How to create a suited look for modern times

A modern suit on Brenda Kinsel website

Mixing the new and the old to create a modern suit look


I mourn the fact that suits are no longer the go to wardrobe staple they once were. Oh yes, I love mixing prints, wearing dressed up jean outfits  and all that, but the formula of a suit is so endearing! Why? Because it’s classic and easy and always give you a pulled together look. You don’t have to think or ponder or try a dozen things on in the morning. It’s just three easy pieces.

Remember the formula for a suit? Here it is in case you’ve forgotten:


A matching pant and jacket with a blouse in a contrasting color, or

a matching skirt and jacket and a patterned blouse, plus

a necklace or a scarf for flair

and shoes.


Tell me, can anything be simpler than that?


Creating a suit in modern times

So what if I told you you could build an outfit that was simple, classic, comfortable and MODERN while following the suit formula?

In fact, you may already be doing it without realizing it. It wasn’t until I put this whole outfit together that I realized it resembled one of my favorite things: A SUIT!

Check it out:

I’m wearing navy blue pants and a navy blue high/low cardigan. The pieces weren’t purchased together but if you squint, it quite resembles a softer version of a navy blue suit. I’m wearing a solid-colored top in a contrasting color, ivory. I added a necklace (actually two but I’ll get to that), a bracelet, shoes and a handbag and off to work I went!

I didn’t have to think, there was no fuss. I had a long day ahead of me seeing two different clients. I felt as fresh at the end of the day as I did at the beginning.


What I love about this work outfit

The color combo of navy and ivory makes me feel calm and strong and efficient. Maybe that’s why navy suits were worn so much!

The comfort level is off the charts fabulous.

My modern navy suit doesn’t feel heavy at all even though it’s a dark color because of the lightness and brightness that comes from my handbag, necklace, and shoes. It’s perfect for summer.

I adore how I feel plenty businessy but still very soft and feminine.

I got a compliment bump when I was in Nordstrom shopping with one of my two clients and the store manager recognized me. “Weren’t you here for the Eileen Fisher fashion show? I remember you! You always look so great!” she said. Why thank you, Ms. Store Manager!



A dazzling necklace near my face on Brenda Kinsel website

Sporting my new necklace


Creating a unique necklace using two at once on Brenda Kinsel website

Two necklaces made to look like one


My necklace secret: When I tried on the pink and green necklace it just didn’t seem like enough. So I added another glitzy necklace that lays on top of the green and pink one. They merge to become one!


A neutral modern suit for work on Brenda Kinsel website

A relaxed suit in neutral colors


I love how this outfit mixes old pieces with new ones, bargain items and not so bargain items. If you’d like the rundown of my outfit pieces, here they are.

Newly purchased relaxed Chico pant with pleats and pockets in navy polyester purchased in Sonoma

Revived navy cardigan, low in the front, high in the back from Jigsaw on Filmore Street in SF a few years back

Ancient double layer ivory t-shirt, stretchy cotton with a second layer of mesh with ruched detail from TJMaxx

Double necklaces, bottom one from Brass Plum department at Nordstrom, top one from TJMaxx (one is from this year the other from last year)

The debut of my Caterina Lucchi woven handbag purchased from Robindra Unsworth in Petaluma

Yummy cuff, a birthday gift from a dear friend

Large ring by Alexis Bittar is mushroom in color with glitz that echoes the necklaces, purchased at a Nordstrom Anniversary sale about three years ago

Stone colored suede wide strap platform sandal by Gabor from Sole Desire in Sonoma

Cat eye glasses are Fiction by L.A. Eyeworks from Uber Optics in Petaluma


Is there a suit waiting for you in your closet?

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Using style words to dress with intention and ease

Debra's meeting a friend for lunch outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

A great “meeting a friend for lunch” outfit


My friend Debra Ruff was kind enough to allow me to do a style interview with her in front of 17 colleagues in June when I hosted a professional retreat for image consultants from all over the world. My colleagues wanted me to demonstrate that essential first appointment with a client which, with me, is all about style.

Kudos to Debra for being so open in front of complete strangers. This appointment can get real intimate real fast as we explore old patterns around shopping and getting dressed, places a client may feel stuck, the things that may be holding her back. My goal is to ask questions (and go off script when warranted) in order to get a true vision of what’s in a woman’s heart. Who is she on the inside?

