Brenda’s Fashion Advice: Make Your Feet Happy in Fishnets


Recently a question came my way after I got done touting all the wonderful reasons to wear nude fishnet pantyhose. Did you miss that sermon? Well, imagine me behind my fashion pulpit (wearing fishnet pantyhose, of course). Here are the basic tenets.


The Merits of Nude Fishnets


1. If you have uneven skin tone or even discoloration from scars or varicose veins, fishnet stockings can block the majority of that out while still giving your legs a bare look. When you don’t have even skin tone, a slight pattern tricks the eye into thinking it is.

2. There are long transitional months (at least in Northern California) when the weather is mild and not cold enough to want to wear tights but  too cold to be going bare in open-toed sandals. That’s when wearing fishnet stockings with pumps or boots is just right.

3. Wearing fishnet stockings helps bridge the gap between the top of boots and the hem of a skirt or dress if that skirt or dress is a little shorter than you normally feel comfortable wearing. Young girls may be wearing shorter skirts with booties and no hosiery at all. But if you’re more modest or over twenty-two-years-old, you might want the confidence that comes with wearing hosiery.

4. Nude fishnets are good for women of all ages and appropriate for any outfit. While black fishnets might seem too out there for everyday outfits, nude ones can feel mildly sexy but still appropriate. If the fishnet pattern is fine and not large-scaled, it’s subtle, almost like wearing sheer hose. While straight up sheer pantyhose in a nude color may feel “old” or boring to you, fishnets make you feel more youthful, maybe even a little rebellious, like you’re getting away with something. What’s not to like about that?

Note: I’ve seen fishnet pantyhose in nude, brown, and black. I’ve been talking about the lightest shade but if your skin tone is darker, try the darker tones.

5. Because the fishnet pantyhose blends into your skin tone, it can be worn with any color. They’re also neutral enough to wear with any pattern in your skirt or dress. Just think of them as a texture to your outfit. They add interest and go with anything.

So, fishnets are pretty much perfect for all occasions. Have I converted you?


“Could there be a downside, Brenda?” you ask.


Well, there could be one. Some people find that the fishnet diamond pattern digs into the bottoms of their feet and makes them uncomfortable after wearing them for an hour or two. Now that wouldn’t be good!

I thought about people with sensitive feet and all they’d be missing out by not wearing fishnets so I came up with a solution. Or at least that’s what I thought. In my head it seemed like it should work so I decided to give it a try. Last week I wore nude fishnets with a dress that felt too short to wear unless I had tights or fishnets on. I was excited about wearing boots with my dress, so I decided to test out my theory. Here are the steps I took.


Happy Fishnet Feet in Four Steps


Step one: Start with happy feet.

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

Picture your feet here

Step two: Slip into a warm sock if your feet are at all cold.

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

If you run cold, add a wool sock.

Alternate step two: Slip into a Ped or a low cut athletic sock if it’s warm outside and you’re worried about getting too hot while wearing your boots.

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

You could use a Ped or low cut athletic sock instead

Step three: Put your fishnet pantyhose over the sock or Ped and pull them up like you would any pantyhose.

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

Roll fishnet pantyhose up over your socks

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

Or roll fishnets over your Peds

Step four: Add boots, dress or skirt. Accessorize as you so brilliantly do. Check yourself out in your full-length mirror and say, “Boy, do I look great!” Now go out into the world. See if that extra cushion makes your feet happier.

Fashion Advice, Hosiery Tips, Fishnet stockings

Add boots and dress, accessorize, and out the door you go


I wore my fishnets and boots together all day. When I got home my feet were as happy as they could be after standing on them for five hours.

But I had a different problem. The waistband on the fishnet pantyhose was too binding and dug into my waist. I would have been uncomfortable wearing them for an hour.


Bonus Tip

But I solved that problem fast. I pulled the pantyhose up past my waist and positioned that tight band right under my bra. Fishnet pantyhose are so stretchy. They would have gone higher.

The circumference of your body right under the breasts is often smaller than the circumference around your waistline. This is true for me, so that band didn’t feel as tight as it had on my waist. After five minutes, I forgot the band was even way up there! I considered showing you a picture to illustrate this Bonus Tip but thought better of it. Just picture it in your head. You pull those pantyhose up and keep on going until you get to the lowest part of your bra and stop right there. I had absolutely no slippage all day.

DKNY nude fishnets have been my favorite brand but I’ll probably do some research and see if I can find them with the newer technology that makes them less tight on the waistband. If you find some, let the rest of us know, okay?

In the meantime, try the fishnets with extra cushion and let me know if it’s working for you.


