How to Build a Beauty Bundle

BK in blue with beauty bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

Connecting the dots with a Beauty Bundle

Creating a Beauty Bundle often happens by accident: You’re getting dressed for the day. You’ve got the basic clothing pieces on. Now you’re going to add some finishing touches to your outfit. You go through your accessories to see what might work. You add a scarf or a belt and some jewelry. You step back and look at your reflection in your full-length mirror. Hmm, you say, this looks great.

Your eye goes up and down your body, taking in all the details. You notice how well the finishing pieces relate to one another. It’s as if you’ve connected the dots to your outfit.

Stop right here! Take note, you’ve just created a Beauty Bundle. This specific combination of items that are tying your look together can be used again and again with all kinds of outfits, from dressy to casual. Let me explain.


The goal of every outfit is to lead the eye up to the face

When I’m dressing my clients, all the individual components of each outfit has to build to a crescendo at their face. If some part of the outfit is grabbing my attention and making me stop at their hip or ankle or chest, I have to work harder or start over.

You’ve probably had the experience of watching someone walk into a room and it’s as if their outfit walks in first and their face arrives a few paces later. I want the reverse to happen. I want you to see my client’s face before you see her outfit even if there’s just a split second difference between the two.

An outfit shouldn’t be getting the attention; a woman should.


Why bother with a Beauty Bundle?

Here’s what happens when you wear a Beauty Bundle: people will be naturally drawn to you; they’ll check you out; they won’t know what exactly it is that’s bringing their attention to you; they just register that you’re attractive, interesting, easy on the eyes. It takes about 30 seconds to add your Beauty Bundle to your outfit but the lasting impression it makes could be hard to measure. You’re on someone’s mind long after you’ve parted.

Lots of things can bring attention to your face without the help of a Beauty Bundle: a flipped color, an infinity scarf at your neck that repeats your eye color, chandelier earrings that sparkle, a hat pulled low on one side, a fur collar at the neck, a statement necklace.

But sometimes we don’t want to wear or do any of those things! That’s when a Beauty Bundle is your best tool for moving the eye around your outfit and leading attention naturally to the face.


Simple Beauty Bundle on Brenda Kinsel's website

A Beauty Bundle flows well and will bring focus to your outfit


The essence of a Beauty Bundle

What makes something a Beauty Bundle is that there’s a theme, pieces relate well to one another. The one I’m sharing with you today is very simple. It’s all focused on jewelry pieces from my collection. Nothing was bought to go together. The pieces have been added one at a time-over years, not days.

In this Beauty Bundle I’ve mixed metals: gold and blackened silver. The feel of these pieces is delicate, not heavy. There’s some sparkle in the druzy earrings and the small champagne and black diamonds in the ring. The beads in one necklace have luster and the gold links in the chain necklace have luster as well. My watch is both gold and silver as well. Everything is rather light and airy.


beauty bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

A mixed metal Beauty Bundle


Here are the details.

1. I’ve layered two necklaces that are the same length. One is a simple chain made out of gold and blackened silver links. The other necklace is beaded with black, charcoal, gold and lighter gray beads as well as some gold fine fringed metal pieces that have a little movement to them. There’s no real center to this necklace. However it falls around my neck is just fine.

2. I added a favorite cuff of mine, a gift from a friend. It’s Lucite with a starburst design at the center. It reads silver, gold, and black in color. (See the color theme?) The stones on the face of the bracelet add sparkle. The Lucite keeps it feeling light in design weight.

3. I’m wearing a watch that mixes silver and gold tones.

4. I add my black druzy earrings that are wrapped in gold wire, earrings I bought in Chicago many years ago when my daughter Erin was living there.

5. I’ve added my gold owl ring by Victor Sanz. It’s got subtle sparkle to it because of small diamonds in it.



closeup of mixed metal Beauty Bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

Druzy earrings wrapped in gold wire


The reason this delicate Beauty Bundle works well is that my clothing pieces are awfully simple. I’m wearing a navy blue silk tunic, and jeans rolled at the ankle. I’m wearing a long duster in navy blue. It has some drama to it because it’s long, but it’s still light in weight. The crinkle fabric has luster. I’m sticking with the blue monochromatic color theme by adding my blue-framed glasses.

You don’t see any big buttons, no sashes or belts, no color blocking, no diagonal lines. You basically see one color in three different fabrics. Pretty simple, right? Now imagine this outfit without the Beauty Bundle. It would be pretty drab, maybe boring. My Beauty Bundle adds interest and makes me feel stylish. It finishes my outfit, draws the eye in the direction I want it to: up to my face!


Brenda in head to toe blue on Brenda Kinsel website

A simple Beauty Bundle is all I need in head to toe blue


This can be an everyday Beauty Bundle. It requires no effort to wear it. If I’m feeling more reserved, shy or quiet, it gives my outfit support but I can completely forget about it and myself and go about my day. But it could also work with other clothing pieces and even look more dressy. I might wear this Beauty Bundle over a sheath dress and add patent pumps; or I’d wear it with a simple black sweater and my leopard print skirt and knee-high boots; I could wear it with head-to-toe black separates or head-to-toe white separates; or I could wear it with a patterned jacquard pant, a white blouse and flats. The Beauty Bundle would be the same in each of these outfits.

