23 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Women Now

This scarf was a table runner, now it’s a star accessory

Style story about a souvenir scarf

After fifteen years, this scarf is resurrected


I love stories about clothes and redemption. I confess—I also delight in a story about a know-it-all who soon learns she’s not. It appears this style story has all those elements.

It’s about waking up one morning feeling like a junkie who needs a hit of hot orange and burgundy N-O-W and how that craving gets satisfied.

It’s a redemptive story about a large scarf purchased in NYC in 2003, which becomes a table runner when all along it wanted to be outside keeping a neck warm, receiving compliments…and finally gets that chance.

And it’s a story of an arrogant know-it-all, AKA yours truly from North Dakota, who thought she was the authority on snow. More about that later.


Russ in a New York blizzard

Russ in 2003 experiencing blizzard conditions


Putting an outfit together around hot orange and burgundy

It was chilly the morning when I awoke with a burning desire to wear hot orange and burgundy together. I slipped into my burgundy thin-wale, velvety corduroys by Kut from the Cloth and added my double layered thin hot orange sweaters—a longtime staple from Ann Taylor. (Why am I wearing two layers of the same sweater? Find out here!)

My outfit needed something more, something wow, something engaging, and I needed to keep my neck warm. I looked through my folded scarves for one that had style and function. There was the scarf I’d purchased in New York City in 2003 at the Museum of Modern Art Store in Rockefeller Plaza. It was partly a present to myself, an acknowledgment of a job well-done—writing my third book. I knew at the time that it would be a styling stretch for me. I don’t think I had anything in my wardrobe that was this vibrant or eye-catching. It would take courage to wear it—or I could just use it as a table runner. I had a Plan A and a Plan B. Call me prudent.

Looking at it now, I wondered: would it, could it, might it work with my cords and double sweaters?


Souvenir scarf

From edge to edge it’s 7 feet long

It’s a b-i-g scarf

From fringed edge to fringed edge it measures seven feet in length. When I did my simple wrap around the neck and then my usual single knot, I looked in the mirror. It ticked off all the boxes. It tied colors together, brought attention to my face, and would surely keep my neck warm.

Beautiful scarf, I love you!


Star accessory

The scarf warms my neck and is my star accessory


I added my ankle Chelsea suede booties and my easy cognac bag. I wore beaded earrings that were small enough to not get hung up on the scarf. They were made for me by Cheryl Rowe. We met in person at the Uber Optics event in December. You can see her pieces on her Instagram account: @bellacarisma.


Beaded earrings finish off the outfit

Wearing the beaded earrings Cheryl made for me


We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit on my Tips & Teasers Facebook page. How fun it was to meet her!


Cheryl Rowe jewelry

Cheryl Rowe, jewelry designer


This was turning into a most delightful outfit.

Some backstory about the scarf

Of course, I can’t think about this scarf without vividly remembering the circumstances around purchasing it. We buy some things and months or years later we have no idea where it came from. That wouldn’t be true of my 7-foot scarf from NYC. I was in NYC the first week of December in 2003 to promote my third book, Brenda’s Wardrobe Companion and Russ was with me. However, things did not go as planned. Yes, you’ve arrived at the Miss Know-it-All portion of this style story.


Brenda's Wardrobe Companion

Brenda’s Wardrobe Companion heads to NYC


My publishers flew me to NYC for a big book weekend where book reps learn about the latest titles so they can sell oodles of copies to their accounts. It’s sort of like Fashion Week for the book publishing industry. I was going to be talking to book reps from all over the country. They’d meet me and be all excited to sell, sell, sell.

We must have flown in on Thursday. Russ and I were somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. He peered out the window from several stories up and noticed these small flecks of something coming from the sky. “Brenda, look! It’s snowing!” he said. I went to the window. “Honey, that’s not really snow. It’s just snow flurries. It could be over in fifteen minutes.”

What I didn’t say was, ‘Don’t get your panties in a twist. Listen, when it comes to snow, I’m the expert. You’re from San Francisco where there is no weather. If it’s not 65 degrees and foggy in San Francisco, then it may—if you’re lucky—be 65 degrees with fog lifting at noon, whether that’s summer, winter, spring or fall. I’m from North Dakota where we have actual weather—like many times a day.’

I didn’t need to say that part out loud; I’m sure it was implied by my demeanor.


