Saturday, December 4, 2010

How to Accessorize Correctly

Dear Leslie,

I need help with accessories. Since you always seem to wear just the right accessories and just the right amount I know you can help. Are there rules that you follow when picking out your accessories to wear each day?

For example if I wear a bold necklace, should I not wear earrings? If I wear a chunky bracelet should I wear a ring on the same hand or on the other hand? What about mixing a pearl necklace and diamond stud earrings, yes or no? I just feel pearl earrings will look too matronly with the matching necklace, am I right about this?

By the way I love your website and your weekly style tips from your newsletter! My style has dramatically improved since joining your site. I’m also having fun playing dress up in my closet. Keep up the good work.

Thanks! Janella

Dearest Janella,

This certainly is a hard question to answer since the answer is somewhat subjective in nature. Stylists don’t even agree on what the right amount of accessories are that you should wear.  In magazines, you’ll see everything from no jewelry being worn to over-accessorizing—and everything in-between. It’s hard for the average women to know what is truly stylish and tasteful.

Coco Chanel said: "Always remove one thing before going out the door". I often see a lot of women who over-accessorize with earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets all heaped on at one time. It often comes across as chaotic and distracting. Coco Chanel was right on this: less is more when it comes to accessories.

“Costume jewelry is not made to give women an aura of wealth,
but to make them beautiful.” Coco Chanel

A woman's accessories should describe her personality. If you aren't absolutely confident that you have your accessories right, then just wear one piece that you love and leave it at that. If you have style confidence, you can pretty much pull anything off!

So to answer your question... “What rules do I follow when picking out my accessories each day?”
Here goes:

1. I pick and choose my accessories by instinct and by my mood.

Since I don’t like to wear matched “sets” I choose my accessories based on the color I’m wearing and the occasion I’m dressed for. Sometimes I wear large silver hoops with a chunky necklace because the silver in the hoops bring out the silver pieces in the necklace, or because the look I'm going for is a bit more trendy or urban. I try to experiment and pick pieces that describe my mood or vibe for that day. In other words, try on different accessories and see what looks best.

2. I keep my look balanced.

I usually spread out my accessories to balance my look. If I wear a large necklace, my earrings are minimal. Or if I wear large earrings, I’ll wear no necklace. Or, if I'm wearing a statement belt, I don't wear a necklace so that the necklace doesn't compete with the belt. Again spread out your accessories—and use your full length mirror.

3. I look for style inspiration everywhere!

I read fashion magazines and peruse catalogs like J.Crew, Ann Taylor Loft, Chico's, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie to see what's hot and what I like. Plus a regular shopping trip never hurt :)

I interpret the season's styles by using what I have in my closet to make up my own version. Sometimes I only need a small item to complete the look!

4. I always say YES to a sale!

I stock up on accessories when I run across a good deal—and I’m always on the lookout for an accessory bargain.

Why pay a lot for accessories, when you can buy them on clearance for a $2 or less at thrift stores, garage sales, Claire's, Wal-Mart, or Target? The more you have the more options you’ll have for creating your own unique look. DON’T buy junk! Only buy what you like in your seasonal colors.

At the beginning of each season I buy several trendy accessories to update my mostly classic wardrobe. I have a few pieces of real jewelry, quality shoes, and handbags to fall back on...but I love stocking up on inexpensive items to keep my wardrobe fresh and stylish.

5. I keep my accessories organized.

You won't be inspired to wear any accessories unless you can SEE them! How you organize and display your jewelry is up to you. You may want to use hooks or accessory hangers to see all that you have.

(This photo is from Deanna in my Facebook Group) Love your jewelry shelf, girl!

When I open my closet I can see all my options. I can see my necklaces, scarves, bags, belts and choose what to wear with my outfit. I organize each item by COLOR because I find that most helpful to me.

...Now to answer your other accessory questions you've asked. Should you forgo earrings when you are wearing bold necklaces?

You don't have to, but you certainly don't want your earrings to distract from your statement necklace. Small stud earrings that coordinate with the larger necklace always look great. They don't need to match perfectly, but they must compliment.