Do you see how your Beauty Bundle acts like your behind-the-scenes stylist? Having a few of them saves you time when you’re getting dressed. Add your best lipstick color, stand up straight, put a smile on your face and you’re rockin’ it!


A final note

The day I put this combo together and realized I had a Beauty Bundle, I made a note of it. Don’t trust yourself to remember it by heart even if you got five compliments that day! Store the Beauty Bundle ingredient list somewhere besides your head.


Have you stumbled upon a Beauty Bundle? Or can you create one? It will be a loyal friend forever!

My Personal Thanks-giving


In the quiet of the early morning, before the house smells like turkey and dressing, before the candles are lit and I’ve put on my party dress, before family and beloved guests arrive and take their first sip of Erin’s delicious punch, I have this moment of reflection on a year like none other.

In this year marked by deep sorrow, there are many blessings.

One: My father is demonstrating to me and all those around him what resilience looks like. “I’m enthused about life,” he tells me. “When I stop being enthused about life, I’ll sit in my chair and that will be it.” We talk often. I’ll be seeing him next week in Minnesota. We’ll be celebrating his 90th birthday in January. He still has his tears and his despair over the loss of his beloved. Kleenex boxes are essential but his spirit is not defeated.


Dad this month with his precious companion, Libby.

Dad this month with his precious companion, Libby


Two: Through grief I am learning so much. I can’t put it in words yet, I’m just riding the ride. I often turn to John O’Donohue, author of To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. The first stanza of his poem, For Grief goes like this:

When you lose someone you love,

Your life becomes strange,

The ground beneath you gets fragile,

Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;

And some dead echo drags your voice down

Where words have no confidence.


He’s a mighty wise man to capture those feelings so precisely! This book has been a companion for many years but this year, it really got a workout. I’ve gifted it many times and not because of how well he writes about loss and suffering, but also about how beautifully he writes about states of heart, callings, desires, beginnings, and thresholds. This evening I will ask my twin brother to read the poem Grace Before Meals.

Reading the works of others, particularly in memoirs, has been a new way for me to explore life this year. I’m grateful for the courage and dedication of those authors who write so that we all may benefit.


A book of comfort and wonder

A book of comfort and wonder


Three:  Being a part of my clients’ lives, creating beauty and order, helping them with the activities in their lives, manipulating  clothing, style, accessories and color to make the perfect matches for their personalities and the places they need to go continues to be my joy and my refuge. It’s my sweet spot. I’m so grateful for these experiences and the trust my clients have instilled in me.

When the worst thing happened–the sudden death of my youngest brother, something I still struggle to accept–in my grief I wondered aloud to my mother if what I was doing really mattered in the world. “Brenda, you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing. Look at your life! You have helped so many people. Oh, darling, never doubt that,” she said.

Five months later, she passed. I am so grateful she told me what she did because now, when doubt arises as it naturally will, her words hold me up when I feel like I’m going to crumple. Her faith in me was resolute. More and more I need to find that leaning post within me. I know it’s here. My genealogy tells me so.




Four: I’ve identified four daily activities that help me strengthen my personal well being. I try to fit one, two or more of them into each day. They are: walking, meditating, writing morning pages, reading. And in a perfect week, I have a couple of hours to myself to let my mind wander and to write about things that are in my heart. Oh, and one more thing! I am growing a habit of moisturizing my face twice a day. Hey, sometimes it’s the little things that keep us anchored when the ground we’re standing on seems to sway beneath us!


Five: I am blessed with my family members and blessed with good friends. I am blessed with strength and a body that supports me to do the things I want to do. I am truly blessed to be here to partake in the mystery and majesty of life where I feel like a beginner.


Family living

Family living


I wish for many things. I wish for peace in the world, respect for our natural resources, and of course, I wish for rain in California. I wish for comfort for those facing loss or trauma in their lives. I wish for awakenings to the light that life offers.

And I wish for you blessings that I suspect may come in all different packages on this day of Thanksgiving. I heart you!!




Dressing up for Thanksgiving

Brenda waiting for Thanksgiving guests to arrive on Brenda Kinsel website

The meal’s as together as it’s going to be and now it’s time for guests to arrive.


This week as I’m meeting with clients one thing we’re doing for sure is planning their Thanksgiving outfits. One couple will be celebrating in France (not Paris); another one will be dining with family members at a restaurant; one is having family members to her house for the big day (four members of the guests are our clients) and some are traveling to be with family out of town.

Some gatherings are fairly casual. To those, my clients will be wearing slacks and pretty blouses. Some of my younger clients are wearing shorter dresses with booties and adding pretty jewelry. I have yet to come across anyone who’s just grabbing any old thing from their closet and putting it on. That’s exciting to me! People I know are showing their respect for this special day and dressing with thought.


Holiday punch on Brenda Kinsel website

Erin makes the best Martha Stewart punch and it’s all gone!


Our family started dressing up once the Swedes started joining us for Thanksgiving. The Swedes are Maggan and Anders who come from Stockholm via Los Angeles where they spend a solid month or more every fall. For the last ten years they’ve been joining us. It could be more than ten by now; we keep trying to remember them all!

They’re sharp dressers. Anders always wears a suit and a white shirt. Maggan is always in a dress (usually sparkly) with great heels and sparkly handbags that we lust after.

It’s kind of funny that our guests have trained us, the host family, to step it up a notch … or two or three. Last week Caitlin and I took a break from Office Tuesday tasks and reviewed the fit of a hand-me-down dress Erin had offered her sister.

