How to Train Yourself to Accessorize

how to train yourself to accessorize

The vast majority of my style consult clients have great clothes and fabulous ideas for outfit assembly. The vast majority of my style consult clients also struggle with jewelry and accessories. I’ve had so many of them say, “Oh, I don’t really wear jewelry. I don’t even own any!” Only to haul out unworn and forgotten stashes of necklaces, bangles, and earrings. Others say, “I love scarves on other people, but just can’t figure them out for me.” A few scarf tie tutorials later, and they’re back in the game. I spend a lot of time illustrating how jewelry and accessories make outfits feel more complete, finished, and polished. And then I try to reinforce the importance of incorporating them into daily dressing rituals.

But if you’ve never been big into jewels and accessories, how do you begin working them into your outfits? How can you train yourself to accessorize?


Start with jewelry. Even if you don’t think you have any, you probably do. Check your stores and see what you can find. Even a simple chain necklace or pair of hoop earrings can change the feeling of an outfit. Really! If you’ve worn the same studs every day for years or never bother with bracelets, set a schedule: Incorporate jewelry into your outfits on Tuesdays and Thursdays to start. If your wrists are bare, try to slip on a bracelet or watch. If you’ve got an open neckline, try a necklace. Keep it up for a few weeks. Once you’re in the habit, add a few more days or switch to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Soon, your eye will begin to see jewelry-shaped spaces in your outfits and long to fill them!


In my experience, most women own scarves. They see them worn by others, love how they look, buy ’em, get ’em home, and realize they have no idea how to deploy them in actual outfits. Does this describe you? Well, sadly, the only way to give those scarves some wearable love is to suss out which ties work for you. And that means some research and experimentation. Let’s research first:

Cruise through some of those links and see what strikes your fancy. What styles and sizes of scarves do you own and love? Which techniques are, therefore, relevant? Now the tough part: You’ve got to set aside a bit of time to try them out. Throw on jeans and a black shirt, stand in front of the mirror, and see what works in practice. Try to identify at least three scarf ties that make sense, work with your collection, and complement your personal style. Once you’ve got those under your belt, you’ll find yourself more inclined to scarf it up. Because you’ll know how.


I’ve got an entire post on breaking into belting, and highly recommend it if you’re just getting started. The big takeaway? You likely need to start by figuring out which PLACEMENT works for your figure, then which WIDTH of belt you like best. So start with a scarf: Put on a fairly loose dress or tunic, and try belting it with a scarf at various spots on your bod. Hips, wearing waist, natural waist, and close your bust like an empire waistline. See what looks best. Then try making the scarf wide like an obi belt and see how that looks. Fold it so it’s the width of a pants belt. Roll it tight as you can so it’s skinny. See which width is most flattering. You may find that multiple combinations look good – skinny at your natural waist, wide up by your bust, medium at your wearing waist. But this little exercise will get you on the right track. How should you implement belts?


Hosiery season is coming to an end for many of us, but it still bears addressing. In my opinion, the three easiest ways to incorporate tights into outfits are as follows: If you’re doing separates, match your top and tights colors to create continuity. And/or make sure the color of your tights is repeated elsewhere in your outfit, be it in a belt, scarf, or piece of jewelry or within the pattern of a garment. And/or let tights make a stand-alone statement of their own by making them the lone colorful or patterned element in an ensemble. (More tights-deploying advice here and here.) Just having a few tights templates can make incorporating them into regular wear seem less daunting.

There are brooches and hats and loads of other accessories to be considered, but I view these as the Big Four. They’re accessories that stymie the majority of women, but can be fun and beneficial to deploy. Hope these tips have been helpful! I’d love to hear yours, too: How would you recommend that someone who has avoided jewelry and accessories begin to incorporate them into regular wear?

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  • I’m allergic so my skin doesn’t really tolerate jewelry at all. My tips for someone who might deal with a similar issue:

    – some bracelets or necklaces can be worn on top of clothes, they work well
    – belts!
    – accessorize your hair, it’s also great fun and doesn’t make you feel itchy
    – I think shoes, a colourful shirt etc can work as a kind of accessory as well

    The worst thing for me is if my accessories itch or make me uncomfortable. I’d rather improvise or leave the accessories in the closet. 🙂

    • Echoing a lot of this. I have very very few accessories. I have 3 hats, a couple of scarves and a small tray of gifted jewelry. I opt to buy more interesting clothing and shoe options because of general discomfort.

      I have made a stronger effort to wear what I do have, but I certainly skip the accessory sections when shopping for myself.

      Not everyone suits the “LBD with accessories” look, and that’s totally okay!

    • I have the same problem. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, are impossible. Leather watch bands are a no. I like scarves, though, I even use them as watchbands, which is a very nice accent. I recently pretty much gave up earrings as well, after buying a bolder pair of glasses. I love brooches – they are like tiny pieces of art to wear!

