16 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Layering tricks to make a dress warmer

Building a warm outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

Staying warm in a nearly sleeveless dress


The Anatomy of an Cozy Outfit

I had two goals last week when I created this outfit. The first goal (and the inspiration for the outfit) was to challenge myself to wear one of the three bracelets pictured below. It was something I challenged you guys to do if you were feeling like you were in an outfit rut: pull out a few accessories and try to work one of them into an outfit tomorrow and you’ll feel better.

If you missed it, here’s where you can read about how to get out of a slump.

three bracelets ready to be in outfits on BrendaKinsel.com

Finding a way to wear two out of three bracelets I’ve neglected


So that was goal number one: wear one of those three bracelets. Being an overachiever, I ended up using two out of the three in the same outfit!

But the second goal was crucial: Dress to be warm.

It’s been f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g cold here. Unlike winter in the Midwest where it’s freezing outside but toasty warm inside, if it’s cold outside in the Bay Area, it’s not a whole lot warmer inside. We have no windchill factors indoors but there’s always plenty of chill.

I decided I’d wear those two large cuffs with my brown animal print Chico’s dress. It’s just shy of being sleeveless so I had to make it warm.

My under-the-dress warming tricks

I looked in my closet for a possible sweater to wear under the dress. No one would ever see it because I had a plan to wear a brown cardigan on the outside. But it wasn’t a wooly cardigan. It’s a cardigan that could work easily in springtime. I needed some antifreeze protection and a wool Tippi sweater was the solution.




I chose this J.Crew Tippi sweater made of Merino wool. It didn’t matter what color it was because you wouldn’t see it. I chose the merlot one. So imagine the buildup:

  • Bra and panties
  • Tippi merlot sweater
  • Full slip over the Tippi not under it because I wanted to make the sweater line disappear under the dress

I never promised this part would be pretty. These layers are only functional and for my eyes only.

Chico dress gets a foundation layer on BrendaKinsel.com

Without Tippi support on the left; with Tippi support on the right (truest color is on the left)


cardigan over dress on BrendaKinsel.com

A cardigan goes over everything


I put the brown cardigan over the dress. Now what I love about this cardigan is it cuts the flash of the dress down by 50-60%. This dress is shimmery. Now add in the animal print and it’s pretty darn flashy. I am not flashy. I could never walk into a room just wearing this dress. It would be wearing me.

Warming up the feet

I looked for tights to wear but I didn’t want to totally cover my legs. I felt more feminine by wearing brown fishnets so skin showed through. I felt that showing some skin would also take some of focus away from the flashiness of dress.


Warming up fishnets on BrendaKinsel.com

First SmartWool socks, then fishnets, then lined boots


Now I’d never be warm with just fishnets on so I found my wooliest SmartWool socks and put them on BEFORE putting on the fishnets. That solved two problems: keeping my feet from getting cold and keeping my feet from being uncomfortable. Have you had days where you wore fishnets and by the end of the day those fishnet lines have dug into your feet? The socks provided insulation and pain protection.

But I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I didn’t tell you this next part too. You know how pantyhose can feel like they’re falling down? I’m talking about in the crotch area. I hate that feeling! You end up trying to sneakily pull them up when no one’s looking … all day! I had to solve that problem immediately.

So before I put my boots on I found a pair of granny panties that I had at the bottom of my panty drawer and slipped them up over the fishnets. Was I really leaving the house with two pairs of panties on? Yes, I make no apologies. It solved the problem.

Next I added my brown suede Aquatalia boots which are waterproof. Oh, did I forget to tell you? It was also pouring down rain that day. I added my brown trench raincoat before I walked out the door.

Adding accessories to my warm outfit

Brown jewels and belt for a brown outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

Warm colors for my brown outfit


Next came the fun part: accessorizing. I belted the dress with this cool belt that mixes a leather reptile looking strap with a buckle that looks like snakeskin. It’s one of my favorites and is from the Carlisle Collection. I loved putting on the rutilated quartz-and-diamond earrings. Those earrings also added some sophistication. I felt I needed some of that.

Then I decided on a very simple delicate chain that alternates gold and gunmetal links. I didn’t want to add more things to the animal print dress. It would have gotten very crowded, very fast, because of course, those wide cuff bracelets needed some room on the style canvas too! That’s where this all started!


A chance to wear a favorite handbag on BrendaKinsel.com

Loving the opportunity to wear my brown handbag

Next came my simple-in-shape brown bag with the textured horsehair front. I heart this bag like crazy and was happy to have the opportunity to wear it with my bundled-in-brown outfit.

The result, my friends? I worked several hours in a client’s closet that day and I was toasty, super comfortable, and put together. And I felt like me: stylish, fun, and a little refined.

What else do you do to stay warm and fashionable?

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  • Reply
    January 24, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Your stylish intelligence leaves me in wonderment! I love to travel with dresses but am consciously aware of the possibility of changeable weather. Any (and all) successful layering tips are soooo appreciated. I really like the use of your fish net stockings instead of dark brown tights. I also have to tell you I can walk through a Chicos store and see absolutely nothing appealing……items are too bright, bold, shiny, on and on. Your wonderful explanation of how you tone down “the shimmery” is going to resonate in my brain every time I do a Chicos walk through in the future. Changing a mindset about this store is a good thing to do considering the generous waistline cuts in their clothing lines.

    I also love the mixture of textures you have mastered on this, and so many, of your ensembles. You have so reinforced my desire to continue traveling with dresses and to spend more time experimenting layering techniques.

