Long, long ago, mamaspeak popped this request into the suggestion box:
I would love to see some posts about building shoe and jewelry collections. I’ve gone through the relevant tags that you have and got some great ideas, but I’m starting from very bare-bones and am nervous about buying more shoes/necklaces/etc. that look nice in the store, but don’t seem to match anything, are actually uncomfortable-in-disguise, get very little use, etc. It would be nice to see something about basic items that are good base pieces …
Since jewelry and accessories are the refinements that get added to an outfit at the very end of assembly, they can be harder to envision in the context of potential ensembles.
But there are ways to determine if a certain accessory will work for you, and ways to build an accessory collection that suits and pleases you. Here’s what I’d advise if you’re starting from scratch:
Note your use patterns
I have finally figured out that my handbags need at least one external pocket that closes with a magnet. It’s absolutely ideal for how I access and use my phone. I also prefer to have an internal zip pocket and two internal pouches, a wide strap with a 15″ drop, and a closure that doesn’t scrape my hand with its zipper when I reach inside. How do I know this? Because I have paid very close attention to what works, and also tried a number of bag styles that drove me bananas.
If you dedicate some energy and time to studying your own accessory use patterns, you’ll learn a ton about yourself and your style. If you never wear cuffs, there’s no reason to add one to your jewelry collection just because you don’t own one. Think about what you wear and why and how often. Here are some specific questions you can ponder:
- JEWELRY: How often do you wear earrings? Necklaces? Rings? Bracelets? Do you ever switch out your rings? Do you wear cuffs, bangles, chain bracelets most often? What length of earring suits your hairstyle and face shape? What style of necklace works with your neck length and bust size?
- SHOES: How far do you walk on a daily basis? How long are you seated? How active are you on weekends? Do you need different shoes for weekday and weekend wear? What heel height works for you? What climate do you live in, and how does it affect footwear choices?
- OTHER: Do you wear scarves or belts or hats? When do you wear them? How often? Do you ever swap out your handbag? What bag do you carry most and why?
You’re going to want to branch out on occasion, so if you’ve never worn cuff bracelets but are eager to try out the style, by all means track one down! Just don’t convince yourself that you need one of each type of shoe or accessory. You don’t. And basing your purchases on existing use patterns will help you build a collection that truly suits your personal style.
Assess what you have
Beginning to collect can be a tricky time. The excitement of searching for and accumulating goodies – especially ones as inexpensive as accessories – can eclipse reason. So take a deep breath, and look at what you’ve already got. Most women don’t need more than one strand of pearls or one pair of brown ankle boots. Take inventory of your accessories, and take inventory of your clothes. You need to know what you already own before you can start buying new.
Evaluate your style
If you’re looking for a list of tried-and-true, classic accessories to use as a jumping-off point, here it is. But many of those pieces may seem boring or stodgy or just plain wrong when taken in the context of your personal style. So think about your look, and think about accessories that fit that look. If you’re going for a rocker style, maybe you need more chunky chains and studded cuffs. If you’re a little more boho, some antiqued brass and leather necklaces. If your style is less defined, cook up a few adjectives that describe it. Are you arty? Girly? Classic? Tomboy? Do you prefer neutrals in minimalistic cuts, loud prints with lots of detailing, sleek suiting?
Now seek out images that align with your style. Magazines, catalogs, movie stills, blogs, anywhere at all that you find images of women in clothing. What accessories are THOSE gals wearing? Can you see yourself similarly accessorized?
Make a purchasing list and plan
Do NOT just start buying up stuff as it comes to hand. If you’re truly dedicated to building a collection, you need a list and a plan. Jot down everything you can imagine working for you, and keep the list in a safe place. Make sure that everything on your list will work with three to five outfits made from items in your current wardrobe.
Then consider your budget. One of the best ways to build quickly is to allow yourself one new purchase per month or pay period. Work through your list systematically and try not to stray. Over the course of several months, you’ll see your new collection growing steadily and responsibly.
The vast majority of my jewelry hails from Etsy. Belts are almost exclusively from thrift stores. Most of my shoes were purchased online. Make sure that your purchasing plan includes the “where” as well as the “what” and “how much.”
Accept that mistakes will be made
I wish I had a foolproof way to prevent mamaspeak, you, and myself from purchasing useless accessories, but I just don’t. No matter how meticulously you study your use patterns, think about your style, and accumulate list items you WILL buy stuff you don’t like, that doesn’t suit you, doesn’t get used, or doesn’t fit. That’s fine. Hold onto those items and use them to challenge yourself, or donate them and move on.
Image courtesy Dana LeBlanc.