22 In Style/ Women Now

How style exercises and soul searching go together

Doing some soul exercises

I’ve been doing some soul searching around personal style. The timing is just right with back-to-school energy in the air. It feels right to begin each school year by going inward and doing some style searching. You may have changed a lot over the summer. That could mean your outfits will change, too.

September rolls around and anything is possible. I remember back at the beginning of my senior year in high school when Doug G. showed up on the first day of school wearing light blue bell-bottoms, a white peasant shirt with flowy embroidered sleeves and a wide camel belt with a large metal buckle that rested on his narrow hips. It was a complete transformation from the year before. I’d guess his mom, Mrs. G. had taken him to Minneapolis for back-to-school shopping because I don’t think they sold clothes like that in Fargo, North Dakota.

style book on Brenda Kinsel website
Back to Style School

Heading back to the style classroom

I don’t know that I’m in for a complete transformation, but something feels different from last year. Have I changed? Who am I? What do I want to express this year? I feel like I’m moving toward something new or different but for the life of me, I can’t formulate what it is.

Before I figure out how to dress for this chapter or even buy new clothes, I need to do some style soul searching.

Soul Carrier clutch arrived to offer support

Soul Carrier clutch
Soul Carrier clutch

Somewhere in August, I got an email with an invitation to review an accessory that’s carried up here in Wine Country in the spa at Hotel Villagio (The Spa at The Estate Yountville). It’s by a company called Soul Carrier. It was plenty attractive in the photo provided (see above) and I said, “Why not? I’d love to support business in Wine Country.” (They’re available in other locations as well.

A few days later, a package arrived on my doorstep. I opened up the box it came in, pulled it out, and stared at the gold-lettered writing on the front of the bag. It said: Soul Carrier For Your Journey.

That clutch was speaking to me. I read the words again and let them sink in. Yes, I’m on a journey. The process of the journey to discover what’s true for me now is not a destination I have to arrive at tomorrow. It will take the time it takes. My restlessness calmed down. I felt like patience walked in the door.

You’ve watched me connect the dots in an outfit

I’ve written many times over about how I choose elements for an outfit that isn’t just about appearances. In the Anatomy of an Outfit, I tell you the elements that have special meaning to me. It could be a bracelet that came from somewhere special, a color that has a message that appeals to me, a symbol in an accessory that offers insight, or a printed blouse that represents a quality that I want more of in my life like spunk or energy, or joy. (Here’s an example.)

See, I want to be pleased by each outfit visually, spiritually, and emotionally. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of clothes and accessories.

Pulling out the Resonance Book tool

One of the first things I thought to do with this warm gray clutch was to store my Resonance Book in it. What’s a Resonance Book? Well, it’s a notebook of any sort that is a placeholder for words, phrases, or images that you hear or come across that resonate with you and give you style clues. I dedicated a full chapter to Resonance in Brenda Kinsel’s Fashion Makeover. If this book is in your library, head to page 45.

Brenda Kinsel's Fashion Makeover on BrendaKinsel.com

When I’m scratching my head trying to understand what’s going on inside I start listening, keenly, to any clues I might find along the way. I’m putting the question out there and receiving insights. It’s like if someone uses specific words that describe and you really connect to them, you can put those exact words in your Resonance Book. Sometimes a greeting card has images that resonate with you. Put it in your Resonance Book.

When I was recovering from cancer treatment, I had no idea how life would be afterward. During that healing time, I came across a holiday card of a smiling woman wearing jeans and riding her bike with a basket in front that had a Christmas tree in it. She was wearing a long striped scarf with long fringe, pointy-toed spikey heels, and little white fur muffs on her wrist. She looked so happy and carefree. I looked at her and declared out loud, “I want what she has.”

It was a cartoon but it spoke volumes. It helped me see myself somewhere in my future breezing down the road of life, feeling fashionable, fit, attractive, and ready for adventure.

By listening and watching, I was beginning to get insight into my new chapter.

Right now my body is changing, my lifestyle is far different from what it was seven years ago; even my career looks a little different. Can you understand why I’ve picked this tool up again?

As I’m style searching I thought that the clutch would be perfect to hold my Resonance Book.

the Bellas
Bella Mariann and Bella Marj in Yountville

In the end, I decided I wanted to use it in a wildly delightful (to me) outfit that I created to meet the Bellas in Yountville. I’ll show you the details of that outfit next time.

Putting together a little collage this weekend

Another tool I use a lot is collage.

soul searching exercise
September collage gives hints

While sorting through some piles of paper over the weekend, these three pieces came together. It’s talking to me and I’m trying to listen.

