Get your edge on when things go soft

Metal accessories: important for spring outfits

Metal accessories can bring edge and presence to your outfits
























I was with a client on Monday helping her shop the Nordstrom pre-season sale. She spotted a necklace that was so out of her comfort zone. “I don’t need anything,” she said. “Great!” I said. “Let’s try on this necklace. We’re not shopping for needs, we’re shopping for wants. Today is about checking things out. Here, let me slip it on you.”

While she liked it, she protested that she’d never wear it to work. I had other ideas! While we were scouting the selling floor to select a few non-essentials to try on, I asked her to wear it on our walkabout. It was not dainty at all but rather a statement piece that nestled nicely at her throat inside her white collared blouse and turquoise cardigan. Later in the dressing room, she said, “You know, I think women can wear more jewelry as they get older.”

Agreed! I am particularly a cheerleader for wearing defining pieces. Part of it could be that fashion has been bringing out statement jewelry for awhile. But the other reason is that as we get older, we need to add more definition.

Metal jewelry like in the pictures above, bring edge and presence to outfits. And if we’re 50 or better, we need more of that. Here’s why.

1. Where we were harder, now we’re softer — like in our bodies. Perky breasts change to relaxed breasts. (Don’t you like how I phrased that?) We still have cheekbones but the skin around them may be less taut than when we were in our 20s.

2. Our coloring may have gotten softer. Eye color can soften, hair color can certainly soften. In fact, many hair colorists will recommend softening our hair color as we get older because it can look harsh and aging otherwise. The better-than-50 woman who lets her hair color go to its natural color will see softer colors as well. I sure have. My once chemical auburn/red color is now a much softer chestnut.

3. Pierced earlobes now look like dashes, not periods. Holes on ears that were pierced 20, 30, 40 years ago are often now actual lines, not holes. Anything that hangs where it didn’t used to hang is aging and not in a good way, even if it’s a small thing like earlobes. The earrings (upper left) will cover holes that have lost their original shape and will perk up our faces like magic!

4. We’re wearing softer clothing pieces. As our wardrobe has gotten more casual and our bodies have changed, we often exchange body-hugging silhouettes for looser garments that won’t show our rolls. (If you’ve got a better word for “rolls” would you please share it with me?) But without those edges that structured clothing and stiffer fabric used to give us, we can look more limp and wimpy. I want to change that. Jewelry that has edge and definition toughens up our outfits and balances anything that’s gotten too soft.

My client walked away with a few good pieces that I’ll be playing with in her closet on our next closet date in August. And guess what she was wearing around her neck when she left and went off to work? Yup! The necklace we spotted at the very beginning of our shopping trip. It looked fabulous on her!

All jewelry in these images came from Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma, CA. You can find some great pieces there at 126 E. Napa St. (707 935 6772).

Getting Rid of Low Rise Jeans


jeans gonna go

Jeans are a staple in my wardrobe. I love dressing them up more than anything. What’s sexier than a great fitting pair of jeans and a pretty top and dressy shoes? Or following in the footsteps of Chanel: pairing a great feminine jacket with a jean and adding pretty jewelry. Or, another favorite of mine is wearing a military style jacket and a simple tee shirt with a rolled up jean and a platform sandal. Jeans offer so much!

A jean is great for travel. It’s hard to make it look lived in or dirty. As much as I love a white linen trouser, I have to be really careful or I may be sending it to the cleaners within two wearings!

Jeans are great for me during the week and on the weekends. I can wear a slim, dark jean, a silk top and a fitted jacket to work. I can wear a boyfriend jean and a tunic top around Sonoma while strolling through the Farmer’s Market on Saturday or while enjoying a latte outside in the garden at the Sunflower Cafe.

So when I was trying on jeans with my daughter Erin at TJ Maxx the other day while my car was being serviced right next door at Sonnen Motors (isn’t that convenient?), I was looking at myself in a pair of Joe’s Jeans in the dressing room mirror. Standing right next to me was Erin who said, “They look good but do you have this base covered already?” Good question! I bought that pair of Joe’s Jeans and took it home to meet the rest of the crew. A couple of days later, I called a meeting with all of my jeans.