I want to know so I can dress her so she’s reflecting her true self. During the interview I gather up all the clues I received from her and come up with what I like to call a style recipe. Using the language of clothes, I’ll design outfits so these words would naturally come out of someone’s mouth to describe her. We always edit the list together. I’ll ask her, “Would you feel flattered if people used these words to describe you and your style?”

The answer is a clear YES.

Debra's blouse front and back on Brenda Kinsel website

A pretty blouse has a surprise in the back


Everybody’s style recipe is different. I listen for the words the client resonates with. I’m not picking them, she is. They have distinct meaning to her and her alone. It’s so exciting. It’s like going on a treasure hunt and finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Here’s a sampling of words in Debra’s style recipe:

Being real






We met for lunch at Della Fattoria in Petaluma and I asked her to explain how her style words were being represented in her outfit.


Even though my blouse and my handbag are vintage, I feel the outfit is modern with the cut of the jeans and the tennis shoes.

The lace insert in the back of the blouse adds surprise.

I feel like I’m being real. The casualness of the jeans and the tennis shoes are like when I was a little kid only now I’ve added more of a flair.

I feel stylish especially because I saw a picture of Alexa Chung in something similar. I like her style even though she’s younger. I like her naturalness but there’s thought and surprise in her outfits.

I feel together. I chose every detail and I like it all.



A good blouse tuck into a great belt on Brenda Kinsel website

I love her belt and the way she’s tucked in her blouse


Would you like to know the details of her outfit? Here they are:

The vintage blouse she’s had for over fifteen years (label is cut out) and hasn’t worn it since then.

Her jeans are Pilcro and the Letterpress from Anthropologie.

Her vintage bag is MM leather by Morris Moskowitz.

Her shoes are by Puma (Whisper White) from Madewell

Silver sterling bracelet by Christiana Jewelry given to her by a friend.

Sunglasses are from Uber Optics and are by Ilja.


Debra thinks about her style words every time she gets dressed. She has a lot more confidence now and she’s having more fun.

Expressing oneself and holding one’s head up high is expansive and a great way to step out into the world.

Do you know what your style words are?

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Do you have bracelets too tight to get over your hand? Here’s the solution!

trying to get a bangle on on Brenda Kinsel website

Ouch! The bracelet won’t fit!


Bracelet won't fit on Brenda Kinsel website

It doesn’t work this way either


A guy at a jewelry show was showing me a pretty bracelet. I tried to get it on but it only got as far as my fingers.

He watched me struggle and offered some first aid. He said, “There’s an easy fix for that. Put a plastic bag over your hand first. Then slide the bracelet over the bag. When it’s on your wrist, pull the bag away.” He was very confident. I was not.

I nodded my head up and down like I really believed him but I didn’t.

I have bracelets that I just can’t wear anymore. I’ve kept them, but I can’t explain why. I don’t know if I thought my hand would shrink and they’d fit again someday, or what.

I have a client who experiences this a lot too. She’s got fabulous artistic bracelets that I’d love to work into outfits for her but when she tries them on, they don’t fit. I sigh and move on. I feel bad for the lost opportunities to use these beauties.


I had to try his trick

I’m usually a glass half full kind of gal but I was eager to prove him wrong. I could only recall the pain and disappointment of past failures. I had no hope for this remedy.

Well, would it hurt to try it? I suppose I could give it a try.


Trying the fix for tight bracelets

Applying the supposed remedy to my hand


I went home and cut the end off my blue NY Times newspaper plastic wrapper. I went to my bracelet stash and picked one of the bracelets that I knew hadn’t made it over my hand in years.

I did what he suggested, put the plastic sleeve over my hand first. To keep the experiment scientific I tried the wood bangle on one last time to be sure my hand hadn’t shrunk. It hadn’t. There was nothing but pain.


Bracelet makes it over the bag on Brenda Kinsel website

Bracelet slides over the bag


Then I tried guiding the bracelet over the bag. Are you seeing what I’m seeing? I was stunned!

(And not stung either. The birds and bees photos are by Russ. They’re part of the photo gallery on our front porch.)


