25 In Styling Tips/ Women Now

Creating outfit interest from the bust up

Mixing patterns

Creating interest from the bust up with pattern mix


The topic of styling from the bust up is one I’ll come back to from time to time. I’ve updated this post to inspire you think about this very important piece of real estate.

This area—from your bustline to the top of your head—should have your styling attention every day, whether it’s winter or summer. I’m always looking for ways to fill that area with interest so people will focus on your face.

Here in the wine country we’re entering a season where layering is essential. Terrific, I say. Because layering brings great opportunity for creating interest from the bust up. Why am I so big on being sure that part of our anatomy is fascinating to look at?

If you think about it, we often just see this part of a person in our day-to-day life. If we’re having a meeting in someone’s office, they may be sitting behind a desk the whole time. If we run into someone at a coffee shop, we’re chatting with him or her at a counter or café table. If we’re enjoying dinner out with a friend, their focus from across a table will be from the bust up.

Even if we’re entering a room, we want people focusing on the top third of our bodies. We connect with our eyes and communicate with our voices. When I’m dressing a client, I want attention to travel to her face as quickly as possible. Every detail from the bust up will help accomplish that. Those details can include color or pattern in jackets or tops, collars, necklaces, earrings, makeup, glasses, hair style or color, or hats. Did I miss anything? Feel free to add to this list!

Let me introduce you to three people who inspire me with their ‘bust up’ presence.


Scarf brings attention to the face

A scarf inside a collared shirt is a bust up trick


Ene from Fargo uses color to bring interest from the bust up

I was visiting back home in the Midwest some years back. Before my flight took off in Fargo, I was thrilled to meet my niece Jessie for some conversation and treats at Nichole’s Fine Pastry. Besides visiting with my niece, I knew I had to take a scone to go so I could enjoy it the next morning back in Sonoma.

As Jessie and I were saying our goodbyes and putting on our warmest coats, gloves, scarves and hats, I couldn’t help but notice Ene who was sitting at the table next to us.

I loved her passion for the color green. She wore her green t-shirt under her green cable knit cardigan and added two-toned green beads to the mix. Her purple-framed glasses added a modern edge to her outfit. She looked so bright and attractive. She didn’t mind me taking a picture of her. As I thought about it later, I never did see what she was wearing below her waist. I only saw her from the bust up! She was so inviting. Her pretty lips in a great shade of lipstick and her bobbed hair kept me focused on her face. She’d covered all the necessary bases to keep interest on the bust up.


Ene from Fargo at Nicole's French Bakery

Ene creates interest from the bust up with shades of green

Nicole mixes print and texture to create interest from the bust up

I met Nicole at a very favorite store in Sonoma called Chateau Sonoma. She was standing behind a counter so I didn’t see what she was wearing on the bottom half of her body. But she expertly created so much interest from her bust up. She had her black and white striped tunic under her black puffy vest. She wrapped a long narrow black and white striped crinkle scarf around her neck and wore silver earrings and a silver pendant. I loved her berry shade of lipstick. Doesn’t she seem interesting and creative? I wanted to know more!


Mixing patterns and layered jewelry

So much interest from the bust up in Nicole’s outfit

Maggan from Stockholm uses accessories to bring attention to her face

Maggan is a dear friend from Stockholm. We met when she was the editor of Tara magazine, a popular Swedish magazine for women over 40. She brought me to Stockholm twice to do makeovers for readers of the magazine. She and her partner Anders have had Thanksgiving with us for over a dozen years now. They’re family! Our tradition is to spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping and eating in nearby towns in the wine country.

We were headed to another favorite store of mine in Sonoma called Bess Nathan Rice Jewelry Studio Collections when I snapped this picture. I just loved her ‘bust up’ look. She was wearing a graphic print jacket with red trim and black button clip-on earrings. She had a red tote bag over her shoulder. I complimented her on her glasses, which were vintage. I love how they add warmth and contrast to her jacket. Her hair is short and so soft. Her lips are beautifully defined. Maggan is quite tall and striking yet approachable at the same time.


Large sunglasses create interest from the bust up

Maggan from Sweden uses pattern and accessories to highlight from the bust up

Yours truly mixes black and white patterns to create interest from the bust up


Bust up styling tips

Mixing black and white patterns to create interest from the bust up


So let’s see how well I follow my own advice. In this jean outfit, I’m wearing a white and black striped T-shrit that’s so cozy, I actually wore it three days in a row. No lie. I added my Harper Jacket to this mix. Remember, that’s the jacket with the crazy-fun peplum from Artful Home. This jacket buttons right under the bustline so that’s a great measuring spot for me. How can I create even more interest from that line up to the top of my head?