“Jeans,” I said, “A question has come up about your relevancy in my wardrobe life. I’m going to do a top to bottom review of the jean situation and there may be some cuts before the end of the day.” I used my CEO tone of voice.

I established my criteria for staying or going. I want my jeans to fit well, be great colors (different shades of blue), and 100% useful to me, without exception. While I don’t have any super low-rise jeans in my wardrobe, I do have some mid-low-rise jeans. If I’m telling the truth, they’re kind of a pain in the ass. They want to slip down. I have to add a belt to keep them sitting where I want them to but I don’t have a flat stomach so they still slip and slide even with a belt.

The rise in jeans is getting longer and the newer styles fit me better. I’m realizing this. So now, even though I might love the color, wash, or the style of a particular jean, if wearing it frustrates me, I’m ready to admit it’s just not working out for us.

So my mantra as I tried on my jeans was “If it’s too low, it’s gotta go.” I reminded myself that I want ease in my wardrobe. I don’t want to struggle. Only the ones that are “just right” can stay.

I eliminated five pairs of jeans that I truly love for many reasons, but loving them is not enough. I solemnly put them in the wash and then hung them up to dry on the clothes line in the back yard for the last time. (I never tumble dry my jeans.) And now they’re in the car and Erin has promised to find them a new home at a consignment store near her house.

Even though it’s hard to do, sometimes you just have to make some cuts in your wardrobe in order to make the whole wardrobe culture thrive. If you’re in this position, I can offer this advice: Wear your CEO hat when you’re telling them to clean out their pockets and head on out the door. Being sentimental at a time like this isn’t going to be useful. Good luck!

Lipstick on cashmere could spell disaster

Hairspray and clothes care

The role of hairspray in clothes care

It happened like this.

Erin and I were parking on Polk Street in San Francisco near where one of our clients lives. Erin, my assistant and eldest daughter, was wearing cashmere because she’s experienced with June weather in SF. She lives there. (Caution: If you’re from out of state and you’re coming here this summer, pack your cashmere!)

So the BE (Brenda+Erin) team was getting the closet appointment supplies out of the car. Erin pulled out the portable rolling rack and I pulled out the over-the-shoulder bag holding our Wardrobe Workout Charts, wardrobe tools and necessities; plus iPad, notebook, and appointment book. It’s a two person job!

As Erin pulled the portable rack out of the back seat she somehow managed to get her own lipstick on her cashmere sweater, her ivory cashmere sweater, near the shoulder area. She does yoga. That would have to explain the dexterity!

“Oh no!” she said.

“Don’t worry,” I said.

“Do you know how to get this out?” she asked with a mix of desperation and disgust in her voice.

“Don’t panic,” I reassured her. I was about to wow her with my remedy and couldn’t wait!

We schlepped our stuff up the stairs to the third floor apartment where our client lives. When we got in her door I asked her if she had some hairspray. “Sure!” she answered. “Extra hold?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Any hairspray will do. Oh, and I’ll need a clean rag or towel, too.”

I asked Erin to take off the sweater. (She was wearing a layer underneath it–folks, San Francisco can be freezing in the summertime!) She went off to set up the rack in our client’s bedroom and I went to work on the lipstick stain in the kitchen. I aimed the nozzle at the stain and sprayed, lightly, no need to douse it. Then I took the clean towel and started dabbing at it, not rubbing. Just pressing. It moved a little onto the towel but I needed to apply another coat, dab some more and then another coat and more dabbing to follow: a total of about 2 minutes.

“Hey you guys!” I shouted. “Come take a look!”

They both came into the kitchen and saw what I saw: nothing. The lipstick stain was gone. Both Erin and this client are in their 30s. They were impressed! Maybe you’re older and wiser and have used this technique before but if you haven’t, it is amazing! Just hairspray and a clean rag, some dabbing, and the lipstick will lift off the sweater and move over to the towel instead. See that lower picture on the bottom left of the collage image above? You don’t see a thing, right? Just ivory cashmere? That’s where the stain was!

It’s fun to be older and wiser and I love not spending money on dry-cleaning bills. You might need to try this sometime!  I hope it works as well for you!

