14 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

This Caroline Dress helps me express my innermost feelings

Caroline Dress in deep sea blue

Feeling nurtured by deep sea blue in this Caroline Dress


It’s dress time over here in Sonoma, and I’m playing around with the Caroline Dress from Artful Home. When I was paging through the Artful Home catalog, it was this color that kept calling my name. Deep Sea is what it’s called. (It also comes in Palm Beach red.) Color speaks and deep sea has a lot to say.

Responding first to color

If I was doing one of my style exercises where I pick a color and then describe it in a first-person voice, I might say things like this about deep sea blue:


I am thoughtful.

I move with grace.

I am quietly dynamic.

I am nourishing.

I am a place to go for contemplation.

I hold space for things to grow.


It’s winter and all those qualities sound good to me—growing, taking time to think and contemplate, nourishment, going through cold, rainy days with grace. Wearing a color that talks to me and reminds me to embrace those qualities is good for my soul. I could do with some deep sea.


Caroline Dress from Artful Home

I feel thoughtful in the Caroline Dress


Caroline Dress feels ladylike

Feeling graceful in the Caroline dress.


Responding to silhouette

The Caroline Dress has a straight silhouette. I slipped it over my head and it dropped gracefully from my shoulders. If I was describing the silhouette of this dress in first-person sentences, I’d say things like this:


I am elegant.

I am pretty.

I am ladylike.

I move with grace.

I am at ease.

I have all the time in the world.


This silhouette is less JLo (va-va-voom) and more Jackie O (subtle and graceful). In this silhouette, I tap into the fullness of my 60s and feel proud of every high and low that brought me to this age. I feel refined and wise. This straight, relaxed shape helps me own those qualities.


Matte jersey in Caroline Dress

Matte jersey sends a “Let’s move” message


Responding to the fabric

Fabric can put us in a mood. A stiff fabric makes me feel at attention, on alert with eyes wide open. A crisp fabric can make me feel strong and ready to meet possible adversity or push back with pushy professionals. I remember setting up a meeting with a photographer who I’d only spoken to on the phone where I wasn’t loving his attitude at all. When I got ready to meet him in person, I paid close attention to the fabrics I was wearing. My collared shirt under my structured blazer paired with a straight skirt helped me get his attention. My fabrics got him to listen to me and show me the respect I deserved.

Let’s contrast the message of stiff fabrics with the message of the fluid matte jersey fabric in the Caroline Dress. What does matte jersey convey? Here’s what I think it would tell us if it spoke in first-person:


I am glorious.

I am full of surprises.

I’m going places.

I’m playful.

I’m ready for a good time.

I’m expressive.


Respecting what the design has to say

And here’s where the design of the Caroline Dress by Comfy USA reinforces those qualities. From the shoulder line to the bustline and to the waist, the dress is straight. But then the story changes. Mullet haircuts come to mind as an analogy. Remember how they were described as ‘business in the front’ and ‘party in the back’? It wasn’t until I spent five minutes in this dress that I realized the top portion of it could be perceived as more business-like but the bottom half of the dress wants to party.



Hidden in the skirt portion of the dress are tucks in front and in back. They invite movement which the matte jersey is all in favor of. Don’t look at my corny moves, but watch how this dress plays.


Caroline Dress on brendakinsel.com

The Caroline Dress twirls.


Caroline Dress from Artful Home

The Caroline dress says, “Let’s play airplane.”


Swingy Caroline Dress

The Caroline Dress shimmies.


How I adorned the Caroline Dress for meeting a client

When I wore this dress to meet a client, I decided to contain the party by wearing a long open vest over it. This vest is in a navy pinstripe and has a shawl collar. It will snap closed, but I left it open so you’d see more of the dress. I love how the fabric in the vest ripples down the front in easy folds, mimicking the folds in the dress.


Wearing a vest over a dress

A loose vest is okay over the dress.


My friend Valerie Raven makes these. (To see how I’ve styled the vest in the past, check out how I wore it in a flared jean outfit.) The long vest over the long dress gets style points. Two longs make a styling right.

I originally tried a denim jacket over it, but the dress said no. Why? Because the coarse denim fabric took all the fun out of the dress. Plus, the straight line of the bottom of the jean jacket hit just below my waist and cut across the diagonal line that’s in front of the dress. It looked cornier than my dance moves. Stacking something blue on top of something blue without being matchy-matchy was strategic. Blues pair well with other blues.


Caroline Dress from Artful Home

The vest brings a creative business vibe to the dress.


Caroline Dress with Valerie's vest

Caroline Dress with a long vest.


Adding accessories

I chose to keep the blue theme rolling by wearing my blue-framed shades from Uber Optics. They’re by l.a.Eyeworks. I wore my silver arty shaped heart necklace that’s on a leather cord. My finger is adorned by the Bumpy Belted Ring from Artful Home. The artist Calleen Cordero made the wide black leather and silver cuff that’s on my wrist. I enjoyed repeating the black leather (in the cuff and in the cord of the necklace) and the silver tones (in necklace and cuff bracelet). I wore black tights with my suede Aquatalia waterproof ankle booties. They’re must-haves in our rainy, cold weather.