Checking out the fit of a hand-me-down dress on Caitlin

Checking out the fit of a hand-me-down dress on Caitlin


“Wowzers,” I said. “That’s incredible on you!”

It needed hemming (you can see the office supplies came in handy to mark the length) and I promised to go with her to see our favorite alterations person to get her approval as well.

“But where would I wear it?” Caitlin said.

“How about to Thanksgiving?” I said. Yes, that’s how high the standards have gotten! You could wear a gorgeous dress that mimics a Valentino design to our Thanksgiving dinner just because the Swedes will be there. If they weren’t going to be there, our standards might slip, and I’d be telling her she could wear it to the next Black Tie wedding she was invited to.

I love how the Swedes have influenced our dress code. How often do we get to dress up these days? Even holiday parties seem to be getting more and more casual.

I feel different when I’m dressed up. It lifts the mood of the evening, it creates special memories. Let’s face it, pumps are more beautiful than Uggs. I still remember a pump Maggan wore one year that mimicked the color combo on our leather couch.

I’m not dissing Uggs. I’m sure there may be Uggs involved on Friday morning when the final cleanup happens. But for those few hours with dear friends and family, we’re dressing up, not down.


Brenda Kinsel on dressed for Thanksgiving on Brenda Kinsel website

Smiling and content!


Last year I wore my soft vintage Chanel sweater with tiny crystal beaded appliquéd flowers spread all over it. It has a sheer panel in front so of course I wore a tank underneath it. I also wore one of my favorite skirts of all time–an Ann Taylor black bouclé skirt with sequins sewn in so it glistens. It’s a classic pencil skirt but has a bit of a flounce in the back. I feel so sleek and sexy in that skirt while the sweater makes me feel soft and sophisticated. I wore my black quilted suede pumps that I purchased in New York City at Diane B.’s on Lexington Ave. I added sparkly jewels and felt yummy.


thanksgiving pies on Brenda Kinsel website

The pie buffet. Oh my!


The only trouble with the pencil skirt was facing the pie buffet after the dinner dishes were cleared. Caitlin had prepared a classic apple pie, a pecan pie, and an apple-cranberry-currant pie. Erin brought the two persimmon cream pies. Oh my, where to begin! Here’s how I handled it. I had dainty tastes of everything but the pecan pie (not my favorite) that night. In the morning, when I was wearing my relaxed fit jeans and my Ugg boots, I made myself a cup of coffee and had some of that persimmon cream pie. What’s better than pie for breakfast?


Brenda and daughters the day after Thanksgiving on Brenda Kinsel website

The day after Thanksgiving, we take the Swedes to nearby places in Sonoma in our casual clothes.


Our tradition is to meet the Swedes in the afternoon spend time together messing around in Sonoma or nearby towns. We hit a winery or two, do some Sonoma shopping where I will say hats, scarves, and jewelry have been purchased by nearly every female in the group. Then we meet the guys for espressos. We’re in our Sonoma casual outfits. Then in the evening, we go out to dinner–lately it’s been to Central Market in Petaluma–and we try to sneak into dresses again but not as fancy. It’s nice after all the work of Thanksgiving to go out and have someone else do the cooking and serving while we get to visit and catch up on a year’s worth of personal stories.

I’m so looking forward to being together next week with precious friends and family and sharing all that the last year has brought us: the good and the challenging. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll miss each other before it’s even time to say goodbye. Stockholm is so far away, but our friendship makes us so close.

I’d love to hear about your holiday traditions and, of course, what you plan to wear. Please share!


Downton Abbey and other TV series for must-watch fashion


What a delight it was to hear from a colleague Anne Sowden from Toronto, Canada. It was so great that she took the time to write me last month and tell me the connection my most recent book, Brenda Kinsel’s Fashion Makeover got to one of my very favorite TV shows, Downton Abbey.

She writes:

Good morning Brenda.

A big hello from sunny Toronto. Fall is here today but like you we had a return to summer over the weekend. There was some mad scrambling for sandals, shorts and T shirts.

I’m just back from holidays in England and believe it or not I thought of you. We were hiking the Northumberland coast—oodles of history, magnificent beaches, ancient castles and only a few rainy days. We took an extra day to visit Alnwick Castle ( —owned and lived in by the same family for 700 years. This is where they filmed Harry Potter and last season’s Christmas special of Downton Abbey. There’s currently a great exhibit of the costumes worn in that episode—I’m assuming you’re a fan.

The town of Alnwick has the most incredible bookstore called Barter Books which has the largest collection of second hand books I’ve ever seen. It’s housed in a no longer used Victorian railway station. Check out the video at It’s absolutely amazing—roaring fireplaces, cafes, well organized bookshelves and friendly staff. I was browsing through the fashion section and there on the shelf, prominently displayed was your Fashion Makeover book! If that book wasn`t already in my library, I would have bought it. Unfortunately, network connections in rural UK locations are very spotty so I wasn`t able to send you a photo. It made me smile to think that you and your expertise had travelled to the UK and you have a connection to Harry Potter and Downton Abbey!

All the best,



Fashion Makeover by Brenda Kinsel

Fashion Makeover nestles up to Downton Abbey, sort of!


