8 In Getting Dressed/ Series

The Anatomy of Erin’s Dress on Me

Feeling carefree in a dress on Brenda Kinsel website

Channeling my dress mentors at a black tie event


Erin and I were invited to a gala black tie event honoring one of our clients.  I wanted to wear a dress but knew I didn’t have one I felt great in. I also knew I could easily put together a pant outfit. With no time to shop for something new, my daughter Erin brought me one of her dresses to work one day and tossed it into the back seat of my car. “You love this dress; wear it to the gala!” she said.

Her dress is so fluid, luscious, elegant. I’ve coveted it for some time. If only I could wear a dress like that, I’ve told myself.

But really, what was she thinking? Is she not aware of  how different our shapes are? I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that her idea would work.


Dress distress

I’ve had dresses on my brain. Yesterday I shared on the blog my curiosity about the fashion psychology of wearing dresses. I told about my three dress mentors. Just look at them! Are they delighted with their dresses? It sure looks like it. Mila, on the right, puts it in words: “I have to wear this today because I can’t stop loving this dress. I just can’t stop loving it everyday.”


Getting dress inspiration from young people on Brenda Kinsel website

Hailee, Caitlin, and Mila show me how fun dresses can be to wear.


Am I too old to have fun with a dress?

It all seems like a fashion dilemma.

Have I gotten too efficient with my wardrobe that novelty dresses don’t have a chance of being in my closet?

Do you have to be a little girl or a woman in her 20s to wear dresses that are frilly, sassy, or fun?

By the time you’re in your sixties, is that “frilly, sassy, fun” stage over with?

Am I resigned to wearing what matronly ladies wear, those frocks that hide out in the back of their closets for decades?


I took action

I decided to stop with the questions and just aim for the goal: feel as fun and fancy as my three dress mentors.

I started by trying on Erin’s dress. I loved it but I couldn’t wear it like she does. She’s got a very defined waistline. Mine? Not so much.


Erin and Brenda wear Erin's dress but in different ways on Brenda Kinsel website

We wore the same dress but in different ways


styling the same dress in different ways on Brenda Kinsel website

Up close, Erin’s way and my way of wearing her dress


The mechanics of styling Erin’s dress

Erin wears her dress sleeveless (of course) and tied in the back. I knew I’d be more comfortable wearing a jacket. I tried different ones on but it was the tried-and-true Carmen Marc Valvo jacket that worked. With sleeves just past the elbow and no front closure it was open enough to show the beauty of the fabric in the dress. All other jackets I tried on covered it up too much.

I decided to bring the belt to the front and tie a bow. This is a great trick for making it look like you have more of a defined waistline than you do.

I also made one other change. I tucked the loose neckline of the dress under by about two inches. I wanted the dress neckline to nestle right near the jacket edges.

The dress comes below the knee and I felt I needed to add more height to the outfit to get the right balance. I wasn’t going to wear my 4-inch heels (yes, I still have a pair). I was wearing a modest 2-inch heeled ankle wrapped patent shoe by Paul Green so I could stand for hours. When I added the fascinator, I had all the height I needed.


Beauty Bundle for a dressy dress on Brenda Kinsel website

Accessories at a minimum for this dress


Beauty Bundle

I kept the accessories to a minimum. With the fascinator, I really didn’t want to overdo it. So I wore a pair of sparkly Alexis Bittar earrings and a bracelet by Alexis Bittar as well. I spotted a Beauty Bundle!

Beauty Bundle Ingredients

  1. Black fascinator (or not, depending on how casual the outfit is)
  2. Black Paul Green ankle wrap 2-inch heeled patent pumps
  3. Long sparkly Alexis Bittar earrings
  4. Deco looking Alexis Bitter cuff

I could wear this Beauty Bundle with lots of different outfits that don’t require black tie.


The results are in!


Brenda Kinsel at the Ritz Carlton on Brenda Kinsel website

Having fun at the Ritz


I loved our evening at the Ritz. My fascinator was the topic of conversation at our table as well as in the powder room and later in the evening with two young ladies who came over to complement me. Oh, and the hotel greeters and my client and her family, too. It put smiles on faces.



EK and BK having fun at the Ritz on Brenda Kinsel website

EK and BK hanging out at the Ritz-Carlton in our dresses


It was no small miracle that I got the image of “only young shapely women can wear fun fancy dresses” out of my mind. I felt great; festive, sassy and actually, like myself–the playful part of myself, especially.

Get this: by the end of the evening Erin said, “Mom, this dress looks better on you than me.”

Guess what’s hanging in my closet now? Yup, THE DRESS. I’m ready for more invitations to come my way. I have to wear this dress some more because I can’t stop loving this dress. I just can’t stop loving it everyday.

What’s your feeling about wearing dresses–fancy or otherwise?