Accessorizing a matte jersey dress

Adding accessories to the Caroline Dress


I wasn’t doing any swinging or twirling while planning a travel wardrobe for my client who was heading to D.C. but at the end of the day when I was walking to the car, the Caroline Dress was ready to play, even with the vest on. I’m so happy to see the two pieces dancing together. They make great partners, don’t you think?


Vest and dress work well together

The long vest partners with the dress.


Fabrics dancing together

Dancing fabrics are fun to watch.


I always respect the alchemy that results from taking the time to make something work. Not until I figured in the messages of color, fabric, and silhouette, did I really get how delightful it is to wear the Caroline Dress. It gives me what I need and want and more: nourishment, playfulness, and the feeling of life slowing down to a speed where I can enjoy every moment of it.

Thank you Artful Home for sponsoring this exercise in styling the Caroline Dress. Dear Community, I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this outfit come together and watching this dress in action. When you listen to clothing pieces, what do they tell you? Can you share an example of something you wear that puts you in a specific mood? I can’t wait to hear about it!




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  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 7:02 am

    I also love the crinkle coat you paired with it. What’s the source on the coat?

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 9:30 am

    The color looks beautiful on you Brenda

    • Reply
      February 26, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks, Sandi!! I bet this color would look great on you too!

  • Reply
    Karin Beamer
    February 26, 2019 at 9:56 am

    looks lovely on you and my question is are those tights black or navy and how and where did you find blue suede boots to match??? Nice look and very ladylike. Even the glasses look new???

    • Reply
      February 26, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      The glasses are old. They were my first pair of glasses with color. I’m not wearing navy blue hose or shoes. They are both soft black. The shoes are suede so they fade into the background more than leather shoes would. I don’t insist on matching shoes and hose to dress colors. I keep the attention on all the other details and keep the eye moving up the body so they don’t linger on the feet. I think a navy blue or charcoal gray could be good choices for shoes with this color. Also, it was cold so I wore tights but I could see a nude leg with this dress as well.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Beautiful photography Brenda, I just enjoyed looking at you in that lovely background and I want to send Russ a special note as he never gets a mention from your readers. What a lovely patient guy, and so skilled at capturing your spirit, as though he is having a nice time behind the lens watching you and conveying that to us through his medium. I would love a Russ in my life 😉 I also loved the part about accepting and appreciating being your age and all that comes with it. I am struggling to accept that I am ageing, so reading positive and accepting thoughts by others helps a lot. Bless you both Xxxx

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 11:13 am

      TJ, you’re a doll for thinking of Russ. Actually, he didn’t photograph these! My daughter Erin did. When I’m out in the day, she’s the one who’s usually taking pics. But Russ does take some of them. I’ll be sure to thank him! I’m totally fascinated by your struggle to accept that you’re aging. Feel free to email me and share some of what’s on your mind. Maybe I can address concerns in future posts. Thanks again, TJ!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    February 26, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Lovely dress! Lovely post!

    PS. You’ll be appearing on my blog again this Friday. Hope you’ll stop by for a look.

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 11:11 am

      Thanks, Elaine! I will!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Brenda. I love this dress. I purchased the black and cream dress you styled from Artful Home last summer/fall. Thank you, thank you! Now, my question is this and I’m sure you have posted it and I just missed it. What is the nail polish you have been wearing that looks so cool, blueish/grey? Brand and color name, please! Got to have it.

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      Laura, isn’t that black and cream dress the best? Artful Home has great dresses that are easy to style. Nail polish! Well, when I do my own, it’s Essie 164 Closing Night. It’s a blueish-gray. When I get my nails done, it’s an OPI color that’s nearly identical, but I don’t know the name of it. For better or worse, I mostly do my own. Try the Essie!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    You make me want to dance with all the twirling you are doing! You feel like a childlike in this sort of dress..twirl and tap dance on my mother’s linoleum floor in the kitchen. I am sure I’m not the only one to do that pretending I was in the talent portion if the miss America pageant. Love the eye wear…coordinated from head to toe!

    • Reply
      February 27, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      I mostly twirl in private. I was traumatized by my teenagers who at the time didn’t give me credit for any moves at all. I went into dancing hiding. Then one time I was at a club where my son was playing stand-up bass in the band. Someone asked me to dance and I was mortified to get out on the dance floor in front of my now older and wiser son (maybe 20). At a break, he came to me and said, “You’ve got rhythm, Mom. I didn’t know that!” Imagine that! Grrr! I’ll pretend to be a good dancer while you pretend to be blowing the socks off the feet of the judges by winning the talent competition!

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    March 13, 2019 at 9:22 am

    You have a way with words and sharing your thoughts! I think describing the color, fabric and style of our clothes is something I will do…I should do! I love it! Even if just in my head. I definitely get a feeling from my outfits – some bring more energy, some more fun! You are such an inspiration to me!

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