15 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

Easiest jean outfit recipe for the COVID season and beyond

Even before COVID and the current stay at home orders, I’ve meant to tell you about the easiest jean outfit recipe I’ve ever made. It’s so effortless to put together, yet it looks like a million bucks thanks to this Dressori kimono jacket.

The plan was to meet my friend Vicky at MacArthur Place in Sonoma, a hotel and spa. It has a great coffee shop, an outdoor patio, and a light-filled lobby with cool art and small tables for catching up with ones you love like Vicky.

Don’t run over there now; it’s closed because of COVID.

Our pre-COVID get together over coffee

But this get together was on March 6th when we couldn’t have imagined how much the world would change in the coming weeks.

It was a bit chilly out, but I was so excited to wear this gifted Dressori kimono jacket. Vicky is a fashion lover, and I knew she’d appreciate it. I left my just-in-case warmer coat in the car and skipped into MacArthur place to meet her warm, beaming smile. Everyone deserves a friend like Vicky.

Three easy pieces

Anyhoo, the outfit was easy to put together. I wanted a simple background so the kimono jacket got all the glory it deserved. What’s simpler than a column of navy? Maybe a column of black.

I slipped into my DL1961 slim frayed jeans (medium wash) and grabbed a cashmere navy sweater with a high v-neck. I bought it from the men’s department at Saks Off 5th in the Petaluma Premium Outlets.

Jeans and a sweater had the background covered.

The kimono jacket color is called denim. There’s a shibori pattern on it that has shades of orange, sage green, brighter blue, and soft mustard.

Three easy accessories

When it came to adding accessories, I used my honey-brown leather pieces to pull out the warmth in the jacket colors. On my feet were my Cole-Haan ankle booties. I pulled out a leather belt in a similar color that I bought in town at the leather shop on the square. I buckled it near the end, so it hung on my hips, not my waist.

I added my honey-brown bag which came from SAX Consignment.

The boots, belt, and bag neatly tied the jacket to the column of navy. Is that simple or what?

Thinking ahead to wearing the Dressori kimono in spring

It was easy to imagine wearing this jacket in May with jeans, a tank, and sandals. I love the luxurious feel of the jacket and how it billows around me as a walk. I could see wearing it on closet appointments with clients or shopping trips or meeting girlfriends for lunch or wearing it to go out to dinner with Russ.

Ah, but those adventures are on hold. Plus, it’s been cold in Sonoma and I’m not at all tempted to wear a tank or sandals quite yet.

But I did wear this outfit on Monday when I was busy meeting writing deadlines and working on lesson plans for a 4-week class I’m planning to teach soon on style. Virtually, of course.

Changing the recipe slightly for my home office

I changed out just a couple of things from the original recipe to make my Monday work-from-home jean outfit. The belt feels like too much fuss to wear at home. Instead, I wore a pendant that my friend, Alice, sent me from Minnesota. It’s a crystal and a key hanging off a brown leather cord. It was an easy substitute.

It felt so good to wear it all day because it reminded me of her and our meeting in a coffee shop in Fergus Falls, MN. You may remember her, too in the post I wrote about her adventures in style while recovering from cancer treatment.

Back to my substitutions: My Cole-Haan booties have a small, chunky heel. For my home office, I went with my brown suede Prada booties. Flat, super comfy, and it was great to get out of sneakers. I wore my tortoise-framed glasses instead of the blue ones (also from Uber Optics).

I asked Russ to pictures for me. You can see that this outfit fits in well with the warm brown tones favored in my office furniture.

From melancholy to acceptance to appreciation

I was a little melancholy prior to putting on this outfit on Monday. I wanted to wear it, yet I felt sad. I had had such visions of bouncing around Marin and Sonoma having a lovely time wearing this kimono. And here it was just me, indoors on a Monday, again.

But was it just that? I was in my office surrounded by things I love. I was writing materials for members of the Monthly Marketing Bundle Program that I started in 2009. I adore the image consultants and stylists in this program who will use these materials. We’re there for each other, especially now.

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on a class that I’ve wanted to teach but never had the time to develop.