  • Hooray for accessories. Your scarf tutorials, and Une Femme’s, are great resources. But if I don’t feel too skilled some days, I still throw a scarf around my neck and let the ends hang down, and it looks pretty darn good. And also: Aren’t you sad that hosiery season is coming to an end? : <

  • Thank you for the resources, Sal! I love to play with my accessories. and decades of thrift store shopping means that I have an abundance. But it’s great to get some fresh ideas about how to use them.

  • Love this post: this is something I’m working on, and I appreciate having all these links in one place!

    Here’s a little trick that works for me. When I can SEE my accessories, I use them. I spent 30 minutes crafting necklace and earring holders a few weekends ago–they’re basically gussied up picture frames–and I hung them on my bedroom wall right by my closet. They’re beautiful to look at AND they remind me to put on some jewelry!

    You’re so right, the accessories do really finish off an outfit and make it look like I dressed with intention, even if I only spent 3 minutes throwing on clothes in the morning. So I’m making it easy on myself to use them 🙂

  • My back door into scarf-wearing was that when it was cold, I’d wear a winter scarf with my coat, but leave it on indoors because it was cold inside too. Before I knew it, I was wearing all sorts of scarves with no second guessing … in fact I wear one most days now.

    Jewelry is still a tough one for me. I wear the same simple necklace and hoops almost every day. And yeah, I have drawer-fulls of the stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Is it bad that the first thing I noticed in the picture above was that gorgeous table? 🙂

    Your advice is spot on; forcing myself to make a point of adding a necklace or scarf has done wonders. “Soon, your eye will begin to see jewelry-shaped spaces in your outfits and long to fill them!” So true.

  • callie

    I have to take issue with your assessment that the majority of women are stymied by the accessories you highlight here. There are a lot of chic women of all ages whose aesthetic doesn’t include accessories and they still look very put-together; they can make a statement without the gilding the lily.

    • I think that there’s a difference between an intentionally minimalist aesthetic and just feeling flummoxed by accessories. For example, sometimes I like to leave my neckline bare. I know I COULD wear a necklace, but I also think simplicity is beautiful and the less jewelry, etc. that you wear, the more it draws attention to your clothing and how it fits your body.

      • callie

        Obviously many women embrace a minimalist aesthetic. And I agree, even though I have a rack full of colorful scarves, sometimes an outfit looks and feels better without the extra drapery.
        It’s still an overstatement to say that the “majority of women” are “stymied” by accessories. Respectfully, I just don’t know how one with such limited experience working as a stylist and who has no real-world experience in a professional fashion design setting could derive that opinion.

        • Gisele

          Sally specifically specified that she was talking about “the vast majority of my style consult clients.”

        • Mandy

          Start for a second by reading correctly. Sally wrote this: “The vast majority of my style consult clients also struggle with jewelry and accessories.”

          It certainly would be an overstatement to say the “majority of women” are stymied by accessories, but if you are going to criticize what someone says you should atleast quote them correctly.

        • Kristin

          I think it can also depend on the type of accessory. For example, I have no problem with wearing jewelry – I just have to remind myself to do it. On the other hand, I’ve always admired the look of scarves and hats on other people, but never really understood how to wear them myself and didn’t make an effort to start learning until recently. So, some women may have trouble with certain types of accessories and not with others.

  • MarlaD

    Eileen Fisher also has a series of scarf styling videos on their website….they have been super helpful to me!

  • joy

    Oh, this is so timely for me. I knew I needed to accessorize my outfits. But I REALLY noticed it when I started photographing what I wore every day. It was so obvious that I needed a little sparkle or finishing touch to make things really sing. I am probably one of the few who really don’t own any jewelry. I have my wedding set and a pearl necklace my mother got me on my 21st birthday – and that’s it. I’m hoping to go shopping soon to pick up a couple of basic items, just to get my feet wet…

    (I do love scarves, though!)

  • Dee

    Love accessories, they are fun, and they really do finish an outfit. I always wear jewelry (usually earrings, watch, 2 rings and a bracelet.) Sometimes a belt, necklace or scarf. I tend to notice if someone is not wearing accessories when I feel the outfit would be improved with some. Often I see women (celebrities!) on the talk shows with no accessories, what is with that?? They will have on a beauftiul dress and not one bracelet or earring or necklace in sight! I find it actually distracting – I am thinking about how I would accessorize it, and then usally saying to my husband “dont they have a stylist??!” He couldn’t care less – LOL!

  • Jennifer Markowski

    This is a great post for me, I was just talking to friends about how I never wear the cool jewelry/belts/scarves that I’ve collected. Now I lay out a selection of accessories on top of my bureau each week (when I lay out my outfits for the week) so I’ll remember to wear them.

