9 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Creating an urban chic outfit using soft neutral layers

Real Life Erin Feb


While I was in Minnesota celebrating Dad’s 90th birthday (he and Oprah share the same birthdate, by the way), my daughter Erin spent a night in our home in Sonoma. She called me from there on Sunday night and said, “Can I borrow your Paul Green boots?”

“Sure, honey,” I said.

My first day back in the Bay Area was on Wednesday. We met to work with a client in her closet. We were making new winter outfits for our client and doing an edit of her jewelry and shoes.

I noticed Erin was wearing my boots, but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed. I was attracted to her three-stranded necklace peeking from behind her neutral colored floral print scarf. It shimmered in the light. I noticed the leather cord too and thought that that was an awfully clever way to finish off the necklace.

We had work to do so I didn’t have a chance to talk to her about it until five hours later when we walked back to our cars parked out front. I said, “Nice necklace! Nice whole outfit!”

“Really?” she said.

“Yes, I love the whole thing: the layers, the colors and especially that necklace,” I said.

“I made it,” she said.

Now it was my turn: “Really?”


The inspiration


Homemade necklace by Erin on Brenda Kinsel website

Pretty faceted beads finished with a leather cord.


I asked her more about it. The beads are different gemstones. She’d seen the stones and loved the colors. She wanted to make a necklace that was both rustic and feminine at the same time. She succeeded. The leather cord makes it rustic. The faceted beads make it feminine, especially the way they play with the light as she moves.

“I made the necklace last week and I wanted to wear it. So I looked in my closet to see what would look best with it,” she said.



Urban chic outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

Urban chic outfit with lots of layers

It occurs to me that she designed her outfit using exactly the same elements as she worked into the necklace. Her outfit is definitely feminine, but it’s not prissy; it’s a little tough but not scary-in-a-dark-back-alley kind of tough. It’s sweet tough. Kind of like her!

“How do you feel in this outfit?” I asked.

She said, “I feel quiet, under the radar, cozy and comfy. But it has a little badass to it with the moto jacket and the chunky boots. It’s kind of urban chic,” she said. Perfect for a San Francisco young woman!

She told me she thought she could wear this outfit in 90% of her life–meeting a friend for lunch, grabbing a glass of wine, going shopping, going to a music concert, meeting with a client who has a casual lifestyle. Truth be told, she’d worn this outfit three days in a row. One day was in Sonoma, one day was in San Anselmo and the third day was in Mill Valley. Hey, I’ve done the same thing! That’s the beauty of not working in an office. You can create a great outfit, fall in love with it and wear it a few times in the same week and no one would know.


Layering up her neutrals

The beauty of our climate is that you can layer up this time of year and be warm enough to not have to rely on a heavy coat.

Erin is wearing three layers. She starts with a BP (from Nordstrom) gray tank top (with three holes in it, she told me), then an oatmeal colored crewneck cashmere sweater by Line and then her gray leather moto jacket by Muubaa. And I guess you could call her scarf the fourth layer as it sure does keep the chill away from the back of the neck. The scarf mixes shades of gray and tan with some faint shades of yellow that look like the color of unsalted butter. Her jeans are Sevens.



Neutral shades of color in lots of textures

Mixing textures in neutral colors

Her bag is by Le Victoire and is in another neutral shade: kind of a tan/brown. My boots (which I will probably give to her now) are a mushroom gray color.

There you have it! An outfit inspired by a necklace.

How many times do you start with a piece of jewelry you want to wear and then build an outfit around it? Do tell!



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  • Reply
    February 5, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Dear Brenda,

    I like the anatomy of Erin’s outfit. And I love her necklace. Will take her great idea of the soft leather and use with a strand of pearls that I never wear.


    • Reply
      February 5, 2016 at 6:20 am

      Love that idea! I can see it in my mind: leather and pearls. Perfect! Have fun, Linda!!!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2016 at 4:59 am

    Oooohhhh I like this story. Great necklace and now I’ve got inspiration for a weekend project!

    • Reply
      February 5, 2016 at 6:18 am

      Ah, ha! And is that weekend project about putting together neutrals? Glad I could provide! Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Nancy Madlin
    February 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I love the gray / mushroom-y / sandy tones of this outfit! Makes sense to me that it was built around natural materials — leather and gemstones, with their wonderful, subtle and various colors and tones. … I have a vintage bead necklace that I bought after I read your recommendation in 40 after 40 about experimenting with colors coordinating with one’s hair. They are many subtle shades of a shiny wheat / champagne color that is very much like my hair. I have built outfits around those beads that I really enjoy wearing. Will have to try that again soon! Thanks for the idea. Also, you have a lovely daughter and it’s so nice to see you working together. Congratulations!

  • Reply
    Amy Roseveare
    February 5, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Looks like we have a new jewelry designer on our hands! Lovely outfit, and good luck shopping to replace the boots you are clearing gifting her. 😉

    • Reply
      February 6, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Yup, we just might! She made one that I wear a good amount as a layering piece. Nothing like this one. And yes, those boots are now officially hers! Who could pull them away from that great outfit? The boots are saying, “I complete you.” Can’t fight romance!

  • Reply
    Nancy Molstad
    February 8, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I’d like to know more about her keychain…

    I am going to look for outfit inspiration in unexpected places.

    • Reply
      February 8, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      I’ll have to ask her about her keychain. I guess I never paid much attention to it! Enjoy your stakeout of things that are inspirational!

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