24 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of an Outfit That Took Nine Months to Create

Nature colors on BrendaKinsel.com

Finding my way in the forest in colors from Nature


When it’s my month to host the Bellas (we’re three image consulting buddies), we have lunch and then we walk across the square to the store J.James to visit our style inspirer, Valerie, who works there on Sundays. We check out the divine clothes, scarves, handbags, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and gifts.

I don’t buy many things there, but the few things I’ve purchased I’ve used a lot.

I recall the Sunday when I spotted on the rack against the back wall a sheer, sage colored long duster with a shawl collar.

My heart skipped a beat. Would it fit?

It did. It was perfect. I might as well have been Cinderella slipping into the golden slipper that she’d left behind at the ball when the clock was striking midnight. I don’t remember if Cinderella was speechless at that moment, but I was. I knew I had found THE ONE.


When something suits you so well, it’s magic

Am I being overly dramatic? Quite possibly, but maybe not. When I saw my reflection in the full-length mirror I felt more “me” in the duster than I did when I took it off.

The Bellas loved it on me and Valerie thought it was divine.

“How will you wear it?” Valerie said.

“No idea,” I replied. And I meant it. I had no idea. I didn’t know how, where, or when I’d wear it.

Valerie said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. We’ll see it one day on your blog and then we’ll know.”

And here we are, months later

When I purchase something, I’m usually wearing it in an outfit the next day. If not, I give it three days or maybe five days, and if I haven’t had the urge to wear it by then, I take it back to the store for a refund.

I didn’t wear the sage duster in twenty-four hours. I didn’t wear it in five days. I didn’t wear it in a month or three months or six months. I didn’t wear it for nine months. I saw it every day I opened my closet but never work it into an outfit.

Did I have doubts about that purchase? Maybe teeny tiny ones. But I kept thinking one day it will be splendid. I was willing to wait for that day regardless of how long it took.

I thought about it

In basic terms, I wondered if it would look good over a column of white or a column of black. Maybe it would be best over palazzo pants (didn’t own them) or a jumpsuit (didn’t have one).

I thought about it some more. It seemed elegant but organic, inspired by Nature, mysterious, something that would be worn by a princess running through a forest, trees on both sides of her, the forest floor rich in black soil mixed with decaying leaves. With the duster floating behind her and her long wavy ash blond hair bouncing up and down, she was happy and free.

Last week I got inspired and the dream turned into an outfit.

It started with a new pant I’d purchased five days ago. It was a classic for me; a slim knit; a pant for all seasons to wear with longer tops.


Layering T-shirts on BrendaKinsel.com

Tee choices


Adding crinkle to the top layer on BrendaKinsel.com

The outer sheer layer adds texture


What next?

I decided to add a simple black Babette long-sleeved T-shirt. There was my basic canvas: a column of black.

Okay, now what? I looked into my closet and saw two things almost at the same time. One was a gray-green crinkled Babette stretchy sheer T-shirt that my daughter Erin had picked up at a consignment store. She bought it for herself but it was too big on her so she offered it to me. Behind it was the sage duster.

I layered the gray-green crinkle sheer T-shirt over the black polyester T-shirt.

Then I added the duster. The colors responded so well together. (Like Cinderella and Prince Charming.)

Creating the natural, Nature palette

I loved the textures in the outfit: smooth and crinkled.

The color palette represented the wonder and mystery of Nature. The black was the rich soil and the gray-green and sage were the trees in that quiet forest. I felt peaceful, glorious, and grand as I looked into the full-length mirror in my bedroom.

Next I had to choose my accessories. I didn’t want to disturb this forest mediation I’d created.

I had to be careful. Figuring out the right accessories took longer. I tried several things before landing on the right combo.

I’ll tell you all about that part in Part Two of this Anatomy of an Outfit. Stay tuned!



My mother recited poems to us when we were growing up. One of them was Trees by Joyce Kilmer. I don’t know why it always made us laugh, but it did. Maybe it was the glee in her sing song voice when she recited it.

Years and years later, I found this framed image with the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer. I gave it to Mother and it hung on a wall in their lake home. Last August when I was there, I saw it again and brought it back home to lean against the sage walls of the bedroom I share with my Prince Charming.

Mother, this outfit is for you.




Trees, a poem by Joyce Kilmore

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree

a tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray;

a tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair;

upon whose bosom snow has lain;

who intimately lives with rain

Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

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  • Reply
    November 15, 2016 at 4:57 am

    This is a beautiful outfit. The duster is unique and it drapes well. I want one! My instinct would have been to add a colorful scarf, but that would have ruined the lines of the duster and the effect of the entire look. Thank you for sharing how this evolved. Can’t wait for Part 2 tomorrow!
    P.S.: I really enjoy reading your blog (with my morning coffe). I’ve learned a lot from your style tips.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      I am overjoyed at being part of your morning coffee routine! Thanks for the privilege! Yes, it was harder than I thought to stay true to the “sound” of this outfit. But you’ll see all the steps I took!
      Over coffee.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2016 at 5:58 am

    I believe finding THE ONE is why we (women) do the shopping we do. I am always trying to find an article of clothing that sparks joy . . . and it is rare. Love your story!

