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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Fashion Inspiration on Instagram

Brenda Kinsel in leopard print on Brenda Kinsel website

BK on birthday taken by Caitlin Kinsel for Instagram


Some months back I took a social media class here in Sonoma at Cafe Mac. The person teaching it was Lucy Petricka of Blush Social. She’s young, she’s darling and she didn’t hide the fact that Instagram was her favorite of all the social media platforms. When the class was over she offered a 30-minute free consultation and I took her up on it. I was cranky about learning a new-to-me social media platform but I was also curious.

I’d mostly heard of young people doing Instagram–like the Kardashians and Taylor Swift. I was already on Facebook and Pinterest a little bit. Did I really want to take on something new?

When we met Lucy told me that Instagram would be perfect for my visual business in fashion. She thought I should be posting pictures of myself on my feed instead of pics of my pet cat Bella, lattes, and platters of berries.

My North Dakota Lutheran upbringing popped right up to tell me why I should NOT be posting pictures of myself: “Don’t draw attention to yourself. People will think you’re conceited.” I’d heard that all the time growing up.  I explained to Lucy why her suggestion about posting pictures of myself made me cringe. She wouldn’t back down so I came at it from a different angle.

“I can understand it for young people but who’s going to be on Instagram looking at what a 60-year-old is wearing?” I said.

I thought I had her there but no, she didn’t even twitch. She pulled out her phone and showed me Instagram feeds by women my age, near my age, or older.


Interest in aging women on Brenda Kinsel website


Fashion inspiration on Instagram on Brenda Kinsel website


Instagram fashion from around the world on Brenda Kinsel website


“Look at how many people are interested in the mature woman,” she said. Their follower numbers were staggering! 1K, 5K, 12K, 20K, 30K.

Impressive, but I was pretty sure none of those ladies were Lutherans.

“People like seeing you dressed in cute outfits. You do it every day anyway. Just have Russ take a picture of you and send it to me; I’ll do the rest,” she said.

I was still not a believer but I was willing to be coached.


My Instagram conversion experience

Lucy’s words were in my head: “Take pictures.” I started asking Russ to take pictures. I asked Erin to take pictures. Sometimes I asked sales associates in stores to take pictures.

I’m still in the early months of this relationship but I am officially engaged…in Instagram. I love the visual format. I love finding fashionistas all over the world who inspire me with their looks. I’ve become a follower.


I’m happy to be here

Here’s me on Instagram: @brendakinsel. I think I’m here to stay. You’ll see a lot of me on my feed but I also love posting pics of women in my life who inspire me.


BK on Instagram on Brenda Kinsel website


I hit the 1K mark this month for followers on my Instagram feed and so far no one has left me a comment like, “You’re so vain!” My community on Instagram is supportive, not catty; encouraging and positive. I can go on Instagram and instantly I’m around people who love fashion like I do. It feels like summer camp and I’m meeting lots of great new people.


Sharing a list of people I follow

I wanted to leave you with a list of people I follow who also focus on women over 50. Please share with me some of the people you follow. I’d love to check them out!
















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Fashion through the ages: My story

Age and fashion on Brenda Kinsel website

Birthday eve and thinking about fashion


It’s my birthday today (and my twin brother’s birthday too!) and for the last 24 hours, I’ve been in a fashion reverie. I started stringing together a few highlights from my fashion reel through the ages. I came across some themes: dresses, fabric stores, camouflague, experimentation. It didn’t seem to matter what decade I was in, beauty and style always had my attention. Do you want to travel with me through my fashion ages? Come along, fashionitas! Maybe you’ll be tempted to write your highlights too!


Those earliest fashion moments

Mom made lots of dresses for me out of the most beautiful fabrics. They stick in my memory for their patterns and colors and how fancy and unique they were.


Dresses at a young age on Brenda Kinsel website

Loving my dresses and my daddy too


Dresses were off limits when at the age of eight I spent a month in hospital gowns in traction with a broken femur. After 30 days I got a cast to wear for two more months, from my waist to my toes. The day I left the hospital Mother brought me a store bought dress to change into. That white long cast was camouflaged by a gold taffeta dress with petticoats that pushed the skirt far away from the cast. Mom and my favorite nurse helped me into it. It was only a thirty-minute drive from the hospital to the farm but I felt like a queen all the way home.


