If I’d hired Brenda Kinsel to help me get dressed for last week’s book launch cocktail party for Art House: The Collaboration of Chara Schreyer and Gary Hutton, a big beautiful book published by Assouline, she’d have come up with a great outfit straight out of my closet. I’d have tried it on, she’d have accessorized it, I’d be totally confident and would have gotten dressed in five minutes.
But that’s not what happened.
I failed to book that appointment with myself. I had weather to worry about. I figured I’d just throw something together last minute if I ended up going to the party at all.
The biggest rain and wind storm yet was hitting hard around 2 p.m. on Thursday, the day of the party. My phone was alarming me about flooding in Sonoma County. Schools had closed for fear of flooding. The highway I take to get to Marin and San Francisco was totally flooded and long detours were making it impossible to project arrival times anywhere.
I spoke to my daughter, Erin, Thursday morning. She was going to the party, too. “I’m so nervous about getting into the City to Chara’s party tonight, but the thought of calling her and saying I’m not coming is horrible,” I said. I was holding back tears.
Chara is a dear client of ours. We were all so excited about this big party. We’d been to her house and planned her outfit earlier in the week, when it wasn’t raining. I’d made a promise to check her outfit once I arrived at the party. The thought of now breaking that promise was making my heart ache.
Back on the phone Erin said sharply, “Mom, put your big girl panties on and get over it. It’s just rain.” I begged to differ but something about her tone made me actually stop with the back and forth indecisiveness. I decided I’m going, no matter what.
Given all the weather drama, pulling an outfit together for the night was very low on my stress meter. Besides, I’m a professional, right?
I ran into trouble
Twenty minutes before we were planning to leave, I went to my closet. The shiny black full silk pants I planned to wear were too long for my flat shoes. (Darn, should have checked that out!) The sequined knee-length skirt that I thought would look great was too big. It wasn’t even flattering since I’ve lost a few pounds. The shimmery black Carlisle jacket that I use to dress up outfits wasn’t looking right with either pants or skirts. I started to panic.
“Brenda, get a grip,” I said. “Slow down and think.” So I thought about sparkly things and my Chanel cashmere sweater with precious beaded appliqués and cut outs came to mind. It was exactly the mood I was in. Soft, pretty, and it would be warm in the cavernous space we’d be in at the Minnesota Street Project. I felt like the neckline needed something so I added a Top Shop bow pin, purchased in London, to the V in the V-neck sweater. I tried on my black fancy pleated Carlisle skirt. It’s swingy and girly. Perfect. I added my black patent AGL shoes with the velvet bows. They dress things up in a jiffy. I decided to carry my dainty black silk evening bag with the big bow on it. I thought it all looked pretty smart together and would pass for the creative environment I’d be in.
As soon as we got to the City and I entered the building, Chara saw us. She said, “I’ve been so worried about you, Brenda! I knew you’d be worrying about me because you said you’d check out my outfit but I was worried about you coming all the way from Sonoma in this weather!” It was nice that someone was worrying about me as my own daughter clearly hadn’t been!
We moved further into the large space. Erin said to me, “Mom, I think you have your sweater on inside out.” “No,” I said, “just look at the appliqués.”
“Mom, you can’t see the appliqués. You can see the Chanel label.”
I had important people to meet and my sweater was inside out
Oh good Lord. How the heck did that happen? “But I even pinned the bow on the front!” I insisted.
“Well, you must have had it on backwards when you added the pin,” she said.
We were approached by the event photographer. “Can I take a picture of you two?” she said.
“Well, apparently I have my sweater on backwards. Would you mind if I found the powder room and fixed it first?” I said.
“You can’t even tell,” the photographer insisted. Snap, snap. Terrific.
We walked through the entire length of the space to find the ladies room tucked in the back corner.
Recovering and saving face
This sweater got much better looking when I turned it right side out. While I was at it, I hoisted my bra straps as well before making my bathroom exit.
As many of you know, I can be a real introvert at parties but somehow this inside out sweater was so funny to me once I got over the mortified part. I ended up talking to lots of interesting people. Chara had friends who were dying to meet me. “Oh, I finally get to meet the Brenda Kinsel,” they said. If they only knew. A couple of gin gimlets didn’t hurt the situation either.
We saw Chara a few days later and I confessed to my mistake. She laughed and now I have yet another funny story about messing up in public.
I’ve got a real doozy of a mishap that I’ve been getting the nerve up to tell you about. I might need more gin gimlets before I do that though. Stay tuned.
What silly thing have you done in public? Keep me company here, okay?