Welcome to the Season of Accessories. Shoes, handbags, jewelry, sunglasses and hats are the easiest and most affordable ways to update your wardrobe, which makes them especially important for recession shoppers. “Before, you would’ve put on just a simple silver hoop earring and called it a day,” says Laura Schara, trend expert for Macy’s stores. “Now people are buying accessories because they’re more affordable than a whole new outfit.”
Accessories, says Ellen Goldstein, chair of accessories design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, “completely change your wardrobe. ... If you’ve got a black cocktail dress in your closet and you add a scarf around your neck, it looks completely different. If you were to add gloves ... it would look completely different. If you’ve got the black dress and you put on a pair of red satin shoes, you’re going to look different.”
Few shoppers understand the power of accessories more than Ruth Kubichar, a 50-year-old who works as a marketing coordinator for a financial services company and limits her spending on clothing to $100 a season.
The other day, she used trendy chunky green and turquoise bracelets (she has had them for ages) as well as a green and brown necklace (on loan from her 17-year-old daughter) to make a new turquoise T-shirt and older brown cropped pants and a jacket look au courant.
“This,” she says, pointing to her necklace and bracelets, “pulls it all together.”
The secret to using accessories is to know that more isn’t better.
In addition to being financially unwise, accessory overload will make you look like a kid playing dress-up. And that’s not a good look for most adult women.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a piece off,” says Schara. “You don’t need a necklace, earrings and a bracelet. ... If something’s making a big statement, keep everything else simple.”
• Make sure your shoes and handbags don’t match. Color is big this season, but too much of it lessens its impact. Orange shoes and an orange handbag don’t provide the sort of zing that silver ballet slippers and an orange hobo-style bag might.
• Don’t wear more than one animal-print accessory or piece of clothing. “You can turn into the Cat Woman very easily,” Schara says.
• Make sure accessories fit your figure. Tiny accessories, including purses, can look out of proportion and can get lost on plus-sized women, says Goldstein. Likewise, petite women need to make sure their accessories don’t dwarf them.
• Spend the most on accessories you will use over and over, a great pair of black pumps or a fabulous purse, for example. Once you’ve got those out of the way, buy funky shoes — maybe a pair of cork-heeled wedges or some that look as if they’ve been painted by a watercolorist — chunky bracelets and an all-important statement necklace.
• And if you’ve ever doubted the power of accessories, know that legendary retailer Henri Bendel is eliminating clothing from its stores to concentrate on makeup, gifts and — tah dah! — accessories.