Thanks, Anne, for giving me a temporary big head that day! I was so wowed! I’m always tickled to hear where my books have traveled to and to have my book in the same sentence as Downton Abbey warms this fashionista’s heart to no end.


More TV and Fashion

If you love television as much for the fashion as the drama or comedy, then you may have some favorite series to share with us beyond Downton Abbey. I have a couple of favorites, also from British TV. Have you caught them? The Paradise or Mr. Selfridge? If not there may be a TV binge session in your future!

Let me see if I can entice you.


dress on Brenda Kinsel's website

Mr. Selfridge

This is a British television series that covers the period of history in London when Mr. Harry Selfridge from Chicago, IL made a bold move and created the first department store in London in 1909. It’s based on a true story. Jeremy Piven stars as the visionary founder. The material originally comes from the book Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead. Mr. Selfridge truly changed the way women shop. His merchandising and promotional ideas were brilliant but controversial at the time.

I worked as a sales person in a couple of department stores as a teenager. I started working at Herbst Department store in Fargo when I was sixteen. When I was eighteen and moved to California with my friend, Patricia, I got a job in the hosiery department of Gottschalk’s.

I feared the owners of Herbst (the Herbst brothers) and walked the other way when I saw them coming down an aisle. On the other hand, people working in department stores form a family of sorts. Some are close like sisters, distant like cousins or colorful like Aunt Vera.

In my experience, most everyone was hard-working and many of them had worked in retail for years. They looked great every day. It was fun to dress up to match the standards of the staff I looked up to. The 30% employee discount on merchandise helped expand my choices! I worked weekends and of course, in December I worked lots of extra hours to handle the holiday crush. The store was filled with extra merchandise. Sometimes I worked in the gift wrap department. Boxes and boxes piled high! It was such a rush.

Mr. Selfridge, the Masterpiece series, brings back warm memories of the women I learned from, women who had years of experience in the hosiery department and accessories department, which turned out to be my favorite departments to work in. I loved helping people find just the right belt, handbag, jewelry, gloves, scarf or hosiery to finish their outfits. (Too bad it took me nearly 20 more years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up!)

There was a store manager or two that tried to hit on me but I never had an in-store romance. You’ll find complicated romances in Mr. Selfridge. You’ll also experience the heartbreak when World War I breaks out plus the dramatic way the war pushed women into job positions that weren’t open to them before. You’ll see the origin of many “firsts” in the retail experience including the idea of putting items on sale. Can you imagine when the idea of sale shopping was shocking? I

f you haven’t discovered this series, I hope you do. Our local PBS station, KQED, carries it. Season 4 airs in 2016.

Here’s some backstory from the UK’s Daily Mail and more from the Chicago-Tribune to help you get started.


shopping bag imge

The Paradise

Another delightful Masterpiece classic from the BBC, this series will break your heart and mend it again, provide mystery and intrigue and a cast of characters that you’ll fall in love with or enjoy despising! It too takes place in Britain in a department store. It is an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel Au Bonheur des Dames or The Ladies Paradise.

This series introduced me to the British actress Sarah Lancashire who plays Miss Audrey, the head of ladies wear. I would rewind and rewind just to watch her facial expressions. She’s tremendous. I’ve gone on to watch her in everything I can find. (Thank you, Netflix!)

The role of women and the class system plays a big part in the drama. We get to watch a young, penniless woman, Denise, find her passion and natural talent for knowing how to get people into the store to shop. We all can see that she’d make a great manager. However, she runs into a glass ceiling pretty quickly and petty jealousies from those who have been working there longer. And of course, she falls for a man who is way out of her league–the department store owner, no less.

It begins in 1875. You’ll see your favorite characters at work but also in their evening activities which mostly happens at the bar down the street. Colorful characters, devious ones and of course heroes and heroines will keep you engaged all the while your eyes are feasting on the fashion and the beauty of the store.

This series ran for two seasons. Too short in my opinion but thoroughly enjoyable. Hello Netflix!


If you saw either of these please share your impressions! I’d love to talk more about them with you!

Wearing trends in small doses


Packing trendy details into a small item.


One thing I’ve learned in my thirty years of being an image consultant and studying style for a living is that every one is different. There is no one style fits all for women. (No matter what they tell you, there’s no one size that fits all either!)

I’d say that’s the plus side of my career–seeing every one as an individual with their own style and sensibility. I don’t lump people into categories.

The downside is that when it comes to giving gifts, I’m terribly insecure. This is in direct contrast to when I’m in the dressing room with a client, checking every angle, length, color, and detail of something before giving anything the green light. I know for example that someone may like blue but only a certain shade of blue looks right on her. She may respond to jewelry made from glass but only frosted glass. She may like metal jewelry but only rose-gold and delicate…or silver and chunky…or bright gold and geometric…or brushed silver and abstract…and so it goes. Everyone’s different. Sometimes there’s no explaining it. We all love what we love!

Because I scrutinize hundreds of choices every week, I hesitate to make a choice for a friend when she’s not right there in front of me. I can imagine how it might work in her wardrobe or on her body but imagination doesn’t work 100%. Having her right there in front of me to test it out would be the best bet.



Debra admires her new bag in the mirror.


Erin, my eldest daughter is more confident than I am when it comes to gift buying. She was the one who spotted this cross body bag by MZ Wallace in a camouflage print. It’s in an autumn green leather with red piping details, a little fringe and it’s sparkly. The camo front panels are metallic so they shimmer and shine.

