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Back to Basics – How to Accessorize Your Wardrobe

Whether you are a city slicker, suburbanite, or county dweller one thing remains constant: it’s hot, humid and sticky outside!  It’s that time of year where keeping cool and looking stylish is not an easy task to pull off.  While it is very fashionable to layer garments in the fall and winter seasons, you often find yourself stripping down to the bare essentials in order to keep cool through the summer months.  The good news is that there is a way to stay both cool and stylish through summer and it doesn’t involve nudity.  Accessories can play an important role in your summer wardrobe when used correctly. Whether you want to spice up a top tank or maximize the potential of your summer work wardrobe, accessories are a great way to stay chic.

Fashionable accessories can add many different ingredients to your outfit including color, shape, personality, and creativity.  Belts, jewelry, shoes, handbags, and hats are all accessories that play an important role in your wardrobe. With all the different shapes, textures, colors and styles available, such accessories can help create a fresh summer look without breaking the bank on new clothes.  By using these items you can wear a single outfit in a multitude of different ways.  For example:

  • Shoes can instantly transform a garment into sexy or casual.  Adding a pump, peep toe, or stiletto to any outfit will instantly sex it up for an evening out on the town.  Platforms, sandals, and flip-flops will automatically shift your ensemble into casual mode.

  • Colored glass beads and fashion necklaces provide added color to any basic top or dress. Big chunky necklaces are a great way to reinvent a basic tank top, print, or T-shirt.
  • Handbags add character to a basic outfit.  Whether it is a large oversized tote or a signature novelty bag, one should never overlook the importance of a remarkable bag!   Using a large handbag instead of a clutch can transform your dress from classy to casual.
  • Colored belts will transform any basic top and bottom combination.  For example, take a black top tucked into a pair of black pants and throw a green, yellow, or red belt into your belt hoops.  It will instantly add an accent color that you can base your other accessories around.  This will work with most basic and neutral combinations. 
  • Accessories can also be used to transition an outfit from one occasion to another.  You can take a day look, for instance, add the right accessories and reinvent it into an evening look.   If you have a dress that is inappropriate for work, throw a button cardigan overtop or a fitted blazer. Paired with a trendy or staple handbag and a comfortable pump or flat, you are office ready in no time!
  • Once you experiment with various accessories and find the ones that suit you best, the possibilities to keep each outfit stylish are endless.   Here are some ways to use accessories to compliment your casual, business, and dressy summer wardrobe.

Style is often sacrificed when finding a casual outfit to wear during a hot summer day. Luckily, accessories can add a number of stylish components to your casual summer wear.  An easy way to spruce up any solid-colored or basic fitted tee, tank, tube or halter top, is to wear a neckpiece that adds embellishment.  The length of the necklace can be used to elongate the shape of the torso.  A necklace that sits between the belly button and chest is a fail-proof length that will help create the illusion of a more slenderized figure.  To add a fashionable touch, find a necklace that is colorful and stands out against your shirt.  Play around with different styles, thicknesses and materials when choosing a neckpiece.  If you are top heavy, thinner styles will work better. If you are petite try shorter and thicker styles.

Since it is common to go sleeveless or short sleeved in the summer, accessorize your arms to jazz up your look.  Chunky bracelets, bangles and watches add presence and style.  Don’t get crazy and add too much but certainly try to mix and match.  If you have a few silver bangles try adding them all together on one wrist.  If you have some beaded bracelets in different colors try combining a few together. Stacking wooden bracelets is a great way to achieve a bohemian or earthy look, whereas stacking colorful bracelets can look youthful and fun.
Belts are a great accessory to take your daily look from boring to bright.  Denim shorts paired with a basic white tank top becomes a totally different outfit by throwing on a wide colorful belt with a large buckle.  There are many options for belts, such as high-waist belts that sit under the bust, mid-section belts that cinch you in at the waist and low-waist belts that elongate your torso.  Belts are adjustable and comfortable, making them a must-have accessory for everyday!

There is plenty of stylish and comfortable footwear available that you can factor into your look.  For example, summer footwear such as wedges, platforms or ballerina-style flats that are embellished with jewels and hardware can visually enhance any basic outfit.  Not only are fashionable flats easily available, but they can be found at affordable prices and are the most comfortable.  Heavy shoes for summer are simply unacceptable.  There is no need to wear big heavy sneakers, clogs, mules, crocs, or hiking sandals in the midst of summer.  Your feet should be housed in something light, feminine, and airy!

A definite splurge item to have for the summer is a fashionable pair of sunglasses.  Just as gloves are a key style accessory for the winter season, sunglasses are a summer must have.  Designer shades are a good investment if you plan to wear them for multiple summers.  Otherwise, you can find many fashionable styles at affordable price points.  Shades are an accessory that can be used to show your personality, so experiment with the different shapes, colors, sizes, frames and details to find the pair that best suits you!  Ultimately, sunglasses should sit higher than your eyebrow and should fall below your cheek bone.

Depending on your working environment, what’s acceptable office attire will vary based on the individual and office dress code.  If you are limited to two piece suits or separates, then you can still add some personality to your career wardrobe. By incorporating the right accessories, you can add excitement to any basic corporate look.   