A perfect scarf

A table runner no more


As the snow got heavier, my mood got lighter

With each hour, the “snow flurries” got thicker and thicker, heavier and heavier. The wind started blowing, and it didn’t take long before we couldn’t even see the windows across the street. “Still snow flurries?” he asked, and I don’t even think he was being sarcastic. “No, we’ve passed the snow flurry stage, Hon,” I said.

This was 2003. No one had a smartphone super-glued to the palm of their hand. There was no weather channel app for minute-to-minute updates. There were special reports on TV, or you could go outside and experience weather for yourself.

Once the TV announced airport closures, I said, “Let’s go outside.” We walked and walked. Everything, everywhere, was white and gorgeous. Suddenly I felt like a seven-year-old, and I was remembering how winter was always my favorite season. We were in a winter wonderland, I was in New York City with the love of my life, and we were playing in the snow.

The book events were canceled as people couldn’t get into the city. Between the airport closures and the snow-clogged streets, I would never meet the big Mucky Mucks. That gave us more time for fun. We didn’t need taxies. We had our legs to get us around. That weekend we went to an excellent restaurant for dinner with my book publisher, browsed Rizzoli Bookstore, went to Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s. And we made it to the Museum of Modern Art Store in Rockefeller Plaza, where I fell in love with that rich-colored scarf and brought it back home.

It’s so satisfying to be wearing it now, fifteen years later. It’s just perfect. This scarf will not be a table runner anytime soon. Regarding my miscalculation with the snow reporting, I must say that sometimes it feels so good to have been so wrong.


My 7-foot scarf

Wearing the scarf long works too


(If this coat is familiar to you it’s because you read about how it passed the YES shopping test and went home with me the day I wore hot orange and burgundy together. Missed it? Here’s that YES test post.)


A scarf story

Wearing the scarf and remembering the story is pure joy


Now it’s time to hear from you! Do you have a clear memory of something you purchased years ago? Please tell us the story!



Russ in front of Bloomingdale's

My darling Russ says Hi!


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  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Love your stories and your style!

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks so much, Ramona!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 6:44 am

    You inspire me to “shop my closet”! In fact, I have a similar scarf from a museum store. Could you share how you tied the scarf?

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      I hang the scarf around my neck with one end being about 1/3 the length of the scarf and the other end on the other side being 2/3 the length of the scarf. Then I just wrap the long end around, bring it to the front where the ends are now fairly equal. Then I just loop it over and tie it not in a full knot but a half-knot. Hope you can picture that!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    January 8, 2019 at 6:58 am

    You always incorporate the best stories in your posts, Brenda!!
    And that’s such a fabulous idea to make a scarf into a table runner or vice versa. Why can’t everything in our house be that versatile?
    I had knitted some really short wraps years ago. They were the kind designed to cover the arms and that’s about it. Since I had knit them, I knew what they were supposed to look like. However, I hadn’t worn the in ages. So I just took them off the hanger and was trying to decide what to do with them. When I finally realized they could be scarves….it’s such an “aha” moment!!!

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      Oh, I love moments like that! It makes you think nearly anything is possible when viewed through a different lens, right? Thanks for sharing that aha moment!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 9:37 am

    It’s been a long time since a piece of clothing brought me true joy like this. My clothing is not layered in happy memories. It just gets the job done, as I try to cover this mid-life shape that I’ve never fully come to terms with. So how do I get the joy back?

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      Golly, that is a great question: how do I get my joy back? I always believe it starts with discovering your personal style. Maybe I’ll start blogging some of the exercises I do with new clients on style. Would that help do you think?

      • Reply
        January 9, 2019 at 9:31 am

        Yes, please!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    I love that outfit! The orange and burgundy are just wonderful and the scarf really sets it off. Gorgeous. And the snow story is great…what a treat!

    When I was young, I was in Chicago (the big city!) with my first serious boyfriend, and I came upon a cinnamon suede coat in Marshall Field. It was a fitted mid-calf style and had beautiful brass snaps all the way up the front. I fell in love with it immediately, but it was far beyond my reach price wise. He somehow talked the clerk into looking up his father’s account and letting us charge it, and said he’d help me pay for it. When the bill arrived, he was in Europe traveling and his father was none too pleased. Alas, I married someone else and my first baby ‘burped’ on the shoulder one day, ruining the suede. I was never able to get it clean, although in retrospect, I should have tried harder. Of course, we didn’t have the internet to search for the best suede cleaner and I was living in a little town far from any expert that could have helped. It lives in my memory though. 🙂

    • Reply
      January 8, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      What a great story, Laurel. I had to laugh there for a minute about the image of your baby burping up on the shoulder of it. Funny life’s twists and turns!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Gorgeous scarf, great outfit, wonderful story! This is why I love your blog.

