My stylistic evolution began with clothes, moved on to shoes, and eventually began to encompass accessories. It took me a while to recognize the true power of jewelry, belts, scarves, and other embellishments to add personality, flair, and interest to an outfit.
But now that I’ve seen the light, I worship at the Accessory Altar. I know now that creative accessorization can save a drab outfit from hopelessness, and elevate a good outfit to greatness. I know that accessories can add texture to the bland, sparkle to the dull, and definition to the formless. I know that accessories MAKE an outfit.
So I’m going to make you folks a list of must-have accessories. But first, I’m going to lay some serious caveats on you:
Caveat 1: Put a punk, a prep, and a princess are each wearing a black sleeveless sheath dress. Punk adds motorcycle boots, a chain belt, leather jacket, and skull earrings. Prep adds a pearl choker, patent pumps, a cashmere cardi, and a charm bracelet. Princess adds diamond danglers, a tennis bracelet, and sky-high stilettos. Your accessories are how you express your stylistic personality. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you which ones to buy and try.
Caveat 2: These items are what I consider “essential” to a modern working girl’s wardrobe. Generally speaking, these are the classic basics: A smallish group that many women employ regularly. These babies are more likely to add polish than personality, and should be the foundation upon which you lay your accessory wardrobe. This is only the beginning …
Caveat 3: Since you are not made of money and unlikely to be able to amass all this stuff in one go, I’ll give it to you in tiers. Tier 1 is accessories I believe to be extremely useful. Tier 2 is accessories that will be helpful regularly, and enhance your overall fashionability. Tier 3 is accessories that you should get whenever you can afford them.
OK, here we go!
Diamond, Moissanite, or CZ studs: These will work for almost everyone regardless of personal style preferences.
Unadorned gold or silver chain: Ideally something relatively delicate, but not so thin it’s invisible against your skin.
Black pumps and/or flats: If you go for heels, select something you can walk at least six blocks in and something with relatively few bells and whistles. With flats, pick something comfy and pared down for versatility.
Thin but oversized printed scarf: In my opinion thin, large scarves are the most useful year-round. Pick a print that includes colors from your wardrobe palette.
Sandals with a small wedge: Even folks who shun heels can generally deal with wedges, so this style is a good bet. Steer clear of espadrilles, as they have limited application. Stick to a classic color and style.
Watch: If you – like many people – use your phone as a watch and are happy to check the time that way, skip this. If you rely on or love the look of a watch, pick a classic style. I favor bracelet watches over leather bands myself as I think they age better.
Ankle boots: My perfect ankle boot is neutral, has a 2″ block heel, and hits right at the ankle bone.
Silk scarf: Scarves can totally transform an outfit, adding color and sass to an otherwise dull ensemble. A silk or silk-like square is a very versatile shape, but rectangles are great, too. You can typically find fab vintage versions at your local thrift emporium.
Knee-high boots: Riding boots or heels, slouchy or smooth, this style is versatile and classic.
Stack of bangles or stretch bracelets: If your wrists are exposed, you’ll look more polished with bracelets. And a stack always looks chic.
Waist belt: Wide or skinny, pick your poison. This belt is NOT a trouser belt, so don’t pick up a two-inch brown leather jobber from the Gap. This belt is for polish, personality … and accenting your waist.
Strappy sandals: Something sultry that shows a lot of skin. Color and material of your choice.
Long necklace: Be it chain, beads, pendant, pearls, wood, or any combination thereof, just make sure it hits an inch above your bellybutton. That’s about 32″ on me. This is a very fun piece, and can jazz up everything from a sheath dress to jeans and a tee.
Statement shoes: Whether they’re bright yellow patent, encrusted with studs, toweringly tall, or full of live goldfish, just make sure you’ve got a pair of shoes that attract attention. In a good way, that is.
Cuff bracelet: Even if you’re too timid for a statement necklace, you can utilize a cuff to add edge to your look.
Colorful tights: If blood red and electric blue scare you, try olive green or burgundy. Anything that’s not black, gray, or brown will qualify.
Chunky mid-length necklace: Since you’ve got delicate/short, and interesting/long covered, pick out something heavy or colorful or bold that sits just a wee bit above your bustline.
Image courtesy J.Crew