Accessories can make an outfit extraordinary. Take a little black dress and add a spiky necklace and metallic heels, and voila — you’ve taken your look from nondescript to edgy urban chic. Switch out the necklace and heels for a string of pearls and a pair of tasteful flats, and you’re ready for an important business lunch. Learning the basic rules for accessorizing will help you bring out the best features of your wardrobe.
Knowing the Dos and Dont’s
Wear a few well-chosen accessories at a time. A lot of people make the mistake of piling on all the accessories they own at once. When it comes to accessories, less is usually more. If you’re wearing jewelry, a watch, a scarf, a hat and sunglasses, no one piece will stand out, and your outfit will end up looking cluttered. Choose a few accessories that accent your outfit or highlight the feature you want to play up.
Wearing a full jewelry getup, complete with earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, can overwhelm your look. Try wearing either earrings or a necklace instead of both, and limiting how many rings you wear at once.
If you do wear a lot of different accessories, make sure they aren’t competing for attention. Match your metals and colors so that your accessories look like they were chosen with intention. For example, you could wear big gold hoops, a colorful warm-toned scarf, and a gold watch for a streamlined look.
Pair bold accessories with understated clothes. Neutral clothing can be completely transformed when you add a few bold accessories. If your wardrobe has a lot of neutrals like black, white, beige, olive or navy, accessorizing gives you a chance to play with fun colors and give your outfits a boost. The best thing about neutrals is that they look great with most other colors, so you don’t have to worry too much about making sure your accessories match your clothes. Here are a few ways to use bold accessories to add some life to your neutral outfits:
Pair a thin red or hot pink belt with a black or navy dress.
Wear a splashy orange or yellow scarf or shoes with khaki or olive-colored clothing.
Freshen up your white blouse with a multicolored statement necklace or big drop earrings.
Avoid being too matchy. It might be tempting to play off the blue polka dots in your dress with matching blue earrings, a blue necklace and blue shoes. However, matching to this extent can sometimes look a little old-fashioned or childish. Throwing some unexpected, yet surprisingly perfect accessories into the mix shows off your creativity and adds interest to the outfit. Use the color wheel to help you come up with interesting color combinations that accent each other beautifully. For example, if you’re wearing a purple shirt, try adding something mustard or lemon-colored to your outfit instead of hunting down the same shade of purple. Since yellow is opposite purple on the color wheel, your outfit will be appealing to the eye.
Wear colors with black and white. If you’re wearing a black and white flowered top, then you could pop in an electric blue medium sized beaded necklace and some cute blue earrings.
While going overboard with matching is usually ill-advised, it can also be a lot of fun when you do it deliberately. Wearing red pants and a top with red sunglasses and a red scarf could look vintage and chic. Your monochrome look will be sure to turn heads.
Wear items that play up a color in your outfit. If you’re wearing a multicolored outfit, accessories can add interest by allowing you to bring out one of the understated colors. For example, if your dress is black with a small flower pattern, you might wear ceramic bangles that match the green of the flower’s leaves. Playing up one color makes the outfit look pulled together and elegant.
You can also use accessories to tie together two seemingly mismatched clothing items. Pick an accessory that shares colors with both of the clothing items, like a scarf that picks up the pink in your blouse and the beige in your pants. Now your outfit looks like it each piece was chosen with intention, rather than just thrown together.
Balance the size of your pieces. If you’re wearing a pair of large, dangling earrings, don’t pair them with an oversized statement accessory. Your look will be more balanced if you wear a smaller necklace (or no necklace at all) so that your face isn’t overwhelmed by too much large jewelry. Keep the size of your various accessories in mind when you decide what to wear together. Accessories can also be used to balance details on your clothes. If you’re wearing blouse with interesting embroidery near the collar, you wouldn’t want to wear a big scarf to cover it up. Instead, choose a thin chain that will accent but not hide the details you want to show off.
Let one item be the star of your look. If you’re excited to wear an adorable new hat you just bought, don’t wear your bold new belt at the same time.
Choose items that enhance your features. Accessories give you the opportunity to bring out the best in your face and body. Well-chosen accessories can make your eyes look bigger, your neck look slender, or your calves look more defined. For example,
Wear large hoop earrings to accent the slant of your cheekbones.
Wear shoes with a bit of height to elongate your legs.
Wear a scarf that matches your eyes to make them look brighter.
Wear a slender chain necklace to draw attention to your collarbones.
Use bold makeup as an accessory. If you’re wearing a shade of knockout red lipstick, or you’ve lined your eyes for a vintage cat eye look, you probably don’t need too many accessories to complete your look. Let your makeup itself be the accessory. Just make sure the colors you choose complement the colors in your outfit and help tie your look together. Here are a few other unexpected items that can count as accessories:
Nail polish and nail art
Glasses and colored contacts
Hair extensions or weaves
Picking Out Accessories
Adapt your accessories to your signature style. There’s no end to the accessory choices out there, and it can be tricky to narrow down your options. If you’re just now starting your accessory collection, begin by choosing a few pieces that match your current style. Once you get used to accessorizing, you can start branching out and experimenting with bolder pieces you might not normally think of as “you.” Here are a few basics you might want to add to your shopping list:
Earrings: silver or gold hoops, jeweled studs, and a few pairs of fun dangly numbers.
Necklaces: a tasteful silver or gold chain, a string of pearls and a bold statement necklace.