The bag trick worked on the bracelet on Brenda Kinsel website

Remove the bag and there’s the bracelet!


I removed the bag and there was my bracelet, happy as can be on my wrist.


Taking the tight bangle off on Brenda Kinsel website

And then it comes off!


To remove the bracelet I grabbed the plastic bag, slid it under the bracelet and then pulled the bracelet back over the plastic wrapper. It slid right over my hand.

From now on, the blue plastic newspaper sleeve will go in my closet kit so when I’m working with my clients in their closets I’ll be able to whip out my magic trick. I can’t wait!

Oh, and the next time I see the jewelry guy I will tell him how brilliant he is, I promise!


I hope you’ll try this trick and let me know if it works for you.

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Office Tuesday was more fun when I could tell Mom all about it

Caitlin and Brenda on Office Tuesday on Brenda Kinsel website

We’re working hard on Office Tuesday except during lunch


For several years my youngest daughter Caitlin has been working in my home office one day a week. She’s my bookkeeper and my assistant. She manages the Monthly Marketing Bundle Program, which she helped me develop nearly eight years ago. I create content for image professionals to use in their marketing. She helps me come up with outlines for articles and tip sheets for that program. She’s my partner in planning and promoting classes. She’s the voice of reason when I take on too much, and she changes ink cartridges in the printer. (Someone over sixty should never have to do this.)


Caitlin helped with the MMB Summer Retreat on Brenda Kinsel website

Caitlin got the MMB Summer Retreat goody bags in order


Caitlin on Office Tuesday on Brenda Kinsel website

Caitlin does her best fashion article research while on the floor


Every Office Tuesday around 5 or 5:30 I’m on the computer when I hear sounds behind me: a plug being pulled out of a wall socket; the wrapping of a long computer cord; the cover slamming closed on a laptop; items being tossed into a workbag; and then the jangle of keys. It’s the sound of leaving.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” I say without lifting my fingers off the keyboard.

She says, “Well, what do you need? I’m going.”

I have a few paragraphs left to write on an article about what to wear for casual or dressy dates when you’re over 50. It’s for the MMB members.

“Just help me organize the ending,” I say. She nails the last three points of the piece in about sixty seconds. Unbelievable!

Okay, I can let her go now. I get up from my desk and walk her to her car. It’s windy and cold. I kiss her twice, thank her for her brilliance once again, and watch her drive away.

I finish the piece after dinner. Now what do I do? I have about forty-five minutes of brain activity left in me before heading to bed with my book. I’m kind of jacked up after meeting that deadline. I feel like celebrating.

And then it comes to me. I’ll call Mom! She loves hearing about our Office Tuesdays. She’d love to know how Caitlin saved the day.


“Caitlin is one of us.”

When we’re back in Minnesota, Caitlin is in Mom’s kitchen a lot, cooking and baking. She goes out in the morning to the rhubarb patch across the road. She comes back with an armful of rhubarb stalks. She’s got enough rhubarb for two pies. Yum, dessert! Other times she’s at Mom’s side making lefse, a classic Norwegian treat that you don’t find in Northern California. It’s a two-person job. Or Caitlin is using the kitchen floor to demonstrate her hip-hop dance moves, making Mom blush and giggle. Although Caitlin was born in Marin County and lives in San Francisco, Mom sees more Minnesota in her than she sees California. She’s a Bay Area girl but to Mom, “She’s one of us.”



Mother on Brenda Kinsel website

This is Mother–vibrant, radiant and full of life.

Calling Mom

I grab my lip balm from the guest bathroom before grabbing the phone. I’m already conversing with her in my head, telling her about her granddaughter—the “one of us” granddaughter—and Mom’s fully engaged. She’s vibrant, youthful, and full of life.

And then I remember: She’s not there.

My left hand grips the bathroom counter. I feel my knees go weak. I let out a wail. Russ comes rushing from the other end of the house. “What’s wrong?” he says.

“It’s Mom. I want to call her.”

The tears come hard. They aren’t a soft drizzle; they hit my face like hail.

It’s just not right! She should be here! She should be receiving my phone call and sinking into her oversized cranberry recliner on the lakeside of the house, relaxed and settling in for a nice long conversation, just the way she likes it.