I’ve added a chunky beaded necklace. I bet that caught your eye. Then of course, I have my red Woow framed glasses from Uber Optics. Once I put on my topper with a diagonal plaid, I’ve added even more to the pattern mix I have going on. Did I miss anything?

I feel confident that these pieces will help me be visible, seen. I’m a champion for visibility in women our age.


What we all have in common

I bet you’d agree that each of us look like we’re enjoying getting dressed and have given thought to how we’re going to put themselves together each day. I love how we’ve all expressed themselves in unique ways. These women show us that they care and in turn, we care about them. Isn’t that a great reason to get dressed?

When you get dressed tomorrow, think about how you’re dressed from the bust up. Are you creating a plan for bringing attention to your face? I hope so! You’re so fascinating and I encourage you to share your beauty with those around you.

What are your bust up go-to regulars? I’d love to hear!



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  • Reply
    Bobbi Mouzon
    November 1, 2018 at 5:59 am

    I think that this is spot on….especially now as I am aging….a person starts to “disappear” with the color leaching out of hair and skin…and then there is the psychological business of feeling that one is disappearing after aging and retirement…so color on my face, keeping the hair up and necklaces or scarves are all wonderful for bringing “me” back when I look in the mirror! And a pair of pretty blue glasses recently purchased are fun too!!!!

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Bobbi, I really love how you brought in all those elements—all reasons to find ways to create interest. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    sophia montgomery
    November 1, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Scarves are my go-to for bust up accessorizing. I got a million of ’em. Thanks so much for the nice pictures of the ladies for inspiration! And yes, lipstick no matter what.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      I like your ideas, Sophia!

  • Reply
    monique arends
    November 1, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Scarves, lipstick (preferably red), striking earrings and lots of interesting jackets.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      I love your love of red lipstick! Great ideas. And yes, I feel like I need to explore interesting jackets. You make me realize I haven’t added one to my wardrobe for a long time. I think I need to shop!

  • Reply
    Vicky Krombach
    November 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Scarves, earrings and multiple pairs of prescription glasses… all help accessorize.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      So very true!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2018 at 6:10 am

    This article makes getting dressed much easier when I now realized my efforts should be put into my face, neck and upper torso. So much less daunting for me thence having to worry about the total picture. Thank you Brenda! PS. Nichole owes you big time for all the free advertising :-).

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      Sandi, you always do a great job of bringing attention up from the bust. I still am thinking of our Fargo Fashion Crawl!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I have a collection of Léa Stein brooches – they are eye-catching and usually get noticed and commented on. And scarves are a major resource, too. Thank you for a lovely post!

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Oh, Annette, I’m having a touch of the envy! Those brooches would certainly be eye-catching. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2018 at 9:12 am

    This is something we triangle-shaped women have always known. Keep the focus up top and no one will notice your bottom!

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      And actually, I think it’s a good tip for any shape. I like bringing attention to the communication center—our eyes and mouth. Thanks, Anon!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    November 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Great post, Brenda. Thank you. You’ve helped me realize the importance of carefully applied lipstick and interesting glasses. I also need more earrings. Scarves have been one of my tricks for decades.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks for that scarf endorsement. I can understand why! They’re magical. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Susanna Singer
    November 2, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I have found, as I get older and start to “disappear,” that there is nothing better than my single strand of pearls tucked inside a collared shirt, or (with a boat neck or crew neck top) my very distinctive bright longer necklace made of open, light squares and circles of silver. Somehow the light color of the pearls and the light, bright texture of the necklace help to brighten my face. Balancing necklace and earrings is important, and lipstick is essential. I’m not so great with scarves, somehow. Always turns out like a bandage! Thanks for the great ideas.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      And thank you, Susannah, for your great ideas! I can totally see those pieces and understand why they work so well for you. No disappearing! Showing up fully radiant, that’s my motto. You’re doing that.

  • Reply
    November 3, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    What a great, and timely, reminder that who we are as women *is* from the bust up!

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:28 pm


  • Reply
    Tiffany T
    November 4, 2018 at 5:00 am

    Fantastic advice as usual!! Thanks! I will be ready with a Thanksgiving outfit keeping this concept in mind- adding a vest and scarf/jewelry to my tunic.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      That sounds great, Tiffany!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    November 5, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    I’ve never thought about “bust up” dressing before! I think I probably do this instinctively, but I’ll definitely be paying closer attention now. My favourite “bust up” accessory lately has been my new Black Pearl Heritage Necklace from cabi.

    • Reply
      November 6, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      Lovely! And thinking about it will make getting dressed more intentional perhaps.

  • Reply
    Kathleen Adams
    October 29, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I have been trying to pay more attention to this advice. Love your advice on glasses (FUN!) and I am going to go to Ulta to get help with lipstick. I always thought of lipstick as something my mom wore, but you have shown me how much of a difference it can make! Thank you, Brenda.

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