32 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Women Now

Finding favorite fashion details in Fargo

Fashion details in Fargo

Natalie’s outfit caught my eye at Nichole’s


I’m having a moment of appreciation for fashion, food, friends, and the wonder of connections. What’s stimulated this moment is the voice of Julie Andrews in my head. The speakers are turned up high, and she’s singing a verse from My Favorite Things. Do you remember it?

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Silver-white winters that melt into springs

These are a few of my favorite things


When the dog bites

When the bee stings

When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad


One time of the day when I think of my favorite things is around 3am. I don’t know if you wake up in the middle of the night with a busy mind, but when that happens to me I try to wipe the to-do list out of my head and think about a few of my favorite things.

Those favorite things often lead me to scenes and smells in Fargo, North Dakota.


Favorite Fargo things: new friends

Sandi lives in Fargo. We met through my blog. She wrote to me and shared the fact that she’s a native North Dakotan and a farm girl like me. We even share the same birthday. She hoped we’d have a chance to meet one day.

The next time I flew into Fargo, I called her and a tradition was born. When the plane touches down in Fargo in the late afternoon—that’s if the connection in Denver goes well—I meet her, her husband Paul, and my niece Jessie at the HoDo on Broadway. The HoDo is a cool restaurant and bar that’s part of Hotel Donaldson, which is way cool. Often, my twin brother Brent is with me.

We have drinks and nibbles. The laughs and stories get better and better as the night goes on. You might not expect this from North Dakotans, but we’re pretty darn fun people. There’s nothing like being with friends who share a history of place, especially a low populated place that’s mostly known for its wind chill.


Fargo friends

My Fargo friend Sandi


This fall I spent my first night in Fargo at Sandi and Paul’s house. Sandi was going to drive me the next day to Perham where I’d spend the week with Dad.


Finding my favorite scones at Nichole’s

The next morning we headed to another favorite place of mine: Nichole’s Fine Pastry and Cafe.

I had to get my currant scone fix. No place has better currant scones than Nichole’s in Fargo. You don’t see any of them in the picture of this case, because I bought the three remaining scones that were there. I’d have them to munch on them throughout the week in Perham.


Nichole's Fine Pastry in Fargo

The best bakery goods are at Nichole’s in Fargo


Take a peek at these cakes. Nicole’s won the Best Cakes in North Dakota award. I think I read that in People magazine.


Voted Best Cakes in North Dakota

Best cakes in North Dakota are at Nichole’s


Fashion delights in Nichole’s

The best place to spot great fashion on real people is at Nichole’s. As much as I love the pastries, salads, soups, and sandwiches, I love watching people in line. Even my twin brother Brent, notices fine fashion and points out people to watch. Every time I’m there, one to five patrons get the Brenda gaze. I try to be discreet, but there are times when I have to go up to individuals and compliment them on their outfits.

It happened again on this trip.

Sandi and I were enjoying lunch. The lunch line got pretty long, and I had my eye on three lovely women standing next to each other. I couldn’t stop looking at them. I got up to get a glass of water and broke into their conversation.

“I can’t help but notice you beautiful ladies. You look so great! Is there a special occasion why you’re altogether today?” I said.

The tallest woman was wearing a white coat. Who doesn’t love the bold choice of a white coat? She told me that they were in a workshop. Miss White Coat helps models and actors prepare their portfolios. Her two students were getting prepared for a trip to Chicago for auditions. Her students looked fabulous. I was sure they’d nail it. “What a terrific service!” I told Miss White Coat. “Well, you just all look great, and I had to tell you so.”

I got my water and sat down with Sandi who had noticed them too.


Fargo fashion

Fixed on Fargo fashion and this head-to-toe black outfit


I couldn’t let this fashion moment pass

A few minutes later out of the corner of my eye I saw the white coat come off as the image coach took her seat to have lunch. I saw the head-to-toe black outfit that had been underneath the coat. It had so much interest. I told Sandi, “I just have to go and talk to her again. That black outfit is just too fantastic.”

I marched to her table and said, “Excuse me, but this outfit is incredible. I write about fashion for my blog. I’d love to highlight your outfit in a post. It’s an example of how to mix black separates and create interest with the mix of textures.”


Sleeve detail on black top

Loving Natalie’s sleeve detail


Sheer black top

Best sheer black top I’ve seen all year


Details in monochromatic black outfit

Wrapped booties, tights, and Natalie’s pleated leather Italian skirt


I worried that I was sounding like a doofus, so I did what everyone does when they’re nervous: I kept talking. “I don’t live here, I live in California, but I’m from here,” I said.

“Oh, what’s your name?” she asked.