Anatomy of an Outfit: Not Wearing Jeans


There’s nothing I wear more often than jeans. I may even be addicted to them. There, I said it. I love so many things about them.

1. I love how skinny jeans tuck into boots and can make your legs look longer.

2. I love the relaxed jean especially when it’s cuffed and the ankles show. I think ankles are sexy, especially on a woman over 50.

3. I love how durable they are. You can wear them and wear them and wear them. They aren’t like a white blouse where you wear it once and you have to launder it. They’re tough.

4. I love dressing up a jean, adding a pretty silk blouse to it. I like the mix of practical and prissy. A dark denim jean can look dressed up enough to go to a party or on a dinner date.

It would be easy to grow dependent on them!


Starting the anything-but-jeans diet


But something strange has happened to my steady diet of jeans. I think I’ve seen so many pairs of jeans being worn by men and women-day and night, night and day-that I’m hungry for something else! I’m craving skirts, dresses, trousers. Heck, I’d even be okay with silk track pants…well, maybe not silk track pants, but nearly every other possibility but jeans!

Imagine being in a buffet line of fashion choices and nearly all of them were jeans. It would be disappointing, wouldn’t it? So I’ve decided to go on a new diet. For a week I will allow myself to wear jeans only one of the days. The other six days I’ll wear pants of some sort, skirts, or dresses. To motivate myself I’ve clustered my skirts and dresses to the very front of my closet so that’s what I see first.


Anatomy of a non-jean outfit


My Day One starts on the day I’m going to a workshop for writers at Book Passage in Corte Madera. It’s an iconic Bay Area independent bookstore. I want to be casual and fit in, but if I have to introduce myself, I want to look smart and fashionable enough to make the words “I’m an author of books on fashion for women” match my outfit. It’s at nine a.m. on a Saturday. It’s a four-hour class. The classrooms are often cold. I want to be warm enough.

casual chic outfit

Anatomy of a non-jean outfit


The pieces and the reasons


1. My first layer (invisible to the eye) is a Cuddl Dud v-neck tank. It is a guarantee that my torso will be toasty if the room is frosty.

2. Next I create a column of color with my Caslon black long-sleeved cotton t-shirt and my Cynthia Rowley black knit pants.

3. Over that column of color I add my loose cashmere Vince charcoal sweater with dolman-sleeves. The neck is open and the sleeves are just at my elbow so I have a little built in air-conditioning if I’ve overestimated the chilly room situation. A long-sleeved cashmere sweater with a turtleneck would not give me any relief from a stuffy room. I’m feeling confident about my choices so far.

4. I put my black Ecco mid-calf boots over the knit pant. I’ve met my 50-50 formula regarding volume. The bottom half of my outfit is lean and the top half is full.

5. Next comes the gunmetal/silver Beauty Bundle. I wear my Calleen Cordero black studded leather cuff, my chunky gunmetal arty ring. I add interest at the neck with my Carlisle net knotted necklace filled with tiny sparkly beads. My silver bulb earrings are neutral and casual and act as the garnish to the necklace which is the main course in the frame around my face. I add my gunmetal woven leather small bag with silver hardware and handles. The ring, bracelet, necklace, earrings and handbag all share a quiet harmony in color, metal and sheen. That’s what makes them a Beauty Bundle. This same Beauty Bundle gets worn with many outfits–dresses, skirts and tops, and even blue jeans!


Analysis and results


When I got to class, there were seven other people there–all in blue jeans. When I introduced myself as a writer of books on fashion for women, no one gasped in disbelief. The room was chilly and I even wrapped a scarf around my neck for the first half of the class. It was stuffed into my book bag, just in case. I was comfortable (what I also love about jeans), casual enough (another jean loving trait) but happy to have done something different on a day when I could have just worn jeans like everyone else. I in no way want to make it sound like everyone in class looked sloppy in their jeans, because they didn’t. They looked just fine. I suspect I was the only one in the room giving myself a pat on the back for changing things up.

I may keep this diet idea to myself and wait to see if anybody notices.

Fargo, Frances McDormand, and the Fear of Aging


I’ve always had a thing for Frances McDormand. It started for me when she played the heroine in the movie Fargo. That film came out in 1996 and my friend Tom, twin brother Brent, and I could hardly wait. We’d be studying the film, looking out for fond landmarks from our youth.

Fargo Fashion

A tile set into the sidewalk on Broadway near the Fargo Theater


By the time we walked out of the movie theater, I felt almost sick to my stomach. It had hardly resembled anything about Fargo. Of course, if you’re a fan of the movie, you know that it mostly takes place in Minnesota but all of the characters have the midwestern accent. The movie has a lot more in it than bleak, snowy roads and nearly empty coffee shops with bad lighting. There’s kidnapping, bloody bungling with bad guys doing bad things, wood chipper “events” and  tenacious police work accomplished by the sturdy and pregnant Marge Gunderson played by Frances McDormand.

