It’s an unspoken fashion rule that accessories can make or break an outfit. The wrong pair of heels may seem fussy on an otherwise killer dress, and the right scarf can transform a jeans-and-tee ensemble from pedestrian to chic. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes–or, to quote iconic American sportswear designer Michael Kors, “Accessories are the exclamation point of a woman’s outfit.”
As a small yet significant part of an outfit, a good accessory can be surprisingly difficult to pin down. Here are five tips that simplify the process. Keep these in mind when you’re adding the finishing touches to your next outfit.
1. Consider Color
Those of us who grew up or came of age in the ’80s probably remember Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful, the fashion self-help book that taught people how to identify whether they’re a winter or a summer and how to dress accordingly. Seasonal color profiling isn’t really a thing anymore, but it’s true that most of us have either a warm or a cool skin tone, and that certain colors do or don’t flatter each of those complexions. There’s plenty of advice out there to help you determine whether you’re warm- or cool-toned, but once you’ve figured it out, you can use this information to pick out accessories that are right for you.
- If you have cool undertones, bright jewel shades and blue-based pastels work best on you, and your complexion favors silver jewelry. Carry your stuff in a chic metallic envelope clutch and pair it with some playful berry pink heels.
- If you have warm undertones, you’ll find yellow or rose gold jewelry and honey-tinged shades like coral and olive particularly flattering. Rock a tangerine statement scarf with an edgy gold ear crawler.
2. Play With Proportions
Slouchy, oversized puffer coats have been hugely popular this year. But if you’re under 5’2, a coat in that cut is destined to lose its shape, and you might risk people thinking you’re wearing a sleeping bag. Similarly, if you’re very tall, that cute cropped moto jacket you’ve been eyeing might look like it shrank in the wash. So be sure to consider proportion when picking out accessories, and don’t worry too much about missing out on trends that don’t suit your shape. A short torso might mean you have to pass on the corset belt trend, but it also means you get to wear the slim menswear-inspired belts that would look like drawstrings on your lankier friend.
3. Make a Statement
If you have a flair for drama and are comfortable wearing things that turn heads, here’s an accessorizing strategy that might work for you: go all-in with one particularly bold piece and keep everything else simple and minimal. You’ll first need to decide which part of your body you want to accentuate, as this will help you choose whether you want to wear an oddly-shaped bag, a quirky hat, or an ostentatious necklace. And remember to limit yourself to one statement piece per look to ensure that that piece gets all the attention it deserves.
4. Maintain a Sense of Occasion
One of the magical things about accessories is the way they can transform the overall aesthetic of an outfit. Pair your favorite boyfriend jeans and white tee with cool sneakers and a luxe leather baseball cap for an edgy, sporty look. Wear the same jeans and tee with sky-high pumps and a floral kimono and you’ve got yourself a sophisticated brunch ensemble. When picking accessories for your outfit, keep in mind the vibe you’re trying to convey and the occasion you’re dressing for.
5. Remember That Less is More
Perhaps the most iconic advice about how to accessorize comes from Coco Chanel, who once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” This advice doesn’t always hold true in today’s highly visual fashion culture, where excess can be photogenic. But it will never steer you wrong, and it’s a good rule to live by if you’re still a styling novice or aren’t yet feeling confident in your outfit assembly skills.