“God damn it,” I say, crying harder.


I reject the facts

She had a fall.

She suffered a traumatic brain injury.

She nearly died in the ICU, but she pulled through! The doctor said she could be back to her old self in twelve months, “just give it time.” I was doing that. I was being a good girl. I was pacing myself. I was giving her brain time to heal.


Russ has me in his arms. “How does anyone survive this?” I ask him. “They just live through each day the best they can,” he says. “You’re doing it.”


I used to…but now I…

Before March 25, 2015 I used to read Facebook posts and see messages like, “Mom died seven years ago today. I never stop thinking of her.” I wasn’t heartless but I might not write anything. I’d scroll on to the next person’s post about being a new grandparent and comment, “Congrats! So cute!”

But now when I come across a post about loss, I never pass up the opportunity to leave a compassionate comment.

Because now I know.


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Changing our belief system about what we wear



My wardrobe coach hat goes to work

I put my Wardrobe Coach hat on when I work with clients


Eleanor Roosevelt was a great coach. She said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I’m sure she wasn’t speaking about fashion at the time but that line works for everything, doesn’t it? It’s especially applicable in my professional life. I am always helping my clients do things they never thought they could do.


I never thought I could wear that!

It’s a line I hear at nearly every appointment and I love it: I never thought I could wear that!

Here’s an example.

My client stands in front of the dressing room mirror and says, “When you picked out this red dress for me to try, I never would have believed I’d look good in it. But you’re right! This color is wonderful on me!”

Another client says on a shopping trip, “I can’t wear skinny jeans! They’ll make my butt look big!”

Over time she becomes completely desensitized to her perceived body flaw.

This month she said, “I can’t believe I made such a fuss over skinny jeans. Now I can’t imagine living without them!”



wearing hats has gotten easier on Brenda Kinsel website

Hats on the person who never thought she could wear hats


I’m not immune

Even though I work with clients every day to help them expand their view of themselves, I have fallen prey to my own limited thinking.

Here’s something I told myself for decades: You can’t wear hats. Your face is too wide. Other people look good in hats, but not you.

One day a client showed me a box of hats her recently deceased mother had worn decades earlier. She was planning to send her mother’s “vintage” hats to Goodwill. “No! You can’t do that! They are so beautiful! Someone should be wearing these,” I said.

“Well, let’s put them in your car then,” she said.

I took them home with me. I hate having anything in the house that’s not being used so I bucked up and wore a satin and velvet pill box hat to work one day.

When Erin and I were finished working she said, “You should dress like this more often, Mom.”

“Like what?” I said.

“Dress to be seen,” she said.


Gulp, that was the thing I thought I could not do.

I know this is my profession. I know I’ve been championing women to be seen for over 30 years. I’ll keep doing it until the day I die. But when Erin said that to me–about being seen–all I could think about was the training I had growing up in rural North Dakota where I was told never to bring attention to myself.  “People will think you’re conceited,” my parents would say.

I grew up and I could handle looking nice, but hats? They are so attention-getting.

I wore one again.

I got compliments.

I did it again.

Gradually I was able to tolerate the attention that came my way.

Then I discovered fascinators. That was a real test! I remember being with colleagues when I bought my first fascinator in St. Helena. They were encouraging. “You could wear that during the holidays,” one of them said. I thought to myself, I’m not waiting that long! It’s that thing again about feeling compelled to wear what I own.

I wore it the next week. I survived the attention I got. Maybe being seen wasn’t such a bad thing after all.


Life is fascinating

I wore one of my black fascinators to a gala at the end of May at the Ritz-Carlton. Some young women ambushed me near the restroom and said, “We just love your look! We had to tell you.” Another woman said, “Your fascinator is so fun. It becomes you.”

Here’s my new truth: I LOVE wearing hats and fascinators!

Another truth is that the first time we do anything we didn’t think we could do, we may feel uneasy. I often tell my clients to wear whatever makes them nervous for 30 minutes. “Just be willing to be uncomfortable for 30 minutes and the uneasiness will most likely go away,” I say. It works!

You have my word on this: I will be your secret cheerleader supporting you to do the thing that scares you. I’ll be right there on your shoulder cheering you on. Just have a listen. I promise you’ll hear my encouraging words.