I’m referencing my books as I write the course and remembering how my last book was written here in this office.

I recall taking a break from writing back then and meeting Vicky for coffee as we do. She commented on how I’d accessorized my outfit, and the term Beauty Bundle was coined. Just in time to make it an essential tool in a chapter of Brenda’s Fashion Makeover.

Accepting today while dreaming about tomorrow

Do I wish I could be bouncing around Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and San Francisco Counties? Yes. But being at home in this office writing, thinking, remembering, and creating has its rewards. The slower pace offers me the opportunity to appreciate relationships, connections, God. I’m not rushing.

It also affords me time to worry and be anxious–I’ll admit to that! But that’s where the friendship loops back in again. Comfort and solace aren’t far away when I remember to reach out.

Your readership and comments, here and on social media, have been such good company. I feel the connection we all have for each other and our loved ones. I imagine that feeling of coming together will be a hallmark of this extended time with normal life on hold.

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy. From the window in my office, I’m blowing you a kiss.

Please share what you’re discovering about yourself during this unplanned extended time at home.


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  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 4:32 am

    So many things about your article put a smile on my face: the visual pleasure of a beautiful outfit, your writing style, the mention of Alice and your wonderful past post, and most amusing, your literal interpretation of what is a “ style recipe”. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Diane B
    April 16, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Had my annual re-read of your books this past month, and as usual had a great time with you. I have been trying to do the jewels and makeup most day and sorting through the closets for fun inspirations. Actually there is one good note, I have not had to worry about going close to people as I heal from 2 more surgeries that are quite obvious up close. Brenda, I have been enjoying your posts even though not commenting much. Keep up the good work…you ARE an essential service for us. I liked the recipe addition as well for a smile. Virtual hugs are better than none.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Love your blog and every one of your posts. Please post more often. You are a gem, and we need you now.

  • Reply
    Gerrie Leinfelder
    April 16, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Always a joy to get another of your posts in my email! I’m forwarding this one to a beloved cousin who I think will love you too.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 9:17 am

    I have enjoyed your posts for some time , but this one really spoke to me, with all the older posts tucked inside. What a treat for today. It’s still winter like here in Montana so it’s fun to see a transitional piece like this one. We have very few retail stores in the capital city. Many have left before the virus. On line is the best choice. Love the research you do. I was originally from CA so it’s fun to see and hear about your local references.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    You look so pretty in that outfit and now I will drag out the kimono I tried to give to you and wear it with my new button front ecru jeans from Target as soon as our weather warms up. And I’m laughing at your actual recipe as I was just following one for apple bread. You are a genius! I agree with Judy, post more often, you are a gem & I miss you like crazy Brenda!