As we hit the parking lot and headed to our cars, I knew I had to call my parents right away. “Mom,” I said. “I just saw the movie Fargo!

“Oh, wha-cha think?” she said. I could imagine Mom holding the blond-colored phone while sitting at the breakfast counter with the avocado green kitchen carpeting and Harvest Gold appliances in our West Fargo house.

“Well, there was a lot of blood! I don’t think you’d like it. But the accents were pretty good, especially the woman who played the kidnapped wife,” I told her.

“Oh Babe,” Mom said. “Don’t ‘cha know her? That’s Kristin Rudrud. She’s from Fargo. She did a lot of work in the community theater here. She’s friends with the Coen brothers. She was married to one of the Anderson brothers. Remember Paul from your grade? Well, not him, one of the others.” Then she told me what they’d done for the opening of the movie at the Fargo Theater. They had a wood chipper in front of the theater and it was chipping red ice to make it look like blood. And Fargo has never been the same since!

Last winter I flew home in January to celebrate Dad’s 88th birthday. I landed in Fargo and drove to my folks’ Minnesota lake home through a blizzard. Everything was white and roads were icy and treacherous. It was very Fargo-like!

When I got back from that trip I was hanging out with two girlfriends, giving them all the gruesome weather stories. It never got above zero the whole time I was there. The freeways were closed and we mostly stayed in the house the whole time. Then Joan brought up Frances McDormand. “She’s my favorite actress! Isn’t she great?” And we sang her praises for her body of work but especially for her role in Fargo. “Oops,” I said, looking at my watch. “I have to be in Petaluma in forty-five minutes. Gotta go!”

Off I went to Petaluma for a haircut. Having just an extra five minutes or so, I dashed into Della Fattoria for some baked goods to bring home to my sweetie.

aging well

Treats at Della Fattoria


And there she was! Frances McDormand! In Della! What are the chances? We were just talking about her! And more than that, I’d just gotten home from snowy, bleak Fargo, her Fargo! As I approached the counter with all the goodies I could hardly speak. In my mind I was jumping up and down telling my friends Joan and Debra, “She’s here! She’s here, right here in Della! Our hero!!” There weren’t many people in the restaurant and I considered saying something to her but by the time I made my purchase and turned around, she was gone, which was fine. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage anyway.

On October 15th there was a great article about her in The New York Times titled “A Star Who Has No Time for Vanity.” Now I have more things to applaud her for, like her points about women and aging. In the article she responds to the fixation our society has on youth.


She says, “We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species. There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”

“I’ve not mutated myself in any way,” she said. She has an alternate idea in mind. Frank Bruni, the author reports: She feels looking old should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.”

Fear of aging

Are we so fearful of aging that we’ll start worrying about it in our 30s? Magazines say yes!

Additionally, the actress learned at the start of her career not to care too much about appearances. “I was often told that I wasn’t a thing,” she said. “‘She’s not thin enough, she’s not fat enough.’ I thought, ‘O.K., someday you’re going to be looking for someone not, not, not, not, and there I’ll be.”


Two days ago the Bellas got together and we went to Della Fattoria for Sunday brunch. Della was packed. We were lucky and got seats outside on the sidewalk. The Bellas, three friends and colleagues, have been getting together once a month for well over a decade. We’re in our 50s, 60s, and 70s. We were laughing about how our conversations have changed over the years. We were talking about aches and bruises as well as the usual: admiring each other’s accessory choices. I happened to look up from Marj’s growing cluster of bangles and there was Frances McDormand, waiting in line to get into Della!

She was dressed in relaxed blue jeans, a crisp white shirt and a fabulous cotton coat that came to her knees. It was a red and green checked coat. The checks were probably six inches square so the pattern large-scaled and very playful.

Once again I couldn’t imagine interrupting her to shower her with praise, but I did consider passing her a note, which I didn’t do. If I had, maybe I’d have said, “Thanks Frances, for your artistic contributions which are phenomenal, but also for being a beacon of hope for Baby Boomers everywhere who are struggling with this aging thing. Thank you for offering an alternate view!” I’d have signed it, “An adoring fan from Fargo, Brenda.”


Della's latte

Della’s latte on Sunday

Enjoying the picture I took of the final sips of Sunday’s latte at Della Fattoria, I ponder this: Can we learn to love ourselves, just as we are? Can we be there for ourselves and each other with open arms and embrace the role of aging women? Let’s try.

