39 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Getting Dressed

How my Fashion Fairy Godmother counseled me into a great outfit

I wake up sneering and growling. I am a woman on the verge of a fashion breakdown. I look in my closet and feel like I’ve exhausted every possible combination using this and that and this and that for months now. Fashion is the best part of my day, but not this day. I can’t possibly squeeze one more combo out of this lineup of summer clothes. I’ve lost my touch. I’ll never wear a cute outfit again. No, really, it’s true!


Our Koi pond, photo by Russ

Koi in our koi pond, photo by Russ


I find myself outside at the edge of the cliff backyard staring into the abyss Koi pond, pondering my fashion fate.

A conversation starts inside my head

The fish glide around quietly, swishing through the water.

I am not the fish. I am grumbling. My inner voice gets louder and louder.

Inner voice: Yuck, yuck, yuck! I’m so sick of everything that’s in my closet. I’m done, done, done with summer. I want my fingers touching tweed. I miss my mushroom leather-knit jacket. I want my blue plaid flannel shirt. I want to layer sweaters. Whah, whah, whah!


Fashion Fairy Godmother

My Fashion Fairy Godmother comes to my rescue


My fashion fairy godmother appears

Fashion Fairy Godmother speaks: Darling, these last days have been so hot: 108 degrees, then 108 again, then 100. I think you’re weary from the heat. You haven’t even worn your favorite accessories because they feel too hot to wear. You’re not used to this!


Winter outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

It’s 100 degrees outside and I miss my sweaters!


Inner voice with toddler overtones: I want tweed! I want fur trim! I want a cowl neck sweater and suede boots. I.Want.Them.Now.

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Sweetheart, I get it. You’re getting close to the seasonal cusp. You’ll be putting summer clothes away in a few short weeks and pulling out new/old things to play with in the fall. We’ve just been in the middle of the hottest days of the summer. It’s scrambling your head.

Inner voice: It is! I don’t like this! I want to have fun with fashion! I want to wear an Instagram worthy outfit! I want to create something clever, smart, do something I haven’t done before and delight in it all day long. But it’s gone. The creativity is gone, dried up. I have nothing to wear. YUCK.

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Yes, well, I don’t think your creativity is dried up. You will find joy in fashion. You may even find it again within thirty minutes. Hey, I have an idea. How do you want to feel in clothes today?


Fashion Fairy Godmother suggests dressing with the end in mind

Inner voice: I want to feel pretty and feminine, soft and lovely, carefree. Not sweaty, athletic or bouncy. I want to tune the Spotify dial to Edith Piaf, not Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Okay. I think we can do that. Let’s go back to the closet and look for romantic pieces in fabrics that glide.

Inner voice: I don’t have pieces like that. That sounds like Stevie Nicks. I don’t have her wardrobe.

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Okay, well, we’ll improvise if we need to. Today you’ll wear jewelry that feels pretty so anytime you look at your wrist or finger or touch a necklace you’re wearing, you’re tapping into those softer qualities, qualities that live inside of you, Brenda dear. Soon you won’t be growling or sneering; you’ll be serene and pleasant. Okay, Honey?

Inner voice: Will you come with me to the closet?

Fashion Fairy Godmother: Absolutely, my love!


Fashion Fairy Godmother Makeover

My FFG sprinkles some fairy dust on me, flutters off and leaves me alone with my wardrobe. I take a deep breath. A can-do feeling starts fluttering in my stomach. I shall create an outfit that will be feminine, pretty, lovely, and carefree.


Anatomy of an outfit

Anatomy of my lovely, feminine, soft outfit



Finding my way to lovely

I am inspired by my Max Studio linen and silk, double layered skirt that I bought at Ooh La La Consignment in Santa Fe in June. It has that swishy movement when you walk. My legs love how that feels. The soft overall blush color with lavender and gray/blue flowers with beading on them is sublime.


