10 In Series

When Carol defined her style she gained respect

style book on brenda kinsel website

Several years ago a business coach referred a client to me. This new client (I’ll call her Carol) was interesting. Most clients who come to me are driven to look better after a major event (divorce, job loss, weight loss); make sense out of their cluttered closets; plan for an extended trip; or expand their love of fashion and style in order to get more enjoyment from their wardrobe.

I’m not sure why Carol came to me. I don’t think she knew. I think she trusted her business coach and did what she was told.

I always start with a style interview. In that first meeting I ask interview questions. The client’s answers help me discover her style. I’ll get a sense of next steps and figure out what will help her achieve her goals.

When I asked her questions, her answers made no connection to clothes or her.

It reminded me of when I taught school in Los Angeles in the ‘70s. One of the teachers was putting on a Charlie Brown play. It was a small, private school and the teachers were in the play along with the students. I was Peppermint Patty. I had one line in the play. Charlie Brown gives a long, existential monologue about something very deep and then I say; “We had spaghetti at our house three times last week.”

In this style interview Carol was like Peppermint Patty. Her answers to my questions were very nearly, “We had spaghetti at our house three times last week.”

In my first visit to Carol’s closet, I discovered that her clothes were mostly cover-ups. Not beach cover-ups but just putting on “any old thing” to cover up her body. She was wearing clothing that should have been donated or tossed. Her clothes were showing her no respect.

I soon learned more about her. She’d divorced a domineering husband after a long marriage but they still ran a business together. Her three grown kids never forgave her.

Spending money on herself was not easy. I would be at her house when her adult kids would call wanting money (big money!). “I’ll send you a check,” she’d answer quickly. Her church could always count on her generous donations.

To Carol’s credit, she slowly started making the connection between her clothes and her personality. She discovered a love for strong colors, skirts, and scarves. She was experiencing more joy. Her friends began to notice.

skirt and top on Brenda Kinsel website


One of our appointments was close to Easter. She was nervous. She had plans to take her kids out to Easter brunch. Seeing her children was always hard. She’d feel emotionally beaten up after visiting with them.

I asked her, “Carol, how do you want to be perceived by your children on Easter?” Her answer was immediate. “I want to be quietly powerful,” she said.

“Great,” I said. “Let’s do that!” I built her an outfit for that day. She’d wear a black slim skirt, pretty shoes, a purple silk jacket (her favorite) and a soft silk scarf in a feminine floral print. (She LOVED flowers and her flower garden.)

We spoke a few days after Easter.

“How did it go, Carol?” I asked.
“Brenda,” she said excitedly, “I got there early. I was sitting at a table facing the door so I could see them as they came in. When they arrived, I stood up. Brenda, I was ‘quietly powerful’ and you should have seen the looks on their faces. I’ve never seen them look like that. They looked…respectful. And they treated me differently…with respect. I AM quietly powerful!”

“Yes, you are!” I said.

I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Clothes were not only defining her, they were giving her strength and protecting her.

We continued to work together until she moved out of state. We lost touch, but one day out of the blue she called me from Hawaii to remind me of this story. She wanted me to know she was still living her words: quietly powerful.

My heart is happy every time I think of her.

heart on Brenda Kinsel website

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  • Reply
    March 29, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I loved this story. By the time I got to the Easter Brunch, there were tears streaming down my face (but in a good way).

    “Quietly powerful”, what a wonderful phrase. It’s a revelation to me that clothing can accomplish such a startling transformation of the psyche (although you’ve doubtless known that forever Brenda). Certainly I’ve heard many times how “Clothes make the man”, but I guess I never actually believed it until today… being inclined as I am to slouch around the house in torn blue jeans and baggy old shirts : )

    Thanks for an inspiring story. My heart will be happy every time I think of Carol too.

    • Reply
      March 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Katie, your words brought tears to MY eyes! Since I pressed “publish” on this story, I’ve thought so much about Carol. It wasn’t easy and I often thought I wasn’t going to be able to make a difference, but wow, did she show me! But more importantly, she showed herself that she was important. Thank you for going inside this story and seeing Carol the way you did! And indeed, it is food for thought, isn’t it? Big hugs!

  • Reply
    Amy Roseveare
    March 29, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    That is an AWESOME story!! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Brenda!

    • Reply
      March 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for receiving it, Amy! “Carol” has been with me all day!

  • Reply
    Jodie filogomo
    March 31, 2016 at 6:54 am

    This is such a great message because it’s true!
    It’s funny how many folks out there think of clothing & style as fluff—-yet it can make such a big impact in every part of your life!
    Maybe we need to start teaching a class in high school to get these facts instilled in people sooner?
    Sometimes I look back at the clothing I wore when I was just starting out in my profession and I cringe!! jodie

    • Reply
      March 31, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Boy, wouldn’t that be wonderful! A course in high school. Boy, that’s the time when they need direction the most. You’ve probably grown and expanded your own personal style since you first started working in this profession. We all do!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Yes, caring about how we look is not silly! It can influence so much – how we feel about ourselves, our confidence, how others see us and treat us and so much more. Thanks for sharing Carol’s story!

    • Reply
      March 31, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Right on, Andrea!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I loved this Brenda! “Quietly powerful” is so healing and affirming. You’re the best!

    • Reply
      March 31, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Isn’t it so wonderful? You’re right. And that it came from her so succinctly was perfect. Thanks, Jennifer!

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