Read the full New York Time’s interview with Frances McDormand and learn about her new HBO mini-series “Olive Kitteridge” and her views on the fixation on youth.

Hair Advice: When Hat Hair is What You Want

Hair Advice

Give me some of that hat hair please!

So here’s the problem. Since my last haircut my cowlicks have really been acting up. Hair pokes out and a comb-through doesn’t change a thing. They’re stubborn, those cowlicks are.

Some cowlicks are cute. These aren’t.

My routine for taming them has been to heat and blow them into submission once I’m done putting on my  makeup in the morning. I get a clean wash cloth, soak it with hot water then rub the cowlick area in all directions. Then I pull out the hair dryer and a brush. While applying more heat from the hair dryer, I use the brush to move the hair from side to side, forward and backward to break up the pattern. It just takes a few minutes to tame the ‘licks.

But this particular morning, I really didn’t have those few minutes. I needed a Plan B.

It came to me. I remembered a conversation I had last winter with Elia, my hair stylist, when I confessed to wearing a stocking cap at night to keep my head warm. She said she’d never heard of that. When I explained how I like to keep the window open in the bedroom no matter how cold it is outside, it seemed easier for her to imagine. She told me she wore stocking caps when she wanted to keep her hair flattened.

And there was the answer! I went to my hat and glove box and pulled out a wool stocking cap my sister-in-law Wendy made for me. I put water on a comb and tried to get the spiky hairs to go in the right direction. Then I pulled the cap tight on my head. I flipped the ends up that were by my ears to make it tighter and flatter on my head. Then I kissed Russ goodbye and got into the car and drove forty minutes to my client. I hoped forty minutes would be enough time.

I met Erin, my daughter and assistant, a few minutes from my client’s house. I took my hat off and asked her to be my cowlick inspector. She couldn’t see any. Success! Cowlicks were gone!

I was secretly thanking Wendy, my sister-in-law, for helping me solve my hair problem that day supplying me with one of her knitted hats. She lives in Minnesota and wears short sleeves in January. She knits wool hats and scarves for everyone else in the family…because we’re normal. We layer up when it gets cold. I couldn’t wait to call her on the way home that day.

“Hey Wendy!” I said, “I was wearing your stocking cap today and it’s not even December!” I told her about my new hair taming device. She got a good laugh.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that one day I’ll forget to take the hat off. I’ll get to my client’s house and she’ll open the door, look at my head with a rolled tight cap on the top of it, totally unrelated to my outfit, and she’ll point and laugh or get scared and close the door. I’ll call Wendy then, too. She’ll love it.


Buddha enjoys one of Wendy’s knitted hats

And the best accessory in a movie goes to…


the Oscars

I was saddened Monday when I heard that Tom Magliozzi, one-half of the Car Talk team known as Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, had passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s. The brothers Tom and Ray from Cambridge, their fair city, had entertained me and millions of others on Saturdays with their NPR radio show called Car Talk. Am I interested in cars and car mechanics? Not in the least, but their silliness, playful banter, and infectious laughter made me tune my dial to KQED 88.5 every Saturday anyway.

Their show proved inspire me in an unexpected way. In 1992 I signed up for a weekend writing class through the University of California Santa Cruz. One assignment was to take the “voice” of a writer and try to emulate their style in a piece of writing. I couldn’t think of an author I wanted to emulate but then Tom and Ray came to mind.

Maybe it was because it was a Saturday and I was missing Car Talk.

But I thought about it some more. Their fun, playful style made me listen to a whole sixty minutes on a subject I disliked. What if I could copy their style and write about fashion in a witty, fun-loving way? Maybe even a car nut would find my topic entertaining if I did it right. I gave it a try and the next day I read my assignment out loud in class, without revealing my person(s) of influence.


My Writing Assignment

I titled it “And the Winner Is…” Don’t forget, it’s circa 1992. It went like this:

The Academy Awards will be announced March 29th. Once again, despite all my campaigning, there is still no award for Best Accessory. Come on! There are awards for best makeup, best caterer, best comma in a screenplay…where’s the category for best accessory?

best accessory

The dragon scarf, a potential Best Accessory

Don’t try to appease me with the Best Costume category. That’s about cavemen outfits or nineteenth century garden dresses or leather flaps for Mohicans. I demand a category for the true start of a film: that accessory that says it all, like Mercedes Ruehl, winner of best supporting actress last year for the Fisher King. I close my eyes and I can still see those big, shiny gold hoop earrings she wore.

