20 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Styling an outfit for an expanding waistline

Blending soft colors in a head to toe look

Constructing this outfit with last-chance pieces from my wardrobe


When my daughter said, “This is the best outfit you’ve worn all week,” I got one of those big you-know-what-kind-of grins on my face. Lord knows, I haven’t been feeling much glee about getting dressed lately. I’ve put on a few pounds. I’m on the cusp of buying the next size up, but in the meantime, I’m trying to work around my expanding middle. (Grumble grumble.)

Working around my waist

Every morning starts the same way: What bottom can I wear that still fits and will feel comfortable to wear all day? This day’s answer: my Anthropology delicately pleated blush skirt with an elastic waist.

What happened after that skirt decision has been top secret. I didn’t tell Erin—I just grinned that grin—but I’m so excited to be telling you!


Styling an outfit using two garments with big problems

I slipped the skirt on and wished I had an oversized, but lightweight, sweater hanging in my closet. Can’t you just see it? It could be a crewneck or a v-neck and it wouldn’t hug my midsection. But I don’t have that. What I do have is a Sarah Pacini sort-of-sweater that I purchased at a person’s home. A friend of a friend was having a sale. It was like going to a Sarah Pacini warehouse. Everyone there thought I should buy this sweater.

I love the color and weight of it. It has style, it’s modern, yet totally impractical. I broke down and brought it home. In five minutes I was saying to myself, What was I thinking?


Styling a troublesome sweater

This Sarah Pacini sweater has no side seams


It’s nearly sheer, as you can see, and it doesn’t have side seams. It’s completely open, nearly up to the armpit, on both sides. So, of course, you have to wear something under it and that underpiece hasn’t been easy to figure out. I know I had a great solution a year ago, but I forgot what it was.


Searching for an underprice leads to the blouse with the dry-cleaning notice

Back to the closet I went to find an underpiece. I spied a neutral-colored, silk sleeveless blouse that I’ve worn for years. It has problems. First of all, it has a top button with a buttonhole so small that unless I have time to wrestle with it, I won’t choose it. Plus, it’s pulling a tad in the bust area. And now, it had come back from the cleaners with a tag on it that said, “You might as well get rid of this because that stain in front is not coming out, Girlfriend.”


How to wear a blouse with a stain

A Theory blouse coming to the end of its service


I hardly know why it was still hanging there in my closet as it had two strikes against it already. But there it was saying, “Brenda, I’m still here for you. I know I’m not perfect, but I might be good enough.”

Okay, silk blouse, it’s the bottom of the 9th, the bases are loaded, and I’m putting you in. Let’s see if you can knock this outfit out of the ballpark.


Creating interest at the middle so you don’t see my middle


How to accessorize flowy separates

Adding accessories to super flowy separates


It sounds like an oxymoron, but the way I was going to camouflage my heftier waist was to bring attention to my waist. I love playing those kind of styling tricks on my clients when they complain about body parts. Now I was doing it on myself.

The first thing I did was layer the thin sweater over the Theory size medium top. (I’d take a large now.) Creating a tonal look is always lovely and often slimming.

I thought about belting everything. Next stop: my belt basket. I pulled out this patent leather thin beige belt and put it on the outside of the sweater. It only brought attention to my waistline. But that’s where the slits up to the armpit came in handy! Next I belted the front of the sweater but not the back. The back laid straight. See?


Styling the Sarah Pacini beige sweater

The Sarah Pacini sheer sweater falls effortlessly in the back


Accessorizing my tonal outfit

I pulled the two layers up and bloused it a tad over the belt while positioning the belt lower than my actual waist. I added more interest to the front with my heart necklace and a pendant I purchased at the Petaluma Antique Faire a couple of years ago. I’d simply strung a blond coated metal chain through the hook at the top of the pendant. That v-shape in front, made from the layered pendants, was very pleasing and dare I say, slimming?


Beige patent belt

Belting only the front half of the sweater


I added my Victor Sanz Owl Ring that has little diamonds in it, plus a couple of gold, thin bangles. Suddenly I was feeling like a sixty-year-old Cinderella. That grumble-grumble feeling I’d started the styling session with was replaced by calm and grace. I felt like a princess in my soft colors and flowy fabrics.


Layered necklaces

Creating interest from the (expanded) waist up


It was still hot out so I wore the Camper sandals that had been headed for winter storage.


Loving my Fortuny-like skirt

I’m ready for the ball in my Anthropology pleated skirt


I added one more layer, which is a light-colored scarf my friend Marj gave me. It has a stylish fashion illustration of a young woman in a dress and heels and a shopping bag around the same color and shape as the bag I’m wearing.

Noteworthy: Does anyone recall my post about my face-off with catastrophe when a van slid off the road and into a ditch right next to me during a heavy March rainstorm? Remember the J.Jill orchid jeans that had been in my trunk to be returned and somehow after my car was repaired, I saw those black marks all over them? Well, this scarf was in the trunk as well and had the same big, black marks all over it. I thought it was a goner but I took it to the cleaners and they got it all out. A winner!


Creating a feminine, soft look

Feeling peachy in this monochromatic skirt outfit


So my friends, there you have it: the Anatomy of an Outfit borne out of a “what will fit me today” moment. Put two problems together—the Theory silk blouse with nowhere to go but out and the Sarah Pacini what-was-I-thinking sweater with no sides—and miraculously they created the perfect solution. I was comfortable and pleased with myself. Expanding waist? What expanding waist? Who cares if you look cute?

Have you worked around a piece or two that had problems? I bet you have. Share with us how you found a solution, would you?


