30 In Shopping Tips

How to face fashion that’s outside your comfort zone

yellow vintage coat

Yellow was a real stretch for me and now it feels great


I’m in the business of helping clients see things that are outside your comfort zone. If they’ve come to me for assistance, they’ve most likely been doing what they’ve always done and aren’t happy with the results. They’re ready for a change but they don’t know what that change looks like. Or they’re confused by current fashion and don’t want to navigate that territory without an experienced guide.

I’m happy to work with them and I always guarantee one thing: I can help but they may experience discomfort.

It happens to everyone. It happens to me!

Change is that way. We want it, crave it, long for it but when it comes it may scare us or at least give us anxious butterflies in our stomach. Why? Because we’re in unfamiliar territory.

When I’m styling a new piece of clothing into an outfit a client may say something like, “Is it too much? You think it works? Really?”

That’s especially true of people who are low on the fashion risk-taking scale.


Assessing your level of fashion risk on BrendaKinsel.com

I’m 6.5-7.5 on the risk taking scale


Let’s figure out where you are on the risk taking scale

On the change spectrum, are you timid and cautious or adventurous and daring?

Are you uncomfortable taking risks or are you only happy when you’re taking risks?

On a scale of 1 to 10, ten being people who thrive on taking risks, my clients are mostly between 2.5 and 7.5.

I will rarely see a client in the one to two range. I probably wouldn’t be on her radar.

But the 2.5 person may realize she wants help and I’ll get a call. The 7.5 person is already enjoying clothes but perhaps she’s going through some changes. She isn’t afraid to ask for help. Or she’s always loved fashion and has known exactly what to wear to work but now she’s retired and baffled. She wants guidance. Maybe she wants to change up her shopping experience. Or she wants my help to style her clothes into modern, new outfits so she’s maximizing what’s in her closet. I can help with all those things!

Note: There are people who love change. They’re happy to change their hair color every month or experiment with new trends every season. They’ll shop in any store they run into. It’s all fun for them! They’d be close to ten on the risk-taking scale. They’re happy. I won’t hear from them.


Feeling “normal” about feeling comfortable


Euro jacket was initially a stretch for me

My colorful shimmery print jacket took courage to wear the first time


So why am I bringing this up? I want you to feel “normal” about feeling uncomfortable.

That Etro jacket I bought last year? It was so colorful, so fancy, so wow. I wasn’t sure I had what it took to pull it off, yet I was so attracted to it. I was nervous the first time I wore it. That nervousness wore off after thirty minutes. Then I relaxed into it. Now I’m used to it.

That’s a common pattern. Attracted but nervous, wear in public for thirty minutes, and then over the hurdle and everything is okay. At that moment when you’re one with the piece that was intimidating, you may feel silly or wonder why you made such a fuss about it.

I want you to have compassion! Most of us are bound to feel a bit uncomfortable when we do something we haven’t done before. It’s natural. It’s to be expected.


It’s hard to see ourselves

Sometimes others see you better than you can see yourself. My clients have seen a limited version of themselves for possibly decades. So when we’re in the style interview and I start “seeing” them and connecting the fashion dots as to what will best express who they are, it can be exciting for them. And then I say, “Okay, are you ready to try some clothes on to match your style?” Now we’re getting down to business. They can be startled seeing themselves for the first time in clothes that match their style recipe. It can be confronting! Exciting, but confronting.

That’s when I reassure my client. After we’ve purchased some new things I tell her, “I want you to try these clothes on at home and look in the mirror over and over again. Your eye needs time to accept this new you.”

I also make another suggestion when I’ve styled new items into outfits. I say, “Wear this as soon as you can, preferably within two weeks. Expect to be uncomfortable for 30 minutes. You’ll quickly acclimate. People will probably comment about how great you look and your fear will be in the rearview mirror.”

I’ve personally felt fashion discomfort many times. Let’s say I’m shopping with my image consultant buddies. I’ll try something on that attracts me and makes me feel outside my comfort zone. Their encouragement helps. I know myself; I don’t think I’d be brave enough to purchase these new things on my own. When I say image consultants need image consultants, that’s one reason why!


Items that were outside my comfort zone

You’ve seen me in things that were initially totally scary to me. They don’t look scary to you and they aren’t scary to me anymore but they sure were the first time I wore them.

It happened with bright lipstick. I went for a new lipstick and my beauty stylist, Elena, studied me for a couple of minutes. She walked away and came back with Hot Orange by Bobbi Brown. I practically shrieked. I resisted and resisted and she insisted and insisted. Now bright lipstick is my trademark.


Wearing Hot Orange by Bobbi Brown

I flipped the first time my beauty stylist, Elena, chose this shade for me


It happened with leopard print. I’d never worn leopard print. I thought it was a bit racy for me. Now I consider it to be one of my best neutrals!