We’ve needed this category for a long time. Consider the great accessories from movies past: Grace Kelly’s chiffon scarf in To Catch a Thief; Marilyn Monroe’s long, black sparkly gloves in The Seven Year Itch; Audrey Hepburn’s black oversized sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They’re standouts.


Pearls will always attract applause

I bet the French award their accessories. They study accessories in grammar school. They teach basic urban survival skills from birth: how to have three pieces of clothing, five pieces of jewelry and make a different outfit for every day of the year. They can take an Hermés scarf and turn it into a halter-top, a sarong skirt, or an arm sling. Trés chic.

I bet the French would approve of my choice for this year’s Best Accessory. Here it is on Oscar night: All eyes are on Billy Crystal who says, “And now to present the Oscar for this year’s Best Accessory, please welcome Sharon Stone from last year’s thriller Basic Instinct and Jeremy Irons whose latest movie, Damage, is hotter than mustard on a Polish dog.”

The Oscars

Cast and count the ballots

Sharon and Jeremy appear, hand in hand, and descend a golden spiral staircase to the podium. Jeremy looks at the cue cards and reads, “Well, Sharon, that was some belt you wore in Basic Instinct. The scene at the beach house…those buckles were in the shape of, what…fish?”

“Alligators, Jer,” she purrs. “Big alligators…on a big alligator strap.” She leans toward him. Her chin tilts up and she snaps her teeth together twice, real fast. He winces.

She continues, “This accessory isn’t too shabby either.” She strokes his silk paisley scarf from the nape of his neck, down the front of his tux and fusses with the black fringe dangling at the end.

Jeremy says, “Would you like to read this year’s nominees?”

Sharon reads them one by one. Then he hands her the envelope.

She slips her clear, polished fingernails under the bummed red sticker, flips it open, and smooths out the envelope against the Lucite podium. She takes a short breath and says, “Oh, my gosh, it’s the black and white zebra print scarf worn by Whitney Houston in Bodyguard!

Whitney Houston’s voice comes over the speakers singing the chorus of the movie’s hit song: “And eye-eye-eye will all-wayzzz love you…oo…oo…oo. Yes, I will always love you.”

Oscar attendees

Will these accessory directors be winners tonight?

Alma Thoren, the Accessories Director for Bodyguard, pops out of the audience. She’s in a short red cocktail dress with seven strands of pearls around her neck. While she scrunches past everyone in her row to get to the Oscar, the cameras go to the big screen on stage and show a clip from the movie.

It’s near the end where Miss Houston’s character – a young, snooty, superstar – demands her pilot stop the plane. The door swings open. She flies down the metal steps. There’s Kevin Costner, her bodyguard, waiting on the airstrip. She races to Kevin in her men’s style drapey black trousers and crisp white shirt. Her black gabardine trench coat flaps in the propeller wind. Covering her head is the winning accessory: the large, square zebra print silk scarf.

The camera moves in close and follows Whitney as Kevin twirls her around in his arms. While she’s hugging and kissing him for a million years we see the scarf in great close ups, from every angle, as the camera spins over the tops of their heads.

Oh, to have a scarf like that. I try to imagine kissing Kevin Costner without that scarf on. It just doesn’t work.


What Happened Next

At one of the breaks, my teacher Mel Walsh pulled me aside. She told me she really enjoyed my piece and said, “Brenda, when you read it, I couldn’t help but hear it on the radio.” She told me I had talent and encouraged me to keep working at it. (Thanks, Mel! I did just what you said!)

On my drive home from Santa Cruz I kept thinking about my piece being on the radio. The radio, the radio I thought. What radio program would possibly have me on it talking about accessories? It sounded preposterous.

I nearly gave up on the idea but a couple of days later I thought about Sedge Thomson, the radio host of the San Francisco produced show called West Coast Live. It aired on Saturday mornings on KALW 91.7, another public radio station, and was taped in front of a live audience in the Marsh Theater in Fort Mason.

I had to act fast because the Academy Award’s show was coming up. I sent it to him. I waited for my phone to ring. It didn’t ring…not until that Friday night. It was Sedge Thomson himself calling me at 8 p.m.! “I read your piece, I liked it. Can you be here tomorrow around 9:15?” he asked. I could barely speak but I was able to ask one thing: “Can I bring my kids, too?” He said yes. Tickets would be at the will call window.

It was quite the adventure. Maybe I’ll tell you about it another time. Let me just say it was terrifying and so satisfying all at the same time. And I made the audience members laugh. I imagine there weren’t that many fashion lovers in the audience but they enjoyed it just the same.


I wish to thank…

Thank you Tom and Ray. Thank you Mel Walsh. Thank you Sedge Thomson. Thank you NPR.