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  • Reply
    June 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    PERFECT!!! You girls look beautiful, and the fascinator created just the right drama for this ensemble. Thanks for explaining how you made it work and I plan to remember the bow tying trick…

    Hope you beautiful women had a great time in your fantasy dresses.
    A faithful fan,

    • Reply
      June 7, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Pat, I have to tell you just how much fun we had! When we left the gala, we took an Uber ride back to Erin’s flat in San Francisco where my car was. Erin’s boyfriend Mike came with us that night as well. We were standing outside the front door and I said, “Wait! We can’t end this night. Where can we go? Let’s go have some fun in our pretty clothes!” Erin was right there with me and then Mike said, “I know you, Erin. You’re going to be asleep in 30 minutes.” And you know what? I was already out way past my bedtime and I had a 45-minute drive home to Sonoma. Not going out ended up being the right choice for the sensible part of me. But the fantasy part of me was enjoying jazz somewhere in the city, savoring a hearty glass of red wine. Next time I’ll take my chances and stay out even later! I just felt I had to share that doorstep conversation with you! It just means we have to go do that more often! Thanks for writing, faithful fan, Pat! Always a joy.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    First of all, what a stunning mother/daughter photo! Just beautiful.


    Do you have to be a little girl or a woman in her 20s to wear dresses that are frilly, sassy, or fun?
    By the time you’re in your sixties, is that “frilly, sassy, fun” stage over with?
    Am I resigned to wearing what matronly ladies wear, those frocks that hide out in the back of their closets for decades?”

    Exactly! I can’t believe you brought up this subject Brenda…I’ve been asking myself the same questions for the last several months. Which is a bit surprising, given I’m a person whose uniform is jeans and a comfy shirt, day in and day out, unless a special occasion calls for something more elegant.

    But having received the news recently that one of my kids “just might” be thinking about getting married, it began to dawn on me that it’s been many years since I last donned a wedding-worthy outfit. And much more worrisome, that I have now drifted past the “over 65” marker into the never-never-land of “old age”. Uh oh. Cue the ominous music. When my older son got married, I was still in my early 50’s and able to wear, without looking foolish, the dressy clothes that I’ve always worn. But now? What DOES an over-65 mother wear to her child’s wedding anyway? When I turned to Google, I discovered there are, of course, entire volumes on this subject, with endless contradictory advice, over what is appropriate and what is (oh the horror), cringe-worthy, for the older woman.

    But then, as I scanned websites, looking for ideas that might work, something else happened. I began to long for a fabulous dress… “frilly and sassy and fun”…of my very own. And it dawned on me that I’ve never actually owned a dress like that in my entire life (not even my wedding dress…I was a starving student when I got married and just borrowed a dress for the day, without giving it much thought). When I consciously realized this, it seemed quite startling, given how many beautiful dresses there are in the world and given that, even though I’m a jeans sort of a girl, I have always adored the look of a beautiful dress, to the point where I will stop dead in my tracks if I pass by a store window featuring a gorgeous gown and stare longingly at it for several minutes before moving on. What is that anyway??

    So with that realization, and even though I’ve never had a “bucket list”, I decided that if I DID have a bucket list, a beautiful dress would go right to the top of it. And that being the case, I would buy a beautiful dress! It would hang gloriously in my closet and even if I never actually ended up wearing it to my child’s wedding, I would adore it and delight in it and try it on with various accessories and flounce around my house in it, giggling to myself.

    So I did. I ordered it online from Saks. It has a smattering of sequins on the bodice for a bit of sparkle and a gorgeous, flowing, floor-length taffeta skirt that swishes deliciously when I move. It’s beautifully made and utterly classy and cost many times more than I’ve ever spent on a dress before. When my sister came to visit, I snuck away and slipped it on and then surprised her when she turned around. She gasped with delight and said “It’s a princess dress!!” And we were like two little girls ooh-ing and ah-ing over it.

    I don’t know what that love of “The Dress” is Brenda, but it seems to be truly ingrained in the female psyche 🙂

    • Reply
      June 7, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Oh Katie, I am at the same time having chills running up my arms and tears forming in my eyes. What a fabulous story. I LOVE that you recognized that feeling/longing and put it in your mind to find it. AND YOU FOUND IT!!!! AND BOUGHT IT!!! And you’re wearing it, even if it’s just in your house. Good for you. I am rejoicing with you. You’re giving me more incentive to enjoy that feeling more and more. If not now, when? Right? Thank you so much for sharing! Everyone reading this is cheering for you!

  • Reply
    Nancy Madlin
    June 10, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    You look just beautiful. I love how you styled your daughter’s dress just for you, and felt the joy… My daughter loves dresses, to put it mildly. She likes thrifting and at one point she had 60, just for fun because they were so affordable… She has inspired me to wear casual dresses in the summer. I have 4 now- just simple cotton knits – that are so practical and easy — plus I do get to twirl!

    • Reply
      June 22, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Gotta love twirling, Nancy! Thanks for your share! I love how your daughter has collected so many dresses. If only it was that easy for me and maybe others this age! But it’s fun when they get old enough to inspire us to do different things. You must have fun together!

  • Reply
    cindy hattersley
    April 25, 2018 at 10:36 am

    You two look fabulous! I never wear dresses because I am long waisted. They always hit me in the wrong place. Love the sassy look of that darling dress on you!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      Oh, that was so fun! She can REALLY wear dresses. I can only fake it once in a while. I’m too short-waisted! If it’s not one problem, it’s another!

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