When leopard print was scary to me

I’ve had this Carlisle skirt for years now


Leopard coat by Dana Buchman

My image consultant buddies encouraged me to buy this coat


It happened with this white birch coat. Mother was with me at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND when I spotted it. She insisted it was great on me. I was nervous. She was right! This coat gets a lot of attention every time I wear it. I guess that’s what I was afraid of but after thirty minutes I was handling it just fine. Now I look forward to winter because I’m so eager to wear this coat.


Birch coat from Norsk Hostfest

The Birch coat Mother insisted I buy at the Norsk Hostfest


It happened again just recently with my red framed glasses. Nancy, the owner of Uber Optics, an eyewear boutique in Petaluma, insisted I needed a pair of red frames in my glasses wardrobe. These frames by Woow were one of three that I showed my image consultant buddies when we were together at the MMB Retreat in Sonoma in February. I was excited to get their opinion. Of the three frames, this one made me feel outside my comfort zone. The other two were easy peasy. I was sure they’d choose a metallic colored frame but they voted for this red one. I think I even groaned. I thought, “Oh no, don’t make me go outside my comfort zone this far!”


Woow eyeglass frames from Uber Optics

Wearing red Woow frames from Uber Optics


What really surprised me is that it didn’t even take thirty minutes for me to accept these. The minute I got them back with my prescription in them, I looked in the mirror at the store in Petaluma and got tears in my eyes. I loved them so much from the very first look.

How does this sit with you all? Do you get those uncomfortable feelings? What have you tried that you were nervous about but it turned out great? Where do you think you are on the risk-taking scale? Do share!


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  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 4:25 am

    LOVE your new frames! They look fabulous on you!

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Thanks, Robbi!

  • Reply
    Geralin Thomas
    April 17, 2018 at 4:35 am

    “Your eye needs to accept the new you.”
    One of the many reasons I love, love, love your articles is because you’re one of the few bloggers *normalizing* flat, comfortable shoes. Thank you Brenda.

    If I had to pick one wardrobe-related topic that my clients “of a certain age” panic over, it’s the shoes! Talk about stepping out of one’s comfort zone (pun intended) Wearing flat shoes with a dress-up outfit is the ultimate challenge in courage and bravery. Ask me how I know.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:21 am

      I think I know how you know! Yes, you’re right, flat shows really is a major “outside the comfort zone” subject. Last week a client of mine raved about how much she’s benefited style-wise and comfort-wise by my insistence that she try on sneakers. Life changer! Here’s to more charging forward with courage and bravery! Thanks, Geralin.

  • Reply
    Ramona Puckett
    April 17, 2018 at 4:53 am

    Love this post! Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:14 am

      You’re so welcome, Ramona!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 6:33 am

    I too find yellow difficult to wear. Love the way you have co-ordinated your yellow coat.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Thanks! I do love wearing it with white whether that’s white jeans or a white shirt. And believe me, wearing yellow was never on my horizon…until I saw this coat and it reminded me of Mother. She LOVED yellow. So I always think about her when I wear it. She’d have approved!

  • Reply
    Sandi McDougall
    April 17, 2018 at 7:25 am

    Reading your posts always gets me thinking about what I own that I can wear differently. You’re an inspiration, to say the least. Keep ✍️ your amazing posts please.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Thanks, Sandi! True story: Last night I got home from work and had conflicting thoughts. Do I grab dinner and watch another two episodes of A Place Called Home (you understand!!) or do I finish my blog post. I think you were talking to me because I was quick to decide to finish the post. I still got an episode in! Boy, life in Inverness is never dull! Thanks so much for your encouragement and readership!

  • Reply
    Monique Arends
    April 17, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I really love your style. I’m pretty daring myself and love to try on new and different things. When I’m in doubt I take a picture of myself for myself (no need to share). For some reason I can judge better looking at the picture then in the mirror sometimes.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:10 am

      I love this tip, Monique! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    April 17, 2018 at 9:37 am

    As I’ve said before, I love your blog. You discuss topics other bloggers rarely address. One thing I especially like is your shoes. You make wearing sneakers and oxfords look perfectly normal, even fashionable. You can guess why this appeals to me. It would be great if sometime you could say a little more about your shoes… just a suggestion.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration!