The teen years

We left the farm and our community of 75 people and moved to a big city of 7500 people. With babysitting money, I started shopping for my own clothes. I took up sewing and made my own dresses to wear to the Friday night high school dances.

The most sophisticated outfit I made was a matching top and long flowy pant in the prettiest robin’s egg blue. Wow, was it glamorous! The only problem is that I trimmed the interfacing too close to the seam on the V-neck top and had to camouflage my mistake. I bought a silky piece of fabric with a cream background and blue and aqua dots. I made an extra long rectangular scarf and added white fringe to the ends. I felt so dreamy and sophisticated. And I learned an important lesson: you can always fix a fashion problem with an accessory or two.


My twenties

I was living in L.A. and was married at the age of 23. My husband was an antique dealer and came home with vintage dresses from time to time. (One of those dresses adorns the back of the door of our Sonoma guest powder room.)


Details in vintage clothes on Brenda Kinsel website

Vintage clothes offer so much detail. Swoon!


My daughter Erin was thirteen days old and I was twenty seven when I brought her with me to a chic fabric store in San Luis Obispo. We were now living in Los Osos, about ten minutes from SLO. I took a half-day class in Seminole patchwork, a novel and colorful dress of the native Seminole Indians of Florida. I was bitten! The wearable art movement was my whole life for several years. I was back in fabric stores scouring for textiles and trims to make special order jackets for customers. I also showed my finished pieces in art shows. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be up at 5 a.m. before the rest of the family was awake so I could fit in a couple of hours of sewing each day. Every day was fashion bliss!


Getting serious in my thirties

Our family left the Central Coast and moved to San Anselmo in Marin County. I was sitting on the steps there on Hawthorne Street reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle one day about Gwen Mazer, an image consultant in San Francisco. I was fascinated. Could I do  something like that? I vowed to try! After a couple of years of training I launched my new business—Inside Out: A Style & Wardrobe Consulting Company and started creating art on women with clothes and accessories. It was so intimate and satisfying.


My fabulous forties

By forty I was divorced and settled into a new community where I was raising my three kids. I was so proud of getting over that divorce hump and making my new life. Suddenly writing started dominating my thoughts. I tried to bat it away. Why would I want to take up writing in my 40s? I gave in to the nagging voice that said “Do it” and started moving a pen across paper. About was I writing about? Fashion and style!

I was using words to create texture, color, rhythm and balance. Being in a writing group made me feel a little Bohemian. I started dressing in a more artful way. Every outfit I put together had a double purpose: enjoy wearing it and enjoy writing about it. For months I would write about the expression and mechanics of getting dressed for a pretend audience. And then it happened: 40 Over 40 became a published book and my pretend audience became a real one! Being on The Oprah Winfrey Show was proof of that!



40 Over 40 on Brenda Kinsel website

Those tender fifties

I remember having a heart to heart talk with God one night. I said, “You know, Lord, I have a wonderful life. I have three great kids. I have a career I absolutely love. I’m an author! A real author! If this is your full design for me, believe me, I am grateful. I have enough. I am blessed. But if you think it might be cool for me to have love in my life, I’d be up for that too. Just sayin’.”

And I met Russ, my tall, dark and handsome Russ. I was thrust into a world of romance. I never felt more womanly and sexy than I did in my fifties. I had a hankering for black lace mixed with leather. I loved showing off my legs in trim pants, often in prints or bright colors. I wore heeled boots, pumps, or heeled sandals every day and felt so sensual!


These exciting sixties

And now I’m 64 and I feel like I’m in the middle of a renaissance.


Engaged with age on Brenda Kinsel website

Engaged with age, change is fun in my sixties


I’m back to feeling experimental like I was in my teens and early twenties. I’m wearing hats (never thought I could). I’m wearing bold lip colors (never thought I could). I’m wearing cat eye shaped glasses (never expected that!). I’m discovering how to wear dresses again. I have a few things to work around like a thicker waist, fuller bust, rounder tummy. But I’m determined to get back to my first love—dresses—and make them work.