I understand the Magliozzi family wants Car Talk to continue in reruns as a tribute to Tom. That would mean we could join them on Saturdays and laugh our way through another “wasted hour” with Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers.  I’ll be listening.

Academy Awards

And the winner is…

Beware of Panty Pranks

Me in the jeans, Mom; folded jeans on top of sock box

Me in the jeans, Mom; folded jeans on top of sock box

There are so many ways to headline this post. Here are some of the titles I’ve considered:

  1. Spooky Panty Prank
  2. Good Underwear Gone Bad
  3. What to Do When Underwear Falls at Your Feet
  4. Image Expert Responds to Fashion Fiasco
  5. Mother Never Prepared Me for This One

Let’s start with that last one. Did your mother warn you to always start the day with clean underwear because if you got in a car accident and had to go to the hospital, EVERYONE would notice if you hadn’t? Probably. But did she warn you that your panties could just appear out of nowhere while you’re walking down the street? No, of course not. But I will.

You’re going to be there at the scene of the crime in just two paragraphs but let me give you the facts that led up to the event. It was Saturday. I took a late morning shower, grabbed some clean underwear and threw on the jeans I’d worn for part of the day the day before. They were easy to grab as I’d folded them loosely and placed them the night before on top of my sock box. I put on my bra, a gray/black-striped tee and my lightweight quilted black moto jacket. I opened the lid of my sock box and pulled out a pair of low cut athletic socks. I put them on along with my black patent sneakers and laced them up.

I had a massage appointment to get to. It’s only about a seven-minute drive plus parking. Boy did I feel lucky. I found a great parking place on a side street just off the Sonoma Square. I only had a block to walk. I’d enjoy the people watching as I headed to my date with Andrew at Massage Envy. Sonoma is a destination town and the square is always full of people on Saturdays. Women are usually dressed in Wine Country casual chic attire. You can imagine: My style eyes were in heaven as I observed shoes, accessories, dresses, and cute jean outfits passing to and fro.

I was only a few doors from my destination when I felt something brush against my ankles. Could it be one of those small adorable dogs on someone’s leash that had chosen to get chummy with me? I looked down expecting to see something furry and instead I saw a wad of something, something sort of familiar. Wait a minute. It was pink and black and had lace on it. WAIT A MINUTE! It looked like my underwear! How could my underwear be here in a puddle on the sidewalk?

I could have been mortified if I’d given myself that luxury but I knew I had to be quick. Without breaking stride, I scooped up the panties with my right hand and tossed them into my handbag. Then I marched ahead, head held high, pretending that my panties hadn’t fallen out of my pant leg on a crowded street in downtown Sonoma.

I didn’t say a word to Andrew but I wanted to tell someone. After my massage I called Russ and asked him to join me for a latte at the Sunflower Cafe on the opposite end of the square. When I told him what happened, he said, “Did anyone notice?” I have no idea. I don’t know how much attention a pink satin and black lace panty would get on the square but I didn’t make any eye contact with anyone. I didn’t turn my head. I was like that line on the GPS heading for its destination. “You have reached your destination on the right hand side.” The doors to Massage Envy couldn’t have come soon enough.

So here’s what I think happened. When I took off my jeans the night before, the bedroom was dimly lit and I was very tired. In one quick move I lodged my fingers inside the unzipped jeans and pulled them straight down. Then I folded them loosely and placed them on top of my sock box. They didn’t need laundering and they didn’t need to be put away because I would most likely wear them the next day.

What I didn’t realize is that when I slid the jeans down over my hips, I was sliding my underwear down too. They somehow nestled inside a leg of the jeans and waited there all night. Then in the late morning when I went to put the jeans on, the underwear was hiding inside my pant leg.

These are not tight jeans; they’re more of a relaxed fit. The underwear could have fallen out anywhere: in the bedroom, in the kitchen as I grabbed the keys, in the garage, maybe even right next to the car once I’d parked it. But no, those panties were happy right where they were…until they weren’t. They chose the bustling streets of downtown Sonoma to break free and make a run for it.

I guess if panties falling out of my pant leg had to happen, I’m glad it was a super cute pair. (I’m looking for a silver lining here.) Heaven forbid it would have been my laundry day undies. You know the pair I’m talking about. They’re the ones that are languishing at the bottom of your panty drawer; motivating you to do laundry, do laundry now.

I want to save you from this embarrassment. How? Well, I can offer some helpful hints. I think it might be best to get undressed with the lights on. Move more slowly through this final wardrobe moment of the day. Look for your undies and throw them in the laundry. Then go ahead and fold your jeans and plan to wear them tomorrow if you like.