EK and BK having fun at the Ritz on Brenda Kinsel website

My daughter Erin coaches me to dress to be seen.


What have you recently done that you didn’t think you could do? Please share!

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This Anatomy of an Outfit is Built from the Shoes Up

A blush Prada shoe inspires this outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

This outfit was inspired by Erin’s blush colored Prada platforms


My daughter Erin brought up a pair of shoes on July 4th when the family got together here in Sonoma. She wanted my opinion. She was worried they looked too “old” for her. She did her fashion show for me. I think I figured out how she was viewing them. They didn’t have actual heels, just a platform. (And they look like shoes I wear!)

She said, “You try them.” So I did. My shoe choices have gotten more and more narrow. I can’t get lift with heeled shoes. But I can from platforms. I can wear this style for hours.

She said, “Well, I’ll leave them with you until I decide.”


Prada blush patent platforms on Brenda Kinsel website

I heart Erin’s Prada blush patent platforms


Fancy Prada shoes for every day on Brenda Kinsel website

These shoes started the outfit combo


So last week I decided to give them a try. I’d walk a mile in them before rallying to adopt them on a permanent basis. In my heart of hearts I knew they were right for me. They’re patent leather. I love sheen, shine, or luster.


Starting with my shoes

Thursday morning I woke up knowing it was a no-bright, no high contrast day of dressing for me. I was in a quiet, soft, dusty sort of mood. Blush shoes were a good start.

I pulled out a linen wide leg pant. It’s kind of gray, kind of slate blue, kind of a mystery color. Perfect.

I added a silk sleeveless Theory top. Simple. Plain. Matte. Quiet. Buff.


Sticking with my quiet theme with this Theory top

Simple Theory layered silk top came next


Finding the right jacket

I searched through my closet for jackets or cardigans. It was slim pickings. I’ve been yearning for blush colored clothing pieces and that’s what I’d have reached for if I had it. I put on my Prada Chico’s jacket. (Sorry, I always think of it as my Prada jacket. The handiwork at the neckline seems so Prada to me.) I decided to snap it closed so the Theory top peeked out beyond the jacket’s edge. I liked that the longer top would cover my butt in the back.

Note: Russ said, “I love those pants on you. They make your butt look great.” I didn’t expect to get more butt comments than his. I felt assured my outfit was still on the down low.


Wearing a Chico's jacket on Brenda Kinsel website

My Prada/Chico’s jacket got picked for this quiet outfit


This jacket looks like a watercolor print (or tie-dye). It has sheen (woo hoo!) and the colors-cocoa brown, medium blue and white-aren’t bright. It was almost not quite quiet enough for me but I was willing to compromise. Besides, I didn’t have other choices that worked!


My quiet outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

Head to toe in a moderately quiet outfit


I added my leather strung silver “B” necklace and my newly gifted fab bracelet: a bangle in a soft ivory/blush color with blond wood detail. I wore a pearl and moonstone ring (quiet) and simple brushed silver earrings (no design, quiet). I added my cat eye glasses from Uber Optics.


I walked a mile in her shoes

So after walking a mile in Erin’s shoes while we worked with our client, she made a comment. “Maybe I should try them again–with my boot cut jeans.”

I decided to work some reverse psychology on her. “Sure, you should. If they don’t work for you, let me know, I might be interested,” I said in a very neutral voice.

It’s been over 72 hours. No word yet. I’m getting impatient.


Speaking rationally…

Come on. You want me to have these shoes, right? She should too! I birthed her…on an Easter Sunday. She was breach. It was a little tough. I gave her shelter and food for years and years…for free.

She should give me these shoes, shouldn’t she?

It’s only fair. Please vote for me, okay?

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Counting on the wrist to bring flair to an outfit



Cuffs and bangles on Brenda Kinsel website

Using cuffs and bangles to bring interest to an outfit


This week I’ve been talking about how to create interest in an outfit. I talked about necklaces earlier in the week and now I’m looking at bracelets as source of interest for an outfit.

This idea of “interest” started in my Morning Pages. I was asking myself: Brenda, how are you adding interest to your outfits?

