51 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Women Now

Anatomy of an Outfit that pleases me and that’s enough

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about fashion, style, redefining style over 60, clothes, wearing our clothes, not saving good things for good. While I’m thinking about style, I’m also thinking about psychology and philosophy. Why do we feel the urge to change things up? Why don’t we want to wear certain things that we used to love? What inside of us wants to be expressed now?

Talking to women about fashion and age

I have a few avenues to be in conversation with women about self-image and the factor age plays in all that. There are my clients, my social media community on Facebook and Instagram, my friends and blogging buddies. A few points seem consistent.

  • We care about how we look.
  • We care to varying degrees about how we’re perceived.
  • Many of us are over the heavy lifting of raising kids.
  • We’ve made a difference for others through our careers or our focused endeavors.
  • We have or are facing big changes in life like loss, grief, retirement, the introduction of grandchildren.
  • Some of us are asking ourselves, “Who am I now?”

Life happens and wardrobes change

I know three women who are ending the chapter of their life that they most identified with for years. Now they’re either resting, fidgeting, or toying with where to go from here.

There’s no rule book with a chapter for how to get dressed for the unknown.

One of my clients lost her husband suddenly. They worked together but when he passed, the business folded up, too. Life was suddenly less formal. There weren’t meetings to attend, business trips to pack for. I worked with her through this unknown time and her wardrobe went in directions that neither of us could have predicted. Her look is relaxed, casual but put together and suddenly, there’s more color in her closet.

Reflecting on my own style changes

When 40 over 40: 40 Things Every Woman Over 40 Needs to Know About Getting Dressed came out, the publisher asked where I wanted to start my book tour. I said, “Back home in Fargo.” That tour included giving a talk at a Women’s Expo in Fargo, ND. (Richard Simmons was the headliner. Boy, did he have energy!)

That night, after my speech and book signing, Dad and I sat in the living room where my old bedroom was just down the hall. “Let’s talk,” he said. He was eager to give me feedback. He pointed out the things women wanted and how I could help with that. How did he get so smart?

I was puzzled about one thing. “Dad, I’m getting all this attention for being funny. How can that be when I’ve been so serious?” Mom had told me once that they worried about me in high school because I was serious.

“Oh Brenda,” he said, “your inner child has always been playful and funny.”

My inner child? My farmer and farm implement dealer father was talking about my inner child?

40 Over 40 on Brenda Kinsel website

I mostly remember serious. I was the responsible one, the one who fought serious causes in high school. My adult life has had serious challenges. Haven’t we all?

But I love funny. It’s my favorite thing. It’s probably my favorite thing about Russ. Yes, he’s supportive and kind but wow, he can really make me laugh.

I love fun. I must say, “Have fun” ten times a day in conversations.

Part of what’s happening for me in this chapter is that I’m going backward in time. I’m remembering things I used to love doing. I’m yearning to be in an adult kindergarten. I feel like playing with stuff, reading picture books, building things, enjoying recess and naptime.

I love playing with my version of toys: clothes and accessories. I want to keep making stuff with them.

I have a new role. I’m grammafoxy. Playing with Baby Viv is all fun. Is there a theme emerging? Fun, fun, fun.

Three generations in stripes

Time to put together a fun outfit

I won’t deny it. August was very rough for me. I used more than a few tissues sopping up the tears. I worried about my sweetheart who had surgeries in August along with complications.

There was the anniversary of my brother’s death followed two days later by my Mother’s birthday. I miss them with a deep ache. The feeling of loss was relentless this August.

Russ was well enough to be alone for the afternoon the day I was to meet my friends, the Bellas, in Yountville. They promised some tender loving care and I was ready to receive it.

I wanted to feel happy. I was ready for a fun day.

I looked in my closet for my happy clothes and realized I might have to improvise.

styling Chico jacket

I looked at my Prada Chico’s jacket. I wouldn’t call those blues and mushroom colors fun–they’re soft and pretty. But I was determined.

