been essential in many outfits!

  • Reply
    Teri Tingley
    January 9, 2018 at 7:45 am

    You hit it out of the park, several times!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      Why thank you, Teri!!!

  • Reply
    Kathleen O'Brien
    January 9, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I love Artful Home – they always seem to have wonderful clothing that I want to wear. This dress suits you and love the wonderful “bundle” you put with it. Great choice in dress and in accompaniments.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      I too just loved how that Beauty Bundle showed up! I can’t wait to try it on other outfits! And I agree. I think Artful Home fills a niche and provides a choice that serves many women who are looking for style and ease.

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    January 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

    WOW! I’m so impressed with the finished look! I love the gray sheer layering and the jean jacket under the shawl. You are my inspiration!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Well, my dear, you are one of my inspirations too! I sure could see that gray wrap and jean jacket on you, too! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Renee Godbout
    January 9, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    LOVE Artful Home! Have many items from this catalog/website- you look terrific and I like the uniqueness in their style. Being from Minnesota, I identify with so many of your posts – I feel like I could run into you here! At 63 I decided to grow out my hair after wearing it short for years and try new makeups and clothing styles – it’s never too late for a new you!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      You are so right!!! I’m happy to be a Minnesotan any day!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Two things I’ve noticed: You are enchanted by the unexpected and at least two of your favorite pieces of clothing are ones that contradict what you see as your style. You amaze me lady – keep stretching both our styles!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      You are so right! I am enchanted by the unexpected. One time when our whole family went back to the farm where I grew up I spotted a flattened frog on the dirt road to our old driveway. I bent over it and took a picture of it. My mother was appalled! But I found it fascinating! We laughed. And yes, I will forever be doing style stretching exercises! Thanks for checking in!

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    January 10, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    What a beautiful butterfly you are Brenda, as always sending much love fro Oz

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      A butterfly? Lovely! Thanks, Trinnie! Love is being sent back to you!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    You have fun and surprise yourself by discovering unintended ways to wear things. That process seems to raise your comfort level while trying something unusual. Defining softness with edges, particularly in the necklace and and belt, shows confidence. And perhaps the many other memories and associations that you have with those familiar items from your closet also brings you feelings of ease. Tied at your waist, the strap reminds me of reins, yet the ends also give a sense of being undone, free. The leather in your purse and boots also reminds me of riding, a feeling of being grounded and strong. The browns, grays, and feathery brush stroke patterns in the dress repeat the colors and subtle, swirling movements in your hair.

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      Oh my gosh, Amy! I want you to analyze every single outfit! I love your descriptions. It’s like you’re reading my heart and my mind! What a gift. Thank you!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Brenda I just “found” you on Pinterest before Christmas and started following you! Now every time I go into the dressing room to try things on I think “what would Brenda do?” I also created my first beauty bundle (3 turquoise necklaces that always get compliments on) and I’ve shared that and you with so many friends! Thanks for your positivity and finding ways to work in important subjects along with clothes. Keep up the great work!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Jenifer, I love your comment. Your bundle sounds great! It’s a joy to write about fashion and life and I’m so glad you appreciate it. XX

  • Reply
    January 11, 2018 at 1:46 am

    Brenda, you look wonderful. I think the denim jacket is the key to this outfit as it anchors the feminine aspects of the outfit: the soft wrap, the fishnets, the floaty dress. The denim and leather says this is still a tough practical warrioress under there. I love what you did with the bag strap!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      OH gosh, I’m writing that down–tough, practical warrioress. Through and through! Yes, I think I would have fallen over in the wind if I hadn’t added those grounding pieces!

  • Reply
    January 11, 2018 at 3:20 am

    Brenda,your statement about ‘dresses being easy to wear but’……. is EXACTLY how I felt for years and years. Thus I stuck with pants and felt saf(er)! Then I had the wedding of my only son and was determined I would wear a dress as the M-O-G. That gave me the impetus to work out just what style/shape/colour of dress WOULD make me feel comfortable. I still usually wear pants, but love it when I have the occasion to wear a dress. PS Thanks for that brilliant idea for using a nice shoulder strap!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      How smart of you to figure out what would need to be in a dress to feel like “you”. Brilliant! I’m still practicing as well. Pants come more naturally to me but every time I wear a dress, I’m happy about it!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    You are inspirational yet again Brenda! I buy rather eclectically in “op shops” ( I think you call it “thrifting” in your country) to force myself out of style ruts in a similar way. Your post will give me confidence and pointers to travel further into softer and more patterned clothing which is new for me also.

    • Reply
      January 23, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      I’m very excited about your journey to the soft side, Melanie!! Great to hear from you!

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