I’m coming full circle and doing it all over again in a new way.

So, there’s my fashion story. Share a few details about yours, okay? I’d love to hear how the rest of you discovered and learned to express your love of fashion and style.


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Accessorizing denim with my DIY necklace creation

Blue necklaces with denim for summer on Brenda Kinsel website

Accessorizing denim with blue jewels


A friend gave me this oversized Eileen Fisher denim dress-slash-tunic last month. I had admired hers and somehow she had an extra one and said, “I’ll give it to you.” Now that’s fantastic! I’d been looking for a chambray cotton shirt and this was even better than that. It’s 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton; machine wash and dry. Although it has a lot of volume (and POCKETS!!!), it’s very cool to wear.

Which is also fantastic because last week it was over 100 degrees in Sonoma.


wearing blue on blue on Brenda Kinsel website

Facing warm weather in shades of blue


When my friend, Mariam, wore it she draped a very long narrow scarf over one shoulder and kept it in place with outrageously fabulous brooches from her collection..

Here, you can see how she did it in this picture with her daughter.


Mariam's version of the same two pieces on Brenda Kinsel website

Taking inspiration from Mariam


Lacking both the long scarf and her gorgeous brooches, I had to come up with an original idea for accessorizing my blues.


Step 1: Go to my black/blue tray

I have leather trays for organizing my smaller accessory pieces. Each tray is devoted to one color family and labeled: black/blue, orange, white, gold, silver.


trays used for organizing accessories on Brenda Kinsel website

Accessories arranged by color


There in the black/blue tray were some old friends. I have two blue necklaces that are shiny and magical to me. I’m not sure what stones they are. I bought them nearly 20 years ago at Saks Fifth Avenue in Union Square from Gloria. (Bay Area people will remember Gloria. I interviewed her in my book Brenda Kinsel’s Fashion Makeover, pages 120-121. She’s a gem, a one-of-a-kind.)

I bought a strand of gray pearls from Gloria at around the same time. I used to wear the pearls separately (loved the colors in them!) but I’d wear the blue necklaces together sometimes.

Jewelry trends came and went but I always hung on to these pieces even though I wasn’t wearing them.


Step Two: Create a one-of-a-kind necklace out of three favorites

I knew one necklace would never be a big enough statement for my outfit so I started with my two blue necklaces. I loved the color with the blue dress and the sheen and the sparkle. But because the dress/tunic is so full, I needed more design weight at the neck.


Creating a statement necklace with multiple but similar necklaces on Brenda Kinsel website

Three necklaces will become one


I spotted my pearls and decided to add them to the mix but first I knotted them. By knotting it in the middle it lined up better with the other two necklaces. I did some adjusting until I got them to snuggle, just so. I didn’t want space between the pieces. I wanted it to look like a cluster.


I added lightweight but large blue earrings that move easily. Once again they are very old friends that haven’t seen any action in years.

I saw my friend and muse, Mariam, last week and I was wearing this outfit. She loved what I’d done. She said, “When you layer individual necklaces you’re really making your own jewelry.”

I loved that! So without having to take a jewelry class, I am proudly wearing my “own” designed jewelry.


If it’s good enough for Tuesday, it will work for Wednesday too

I was so happy with this jewelry combo with my blues that I wore it two days in a row!


Happy with my creation on Brenda Kinsel website

Yum, I love these jewels!


I know there are some very creative folks out there. Do tell me how you’re designing your jewelry this month!

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The Anatomy of Erin’s Dress on Me

Feeling carefree in a dress on Brenda Kinsel website

Channeling my dress mentors at a black tie event


Erin and I were invited to a gala black tie event honoring one of our clients.  I wanted to wear a dress but knew I didn’t have one I felt great in. I also knew I could easily put together a pant outfit. With no time to shop for something new, my daughter Erin brought me one of her dresses to work one day and tossed it into the back seat of my car. “You love this dress; wear it to the gala!” she said.

Her dress is so fluid, luscious, elegant. I’ve coveted it for some time. If only I could wear a dress like that, I’ve told myself.

But really, what was she thinking? Is she not aware of  how different our shapes are? I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that her idea would work.


