14 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Creating a Dior inspired ensemble with animal prints

Two animal prints in one outfit on Brenda Kinsel

Mixing my animal prints in this ensemble


I woke up one morning last week on the wild side of the bed. I opened my closet feeling hungry to wear a dress. I wanted to put together something lady-like. I was in the mood to wear an ensemble like women wore in the ’50s. I slipped into a brown sheath dress and then searched for a long jacket to team up with it. I chose one in leopard print. And then I got a little nervous. Here was my process.


Step one: I started with a Chico’s sheath dress in pretend leather


Faux leather dress on Brenda Kinsel

Faux leather embossed print dress


Step two: I added a belt with brass grommets and a brass buckle


Belted dress on Brenda Kinsel

Leather belt creates more shape in the dress


(Full disclosure: The waistline on this mannequin is not equal to my waistline! This is only meant to depict the building of this outfit.) Adding a belt to the waistline gives me an excuse to not wear a shaper. The stiff leather two-inch belt makes my tummy look less round.


Step three: I pulled nude fishnets over a pair of socks before adding brown suede boots


Fishnet stockings over socks on Brenda Kinsel

Making fishnet stockings super comfortable


I find that fishnet stockings can dig a bit into tender feet so putting a pair of socks on first is my protection from that. Fishnets are by Commando.


Step four: I add my animal print coat for the ensemble look—a coat and dress meant to be worn together

Add a leopard print coat

Adding my leopard print 3/4 coat


This 3/4 length coat by Dana Buchman was purchased somewhere around 2005 or 2006 when I was shopping with the Bellas at Nordstrom, Walnut Creek. At first I was very intimidated by the animal print but I had created a style collage before I went shopping and had it with me. On the right-hand edge of my 8-1/2 by 11 inch piece of black construction paper I had glued a picture of an animal print coat. It was definitely a stretch for me. With the Bella’s encouragement and a courage pill, I bought it!


Step five: I tie it all together with my wool oblong beige scarf by Marc Jacobs


Wearing a Marc Jacobs scarf on Brenda Kinsel

Adding a scarf to my ensemble.


I love this scarf! I look for any excuse to wear it. It’s so neutral and so cozy. I’ve even worn it with jammies.


Step six: Wondering if I’ve gone too far, I consult Dior and Russ for their opinions


I’m usually very confident about the outfits I put together for myself. But this double animal print combo made me question myself.

I loved the feeling of wearing an ensemble. I had to do it. It felt ladylike even if it didn’t quite follow the rules. I consulted Dior.

Designer Christian Dior wrote The Little Dictionary of Fashion, first published in 1954. Here are some things he says about Ensembles.


A very elegant way of dressing is to have a coat and dress matching together, making an ensemble—and I believe the British women, especially, like them.

For an ensemble the frock should be fairly simple and the coat can be either fitted or loose, according to your taste. It can also be either long or short.

As for colors, I would say the same things I say about suits—choose a dark, convenient color like black, gray, navy blue—or beige. Because you will have to wear your ensemble often and these are colors you will not tire of easily. Also they are good background colors for gay accessories.



Accessorizing my outfit on Brenda Kinsel

Dior calls them gay accessories: I call them fun.


My frock and coat don’t match but they do relate to each other in color. I like having fun with clothes but I’m not flamboyant. Was my interpretation of an ensemble a little too out there? I was standing in the kitchen. No image consultant buddies were anywhere near my zip code. Russ was making coffee. I put a neutral look on my face and asked the one person in the house what he thought. “Honey, what do you think of this outfit?” I said.


He said:


I like it. I like cat prints. The dress looks like baby alligator. It’s a whole animal theme. To me they’re attractive together. For some reason they’re sexy. I like the stockings. They are interesting and pretty but not over the top. They show pattern.

Embossed leather goes really well with the coat. I like how the lengths of the dress and the coat are nearly the same. The beige of the scarf matches the beige in the leopard print. The brown in the dress matches the brown in the leopard print. That same tone of brown carries through everything, even your hair and the brown of your boots. The tone of the stockings matches the skin tone of your arms. The dark olive drab bag blends with everything.

The brass buckle and rings on the belt look nice with your bracelets. To me it’s an extremely coordinated outfit. It’s one of your cooler outfits. Everything goes with everything else. That’s not necessarily how you would want to dress all the time but I like it that way. It’s a very together outfit.