My rule of thumb is if my hair is up, I always wear earrings. I usually do wear small studs if I am wearing a bold necklace. If my hair is down and I'm wearing a statement necklace, I might forego earrings. But that is just my preference. I've seen women pull off bold earrings with a bold necklace.

Should you wear both bracelets and rings on the same hand?

Definitely! I would wear several bracelets too. You are making a statement by going strong in one area. I just would forego a necklace, but balance the bulk out with large earrings. Again, this is just my opinion.

Should you wear a chunky pearl necklace with diamond studs? I worry pearl earrings would be too “matchy-matchy” and old fashioned look—am I right?

You are correct, matched jewelry sets are quite outdated looking. However, if I'm going for a more classic look and I’m wearing a bold pearl necklace (chunky or several strands), I usually wear small pearl studs. If you are worried about looking too matronly, just forego the earrings and let your hair cover your ears.

Accessories can do so much! They can…

__Pull unrelated pieces together

__Transform an outfit into a completely different look

__They can make look taller, thinner, richer, or whatever

__They can be an inexpensive way to look current

__They bring attention to your desired areas (face, neck, earlobe, waist, forearms)

The most important thing about accessorizing is to take the time to explore and discover how they can represent and define your personality!

Try new ways to wear a scarf. Try a new bold necklace. How about a large ring?

Try, try, try! Once you get over your initial anxiety, you love “Showing Your Style”

Love, Leslie...MissusSmartyPants


  1. Great post Leslie!You are so right!Once I started working with accessories my true style showed!I don't buy clothes so much anymore but I splurge on accessories or make my own!It's so much more fun!

  2. So, pearl studs and a pearl necklace is a matronly look, not a classic look? Trying to find the line between classic and matronly is challenging when you are 60. I'd prefer to look right for my age, and know what looks right on my 25 year old daughter, probably won't look right on me. On her, I can see pearl studs and a pearl necklace as matronly,
    although she wear my mother's pearl choker quite well.

  3. @ Angie...once you have the right basics in your wardrobe you can start concentrating on your accessories (the fun stuff). In the long run this way of putting together your style costs you a lot less & makes you more stylish! Glad you are finding this to be true...

    @Turtlemss...wearing matched sets is outdated. When you get "older" it's hard to know what's in and what's out. That's what my style service is all about...real style advice weekly for real women.

    You can and should still wear your pearl necklaces...just wear them with any small simple stud earring or small hoop.

    Your 25 yr. old daughter is a barameter of styles...but she being young has lots of options. As we mature we should stay more classic and just touch on the trends. This keeps our look current w/out looking like we are trying too hard.

    Hope that helps!

  4. I just love using accessories and thanks to MSP I use them with confidence! But on real hot summer days it's uncomfortable for me to wear chunky necklaces or larger hoops or long earrings. So I wear colorful shoes (my lime green espadrilles are a favorite!) or a straw tote, or a cute scarf around my waist to jazz up an outfit and pull it together to show my style. It seems to work because I get compliments. Any other suggestions for real hot days, Leslie? Thanks, Marta

  5. I'd say you are right on the mark Marta! Colorful shoes and handbag are the best ways to "Show Your Style" on a hot summer day!

  6. Marta, I so agree! When it's hot, the last thing I want is a chunky necklace sticking to my skin! However, I've recently discovered that I can wear a silk scarf around my neck, I guess because it's a natural fabric and it doesn't feel hot. It must be silk though.

  7. I just started getting serious about scarves, belts, jewelry, etc. It makes such a huge difference. I bought only a few new items of clothing (in fact, you'd be shocked to discover how very little clothing I own), but it looks like I have an entire new wardrobe. A few of the new things I bought are a lot bolder than what I have previously owned. It took some nerve to wear the bolder stuff the first time, but it has helped me gain confidence.

    I appreciate your advice about belts a few weeks ago. So much really does look better belted!

  8. Great tips! For some outfit ideas, check out my post on the subject:
    Bises de Paris!


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Love, Leslie