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:09 am

      You bet, Cathy. I am so limited on what feels great on my feet. I’m running around a lot in my work so they have to be comfortable for hours and hours. I prefer the sneakers and the oxford styles. Flats that are too flat are painful for me to wear. A little cushion and being off the ground a bit is most helpful. Loving your blog love!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Such an interesting article, Brenda! How I wish you did Skype or phone sessions, I live in Australia, so its a little hard to get to see you. I’m really struggling with my personal style since I retired; do any of your books ask the the sort of questions you ask your clients in your style interviews?
    Love all your blog articles!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Yes, Bodie, my books do ask those questions. I’d recommend either 40 Over 40, Brenda’s Wardrobe Companion or Brenda Kinsel’s Fashion Makeover. I have colleagues who do Skype sessions. I’m not sure if I will start doing that or not. Stay tuned! I’d love to work with you!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    A great read as always. If I intend to cull a piece but am not entirely sure I tend to wear it for the whole day to see if I am comfortable in it. If by the end of the day the answer is no it goes out. I find this gives the piece and me a chance to get to know each other and decide whether we like each other!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Brenda!
    Today is my birthday and I took myself out on a date! And here is the coincidence in your post and my life (since we seem to share some sort of telepathic twin thinking or understanding or something!!): today I am wearing the one item of clothing I own that is yellow: A pretty open weave sweater. Also, jeans with pearls sewn in multiple rows down the sides of each leg. An outfit normally super outside of my comfort zone, but so much fun. I’d been holding off on wearing the jeans because they are so different, they kind of scared me!! But I will admit I felt fabulous all day!! I’m so happy I have them. I think yellow is a tricky color to wear until you find the right yellow, which is why I don’t have more of it in my wardrobe. But I’m on the lookout for more, because it’s just so bright and cheery, it made me feel that way too!
    Also, today I treated myself to some beautiful handmade earrings, and a statement necklace! I felt inspired to get some nicer pieces that are more unique that what I have in my jewelry wardrobe. Thanks for the excellent tips and the inspiration, and for helping me find more confidence in the way I dress now!
    I really do hope we meet someday!
    Xo Heidi

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    April 17, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I have definitely moved up the risk-taking scale over the past few years. For much of my life, I was probably at best a 5 whereas now I might be a 7.5 or even higher. I love your “give it 30 minutes” suggestion! I’ll definitely keep that in mind as I try new looks.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Oh, I LOVE you in those red glasses. They really were meant for you.

    You’re making me feel riskier. 😉

    • Reply
      April 19, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Oh good! Can you believe how timid I was? I’m really enjoying them too! Thanks a bunch.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    Hi, Brenda
    It’s funny how many of us feel that yellow is outside our comfort zone! I have just discovered that a tulle skirt was outside my comfort zone. I was inspired to get one by Debbie of the Fashion Fairy Dust blog because she showed it many times in casual ways and reassured that it was usable for day as well as evening. After I bought a gorgeous charcoal gray tulle maxi skirt, it sat there waiting for me to feel that it was okay to wear it somewhere without being conspicuously overdressed. I plan to wear it to my niece’s bridal shower this weekend after researching ideas online. I’m going to tone it down with a teal sweater and silver Western boots just to make sure it doesn’t upstage the bride-to-be. It was after reading this article by you that it occurred to me that there are indeed styles that are outside my comfort zone. I hadn’t realized it because I am game to try new things. (They just might sit there unused for a long time, obv!)
    Thanks for the insights,

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Angie, you have more guts than I do! I am so attracted to those tulle skirts but still haven’t gotten into one. I like the sound of what you planned to do. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    April 22, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    I can totally relate to this post, Brenda! In fact I just wrote a post about what I’ve learned since blogging (it’ll be live tomorrow), and one of the things I talked about was the styles I am willing to try now. Maybe it’s seeing other bloggers wearing them, or maybe it’s being freed from my “dentist” profile, but it’s been amazingly freeing!!
    And it’s nice to hear that someone as studied as you in style and image struggles with this from time to time too!
    In fact, one of the things that I think helps tremendously is taking a friend shopping with you. Granted, I’ve read one too many articles that say it’s not a good idea. But if we always go by ourselves, I don’t think we are willing to try new things as easily. Sometimes our friends see us better than we do!!
    Thanks for always showcasing such great ideas and thoughts!!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      I think you’re so right. A friend or a daughter can be a good sounding board. The cautionary part is when a friend wants to dress you just like she dresses herself. I have one client who has shopped with a friend who does that. She comes home with things that are just so not right for her. So she’s now vowed that shopping is not going to be one of the activities she shares with her. It’s the right thing for her! Lucky when you find a friend who can encourage and not get in the way of the process.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    You look so beautiful in those glasses. You inspire me!
    I think I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to clothes & accessories…. but the thought of wearing makeup just makes me shudder. I’ve hated it all my life and I don’t think, at 62, that I can go in that direction now.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      I’ve been very minimal with makeup all my life but strangely, I am thinking of using a light foundation to give myself some polish. I’ve only tried samples. Haven’t bought any yet!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2018 at 6:15 am

    i do like the idea of new trends , but also hesitant , for example my hesitation is wearing jeans under the tunic or even in my case since i am sorta tall , i want to try wearing them under a shorter dress , i will try the 30 min test , or at least take a short outing to get the feel , .. do you have any thoughts on this style of skinny jeans instead of leggings under the dress

    • Reply
      May 23, 2018 at 11:50 am

      I love that style of skinny jean! I had to work on this myself before it felt comfortable. Give it a whirl!

  • Reply
    I Want Change, I Don’t Like Changing – Leslie Larocca
    May 23, 2018 at 11:42 am

    […] How to face fashion that’s outside your comfort zone […]

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