25 In Getting Dressed

What we wear when the public’s not looking

Brenda's walking clothes on BrendaKinsel.com

Walking in the neighborhood hoping to not scare anyone


I was going for a walk the other day and it was still chilly outside. I got all bundled up in layers, wore my wide legged jeans and said to Russ, “Do you think I’ll scare any neighbors in this outfit?”

He said, “You scare me and I know you! But I know you’re not as crazy as you look.”

We had a giggle; I left the house, clocked in 6,303 steps, and I don’t think I scared anyone … well, maybe one person.

Russ is my friendly at home fashion police officer. He’ll make comments about goofy combos I might be wearing behind closed doors. He’ll say, “Should we take a picture of this and put it on Instagram?” Right, Honey.

He doesn’t catch me in too many embarrassing style snafus. But I’m pretty conscious about it. I don’t want him to see me dolled up to go to work and then not have any color or style interest on me once I’m home and it’s just the two of us.

An early lesson in considering loved ones

I remember a client I had early in my career. She had a high-up position in a bank and loved dressing for work. She wore great colors, great accessories and her makeup was impeccable. I was doing the style interview with her and was starting to wonder why the heck she’d hired me. She was a lover of fashion, not afraid to try new things, she looked fabulous to me. I couldn’t see room for improvement. But then I asked her a question: What do you wear when you come home from work?

She said, “Oh gosh, I get right out of my clothes, take my makeup off, get into my robe and stay in it the rest of the night.”

“Tell me about the robe,” I probed.

“Oh, it’s really worn and ratty and my kids and husband hate it, but I’m comfortable,” she said.

Gosh, I thought about her family members and how they were seeing her during family time, maybe the only time they were together each day. Every day she was in the ratty old robe. Is that how they’d remember her? I felt a little tightness in my chest.

“What if I could find you comfortable clothes to lounge in at night. Do you think you could retire the robe?” I asked.

She said yes and there was our work!


An outfit for meeting a friend on Saturday

After my walk, I slipped into this outfit ready for public life in Sonoma

What do we wear at home?

I was influenced by another woman who had specific ideas about what she wore at night when her husband came home from work. She was a professional homemaker with three young children. She had every right to be in cozy clothes when her husband came home at dinnertime. But she told me, “I may be in super casual clothes in the daytime when I’m home with the kids but I believe my husband deserves to see me looking put together and nice after work, reminding both of us who we were before we were parents.”

That really stuck with me.


At home outfit on BrendaKinsel.com

Typical at home evening outfit formula: comfy jeans, sweater, booties


Finding middle ground for at home clothes

Given those two memorable conversations, I think about what I wear at night when I come home from work. I may get out of my work clothes before dinner but I’ll put on flattering jeans, a nice sweater, or a decent T-shirt and a cardigan. This post-work outfit will be cat-proof because Bella will certainly want to crawl all over me the first chance she gets. I’m still comfortable, but I’ve alerted my brain that I’m in relationship-time with Russ, relaxing, catching up, hanging out together with a TV show we want to catch up on. He’s a night owl and I go to bed before he does. When I kiss him goodnight, I’m still in my relaxed-but-looking-decent clothes.

When I enter the bedroom I slip them off and get into my pajamas.

I’ll be in those jammies when I wake up before Russ, make my morning coffee, and head to my writing table to spend forty-five minutes or more in quiet time with my thoughts, my pen and notebook, and Bella perched in the window sill keeping us all safe from intruders. If it’s chilly in the house, I’ll pull out my quilted lightweight jacket from the hall coat closet rather than turn the heat up.

Bella in window sill

Bella on guard


So when Russ wakes up, the scariest thing for him to face is my odd hair. He’ll often question me. “Have you taken a look at your hair yet today?” he’ll say. That prompts me to look in the mirror and see what it’s been up to after my eight hours of beauty sleep.


Bad hair day on BrendaKinsel.com

Morning cuddles with Bella

Yikes!! Now that’s something that would scare the neighbors for sure! But that’s why we wear baseball caps on our walks, right? As long as the scariest moments are walking outfits and early morning hair, I feel pretty good about my at home clothing habits.

What are you wearing in the evening? Would love to hear your at-home outfit recipes. And if you don’t live with anyone, does that make a difference in how you dress at home? Do share!

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  • Reply
    Nicole K
    March 29, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    What a fabulous post. I’m always forcing myself to get out of my “walking” clothes and into some “real” clothes to be sure I’m not getting too lazy about my appearance. But, some days are harder than others. I think you look adorable in all the outfits.

    And the cat camouflage is a great idea for bad hair mornings!

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      I’m chuckling about the cat camouflage! I think I have to add one more photo to that post. It looks like the cat’s fur and my hair are totally merged into one! This morning I was holding the cat (she’s so heavy!!!) while brushing my teeth. Russ came in and said, “Do you always brush your teeth with the cat on your shoulders?”
      The answer is no, but she seems to love it! I liked your words about “not getting too lazy about my appearance”. I wonder how many other people feel that way. Anyone else want to chime in about that?