“Don’t you think Debra would like it?” Erin said. She couldn’t understand my hesitation.

Debra’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to buy her something personal. Recently we’d talked about handbags and how much we love them. So for starters, yes, she likes handbags. I knew the color would be wonderful on her. And she’s a fan of sparkles so I knew she’d like that aspect. She’s got a small frame and the scale of the bag was perfect for her.

I just wasn’t sure about the camouflage print. Some people see it as practically a neutral color and not a print at all. We’ve seen camo prints in fashion for decades but before it was fashionable it was a only for soldiers and wartime. The print could bother some people and I just couldn’t remember if Debra was one of those people who would be bothered by it.



Buds celebrating birthdays!


I met her at Della Fattoria for breakfast the morning of her birthday. I wanted to get the suspense over immediately. “Open your gift,” I said, nervously. It was in a polka dot bag. “Oh, I love the bag,” she said. But would she love the bag inside the bag?

I gave her an out.

“Before you open it, know that I can take it back and get you something you really want,” I said.

She got passed the layers of tissue paper and pulled it out.

“I love it!” she said, her face all bright. “I want to use it right now! I want to put my stuff in it. Why would you think I wouldn’t like it?” She was opening and closing zippers and peering inside it while she was talking.

So I went into my whole explanation.

Everyone’s different…I want it to be something you’d love to wear…there are so many factors…I just don’t know…blah, blah, blah…I’m insecure about buying people presents…ad nauseam.

And then when I saw it on her I thought, Why the heck did I doubt myself? It was adorable on her, right away! She was wearing a Canadian tuxedo–jeans and a jean jacket–with a long striped turtleneck tunic T-shirt. The cross body bag was a hit of focus to her casual outfit, fun and trendy in the right dose. I love when small things pack a few trends into one piece and get it just right. And when that just right thing finds the just right person, well, that’s heavenly.

You might find it tricky to buy a novelty handbag for someone for a gift (or maybe not!) but you could be confident buying one for  yourself. If you’re over 50, consider finding something that is on trend but in a smaller dose like this bag. Sparkles are great but are they great in a full-on dress? Maybe, maybe not. Camouflage prints are trendy and modern but a whole trench coat in a camouflage print? It might be too much. Fringe is everywhere this season. Do you want a fringe suede jacket? If that’s too much for you find something with fringe detail in a handbag, on a boot, or in a necklace.

You can have fun with fashion without fashion taking over the whole conversation. I can now easily imagine Debra having fun with her new bag. Now it’s your turn. I want to imagine you having fun in something you’re loving to wear. What is that at the moment?

Do share!

Faking Fall Fashion in 80 Degree Weather


Brenda and pumpkin

I look at my phone every morning to check the weather. I’m getting anxious. What’s up? It’s nearly November! I still have summer clothes in my closet! Shouldn’t fall be here by now?

So this is my obsession: checking my weather app constantly. Here’s today’s update: High of 84, low of 52, chance of rain, 0%. Anybody want to talk about climate change?

At this rate there will be no frost on the pumpkins, that’s for sure! Kids aren’t going to be walking around in trick-or-treat outfits this Halloween in purple puffy jackets over their pink princess costumes with parents at their sides holding the umbrella over their heads so they don’t get rain in their candy bags.

Am I complaining? Well, yeah, sort of! My eldest daughter lamented the other day, “I hope it gets cold soon or I have 60 sweaters that I’m not going to be wearing!”

Brenda in street


I don’t have 60 sweaters that aren’t getting a chance to see the light of day but I am starting to ache for sweater-weather. Or even jacket weather or weather that doesn’t call for sandals.

I think it was Dad who said, “It’s not what happens to you, Brenda, it’s how you handle it that counts.” So I’ve decided to handle this situation. I’m taking action! I’m going to fake it! Here’s the plan:


1. I ditch the sandals.

At least for today, I’m digging out my short black booties with the little fringe detail on the side. I wear little footies inside the boots but expose my ankles so I have enough air conditioning.


Brenda in street looking down


2. I pull on jeans.

Jeans have been on a long sabbatical. I’ve been in white pants mostly. I have three pairs of white pants, different styles, and I just rotate them day after day. Or else I wear tunics or dresses over leggings. Jeans will change the tone.


3. I wear a jacket over a top.

What I want to wear is a black wool blazer over a crisp white shirt but forget it! Not in 80-degree weather! So I pull out a black and white cat print silk sleeveless top and put my looks-like-a-jacket-but-is-hardly-a-jacket over it. It’s a Chico’s nylon jacket I use mostly when I’m walking in warm weather but want my arms covered. It’s so lightweight, it’s like wearing nothing.


4. I add charcoal accessories to my wrist.

I haven’t bought a sweater, a pant or a coat yet this season. I’ve shopped with my clients for their fall wardrobes but haven’t gotten around to even moving my fall/winter wardrobe into my closet. It’s just been so easy to put it off. I have pulled obvious summer things out of the closet so now I’m living on transition pieces–things that can fake fall until fall truly arrives.

Although last week, I did make a fall purchase. It’s a bracelet. You’ll see it there below in the picture. It’s made by an Italian designer and it fastens to my wrist with a buckle. I found it at Hutchinson Jewelry in Larkspur Landing in Larkspur, CA. I like the color of the metal fringe and it works well with my arty ring. So my wrist feels more like fall. The jewelry is darker and has a heavier texture than my summer Lucite bangles.


