43 In Women Now

How clothes can nurture even when you don’t wear them

Brenda wearing gray

Counting my blessings


I was with a friend yesterday who evacuated her home during the Wine Country fires just like we did. She said, “Just the other day I started to feel a little better. With all the uncertainty and being uprooted, I’ve felt so exhausted!” I encouraged her to be easy on herself. Healing takes time.

We walked across the Sonoma Plaza and a corridor of trees was wrapped in good wishes. Children’s drawings on hearts relayed stories of appreciation and thankfulness.

Sonoma Square

Trees in the square are decorated with messages to first responders



Sometimes stressful situations bring back memories of other times when one felt similar feelings. Ever notice that? If there was a time when I felt upheaval, fear of the unknown, and not knowing how to console myself it was years back when I was going through a divorce. That’s very different from the fires of course but there are enough emotional similarities to have brought it to mind. I remember the exhaustion. One day I could function in the world and the next day I’d take to my bed. It went on like that for weeks.

My husband and I didn’t have the Gwenth Paltrow/Chris Martin conscious uncoupling kind of divorce. It was complicated.


Finding symbols of hope in a lingerie shop

I was told that hammering out the details of our divorce would take about ten weeks of mediation. Ours took a year and a half. That’s a marathon. Somewhere along the line I decided I needed to go shopping – not your run of the mill retail therapy shopping, but shopping for a symbol of hope. With my intuition leading the way I ended up in a lingerie boutique a few blocks from the mediation office. Some people are lingerie people and this would not be a stretch for them. For me, it was a stretch, but as soon as I entered the shop, I knew I was in the right place.

At the first peek inside the door I realized I needed some pretty in my life. I needed reminders of the woman inside of me. I had to be in Warrioress mode to get through that divorce. I was thirty-five.


Brenda at 35

Young and going through a divorce


I trusted that I’d know what I needed to nurture me and I did—a pretty lace teddy in ivory, a color that wasn’t demanding in the least. I tried on the most beautiful bra I’d ever seen, a peach demi-cup lace bra from France. It was slightly uncomfortable but I overlooked that and handed it to the salesperson.

There was a rack against the wall that stocked robes. Most robes were too frilly for me but I found one that was long and made of a semi-sheer wool gauze. It was in an organic shade of ivory with wide ivory satin edging and a matching belt. When the salesperson told me it had been designed by an architect and was one-of-a-kind, I knew this was the one. My final purchase was a pair of golden slippers. Wouldn’t every woman going through divorce need a pair of golden slippers?


Unwrapping my purchases months later

Some months later I moved into my new rental home in a neighboring town. We were still in mediation. One night I pulled out the teddy from the peach tissue paper it had been wrapped in and tried it on. It was so pretty. Sometimes I’d sleep in it just to remember who I was – a sensitive and sensual woman.

The golden slippers sat on a small stack of books on my bedside table. One day I’d click the heels of those slippers and be out of this nightmare, I just knew it.

I rarely wore the robe even though I loved it. It turned out that the delicate, loosely woven wool was itchy. Not wanting to bury it in my closet, I bought a six-foot-long wooden dowel, slid the dowel through the sleeves and hung the robe on the wall behind my bed like a kimono. With the robe’s arms spread wide over my head, I felt protected. I bought a blush pink duvet cover and pillows for my bed. When I could afford it, I bought pink roses to put on my cedar chest.

This room was my sanctuary. No harm could come to me here. After tucking my kids into bed, I could slip under the covers, hear myself think and feel my heart mending, just a little.

Whatever happened to those items? The robe got moth holes in it and I finally let it go. After a while, I didn’t need the symbol of the golden slippers so I donated them. The bra was pretty to look at but eventually, I realized I wasn’t a demi-cup woman any longer. The ivory silk teddy actually got worn. But there was a time when I grew out of it. I must have gotten pretty thin during those long months!

If I look at cost-per-wear, they weren’t bargains because I didn’t wear them much. But when I recall the way they helped me heal, I can’t imagine a better investment.


J.Jill Chelsea coat

It’s a good life


Finding what nurtures you

I like remembering that story. If you’ll allow me a cliche, I have to say that out of the ashes of that messy divorce came many new beginnings. I loved being a mom, I pursued a career of my dreams, I became an author and I fell in love. I have a beautiful life. Oh, it’s got dings in it like everyone’s life does, but I’m grateful.

With nurturing on my mind, I wish I could say that caring for myself, as well as I did in that inspired moment in the lingerie shop, comes naturally. But I still work at listening to my needs. As a woman, it’s so easy to let other things take over. I hardly have to tell you that, right? But there’s something about being this age that gives me more hope that I can get better and better at it. Have you had that feeling too?