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 12:47 am

    I love this post. At home I often “use up” clothes that I’ve worn for work earlier in the week, that are not dirty enough to launder but not fresh either. So tonight when I get home I’ll change into jeans and a purple flowered shirt that I wore on Monday. When I lived alone, my clothes were all navy, black and grey, but my husband likes bright colours, so since we’ve met I’ve added a lot of colour to my wardrobe. It’s just as important to me to look nice at home as at work. I do suffer from morning crazy hair though, I’ll have to try the cat distraction!

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      I’m so pleased Bella has offered you some solutions to morning crazy hair!! I like your idea. It also reminded me of a shirt I love to put on in the summertime when I come home from work. It’s a wonderful thin cotton print shirt, flowers with a lot of blue and orange. It makes me so happy to wear it and why not wear happy clothes at home when no one or only some”one” is watching?

  • Reply
    Lovely One
    March 30, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Yesterday I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast where Debbie Millman (design goddess) answered interesting questions about her thoughts on her life in the design world. Her comments about how we present ourselves in the world really resonated with me. She talked about managing our own brand, being intentional about how we show up in the world: how we want others to perceive us. Your post reminds me of the angst I feel – the tension between wanting to be so comfortable/ relaxed when I get home versus the way I’m showing up as a mother, coparent and wife or woman in the world. I realize that “I can’t be bothered” might be winning more than “hey, I’m here and I’m interested/interesting”.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      This is so insightful! Thank you so much for bringing this to the conversation! I agree, there is a certain tension to those things. I guess it’s why I’m always looking for items that do both things: offer comfort and style. I’ve been working with a client on this issue for many, many months now. We are making headway! Her case is more about leaving the gym in gym clothes and spending the day out and about doing stuff. Or feeling too lazy/tired/whatever-the-right-word-would-be at night and will go to dinner in a restaurant in clothes more suitable for private life. It’s hard for lots of people and as we’ve gotten more and more casual, it proves an even bigger challenge. I just don’t want people to slip down the fashion slop of least resistance.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I work from a home office (have for years) and recently decided I needed to dress better than yoga pants and tshirts every day for my own sake–so I’ve upped my game there. But I do my workout after work before my husband comes home, and it always seems ridiculous to get all dressed again when I’ll just be going to bed in a couple hours so I tend to get into my pajamas. Recently, though, I realized that I’m still in my pajamas when DH leaves for work in the morning and then I’m in them again when he gets home. They’re nice enough jammies, but still. I’ve thought about looking into nice loungewear, though, so I’m still post-workout-comfortable but looking less like I’ve never really gotten out of bed all day!

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      You make such a great point! It’s certainly food for thought, isn’t it? I was just “followed” on Instagram today by Joan Vass. She was so big in the 90s. She’s back in Neiman Marcus now and her clothes look very loung-y. It gave me new ideas as well. I think it’s good to think about the number of hours your husband sees in you PJ’s. I’m sure there are husbands who don’t notice but I bet a bunch of them do and would appreciate a look other than jammies.

  • Reply
    Lovely One
    March 30, 2017 at 5:14 am

    I just came across this School of Life video that really speaks to these concepts. I hope you enjoy it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8da1nXckEy4

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Throughout fall & winter my husband & I wear pj pants & fleece because our house is chilly. But come springtime I’ll try and wear some cuter things around the house. Thanks for this blog post. I should really spruce up my home wear a bit more, I don’t think fleece is a real turn on for men lol

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Holly. Is there cute fleece? I’m picturing gray fleece, hooded maybe. More gangster or Sierra Club than attractive wife. Loved your comment!

  • Reply
    Penelope Chandra- Shekar
    March 30, 2017 at 8:01 am

    My very elegant mother always bathed and changed into beautiful caftans for the “cocktail hour” and that has influenced my thinking. I do so look forward to slipping out of my bra at the end of the day. Sometimes I will don a sports bra. Then, as I tend to run warm and my husband doesn’t, I have a couple of caftans and a whole selection of little dresses to wear that keep me cool. Sometimes yoga pants with a pretty tee or sweater fills the bill too. I am a Bohemian kind of girl so the caftan thing really works for me. Soft Surroundins always has some pretty ones. My favorite new one, striped with a beaded placket, comes from there.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Wow, Penelope! I’m going to run to my Soft Surroundings catalog and take a look. This is a wonderful idea! I have a friend who has a caftan collection and was shocked when she heard I didn’t have a single one. I think that is about to change!