Dress distress

I’ve had dresses on my brain. Yesterday I shared on the blog my curiosity about the fashion psychology of wearing dresses. I told about my three dress mentors. Just look at them! Are they delighted with their dresses? It sure looks like it. Mila, on the right, puts it in words: “I have to wear this today because I can’t stop loving this dress. I just can’t stop loving it everyday.”


Getting dress inspiration from young people on Brenda Kinsel website

Hailee, Caitlin, and Mila show me how fun dresses can be to wear.


Am I too old to have fun with a dress?

It all seems like a fashion dilemma.

Have I gotten too efficient with my wardrobe that novelty dresses don’t have a chance of being in my closet?

Do you have to be a little girl or a woman in her 20s to wear dresses that are frilly, sassy, or fun?

By the time you’re in your sixties, is that “frilly, sassy, fun” stage over with?

Am I resigned to wearing what matronly ladies wear, those frocks that hide out in the back of their closets for decades?


I took action

I decided to stop with the questions and just aim for the goal: feel as fun and fancy as my three dress mentors.

I started by trying on Erin’s dress. I loved it but I couldn’t wear it like she does. She’s got a very defined waistline. Mine? Not so much.


Erin and Brenda wear Erin's dress but in different ways on Brenda Kinsel website

We wore the same dress but in different ways


styling the same dress in different ways on Brenda Kinsel website

Up close, Erin’s way and my way of wearing her dress


The mechanics of styling Erin’s dress

Erin wears her dress sleeveless (of course) and tied in the back. I knew I’d be more comfortable wearing a jacket. I tried different ones on but it was the tried-and-true Carmen Marc Valvo jacket that worked. With sleeves just past the elbow and no front closure it was open enough to show the beauty of the fabric in the dress. All other jackets I tried on covered it up too much.

I decided to bring the belt to the front and tie a bow. This is a great trick for making it look like you have more of a defined waistline than you do.

I also made one other change. I tucked the loose neckline of the dress under by about two inches. I wanted the dress neckline to nestle right near the jacket edges.

The dress comes below the knee and I felt I needed to add more height to the outfit to get the right balance. I wasn’t going to wear my 4-inch heels (yes, I still have a pair). I was wearing a modest 2-inch heeled ankle wrapped patent shoe by Paul Green so I could stand for hours. When I added the fascinator, I had all the height I needed.


Beauty Bundle for a dressy dress on Brenda Kinsel website

Accessories at a minimum for this dress


Beauty Bundle

I kept the accessories to a minimum. With the fascinator, I really didn’t want to overdo it. So I wore a pair of sparkly Alexis Bittar earrings and a bracelet by Alexis Bittar as well. I spotted a Beauty Bundle!

Beauty Bundle Ingredients

  1. Black fascinator (or not, depending on how casual the outfit is)
  2. Black Paul Green ankle wrap 2-inch heeled patent pumps
  3. Long sparkly Alexis Bittar earrings
  4. Deco looking Alexis Bitter cuff

I could wear this Beauty Bundle with lots of different outfits that don’t require black tie.


The results are in!


Brenda Kinsel at the Ritz Carlton on Brenda Kinsel website

Having fun at the Ritz


I loved our evening at the Ritz. My fascinator was the topic of conversation at our table as well as in the powder room and later in the evening with two young ladies who came over to complement me. Oh, and the hotel greeters and my client and her family, too. It put smiles on faces.



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

EK and BK hanging out at the Ritz-Carlton in our dresses


It was no small miracle that I got the image of “only young shapely women can wear fun fancy dresses” out of my mind. I felt great; festive, sassy and actually, like myself–the playful part of myself, especially.

Get this: by the end of the evening Erin said, “Mom, this dress looks better on you than me.”

Guess what’s hanging in my closet now? Yup, THE DRESS. I’m ready for more invitations to come my way. I have to wear this dress some more because I can’t stop loving this dress. I just can’t stop loving it everyday.

What’s your feeling about wearing dresses–fancy or otherwise?

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What is the fashion psychology of wearing dresses?