I thought it was a good question to ask myself. I certainly want to create interest-both to entertain myself throughout the day (I love looking down and enjoying my bracelet collection) and to create harmony in my outfit, making it appealing and pleasant to others.

Bracelets can connect the dots in an outfit through color, texture, and style. I feel a little “rocker” in the cuff and gunmetal bangles above. And in the bracelet collection that I wore with my all white outfit (below), I feel softer, more romantic.


Wrists are easy places to add style and delight

For a while now I’ve been enjoying using my wrists as the canvas to create interest. Unless I’m wearing a cuff (like the black and silver one above by Calleen Cordero) I’m often piling on bangles.


Use bracelets to create interest on the wrist on Brenda Kinsel website

The wrist can be the star of your outfit.


I have a growing collection of the gold bangles that I’ve been collecting over the years. Five to ten years ago I was rarely wearing them. I’d wear one at a time and that never seemed too gratifying. But now I pile them on and the impact is greater. I think it’s an easy look for a woman over 50 to feel accessorized and adorned without a lot of effort. I often wear 3/4 sleeved dresses, tunics, tops or jackets so my wrists can be free to bring extra interest to my outfit. Sometimes I’m decorating one wrist; sometimes I decorate them both.



A collection of gold bangles on Brenda Kinsel website

Gold bangles collected over time enjoy each other in a cluster


In the example above, you can see the varied textures in the gold department of my jewelry box. I have a couple of Alexis Bitter bracelets in this cluster; thin gold bangles including that one with the heart by Patty Crandall; and textured ones that have been in my jewelry box for years. I don’t know where they came from. When I took my bracelets off one night and placed them on this stool in the living room it looked like a lot of bracelets but when they were on my wrist, they felt light and like just the right amount.


Love this quote about costume jewelry


Quoting jewelry book on Brenda Kinsel website

Jewelry is one of our best tools


I was with a friend who introduced me to a bookstore I didn’t even know existed. It’s hard to find bookstores these days that carry much in the fashion department. This store is called Diesel Books and it’s in the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur Landing. How to Wear Jewelry, 55 Styles (Abrams Image, 2016) is a little book full of great jewelry information. I loved the quote on page 11 about curated costume jewelry.


“More is more and nothing is off-limits–including sparkling bracelets, stacks of large geometric rings, clusters of heirloom pins, and maxed out chunky necklaces. But don’t mistake the magpie approach for lowbrow or lazy–every costume piece is carefully selected, and when worn together, the combination transforms into an artful work worthy of appreciation.” (Text by Jinnie Lee)


An artful work worthy of appreciation. That’s what we can be doing on our wrists! Isn’t it exciting?


Do you adorn your wrists? I’d love to hear what your favorite pieces are. Are some of them heirlooms? Or recently purchased? Do you mix them all up? Share your ideas, okay?

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Using necklaces to create magnetic focal points

A necklace adds interest to simple clothing pieces on Brenda Kinsel website

A necklace adds needed interest when wearing simple clothing pieces


The other day I was musing in my journal pages. I asked this question: What makes an outfit interesting?

Why strive for interesting?

“Interesting” catches attention, draws people in, gets you noticed. At my age, I feel an exuberant drive to show up in the world, to have presence. I don’t ever want to play into the image of an older woman fading away and becoming invisible. I’ve been an unwavering advocate for women 40, 50, 60, and 70 to express themselves, to be radiant to joyful in their outfits. It’s good for our personal self-esteem and it’s good for society as a whole to see women glowing in their own style spotlight.


Focal points create the way into an outfit

One of the techniques I use every single day with myself and my clients is creating focal points. An outfit needs a focal point. It stimulates the message you’re sending with your outfit. It radiates energy and creates interest. It allows an outsider to enjoy the whole outfit you created. A focal point can lead to lots of “You look great” comments which is also wonderful for our self-esteem, right?

If like me, you have a wardrobe of mostly great basics as opposed to a closet full of novelty items, accessories are essential tools for creating the focal point your outfit needs.


Necklaces make great focal points

Whether it’s a necklace that has some volume to it already, just as it is, or you create your own “necklace” by clustering a few of them together, it’s the perfect tool to create interest in you and your outfit.