Let me hear from you: Is nurturing yourself a habit? Do you find it challenging? What nurtures you? I’m eager to learn from you, please share!

I wish all of you the opportunity to take time for yourself this week and do something nurturing.


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  • Reply
    TJ Southwell
    November 28, 2017 at 3:09 am

    Dear BK
    My poor daughter has severe depressive tendencies, and last Friday she called telling me she was suicidal. I spent 90 minutes on the phone with her, we established that she was ok, and we made a plan to move forward that relieved all the stress in her life at this time so that she can just concentrate on healing. She lives with one amazing young man who I admire so much and between us, and her psychiatrist, we work hard together to not only support her, but each other as well. The next day, my husband went to his usual golf game. I was alone. But I was not going to be lonely. I went out to look for a few extra Christmas decorations for our tree to the local mall and on a whim popped into a store I have not shopped in for a while. I took my time, wandering through, touching the fabrics and appreciating the colours and styling of this season’s offerings. I took a whole bunch into the fitting room. The 2 young girls who were staffing that day were just lovely to me. I ended up buying a complete capsule wardrobe with 6 pieces that not only mixed and matched but would compliment my existing wardrobe. Notably were 2 pairs of 7/8 length linen drawstring pants that were so flattering and so comfortable. We are entering our Summer here in Australia, so loose light clothing is a must. I have not had linen pants for about 8 years. I felt young and inspired and bought a pretty pastel chambray blue linen jacket to finish everything off and to wear when I go to the movies in the air conditioning or to the shops, as I often feel cold inside. The jacket was a surprise and not a colour I would usually buy, but when I put it on, it went with all of the other pieces, and even complimented the outfit I was wearing that day to the shops. They had a special deal on and I got the jacket for free after buying the other pieces. I felt nourished and happy after such an ordeal the day before, and I felt grateful that I was able to go out and do that for myself. I have had great pleasure in wearing all of my new pieces this week, and love the comfort and texture of the loose flowing linen pants. This is what I do for self nurturing. It comes from many memories of being denied the opportunity to feel pretty or spoilt as a child/teen when all I craved was to be able the luxury of self-expression through beautiful clothes. I am now able to appreciate how far I have come in life, and that I can provide this for myself. My daughter has quit her job and is doing better. She slept for 12 hours straight after we spoke. What a privilege to be able to not only help and support her emotionally and financially, but myself who must be strong also. I get that clothes can be nurturing. I also get that new clothes bring new energy as we constantly reinvent ourselves and evolve. Blessings xxxxx

    Ps, I also am wearing my Angel pendant that I bought last week with all my new pieces.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Wow, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Taking time for yourself, clothing yourself in things that feel wonderful to you–all good medicine for dealing with hard stuff. So glad to hear your daughter is doing better. Wishing for lots more of that to come. Big hugs to you. I like picturing you wearing that Angel pendant. Thanks for demonstrating self-care. Blessings to you, too!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Mom has been placed in assisted living. The Alzheimer diagnosis has taken full hold in the past 2 1/2 months she has been at the facility. Rages, wandering and failure to recognize us are daily realities. We are selling the house, emptying the contents
    and engaged in heated arguments with our siblings…threats of lawsuits abound. As I bagged my mother’s clothes for donation or those to store for her future use, I felt
    overwhelmed with what we collect in our
    life time. I realized my closet is too full and
    I have been emptying some of my
    unnecessary items so hopefully my children won’t have to. Right now clothes are necessary items only…I am finding little
    to comfort me in my closet. I make the effort everyday to dress with thoughtfulness and always have my full face on but I feel like I am bobbing on the ocean and just waiting for the next wave to hit.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Oh my Kathy, you bring up the reality that faces many people these days–illness of a parent, dealing with siblings, downsizing for others when they can’t do it for themselves (or would even want to). Sending you big hugs! And I am especially impressed that you’re dressing every day with thoughtfulness even while bobbing in the ocean. I know I’m not the only one reading this who is sending you best wishes as you go through these hard times. XO

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Kathy, when I went through that phase of caring for my mom who had Alzheimer’s (yes, it’s a common and very, very big challenge for us at our age), I somehow managed to create for myself a mantra that was so helpful and responsive to my siblings’ own fears, grief, anger, and confusion as they also struggled to deal with our mother’s decline: “Everyone is doing the best that they can, no matter how badly they’re behaving. In future, they may be able to do better.” Reciting this mantra gave me hope that eventually our family could make peace and come together again. And we did. I hope yours can do so, too. More importantly, I hope you can find some degree of peace as you travel this path, knowing you are doing the very best that you can do. Respect!