Caitlin on Brenda Kinsel website

Two young ladies in dresses


I took this picture above at least two or three years back. I was focusing my attention on the woman on the left. I loved the way she was wearing a heavyish boot with a sleeveless dress; the juxtaposition of feminine and masculine. And who doesn’t love that she brought a bright, shiny red bag with her that day to Artesa Winery near Napa.

I came across this photo when I was in my files looking for something else. This time, it was the woman on the right that held my attention. She’s playing with her dress, in a world of her own. I want to feel the way she looks.


Trying to name it

I struggle to find words to describe the feelings this image evokes in me. I need your help!

Is it freedom?

Is it delight?

Is it the joy of being a woman?

Is it the sensuality of wearing a dress on a hot day?

Whatever it is, when I look at this picture, I want what she’s evoking.


The joy of wearing dresses on Brenda Kinsel website

Praise for dresses!


And here’s another girl who is over the moon about wearing dresses. She’s telling her mommy, “I have to wear this today because I can’t stop loving this dress. I just can’t stop loving it everyday.” Oh to feel that way about a dress!

And my last dress mentor, below, is Hailee. I met her at the Oscar de la Renta fashion exhibit at the end of March at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. She wore this dress that day because she was going with her mom to see lots more pretty dresses.



Girls in dresses at Brenda Kinsel website

Hailee at the Oscar de la Renta fashion exhibit



Does she look absolutely delighted with her choice? Yes!

I think this is true for many of us: when we wear a dress it’s with much more intention than jeans or ankle pants. It’s festive, fun; maybe we’re attending an event. Stay with me, I still need your help. Do you feel different in a dress than pants? What is that feeling?


Mimicking my mentors

I was invited to a Saturday night gala at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. I thought of wearing tuxedo pants or lace pants but then I thought about my dress mentors, Caitlin (my daughter in the first photo, the one on the right), Mila (my friend Nancy’s daughter in the Facebook post), and Hailee from the Oscar exhibit.

I didn’t have time to go out and buy a dress for this black tie event but I got some help from my daughter, Erin. She said, “Why don’t you wear that pretty dress of mine that you like so much?” Well, my first thought is “Honey, we are not the same size.” But she left it with me and I tried it on. I made a few adjustments to the way I wore it (I’ll tell you more about that in the next blog post) but when I had it on, it was a dress that I could twirl in if I wanted to go twirling. And I could pull it out like Caitlin did and go, “Whheeeee!”

I’ll give you the breakdown and the details in an Anatomy of an Outfit, but here’s a sneak peek at what I wore to the gala. In the meantime, please leave a comment and help me figure out how wearing a dress makes us feel differently in a  world full of way-too-casual wear. I need to figure this out! Help me please!


Brenda in black tie attire at the Ritz Carlton on Brenda Kinsel website

Channeling my dress mentors for a gala event at the Ritz-Carlton

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How to be sixty, sexy and wearing sheer fabrics

Happy to wear sheer fabrics on Brenda Kinsel website

Feeling daring in my sheer fabrics


Here’s something you don’t know about me. I have had a love of sheer black tops forever. When Yves Saint Laurent sent braless models down the runway decades ago in black sheer blouses, I thought it was incredible.

How daring!

How bold!

How sexy!

How French!

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wanted to be one of those women. I wanted to wear a black sheer blouse with no bra on underneath. I don’t know where I thought I’d wear it. Maybe alone in my house with the doors locked. Maybe with my boyfriend in my house with the doors locked. I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to do that out in public unless I had a buttoned up cardigan over the sheer fabric.

The desire was strong, but I never did it. After I had a mastectomy in 2004, the thought came to me, “Well, no sheer black blouse for me! That dream is dead.” There were many, many thoughts but that one was there in the mix.


Sheer and sexy at sixty

Realizing my dream, my way, in my decade: sheer and sexy at sixty


Flashforward to last week: I actualized my dream in an outfit I wore in public! Okay, it wasn’t the exact dream but I wore something that was black and sheer. The combination felt 45% daring, bold, sexy, and French. That percentage was good enough for me.


Anatomy of an Outfit


Here’s what I wore:

*A printed long-sleeved stretchy top by Petit Pois. It’s an abstract cityscape print on the torso and back. The sleeves are sheer black with an animal print pattern screened in. I purchased it at Specialtees Boutique, a great shop in Lafayette, CA.


necklaces with this Beauty Bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

Piggyback necklaces


*I wore my sheer long black sleeveless tunic with buttons, opened to the waist by Vince.