Using pins in place of buttons on a cardigan sweater

Adding soft colored sparkly jewelry


I’m determined to stick with a light color palette and low contrast. When I wore this skirt in Santa Fe, I wore a white T-shirt with it and my soft black Eileen Fisher linen jean jacket. But that jacket won’t work today. Nope, no way.

I pull out a gray linen loosely woven cardigan sweater that’s so difficult to work with. Last week I thought of giving up and taking it to the consignment store. It’s by Crea Concept. It’s limp, has a wide neck and wants to fall off my shoulders.


Staying within a low contrast color palette

Mother’s vintage bag is just right


I pull out my brooch/pin box. The remedy for this cardigan may be inside that box. I decide to pull the neck tighter, making it a bit asymmetrical so it won’t shift on my shoulders. Small pins will keep the sweater closed so it’ll stay put. I pull out two owls and one floral pin with a lavender colored stone in the center and secure the sweater. The pins introduce unexpected charm and whimsy. I wear one of my glitzy necklaces in neutral peachy tones. Everything is starting to twinkle.


Owl pins become buttons on a sweater

Pins add whimsy and charm to my sweater and keep it from slipping


Accessorizing with bracelets

I look at my wrist and love my bracelets … all day!


Pulling it all together with bangles, a handbag and shoes

I go into my wire mesh bins and pull out a mix of bangles. One is a chunky-ish cuff by Alxis Bittar. I choose my Patty Crandall heart bangle, another Alexis Bittar thin sparkly bangle and a lovely bone colored bracelet my friend, Debra, gave me. The matte finish of the bone bangle is a nice contrast to the shiny bracelets.

What handbag will I wear? Every day is better if Mom is in it so I reach for the ivory vintage bag she gave me years before she passed.

I think about wearing my white tennis shoes but today I’m allergic to athletic, bouncy or spunky. I am wearing ladylike shoes instead. I don’t have a big selection to choose from but I remember my blush colored patent Prada platforms. I don’t bounce when I wear these shoes; I glide. I take my time. I smell the roses. Everything slows down to a lovely, manageable speed. Life is sweet.


Anatomy of an outfit with charm and whimsy

A feminine, lovely, sublime outfit with charm


Thanks to my Fairy Fashion Godmother I am purring, not snarling; flirting, not nagging. And thank you to my sweetheart Russ who took these outfit pictures this afternoon so I could show them to you. I think I’m going to press “publish” on this blog post and then go give him a kiss!

Do you have clothes that bring out the softer side of you? What are they?

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  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 4:10 am

    Oh Brenda…your blog is like eating a cream filled donut!!! I look forward to reading it as much as I do eating those delightful pastries. I always blame a “cross” day on “my time of the month” I used that excuse for 39 years so why change now? I think we all have days where we want to throw out our clothes, other possessions and occasionally people in our lives and have a start over! Nothing looks or fits right! I have a long long skirt that I wear on days I want to feel lovely and feminine. It hasn’t let me down yet! Your outfit is so you! Thank you for the tips on training a reluctant sweater! I have one in my closet right now that I am going to have to talk to! Enjoy your day!

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Kathy, you speak words of truth! You really made me smile!!! Yes, when I started finding fault with my sweetheart AFTER looking in my closet, I knew I had to take responsibility! It’s so funny because that feeling can definitely spill into everything! Glad I kept it focused on the clothes. This happens to me so rarely that it was really a shock to me. I can see that reluctant sweater being tamed right now! Again, you made my day by naming that feeling so well.

  • Reply
    Sandi Mcdougall
    September 5, 2017 at 4:22 am

    You are an amazing writer Brenda. Love the article and love the outfit. I hate to mention it won’t even be 65 today in Fargo. 😉

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Ooh, I think I’d take Fargo weather right now, happily! That’s normally what San Francisco weather is like but they’ve been hot, hot, hot too!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 4:39 am

    Brenda, i am feeling just like you. What can I wear? Roll on autumn. Thanks for the shot in the arm.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Now, the morning after, I think I need to give myself another shot in the arm. It’s HOT!!! I’m with you: bring on Autumn!