      • Reply
        November 28, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        Ann, this is powerful medicine! There’s stuff going on in our family too and this would certainly apply! Thanks for sharing. Wow, I am writing that down and putting it in my purse!

  • Reply
    Jessica Cossentine
    November 28, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Hi Brenda. I’m glad that you and yours did not lose your home. It does sound like the upheaval of the area is still present.

    The way that I give myself nurturing is by giving myself “time”. I use to do retail therapy-usually buying something for our home. But now I’m into more of a downsizing mode and only keep things that I enjoy or are useful. Giving myself time means that I allow myself to relax. I sit in my comfy chair with my coffee and a good book. I allow myself to watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon prime. I go get massages. I go out to lunch with a friend. I spend time with my husband on our tandem or hiking.
    I work part-time which makes cleaning, cooking, laundry more manageable. So for me, having “time” to do what I want is nurturing.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Your snapshot of how you nurture yourself is great. I was so happy when I read this and realized I have a massage scheduled for today! Woohoo! I found a great person and I schedule appointments out several weeks so I don’t slip off her calendar. That’s been a great thing I’ve added to my life this year…and without guilt!!! Thanks for sharing you with us, Jessica!

  • Reply
    Sandi McDougall
    November 28, 2017 at 5:39 am

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again, “you are an amazing writer, Brenda Kinsel”. I loved reading this article and will add that cashmere anything is my “go to” to feel safe, warm and cuddled”. Hope you have an amazing day!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Thanks, Sandi! You’re part of my amazing day!!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Dear Brenda. Thank you for being there, for expressing what we all feel, to some degree, at some point in our lives. Though we may be separated by geography, we (may I say your soul sisters?) are validated, soothed, uplifted and feel understood by what you share of yourself. We all have knots in our lives and you allow us some respite to maybe try to loosen the rope. I write this with tears streaming down my face and am thankful for them since they rarely appear and are needed. Thank you.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Lea, I would have liked to have been there to hold your hand as you wrote this. I love the idea that this community is made up of “soul sisters.” Indeed! The visual of having knots in our lives is very strong for me. I think when I feel up against it I’ll think of this and do what I can to loosen the rope whether that’s prayer, meditation, a walk, a talk with a friend. You nailed it!

  • Reply
    Camille - Paisley Grace Boutique
    November 28, 2017 at 6:13 am

    I love your outlook and so agree… we really do need an outlet for healing, and often, something as simple as getting out of the house and finding something “new” can give you just enough of a boost to feel that way too. It’s so hard, though, to stop and listen to your needs when you are so busy taking care of others. Being a mom to three teens is not for the faint at heart!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Camille, I burst out into laughter when you said, “Being a mom to three teens is not for the faint of heart!” I think moms of teens should have oxygen masks handy when we run out of steam!! I’ve often enjoyed the same thing–where you get out of the house and discover something new. It’s so refreshing! Good luck with those teens! We support you!

  • Reply
    Debra Ruff
    November 28, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Your story is what “nurtured” me this morning! We all need to just “STOP” and take the time to nurture ourselves in whatever fashion we might choose for ourselves.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Debra, a wise woman you are. So happy to be enjoying the inspiration you bring to me and others!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 8:36 am

    What everyone else said is so true, I remember when our daughter was small, I I took delight in buying things for her, for the house, nesting and making our home a nurturing place for our family. I made do with my own wardrobe. My priorities were directed towards making statements about who we were as a family, as parents, our yard, my job – not so much on who I was in my own skin. Now that I am older, with a body that has changed, and we have more disposable income, I let myself indulge in things that make ME feel good. That might be a cashmere sweater, a lighthearted color, the vintage 1920s cloches I make to compliment my outfits. I still refer to your earlier books on things that touch me on some essential level – red boots, the feel of velvet, antique enameled pins – and adapt them to who I am now. I don’t always get it right, but I am trying to re-establish who I am now, in this stage of my life. I am so much more kinder and accepting of myself. I find that fresh flowers in my house make me happy, twinsets with tunic cardigans are a staple in my wardrobe, and my lifelong love of vintage coats and jackets are essential to the person I am now. I spend less time worrying about how I am perceived, and more effort to enjoy adorning myself to please myself. This is a peaceful and interesting place to be. I have to tell you that your work has been a major influence in understanding and celebrating my own individuality for many years. So thank you for all your columns and your sharing these topics that touch a chord for so many of us.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 10:55 am

