Accessories 101: Overview

Accessories are essential and indispensable. No matter our style and personal preferences, all of us wear accessories on a daily basis.

Knowing how to accessorize is as much art as it is science. Therefore, I didn’t think that only one post on this blog could do this topic justice. Instead, I’ll be writing a series of Accessories 101 posts to cover the many different accessories out there. I thought I’d start with a general overview of some principles that come in useful when choosing accessories.

Like styling in general, knowing how to accessorize has two prerequisites: objective understanding of your physical body and the level of adornment it requires; and your stylistic personality and flair. Once you have an idea of both, selecting accessories will become considerably easier.

With accessories, what you enjoy looking at and what enhances you may not always be the same. Often the pieces you enjoy on someone else, while attractive in and of themselves, appear even more attractive because they are in harmony with that person’s face, body and energy. So, whenever you see something you like on someone else, think: are you attracted to the piece itself, and think that it will enhance you, or are you attracted to the feeling of “rightness” and harmony that this person projects with the help of her (or his) accessories?

On the other hand, with accessories, more than anything else, we are attracted to things that touch something within us that we may not even be aware of. Looking at accessories could be a great exercise in determining what you are attracted to, and what energy you secretly want, or need, to project. So, take some time to browse accessories online or in a store. See what appeals to you and try to find common threads: what is their shape, quality, texture, color, style? Don’t edit yourself; only think of what you truly want and like, not what you think you should want and like. It’s no wonder that women are so in love with bags and shoes: they are the safest and easiest way to express flair. Analyze what attracts you, and you will glean some useful insights.

Now, here are a few things to consider when selecting accessories to best adorn and enhance your face and body:

1. Shape and size. Your own physicality holds the best clues here. Look carefully at your body and face. Observe their shapes and angles. Do you see straight, sharp lines or circles? Do you see rounded squares? How about your eyes – are they almond shaped or round? Do you see triangle shapes in your lips or the corners of your eyes? Are your eyebrows straight or dramatically angled? Look at your hands, the shape of your palms and your fingernails. The shapes you see will look most harmonious on your body as accessories.

Now, observe your size and scale. For example, just because you’re tall doesn’t mean you need large accessories. Look at your body proportions, the size of your head in relation to the rest of your body, the size of your hands and feet. Look at the size of your facial features, the spacing between them. When shopping for accessories, jewelry and prints, look for items with similar harmonies. For example, avoid large, bold prints or large color blocking if you are petite, or have a smaller head in relation to your body, or have small to medium facial features. Instead, opt for prints and accessories with more detail and medium or small in size.

2. Symmetry. Some people are more symmetrical than others. They are evenly proportioned, with medium size, evenly spaced features with no one feature standing out. Things like classic pearls and symmetrical prints look great on them.  If your features aren’t even in size and spacing, make sure your jewelry and accessories aren’t either.

3. Texture. Your hair and skin are great clues as to what textures and finishes to look for in jewelry and accessories. People with naturally straight hair and smooth skin look fantastic in equally smooth, polished accessories. If your hair has more texture and movement and your skin is textured and somewhat uneven, make sure these qualities also feature in your accessory choices.

4. Color and contrast. Usually it’s a good idea to wear colors and metals that harmonize with your coloring, be it warm, cool or neutral, in which case you usually have more choices. Your own level of contrast is also a good clue to the level of contrast in your accessories; if your coloring is more blended (your skin, hair and eyes are not contrasting but rather similar in color), and if stronger or brighter colors overwhelm you, you may use an accessory like a bag, belt  or shoes to bring in a touch of stronger color.

5. Visual complexity: less or more? All the factors above will add up to a certain level of complexity, or busyness you need to maintain in terms of your accessories. You may have heard Madam Chanel’s famous advice about accessories: put them on, then right  before leaving the house, look in the mirror one last time and take off one thing. This advice can be excellent if you are a person who requires less visual complexity, but it can be detrimental to someone whose body and face have texture and contrast in features and coloring. In order to see if Madam Chanel’s advice applies to you, you need to make sure whether less really is more in your particular case. Perhaps simple small accessories are best; or just one or two bold, oversize pieces will look great. Or, you may be able to carry several high-impact accessories on top of a printed garment, and look more put together and polished than you would in something simple.

I hope this is a good start to get you thinking about your own accessory choices. As always, the important thing is to figure out what is right for you personally. In later posts I will look more closely and in more detail at all the various kinds of accessories, so stay tuned!

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4 responses to “Accessories 101: Overview

  1. Thank you so much for this excellent post! I’m excited that it’s just the start of a series too. I was having trouble finding all the ‘how to choose accessories’ information on-line. Your very last point really struck home for me too. As a curly haired woman, with medium-large features on a small-medium face and a delicate but curvy frame, I think I do well with more accessories (in the right scale, etc), not less.

  2. Pingback: Accessories 101: Jewelry | Cultivating Style·

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