    I have a question about wearing scarves in your hair – I love the look, but my hair is so thin that the scarves always slip off. Any tips for keeping your silk or poly scarf on your head?

  • KL

    I’ve figured out scarves and belts and hose (in fact, I’m known for being a “collector” of fun tights among my friends), but the jewelry bit still stumps me. Not for a lack of options, because I own quite a few baubles–but I can’t seem to find any medium between wearing the same thing every single day (e.g. a Trollbeads bracelet that I put on with my watch and glasses in the morning) or not wearing anything at all. I prefer the way I look in earrings, for instance, but only remember to wear them maybe 5% of the time.

    I also wish that costume jewelry came in better metals, like stainless steel or even brass coring under a precious-metal plating. I have skin sensitivities to nickel and copper, so it’s difficult to find colorful statement jewelry that I can wear.

    • Chelsea

      Depends on what exactly you’re looking for, and I’m not sure if silver works for you, but I have found some fun sterling silver vintage costume jewelry on Etsy at reasonable prices.

  • Ann

    Love your style! I’m a fairly recent reader; I’ve learned soooo much from you, and have started to accessorize more. And what a trip to see your long hair!

  • jo

    They’re accessories that seem to stymie the majority of men as well. I almost never see men wearing jewelry nowadays. Any suggestions for males?

    • Jo, you’ve caught me. I’m pretty useless when it comes to men’s style and fashion. Husband Mike did a post in the fall that talks quite a bit about shoes and accessories:

      And I definitely support his views. A great watch and interesting shoes are both worth investigating. I also think guys can wear scarves with their coats and jackets and look super sharp, and love a guy who sports an interesting ring.

      Anyone else have ideas or tips?

      • I think someone who wears ties a lot should look into tie clips. They are very practical, you can clip a napkin to it when you eat to prevent your shirt from being splattered with tomato sauce and it generally keeps your tie in place. I once bought one for my husband made by an old silver fork, very special. It seems Americans use them less than Europeans.

    • lark

      I’ve gotten my husband belt buckles as the sartorial equivalent of the necklaces and earrings he gets me. They’re nice because they’re useful in everyday outfits (unlike, say, cuff links, which can be gorgeous but don’t work well for someone with a business-casual job) as well as being decorative. So he’s got one with a silhouette of a tree, a cast one his dad designed, a wooden inlaid one, and a silver and turquoise one that perfectly matches the stripes in my favorite shirt of his.

  • Tina

    Living in Europe converted me to scarves! I’ve found that I tend to accessorize with necklaces in warm weather and scarves in cooler weather.

    To stay with current trends of longer scarves and pattern matching but still get some use from my collection of square scarves, one of the things I’ve been doing is to choose two that complement each other and my outfit, fold them each diagonally, and knot them together at one end. This knot goes behind the neck, and each scarf comes around to the front. Then I knot one of them about 2/3 of the way down, and slip the other through the knot. You can either keep them on their respective sides, or switch sides after the knot. Both ways look great, and the knot also serves to control the fullest part of the diagonally-folded scarves in the front.

  • cecelia

    I go in streaks- either I wear no accessories or I wear 5. I love hair accessories, I love scarves, I love earrings and necklaces. I can’t make bracelettes work for me, though- they’re always banging against my desk or lost under long sleeves.

    I disagree with Sally’s tights advice, though- for figure flattery you’re better off matching your tights to your skirt and or footwear than to your top, otherwise you’ll look sliced into thirds.

  • Anne

    I’m beginning to learn how to accessorize and it does make a huge difference.

    How do people manage their collection of jewelry and scarves? I end up having accessories tucked away out of sight in a jewelry box, so I forget to put them on!

    • I keep my scarves folded in small, lidded, plastic, transparent boxes. Each box holds about ten scarves, and I keep them stacked on my bedside table, by my full length mirror. That way they are just where I need them to be.

  • sue

    I love your ideas, they are very helpful, but the word “deploy” in the way you are using it drives me crazy (granted it’s a short trip). It sounds like a high school student trying to use big words in an essay. Too forced.

    • Amy M

      And it is also pretty high school to criticize the author’s word choice…

      • Sue

        Maybe so, I can accept that. I just think it’s a helpful criticism. I mean, as a writer, I don’t think you want to annoy the people you are trying to help.

  • jen

    Totally off of topic of the article, but relevant to the photo – any info on that awesome painting you use as the background? I’ve noticed it in several of your posts. Love it!

    • (HM signed in as Sally) – The painting in the background is by my college friend Greg Page in St. Paul. No website. I agree that it is awesome work. -Mike

  • Has anyone with a large bust and short waist been successful in wearing scarves? It never seems to really work for me…

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