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Our very large Gracie, is sending greetings to Bella! Gracie knows all too well what I look like in the evening, but she is very fond of cuddling up on my tourquoise robe!
    Cheers, Marjorie

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Marjorie! I can see you in your turquoise robe and your lovely Gracie. I’m picturing a large orange tabby cat. Maybe because orange would look so great with turquoise? Hi Gracie!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    March 30, 2017 at 9:23 am

    How nice that you shared your bed head with us Brenda—but I bet I could beat that in a heartbeat!! Have you seen mine when it’s supposedly looking nice—ha ha????
    I do think that how we appear to even “just” the family can affect them & us! But I’m probably just as guilty for putting on my sweats later in the evening. Hmmm…may have to really think about this.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      It’s a fun topic to “look at” isn’t it? Oh my gosh, that reminds me of a sweatshirt that Russ bought so proudly. I HATED it! It made me look more like an awkward teenager than a handsome fella, which he is. I begged him to never wear it around me. It was such a turn off. I even thought of “accidentally” taking it to the trash in the night. It finally did leave without my interference. But it does go to show you that how we look at home makes a difference. I guess it works both ways! Thanks, Jodie!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    March 30, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I love my white with black polka dot flannel pajamas and have a black with white moon & stars bathrobe that is snuggly. I have black with constellation star Uggs booties that I also enjoy. If it is cooler, that PJ combination is my late evening home attire. Home transitional wear is pull-on slouchy pants, soft v-neck top and double wrapped scarf. Keeping my neck warm is my objective, so I have lots of long scarves. I am a long time Dr. Scholl sandal wearer at home. Lately, I have added specific outfits for walks that go with tennis shoes. Slim pull on pants, thin turtleneck in grey or black and a color topper such as drawstring cowl neck pullover with a pouch pocket (must carry a tissue for allergies). A scarf wrap is added as necessary and either a baseball or straw hat. I still wear pull-on velour lounge pants for cooler months. Rob says I am ‘swathed in velvet’ (Seinfeld). I am a fan of layers topped with a cardigan yet I also like a solo long, warm tunic with cozy loose turtleneck for the top. In warm weather, I like a long tee shirt dress or summer maxi for home comfort.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      I am loving hearing about this nighttime, after hours outfits! I like the sounds of your walking outfits. And I am nearly always in a scarf around the neck. That’s the best for temperature control at night! Thanks for sharing your outfits with us, Katherine!

  • Reply
    Cindy La Ferle
    March 30, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Since we live in a corner home in a friendly neighborhood, it’s possible that neighbors will pop by after dinner … so I am pretty careful about looking “decent” until it’s past 9pm. I love leggings at home –especially crazy, fun, patterned leggings — but I only wear those crazy patterns at home, after hours. (In public, I stick to black leggings.) For instance, I might wear polka dot leggings or geometric-patterned leggings with a butt-covering black tunic. Or maybe something cute/cozy from J. Jill. I also have some Eileen Fisher “lounge pajamas” that look nice enough to wear outside (though I don’t) … I do like things that are comfortable/cozy — but still stylish. I try to toss out the ratty looking things every so often!

    • Reply
      March 31, 2017 at 9:18 am

      I love that image of people dropping by. Yes, that would be incentive enough to be looking pretty smart at home! It sounds like you’ve got this figured out! Loved your comment.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    What a great topic, and interesting responses. I work from home and generally only go out to meet friends or family for lunch/movies (or to the supermarket). My husband is a track pants and Crocs man when he’s not at work and genuinely doesn’t care how I dress – I’ve long ago accepted that I have little influence on his clothing choices! So my at-home wear is strictly for me. I’ve learned such a lot from your books and blog that I can answer the door or pop out at any time without feeling the need to change anything, and I don’t need a separate outfit at night – I’m already comfortable. I hardly ever have any reason to ‘dress up’, but when I do it’s a real pleasure to wear something a bit special, following the same principles of stylish but comfortable. I feel fortunate to have a role model I feel in sync with, who gets that older women still want to look good and who has such useful advice to give.

    Bella is spectacularly gorgeous, by the way. And your crazy lady look is pretty much what I see on my local streets when I go for a run in the winter months – not that unusual around here!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    I have been retired for about a year and a half and found that the first year I got into the yoga pants and t shirt routine. I kept saying that I didn’t miss work but missed dressing up every morning. I also had a closet full of clothes sitting not being used. I still enjoy shopping so try to lean more to the casual side. One day I had a “light bulb” moment and decided to start dressing for me, so now I get up and even if I’m not going out or seeing anyone I put on an outfit that makes me feel good! It improves my mood and if someone knocks on the door or I have to quickly run out I’m ready.

    Thanks for the interesting topic. It was great to hear I’m not alone in wanting to still look stylish yet comfortable.

    • Reply
      November 3, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Gosh, Ruth, loved reading your comment! You are inspiring! It’s true we could all hang out in yoga clothes but think about what we’re missing. You’re proving that the benefits of “getting dressed” are great! Love it!

  • Reply
    March 29, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    I have a home daycare.I have a personal rule about NEVER wearing leggings 2 days in a row.Jeans hold you accountable. we always have a visit over an adult beverage,white wine for me..he likes a beer while I cook dinner.He sets the table..we use cloth napkins and sit AT THE TABLE…after dinner he clears and cleans up.I do ALL the cooking ,shopping planning.We decided this was fair.My day starts at 5:30 am so I am usually in my pajamas by 7 in the winter.He joins me in his PJ’s for a movie or tv program Your bedhead hair made me giggle,Ive worn that style myself.

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