New and Improved Closet Organization

Closet dividers

Making my closet divider labels

A good weekend for me is one that allows for some putzing time in my closet. I’m forever thinking up ways to make getting dressed easy and effortless and to be wisely using the investments I’ve made in clothes and accessories. I can achieve both of these objectives if I have a well-edited closet (what’s in there is wearable, usable, and desirable by me) and I can easily grab for things and create new looks for myself on a regular basis.

I’ve been organizing my closet (and many of my clients’ closets) by color, forever! Every single item that is white – whether it’s a top, sweater, jacket, skirt, pant or dress – is grouped together. Next comes taupe: Everything in shades of  taupe are grouped together. It goes on like that from light to dark, left to right. I can give you a million reasons why this is a great system. Mostly, it’s just so pretty to open your closet and see those colors grouped together like crayons in a freshly opened box of Crayolas. It’s easy to keep a closet looking neat and tidy because all the red things go in the red department; all the blue things go in the blue department. Simple!

I don’t display the clothes in my closet like stores display their merchandise: by item. When you’re shopping you might view a whole rack of dresses at one time or a whole rack of pants. That’s often how people display the clothes in their closet. Maybe you do this too. All the pants are together, all the jackets are together, all the blouses are together and so on. That’s not me. It hasn’t been me for decades. I never saw a reason to change a thing…until this weekend.

Milano shoe compartment tool for jeans

I got to thinking about how I wear my clothes and have decided to try a hybrid system of closet organization. I am storing my jeans and leggings in a Milano hanging shoe container (see above). To the right of that hanging shelf, I’ve created a section for my pants which I have hanging individually over those non-slip hangers. To the right of the pants is a section for tunics which I wear with my leggings or  jeans. So those items that I tend to wear together are hanging closest together.

Closet dividers for color groups

Closet dividers for color groups

Next comes my tried-and-true division by color: white, taupe/gray, yellow/gold,  fuschia/berry, green/brown, blue, black. These are my main wardrobe colors so all the tops, sweaters, and cardigans get filed by color and hung together. Then over on the far end of my closet to the right of the black section is my section of skirts and dresses. Most wardrobes require at least three times more tops than bottoms so my bottoms take far less space. Having them separated (pants at one end, skirts and dresses at the other end) makes it easier for me to think about creating outfits. Do I feel like wearing pants or skirts today? Maybe a dress? I know just wear to look once I’ve made that decision.

Then I’ll look for the tops or jackets I want to wear and build the outfit from there. Having organized it this way, I’m noticing how few summer dresses I own. It’s a great time to look for a couple more as they’re already on sale in most stores.

So that’s my fun new experiment. And of course spending time moving things around allows me to discover a few things I haven’t worn recently. I want to wear one of those items tomorrow! A closet review is such a great investment of time.

I know everyone’s busy, but do you think you might have time this weekend to see what’s in your closet? And maybe even hang things a little differently so you get reacquainted with what you own?

How are you currently viewing your summer selections? Do you have a system that works? Please share!

Finding the source of sexy

Where does sexy come from?

Mantras for Daughters #9

One of my favorite things about summer is people watching and seeing all the pretty summer dresses on women and girls of all ages. With warmth against our skin and the fact that we’re showing more skin — well, there seems to be a freedom that’s available in summer time that could get smothered in winter with all the layers of clothes we wear. There’s something so immediate about our senses at this time of year. Don’t they feel electrified? Fruits are fully ripened, flowers are blooming and giving off scents, colors are so vibrant.

There are so many reasons to be outside enjoying it all. Walking along the edge of a lake hand-in-hand with your sweetheart, feeding each other fresh strawberries from the local farm stand, sitting outside together on a deck well into the evening is sensual, fun, sexy.

Isn’t it a wonderful time to be in touch with your womanhood? I think so! I may have a few more wrinkles this year than I did last year but my senses haven’t dimmed. While my heart might not flutter as much as it once did, it hums along happily when I’m with the people I love. I feel like purring!

This summer is more precious than ever. Are you ready to enjoy it? Bring it on!

Fashion Reaction: Lipstick matters or does it?

