Out of the blue I’ve had a fashion epiphany. It happened with an innocent enough request from Chico’s.
It went roughly like this: Chico’s writes me and says something like, “Hey, Brenda, we’re debuting a new Comfort Waist Collection. Would you be interested in choosing one of our comfort waist bottoms and a coordinating top and accessories (your choice) and styling it for a social media post? In exchange we’ll gift you the outfit.”
Well, hey, Chico’s, you had me at Comfort Waist. Yes, I’ll do it!
I signed on to create an outfit that had Brenda stamped all over it using Chico’s products.
I like Chico’s. I already own and wear pieces from Chico’s. I’ve got this!
(Sharing some past Chico’s love in my Where I Shop Series.)
After the pieces arrived and I tried them on, I nearly called them back and said, “I can’t do it!” This was forcing me to challenge two styling narratives I participate in every day both personally and professionally.
1. Get a put together look by designing an outfit that has three pieces
Chico’s had been straight with me all along. They hadn’t said, “Choose three pieces and put a look together.” No, they said choose a pant and a coordinated top. One plus one equals two. Two pieces. That’s generous by all standards but I’d forgotten to take into account how I rely on three pieces to look put together.
Let’s talk pieces. If you’ve been around me, either as a reader or a client, you know that I’m a three-piece girl. I’m an expert at taking the same 3-piece formula for dressing that we used in the 1980s and applying it to current fashion.
You remember that 3-piece formula. A skirt, silk blouse, and jacket. 1-2-3. A pant, knit shell, and jacket. 1-2-3. Three pieces completed your fashion sentence. Two pieces in a fashion sentence would have been like dangling participles, an incomplete look that didn’t exude confidence or style finesse.
While three-piece suiting is pretty much a thing of the past, I can still keep the formula alive. I’m fashionably altruistic like that.
I just wrote about this in a recent blog post: The power of the third piece to finish an outfit. I live by this formula and here I was about to create an outfit using two pieces instead of three and I felt nearly naked.
Could I still be me in two pieces?
2. Mix and match pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of new outfits
I’ve been called the Iron Chef of Fashion. When someone calls me that, like a client after I’ve put together twenty new outfits out of the clothes she already owns, I don’t protest. I don’t even pretend to protest. I so own this title that you could put it on my tombstone and I’d be fine: Here lies Brenda Kinsel, the Iron Chef of Fashion.
When I pull out my iron chef fashion tools, I’m generally not working with coordinated pieces. That would be too easy. The top chefs I’m thinking about are into the razzle-dazzle moves. I have some of those moves myself. I make stylish outfits out of stragglers, neglected items at the back of the closet, has-beens headed for Goodwill, clothes purchased three years ago with tags still attached. I can throw disparate ingredients together and come up with delectable combos my client will wear over the next four weeks while earning compliments. Then I get up the next morning and do it all over again at someone else’s house. I’m consistent like that.
Chico’s said choose a bottom and a coordinating top
With that Iron Chef of Fashion reputation, would wearing a coordinated top with a pant destroy my rasion d’être?
These are the pieces I chose: Tonga navy comfort waist pants, a coordinated embroidered boho shirt, a blue stone pendant on a tan leather cord, and blue bauble earrings. I prepared for the big day when I’d debut this outfit.
I started with the easy part. I slipped into the pant. Besides being comfortable (that hidden waist thing really works) they are my favorite shape. They make me look long and lean. If you didn’t know I was 5’5″, you might think I was 5’6″.
I put on the boho shirt. Gosh I love the contrast of the white and blue together! I thought I’d feel naked without a third piece but I didn’t! I mean it’s not a crop top, it’s a long top. Why was I so afraid?
I added my boho-ish woven leather bag to my outfit. I like the way the caramel color in the bag relates to the color of the cord on my necklace. And I like how the necklace just adds texture to the top. There’s something very relaxed going on here!
Wearing two pieces felt good
I’ve been telling myself that I want to slow down to the speed of life. I got an inkling of what that felt like while wearing this easy, breezy, coordinated non-three-piece outfit. It seemed like the outfit was bringing out my wishes.
I’ve been thinking about getting out my sheet music and playing piano again. Seeing that piano in Petaluma was a nice reminder! I feel lucky to have enjoyed every minute of lunch that Tuesday with my daughter Caitlin at Della Fattoria. How glorious is it that? I love how strong and spritely I feel walking around town in pants that make moving around feel effortless. Moving around feels so right!
So Chico’s, thanks. I didn’t realize I was going to have an epiphany but I did! I’ve always focused on how the right clothes can help people reach their goals. Being in this outfit helped me realize a softer type of goal I have in this chapter of my life. It’s about chilling and having time on my hands to fill with willy nilly things. They aren’t those grand, big goals that are perhaps easier to measure.
Yet I can consciously dress for these softer goals. Two piece dressing may be one way to do that.
So my friends, two pieces or three? Do certain combos make you feel a certain way? Are you trying new things and getting new results? Let’s hear about it!