Brenda new bracelet


5. Finally, I switch handbags.

I get out my satchel bag, black and blue with faux pony detail in a palomino color. The pony trim makes the bag feel more fall.

So there you have it! The anatomy of an outfit that is trying to look like fall while it still feels like summer.

Oh wait, everyone! Good news! I just took another look at my weather app. There’s a day ahead in the 10-day forecast where we’re supposed to have a high of 64.

You know what that means: There’s going to be some sweater-weather celebrating going on in Sonoma! I bet the bar at the girl & the fig has a special drink for sweater-weather! I’ll be pulling up a bar stool and ordering whatever that is. If you’re in town, come join me!

Boutique Shopping Tips

Enjoying our shopping trip to Phyllis at 540 Ramona in Palo Alto

Enjoying our shopping trip to Phyllis at 540 Ramona Street in Palo Alto


Erin and I were meeting a client in Palo Alto to do some shopping. Yes, we were thinking of meeting at Stanford Shopping Center where we’d have access to Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Wilkes Bashford, Bloomingdale’s and more. But I’d just read the Sunday Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle (September 20, 2015) and they had an insider guide to seven of the Bay Area’s hottest ‘hoods. Carolyne Zinko was responsible for reporting on the Palo Alto shopping area. She said, “Friendly Phyllis carries layered, monochromatic looks from European and Japanese designers (Oska, Dress to Kill, Moyuru and others).”

That was the entire write up. I was intrigued. I called my client to confirm our shopping appointment and mentioned this store to her and that I thought it sounded like a good fit for where her style was headed. She said, “I’ve heard of that store for years and I’ve always wanted to check it out!”

“Want to start there on Friday?” I said.



These brands held promise for success

I was familiar with the brands mentioned in the short sentence in the newspaper but was delighted to walk into the store and find more, like Lilith and Elemente Clemente, and great basics like Petit Pois and Majestic. What we were looking for were some  traveling pieces for an upcoming trip to China and the UK. But also, I wanted to help her find some fashion pieces that were a little more edgy.

My client has a great spring wardrobe but it had been a while since we’d really updated her fall wardrobe. She’d started leaning more toward creative designs; clothes that were more relaxed than traditional business clothes. And I’m not talking business clothes as in jeans and a clean t-shirt; I’m talking business suits, skirt suits, separates to pair with at least one constructed piece of clothing in the outfit.

Erin and Sondra at Phyllis in Palo Alto

Erin and Sondra at Phyllis in Palo Alto



The staff makes such a difference in boutique shopping


The first person we met was Sondra. She was dressed in a black asymmetrical jumpsuit, a stunner of a belt, and she wore fur slides on her feet that looked like little pets. Within five minutes Erin had whispered in my ear, “She is just the best!” I immediately told Sondra that we were already talking about how great she was. She had the perfect mix of being helpful to us newbies to the store but giving us space to have private conversations with our client as well. Helpful but unobtrusive. This is the perfect combination to find in a boutique sales associate.

Let’s note this downfall of some boutiques: Ever been in a boutique and the sales associate(s) were so in your face that you couldn’t wait to exit? Not the situation here at all!

Sondra was quick to help with sizes. She set up a rolling rack for us and positioned it right outside the dressing room. How could she know that a rolling rack is one of my favorite things?! It helps keep the dressing room clear and spacious. The client doesn’t get overwhelmed by all the choices hanging in her face.

When I needed something like a belt or a scarf to finish a look, Sondra was right there to supply some choices.


Phyllis carries European brands with less construction and soft fabrics

Phyllis carries European brands with less construction and soft fabrics


A dress at Phyllis by Lillith

A dress at Phyllis by Lilith


Know thyself before shopping a boutique


Because I know my client so well, I was able to scour the store to find the pieces I thought would be suitable to her and her lifestyle. I also know what she has at home so I was excited for all the new possibilities of adding flair when it came to creating outfits the next day. I could see that we were finding lots of solutions in this boutique that we wouldn’t have found in the department stores. The other remarkable thing was that there was NOTHING that needed alterations. This was a first! Usually we’re altering sleeve lengths, pant lengths, all of that. This time everything was perfect as is.

We had some fun with one particular piece that wasn’t working out as well as I wanted it to. A long Japanese straight skirt in a microfiber, no wrinkle fabric had an oversized pocket sitting diagonally on the front of the skirt. The fabric was so very perfect for travel but I didn’t like that detail when my client tried it on.

“Turn the skirt around so you’ve got it on backwards,” I said.

Voila! It was now perfect! It had an elastic waistband so it didn’t matter which way it sat on her body. The long skirt was almost a tube shape so I was able to put different separates on top to get lots of different looks.

To call this shopping experience sensational is barely describing the joy my client had with her new purchases.

Here are some of the reasons this boutique worked so well for us (and why a specialty boutique might work for you!):


1. It was a very well edited collection of clothes. Although there were many different brands, they all had a similar aesthetic.

2. For my client who looks divine in neutral colors, this place was a mecca of shades of gray, black, navy, white and cream. It was everything she loved!

3. The fabrics on many of the clothing pieces were very rich in texture. This too is one of the things my client loves–maybe more than chocolate. We found great textured pieces here.