Vengeful Red (top) or Rebellious Rose (bottom)-that is the question

Vengeful Red (top) or Rebellious Rose (bottom)-that is the question

It might sound like a silly thing to most people but last month, in preparation for a trip to Los Angeles to be with a friend who is having serious health challenges, I carefully considered all parts of the trip, from what I’d travel in to what I’d wear while I was there and even the shade of lipstick that would be appropriate. Part of it is habit. I carefully plan the travel wardrobes for many of my clients.

I considered the heat wave that was predicted. I considered that we’d not be going out much at all unless it was a medical reason. I wanted to be comfortable and as we were going to be together the whole time, I wanted her to be comfortable around me. So whatever I was wearing, I wanted it to be pleasant to look at.

When I’m working with my clients on their trip wardrobes I consider most of these same things, like

*What will the weather be like?

*What activities will you be involved in?

*What is the message you want to be conveying to others?

*What qualities do you want to be bringing out about yourself?

*How do you want to feel?

The choice of clothes, and how they’re arranged on the body, can be matched to the answers to those questions. One can be comfortable in terms of the weather and comfortable in terms of matching what they are there to do on that trip.

I can hear you asking the question, So a trip to visit a friend would need that much thought?

Maybe not. Good friends accept us as we are, right? But this was a little different. On a Monday, my friend wrote me an email and said, “It is on my bucket list to have a personal visit with you. Can you come on Friday?”

Yes, I could come on Friday. I got the airline ticket, arranged for airport transportation to and from my home in Sonoma, and got a car rental. I started planning the outfits I’d be wearing in four days.

I had to get out some summer clothes that I hadn’t had reason to wear yet in Sonoma. And I got it in my head that I needed to buy a different lipstick color. It’s probably happened to you too where you’re faced with things you have no control over and suddenly, something you do have control over seems so pressing…no matter how silly.

I knew I didn’t have control over my friend’s health situation, but I could change my lipstick color from Vengeful Red to something quieter, more soothing perhaps. Louise would be looking at me all weekend and I wanted to be comforting to her. Was there anything soothing about Vengeful Red? I thought I could do better.

So I stopped at Macy’s and a woman named Cat helped me find a more subtle shade even though she objected every step of the way. She much preferred my current shade of lipstick. “But you don’t understand,” I tried to explain without losing control. “I’m visiting a friend who is quite ill. Wouldn’t something in a rose tone be calmer?”

Against her better judgment, she sold me Rebellious Rose. “I really think your red shade is best,” were her parting words.

I thought I knew best. Besides, Louise is a color expert! She would know that rose is softer and calmer than red!

For some reason, when it came to Friday, I stayed with the Vengeful Red. I wore it to the airport, flew south to Los Angeles, got into my rental car and drove the forty minutes or so to my friend’s house. I freshened up my lipstick when I parked the car. For the three days we spent together, I never once reached for Rebellious Rose. Don’t ask me why, I just didn’t.

Our Saturday adventure was to the hospital to pick up some medical supplies. I got to see where she spends a lot of time these days. And then we had a treat and stopped on the way home at a Peet’s Coffee and Tea. Other times when I’ve been down to stay with her, I walk to Peet’s and do my morning writing there. She knows how much I like it. We enjoyed our iced drinks and she complimented me on my well-planned wardrobe, managing for the heat wave that was scheduled to leave the day after I left. A man about our age was playing his guitar in the coffee shop. It was beautiful. His last tune before we headed home for much-needed naps was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I tipped him as we stepped out onto the blazing sidewalk and headed toward my car. His music had been so very kind. It made our big outing even more special.

When we said goodbye from her driveway that Sunday she summed it up pretty well when she said, “This is like a sad moment!” Indeed it was like that. We chuckled for a moment and then touched each other’s faces with our palms. And then she said, “I’ve loved looking at your lipstick all weekend.” And these two fashion consultant friends laughed again because of course, we’d notice things like that. I hadn’t told her how much I agonized over that shade and why. Only I got the extra kick over how funny that was.

I got into the car and backed out of her driveway, drove a block, pulled over and for several minutes before getting on the freeway and heading for the airport, I stopped being brave.

I relived every moment of our weekend while on the plane ride home. It tickled me to no end her comment about my lipstick. I was never so happy to have been so wrong about something.

