Accessorization for Amateurs
By Ava Green, Assistant Features Editor
Picture this: you’re getting ready in the morning; you are incredibly excited to take on the day in the killer outfit you picked out. The silhouette is just right, the colors complement each other in the most effortless way and you just cannot stop looking at yourself in the mirror. As you walk out the door, ready to stunt on everyone, you realize that something is missing. You scramble around your room figuring out what shoes to wear and popping on the first pieces of jewelry you see. In no time, your amazing outfit becomes abysmal. Your choice of accessories can make or break an outfit, and as intimidating as that sounds, this timeless quandary can be easily avoided through my unofficial guide to accessorization.
As I learned that Coco Chanel is right and less really is more, I saw how much more refined I could look when I honed in on one aspect of my outfit or self to accentuate with accessories. If you are like me, you never know when to stop adding onto things. When I was getting more into fashion, I looked like the jewelry section of a Claire's threw up on me. An example of smart placement of accessories would be if you are wearing a lower-cut top, you can show off your stunning decolletage with a necklace to pull focus to that area. Short hair and updos leave your ears exposed, which is the perfect opportunity to wear some cute earrings. On the opposite side of this, let's say you are wearing some busy, printed pants — that would most likely not be the time to wear a bold or patterned shoe. There are, of course, exceptions to this trick, because clashing patterns and busy outfits do have the potential to be visually stunning, and I think there is beauty in gaudiness. But for simplicity’s sake it is best to be on the stingier side when it comes to accessories, especially if you are new to it. I can tell you from personal experience that it is easy to get carried away.
The addition of accessories is a great way to show people that you are way more cool and thoughtful than them because, well, you are. It is always fun to match up shapes and colors to do this. Specifically, take a color that has a more secondary role in your outfit and make it pop by adding jewelry, shoes, socks, bags or hair accessories that match said color.
It also helps to understand the colors and shades in your outfit. The easiest way to accessorize is through simpler jewelry, so it’s also important to know when your outfit calls for gold or silver accents. I think that gold jewelry complements warmer tones and silver compliments cooler tones. This isn’t a super concrete rule, though, and I think both metals have the potential to look good in any context. Another example of this is knowing when to wear a black or brown belt. The common rule is to match a belt with your dress shoes, but if you aren’t wearing a dress shoe, I again think that a black belt looks good with cool tones and brown with warm ones. There are certain classic pieces, like a plain white sneaker, a pearl necklace or a simple watch that look good with everything. These items can spice up an outfit and make it look more cohesive. I believe that any of these things are versatile enough for you to invest in and wear into the ground.
Similarly to having a grip on what colors and shapes are present in your outfit, it is also helpful to know what style or vibe you want to achieve in your look. Shoe choice is one of the clearest indicators of the level of formality of an outfit. The difference between a pair of Converses and a stiletto when styling a dress can determine whether you are ready for a picnic or a red carpet event. Equally, putting a sweatshirt or cardigan over an outfit gives a completely different feel than the same outfit paired with a (faux) fur coat or a blazer. In general, the addition of accessories elevates an outfit, but it is up to you and what style you’re going for to decide how to elevate said outfit. The most basic outfit paired with rings and a necklace or chain can make your sweatpants go from pajamas to athleisure couture. To dress something “up” or “down” can be confusing, but it is a pretty simple concept: you can add casual items, like sneakers or sunglasses, to a formal outfit or formal items, like jewelry or dress shoes, to a casual outfit. Accessorization is first and foremost about balance — balancing the formal with the casual and balancing out busyness with emptiness or plainness.
This topic was requested many times by my extremely persistent cousin, but I hesitated in writing this because I, myself, hardly know how to accessorize. I am not a minimalist in the slightest, and, to me, accessorizing is solely a means to fill any blank spaces in my outfits. However, accessorizing can completely elevate a plain old cultivation of clothing into a proper, complete outfit. If you are just dipping your toes into the practice of accessorization, start out by finding some simpler pieces that can complement many different styles, and work your way up to statement pieces that you can completely build an outfit around.
All of this advice, as per usual, is entirely subjective and based on your own personal style. Whether you are a minimalist, maximalist or a complete fashion anarchist, accessories are truly a fun detail to add. It is a fairly simple concept to master, as long as you are making thoughtful choices that ultimately make you feel good.