  • Reply
    Julia Purtill
    April 16, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Dear Brenda, thank you for posting for us as it is a bright spot in the day to read and think about something fun. I loved your revelation that your navy sweater came from the men’s department! That is an example of thinking outside the box which I seldom do with fashion! I’m proud of California’s strict response to the pandemic. I think your state is doing a good albeit hard job!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    When I open my daily emails it always makes me happy to see your blog. It will be the first one I read because I always come for your wit and humour! I agree with everyone else that I wish you wrote more often but I will take what I can get. Lol. Thank you Brenda for giving us all something to smile about in this crazy time! Stay safe!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Dearest Brenda, you my darling , are a continual ray of light. What I have discovered about myself over this time? I am in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and we are meant to be in Autumn (Fall for you) but our temperatures are still high, think t-shirts and shorts. I am mostly working from home with my property management business and my husband just had a weeks leave. He decided to repaint the interior of our 3 bed+study apartment. We thought at the time that this would be a good thing to take our minds off not being able to see our grown up children and their partners over Easter, not to mention that we now have a 4 week old grandson who we only got to see once before they went into isolation. So, mess and dust, everywhere. I am still have to work and thankfully have an office in the foyer of our apartment complex so I can escape the chaos that is usually our ‘haven’. What I have noticed is that my energy levels are fluctuating a lot. Some days I wake up and can go and go, other days, I feel I want to hibernate under a blanket and sleep all day. This is not possible, as I have to keep going. I have noticed that I snapped at one lady, so my patience must be running thin as this is not like me at all and has caused me to revisit the situation over and over in my head. My ‘uniform’ for days when I don’t have to see clients consists of a navy Tommy Hilfiger polo t-shirt with pink or white coloured stretch cotton shorts, leather belt and slip on trainers or birkenstocks. I always wear 50+ sunscreen and have one that is tinted, which is good if I am not doing a full make up with foundation. I now have about 7 of these polo t’s that I wash and wear every day. Despite washing on gentle and hanging in the shade to dry, the navy does tend to fade quickly in them. I have tried to get ‘properly’ dressed twice this week. This means a pretty flutter sleeve top with a pair of linen shorts or skirt, and a pair of stylish low heeled slingbacks, plus a light makeup. I feel better about myself when I am dressed, hair washed, dried and product applied, and make up. It seems that with all the handwashing and facetiming, we are looking at ourselves more than ever. I find if I have a little colour in my cheeks and mascara on, I feel better about myself. I am looking forward to my husband returning to work next week so I can get the house back in some kind of order and clean every inch of dust that has landed on everything. The painting does look good but it has been an upheaval to move things out of the way and then put them back and I have been washing curtains as we go along as well. I miss my kids. I am missing seeing my grandson change and grow. I am feeling a deep sense of collective grief for the life we all used to have and the unknown of when that may return back, if ever. Thanks for posting and can have more about what your daily routines are during this lockdown? Love always TJ Xxxxx

  • Reply
    Peggy Z
    April 16, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    I love this! A kimono! How easy! Jeans are my uniform. I live on a farm and my style is fairly casual to begin with, but my sisters say I’m stuck in the 50’s. I love this simple formula for dressing up to head to town for groceries. I could even wear something along these lines to our favorite Mexican restaurant. Maybe by the time we can go again, I will have something put together.
    You look beautiful in your jeans. Thank you for little nugget of dressing up my look.

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    April 16, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    As I read the last portion of your post, I had a light bulb moment! I used to be a person who lived for the future; always planning and looking ahead. When I retired a little over a decade ago, one of my primary goals was to learn to live more in the moment. I didn’t anticipate that cancer would be what it took to teach me that, but when we’re not guaranteed a future (none of us really is), we start to look at life quite differently. Anyway, while people all around me are worrying and making dire predictions about how long this is going to last, I’m finding myself quite unbothered by that aspect of it. What have I discovered about myself during this unusual time? I just realized that I’ve met my goal! I’m simply living one day at a time right now and not giving a lot of thought to what the future will bring.

    And on a totally different topic, I love your kimono and how you’ve styled it!

  • Reply
    Sharon P
    April 17, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Brenda, Great outfit post, but what I noticed in the picture of you in your office is that you look like your Dad! Thanks for the inspiration to pull out my old silk kimonos and wear them NOW!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth G
    April 22, 2020 at 9:44 pm

    Oh Brenda! I’ve been looking for you! Looking for new posts from you, that seem like tonic from an old and dear friend. You have such an uncanny way of being every woman, especially as you voice the many ups and downs of feelings we are all having and sharing right now. This is an unnatural time for us. We were meant for fellowship and closeness and hugs and sharing. Yet this virus tells us to distance and isolate ourselves. We were meant to minister to each other and that is something you do so very well, on so many levels. From your family anecdotes, to your creative flair, to your words of care and wisdom, to your sharing of personal thoughts and feelings. You are very much balm to our hungry hearts. Thank you for what you do, and for just being you. I agree with all these women commenting above.
    A dear friend to us all. Take care, stay well and don’t let us miss you too long between posts! (I’ve been reading past ones during these long hours of isolation! Great reading! Loved especially the Oscar Best Accessory Award! Sooo creative!)

  • Reply
    Marie Mullineaux
    April 27, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Excited to hear more about your course, been hoping for that opportunity to learn more from you for awhile now! Amazed to see you appear to have the exact Danish Modern desk that I inherited from my parents! Loving the kimono and outfit on you too Brenda!

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