23 In Style

Personal style changes in changing times

I had double celebrity dreams this last week. In one dream I was at Lake Como, Italy giving George Clooney tips on how to wear his face mask properly. He wasn’t quite sure where it should be sitting on his nose. Glad I could help out. And in case you’re wondering, we were socially distanced.

A couple of nights later I was hanging out (in my dreams) with Miley Cyrus. That girl has a closet like you wouldn’t believe! It goes on forever. I opened all the closet doors and ran my hands across the sumptuous fabrics. I was inspired by all the layering possibilities she had with the wraps, scarves, and shawls in her wardrobe.

What happened next is that I went to my closet, while all my creative juices were flowing, and put together a multi-layered outfit in shades of pink, rose, and lavender. (We’re still in the dream.) I was so happy with the result. I felt exquisite and lovely.

Funny that the word lovely came up in my dream because, in real life, I’ve been exploring that word as a new addition to my style recipe.

Updating my style recipe

The last time I worked with my style words was sometime in 2018 or 2019. Here’s what I’ve been working with prior to teaching the virtual course, The Emerging You: How to Define and Refine Your Unique Style.

Everyone does their homework including me

When I started the course in May I told the class members that I’d be doing the same homework I’d be asking them to do.

Why? Because personal style is not static. We go through style changes in the natural course of living life. It’s important to update our recipe so we don’t go through life in outfits that aren’t expressing who we are.

As I taught Emerging You I was thinking about the emerging me. Who am I right now? What’s important? How do I want to feel in clothes? Is there something I want to express in this chapter of my life that I haven’t been expressing? What’s on the inside that I can demonstrate on the outside?

Listening to one’s heart

I asked class members to listen to the stirrings in their hearts and pay attention to what they resonated with. This style journey could reveal new, important information.

One exercise required thinking about what they were ready to move away from and what they might be moving toward, instead. Was there something I was ready to move away from?

There’s so much I love about this Casual Glam outfit in the picture above. Yes, Vivienne is in it. I caught that too. But I started to realize there was something about “casual glam” that felt outdated, maybe a little forced. I’m just exploring here, seeing where a tweak might make a difference. My style antennae were up.

Emerging personal style changes in lockdown

I got more clues about what could be tweaked about my emerging personal style when I saw the picture of what I wore to the opening cocktail reception of the five-week Emerging You class.

I looked at this photo Russ took of me in the backyard and the word lovely came to mind. That looks so lovely, I thought. The sheer blouse, the pretty necklace by Angela Clark. I didn’t feel glam or perky or spunky, I felt lovely.

I can imagine other people using this word in their style recipe, but it seemed a bit curious on me. When I think of women who look lovely I imagine ladies who lunch, sophisticated New York art patrons, women vacationing with their friend George Clooney in Lake Como.

But that word kept coming up. I did what I asked my students to do: I went to the thesaurus.

Taking the next step: getting out the thesaurus

Not sure how lovely would fit into my recipe, I went to the thesaurus. Here’s what I found.

When I read through this list, I can tell I’m on track. I’d have no objection to being seen as engaging, pleasant, pleasing, attractive, enjoyable.

To explore this from a different angle, I looked up the antonyms for lovely.

Well, that’s convincing! I certainly don’t want my style to be described using those words. However, I could take off the “un” part of the first four words in the second column and be satisfied with desirable, friendly, happy, pleasant, and a little further down, there’s that word again: lovely.

Even though the word lovely made me feel a bit uncomfortable, it didn’t scare me off my style trail.

Why I embrace discomfort when creating a personal style recipe

I always support a bit of discomfort when it comes to culling through possible style words. I remember doing a style interview with a new client and the word pretty came to my mind. I suggested it and she quickly rejected it. I probed a little deeper and discovered an early belief about herself that she couldn’t be pretty. It didn’t fit in with the image of her religious upbringing.

As our discussion brought more to light, she realized that at 60 she was ready to accept this quality that she’d denied herself growing up. It was a word that had been waiting in the wings for its moment and this was it.

There’s more to be revealed about my personal probe of “lovely” as a style word, and I’ll get to that in part two of this subject. A teaser: I’m convinced one of the factors to this style pivot comes from the effects of this time spent in lockdown.

Until we get into that subject more, I’ll give you a peek at some ways I’ve been playing with this personal style word in my Sonoma life, far from the worlds of George Clooney or Miley Cyrus (but thanks for showing up, you guys).

I’m taking a new look at prints

I bought this top online from Nordstrom by Kut from the Kloth. Everything is on sale so it was a safe way to explore a new print and style that might line up with the word lovely.

I like this palette and the fact that the top is sheer but not sheer enough to require wearing a camisole underneath it. It’s not a stripe, check, or plaid. It’s not rock’n’roll tough, nor is it tailored, two looks I’ve enjoyed wearing in my life. No, it’s kind of lovely.