Could I, would I, dare I put a collar under the jacket and cover up some of the detail around the neck, which is what makes this jacket so Prada-looking? Heh, who’s making the rules here? Of course, I can!

I pulled out one of my COS collars and put it on under the jacket. Oh, I like that! I love how white brings freshens the face.

I was having fun putting together the outfit but it wasn’t fun looking enough yet. Accessories. What about accessories?

I pulled out my pins. I held up the soft blue silk floral pin to the jacket. I loved how the colors blended with the jacket. Would I pin it to the shoulder of the jacket? I tried it and it didn’t excite me.

I held up the tan/taupe feather and satin pin which I’ve always wanted to wear, have tried to wear, but never created an outfit where it worked.

Wait a minute! What if I put these large pins down the front of my jacket and made it look like they were buttons? My inner child was clapping her hands together. Suddenly the jacket got whimsical, almost theatrical. I had a flashback to French designer, Paul Poirot who had such a theatrical flair in his designs.

fashion for women over 60
Enjoying a good laugh with the Bellas

I added my linen blue/gray pants and my tan/taupe Gabor wedge sandals. And my bag? Well, the gifted Soul Carrier clutch was only perfect.

It says on the front Soul Carrier For Your Journey. This bag was the catalyst for a closer look at style expression. You can read about that in How Style Exercises and Soul Searching Go Together

Inside that Soul Carrier clutch is my phone, lipstick, credit card, small notebook, pen, and handkerchief. The message on the outside of the bag reminds me to use this chapter of my life to be free, have fun, enjoy the moment I’m in, dress to entertain myself, to posture my attitude to say definitively, “I’m happy with this.” I’m happy with me.

The client I was with today summed up her attitude about life and living it. She said, “My friends talk about doing that special thing someday, buying that thing they love someday. Wait a minute. Do the math. Put the pedal to the metal and do it now.”

I think she’d say make dates with friends, dine under the chandelier, take more than two hours to have lunch, play hooky from life, crank the music up, share secrets, see two plays in one day, wear two big pins on your jacket just for the fun of it.

What about you? If you put the pedal to the metal, what would you do?

Can we create a big long list of the things to do now, not later? I’d love to see that and I bet everyone else would too!


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  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 1:34 am

    I like your title a lot. Just do what pleases me. I just turned 70 and it’s what I’m trying to do in between the therapies, the pills, the aches and worries about health. There are exponentially more losses in twilight years — work identity, teeth, shoulders that work perfectly, legs that don’t get cranky. But in between all the coping, is yearning to be as full a person I can be in the years ahead that if I am lucky, I can count on fingers and toes. Empathy and compassion grow and I appreciate and notice small things that delight. I don’t have the young body to put pedal to the metal (something would surely break) but I can enjoy my life and grow spiritually, not necessarily in a religious way, but as an aware and kind human being. As for clothes, I am doing more color, more sparkle, more soft and comfortable to keep me as cheerful and optimistic as I can be. it definitely helps!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      You have painted a great picture of life in this chapter. I’m nodding and smiling all over the place! I love your attitude. You inspire me!

  • Reply
    Marilyn Adams
    September 19, 2019 at 5:28 am

    I loved this blog! My favorite so far because it’s been my season for awhile. I’m 73. I still feel lively. I keep my calendar full but I too am limited like Kay with physical problems with knees. I have addressed this season of my life by keeping my calendar full with lunch dates, dinner dates, traveling, going to a movie, watching movies at home, etc. I must admit I sometimes want to sell our home of over forty years and go to a new city. We live rural and I think city living would be great.maybe in the future that will happen. Hard to leave an area where you know a lot of people but would enjoy more interaction. As far as clothes, I shop a lot on line. I too look for more comfortable clothes but I’m still a more classic person than really colorful. Thank you for giving us a chance to hear others ideas of how they are transitioning.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      And thank you, Marilyn, for sharing all the activities going on in your life. I have a new situation in my life. I love my life in Sonoma near the fields and the cows but I have a little studio downtown in a town in Marin where I get out and walk all over. It’s a taste of having both things: a more rural, small-town feel and the feeling of being in the middle of things. It’s really quite sweet! Again, thank you so much, Marilyn. I enjoyed seeing into your life and how you’re living it.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 5:32 am