Beauty Bundle ingredients on Brenda Kinsel website

Rings and bracelets with my sheer tunic


*I wore my Paige flared jeans and my most comfortable boot ever by BED|STU purchased at Robindra Unsworth in Petaluma.


Gunmetal Beauty Bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

The mood of this gunmetal Beauty Bundle is edgy with some glamour thrown in by small diamonds here and there; sheen and beads.


*I built a Beauty Bundle for the outfit by dipping into gunmetal/black jewels. I wanted to create a mood that was urban, like the urban cityscape stretchy top. The pieces blended so well together and made me feel a bit daring and edgy (in a sweet way).


  1. The earrings were purchased at Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma. They are by Yed Omi.
  2. The top necklace in my necklace stack, the one with the diamond in it, is by Branch. I purchased it at Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma.
  3. The bigger necklace on the bottom was purchased at Gallery of Jewels.
  4. The gunmetal bangles came from Nordstrom.
  5. The shiny black leather studded cuff is by Calleen Cordero and was purchased at Robindra Unsworth in Petalmua.
  6. The rings are both gifts.


A tunic is perfect in a sheer fabric on Brenda Kinsel website

A black sheer tunic makes this outfit work for me


It felt so great to implement something sheer and black into an outfit. Some dreams take a long time to come true! Do you have fashion ideas you have yet to realize? Please share!

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Pulling out a trick to tame a scarf

Maggan's scarf gets tamed on Brenda Kinsel website

Taking control of the volume of this scarf


You are looking at a gray scarf I’ve had for years but never worn. My Swedish friend, Maggan, gave it to me one Thanksgiving. She knew I’d go crazy for the fabric and I did.

This scarf has body beyond belief. It’s a square scarf with permanent pleating. It’s got mighty spring back action to it. It’s not submissive like silk chiffon. It wants what it wants.

Because I love it and because I love Maggan, I’ve always wanted to use it. I couldn’t tame it for an outfit so I started using it to decorate a table.

Here it is in this Oscar party collage, up there in the right hand corner with Hog Island Oysters giving it company.


Using a scarf as a table decoration on Brenda Kinsel website

Maggan’s scarf partners with raw oysters on Oscar night


I had a firm, decisive moment on Friday morning: make that scarf work in an outfit!

I tried a few different things. I turned the square scarf into an oblong one and wrapped it around my neck and tied it in front. It was so bunched up at my neck that my shortest earrings were laying on top of the scarf, like it was a shelf.

I tried folding it into a triangle and putting the triangle in front. Not so good, still too much volume. I kept the triangle shape, wrapped the ends around the back of my neck and went to tie a small knot under the front triangle. Still no good.

Then I did an old trick that I used to use back in the ’80s or ’90s when we were wearing big square scarves. I laid the scarf on the floor and pulled it from the very center and made a knot. I flipped the knot to the inside and grabbed a couple of free ends and firmly knotted them at the back of my neck. It worked!


The center knot on the inside takes away the bulk on this scarf on Brenda Kinsel website

What this scarf needs is a knot on the inside at the center.


I’m crazy about the drama of this scarf and even though it takes up half my chest area, I am wildly content. (Yup, I meant to put those two words together!)


Comfy and cozy in my shades of gray on Brenda Kinsel website

Enjoying my tamed scarf


It was another one of our cold and cloudy days in Sonoma (the heat is supposed to arrive this week) so I wore a column of black: black knit pants, slim; black long-sleeved T-shirt, pretty slim; black booties. I added a linen gray cropped-and-sort-of-messy cardigan and buttoned the top button. I loved the play on shades of gray and loved the structure of the scarf with the loose structure of the cardigan. It felt playful.

I didn’t do much with jewelry: the scarf was the jewelry. I just added a gray faceted earring and some gunmetal rings and went off to meet a client at Uber Optics. I was proud as a peacock. Thanks, Maggan!


shades of gray are A-okay on Brenda Kinsel website

Loving the drama of this scarf!