Adding a few accessories

I didn’t overdo with accessories. I wore my white bag and white sneakers, a few thin bangles, a light-colored beaded dangly earring, and of course, my mask.

I felt pleasant, friendly, attractive, an updated version of me living in these hard-to-believe times.

Who knew that working with personal style would yield a look that makes me feel some calm, peace, and serenity in these situations I have no control over?

Checking in

I hope and pray that you and your family are safe.

For people not on the frontlines of this pandemic and out of immediate danger physically or financially, there have been reports of aha moments as a result of this forced lifestyle change. If this is true of you, can I ask you to share something that’s shifted as a result of the pandemic? Do you think this shift will be temporary or of a more permanent nature? Is there something you’re moving away from and something you can see yourself moving toward?

I’d love to hear from you!


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  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 5:26 am

    Brenda, I found your articles so delightful to read. This one is both humorous (I laughed out loud) and insightful. Thank you.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 8:09 am

    I guess the biggest change for me is I am wearing my wardrobe. I have since I got my first job, bought nice clothing that often hung in my closet and remained there unworn. Since shopping for food became the focus (hunt and gather) shopping for pleasure with stores fell off the radar fast and particularly when stores closed. I now have given my self permission to wear my “special” clothing because today is special and for no other reason! Why save something for the right time which may never come?!! I have sometimes bought something and felt unworthy to wear it. So I simply look at it and wish I had the guts to put it on and enjoy it! How odd is that? I grew up wearing hand me downs so I have an out of focus relationship with clothing. So Covid has been retail and image therapy in its own way for me. I’m wearing what I have and enjoying it. I have no need to shop because I have given myself permission to enjoy what I have right now. A positive in the mist of a bad situation….those are always there one just needs to find it!!!

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Love the combination of dressy and casual. Why leave the one in the closet, especially these days? Exactly where and when are we going to wear it, if not here and now? Lovely is the perfect description!

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 9:29 am

    After “lovely”, the next word for you in your beautiful blouse is “free”, as in freedom. I’m always happiest to see people in clothes that I know they love. Strategically engineered, sophisticated outfits are great, too, but what’s better than wearing fun pieces of clothing?

  • Reply
    Cathy McMann
    July 9, 2020 at 9:30 am

    Regarding aha moments, I’ve come to realize I am happy living a simpler life and I don’t need all the frenetic activity. I would like to travel again and spend more time with friends and with family not in our immediate area but will probably continue to simplify my life somewhat.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 9:57 am

    ALL I CAN SAY IS I AM SICK OF MY COOKING!I have enjoyed the DOWN TIME and quiet.Miss seeing PEOPLE…………
    TEXT AND CALL FRIENDS TO CHECK IN WITH THEM.I find JOY out of the little things but I always HAVE so that is NOT NEW FOR ME!THRILLED TO HAVE THE ANIMALS……….chickens, pig, cat and dog.Would love to drive North and meet you in the SQUARE!XX

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 11:22 am

    Style trail ! Made me laugh! Love that and you look at ease and very approachable, fun and lovely.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    I believe Covid has changed everyone’s clothing style. Some maybe for the not so good but I have never been one to lounge in my pj’s all day. We’ve all had the time now to really dig out all of our clothing and take a realistic look at what we have and still want to keep to look our best. And yes, we are constantly evolving and learning about what looks good on us as we get older and our arms don’t look quite the same. PS. I love your sheer shirt with cami underneath. I’ve been on the search for more of the same thing. MIss you so much and can’t wait until you can return to ND/MN

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    Dearest Brenda
    You are indeed Lovely. And that blouse on you is delightful. I agree that we should have a rethink every so often. As our bodies change it can be daunting. Things that felt comfortable and just right, don’t look the same. It’s an evolution and our tastes change and styles change, so it’s a combination of taking internal and external cues to create our authentic selves. I have a lot of clothes, things I threw out (Marie Kondo style) I later regretted when I went hunting for them and realised theyd been tossed. So I have decided I am not discarding anything anymore. It goes into a drawer instead. Last weekend I reached for a pair of jeggings that I bought 4 years ago. I was so pleased I hadn’t thrown them away. Love your work. Xxxxx

  • Reply
    July 10, 2020 at 7:27 am

    My issue is comfort. I live in the Deep South where heat and humidity is crushing! We have had heat indices around 102–105 degrees lately, and the humidity is in the 70’s! It is like a tropical rain forest! Everything that I put on is hot! I own almost nothing but cotton and linen for this time of year, and even those fabrics can be suffocating! Bras, of course, have spandex and elastic, so do not get me started on those! I LOVE jewelry, but I find myself taking it off almost as soon as I put it on as even the weight of the lightest pieces feels smothering! Brenda, help! I love to wear pretty clothes, but am finding nothing that feels right!