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    January 8, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    I just published the story of a dress bought 22 years ago on my blog on Friday! You can find the post here https://edebock.wordpress.com/2019/01/04/the-life-story-of-a-dress/.

    Beautiful scarf! I love the colours.

  • Reply
    Barbara Kraus
    January 8, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    I fell in love with a red, purple, black and white dress with a thick black belt. Vertical stripes. I saw it in a boutique window. I was a new worker in San Francisco and it was a big stretch for me to purchase. It still lives in my actual memory closet and just the thought of it makes me smile.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Rowe
    January 8, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    I’m so glad that you were able to make the earrings work!!! You look fabulous & I’m so happy that I got to meet you!

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    January 9, 2019 at 1:57 am

    As usual, what a delightful post/ story,/ picture/ everything. I love colour on you Brenda, the maroon trousers and beautiful orange, already gorgeous, but the scarf, just topped it off. I can picture the romance of the snow flurry that turned into a snow event, that released you from the daunting responsibility, of ‘ selling ‘ yourself, to all those agents, or whoever , they were. That in itself, was such a beautiful story , how delicous, unexpected time with your true love, and time to play! A story that came to mind when I was reading this, was about my twin sister and I about three years ago, going on holidays together with my sons, on what we call our ‘ family adventures’. We went to a beautiful coastal area, around Port Stephens in Central New South Wales, Australia, and after much swimming, relaxing, eating, etc wandered into a tiny village with a few boutique shops, chemist, and clothes store. We came across the most gorgeous tropical themed sarongs in the most whimsical light cotton, perfect for our summer weather here. Unbeknown to her, I got us both one, in the same design but different colours! I gave hers to her, upon showing her what I had purchased for myself, and she just welled up in tears.. Matching twin sarongs, for all those times we are a thousand miles from each other, a lot of the year,. Though this item of clothing was not expensive or chique, It always reminds me of that magical holiday, and our beautiful love for each other. Anyway, that is my little story…Sending much love to you as always.from Oz

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    January 9, 2019 at 8:24 am

    I love your wintery/snow story with Russ in NYC. How magical it sounds. I too love the snow! It’s invigorating to this Florida girl. You and Russ should make a trip to Colorado to play in the snow! You can always stay with us!
    It’s funny, I remember where I bought almost everything I own – maybe it’s the fashionista in me or some may say I’m wasting precious brain space? Your scarf looks great on you! I love the orange and burgundy combo – might have to give it a go.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Russ is a darling isn’t he. Priceless Xxx

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    Now you’re beginning to SOUND like ME!
    I once wore a CHRISTMAS TREE SKIRT as a long skirt!!!!!!!
    Beautifully beaded and a deep BOLD RED color!
    Those are MY COLORS if you ever tire of it!!!!!!!!!
    HINT HINT!!!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2019 at 5:33 am

    You definitely are the expert as I would never think of orange & burgundy together. And I love the picture of you in your new coat with the scarf. I think it’s my all time favorite. Now if I could just get you & Russ to move to Fargo life would be grand. 😉

  • Reply
    Laurie Myer
    January 11, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Trips gone a bit sideways are always the best stories. Yours is actually the only fashion blog I read! While reading your blog last nigh, my tired brain, while loving the story, registered that something was familiar–the scarf!! I own an identical one that I bought overseas at least a decade ago. My husband worked in Mongolia from 2004-2016 and I bought this scarf at an event at the Indian Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. …and I wore it constantly for 6-7 years, especially on those long flights to and from Asia. I grabbed it out of the drawer and shared your story with my husband. Thanks to you, I’ll enjoy wearing it the remainder of our Colorado winter 😀

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    January 13, 2019 at 10:33 am

    I love the colors and your coat. Thank you for highlighting your Bellacarisma earrings by my Holy Names High School pal, Jewelry Designer, Cheryl Butterfield Rowe. There is a sizable group of fans for Cheryl’s designs and indeed–for your wisdom/insights. Color and brilliance live. Life seems more joyous with nods to color…even in the coldest Winter. Thank you for sharing your remembrances–especially NYC. I also cherish some sparkling moments at Bergdorf Goodman. I miss I. Magnin and have only been to Liberty London once. There is something so unique about Specialty Stores. I hope they are able to continue to inspire.

  • Reply
    January 22, 2019 at 6:06 am

    When I read the title of this post, I thought “I love this woman!”

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