Monday, January 12, 2009

Request #2 - Katie - How to Accessorize an Outfit

Question from Katie:

What's a good "rule of thumb" for accessory matching such as belts, shoes, necklaces, bangles, etc...Belt to match shoes? Accessories to all match? etc.? I am trying to add more pizzaz to my outfits... and my first step was to try the "high waisted belt" look, and beyond that - I'm lost!

Short answer: Well, there isn't a magic "rule of thumb", unfortunately.

Long answer: Let's take 3 of your recent outfits, Katie, and accessorize them! I'm going to copy your outfits from my wardrobe (as best I can) and show you some options and explain along the way.

Outfit #1:

Differences: My sweater has a higher neckline and doesn't have the rose detail, and my long cardigan (black, not brown) and sweater have longer sleeves so they're bunched up. I'm also wearing higher heels since my brown pants are long. I look rather droopy and shapeless.

Your outfit: Your colours are excellent. Red and brown are awesome together - don't forget: brown is a neutral! It goes with everything! I love that you've pulled a pattern for your bag - that's a great first step to adding visual interest.

1. Your waist needs to be defined. I know you have a black soft belt, so try wearing that over the red top to help cut down on the wrinkliness of the top adding visual weight. You could also try it over the cardigan.

Belt over the red top.

Belt over the cardigan.

Note: Be careful with the positioning of wide belts, especially if you're booby (I am too, and I'm 3 inches shorter than you). Wear them lower, rather than higher or you will run the risk of looking pregnant.

2. You need jewelry. I see that you have a watch on, but if your sleeves are short, wear a bracelet or cuff. Earrings are standard for me, too. Your top doesn't require a necklace since it has a gorgeous neckline and that nice rose detail - but I would wear a necklace with mine, since the neckline is rather plain. You could do a more dangly earring to help draw the eye up.

Outfit #2:

Differences: I don't have a sparkly grey top, but I do have a grey cami with sparkle at the neckline. My black jacket is not quite the same shape. I'm wearing a rigid wide belt instead of a soft one. I feel very self-conscious about my boobs and tummy in this, and the jacket is making my shoulders look super-wide (I think I might need to consign it).

Your outfit: You are on the right track with adding sparkle, texture and trying to play with the shape of the outfit by doing the belt higher than your natural waist. Your red shoes would really pop in this colour combination!

1. Your top is not meant to have this much of it showing - treat it like a camisole and use it for layering underneath other the white button-down shirts I know you love. Tuck the underneath layer into your pants - it's not doing you any favours by hitting right at the widest part of your hips.

2. If you're long-waisted, you have all kinds of acreage between your boobs and your hips, so accentuate it by wearing belts at your natural waist to create an hourglass. A thick belt works best when it's not cinching everything in, but sitting naturally over top of clothing that already accentuates your waist.

Also, a cropped jacket is not right for this particular look, as it accentuates the width of your hips - see how it's making an inverted V and drawing the eye downwards in your picture? Look for a classic fitted suit jacket that stops just above the hip; make sure it's fitted in the waist to really give you that "dip" along your sides. Your legs will look miles longer and you will look sleeker overall.

3. Add another layer (the white shirt), and add a necklace to draw the eye up. Now, I'm not a white shirt fan since I hate ironing (please ignore the wrinkles in the picture), but I'll admit they look classy and professional and they are excellent for layering. This will make you look longer and sleeker. Adding a short necklace (mine is vintage - start scouring the thrift stores!) will draw the eye up to your lovely face.

Without a belt.

Wide belt added over the jacket.

Outfit #3:

Differences: Not sure what shoes you have on. I'm wearing a black turtleneck with the sleeves scrunched up.

Your outfit: Two classics (grey pants and navy top) that are excellent wardrobe pieces on their own, but when paired together are just a big ol' blah. You're doing really well with finding classic pieces, but are struggling a bit with finding ways to really make them reflect your personality. You felt very Audrey in this, which I love (who doesn't love Audrey Hepburn?), so play that up.

Here are a couple of options for this outfit:

Add a scarf, a bangle, earrings and do a coloured shoe. I've tied the scarf so that the ends hang down in front (yes, this does obscure the buttons on your shirt, but really, they're just navy plastic buttons). Any coloured shoe would add some zip to this outfit - either your red or your green would look amazing. Put the ends of the scarf hanging down your back - nothing like having a little "back interest"! A brooch at the neck would also look great.