      I’m cherishing your words, “This is a peaceful and interesting place to be.” I so agree with you. I think at “our” age, we’re refining the essence of who we are and discovering more pleasure. The key to staying peaceful is to kick self-criticism to the curb and welcome self-acceptance. What a great teaching story you’ve shared!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    November 28, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Brenda, thank you for a beautiful post. You are an inspired writer. I love your blog because it is not just another attempt to get us to buy tons of stuff we don’t really need, I’ve spent most of my life thinking I don’t really deserve nice things. In recent years I’ve worked hard to overcome this feeling, and have had somewhat of a breakthrough. Your blog has been a big help. I’ve recently decided I need not just one but two new pieces of nice jewelry. I’ve been thinking about this for months and today, thanks to you, I’m going shopping.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Cathy, I’m so glad you are overcoming the feeling of not deserving nice things. Having well-chosen items around us or on us is a form of self-love and nurturing. We have to choose what those things are that make our hearts sing. I think you’re well on your way!

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin-Apart From My Art
    November 28, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Wonderful story. Also, love that photo of you at 35. Adorable. Did you really get a divorece when you were only 35?

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 9:25 am

      Sandra, I was thirty-five when we started the whole process of divorce. It took forever so I was 36-1/2 when we met to sign the agreement (on Christmas Eve!) and by the next April, it was official. I got married when I was 23.

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Another beautiful story of real life and the grace in which you went through it in your very own special way. I do nurture myself. For me it is more of a spiritual time. I find that if I am not balanced spiritually with spending time with my God nothing else seems to work. It never has to be a long time, but time that is with just me and my heavenly father, alone, quiet, listening, looking and anticipating the reveal he will give to me during our moment together. There is nothing more nurturing to me as a person or a woman. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Kathysue, your comment is nurturing me today! What a great reminder. Thanks!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    So many parallels in our lives, Brenda. I was also married at 23 and divorced at 35. I’ll skip the details and simply say that it felt like the end of everything, but was only the beginning of the life I had always yearned for and, eventually, the love and the soulmate I didn’t think I would ever find.

    And yes, you are SO RIGHT that some clothes we don’t wear often or even outside our boudoirs can be wonderfully supportive during our lives’ big transitions.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      Ann, I love hearing your story! I remember saying to God one day when I was in my very late 40s, “You know God, you have blessed me with wonderful children, a wonderful career, a wonderful place to live and if I die with all those gifts, it is enough. But if you can find it in your heart to let me love again with a partner who is kind and fine, I would be grateful.” And then came the Russ chapter!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Yes, I have been COCOONING……………and I always take care of myself!Shopping puts one in a GOOD MOOD.I did that with the SOUTH AFRICAN shoes after my MOTHER PASSED.I know she would have approved!
    Yesterday I had a facial……….which always make me SLEEP SO WELL and today was ACUPUNCTURE!I have to ask has your GUY ever left needles in YOU?Happened to me during YOUR FIRE!My Guy was so UPSET!!!!!!Seems he knew some people who had lost almost everything!I have my calendar FREE this coming month which HELPS CALM me…………….I LOVE WAKING UP WITH NO WHERE TO BE!

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Note to Brenda: get a facial. My acupuncturist practices Japanese acupuncture and in that practice, he holds the needle–either a gold one or a silver one–on the point and then moves to a different point. He never leaves the room. I love it.
      On most weekends I usually have one day where I wake up with nowhere to go. You’re right! That is pure luxury!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Tucker
    November 28, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    These stories are so lovely and made me think. I need to take better care of myself. How, I don’t know but I’ll figure it out. What a touching and important post.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks, Cheryl. I suspect you’re a very busy bee. It’s important for us all. Let’s start a nurturing club!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Just two days ago, I went on a quick get away to New Orleans for the pure sake of recharging my inner spirit. I stayed at the Old 77 Hotel where the walls were old brick and the ceilings were high and the floors were of a wonderful wooden patina. The hotel uses industrial design details and they support the New Orleans arts community. All of this was just what I needed to see. The next morning my grandson and I took a walk to the French Quarter and ate our lunch on the banks of the Mississippi River. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at several boutiques where I decided it would be fun to come back by myself to do some real shopping. Nuturing the spirit is so important, but slipped away from me during the busy Thanksgiving holidays. This is why I need to this escape to New Orleans.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      Caroline, thanks for sharing your nurturing adventure. How inspiring!!! Reminds me I need to visit New Orleans.