    What a wonderful posting! At first glance, I wasn’t a fan of your outfit. But after reading your words and considering the concepts of “adult kindergarten” and “do it now,” it all made sense. Keep on doing what you’re doing, it’s a source of joy and inspiration.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks so much, Diane. I’m often asked if I am busy doing makeovers in my mind on people on the street. I never do. I always feel that how they’re dressed is intentional and they had their reasons. I’m glad you saw my reasons for that outfit. You being a reader of this blog is my joy and my inspiration. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Karen H.
    September 19, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Right on Brenda! At age 69, I feel more free to do things that please me. A few weeks ago I had a brilliant flash to wear a blouse turned around. My first thought was “Brenda would say go for it!” The zipper that should have been in back was now turned facing front. I unzipped it down a bit to make a v-shape, added a necklace, and I liked the look so much better!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      This sounds brilliant!!! And you are right, that’s exactly what I would have said! Thanks for sharing with us your new backward top.

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    September 19, 2019 at 7:12 am

    I loved reading this Brenda. Sometimes I put together an outfit and think, “oh, this with this is too much”. But then I have to remember, I’m too much too, so it goes together well. And having fun is the best recipe for our clothes.

    • Reply
      September 19, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Jodie, that’s perfect… why keep restraining ourselves when putting outfits together, when it is an expression of who we are? Thank you and I will steal your line, if I may, of course!

      • Reply
        September 20, 2019 at 12:48 pm

        I agree with you Lea, Jodie’s line is perfect. If we don’t express ourselves now, when will we do it?

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 5:41 pm

      I just love what you wrote! Yes, yes, yes!!!
      Sending you a big hug, Jodie!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 7:59 am

    My eyes went heart-shaped when I saw your jacket with the pins… and your words were even than the outfit! Thank you. Again. I hope your loved one is feeling better. Hugs.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you so much, Lea. He definitely starting to see the improvement that was promised. Thank you for asking about him! And thanks for your kind words!

  • Reply
    Arabella Williams
    September 19, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Very whimsical, delightful piece of writing! When I am feeling myself, I love to dress with a sense of understated elegance. I am approaching 64 and almost 5 years as a widow. Emotionally I am still turning the corner of being motivated enough to return to my sense of style. This article hit home with me and I love the accompanying photo’s.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      Arabella, what a huge life change you’ve been through. I can understand how it would take time to return to your sense of style after that massive loss. I haven’t met you but in my mind’s eye, I see you in your understated elegance. Your style is there for you when you’re ready. Sending you love.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Brenda you seem to be my soulmate in fashion! I’m so happy that I found you and will pray for your health and happiness! Keep styling sister!!!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      Katie, if you say we are then we are! Thanks for your lovely wishes. I love thinking that someone somewhere is my fashion soulmate. xx

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 9:50 am

    I would dance to Chicago on my lawn barefoot at 2 am wearing a gorgeous tuxedo bathing suit (a full piece black and white with tuxedo buttons), a wide brimmed straw hat and long gloves with a mimosa in my hand. There I said it and I would do it.

    • Reply
      September 19, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      I did dance to Chicago, with Earth, Wind and Fire. Could there be a better night? It was in an arena, so jeans were the order of the day. My teenage son came along, and enjoyed mom’s music, too.

      This is my time to enjoy all those concerts I missed out on when I was younger.

      • Reply
        September 20, 2019 at 3:25 am

        Yeah for you!!!!! I totally agree!!!