Using an accessory like a thin belt will make your office attire appear very chic and stylish.  It will help tie in your separates and add a subtle shot of color around your waist.  If you wear a dress to the office, try adding a thicker belt with stretch just under the bust area around your high waist. This is the smallest area on any woman’s body.  Emphasizing this area is a slimming way to accessorize an otherwise indistinctive dress. Try to avoid belts that are too wide and too busy, as they are not professional or suitable for the work environment.  In a more business casual environment, add belts with different textures and rich colors to your attire, but keep them tasteful and simple.   

Jewelry worn in the workplace should add to the overall quality of your look.  Pieces should be thin, subtle and fine to accent a well-polished look.  Avoid flashy colors, distracting prints or cheap-looking materials.  Even for the business casual environment, avoid jewelry that is too flashy or bright.  Instead, choose muted color tones such as silver, gold, or materials such as fine stones and antique beads.  Also, fashion watches are a great way to add some flare to your work outfits. Be sure to avoid wearing too many bangles or bracelets on one arm as they can be noisy and distracting to colleagues. 

Despite the summer heat, avoid open toe or strappy shoes.  Casual Friday does not mean flip flops and halter tops.  Save them for the beach! Just make sure your shoes are not worn-out or over-embellished.  With neutral work outfits, suits, or suit separates try adding a colored pump to your ensemble.  If you wear black or grey bottoms everyday to work, this will help you look more current.  Go through the work tops in your closet and find a consistent color theme.  Select a colored pump that will match most of your tops when paired with a dark bottom!  If your bottom is a knee length skirt or a dress pant, you should always wear a closed-toe shoe.  The length of the heel should not exceed 3 inches, as it can be inappropriate for the work environment.  In a business casual setting, it is a great idea to wear flat shoes that are clean and presentable.  They can be worn barefoot or with comfortable ped socks.  Avoid heavier hosiery that will add heat and sweat.  It is never a good idea to wear skirts or dresses above the knee in the office.    

The basic rule of thumb is “more is less”. Over accessorizing can kill your outfit and distract people around you. Accessories should be used to accent your outfit and should not be the focus of your outfit.  By adding the right ones, you can create a more tasteful and subtle appearance. 

Evening affairs are a great occasion to make a memorable fashion statement.  Accessories play a key role in spicing up your style while keeping you cool for those warm summer soirees!  Add a prominent neckpiece that sits on your chest when wearing a strapless top or dress.  Not only will this fill up the area that bares a lot of skin, but it will also accent your outfit and draw attention to your facial features.  The same can be done to tops or dresses with straps and deeper necklines such as scoop and V-necks.  If the top-half of your outfit is a solid color absent from any busy prints, embellishments or details, then add a longer necklace to jazz up that area. 

If you choose to keep your neck simple or bare, then add signature earrings.  If you have a loud or busy necklace, keep your earrings as simple as possible. If you want to stay cool by wearing your hair pulled back, a note-worthy earring is the key accessory to enhance your look.  To elongate your face and neck, wear a lengthier earring or one that dangles. 
Jewelry is available in various styles, so it is important to select pieces according to a particular evening occasion.  When attending a fancy event, choose a fine necklace, a thin bracelet and a pair of subtle earrings to add an elegant sparkle to your look.  In contrast, a colorful neckpiece with some chunky bangles and playful earrings will create a trendy look for date night.

A great pair of high heels is a must-have summer item.  By putting on heels, you instantly appear slimmer, taller and sexier.  It is easy to make heels the focal point of your outfit when sporting a simple look, as they are available in many interesting prints, colors, fabrics, and styles.  The heel is a powerful accessory because it often dictates how other accessories will be tied into an outfit.  For example, if you are wearing a zebra-print heel with a simple white outfit, you can coordinate the look with silver jewelry and a black clutch to emphasize the zebra print.  Not only does a great pair of heels upgrade your outfit, it also heightens your confidence!  Just make sure you choose a heel height that is comfortable enough to walk in without wobbling!

Where to buy -
Many retail stores carry fashion accessories.  If there is a store that you frequent regularly for clothing pieces, then next time you are shopping for a garment see what jewelry options they have.  Stores like Anne Taylor Loft and Banana Republic provide colored stone necklaces and earrings that are subtle and simple.  Stores carry accessories based on the type of clothing they sell.  The colors and styles are dominated by the garments they sell so that customers can mix and match add-ins along with their garments.  J-Crew offers many eclectic bracelets, bangles, and earrings that will work with both dressy and casual styles.  Try the crystal symphony bracelet or pearl cluster style with jeans or a black dress.  They also carry a wide selection of ballet flats, platforms, and heels. Another store not to be missed is White House Black Market.  They carry jewel and pearl styles that will compliment the career look. While you are there, take a peek at their belt selections.  Don’t go overboard: you only need a few great accessories that can be interchangeable between your outfits.  Avoid pieces that have a lot of character to maximize your investment!  Subtlety will certainly go a long way. 
For discount designer bags and sunglasses, try Loehmann’s, Marshalls, or Burlington Coat Factory.  These stores carry brand name accessories at a fraction of the cost.  If you want to splurge on certain items and have the budget to do so, then check out some of the local boutiques in your area.  Small stores carry signature pieces that may be handmade or customized.  Just make sure you know what you are paying for. Larger department stores like Macy’s or Bloomingdales can be overwhelming.  Their selections are plentiful and finding the perfect accessory can be challenging.  If you know exactly what you are looking for, chances are they will have it. 

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