She has been in and out of the emergency room several times in this last month. She’s had two more procedures. And last week, the doctor said the words that confirmed what she’s known all along: “What you need is another surgery. But the risks are so high. You could die.”

We had a lengthy chat about that over the phone. More meetings are scheduled with her team of experts to try to come up with solutions everyone can live with.

Frankly, I hope that doctor is as wrong about his assessment as I was about the lipstick. He thinks it could be fatal, but he doesn’t know Louise.

Use clothes to express yourself

Mantras for Daughters #8

Mantras for Daughters #8

When in doubt, get dressed. Not because you have to (although you do) but because it is a powerful tool for life. A well-dressed person expresses respect, joy, participation, and connection. This mother-daughter team expresses all of that and more. Joan (left) and Lindsay (right) are sharing love  and spreading it to anyone who is near them.

Don’t you feel more connection when you dress with intention? I hope you find joy in putting together pieces of clothing and accessories that you love, that feel good to you, and express some part of your personality. I want to say thanks for getting dressed and expressing who you are. It’s a gift you share with me and everyone else!

Would you like color with your coffee?

Color lovers!

Color lovers!

This is my friend, Marj. She’s an image consultant. We hang out together at least once a month along with our friend and colleague, Lynn. In the photo of her, we were at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, my favorite place for breakfast and lunch and great coffee drinks. Her latte came in the colorful cup and it was just too perfect! What colorful composition!

Then a week later, my sweetie and I were at Sunflower Cafe in Sonoma, another great place for breakfast and lunch and coffee drinks. We were sitting next to this empty, but not cleared, table. I just loved the color combos! You would have imagined Marj sitting in that chair and having a latte out of that cup too, wouldn’t you?

I have those colors on walls in my home. I appreciate them so very much even though I don’t wear them in outfits. One of the biggest joys of being in this profession of styling and wardrobing clients is that I get to appreciate the uniqueness of everyone and enjoy helping them express themselves in all hues and styles.

So while I loved working with all kinds of textures mixed together in black head-to-toe outfits that wowed my client yesterday, today I’m appreciating these yummy warm shades.

Hmmm… is it time for a latte?

Wearing colors to match your cocktails

Stephanie's cocktail matches her scarf

Stephanie’s cocktail matches her scarf

It was a fun night last month, a private party for shareholders at the Hog Island Oyster Company, celebrating the new expansion of the popular restaurant in the Ferry Building in SF. I’m on the shareholders waiting list so my presence wasn’t quite legit, but I got to be there because my sweetheart, Russ, was photographing the event.

I couldn’t help taking out my iPhone to take some pictures myself. How could I resist taking a picture of Stephanie and her lovely French specialty cocktail? The pink drink with the creamy swirl on top and the slice of jalapeño pepper on the rim of the glass was perfectly paired with her pink and white paisley scarf that had its own hint of green in it. Irresistible! If you go there and want to order one, it’s called the French Heat.

Capturing pics of cocktails and their sippers

Capturing pics of cocktails and their sippers

Next up was Eva and her Virgin Bloody Mary which was divine! That drink sitting on the table next to my elbow was my choice as well. She had on the perfect nail color, didn’t she?  Now I’m sure this was all by accident…or was it?? The next time you go out for cocktails, see if you’re subconsciously matching your outfit!

Perfect nails to grip the Virgin Bloody Mary

Perfect nails to grip the Virgin Bloody Mary

When a makeup update can change your mood



Mantras for Daughters #7

Mantras for Daughters #7


Finding yourself when you find yourself lost can be a tough thing to do. The way back to yourself can be simple or complicated, time-consuming, work or not work. Here are a few things that people have tried:

1. Going to therapy.

2. Reading a self-help book.

3. Praying.

4. Repeating affirmations.

Then there are things that people try that involve higher risk or more expense, like:

1. Having an affair (“New guy’s name here just gets me!”)

2. Bingeing on one’s personal vice of choice: Lemon Drop cocktails, Snickers candy bars, Chanel anything.

3. Remodeling the house…again.

Sometimes it’s just less dangerous and less expensive to go to a makeup counter and let somebody play with beauty–your beauty. It can be an oasis to get some pampering and a new perspective. Heck, it could even turn your life around!