Use necklaces to bring attention to the face

A necklace brings attention to the face


In the group of three necklaces above, the blue group is actually made up of three necklaces which I hugged together when I fastened them in the back of my neck. I wanted them to look like one necklace. The other two necklaces (the orange and clay colored one and the one full of floral clusters made of metal) came that way. They are masterful at creating interest. (Thank you beautiful necklaces!)



Multiple necklaces create a focal point on Brenda Kinsel website

Wear multiple necklaces to create a definite focal point.



Sometimes I have to cluster necklaces to get a strong enough focal point. In the outfits above a single necklace wouldn’t have been enough. Because I didn’t have one grand necklace that worked with the leopard print dress I created a focal point and interest by using a few necklaces that related to one another. I created a three-tiered group that shared two main colors: gold and black. They are different in scale. I put the largest one in the middle and flanked it on either side with the finer ones. They all have shine and luster which helps give more design weight and presence to the group. I’d never combined these before but I really like the effect.

The necklaces on the white cutout blouse have color and metal in common: silver tones (including gunmetal) and white (wood beads on one and pearls on one). They are all about the same length and they all have pendant drops. I’ve clustered them near the nape of my neck. I like how they rest on the white top inside the “V” shape created by the jacket which buttons right under the bustline. I don’t care that they are falling on top of one another. It’s part of the messy necklace look that is so popular right now.

Okay, dear friends! Would you share how you use necklaces to create interest in your outfits? I’m all ears!



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Wearing white on date night is just right

White can be so glamorous in a head to toe outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

Feeling glamorous in head to toe white


It was date night last Friday night. Kind of a special date night as Russ was taking me out for my birthday. We love Central Market in Petaluma. It’s a favorite. What made it even more special was that my son, Trevor, was playing jazz that evening at Corkscrew Wine Bar which is right next door. Dinner, jazz, family…I mean that’s just the best!


Petaluma date night on Brenda Kinsel website

Date night in Petaluma


The night before, Thursday night, I had celebrated with two girlfriends who brought presents. (Fun!). One of them gifted me a beautiful new bangle. The other girlfriend nearly gasped when I pulled it out of the gift bag. “You dare to buy accessories for Brenda?” she said. That might seem daunting but my friend got it right! I was in love at first sight.

When it came time to get dressed for our Friday night date night, I had to create an outfit to go with it.


Making a bracelet grouping to wear with white on Brenda Kinsel website

Combining the new bracelet with the older ones


I love the soft blush color of the chunky bangle. It’s not quite white and it’s not quite bone. It’s a mystery color. I love the inlay of the blond wood. It reads so light and fresh. So how would I put clothes around it? The answer was white, all white. I put on my white linen trousers and layered two tops on top. The first top layer is a Vince long-sleeved easy piece, kind of a fancy t-shirt. The front of it is silk, the back is rayon and linen.

Over the top of that one I layered a knit piece by Sarah Pacini which is slit on the sides all the way to the armpit. These two pieces are meant for each other as they’re unwearable on their own. The Vince top is too sheer in front and the Sarah Pacini one is not only slit to the armpits but also very sheer. They are both loose, as is the pant, and the combo felt luxurious.


Feeling glamorous in head to toe white on Brenda Kinsel website

Floating all night in my all white outfit


I decided to mix the new bangle with a cluster of gold ones by Patti Crandall (purchased at Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma) plus a lucite Alexis Bitter bangle that also has a light feeling. I added my “B” necklace (a gift from Patti Crandall). I went with a tan clutch bag.


Flashback to Thursday

Now here’s the bonus. Back up with me to the hour before meeting my friends for dinner on Thursday night. I was in Nordstrom. Erin was there with a friend Teresa who I adore and haven’t seen for a long time. They were going to be in the makeup department so Erin and I planned my surprise visit. After the hugs and kisses and the “Oh, I’ve missed you!” parts, I eavesdropped on Teresa’s makeup lesson until I had to leave. I decided it would be prudent to use the restroom first.

I walked down the aisle that has hats and scarves and this gorgeous white scarf leaped out at me. It had texture galore including metallic threads running through it. It was long, full of body, and so luxurious. Well, I had to have it. Right. Then. I wasn’t sure when I’d wear it but I knew it was a perfect ingredient for me. It looks like a million bucks but it only cost me $48 bucks. A deal.