It totally grabs your interest because of all the details going on but it’s not crazy mixes. It’s an attention getter. It’s not run of the mill, which I think is really cool.


I said, “But is it age appropriate? I don’t want to look silly.”


He answered:


You don’t look your age anyway but a twenty-five year old woman could wear that outfit just as well. You have the face that compliments it. I’m sensitive to the kind of thing where women dress inappropriately for their age and this isn’t doing that. I think if you were walking down the street in New York City you’d fit right in. With something less casual on your feet it would kick it up in sophistication.


My neutral face disappeared. I was glowing with his assessment. Here he’d been my last resort for fashion advice and now I was wondering if I should hire him to join the team! He nailed every detail. He put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I might have left the house without having asked him what he thought. I’d have taken a courage pill instead and gone out into the world feeling anxious. But I didn’t need the courage pill after all. I was pretty darn happy with myself!

I got to thinking on my drive down to Marin that day to meet a client that I just might know what to wear the next time we plan a restaurant date night. I mean when he’s right, he’s right! And what guy doesn’t love it when the woman he loves tells him he’s right. Right?


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  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Great look, Brenda. I would call it Sophisticated Pizazz. I love that embossed dress. And I’ve never heard a man give so much detail about an outfit in my life (unless he’s Tim Roth). I’m lucky if my dh gets out “you like nice” when I make a special effort! Hooray for Russ!

    • Reply
      February 16, 2016 at 10:18 am

      I love your title to this outfit! I was talking to Russ last night about this very thing. I have NEVER heard so much detail from him but then maybe I don’t ask his opinion much either cuz I’m always around colleagues and would think to ask them. But in his profession he dealt with design and color all the time and is a photographer (although he didn’t take any of those photos) so he has an eye. Thank goodness I had a notebook right next to me in the kitchen because I grabbed it and started writing down everything he said. I could tell from the start that he was on a roll. I will share your “Hooray for Russ” with Russ tonight!!!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Bartlett
    February 16, 2016 at 10:50 am

    OMG how did you doubt this for a minute – it is brilliant in itself. But as soon as I saw the picture I was struck by how it blends so perfectly with you. So flattering!
    ps I remember the atory of your jacket from one of your books!

    • Reply
      February 16, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer. Well, even seasoned image consultants have moments of doubt!! And that’s funny that you mentioned it being in one of my books. I forgot about that but now I’ll have to look it up! It’s funny because that coat didn’t get much mileage last year and I even thought of consigning it. But this year it’s back into the rotation and is perfect for this time of year.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I love this outfit so much. That dress from Chicos! You have such a talent for finding the gems there, and everywhere actually. This outfit made me think about the value of texture and what it can add it an outfit – I wrote that down as a goal for my spring outfits. I also love the accessories, they really work with the outfit. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      February 16, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      I was in a store today, Sallie, where everything started at around $650. And yes, I had some lust going on but it is lovely to be able to take something inexpensive and make it look great. I love doing that for myself and for clients. Those bracelets and that ring are almost daily accessories right now. My current favorite Beauty Bundle that goes with everything! Go texture! It really is an awesome thing!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Love this look – classic, chic and flattering.

    • Reply
      February 18, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks, Rebecca!

  • Reply
    February 20, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Brenda, you look marvelous. You have really pulled off how to wear this coat.

    • Reply
      February 20, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Thank you, Linda! I’ll be posting a picture soon with this same coat worn in what is a much easier way for me and that’s with jeans and a simple sweater underneath. The big scary moment for me in this outfit was wearing that leather-like dress under it. That was new. It’s fun to have had that jacket for maybe 10 years and still finding new ways to wear it! In fact, I think I’ll wear it today! Happy Saturday!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks, Linda!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    What a lovely affermation! What led your husband to being ‘sensitive” to age appropriate dressing? Would he share?

    • Reply
      February 19, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      affirmation – sorry, thanks autocorrect…

    • Reply
      February 19, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      You got me! I guess I’ll have to ask him! I was just happy with the compliment he gave me about how it all worked well together. Not sure that I can imagine someone he saw that brought that up in his mind about being age appropriate or not.

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