  • Reply
    La semaine d'une gourmette
    September 5, 2017 at 5:11 am

    You remind of days when I just don’t want to cook! I have no idea what to cook (never mind that I have a thousand recipes I want to try tucked in Pocket or in my phone…)! It’s Summer and I want winter squash – or it’s winter and I want tomatoes! I hate cooking (yeah right)!
    Well, you got out of that mood with a very nice outfit, I must say 🙂 Though I have to tell you, it’s not Edith Piaf-like *at all* – she was the queen of the LBD, no pastels nor flowy skirts for her!

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Well, I’m impressed with your cooking no matter what! I’ve lost track of the part of me that likes to cook! I wasn’t wanting to dress like Edith Piaf, just listen to her kind of music. I didn’t feel like dressing my rocker self, but my more feminine self that listens to music like that in a dim cafe. (More imagination!!!)

      Your cooking analogy is just so right on and perfect. You definitely “got” it!!!!

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    September 5, 2017 at 5:48 am

    oh , how absolutely delighted it was to read this! Except I am from the other side of the world in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia. This reminded me so much of myself. I loved the gentleness of your Fairy godmother! We are experiencing, a late winter surge ,in what should be spring. It was 8 degrees celcius today, and miserable. I n Summer our extremes are ridiculous also.I am new to your blogs, and 54 years old, and so re.late. Thank you for your grace, and honesty, and humour. Adorable. Sending best wishes from Oz

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Thanks, Trinnie! So glad you found the blog! And I just love getting best wishes from Oz. Woo hoo! I got really scared for you guys when the heat was so high there. I was afraid Australians were going to melt away. Of course, that’s all swapped now. WEATHER!!! Blessings to you and welcome!

      • Reply
        Trinnie Q
        September 5, 2017 at 9:00 pm

        Thanks for your lovely reply,as i said, I love your grace and genuine warmth,that comes through your writing . I forgot to say, as others have so beautifully expressed it before me, I love your wonderful creative ideas, and inspirations. I feel more comfortable dressing more classically and simply,especially in our summer heat ; but like to look like i made an effort, and look like it matters how i look. I am so excited to have found your blog.. Thanks again , and love from Oz

        • Reply
          September 7, 2017 at 8:18 am

          Thanks, Trinnie! I’m soaking in that love from Oz! I think you do so many people a favor by dressing with self-respect. It inspires others!

  • Reply
    Susan B.
    September 5, 2017 at 7:30 am

    What a lovely outfit! That fastening on the linen top is truly inspired. I know the so-tired-of-summer-wardrobe feeling all too well!

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thanks, Susan. Been thinking of you too! I imagine your skies are a weird color with all the smoke in the area. Stay safe!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    September 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Thanks, Brenda. You are a very good writer and an exceptional fashion stylist. I could never create an outfit like the one you’re wearing today, but you inspire me to keep trying. Having the eye to see the potential in a piece of clothing (like your skirt) is a real skill, and so is understanding how it can be combined with other items. I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog, and you’ve given me many hours of enjoyment.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Cathy, I’m just so happy to hear this! Clothes do talk to us if we’ll listen. It felt that way with that skirt. I had to listen to how it wanted to be paired with other things in order to achieve that pretty, soft, feminine feel.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 9:18 am

    LOVE this outfit!!!!

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Thank you!!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 10:00 am

    So pretty. Thank you for sharing your thinking process. I feel inspired.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Lynn, I’m thrilled! Inspiration is often all we need. Have a great day!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    September 5, 2017 at 10:03 am

