9 In Series

Anatomy of Style


When designer events happen in San Francisco, pictures of the socialites who were in attendance show up in the SF Chronicle, C magazine, or Town and Country magazine. If it’s a Chanel event, everyone’s in Chanel. If it’s a Prada event, everyone’s in Prada. So taking my cue from the big names, I had to wear something that came from Carlisle or Per Se when on Monday I met a client to review the fall offerings of the Carlisle Collection. My friend and colleague, Marjory DeRoeck of the Image Studio in Lafayette has been showing the Carlisle Collection for years. It just so happens I’ve been a fan and own several pieces but more than that, I have a client who seems to have been made for Carlisle clothes. She looks fabulous in them! And I was going to meet her at Marj’s studio on one of the hottest days of the summer.

So here were my thoughts:

1. Wear Carlisle or Per Se (both lines are part of the Carlisle Collection)

2. Wear lightweight clothing

First decision: I started with my Per Se black leggings. When I first looked at them in Marj’s studio I wondered why I’d pay that much money for leggings when I could find leggings at H&M for next to nothing. But of course, these aren’t junior department type leggings, they are grownup leggings: not too tight, come up to the waist and fasten securely so I’m never pulling them up all the time like other leggings, and they have about a six inch zipper detail at the ankles which appeals to that part of me that likes to have a little “rocker” element in my style. And they aren’t skin tight so I’m not self-conscious in them. And, what was perfect about wearing them on Monday was that they are super lightweight. Good on a hot day!

Second decision: I really wanted to wear a chunky necklace I’d bought on sale at Chico’s. It came out in April or May so if you like it, good luck finding it. In fact, I helped a client buy it early in the season and a few weeks ago I was still thinking about it. I actually tracked it down in my own hometown. The green beads in it make me happy, happy, happy. There’s something about that color that just sends me! I was hungry for it that day, especially. And get this–I’d never worn it yet! This was the day to bust it out so I had to find a top that would showcase it.

Third decision: There’s nothing cooler than this white semi sheer, very textured gauzy top that I found here in town at J.James just off the Sonoma Plaza (122 East Napa Street). To create the longest line I could, I put a black tank underneath it so there wouldn’t be a color break underneath the white top. I hate color breaks! It chops the body in half and although you could say wearing black and white like this chops the body in half, the uneven hemline was creating interest and that was okay with me. I also needed to consider that this top has a tendency to want to slip around at the shoulder and I wanted a tank that covered my bra straps. Then I could relax and not worry about whether or not the top was moving around. My undies weren’t going to be showing.

Fourth decision: I needed shoes. Comfortable shoes. And bulky ones. When I looked in my mirror and saw how strong the necklace looked, I knew my strappy wrap sandals I’d thought of wearing were going to be too delicate looking. So I searched my shoe bin for the right design weight and pulled out my gladiators. When I put them on and looked again, I knew I had what I wanted. The bulky shoe was in balance with the bulky necklace. Ah, all is well. And then Russ walked in and said, “Oh! You’re wearing my favorite shoes!” I had no idea he felt that way but that seemed like a bonus to me!

Fifth decision: I chose my metal kind-of-hoop earrings because I basically just wanted a placeholder on my ear. My focal point was the necklace. Then I decided I needed more accessories to balance the necklace and top. So I went to my bank of bangles and pulled out this black one. It was bulky enough and had a sheen like the necklace. It tied in nicely.

So, there you have it! The anatomy of my style, the decisions I made to put together this outfit that met my two most pressing requirements — wearing something from the collection I was going to see with my client and being cool on a hot day. Oh, and also looking like someone who loves fashion! But hat’s a minimum daily requirement no matter what’s in store for the day.

I’m excited that I got to mix in something new (the necklace) with my tried and trues (the bangle, leggings, and sandals) that have been around a few years, and a more recent local purchase (the top) that should be used as much as possible in these last weeks of summer before fall clothes move in and take over in my closet.

I love getting dressed. Don’t you?



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  • Reply
    August 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    I love this outfit and really appreciate you breaking down the elements and your thought process in selecting each one. I feel like you are disclosing the secret sauce behind your wonderful outfit. I especially like the idea of the black tank under the white top, I would have automatically gone with white in that situation but the black is so much better. I need to keep that in mind. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      August 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Oh good, Sallie! That was my intention. I’ll do posts like this from time to time and definitely share my secret sauce! I just had the opportunity yesterday to demonstrate this trick about the black tee with the black bottom and not disrupting the line with a client yesterday. I showed her how it would look with a white tee (which was her inclination as well) and then a black one and she got it! Line disruption is one of my must-not-dos. Fun to hear from you, Sallie!

  • Reply
    Brenda Benson
    August 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Loved hearing your decision-making process. This will help me so much when putting together an outfit. I hope you will do this on a regular basis. Thanks so much! (plus you look adorable)

    • Reply
      August 24, 2013 at 5:24 am

      Thanks for the feedback, Brenda, and I would LOVE to do this on a regular basis!

  • Reply
    Paula DeGrand
    August 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I just now published a post praising your concept of capsules, and here you are showing your decision process for creating one for a real person–you–and a real event. This is invaluable! Promise that you will write more posts like this. The point about balancing the scale of the necklace and the shoe is one I’ll remember in words and images. Thanks!

    • Reply
      August 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Paula, thanks so much for your encouraging words! You’ve got my brain busy figuring out the next “Anatomy of Style” post. Stay tuned!

  • Reply
    Liana Hanson
    August 25, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I too found out about how the dark under garment makes a great line under a sheer by accident. Was trying on different tops one day and I had black leggings and a black cami on while I was trying on tops. I looked in the mirror and discovered that wearing all black under a sheer was actually quite flattering. I was avoiding sheer tops because it tended to accentuate the muffin top if you have a light cami under it. This was my greatest discovery. In fact today’s tip makes me think of wearing black leggings, black cami under a sheer blush blouse. Shoes may be a problem, however. I have a leopard flat which may go with the outfit. Thanks Brenda for reinforcing dark under sheer.

    • Reply
      August 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Some things we do stumble upon! This was a good one. I recently saw a movie star interviewed on the Katie Couric Show and she hadn’t used this trick. It was a good reminder of why it’s important to use! Thanks for sharing your process, Liana!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I love that outfit on you Brenda, and the way you balanced the strong necklace with the strong shoe. I am going experiment with the all-black column under some sheer tops tonight – thank you so much for sharing!

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