I love the Rumi line, “What you seek is seeking you.” That comforts and encourages me on this journey.

Life’s not formal. In this chapter of my life, I’m a grandmother. I’m changing Viv’s diapers, burping her, swaying to and fro while singing her to sleep. Relationships are of prime value to me. My family, my friends, you guys, other women on journeys.

A baby is in this chapter

Those ballerinas on the crown of those arty cupcakes in the collage? Maybe that’s about joy, color, loveliness, sparkle. Not sure, still pondering.

What Sonia Rykiel said about style

I was struck by a quote attributed to Sonia Rykiel in the book Fashion Visionaries by Linda Watson. Rykiel says, “As soon as one has found one’s look, one’s shape, one does not need to alter it too much.”

I’ve been thinking about this. I witness style adjustments all the time with clients. And yes, for some clients their style stays pretty much the same over the years. But for others, there is a sense of ‘I’m not the same person I was seven years ago. I’m ready to express something else, something new. Life’s changed, and so have I.”

So where are you on your journey? Are you making adjustments to your style or is it skating along just fine the way it is? As you know, I’m fascinated by how you think. Please share what’s on your journey.


PS Thanks to Soul Carrier for breaking this topic wide open! If you go to their website you’ll see handbags in other sizes as well.

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  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    My style is the same but I am just expressing a different part of it. For years I didn’t own a dress but now I own a few almost all are shirt dresses which work for my style. They bring a new dimension to my look which makes me happy. I look forward to reading about your style journey.

  • Reply
    Kathleen Adams
    September 5, 2019 at 6:27 am

    I have various style moods. Sometimes preppy, or classic, or boho. I like mixing it up. I tried a capsule wardrobe but found it too confining! Just did not work for me at all! Yes, sometimes I realize a piece just does not work for me anymore. It might be for a reason I can’t pinpoint, or because my 65 yr old body is “shifting”! So I pass it on to charity and replace it with something new (to me – I buy thrift store & also eBay sometimes). Sometimes my moods change by season, or week, or day. It keeps it fun! I have learned a lot from you!!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2019 at 11:32 am

    I think once a person retires from a full time job, our wardrobes change. I still love to dress up and do it every chance I get but those days are far and in between. I need less and less clothing but it’s still important that everything I own makes me happy and feel great when I wear it. On another note, oh how Viv has grown. Beautiful picture of the two of you.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    I am trying to simplify my life. I am removing things and shapes that no longer speak to me and really taking my time to find out what I really like. It’s a little scary to give yourself permission to have the things you’ve always wanted!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    I’m working on making peace with my body. I have dieted, criticized, compared and basically waged war with myself for far too long. I am working (and probably always will) on acceptance and gratitude. I’ve been discarding clothing that no longer works because my weight and shape has evolved. I trying not to let one style define me but be open to other approaches. Recently I had an epiphany when I went to look for a “new” outfit after work. I looked yo from the rack of clothing I was standing at and realized I was surrounded by a small number of women in my age group who looked tired, had end of day posture/expression, little residual makeup and all of us were searching for something to make us feel pretty and reward ourselves for surviving another week. I put the blouse down and left the store. I didn’t need another something. I’m fine.

    • Reply
      September 6, 2019 at 5:56 am

      I love this comment, Kathy. What a great description of the shopping experience when we’re looking for “something to make us feel pretty and reward ourselves for surviving…” Been there, done that. I usually end up returning said “something”.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Ever since visiting Paris two years ago, I have bought and worn dresses all summer. When I looked at the grown Parisian women embracing their feminity, I was struck. I wanted less Manish clothes, and I was tired of jeans. I think I don’t care if I look hip, youthful, or edgy. The word that came to my mind was, aristocratic, grown up. Funny thought, I never expected to use words like that.

    • Reply
      Marilyn L
      September 8, 2019 at 11:33 am

      72 years old and newly widowed (2 years) I am changing everything and trying to find a new Me.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Do you think the ballerinas say Balance? Perhaps balancing new family with old career? Personally I don;t think my style has changed over the years (except to stay reasonably in fashion). But coming up to retirement in a few years it may just be the time to reassess.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Since I retired 10 years ago, my style has changed continuously. My weight is the same but my shape has changed and more effort is put into camouflaging the bad and accenting the better parts. I have to pay more attention to excess width, proportion and balance as I no longer wear heels and can’t use them to add length when I need it. Bright colors have always been my go to and now they are more important to add energy and liveliness. Some colors I used to wear look too drab and as I am thinking of going grey, I know I will need to shift my color palette. Dressing now is more difficult than when I was young and most anything I threw on looked good. On the bright side, dressing has become more of a creative hobby that challenges me to try new things and think outside the box. Sometimes things I thought would not work, do, and that is fulfilling. Your blog prods me to take new approaches, and I welcome that!