Are there scarf tricks you use a lot? Do share!

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DIY Guide to Create the Messy Necklace Trend

Messy necklace in black on Brenda Kinsel website

I made a messy necklace combo for Sunday


I’m into messy necklaces. It’s not an original idea. When I was doing trend research for spring/summer 2016 one of the trends was a bunch of messy necklaces, like REALLY messy. Take a look at how Chanel styled a spring outfit with a tangle of necklaces.


spring fashion by Chanel on Brenda Kinsel website

How Chanel used messy necklaces in spring fashion


Now one could look at this picture and say any number of things.

  1. High waisted white full pants? I’m not giving up my skinny jeans, no way!
  2. She looks twelve!
  3. What is she wearing? A sports bra?
  4. That’s a big ole mess of necklaces. Good grief!
  5. Why don’t they make fashion for real people?


Okay, all (almost) valid points. But here’s how I look at a picture like this. I say no to the pants, no to the top, but I study the necklace situation and think about how I could modify that look and add a little something different to my spring outfits using this as inspiration.

Now you’re going to see that I mean REALLY modify the look. I am working with this trend at about a 10-20% level. (You might do it at 40-60%!)

I’ve discovered that messy necklaces do a few things:

  1. They add layered interest to the neck area. Why not give people something to look at near the base of your neck rather than fretting about your neck? You’re intentionally giving positive attention to an area that gets negative attention.
  2. They create a focal point that has more oomph than a single chain or strand of pearls. It looks more interesting.
  3. It gives you a reason to pull out your favorite necklaces, group them together, and wear them in a new way.
  4. You look stylish and cool!


I’m having fun with this. My clients are having fun with it. I think maybe you’d have fun with it too! So let me break it down with a few illustrations, okay?


Sunday’s messy necklace combo


Black messy necklace combo on Brenda Kinsel website

Messy necklaces focused on the color black.


I wanted to make my Chanel sweater with floral appliqués pop at the neck so I started with something quite opposite from my pretty sweater. I got out my chunky black link necklace. I added a gunmetal simple chain that I wrapped four times around my neck. I doubled another chain that has some gold beads in it. I liked the way it added some glisten to the group. The big black link necklace would have been too hard but these other two necklaces softened up the look.


messy black necklace combo on Brenda Kinsel website

I got lots of compliments all day. Was it the messy necklace? I think so!


Messy necklace in Piedmont


Necklaces about the same length in a combo on Brenda Kinsel website

Mixed metals and pearls in this messy necklace combo.


I have often worn the two necklaces together on the right but last week I decided to add my gunmetal lava necklace. They all come to about the same place on my neck. One moment the lava necklace is on top, another time the pearl slides out in front. Whatever they decide to do is okay by me. It’s messy! It’s supposed to be messy!


A messy necklace using three independent ones on Brenda Kinsel website

Three favorite necklaces rolled into one messy one.


The pearl and crystal messy necklace


Messy pearl necklace combo on Brenda Kinsel website

Pearls get messed up in this necklace combo


This oversized pearl necklace (center) is a favorite. I bought it with Mom on our last shopping trip together. When I put it together with my outfit I felt like it was so big. I wanted to add another scale to break it up a bit. I picked a double strand of pearls, mixed with crystal and chain. I twisted it around my neck and it filled in the space nicely between the top of my blouse and the big baubles. I felt joyful and sparkly all day.

So REALLY, don’t you think you should try this yourself? Do tell me how it goes!

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Mother’s Day Blessings and Blues

with my Mom in Napa over ten years ago on Brenda Kinsel website

Me and my mom together in Napa over ten years ago


I walked into Papyrus to get a birthday card for a friend and right inside the door were racks and racks of Mother’s Day cards: pink, red, and my mother’s favorite color, yellow. It was the middle of the day but I felt like I was alone in an open field at midnight and suddenly I was surrounded by people shining flashlights in my face. It was too much to take in.

Of course, my mother is always on my mind. Even though it’s been a full year since she passed, I bring her into my conversations with friends and family and I talk to her when no one else is listening.

Instead of bracing myself for Mother’s Day on Sunday I decided to embrace it by asking friends about their moms. I said: What would you like us to know about your mom?

