6 In Getting Dressed

Styling Tip: Put your look together from the bust up

Dressing from the bust up

Marj teaches lessons on how to dress from the bust up.


I talked my pals Marjory and Mariann into having Sunday brunch in Sonoma at the El Dorado Kitchen. They have a delicious Brioche French Toast (say that five times in a row fast). We spent a second on the menu before giving our order to our waitress: Brioche French Toast times three.

We were squeezing in a visit before Marj heads off on a cruise to take in the Christmas Markets. Was that in Budapest? I can’t remember. She and Mariann had both been there (I think…). They were fully engaged in travel talk. I was totally engaged too. I sat in the corner talking to myself. I was saying, “My goodness, Marj is really nailing the Bust Up and Put Together wardrobe strategy.”

Similar textures make for a clean canvas for necklaces to lay against.

Note the smooth texture of her sweater and the layering T-shirt underneath.


What does Bust Up and Put Together mean?

Hang on; before I tell you all the ways Marj had perfected this strategy, let me see how I wrote about it in the Bust Up and Put Together chapter in my book In the Dressing Room with Brenda: A Fun and Practical Guide to Buying Smart and Looking Great.

Okay. Found it. Here are a few pointers from page 105.

Instead of tackling being put together from head-to-toe, I’m going to start off first from the bust on up to your face. I’ll connect your legs and belly later.

There’s a lot of impact to be made from the bust up. First of all, in most legitimate businesses, you want your audience to have their attention heading up to your face, your communication center.

Mostly, if you’re meeting people from behind your desk, they are seeing you from the bust up. If you’re at a podium giving a speech, they are seeing you from the bust up. If you’re selling wares from behind a counter, you’re seen from the bust up. If you’re having dinner with a new love interest, you’re sitting across the table from each other and what is he looking at? Your bust up. Let’s make it important, dynnamic. Let’s make it picture perfect.


Adding bracelets and rings

Marj dresses up her wrist and her fingers


I remember a few things from their conversation like it was going to be cold outside at the Christmas markets, needing gloves, hats, layers, that sort of thing but I was far too interested in analyzing the work of art sitting to my left.

Here are some of the factors that will make the area, from the bust up, captivating.



Haircut and color

Clothing colors

Accessories like earrings and necklaces, bracelets, and rings

Manicured nails especially if you talk with your hands


Accessories relate in color and texture

Pieces relate to each other in color and texture


Marj’s jewelry plays right into that bust up put together look

Marj was working this modern, mixed metal theme with her necklaces, rings, and bracelets. I LOVE the layering of her jewels! Everything was a similar scale. Her most bold accessory was probably the ring on her middle finger. Everything just blended in a lovely way. You could look at the shortest necklace, maybe the longer one, maybe the middle one; you could admire the stack of bracelets. It was all so pleasant!  The collection she’d assembled reminded me of well-behaved pre-schoolers playing together on the rug and not fighting.

Visual moments like these are memorable. It looks effortless but you know it’s not.


Great eyewear makes every outfit better

Marj’s eyewear adds a kick of modern drama to the outfit


Let’s talk color

These red bits peeking out from underneath her lightweight sweater make me crazy happy. The line of the red mesh tee is replicated a bit below by the line of her heathered foamy-latte-colored sweater. The two layers seem to be of similar weights. It’s not until you look closely that you see the red layer is actually mesh. The texture of both pieces is smooth. It’s only the PERFECT canvas for those necklaces to be seen. Isn’t it clever how her top necklace is in the red zone while the others are in the foamy latte zone?

This layering piece is familiar to me. I have a couple of them too. It’s by Petit Pois.

More than providing color accent, I see this red tee as a fixer. I find necklines like her sweater to be troublesome in the winter. That scoop looks a bit bare if nothing’s underneath it and frankly, it can look uninteresting. That hit of red is just enough. It’s not too showy (I think my mother must have used that word when I was growing up). It backs off enough to let Marj’s face really be the focus of attention.

In my imagination, I see these three colors-the foamy latte colored sweater, the spicy red mesh T-shirt, and the caramel-colored jewels-as decorative home accessories. In my mind there’s an open copper basket with Spanish glass balls in these colors. The basket is sitting on top of a glass coffee table. The glass balls are reflecting light from the nearby fire in the fireplace. Warm and glowing.