It was perfect for my Friday night outfit.


“Can I wear it tomorrow?”

Earlier this week I blogged about my “Can I wear it tomorrow” shopping mantra. My new bracelet and scarf, both acquired on Thursday, were in the rotation by Friday. I LOVE that!

One last detail. At dinner someone came over to our table as she was leaving. “Are you Brenda Kinsel?” she said. “I follow you on Instagram!” She told me she loved my outfit and in my head I told me, “I love your outfit too!”

When Russ and I were leaving the jazz club, I was in heaven. I was in love with Russ, my son, the gorgeous summer evening, being outside, jazz, friends, Instagram, my whole beautiful life.

I think an outfit can set you up for a wonderful evening. Do you? Please share!


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My Best Shopping Tip: The deal breaker question that can save you money

Chico's hot day outfit

The cotton tank under my linen shirt helps with the sheerness factor


I always know I’ve made good shopping choices when I come home from a shopping trip, hang up the pieces I purchased, get up the next morning and wear one or two of the items in my outfit du jour. It’s a quick turnaround from “brand new” to “gently worn”: 24 hours or less.

I think wearing something soon after purchasing it is a good goal to set for yourself. When I’m in the dressing room with a client I’ll say, “Where do you see yourself wearing this? How soon could you wear it?” I always want my clients investing the bulk of their dollars in clothes they can use right away. Haven’t we all at one time or another purchased outfits that were perfect for an alternate lifestyle? One we didn’t live in? And regretted it?


white jeans for the wine country on Brenda Kinsel website

White jeans are perfect in the Wine Country

 The question to ask yourself to stay on your shopping track

It’s simple. In the privacy of your dressing room ask yourself this one question: “Can I wear this tomorrow?”

If you can’t see it working into your life within a few weeks, best to consider leaving it behind.

Note: You don’t literally have to wear it tomorrow but how about in the very near future?


Erin adopted this mantra

One day Erin, my trusty assistant and eldest daughter said, “Mom, I need your help! I have so many clothes but I don’t know how to put anything together. Can you come over?” She added, “Oh, and I’ll make you dinner.” She knew the dinner invitation would make it happen.

On our scheduled afternoon I set up my rolling rack in her apartment and she pulled things from her closet. She’d picked up great pieces (many of them at bargain prices) that weren’t serving her lifestyle needs at all. They were pretty, gorgeous, fabulous, and wonderful…for someone else.

I told her, “Honey, you can’t continue to buy things without a plan. You’d probably have twice as much room in your closet if you’d go shopping and before you purchase anything, ask yourself, ‘Can I wear this tomorrow?'”

It worked. That one sentence turned her shopping habits around.

Here are some of the things she asks herself now.


Am I buying a piece that I’ll need to tweak in order to make it work?

Will I need to buy other things to go with it?

Am I buying special event clothes and not having a special event life?

Can I wear it tomorrow? Or soon?



Feeling lean in Chico's white jean

Feeling lean in my So Slimming Girlfriend Ankle Pant from Chico’s purchased less than 24 hours earlier

Following my own advice

This weekend I did what several people in Sonoma were doing on Saturday: racing out to find some cooler clothes to wear. The temperatures were in the high 90s.

I went to the Sonoma Square and walked into Chico’s and made a few purchases.

I was heading out at 8 a.m. the next morning to meet my friend and colleague, Helena Chenn. I put my “Can I wear it tomorrow?” mantra to the test. I left the house wearing three of my purchases:


The So-Slimming Girlfriend white ankle jean

White cotton sleeveless V-neck tank

White linen shirt with low front tie


I added some favorite jewels: a light-colored necklace, earrings, rings and a bangle.

I slipped into my light-colored Prada sandals (in their fourth season) and headed out the door.


Mixing Chico's with my favorite jewels on Brenda Kinsel website

Adding my personal favorite necklace to the mix


I was comfortable and happy all day. It was a perfect hot weather outfit for Sonoma.

To answer my own question “Can I wear it tomorrow?” the answer is yes. In fact I may wear it tomorrow, the next day and maybe the next day after that.


Is this a shopping tip you could adopt?

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