I so enjoyed hearing the stories about moms and daughters and hope you do, too.


Our Moms/Mums

Ruth Essex from Essex, UK and her mum, Wendy

My mum, Wendy, has made me feel so unconditionally loved throughout my life; it has been like always having an invisible hand to hold. My mum has passed on to me the confidence that I am stronger than I know, and braver than I think. She climbed mountains, dived from the highest boards and shared her passion and knowledge for clocks and antiques. This gave me the courage to test myself and find the challenges and interests that make my life so exciting and fulfilling. No one will ever probably understand me as deeply as she does, so I am lucky to have had her in my life, and yes, I love her unconditionally too.


Leila Stoff from Belvedere and her mom, Mildred

I loved everything about my Mother from her perfect small frame, dressed impeccably, to the way she smelled. Caleche still clings to the paper lined drawers of her antique chest that lives in my home. She was glamorous like no one else and yet, she loved becoming a young grandmother; loved to be called, grandma. She delighted in taking her granddaughters to the park, to the Nutcracker, and of course, shopping. She was fun, funny, smart, brave and worked hard to become independent after a stroke at age 55. Her granddaughters and I miss her.


Sue Jacobs from London, Ontario and her mum, Norma (best known as Chic)


Mothers and daughters on Mother's Day

Sue and her mom, Norma/Chic


My mom is the strongest most resilient person I know, my hero. Orphaned at an early age, she was not to be defeated. She fibbed about her age to be able to serve in the United States Navy, worked her way up to being a Wave (nurse) where she met, fell in love with and married my dad, a US Naval Captain. She was widowed at 59. At 79 she remarried, rode elephants in Thailand at 86, met the Pope at 89, and travelled to Japan and to London, UK to visit my daughters. Her memory does not serve her well today at 94, but when I look in her grey blue hazy eyes I see strength, hope, frailty, beauty, love and compassion that comes deep from her soul. She is and always has been the wind beneath my wings.


Debra Ruff from San Geronimo and her mom, Dena


Debra and Dena on Brenda Kinsel website

Debra (on the left) with her Mom, Dena, and her two sisters


My mom is a fashionista. At 92 she still looks like she walked out of a magazine every time she leaves the house! My mom is my confidant, my best friend. I still tell her everything and she gets it! She is my mental scrapbook. She always remembers things in the past that I forgot. I just ask her when I can’t remember something. My mom is strong willed. She can definitely take care of herself! My mom listens, not just hears. In her eyes, I can do know wrong, I am the perfect daughter!


Karen Snow from Palo Alto and her mom, Barbara


Karen's Mom on Brenda Kinsel website

Barbara, Karen’s Mom


My mom grew up during the Great Depression, learning by example how to be a superb homemaker on a shoestring budget. She was an expert organizer, cookie baker and handicrafter, with a green thumb and a special eye for making practical things beautiful. The month of May was when she and my dad would plant up the patio pots with marigolds and snapdragons and blue lobelia. Her special gift from me on Mother’s Day was always a new geranium – until I moved away and then it was a gift certificate to her favorite nursery, Molbaks. Home and family were treasured most and she used her gifts and talents to show us in so many loving ways. She always helped me fulfill my dreams. What a blessing to have been her daughter.


Adena DiTonno of San Mateo and her mom, Rita


Adena's mother, Rita on Brenda Kinsel website

Adena’s mother, Rita


I always thought my mom was the most beautiful woman. She was always an inspiration to me because she was raising four of us as a single parent (following divorce) at a time when there just weren’t many women doing that, at least where we lived in the Midwest. She had already graduated from college, but she went back and got her teaching credential, and then taught elementary students for 35 years, including all four of her children at one point or another as we passed through her classroom. She was a real inspiration to me of how to work in your career, and how to be a good example to your kids. And she’s still one of the prettiest women I know.


Brenda from Sonoma and her beloved mother, Alma/Girlie


Mom at Clos Pegase Winery on Brenda Kinsel website

Mom at Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga in 2005, always fooling around


Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I don’t have a card for you this year but I do have bushels and bushels of love.


Will you share some words about your mom? I’d love to know more about her.

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