With Halloween just around the corner, you don’t want to give those prankster panties an opportunity to play tricks on you.

Shopping Advice: The ‘Three Ifs and a Maybe’ Rule


shopping bag imge

A client I saw last week had a confession to make. “I panicked and bought this jacket and I know you’re probably going to hate it.”

I’m not a hater. I’m a lover or, when that doesn’t work, I’m a let’s-try-and-make-this-work fixer. I dove into the jacket assessment with an open and creative mind.

This is how it played out: The client is looking at her reflection in her well-lit full-length mirror. I’m standing behind her looking in the mirror and she has the  jacket on. It’s ivory-colored with a thin black pinstripe. It’s silk, is super simple and has a standup color.

Here’s the conversation.

Brenda: “Hmmm.”

Client: “It’s awful, right?”

Brenda: “Well, wait. What if we took the sleeves in? The sleeves are really big on you.”

I nip the sleeves in a bit with my fingertips as she watches in the mirror. I look over her shoulder into the mirror to see if this adjustment has helped any. I was a sewer so I do know that some simple things can make a big difference. We study her reflection. Taking in the sleeves hasn’t provided the quick fix I wanted. She speaks next.

Client: “Still not great, is it? I just panicked!”

Brenda: “Wait, wait. What if we add a strong necklace at the neckline? It’s a simple jacket. Maybe we can distract the eye a bit.” I go to her jewelry drawer and start playing with different necklaces. She watches my attempts in the mirror. There are no words. She just winces. I think I’ve tried everything I can.

Brenda: “Maybe one of your daughters would want it?”

Client: “My daughters would never let themselves wear something so matronly looking! Well, at least it wasn’t a $400 mistake, it was a $148 mistake.”

Brenda: “I think you’re right. It was a moment of panic. Let’s go into your closet and restyle some of your favorite jackets. We’ll come up with some new combos that you’ll love. You’ll see.”

Parts of this conversation may sound familiar to you. You may have said things like this in your head when you’re in a dressing room by yourself, wondering if something is working or not. Or perhaps you’ve been shopping with friends when they started offering advice like:

If you changed your makeup colors, it might work.

If you have someone take it in at the waist, it might work.

If you roll the sleeves up and bring the shoulder line higher, maybe it would work.

Maybe it would work if you dyed it another color. (Don’t laugh; I’ve done it myself!)

Maybe if you belt it…

My advice: If you’re up to three ifs and a maybe, leave it behind. Move on to a different store or call it quits and go home. Some things just don’t work out—no matter how hard we try.

Jewelry over 55



Check it out–a multi strand, gold and silver bracelet from J.James in Sonoma spotted by one of the Bellas last week while the three of us were doing one of the things we love doing the most: admiring clothes and jewlery.


And check out the closure? It’s magnetic! The two ends get just barely near each other and they’ve embraced. Like love at first sight.



This bracelet went from being admired to being purchased. Here it is mixed in with the bracelets Bella Marj was wearing already. A perfect blend, right?

Different bracelets with different textures all living in divine harmony. When I look at this bundle, I can’t imagine life before the new addition!

The ease with which this bracelet closed got me thinking. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve certainly taken note about how easily a necklace fastens…or doesn’t. We don’t all have dressers like characters living in the PBS series, Downton Abbey. We may have someone who will answer us if we call out, “Honey, can you help me with this?” But even if we do live with someone, they aren’t always around when we’re getting dressed.

If I am going to attach myself to a pro-fashion crusade, it might be curating a jewelry collection with easy closures so women over 55 can get them on and off with little to no effort. I wonder how many necklaces or bracelets are living in jewelry boxes not being worn because they are too hard to manage?

Last week I was helping a client who wanted to edit her wardrobe so her closet was more streamlined. “No one needs this many clothes,” she said. While reviewing pants, jackets, and tops we would come across something she wanted my ideas about how to wear it. Some things she’d never worn! So I got busy and created lots of new outfits and finished them from head-to-toe with shoes, outerwear, and accessories. She was delighted to see her “old” things arranged in a “new” way.

She’s a septuagenarian and this issue of closures came up. When I handed her a necklace to adorn the neck edge of one of her jackets, she had a bit of a hard time with it. “This necklacs is just not suited to my elder fingers,” she said.

Elder fingers. I loved that term. I think my fingers went from post-nubile to elder about 10 years ago. But my love of accessories and my desire to wear an outfit well-suited to my personality and style has never aged. Some of my clients are just waking up to their style in their fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh decade. I want adornment to be easy for them!