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    November 29, 2017 at 3:26 am

    ohh , i have tears in my eyes, from all the stories of loss and upheaval and longing! But the strength from adversity , that i also hear through these stories, that is such a poignant part of our human life force ! It has taken me many years of choosing hopeless selfish partners, and unfufilling directions, to reach enough crossroads , to learn that I am so worthy of decent love. But that it had to begin with self love ! This probably sounds like a therapy session, but I love the honesty of this post and the love in this special community. Thank you. So today i have a wonderful partner, live a simple life, and am learning to enjoy the creativity that clothes and dressing can bring, I take time out to swim as often as i can,, soul food for me. so tranquil and meditative. I also spend time in my garden as often as possible. Every morning after we drop the kids at school, little Dominic, and gorgeous 18 year old Darcy( who has just finished!) I walk through the country town streets, down to a coffee shop and have a quiet coffee with my beautiful partner. Such a joy ! Every day, i thank the life energy, angels, whoever, for my beautiful life. sending much love from Oz, to all of you darlings x

    • Reply
      November 29, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Strength from adversity. We don’t know that that lesson is on its way when we’re going through hard times but you’re really right. I love hearing about how you nurture yourself and about your wonderful family life. And I agree with you, Trinnie, this is a most amazing community! Love from Sonoma!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 7:03 am

    I have been reading your wonderful blog for some time, but this is my first comment. Your words really spoke to me today.
    When my first love died without warning nearly 10 years ago, one of the few ways I could derive comfort was to wear his clothes (fortunately we were similar sizes, so I could do this without too much adaptation!). His Levis, a favourite sweater, a leather belt, a much-loved jacket, a cashmere scarf – they allowed me to feel wrapped in him in a way that was no longer possible. As all clothing does eventually, they gradually started to fall apart and I had to wean myself off them, but the familiar textures, colours and fabrics soothed my soul so much in the early months, even years.
    I have been lucky and found another wonderful man to love. He has always been very sensitive to my feelings from the time before we met. A couple of months ago I found a watch belonging to my first husband at the back of a drawer – it wasn’t working and the strap had broken, so I put it on one side with a view to getting it repaired. Only last week, there was a little box on the the table when I sat down to breakfast … containing the now-repaired watch with a lovely new strap. I have been wearing it ever since as a symbol of the love that two good men have brought me over the years.
    Thank you for your words today, which have brought some lovely memories for me xx

    • Reply
      November 29, 2017 at 9:25 am

      This comment left me in tears! Amazing tears. What love you have had, twice, and the incorporation is just poignant beyond belief. Thanks for sharing this amazing story. I hope you come back and share again! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Reply
    Lucy Chia
    November 30, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Brenda, this is such a helpful post and so spot on. I’m going through a messy Estate battle over my fathers Will and am facing the second suing of the Estate from a family member, after my Dads partner. It’s been two long ghastly years with no time to grieve for my Dad who I loved so much. I find I am ok one day and then exhausted the next few. Your post was both nurturing and directional for me. Lucy

  • Reply
    Loes Blokker
    December 11, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Hi Brenda, you are so very right and I completely agree; clothes – and let’s remember bedlinens!- can be so nurturing, comforting, loving even. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me with your books decades ago to look at clothes and getting dressed in much more expansive, even spiritual ways than “just vanity”. My wardrobe at the moment is exactly as I want it to be; everything in it supports me and is a perfect expression of who I am and want to be today. Thank you very much for all your good and so inspiring work! May the dressinfFairies be with you and all of us extra close and with extra love this month! Blessings to you all, Loes, Amsterdam

    • Reply
      December 12, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Your letter is so inspiring and so loving! I want to sit down and have a cup of tea with you and hear more! Bringing up the word “vanity” is so interesting to me. That could be a whole study right there. I’m so glad you have that wardrobe that supports you and is that perfect expression of you. What you have is what I wish for every woman. I cherish your words!

  • Reply
    Christina Roseman
    March 8, 2018 at 7:25 am

    What a beautiful and truly raw story about how your clothing choices at a time of deep distress helped you. I feel touched to my core. Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and feelings. Blessings.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Christina. It’s a blessing to me to have these stroies be received by others. I’m thankful.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Gosse
    March 16, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    All I can say is: WOW! I am so proud to be unique and yet every woman! When God made us, He truly knew what he was doing.
    The strength and perseverance of woman kind is so inspiring and then of course there is our natural desire for creativity and fashion. How blessed and fortunate are we to belong to the annals of female history, the triumphs and tragedies of those who have gone before to those that bring us to who we are collectively and individually today .
    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Gosse
    March 16, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Oh! And Brenda! What lovely photos, past and present to share with all of us as you recant your ‘her’story! Love it and you!
    Thank you for adding SO much to the lives of SO many through all of your many gifts.
    So appreciated.

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