Scarves: a neutral scarf that matches everything and a few bold scarves to show off your personality.
Belts: a classic leather belt, a wide statement belt and an elegant skinny belt.
Hair accessories: an array of barrettes, a headband or two, and if hats are your thing, a sunhat and a beret.
Find inspiration in magazines and blogs. When you’re deciding which accessories to purchase, check out fashion magazines and blogs for great ideas. Look for inspiration from people who have similar taste to you or clothes that aren’t far from your wardrobe.
Pay attention to how the accessories are styled. What colors and textures are paired together?
Most magazines and blogs provide information about where the items are from, so you can purchase them for yourself.
Check out thrift stores and clearance bins for trendy accessories. Accessories are so much fun because they give you the opportunity to wear all the latest trends without having to break the bank. If you see an accessory you like, chances are there’s a knockoff within your price range. Instead of saving up your money for an item that’s likely to go out of style next season, look for less expensive versions of the accessories you want.
Spend big on classic items. There are some classic accessories that are worth spending more money to purchase. If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll wear an accessory a lot, buying something higher quality could be a good investment. For example, a pair of diamond studs will probably get a lot of use, and it might be worth it to you to have the real thing. When you’re deciding whether an item is worth splurging on, ask yourself these questions: Will it stay in style forever, or is it about to be last season’s fad?
Does it match the majority of my wardrobe, or will I struggle to find an outfit to wear it with?
Is it made with high-quality materials (like sterling silver or 14 karat gold) or is it priced high simply because it’s a name brand?
Pick accessories that go with your complexion. Your accessories will look best if they enhance your natural coloring, whether you have warm or cool-toned skin, hair and eyes. If you have warm-toned skin, earth colors and golden tones will look best. For a cooler complexion, go for jewel tones and opt for silver over gold.
To figure out whether you have warm or cool-toned skin, put a silver bracelet on one wrist and a gold one on the other, or hold silver and gold jewelry up to your eyes. Which metal looks more flattering against your skin and makes your eyes appear to sparkle? If you’re warm-toned, it’ll be the gold. If you’re cool-toned, it’ll be the silver.
No matter what your skin tone is, accessories can be a fun way to play with colors you wouldn’t normally wear. If you never wear peach near your face because it makes you look washed out, try wearing peach-colored flats or a peach belt. That way you can enjoy the color even if it doesn’t match your tone.
Consider accessories outside the obvious. Anything you wear on your body can be used as an accessory. An umbrella or a parasol can be used to accessorize an outfit. So could a tattoo sleeve, a feather boa, pins, veils, keychains hanging from your belt loops, and candy necklaces. Be creative!
Trying Different Looks
Use accessories to create a fun but work-friendly outfit. If you work in an office, you might be looking for a way to show a little personality while still looking professional. Accessorizing is the perfect way to show off your style in a way that’s tasteful and office appropriate. Accessorize any basic office neutrals with the following:
Stud earrings. As long as they don’t hang too low, most earrings are office appropriate. If you have a big meeting, you might want to go with classic silver, gold or diamond studs, but for everyday wear, mix things up with a little pop of color.
Chic glasses. Black or tortoise shell wayfarer-style glasses will make you look smart and stylish at the office.
Colorful flats or kitten heels.
Give your normal clothes an extra edge. With the right accessories, you can turn a standard sweater set and slacks ensemble into something with rockstar edge. In fact, the juxtaposition of the two looks is all the more interesting and fun. To amp up your basic sweaters, shifts or blouses, wear these: Mixed metal jewelry. Try a stack of gold and silver bangles.
Studded jewelry. Wearing jewelry with thick metal studs or little spikes shows the world you mean business.
Bold eye makeup. Break out the black eyeliner and create a smoky eye to go with your goth jewelry.
Motorcycle boots. They look good paired with a dress or jeans.
Create a bohemian beach look. The place where you live might be completely land-locked, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look like you just spent your afternoon at the beach. Try these accessories to build a look that’s free and breezy:
Colorful beaded necklaces or earrings.
A sheer, light-colored scarf you can use to block the sun or wind.
The perfect pair of sunglasses.
Rings made with natural stones.
Dress for a classy event. If you’re going to an award ceremony, a formal wedding or another event at which you want to look your best, keep your accessories elegant and understated. These accessories pair well with formal gowns or cocktail dresses:
A string of pearls, diamonds, or other precious gems.
Small drop earrings or studs that match your necklace.
A slender matching tennis bracelet or simple chain.
Dress to flatter your body.
If you’ve grown out of an accessory like shoes or a hat, you don’t have to leave it in your closet forever. Give it to a charity like Goodwill. Other people can use them!
Try making your jewelry accent your clothing. For example, if you are wearing blue jeans and a blue and purple striped shirt, then you should accent with purple.
If you want to make your accessories pop, use silver stud earrings and red necklaces and bracelets. But if you want it to blend in, do longer silver earrings or blue studs with blue or silver bracelets and earrings.
Go for opposites! For example, if you’re wearing a green top and black skinny jeans, don’t be afraid to go for a pair of green converse and a black hat! Don’t be nervous about mixing things up a bit!
You don’t have to spend a lot of money get amazing jewelry! Try buying second-hand jewelry.
Remember, don’t go too overboard with accessories! You don’t have to have every accessory.
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How to Pair Sweaters with Normal Clothes