Easy to manage jewelry. Anybody want to join this fashion revolution? Or is it an evolution? Have you had problems with your jewelry? What lines have you found to be elder fingers favorable? Please share!


I need some fancy in my outfits, do you?


fancy-2I have a friend who enjoys clothes nearly as much as I do. She wanted me to check out a jewelry sample sale with her at one of our favorite local boutiques. How could I say no? We checked out the jewelry and also the newly delivered clothes and accessories that had come in for early fall. My friend spotted a handbag that intrigued her and asked my opinion. I thought it looked great on her.

“You try it on,” she said. I did, but it just fell flat on me.

The sales associate offered her opinion. “Brenda, you’re more fancy than that bag is,” she said.

She was right. I don’t know that I would have explained it that way but I loved the word she used: fancy. Yes, I don’t feel right if I’m wearing fabrics that are all dull or jewelry that doesn’t have any bling to it. I like polished fabrics, patent leather shoes, a cluster of sequins or beads appliquéd on a sweater. I wouldn’t wear those things from head-to-toe. I just need sheen, luster, or luminescence to represent about twenty percent of my outfit. It makes me feel happier, cheerier, even more youthful.

As I read more about it, I think I’m more of an introvert than I thought. And having something “fancy” in an outfit helps me be out in the world with more confidence and ease. At least that’s how I feel at this moment in September.

How about you? Do you like wearing clothes or accessories that have some bling to them? How much fancy do you need in your outfits?


Wardrobe Fix: What’s a Sleevey Wonder?


Sleevey Wonders

I have a problem in common with many of my clients: how do I wear something sleeveless while camouflaging my arms? Oh, I could go commando like other clients of mine and bare my arms (I am cheerleader for that, too!) but I won’t.

Recently I was working with a client, making outfits from her current wardrobe, and we found ourselves facing this very issue once again. She has the added condition of running warmer than anyone else in the room. She’d be happy living in freezer like conditions. I can make fabulous outfits in my head but I know they won’t pass her heat test. “I can’t wear that. I’ll be too hot,” she’ll say.

She had a sheer long-sleeved crew neck black stretchy top in her closet. We’ve used it as a layering piece before. But in truth, even layering doesn’t work well for her. So I suggested to her that we get a duplicate of this stretchy top so I could cut one of them up and make it skimpier and cooler for her and still layer it. I wanted to cut the neckline down and take out one layer of the double layered front panel. I knew what I wanted. I was determined to come up with a solution.

But last week, a readymade solution came to me. I was with my Bellas, my image consultant friends who meet once a month, and we were doing a favorite thing: shopping at Specialtees Boutique in Lafayette, CA. Our great sales associate heard me lamenting about needing sleeves for something I’d just fallen in love with. She said, “Oh! Wait! You need a Sleevey Wonder!”

A sleevey what?

She brought me a lingerie item, a Sleevey Wonder, in a variety of sizes and colors. Here’s how it works.

Step one: Put your bra on (if it isn’t on already).

Step two: Put your Sleevey Wonder over your bra and fasten it in front.

Step three: Put your sleeveless dress or sleeveless top over your two underthings.

Step four: Finish putting your outfit together.

Step five: Find a full-length mirror and admire your arms and your whole look from head-to-toe. You look fantastic!

I bought two of them. The gray one in the photo above is what I’ll wear under my ink colored crinkled dress. I bought a black one to wear under a sleeveless black tunic and about a million more things I can think of come fall and winter. You can even wear them backwards!

That shopping trip was on a Sunday. On Monday I was scheduled to see this same wardrobing client, the one that gets warm but wants sleeves. “Boy, do I have a treat for you!” I teased her. I wore the black one with the tunic I bought so she could see it in action. Then I pulled out my gray Sleevey Wonder and she tried it on. She was amazed. We immediately went to my iPad, got online and ordered them in a variety of colors.

Have you seen these before? It’s the miracle solution I wish I’d invented! Maybe you’ll find them in lingerie departments near you but if not, go to their website and check them out. I feel like they run generously. I bought a medium and in tops I’m often buying a large. They feel very well made.

I wore one last night when I met my wonderful friend and colleague, Sarah Brummitt from London, for drinks and dinner at Des Amis on Union Street. She and her husband, Anthony, met the whole Bay Area family: Caitlin, Erin, Mike, and Russ. We were there for five hours! Sarah loved my whole look and if it had been easier to do, I’d have slipped my dress up to show her my Sleevey Wonder. Instead, I’ll suggest she reads this blog post!

Would Sleevey Wonders be a solution for you, too?

Wearing my Sleevey Wonder and having a wonderful time with Sarah

Wearing my Sleevey Wonder and having a wonderful time with Sarah