4. Matched pieces could easily be separated so a softly constructed jacket by Lilith would work really well with a constructed pant that my client had in her own closet. We found enough separates in the store to give us plenty of mixing and matching opportunities once we got back to our client’s closet.

5. The designers represented in the store were moderately priced compared to European designers you find in the larger department stores, designers like Akris and Prada and Jil Sander. This was a nice middle ground for someone interested in stepping out of the “norm” and into something you wouldn’t see on every one else in the office.

6. The staff was fantastic. They made it easy for us to take the time to construct a thoughtful wardrobe. There was no pressure at all.


Phyllis, the owner of Phyllis for the past 40 years

Phyllis, the owner of Phyllis for the past 40 years


I’m pretty sure Carly Fiorina is not getting her outfits from this store to wear in her presidential run even though she’s from the Palo Alto area. But luckily, you and I aren’t running for president so we can have more creative flair or softer fabrics in our outfits if we want to.


One caution to boutique shopping


The one drawback to shopping in a boutique is the restricted return policy. Most boutiques can not take things back with ease like Nordstrom does. Often you can only return items for store credit. If you’re shopping in a boutique, always ask what the return policy is so you aren’t surprised later.

To be honest, I never even asked what the return policy was at Phyllis. I knew we were not going to be returning things. We had so much success so we will be returning to Phyllis to check out what comes in for Spring 2016. If something had been returned, a credit in that store would not have been a bad thing for our client.

I think you have to know yourself and your personal style pretty well in order to successfully shop in smaller boutiques. My client walked out with several pieces because it suited her so well on many levels. Someone else may shop a boutique and walk out with one piece and be satisfied. That’s fine too. It’s great to have options!

If you’re in the Palo Alto area, I highly recommend you check out this option!

Mothers and daughters and fashion–oh my!


Russ and I were in Petaluma for our Sunday Della Fattoria fix. Besides their photographic cappuccinos, they have a lemon currant scone that begs to see me once a week. I oblige when I can!



Della cappuccinos


The town was hopping and parking was tough. Turns out we walked into the huge Petaluma Antique Faire. It happens twice a year. It comes around again on the last Sunday in April (mark your calendars now!).

I’ve talked about Uber Optics and my buddies there at my favorite eyewear store in Petaluma. I noticed they were open on Sunday (they usually aren’t) so I stuck my head in to say hi. Elizabeth was there and she had her daughter, Alexis, with her. I hadn’t met her before and what a treat! She was so adorable in her pink top and her pink shorts with white lace overlay.  Look at that smile. Is she the cutest? Her mommy lets her wear lipstick on the weekends.


mothers daughters Elizabeth

Elizabeth and her daughter, Alexis



Alexis gets to wear lipstick on the weekends


Mothers and daughters

Mother and daughter share a love of sparkles!


I left Uber Optics and right there next door was another mommy and daughter sitting on the bench eating pizza in their cowgirl boots. The little girl’s tee shirt dress is in a horse print. Okay, total cuteness!


mother and daughter petaluma

Mother and daughter cowgirls in Petaluma


Of course, I am a woman who had a fashion-loving mommy. But I also grew up on a farm, not in town. We didn’t shop at the mall. We drove thirty miles to the nearest store and we didn’t do it often. I grew up with three brothers. They were noisy, rambunctious, and not that interested in a sister. I fought hard to be included in their sports and games. Did they want me there? No! It was a hard sell but I never gave up trying.

Here’s what growing up with my brothers meant that we didn’t do: we didn’t share clothes, talk about clothes, or fight about clothes. There was no going to the mall and spending Saturdays shopping. There was no “fashion show” in our house–oohing and aahing over new purchases. There were no mounds of clothes on bedroom floors to stumble over. There was no landscape of pink, lace ruffles, or sparkly shoes. If I wanted to talk to someone near my age about clothes, I’d have to call Brenda Jo on the phone and ask her what she was wearing to school tomorrow. There just wasn’t a lot of fashion talk!

Then I grew up, got married and had a family. My first born is Trevor. When he was born I was in very familiar territory. I get boys! I understand boys! I can keep up with boy conversations. I was so totally comfortable when Trevor and his friends would pile in the car and I’d take them to places. They their jabbing, jostling and horsing around and they didn’t even realize I was there. It was so normal!

When Erin was born it was a novelty. Wow, a girl! Weird! Mother would send girlie outfits to me in California. I’d pull them out of the boxes, hold them up and scrunch up my nose. Really, Mom? They were colors and prints that I wasn’t used to seeing.

Caitlin arrived nearly three years after Erin showed up and then there were two girls! Extremely weird. Many more daughters than I ever expected to have. It was a learn-as-you-go kind of experience for me. It was voyeuristic on my part. They probably didn’t notice me studying them as if I was Margaret Mead, the anthropologist.


Brendas girls

My girlie girls, Caitlin and Erin


There was a lot of colorful language around our house between the two of them. And it was nearly always over clothes. One had taken something without asking. Horrors when a friend of one of them showed up at our house in the other one’s clothes. Criminal!

I recently asked my son, Trevor, What it was like growing up with sisters? “There was a lot of talk about clothes,” he said. “That’s not something I sit around with my guy friends and talk about.”