        • Reply
          September 20, 2019 at 12:26 pm

          [Insert emoji of hands clapping here]

      • Reply
        September 20, 2019 at 12:28 pm

        Oh my gosh! And we can afford the tickets now too! I LOVE that you shared this with your son. I’ve got a grin on my face. Bravo!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Marvelous! Yes, yes, yes! I don’t know if I could stay up until 2 a.m. Otherwise, I’d join you if you were inviting others! What a great visual, Kathy!

      • Reply
        September 20, 2019 at 4:58 pm

        You are all invited!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 10:13 am

    As usual I enjoyed the article but mainly want to say how much I love the wider leg on your pants. It’s definitely time for the skinny to take a vacation from my closet.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      Oh, I know what you mean, Joy. I like the freedom my legs feel in non-skinny pants right now.

  • Reply
    Barbara Kraus
    September 19, 2019 at 10:17 am

    I’m in the space where you were in August. Very rough last 2 months, especially the last few weeks. I wanted to wear something lightweight but what I put on after searching my wardrobe was too cheerful. After a few minutes I went back to the drawing board, told myself there must be something lightweight enough that didn’t signal joy and okayness, and found something else to wear. I don’t look bad, but I feel much better now that there is congruence.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      Barbara, I’m sorry these months have been rough for you. You bring up a great point about choosing clothes that bring peace to you in the moment. I’m imagining that something that’s too cheerful. If I wore something super cheerful when I was feeling contemplative, I’d be totally discombobulated! Wishes for a more gently fall season.

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    September 19, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Play Time Brenda! Yes, I love your playful side as highlighted by the deep, thoughtful parts that you share. One without the other is just not the same nurishment. Thank you for your continued encouragement, inspiration and license to be bold and playful. Your jacket sure found some added fun! In response to your question: I always wanted a tiara. I have found one and an occasion to wear it. This year’s Distaff Singers performance calls for some gala glamour. I will wear it with glee as my small group sings, ‘Diamond’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. All for a good cause to raise money for music education for youth. Along my individual jump rope (thread)– is wearing a silky pajama-look for day wear. Channeling Super Models… I will do it too…someday soon. Nordstrom helped. Kudos to your ‘all-points-touched’ article.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Oh, Katherine, thank you so much! You would look great in a tiara and maybe you’ll add it to your daywear too. Don’t you think it would look great with silky pajama-like pieces? You’re a dear! Your comments always lift my spirits.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Where were you with that chandelier?
    I want to GO and eat there!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      We were in Yountville at RH, Restoration Hardware Restaurant. I’ll meet you there!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    This is why clothing is important. It helps to support us in what we are feeling and can elevate our mood or tell the world we need peace and quiet. I love how you took your time, asking yourself questions and came up with a lovely quietly playful look.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Lori, I LOVE that description: a lovely quietly playful look. Those are style words I could work with some more! Thank you. Don’t we all need a little peace and quiet?

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    September 19, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    You shine in those colours, Brenda, and what you did with the pins was genius! So whimsical and fun. My pedal to the metal is going to be a brand new hairstyle. Soon. Very soon.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:27 pm

      Oh Elaine! How exciting!!! We’ll have to see before and afters. I watched an old British movie last night on Acorn TV called Becoming. The main character gets a makeover and a new hairstyle. A man in town comments on it saying something like, “You look more like you than you ever have.” Now that’s a good haircut! I wish the same for you!

  • Reply
    Laurel Armstrong
    September 20, 2019 at 5:23 am

    Love this comment because it’s where I want to be now – “Part of what’s happening for me in this chapter is that I’m going backward in time. I’m remembering things I used to love doing. I’m yearning to be in an adult kindergarten. I feel like playing with stuff, reading picture books, building things, enjoying recess and nap time. ”
    I’m ‘playing’ more with my wardrobe, shopping my closet, enjoying funky accessories, shoes, scarves. I’m re-learning painting, hand building with clay, finding interesting books, events and pulling Husband along.
    I feel energized, re-energized despite the continuing sad experiences that come with getting older – the clock is always ticking. Time to relish, savour, take a big bite and chew away at interesting things on life’s menu.
    Thanks for this lovely tribute to ‘fun’ – finding it, sharing it.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      Laurel, I am savoring your comment. You’ve nailed the spirit I seek as well–discovery, imagination, finding things to relish, and I love your comment about pulling Husband along. I’m going to do more of that! I’ve reread this comment and will continue to. You’re inspiring!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2019 at 7:16 am