“Brenda Kinsel.”

“Brenda Kinsel? I have your book at home! I met you in 2000 when you spoke at the Women’s Showcase at the FargoDome. I was in my 20’s and I wanted to work with women in their 40’s. I had a wardrobe consulting practice and you were my role model. You were doing what I wanted to be doing,” she said.


Bracelet with message

Natalie’s favorite bracelet


That’s when Miss White Coat turned into Natalie Sparrow and we had a hug fest. I mean, what are the chances? Over the last nearly twenty years, she’s expanded her scope. Her company is Ultimate Image Management.

This whole conversation evolved over about ten minutes. Connections like these don’t happen every day, and aren’t they grand when they do? That bubble of time at Nichole’s is a memory I cherish.


Friends at Nichole's Fine Pastry

My special friend, Natalie


So when I’m awake in the middle of the night, it’s not so bad. I have time to think about some of my favorite things: family, good food, great friends, inspiring fashion, Fargo, and the wonder of personal connections.


Nichole's Fine Pastry scones

Enjoying my Fargo currant scone from my writing table in Sonoma


My friends, what are some of your favorite things? Do share!


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  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 5:31 am

    What a lovely post.
    I am full of English reserve, but my husband is a true “talk to anyone” type. He is like you and will compliment a perfect stranger (male or female) if they are wearing an outfit he admires. I used to sit and cringe with embarrassment …. until the conversation started. Then we would all talk like long-lost friends. I mean, who could ever be cross to learn that someone appreciates the way they dressed that morning?
    It is a skill I very much need to practise as our paths have briefly crossed with some super people in this way.

    • Reply
      December 6, 2018 at 10:57 am

      I’m laughing as I so relate to that cringe feeling! It would happen when I was with Mom especially. I don’t have English reserve but I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert. As I got older and watched the amazing connections Mom and Dad would make with strangers, I realized I was losing out. It doesn’t come naturally to me but I’m working on it! I’m so glad your husband is there to be a good mentor for doing this spontaneously! Loved reading your comment!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 5:31 am

    This is so cool! I love reading about connections!

    • Reply
      December 6, 2018 at 10:54 am

      They’re so special!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    November 29, 2018 at 5:41 am

    What a heart warming story, Brenda!! To think here you are admiring her outfit when she basically learned from you!!
    If your connection in Denver sometime doesn’t go well, you should ring me up and maybe I can come rescue you!! I live in Denver!!

    • Reply
      December 6, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Wouldn’t that be SOOO fun??!!

  • Reply
    Cara in S.FL
    November 29, 2018 at 7:19 am

    What a wonderful story for us and memory for you!
    Thanks for letting us enjoy it.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Absolutely, my pleasure. Thanks for reading! xx

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Brenda, YOU are one of my favorite things!!

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Teresa, you are bringing tears to my eyes! Thank you!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 9:41 am


    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      It is indeed. I mean, look, I found you! And that was through connections. I’m so happy!

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    November 29, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Oh Brenda, I love this post. Of course I love that song sung by Julie Andrews. How could you not??? This post also makes me think of our visit and how I loved that bubble in time! I wish I lived near to you so I could work or play with you, for you, beside you, however it could happen! 🙂 I’m so inspired by you. xo Cindy

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Yes, that bubble of time was so fun for me. I am so glad you and your sister made time to visit me in Sonoma. I would LOVE more connections with you!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Love this post!
    I was in Paris in September, for my birthday! Lucky me! I had so much fun studying the way Parisian women dress. I saw some really great outfits on both young and old. People watching, or at least Fashion Watching, in Paris is awesome. I’m too introverted to talk to those whom I find fascinating, but one time I was on the Metro (subway) and I could not take my eyes off a lovely top a woman was wearing. It got to the point where I was feeling creepy about looking at the way she styled it. So, in my 55 yrs ago high school French-with- a-crummy-accent, I said the only phrase I could come up with “c’est magnifique”. She smiled, I smiled. The train stopped and we departed. It was a break out for me. It was a truly beautiful shirt.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      You’ve painted this picture well! I can just feel your awkwardness but I’m so glad you said it. YOU SAID IT! Yay! Sometimes when I’m admiring someone or something about their outfit I wonder if they think I’m some sort of creepy person staring at them. I’m finding it easier to just cop to it. I’ll even say, “I you might have caught me admiring your outfit but that’s because it pleases me so!”

      I’m so proud of you, Jacqueline!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Sounds like where I live, in a place where a person can still talk to strangers (some). I did it the other day, asking a mom if she took her son to the same barber where my son gets his hair cut. Yes! The barber shop is the absolute best, so I can spot their work.

