4 In Series/ Style

Using style words to dress with intention and ease

Debra's meeting a friend for lunch outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

A great “meeting a friend for lunch” outfit


My friend Debra Ruff was kind enough to allow me to do a style interview with her in front of 17 colleagues in June when I hosted a professional retreat for image consultants from all over the world. My colleagues wanted me to demonstrate that essential first appointment with a client which, with me, is all about style.

Kudos to Debra for being so open in front of complete strangers. This appointment can get real intimate real fast as we explore old patterns around shopping and getting dressed, places a client may feel stuck, the things that may be holding her back. My goal is to ask questions (and go off script when warranted) in order to get a true vision of what’s in a woman’s heart. Who is she on the inside?

I want to know so I can dress her so she’s reflecting her true self. During the interview I gather up all the clues I received from her and come up with what I like to call a style recipe. Using the language of clothes, I’ll design outfits so these words would naturally come out of someone’s mouth to describe her. We always edit the list together. I’ll ask her, “Would you feel flattered if people used these words to describe you and your style?”

The answer is a clear YES.

Debra's blouse front and back on Brenda Kinsel website

A pretty blouse has a surprise in the back


Everybody’s style recipe is different. I listen for the words the client resonates with. I’m not picking them, she is. They have distinct meaning to her and her alone. It’s so exciting. It’s like going on a treasure hunt and finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Here’s a sampling of words in Debra’s style recipe:

Being real






We met for lunch at Della Fattoria in Petaluma and I asked her to explain how her style words were being represented in her outfit.


Even though my blouse and my handbag are vintage, I feel the outfit is modern with the cut of the jeans and the tennis shoes.

The lace insert in the back of the blouse adds surprise.

I feel like I’m being real. The casualness of the jeans and the tennis shoes are like when I was a little kid only now I’ve added more of a flair.

I feel stylish especially because I saw a picture of Alexa Chung in something similar. I like her style even though she’s younger. I like her naturalness but there’s thought and surprise in her outfits.

I feel together. I chose every detail and I like it all.



A good blouse tuck into a great belt on Brenda Kinsel website

I love her belt and the way she’s tucked in her blouse


Would you like to know the details of her outfit? Here they are:

The vintage blouse she’s had for over fifteen years (label is cut out) and hasn’t worn it since then.

Her jeans are Pilcro and the Letterpress from Anthropologie.

Her vintage bag is MM leather by Morris Moskowitz.

Her shoes are by Puma (Whisper White) from Madewell

Silver sterling bracelet by Christiana Jewelry given to her by a friend.

Sunglasses are from Uber Optics and are by Ilja.


Debra thinks about her style words every time she gets dressed. She has a lot more confidence now and she’s having more fun.

Expressing oneself and holding one’s head up high is expansive and a great way to step out into the world.

Do you know what your style words are?


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  • Reply
    July 26, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I love your style words idea. I’ve had a similar idea for awhile now. I didn’t really know it was a thing! My style words change from time to time, but right now they are:
    Put together

    What do you think of those? I enjoyed your article! I would love to be a subject for a class like your friend did! I’ll bet everyone learned a lot!

    • Reply
      July 26, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Well, I love your style words! It’s wonderful to use them because it helps you stay on track when you’re shopping and getting dressed in the morning. When you put something on that doesn’t feel right, looking at your style words may explain why.
      Yes, everyone did learn a lot, that’s for sure!

  • Reply
    Julie Maeder
    July 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    This is wonderful, Brenda! I remember how Debra looked at that first style appointment she so graciously let us sit in on. I would have guessed she was quiet, introverted, conservative and shy. I could tell as the appointment unfolded that she was not projecting her real self outwardly. Thank goodness she found YOU to help her on this journey because I can see now how she projects a completely different and more authentic vibe! I have a feeling you have opened up a whole new world for her. Kudos!

    • Reply
      July 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Isn’t that amazing how that happens? It’s why the most important thing to bring to a first style appointment is your curiosity. I always say a little prayer before I see a new client. The prayer is mostly about clearing out my own vessel so I’m open to hearing the truth about the client. It’s only with that openness that I am able to hear her heart’s desire. When you MMBers asked me to demonstrate this first interview “live” I didn’t realize how joyous it would be for me to have you all view it and experience it and bring Debra into your hearts. I feel like there was a roomful of love there that day. All of you were witnesses and midwives as she learned more about her style and created a style recipe. I have goosebumps! She’ll have to be at our next retreat just so you all can see her again in her confident style! Thanks for sharing your perspective, Julie!

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