EK and BK against the wall


Now that they are in their 30s, all of them, I can give you this report: Trevor still doesn’t talk about clothes much but will comment when asked. The girls? Lots of talk about clothes! For the last few years, Erin has been my assistant with my client appointments so it’s becoming more than a conversation. It’s becoming a profession. Who knew? And Caitlin is my office manager on Office Tuesdays every week. I’m still on the adventure of learning about girls and sisterhood.

Did you have sisters? Was there a lot of talk about clothes? Fighting over them? Educate me!

What not to do with a steamer

Erins Burn

What not to do


It was ugly, right from the start. Erin and I met at a strip mall in Mill Valley to carpool together to see our client for a closet session. She got out of her car and into mine and then pulled her skirt up. “What do you think?” she said.

You can thank me for this: I am not showing you what she showed me. Yes, I took a picture of it but I have made the editorial decision not to reveal the gruesome photo of the skin on her thigh as it was starting to bubble up and blister.

The picture on the right is what remains six months after the original incident occurred so you at least have an idea.

It looks like the Big Dipper, right? Well, that morning, six months ago, it didn’t look like the Big Dipper. It looked like a big pile of hurt.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I was steaming my skirt this morning.”

“And what does that have to do with your leg looking like that?” I said.

“Well, I had the skirt on and I was in a hurry and saw it needing steaming so I thought…”

“No, you didn’t! You steamed it while you were in it?”



Lesson learned


I hope you’ve never done this yourself. Or, maybe after reading this, if you find yourself in a similar situation (no time, wrinkles) you’ll remember this little post and not do what she did. The pic on the left is the reenactment of that very large error on her part.

When it comes to clothes care, it is best to not be wearing the clothes you are steaming because:

Hurry+hot steam applied near skin=big ole blister


Have you had any adventures or mishaps with hand-held steamers? I’m old-fashioned and don’t mind pulling out the ironing board and the steam iron so I rarely use them. What’s your preferred way of coaxing out wrinkles?

Eyewear is your dynamic friend


Linda, owner of Diamond Facials in Novato

Linda, 68: Strength, edgy, confident, flirty


Eyewear is an investment. Clearly, it’s an investment in your well-being. How else do we see 20/20? But it’s also an opportunity to bring your image up to date. With well-chosen eyewear you can do a lot of advertising about yourself … in a good way!

A phrase tossed around a lot these days is personal branding. To me good personal branding means that you are in charge of how you want others to see you–that would be in business as well as your personal life. When I’m working with my clients I’m helping them tell their story (i.e. their personal brand). My tool chest for helping them speak for themselves (without having to open their mouth) is through the language of clothes and accessories (including eyewear).

Every outfit I create takes into account my client’s physical self. I want clothes to relate to her coloring, the scale of her features, even the sound quality of her voice. I’m especially interested in how the language of clothes and accessories can tell her personal story including qualities of her personality, her aspirations and values.

I think we could all use help in this area. It’s hard to talk about ourselves. It’s especially hard to say nice things about ourselves. I like making it easier. A well put together outfit does the talking for them.

I had a client tell me that while at a wedding someone came up to her husband and said, “Kathy looks so ____, ______, ______,” and they were her exact style words! That’s good personal branding!


Eyewear does a lot of talking


This might help you understand why I LOVE choosing eyewear for clients. Eyewear can say so much and be so informative. Eyewear is in prime position–on the face–to be one’s personal billboard.

That’s a good thing, and an especially good thing for women over 50. Some women are wearing glasses for the first time. They’ve shifted from pulling out reading glasses a few times a day to wearing them all day. Others have been wearing glasses forever, getting updates occasionally. As in many aspects of fashion and style, things change after 50 and this is one place where change can be met with such appealing choices.

Yesterday I talked about the benefits of adding a piece of eyewear that has color in it. Let’s pick up where we left off with my conversation with Nancy Billings Revis owner of Uber Optics in Petaluma.

Nancy’s passionate that women should feel photographable. She wants people to love their faces. She takes pictures of her customers in their new frames. She likes showing them how great they look. The pictures in this post were taken by Nancy and are customers of hers, all over 50.  See how their frames help them express themselves.


Nancy adds five more tips


Here are five things Nancy wants women over 50 to know when choosing eyewear.

1. Glasses are a medical device but it doesn’t have to look like one. The right color and right shape can take years off your face. Not only are you not going to look old, you’re not going to seem old. Everything about you will look more youthful.

2. If you’re over 50, look for a shape that has a lifting effect. No drooping. Anything that goes in an upward motion will allow you to see and be seen.

3. Thinking you want your glasses to go away is a miss. It just makes you look older. Bring attention to your face. You’re going to come off interested and interesting.

4. Color is not scary. Color is friendly, happy, and more inviting.

5. Frames can be the inspiration point of your whole appearance. Someone looks at you and thinks to themselves, You have interesting glasses, your soul must be interesting.


And here’s a sixth tip for good measure: When you have interesting frames, it doesn’t take much to put an outfit together. Nancy suggests jeans, a T-shirt, great shoes and cool frames. Yup, I can picture that!



Pam, owner of Renew Yoga in Petaluma

Pam: Classic, pinup style, sexy, crisp



Nancy, Senior Communication Consultant for Cisco Systems

Nancy, 59: Elegant, sexy, stylish, executive




Stephanie, retired and fabulous

Stephanie: Playful, approachable, fun, versatile


Thanks, Ladies, for letting us see you!