    If not for my love of autumn colors, I’d need a lifeline from my Fashion Fairy. Thankfully there are summer style and weight clothing choices in all the lovely colors of Fall. I’ve gathered a few pieces that I enjoy wearing during this transition time. However, you’ve blown open my imagination (once again X many) with your soft look. It’s almost as if the weight of frustration dissolves and floats on up to the pale blue clouds and pale pink sunsets. You’ve also evoked the duo PMS colors from 2016 (Rose Quartz and Serenity) that I would normally avoid. How pretty and breath-takingly feminine yet comfortable. A few weeks ago I bought some very soft pastel print joggers from Anthropologie. They are way out of my usual sphere. I was drawn to them due to the super soft fabric. I couldn’t find the Anthro. photo online and will post one. I have no idea how to style them. They are the colors of pale pink, pale fuschia and pale blue. Pale, pale, pale…not my thing. My Fashion Fairy has been talking with your Fairy Godmother and the Buyer at Anthropologie! Great story, imagination and inspiration. Thank you Brenda.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2017 at 11:20 am

      I always adore reading your comments. I think our imaginations are soul sisters! It is so interesting when these things show up like your pale tones in the joggers. When I look at the picture of me in this outfit I wrote about, it certainly is not my norm but it was just so very right for that day and the mood. Maybe your joggers are just that. I always say when in doubt, wear a white shirt or a white T-shirt with a print. Rather than try to relate back to it sometimes it’s best to just let the two parts do their own thing. I wish you the best. And yes, if I see them, I may have an idea or two!

  • Reply
    cindy hattersley
    September 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    This is fabulous …I LOVE that sweater so glad you didn’t toss it. You are amazing at accessorizing!

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Why thank you, my lovely!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    So cute BK!

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thanks, Miss Bess!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Brenda!! I love your fairy Godmother!!! She said all the right things and you came out of yoru closet with the perfect flowy, feminine ensemble. I love it on you!!! Thank you for taking through each step, it inspired me. I am purging my closet and putting together outfits for cover shots on a resale site. It is a bit of work but I am having so much fun playing dress-ups!! YOU show us that getting dressed is an art form and fun, thank you for that!!

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:17 am

      You are so welcome, Kathysue! I’m so happy to know you’re feeling inspired. Isn’t purging delightful?

  • Reply
    September 6, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I think my LINEN is my softer look than my velvet.Also, I wear long flowing gowns if I can.

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Gosh, Elizabeth, I do need to sit down and write that note! She is the most dear Fairy Godmother ever!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Late comment, but had to let you know that you look simple gorgeous! Everything you are wearing has me drooling with desire. The sweater is so perfect with the skirt, so I must go check what I can put together. Yet again another fantastic use for the brooches. Great look!

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Okay! Drooling with desire. DELICIOUS phrasing!!!! Love it.

  • Reply
    Geralin Thomas
    September 7, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Any of Eileen Fisher’s white linen clothing are my go-to when it’s hot + humid.

    Barely there sandals in cork and float-y earrings in metallic colors.
    Underneath it all, a few sprinkles of Lady Primrose dusting talc.

    And, I absolutely love listening to “summer music” when the heat is oppressive. I enjoy a duo named “Poolside” (they have two albums; both on Spotify) Their music reminds me of upbeat, happy, resort-y vacations. Very cool!

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 8:28 am

      You’ve got me interested! First of all, I think that Lady Primrose dusting talc sounds brilliant! Driving down to work today so will look up Poolside on Spotify. Love all your ideas, Geralin!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Hi Brenda,
    I am so glad I finally get some time to read your blog. You are amazing. I just love how you accessorize that sweater. I will be reading more.
    Thank you.

    • Reply
      September 15, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, Maxine! Glad to “see” you here on the blog!

  • Reply
    Lisa Shovlin
    January 9, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Hi Brenda! I”m new here and so enjoying your writing and fashion expertise! I am so intrigued by the brooches you have pinning the sweater together. Can you tell us more about them? Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Welcome, Lisa! I bought these brooches at an antique faire. Someone had a whole collection of owl brooches. I created a collection that appealed to me (just three of them). So I used them on this sweater. I’m trying to remember if there are three or four on this sweater. It seems to me I also had a bird brooch. That may be there as well. It was so perfect to put them on this very neutral colored sweater. The colors and finishes really show up!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    You have given me hope that I can and will survive my 60’s. Thank you for helping me feel better about myself. I’m so glad I found you.

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