    Thank you so much for sharing your life’s passion so generously with us.
    You are the best!
    A faithful fan,

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you, Faithful Pat! Sometimes an outfit can seem demanding for all the things you have to figure in but really, I think it boils down to intention. My intention was to wear those bracelets and be warm so the construction of that took twists and turns to get to the final outcome. I love what you say about the textures. That’s what I love about this outfit too. Yes, I know what you mean about going into Chico’s and having to … well, be intentional I guess. That dress was on a sale rack. I like the color brown and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could make such a shimmery dress work. I don’t have lots of dresses so I was eager to try. I’m glad I’ll be in your head next time you poke your head in there! Thanks ever so much for your comment.
      Faithfully yours,

  • Reply
    Rita Blanks
    January 24, 2017 at 7:40 am

    This lovely outfit shows not only warmth in layers, but warmth in color. Its toasty colors and various textures made me race to my closet this morning to see what I could put together that would give me a similar feel. With my weight loss this past 6 months dresses are just now beginning to interest me, and I see many things in your post today to keep in mind as I start my quest for dresses for my closet. Losing 2 sizes means new clothes!

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Oh I love coming across people who love toasty colors like that. I do too! They’re so rich. I wish you lots of good energy and excitement as you explore dresses! Woo hoo! Thanks, Rita.

  • Reply
    marcia l miller
    January 24, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Living in Oregon, I have a big collection of pieces that layer for warmth. Silk long johns are among my favorites. The top is light and slippery so it does not rub on things. The bottoms go well under even jeans. In a pinch when I am on the road I have worn leggings under my pants for an added layer. You landed on an important key with the Aquatalia boots. They are a great. If your feet are wet you are doomed. Staying dry critical.
    Additionally a scarf at the neck helps seal in warmth if you need it.

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      You are the queen of travel so I knew you’d have good tips. I’ve gotten away from wearing the silk long johns, but why? I should do it! I love feeling cozier when I’m wearing pants. And yes, there was a scarf in the car. I was pretty bundled up with these layers and a trench coat but I rarely leave home without a scarf no matter what season it is. Great, great points. I’m looking for my long johns next! Thanks, Marcia!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    January 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    I know for many women, this would put them over the edge! I hear all of the time, how it’s too hard to layer and there’s too much to think about! But I love how you detail this, and with a little practice, it makes it easy!!
    I’ve been known to wear a nude pair of hose under my fishnets—it may be chilly in San Fran, but it gets downright cold in Denver!!
    I love that idea of the full slip over the sweater—that’s something I don’t think to do very often. Heck, do younger women even have slips nowadays??

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      To your question about younger women having slips, my younger clients do! They are so useful: creating a smooth line being my favorite. There are so many slip dresses out right now. Maybe we all should be exploring those for wearing over or under our clothes! And I also want to mention that once I got all the parts in place, I wasn’t even thinking about the construction of it all or the fact I was wearing two pairs of panties although I was happy to get home that night not having had to visit the ER!!! Who can forget that old wives tale about being sure to have clean underwear on in case you end up in the ER!!! Thanks, Jodie!

  • Reply
    January 24, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    More great ideas to file away here, thanks Brenda. I love your detailed analyses of what and why – it makes them much easier to remember. It’s a classic column of colour too – well done.

    I’m MC’ing my daughter’s (hopefully outdoor) wedding on Saturday and the weather here is so utterly unpredictable I have to be prepared for literally anything. This is very timely help.

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      Oh my, what an honor! I hope you have a most wonderful time. Blessings to all!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2017 at 2:02 am

    This is a brilliant post, layering without bulk – a full slip is on my shopping list. Reminds me of my mother who had layering down to a tee, she never allowed herself to feel cold so she could always pin a smile onto her face. Thank you Brenda

    • Reply
      January 27, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Oh gosh, I love the teachings of your mother! That is a delicious quote. And thanks for what could have been the title of this blog post: Layering without bulk. Good call! Thanks, Pamela.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Flats are so popular now, but my feet get so cold, even in the spring and fall. I’m also in Sonoma Valley and so often am chilled. What can one stylishly wear with flats to keep ankles and feet warm?

    • Reply
      February 6, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      That’s a tough one, Betsy. It’s probably why I spend most of my winter in booties or taller boots. I’m enjoying “flats” that sit on a platform of sorts so they aren’t right on the ground. They make it warmer. You’ve probably see pics here in the blog of my oxfords. I wear half socks by Mabua (easy to google on Amazon) which give me some warmth when I’m not wanting socks to show. Otherwise, I can wear oxfords with wider legged pants so you really only see the top of the shoe and not the sock. I’d love more solutions on this. Anybody else have some ideas?

  • Reply
    February 6, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I was referring to wearing flats with pants. I couldn’t bear to see myself in a skirt and flats with any kind of socks! I hadn’t heard of the half socks and wonder how they stay in the right place, but it sounds like they do. I always have a problem wearing sneaker or sports shoes and having the footie type socks not creep down into my shoes.

    • Reply
      February 7, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Yes, that’s what I was referring to also. I’m chuckling at the image of the skirt and flats and socks. No, I am not recommending that. I can’t stop telling people about the Mabua half socks because they do NOTHING like those footie type socks. They don’t creep, they don’t bunch, they stay absolutely put. And they are thicker, like a sock, not like a nylon or a super thin stretchy cotton. So they also offer support to the ball of your foot. You don’t feel sweaty in them and they aren’t slippery. I find those footie things to be miserable and uncomfortable within 30 minutes of putting them on.

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