9 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of an Outfit: When mood and color call the shots


Wearing gray and looking like a professor on BrendaKinsel.com

Gray sets the mood for this academic look


Often when I start to build an outfit, I have a starting place in mind: my ivory cut out blouse and my trio of brooches, my burgundy patent oxfords, my orange sweater, or my leopard print coat. A specific clothing item, color, or accessory pops into my head and I start there.


Color, accessories or pattern can spark ideas for an outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

Something sparks an idea for an outfit


Last week I had a whole day to myself to work on writing projects. At some point in the day I planned to go out to a coffee shop. It helps me to physically move away from the computer and get out in the world for an hour or so. It offers a break, a treat, and a signal to my brain to do a different task: in this case, editing.

Editing requires the right outfit

Two things were going on for me.

  1. I had a desire to wear a dress and my gray stretchy knit dress came to mind. I bought it originally in 2008 and wore it to Chicago where I was training image consultants at an educational conference.
  2. I really wanted to wear my lighter gray Grandpa cardigan sweater because it felt so professorial. I imagined a college professor wearing a cardigan like that during office hours. His office would have real wood paneling lining the walls. In the old days that professor would be wearing a sweater like that smoking a pipe, which would account for the scent in that dark office on the second floor.


Going for an academic look on BrendaKinsel.com

Looking pretty academic in gray, oxfords and ribbed tights


Following the gray

So those two things were clear: wear the cozy Grandpa cardigan sweater and the gray dress.

A thought said, “Follow the gray theme.”

I remembered I had ribbed gray warm tights. The vertical ribs had a sit-up-and-pay-attention vibe. Perfect! I had a wide dark gray scarf that was a nice smooth wool. It looks very no nonsense. It was just right.


Accessorizing a gray outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

Accessorizing my gray outfit


Adding accessories to my professorial outfit

I could have worn a metallic gray bootie but they didn’t feel academic enough. I was really into this role-play. So I went for my black oxfords. That opened the door to wearing black or gunmetal accessories.

I added my gunmetal arty ring, my Calleen Cordero black and silver leather cuff, plus my dark mushroom/grayish Calleen Cordero bag. And of course, every academic needs a clipboard, right? I use clipboards for separate ongoing projects. Now wasn’t it awfully handy that this clipboard was in a smoky gunmetal gray? Wow, this outfit was making me feel REAL smart!


Mixing shades of gray on BrendaKinsel.com

Oxfords go with my professor look


Fashion got my attention

I went to the coffee shop. Did I get work done? Yes, some. But I was actually quite distracted by two striking women who walked into Peet’s in Sonoma and sat in chairs right next to me. One woman was super tall with long, dark hair and wore a black and white polka dot coat with red flats. So cute! The other woman who wore glasses and had short brown curly hair had a great paisley scarf around her neck that related to her hair coloring. She was dressed in brown wool trousers, a brown wool jacket and oxfords much like mine. She looked very smart. She could have been a real professor!

Plus, there was this handsome, tall guy sitting at the table near me next to the window. He was dressed and accessorized so impeccably, I had to go over and compliment him. He was wearing a color combination that I love. He wore cream pants, a black T-shirt under a camel colored sweater (the black T-shirt peeked out lower than the camel sweater), chocolate brown suede jacket and cool silver metal cuffs on his wrists. Oh, and he had on those caramel colored laced work boots. So smart.

It was a great fashion day in Peet’s so I studied people more than I studied the papers I’d brought with me. You can’t blame me for not getting a lot done, right? When fashion is on display like that, you just have to give it the attention it demands!

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  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    January 31, 2017 at 7:55 am

    People watching is one of my favorite activities!! It can give me as much inspiration as reading other’s blogs!!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2017 at 10:35 am

      So true!!

  • Reply
    January 31, 2017 at 7:56 am

    How fun, Brenda!
    We learn so much from you! Fully describing what you wear and what you see is such a bonus. Following your inspiration to wear and use what I have has proved to be a fun challenge. I start with something languishing in my wardrobe or accessory area. The outfit starts from there, be it a necklace that hasn’t been worn in years, leopard shoes I love, whatever. This process has really helped me create fun, new ensembles. Thanks to you, the lesson here is we really don’t need lots of clothing, women need to spend more time playing in our closet with what we have.
    Thank you for the constant reminder..
    A faithful fan,

    • Reply
      January 31, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Oh boy, Pat, you nailed it on the head! That’s what my client’s learn in every closet appointment we have. Yesterday we did a lot of purging in a client’s closet and yet I had no worries about the things leaving because I am very confident about the outfits that can be made with fewer things in the closet. I really LOVE your plan of pulling something out that you haven’t worn and figuring it out that day. PERFECT!!!
      Faithfully yours,

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    January 31, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Thanks so much, Brenda. I love your gray look, especially your cardigan. It looks rich! It’s so useful when you describe how you put an outfit together. I’m still working on integrating a couple of items I haven’t worn in quite a while into outfits. You mentioned that you were spending a day writing. Please don’t think I’m nagging, but I do hope you get around to your blog on jeans sometime soon. It would be very helpful to me and to others. Any advice you share on any subject is much appreciated.

    • Reply
      January 31, 2017 at 10:41 am

      I’m chuckling! No, you are not nagging!!! There’s so much changing in denim right now that I feel like I need to do more research on the latest trends by being in stores, trying things on, trying things on others, etc. But there are plenty of jean tips I can start you on. I’ll move it back up the ladder. Really, you’re precious for hearing about the writing day and asking about the jeans. Love it! Pat has a great comment today too about working with what she has. You guys could be outfit buddies, putting things together with items that haven’t been worn. Thanks for the nudge, Cathy.

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    January 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    For me, you are a real Professor, Brenda. I’m done with school these days– in the traditional sense. Life, Self-Care and Enrichment are currently my learning modes. Reading informs me everyday. This post encourages me to wear my brogues and embrace my Professor vibe. My fashion vibes, (perhaps like yours) feature different characters. Madame French scarf, Ballerina, Funky Oakland Gal, Grandmother (print lover), Montclair Shopper, Chic Dog Walker, Island Girl, Prepstar, Swathed in Velvet (Seinfeld tribute), Holiday Nod (year-round), Ski Bunny, Town & Country, Color Analyst, Cowgirl and so many more. Much like your encouragement of choosing fashion phrases–I have some character in mind when I play in my closet.

    Back to brogues: I have a silver Cole Haan pair with wingtip styling that have not come out to play much. I think I will like them a bit better if they didn’t look so new. I’m wondering if they must wait until warmer weather. I suppose I need to find a character for them other than spacesuit.

  • Reply
    Debbie Klausing
    February 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I agree about jeans info. Especially how to wear them with booties. I have thin legs, so most of my jeans are too loose at the bottom to do the cuff roll and have it look right, IMO. They just look too bunched up to me. Taller boots work fine, but I have some booties I want to wear.. Guess I should stick with leggings, but not sure how to style them either with the booties. Do you wear socks that show, etc? Help!

    • Reply
      February 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Yes, I think for the look you’re going for you need skinny jeans. When people roll the wider legged jeans up, they do look off balanced. When I roll up skinny jeans, I don’t mind showing a cute sock underneath. I like to do it so I’m only showing about an inch or inch and a half of sock between the jean and the bootie. And when you don’t have to wear socks, you can wear a half sock that won’t show. Hope that helps!

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