  • Reply
    July 10, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I need a complete rethink! I’m a 64 year old recent widow, have lost 25 lbs in the last 6 months and have only a few clothes that both fit and make me feel like “me”. A shopping trip when we can actually try on clothes is a must, meanwhile I’m enjoying reading your blog posts, pinning outfits that inspire me, and taking trouble with my hair, makeup and accessories.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2020 at 7:38 am

    Like a lot of people, in the “before times” I rushed around a lot, rarely stopping to think, everything routine, stressful,etc. This downtime, which started expectedly with me spending 6 weeks alone in NW Montana before returning home to my husband and dogs and a new work from home life in the DC area, has given me an opportunity to think about myself and who I have become, and to see the impact of the past years of stress, grief, loss, etc. I decided to start easy – with what I wear and how I look, shedding my minimalist, wash and wear, dull, black wardrobe for soothing pastels, breezy cotton and linen, soft shapes, changing my hair color, reading your very interesting posts of self discovery and playing with your fashion makeover book. I am still on chapters 1-2 after more than month, and may never finish, but am invigorated and lightened by this period of self care. More concretely, while working from home is intense, and I need to improve my boundaries, I am happier than I could have imagined not commuting, and I am sleeping better because of it. I am thrilled by the modernization of my business (law) as we have adapted to remote work. Grateful to find these silver linings now, although it is surreal. Finally – me in pastels? They’ve never appealed to me in the slightest, but your color contrast advice lead me there and am a different, happier person when I wear them. Thank you.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    I really like your lovely new style. Beautiful prints have always been my favorite — soft, arty, striking, feminine, mystical, sweet, whimsical, colorful or cheerful — as long as it makes me want to look at it. I feel like I am wearing, or sometimes putting on a better mood for the day. No need for a lot of accessories as the pieces speak volumes. They also tend to distract from less than perfect figures as one gets older.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Brenda I have not been getting your emails. I signed up again. I wonder if Mailchimp deleted me? I would have loved to have signed up for your class. Will you be doing another? Would love to link to it from my blog if so.

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    July 26, 2020 at 4:42 am

    Hi darling Brenda, I did leave a comment,which seems to have disappeared…So, yes, you are very lovely, gorgeous,joyful, sincere, kind and interesting…as this new look suggests…It suits you…May happiness,be yours …Sending love from Oz xx

  • Reply
    Mary Dana
    July 27, 2020 at 4:09 am

    Brenda, you look lovely, delightful and–dare I say?–delectable! I really like pretty florals, especially this time of year. It seems like we’re celebrating along with the earth. I find they lift my spirits, too. Like many other women during the pandemic, I’m experimenting with growing out my pixie and also growing out my gray. Just a year ago, I felt like I was definitely not ready to be gray, but now I feel up for the experiment. Back then, I thought my natural color would be a horrible mousey color, but as it’s grown out, it looks like it might be an interesting salt-and-pepper. And if it turns out in another or two that I change my mind– I can color it again! At 57, I really feel I’m in a time of transition. I’m no longer the skinny size 4, and I do struggle with not feeling pretty anymore. But I’m trying to look at this as a time of experiment and discovery. What about trying a top in deep, “bittersweet” orange? What about a sheer lip color? What about trying skirts again? Being a bit playful helps. And YOU help, Brenda! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Susa Berg
      July 29, 2020 at 12:11 am

      Hi Mary Dana, just read your comment of Brendas post (she is such a lovely person, and also a very pretty and smart one). I so with you regarding the changing years. I’m a bit further than you (age-related) with my 62 years, but my style changed in the last five, six years in the direction “more fun, more colour and no more reservations”. We have the expression “Modepolizei” (fashion police) in Germany, but to be honest, I have never see them. Have fun, enjoy your now!!!
      Best wishes, Susa from Cologne

      • Reply
        Mary Dana
        July 30, 2020 at 2:47 pm

        Thanks, Susa! Let’s think of this as a great adventure!

  • Reply
    August 24, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Dearest Brenda,
    You will be forever in our hearts.

    God Bless and keep you.

  • Reply
    September 2, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    I think of you so often and I never met you ! I so enjoyed your writing. My heart is breaking for your daughter’s and Russ. You will be so very missed.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    I miss your wit and wisdom, Brenda. I know you are resting in God’s arms, and having parties with your family in Heaven!

  • Reply
    Susa Berg
    September 17, 2020 at 12:34 am

    Brenda, you will be my lifelong style guide. I’d learn everything from you! Thank you. My condolences to your children, their families and your beloved partner Russ.
    Susa from Cologne

  • Reply
    September 18, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Go with God and the angels. Condolences to your wonderful Russ and your children and family❤️

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