  • Reply
    September 6, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Love this post, Brenda! I have ordered your book and intend to do a Resonance Book. What a great idea! And the collages, too. That pic of you and Vivian is just adorable.

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin - Apart From My Art
    September 6, 2019 at 8:53 am

    OMG, you are so thoughtful. Where am I? I guess I need more thinking about it. i did not get a breast reduction years ago And now I feel that another operation is not a good idea at 78. So I look for styles that look good on me and my curvature, shall I say. My hair is grey so now white looks good on me. It gets so hot here that I buy loose linen. I guess that’s how I shop. Would love you in my pocket. Because you would make everything right. I think I’m just blabbering on. Bottom line. Alway love reading what you have to say.

  • Reply
    Jeri Ray
    September 6, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Your article is so timely for me. I’ve been analyzing my summer wardrobe and realized I have wore very little of it – and I’m fine with that. It’s letting me realize it’s not the number of clothes you have but how you use the clothes you have. I know this is not new news but I finally see limiting my wardrobe will really work for me. The analysis will continue as I transition to fall/winter clothes. It will take work but I’m ready to change my mindset.

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    September 7, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Hello Brenda, I have missed you. Not that you went anywhere, just that I haven’t checked in , for a while … Firstly, as usual, such a thought provoking blog, full of wisdom, curiosity and joy..Secondly, as usual, I love the visuals ..Especially you and that adorable bubbaViv! Also , your mood board , ideas.. Lovely ! Those gorgeous ballerinas ! Well, I am also experiencing a time of wondering about style, .Needless to say, I have been seriously hampered in what I can , wear over a swollen and sore knee.., and then the clothes need to be comfortable enough to do endless rounds of knee exercises, during the day…and with sleeves suitable for placing through the hoops of elbow crutches.. also need to go with flat lace up type shoes.. Before the op, I did go and purchase four Smartish, leisure wear type trousers\ pants… So long story short. Even though I make an effort everyday, to still look fresh and as if I have bothered.. I feel a bit at a loss… So possibly, this is all completely off track.. but just wanted to touch base . Any suggestions would be truly welcomed, by the way , from this lovely community… Thanks lovelies… Sending love from Oz

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    September 7, 2019 at 1:11 am

    My entry seemed to omit the essential detail , that four weeks ago , I underwent a Total Knee Replacement . X

    • Reply
      September 7, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      Trinnie , I think the most admirable thing you said is that you still make an effort every day. Must be hard when you are healing. A little lipstick, simple earrings always lifts my spirits and makes others notice that you are still “ showing up” , not “ giving up”. Best of luck to you.

      • Reply
        Trinnie q
        September 8, 2019 at 11:29 pm

        Ohh Annie, that is gorgeous.. Thanks mate x

    • Reply
      September 8, 2019 at 4:19 am

      4 weeks post total knee the surgery is still fresh…and painful! It’s hard but try and imagine how much better you will walk (visualize gliding if you will)! Think of wearing a lovely skirt that swishes when you walk. The fabric is fluid and cool against your legs! Build the visual and all those exercises will make it happen. Glad you are back…always love your comments!

      • Reply
        Trinnie Q
        September 8, 2019 at 11:31 pm

        Well, and aren’t you gorgeous too Kathy… got a little tear in my eye.. lots of love to you all, from Oz

  • Reply
    September 23, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    This book is the best I’ve ever read for discovering one’s style. So, my style journey just began one year ago after reading this book, and I’m having so much fun with clothes again.

    • Reply
      September 24, 2019 at 9:07 am

      I am so thrilled to hear that!!!! Yay!

  • Reply
    Irene L Johnson
    January 3, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Brenda: I stumbled across your blog for the first time about a week ago, and I read that post to my 80+ mother in our morning long-distance chat and Bible study time. But today, you and the women who have commented on this post (How Style Exercises and Soul-Searching Go Together) brought tears of joy, relief and — yes — happy expectation to my heart. So much of your individual and combined life journeys (breast cancer survival, retirement, unexpected changes taking place in my mid- to upper-60s body, moments of whimsey, and words that resonate with a spirit that has felt captive for too long) have helped confirm the realization that parts of my yesterdays are gone for a good cause — the joy and value of my todays and my tomorrows. Thank you.

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