    Our discussion led into the plight of the refugees who work there. It was like they are family, These gentlemen teach our sons life lessons, while trimming their hair, like how a gentleman always keeps his hair and clothing neat and tidy as a sign of respect for others.

    These gentlemen are sharing their gift for impeccable grooming, but it goes far beyond that. They have held their heads high through terrible personal tragedies and loss that come with war.

    My city is the TV version of Fargo, so I think it must have some things in common with the real Fargo.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Anon, this is such a great anecdote. You are being very astute to notice their gifts. Really, my heart is full. Thank you for sharing real life with us. Things move so fast and it would be easy to miss but you didn’t. Thank YOU!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    November 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    What a wonderful feel good story! I’m so glad you were bold enough to go back and talk to Natalie a second time. I’m sure it made her day as well as yours! I can certainly see why her look caught your eye… fabulous without being overdone, and oh, that bracelet! Doesn’t it just perfectly describe what you do through your blog? Thanks for giving your gift to those of us who read it regularly.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Elaine, you are so welcome! And I agree about her outfit: fabulous without being overdone. We talked a lot about that bracelet and later my friend Sandi tried to find it at the store where she bought it but it was sold out. But we still get to enjoy the message of it! You make my day!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Lovely story! This is the kind of friendliness that can happen in Pittsburgh, too, where I am lucky enough to live. I too enjoy complimenting people who have made an effort to look good. It can lead to smiles all around. Thanks so much for your blog.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:15 pm

      Mary, it’s so true. One time I complimented a young woman who I imagined clearly understood how beautiful and attractive she was. She said Thank You, left the coffee shop with her to go cup and came back a few minutes later. “I just want to tell you that what you said meant so very much to me.” I could have cried! We have no idea how our kind words land for people. This whole conversation reminds me to do it more often.

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin - Apart From My Art
    November 29, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    What a delightful story. Who knew North Dakota was filled with so much creativity and joy!

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      Oh Sandra, you would find lots to love in Fargo! In the Hotel Donaldson where the HoDo is, every room is decorated by the art of an artist from North Dakota. So the mediums are different in each room but you get to enjoy your stay with a specific artist giving you visual delight. It’s so fun! And the HoDo is full of heart. Oops, I meant to say art. But it’s full of heart too! xo

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 6:05 am

    This post makes me miss you soooooo much! I am grateful to be a part of your life.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Oh Sandi, wasn’t that a grand day!!!!??!!! I’m so glad it all happened with you!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    This is such a sweet story! Making personal connections can be difficult especially now that almost everyone has their noses in their phones! I’ve always been an avid people watcher (my mom and I made a sport of it!). But lately I’m finding myself reaching out and talking to people more than ever. There seems to be a sort of coming together after hardships and tragedies, where I live I think everyone is united in feeling for our neighbors up north affected by all the fires, so somehow talk comes more easily. Also, the holidays seem to make it easier when you’re waiting forever in a long line! It’s nice to chat and connect with someone, if only for a few moments. Lucky you, you seem to have “friends you don’t know yet” all over the place!
    Xo Heidi

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      I love your line: Friends you don’t know yet. Oh, what a lovely thought! Yes, I think you’re really right about connecting after tragedy especially. I saw myself do that when my mother and brother both passed. While I could be buried in grief, at the same time I could be helping someone or offering assistance or just saying hi. It’s like a healing salve to reach out. Take us outside of our houses and our noses out of our phones like you say and there are eyes to connect to. I love your comment, Heidi. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Jen O
    December 2, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Brenda, I’m new to your blog, but had to comment. The story of your chance meeting was inspiring. As a retired college professor, I occasionally run into students from my past. Too often they recognize me when I don’t recognize them, and it’s a fun moment. Your contribution in the past to her life was touching.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      And I can only imagine the contribution you made to your students. It gives me goosebumps, Jen!

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    December 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    As a child I used to cringe when my mother would stop and talk to any person who happened to be stopped nearby – bus stops, queues, garden visiting, anywhere really. Now I do it all the time. Does it get easier with age, do you think? Everybody has a story to tell, and this one was just too lovely for my words. Great job, Brenda. None of us really knows how we influence people, and what a privilege it is to find you’ve been such a positive for someone.

    • Reply
      December 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      Laurice, my parents were famous for talking to strangers and I hated it too! And I feel like in the Bay Area it’s not as common to find people like Mom and Dad. But finding myself later in life, I’ve come to appreciate what they’d been demonstrating all those years. I’m not great at it, believe me. It still takes courage and I’m always afraid I’ll bug somebody but it usually doesn’t work out that way. More and more I want to hear the stories others have had. It’s fascinating!

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