Red accents are great with neutrals

Watching her eyes as she speaks with her hands


Marj’s winning eyewear

Okay, let’s talk about Marj’s glasses, shall we? From a distance they look like the best take on a modern tortoise frame. It’s actually a confetti design, not a tortoise one. They’re playfully bold. They relate to her hair color. They turn her mystery blue-green-gray eyes into beautiful headlights.

And her makeup fascinates me. She’s doing a smokey eye which really draws me deeper into her eyes. And her lipstick is NOT MATCHING! I love when I see women wearing something red and NOT matching their lips to the color. I can’t always figure out how to do it but Marj has. She told me later that she started with a brick red color and then topped it off with a nude color lipstick to get this warm, yet not-matching-color. What’s wrong with matching lip color to clothes color? Nothing wrong with it but sometimes I think it’s just too predictable.

Remember when I talked in a recent blog post about the importance of slowing the eye down? This lip color slows the eye down and lets us explore all parts of her face without going right to the red of her mesh T.  You know that red T-shirt could grab all the attention if she wore a matching lip color.

She looks very assured, yet approachable.


Polished makeup makes this look

Marj’s smoky eyes add the right amount of glamour


A perfect example of looking great from the bust up

She caught me staring at her! I’m busted!


Post-outfit praise, Marj reveals a secret

When I asked Marj if I could write about her she revealed something to me.

She recently got her ears pierced again, something I highly recommend if those holes on the lobes get long in the tooth. She’s wearing those gold balls that you have to wear for at least six to eight weeks. Remember those? Well, because she doesn’t have the real estate of earlobes available for adornment, she’s relying more on wearing more necklaces and more bracelets to meet her normal accessories quota. (She loves accessories!) Now you see, I would have never known that she was compensating for anything! It just all looked perfect to me!

I hope she’ll forgive me for going into my analyzing beauty zone while she was talking. I’ll get the details again about her trip. But I’ll get them over the phone this time when I’m just listening and not looking.

Okay, my friends. What experiences can you share with us about how you look put together from the bust up? We’re all listening!



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  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    December 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Brenda, what a lovely post. I loved the line about ‘sitting in a corner, talking to yourself about Marjs outfit! It made me laugh. Thanks for explaining why the outfit worked so well, I love these explanations, being a very learn by visual cues type of girl. It is only since following you and Imogen Lamport , and Jill Chivers, two Australian bloggers, that I have learned anything about, dressing the Portrait area. Or creating a portrait , I have also heard it called. I play around with textures, colours and subtle drama, to try and make the area , slightly interesting to look at. But I nearly always have some blue in that area, as for me it is such a soul colour. It always makes my eyes shine too, as that are a very light sea green . But I am very much a novice, having fun! So , Brenda and community, sending love fromOz , as always .

  • Reply
    December 4, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    A very sweet, naive, quiet, but flat chested girl used to wish and pray during puberty for a larger bosom so that she would be like all the other girls. In her naivety she did not tell the stars to grant her wish in her youth….so her wish came post menopause along with a bonus gift of weight gain!!! Be careful what you wish for and for gosh
    sakes be specific!!! I have invested in good bras. Ruffles are out. I wear color close to my face..blue and green are preferred. I fill negative space with messy necklaces ( thanks Brenda for showing the way). I smile a lot because it makes others feel good, helps me to have a more upbeat day and it’s the easiest accessory to put on!!!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    You have the most fascinating way of expressing what we are all doing when we get together with other women! I wish I had your expertise when it comes to analyzing an outfit and could preform your magic on myself!

  • Reply
    TJ Southwell
    December 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Dear BK,

    Lovely post and Marj is looking the best I’ve seen her on your blog in this one. Her shorter hair cut is so flattering yet remains soft and compliments her face. You mention she has had her ears pierced again. I am very interested to know more about this, as I was 12 when I had mine pierced and they were placed too close to the edge of my lobe instead of the centre, It drives me insane as I have to be careful with the type of earrings I wear so they don’t reveal the long droop to the end of my lobe! Did Marj have plastic surgery to close up the original holes or just get new ones pierced above? Any info would be appreciated. I am sure I am not alone in this.
    Much love, also from Oz xxxxx

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin-Apart From My Art
    December 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Love your writing and ideas. OK, you’re writing From the Bust up. How about writing about how to cover large busts? How to dress? Best bras etc. We are an underserved minority. I discovered that my bra of five years ago didn’t work anymore. Stuff like that please.

    • Reply
      December 12, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Maybe you’ll have to be the model for me for a post on that subject!!! Wow, I’d love that opportunity. We could shop and talk and serve the underserved minority together.

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