    I love your outfit and the spirit that put it together. It’s a dreamy combination with fun flair! That tan/taupe feather brooch- oh my! Gorgeous!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks, Bettsi. And honestly, you have no idea how many times I’ve tried to work that tan/taupe feather brooch into outfits. CRAZY amount of times. I guess some things just take longer!

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    September 22, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Hello darling Brenda and friends.. I am so sorry that August was wretched, scary, and a roller coaster by the sound.. It is one thing to have our own health struggles, but when it is happening to someone we love dearly. It can be positively excruciating, in that waiting with baited breath way… So I am happy you can all breath more easily.. Being a bit thwarted myself over the last 6 weeks following a total knee replacement, I have had to be patient with many thing s. One being, getting back to being able to wear clothes other than soft lounge type pants.. and suitable clothes to allow for crutches. A small price to pay really. I realised that I had become sick of my kind of straggly, boring haircut, so went and got a much more modern, playful, edgy style.. It has made all the difference to my look, and how I feel. I also realised on a n emotional level that I needed to do some work on allowing myself to be helped, during this time.. because I needed it ! And part of love.. is allowing others to give to you, and to just allow yourself to receive. So, yes, playful and light is the theme here.. By the way Brenda, I loved your outfit ….Sending love from Oz

    • Reply
      September 24, 2019 at 9:06 am

      So lovely to hear from you! I must admit, I have this knee thing and it comes and goes and it’s come and stayed a little longer than usual. I’m feeling sorry for myself because I’m taking care of Baby Viv today and strolling her around may be difficult. So I said to myself, “Come on Brenda, it’s not the end of the world. People have serious problems and have knee replacements.” And here I’m reading about your ACTUAL knee replacement! I’m glad you got some practice about getting others to help you. Why is that so hard for some of us, me included??
      I LOVE how a good haircut came at the right time. It sounds super great for you. Big hugs to my dear friend from Oz, and lots of love! Continued recovery and being able to wear more clothes! xo

  • Reply
    September 23, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Brenda, you ARE funny! I just bought this book a month ago, since I enjoyed your Fashion Makeover book so much. I read chapter 3, paragraph one; I just laughed and laughed! How did you know!?! Once again, thank you.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Oh my gosh, Phyliss, when I read your comment I thought I knew right away which chapter and paragraph it was but I got out the book to be sure. I was right! I’m laughing with you! Don’t we have fun!

  • Reply
    Sara Brumfield
    September 24, 2019 at 11:38 am

    You might enjoy the book “Lifelong Kindergarten” by Mitchel Resnick. I think it would suit your mood quite well! (And I’m reading it.)

    • Reply
      September 24, 2019 at 2:04 pm

      Oh, lovely! I’ll look it up, thanks so much!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Wow! What a great transformation. Love the white collar. I need to get one of those. I can’t wear tan/ taupe next to my face but it’s such a useful color for travel. If you are crafty, you might want to check out the SO SEW EASY sewing blog. She just did a roundup of free fabric flower patterns. A fabric flower could become you signature statement piece

    • Reply
      October 17, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Wow, Annie, great resource! Thanks so much for sharing! I actually did think about using fabric flower pins more. They’re so delightful.

  • Reply
    Tabitha Dumas
    October 1, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    I’m so glad I found you On Pinterest, you are so incredibly inspiring!! I love this post and I love how vibrant and playful you ladies look!

    • Reply
      October 17, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Thanks so much, Tabitha! They’re great friends and I always love when we get together. Glad you found the blog!! So happy you’re here!

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