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Robin, I think what you describe here is what we should be doing–waiting for items that will spark joy. I often see people getting into shopping ruts where they “settle for” things that don’t bring joy. It takes more time but it’s worth it! Thanks for sharing your comment!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2016 at 6:00 am

    The outfit is beautiful and you look beautiful in it! I am glad you waited until you found the perfect way to wear it. I often do that as well…..
    How funny about the Trees poem – I have heard the first line of it, but never the whole poem before.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      Rebecca, happy to hear you do this too–wait for the right moment. What you said about the poem–I still am wondering if Mother had her own verses because it was always entertaining. But when I read it through again, it was all familiar just the way it was! I so wish I had her voice on tape and could hear her recite other poems. She and my Uncle Chet could entertain each other for hours as they both loved reciting poems. It’s fun to remember her this way!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    November 15, 2016 at 6:56 am

    It’s good to have rules about our clothing, but like this example, it’s also good to be flexible about those rules!!
    I try to wear everything new right away, but life gets in the way at times, and there are some pieces that need to “marinate”!
    You look fabulous in this outfit Brenda, and I’m glad you kept the duster!

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks, Jodie! I’m so glad I kept it too! Like you say, some things need to marinate. I’m glad I gave it time. Thanks always for your delightful comments!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    November 15, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Ah…your process is lovely and deep. I love that you have such sweet and bittersweet story around this earthy ensemble. Much like the subject of reverence for Nature and the desire to merge in some way–your tribute inspires me to look to seasons, landscapes and sparkling moments of Memory. Brenda, thank you for showing the entire oeuvre and for sharing vulnerability that quietly speaks…volumes.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      I love hearing your responses to what you read here. When it came down to adding the image of the poem Mother recited so very often growing up, I wrote that the wall it was leaning on was sage. I hadn’t thought about that! Sage is on the walls of the bedroom and it is my safe cocoon. That probably adds to why I feel the way I do in this outfit. You’re so good for me! I love how you make me think. Thanks, Katherine!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    You’re always great, Brenda, but today you totally rocked it! That is a truly beautiful look.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you Laurice! I’m glad you like it like I do!

  • Reply
    Susan Gosman
    November 15, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Love this story – your outfit is stunning! I also love the Babette t-shirt and would like to know where they are sold. Thank you.

    • Reply
      November 17, 2016 at 9:06 am

      The crinkle Babette was found at a consignment store. The other Babette, the black one underneath the crinkle one, was one I purchased last month at Shunzi in Petaluma. I just heard a rumor this week from a client that Babette was considering shutting its doors. It’s been around for 40 years or so and they were just ready to be done. I tried googling it but didn’t find anything that said that so hopefully, it is a rumor.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Did you think about adding a bit more sage colours by combining the duster with the Amazonite double strand necklace created by the Sol sisters? (the one you added to your wanna be Catholic blouse) I could imagine the Sacred Heart pendant and the grey suede tassel might fit perfectly…

    • Reply
      November 17, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Doris, most perfect question. The answer is YES!!! I did consider it, in fact it was my first consideration. In the most current post I explain how I put the jewelry pieces together. Check out the blog and I’ll walk you through the decision. Good call, Doris, I must say!!!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Yet again Brenda you inspire me to try new things. I enjoy reading your blog and trying new things that I haven learnt from you. Thank you

    • Reply
      November 17, 2016 at 9:06 am

      Thanks so much, Tress! I’m so glad!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I think this duster is meant to also be in my closet. Your combination of pieces is perfect. You pulled it off for sure and is now one of my favorite outfits. Your Mom would be proud.

    • Reply
      November 17, 2016 at 8:46 am

      Maybe we could share it, Elizabeth!!! And yes, Mother would be proud. Ah, thanks for saying that. I’m having a moment!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 4:38 am

    My Mom had me memorize that poem as a child.I still know it by heart.You are wearing my favorite colirs.Love that duster.

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:53 pm

      Lovely! You had a smart mom!

  • Reply
    Kim Jaspers
    January 9, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    Hello Brenda,
    I’m contacting you about the framed “Trees” poem by Joyce Kilmer. I used to have the same one, a gift from my late grandmother. My husband carelessly discarded it without my knowledge when we moved abroad and I’m trying to replace it. It held a special place in my heart. Would you consider selling it? Thank you. Kim

    • Reply
      January 12, 2020 at 9:29 am

      Kim, I hope you find it one day. No, I wouldn’t sell this. It’s 100% sentimental to me. My mother used to recite this poem to us as kids. When I found this, I gave it to my mother and she hung it on the wall immediately. When she passed away it was one of the few things I wanted to bring home with me to remember her by. I understand that feeling of love that’s attached to something like you have with your grandmother. I truly hope you discover it in your travels.

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