P.S. I love hanging out with you!


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  • Reply
    Karin Madsen
    October 16, 2018 at 1:17 am

    What a lovely idea! Excellent!

    Wish You weren’t so far away …

    Love from Sweden

  • Reply
    October 16, 2018 at 4:54 am

    Love the outfit you created, very creative. Do not give up on your silk blouse from the dry cleaners. I had the exact same thing happen to me. I decided to try a Tide pen on mine, figuring I had nothing to lose. And voila! the spot came right out!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Oh my goodness! I love this! You came up with a great solution and you look beautiful in this! I always learn so much from you. I did have a fashion dilemma the other night, I was going to wear my sister’s y’all turquoise western boots with a LBD, denim jacket, turquoise earrings and necklace. Well, the boots didn’t feel right so I ended up wearing my black booties, I had on black tights, (it was going to be cold), tied a scarf around my head, put on a scarf around my neck and took off for a EmmyLou Harris concert! My girl gang thought I looked cute but I just wanted to be comfortable and warm! I was trying to channel you!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    October 16, 2018 at 5:47 am

    It’s nice to know you have the same issues we all do, Brenda! And the idea to belt the top but only in the front is such a smart one. I’ve done that before with capes, but I don’t think of it often.
    And keeping the silk blouse purely for under other things is a great idea. Too often, I get rid of things so I won’t be tempted to wear them when I can’t. But maybe if I keep an area that is JUST for under other items…it would work??
    thanks for walking us through this, Brenda!!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2018 at 9:14 am

    You look so lovely and feminine in this outfit. I’ve said it before, Yay for YOU in skirts. As far as your body shape, personally I think you look great and should show your darling silhouette more often. I love to read your stories, they are so delightful. Thank you for be so open to us all out in cyberspace

  • Reply
    Barbara Kraus
    October 16, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Love this story. Sometimes limits bring out the best in our creativity.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I love how floaty the layered tops look on you! I had a similar ‘re-purpose older pieces ‘ experience- I was motivated by your blog to try skinny jeans (for how they look on my legs) but I need tops below crotch length with them. I ‘shopped my wardrobe’ and found I could visually extend the length of shorter tops by wearing a longer cotton lace top underneath. So much fun to discover new ways of wearing what we already have!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Love this look! How much time did it take? I am so impatient, but now you have a pic and know how to put it together next time! Tops would be cute with trousers, too.

  • Reply
    Erika Alvarez
    October 16, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Really liked this post, Brenda. It reminds us all to keep experimenting with what we have in our wardrobes right now and to see if we can come up with something that will work. Very inspirational. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Miller
    October 16, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Love the outfit, and the familiar circumstances under which you created it!

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    October 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    I feel ya sister! I’m having the same problem since my sister and I traveled the PCH! I love your outfit and I’ll have to try and put an outfit like this together! I love it! You look amazing…as always!

  • Reply
    Nicole K
    October 16, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    I can hardly believe you would need a large in anything. You look so tiny to me. Ok, I might believe it because Theory does run small. 😉 I love this oufit, but my favorite part of any of the outfits you write about is YOU. The personality, the heart, and the love you give yourself is very Zen and it inspires me. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    October 17, 2018 at 1:11 am

    Yes, everything as said so eloquently above ! You look beautiful. Wise and soft !! Sending love from Oz .

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 5:24 am

    I agree with everything Trinnie said. You look like a princess in your outfit and how you describe the experience gave me my morning giggle. Leave it to you to know how to put together this amazing look. It was a great lesson for all of us. Thank you.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    What a good idea for up cycling your clothes. I especially like the belt idea. I really want a pair of high waisted wide leg denim jeans. In fact I think I’m going to make a pair. Simplicity has a great pattern. How would you style them for a lady with a belly bulge? Even with my tummy trouble I still want to wear pants on my waist. That is the only place they are comfortable and the only place that the belly doesn’t bulge out. Who was the crazy person that thought having your pants at mid belly would hide the bulge? LOL Also if I was to only buy one of your books which one would you recommend? I hope it was alright to ask those questions here. Thanks!

    • Reply
      October 18, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      A: Belted ponchos worn this way!
      A: Belted long cardigans.

      Thx, Brenda, for the tips.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 4:47 am

    Brenda, you are so inspiring. I love how you make me think differently about life’s challenges. You look great in this outfit. A triumph from adversity!
    (Hello from the UK, where I love your blog.)

  • Reply
    October 19, 2018 at 7:24 am

    Beautiful, Brenda. What a creative solution to a temporary circumstance. (I’m sure you’ll get over to the weight that makes you feel good.) And, oh, my gosh, this: “You might as well get rid of this because that stain in front is not coming out, Girlfriend.” You ALWAYS make me laugh with your posts. Thank you. Your blog gives me such pleasure each time I visit, for your style advice, intelligence, honesty, and humor!

  • Reply
    October 22, 2018 at 5:04 am

    Oh the struggles we have at each stage of our lives! I love the belt “trick” and have been known to do the same. I also use scarves and have opted for low chain belt on my hips to draw away from the waist. Dressing monochromic helps. You made me smile with this post and I send smiles to you! Kathy

  • Reply
    October 22, 2018 at 6:46 am

    I can fully relate to an ever expanding waistline – remember when we could eat anything and it would never show up anywhere !!! Now I just have to look at a chocolate bar and it expands some part of me . You look super, always so well put together. I am new to your site and I can already see that I am going to enjoy reading your articles, thank you for your honesty – I look forward to receivingthe next newsletter in my email box. A new fan from Canada.

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