Another look altogether to jazz up the top: Grey pencil skirt, red belt and black kitten heels, and a different bangle. This is still completely professional and an easy look to do. The belt adds a pop of colour - and notice that I'm keeping the belt slim for this look because of the top's length.

Overall suggestions for adding accessories:

- add a patterned shoe for creating instant visual interest (eg. leopard flats or pumps). The more coloured shoes, the better (I have over 8 pairs of red shoes/boots).

- belts: black (skinny (under 1"), medium (up to 2" and wide (over 2")), brown (medium), coloured (I like red or grey, in medium).

- necklaces: long: 1 silver and 1 gold, mixed with a coloured stone or bead, including black; short (not choker) detailed in silver or gold.

- bracelets: silver and gold medium bangles (less than 1"), cuffs in gold, black or silver. A charm-style bracelet with dangly bits (listen to how noisy it is before you buy).

- earrings: I like basic hoop shapes, but with nice details. Eg. filigree hoops, hammered texture, double hoops.

- brooches and pins: look for vintage.

More suggestions and thoughts welcome for adding accessories to outfits! Does anyone actually have a "rule of thumb"?




  1. I just have to say what an Absolutely Fab post this is! What you have to say & the intelligent & thoughtful way you say it, rivals Tim Gunn (you know, from Project Runway) who I think is the only really genuine TV Style Giver around.
    I would love you to take one of my outfits & wear your own version of it!

  2. WOW Sheila this is another AMAZING post. I'm so glad I found your blog (or, that you found mine)! I need to write your tips down! Very inspiring as I often get too rushed and lazy to finish off an outfit. I do like to carry a bright or patterned bag to add color and interest. Katie is such a cutie and I enjoyed seeing both her and your versions of different outfits!

  3. Hey, thanks, gals! You're too kind...that's very flattering. *blush*

  4. Sheila!!! OMG You're my hero! Your post helped me SOOO much! You should start a consultation business! I would have PAID for that great advice! LOL!

    I can't believe how much time you spent and how much thought you put into your post! Thank you so much!!!!!!!!


  5. Katie, I'm so glad it's helpful for you! I'm looking forward to seeing how you work more accessories into your wardrobe.

    It was actually really fun, and I'm off for a few days, so I had the time. It's not like I'm going to do this every week!

  6. I have a few more ideas:

    First, get a long necklace with a colorful pendant at the end. If you're wearing what you think might be a boring outfit in neutrals, just slap that pendant necklace on and you've added visual interest as well as a conversation piece.

    Second, colorful shoes always always do the trick.

    I would be wary of scarves, though, they have a tendency to make young girls like Katie look like flight attendants.

  7. Fashion Pinko (hee hee, love your name) - that's a classic idea of the necklace! Love it.

    Ooh, you are so right about the flight attendant thing. Katie, beware!

  8. So funny - I know what you mean about the flight attendant thing...

    I wasn't even wearing a scarf (just a vest) and I looked like a flight attendant! LOL!


  9. Great posts over the past few days.
    Have you considered going into the styling business?

  10. Katie - that is too funny! I wore a green blazer once with a short blue skirt and a white shirt under it (this was over 20 years ago) on the ferry from Vancouver, and 2 people asked me if I worked for the ferries (blue and green were their colours)!

    Jane: my dream job would be to have my own personal shopping/consulting business, but alas, I have a mortgage to pay!

  11. Great ways to jazz up our basics. Thank you for your ideas. It always helps to have another person to bounce stuff off of. Thank you for taking time to help all of us!

  12. Thanks, Alison, that's really nice of you to say.

  13. This post is great! I love how you recreated her outfits and showed how to work it rather than just telling us. Also, this was personally very helpful to me. I am very lazy with accessories. :)

  14. This is such and awesome post! Great tips! I will def be using them too!

  15. Thanks, Erica! Great to see you again.

    Hilary - thank you! and welcome.

  16. I think I have the black shoes in your last photo! Are they BCBG MAX AZRIA? I think that's what mine are. I call them my "witchy" shoes!

    Amazing post!

  17. Karen, welcome and thanks! Nope, those are my cheapie Wild Divas, purchased in a hair salon for $20 in a little coastal town.


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