Like spices in cooking, accessories add flavor, texture and zip.
The Deliciousness is in the Details
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs expressed it perfectly: “Any opportunity to adorn oneself is human, and accessories are an easy way to do it.”
It’s spring, and we’re divesting ourselves of wool and heavy clothes and gratefully bringing out the linen, silks and cottons. So it’s time to think about changing up your accessories as well. Jewelry, shoes, bags, belts, scarves, hats—these can make an ordinary outfit pop. Whether you’re a conservative dresser or think of dressing as an art form, a few new accessories will rev up your warm-weather wardrobe.
Fashion is a lot like cooking—you need certain staples to create almost anything. Having most or all of these basics in your closet will make putting together daily spring/summer combinations much easier.
• Jewelry. Simple gold or silver hoops. Which metal depends on your coloring and preference, and hoop size on where you fall on the conservative-to-artsy scale. But a mid-sized hoop of good quality will always be a go-to.
Watches. You’re still going to need a workaday choice and a dress choice. Best advice: Keep both simple in design, unless you’re lucky enough to own a whole watch wardrobe. At least one piece of killer dress jewelry. Necklace, bracelet, pin, even ring—one showpiece dresses up the plainest outlet. But not all of them at once! Nothing dates you more.
• Shoes. Three picks here, especially if you’re buying new this year—strippy black sandals in a comfortable heel height that do not turn you into a raving bitch because your feet are killing you. Crabby is not attractive, no matter what the fashion rags urge. Fun, casual brown sandals (pleather for those of us weaning off leather). And a pair of espadrilles, with or without ankle ties, which work with so many things.
• Bags. Invest (or return to) a summer bag that looks great with the lighter fabrics you’re now wearing.
• Scarves. Not really a scarf gal? Try finding just one long silk rectangle in a lovely print and looping it casually to one side of a summer jacket or dress. No need to turn into a Parisian. You can do it!
Day Into Evening
Many of us occasionally or often have to zoom directly from the work day into an evening out, and as Katherine Roberts Burger of K: A Boutique By Katherine Roberts reminds us, changing out accessories to make your look dressier is easy with a little forethought.
“Change into an evening sandal, like one by Dee Keller. Replace your work bag with a small evening clutch, like the python ones we have by Presmer. Definitely put on a dressier earring, perhaps something long and dangly. And darken your lipstick,” suggests Roberts Burger. “We carry a great line of evening lipstick shades by Baaii.”
Don’t forget to divest yourself of your business-like coat. If you can, go without or switch to a wrap of some kind. Another simple trick: Exchange your plain brown or black belt for something in metal.
As for what to wear that day, if you know a night out is coming: “You can’t go wrong with a black pantsuit and a crisp white blouse,” says Roberts Burger. She notes her boutique carries a clothing line, Raoul, which is ideal for day-to-night.
Sand, Surf, and Style
The beach is calling. You’ve found the perfect bathing suit at last. Just as important are the accessories to put together a fun and fabulous day in the sun.
• Hat. Want to avoid resembling a walnut after age 30? Sunscreen helps, but a great hat adds both protection and style. A simple visor in a coordinating color can work, but even better is a chapeau designed to give coverage to your whole head, neck and upper shoulders. (Easy tip: Once your hair is wet, smooth a little conditioner into it and wrap it up under your hat. When you wash and dry it later, your do is ready for cocktails at sunset.
• Cover-up. As simple as a loose, easy pair of shorts or a sarong tied at the waist, or as roomy as a caftan—lots of choices here. Pick something that doesn’t wrinkle and dries quickly. Healthy Glow Studio carries some long tunics/shirts from the Mod-o-Doc line that might be just the ticket.
• Bag. Nothing says “beach” more than a stylish woven or canvas bag. Choose one that fits with the look of your bathing suit. A waterproof lining is highly desirable.
• Shoes. Now is the actual time for flip-flops, dear friends, or something a little dressier if that’s your thing. Try the Brazilian line Havaianas at Healthy Glow—who knows beach better than Brazilians?
Accessories as Wearable Art
Remember the recommendation for “at least one piece of killer dress jewelry”? That may conjure up big diamonds for some, but for spring and summer, a piece created by an artist can be a more cheerful (and a lot cheaper) choice.
Chattanooga is lucky to have many artists working in jewelry. One retailer that’s supported local and regional artists for years is Plum Nelly.
“Accessories are all extensions of your personality,” says Plum Nelly’s owner, Catharine Bahner Daniels. She points to pieces using “repurposed materials” by Sarah Kurtz Walker and pieces by Ellie Preston using materials created by a women’s collective in Thailand as examples of the eclecticism of art jewelry. The range of price points means there’s something for nearly everyone.
“Local artists can also custom create something just for you, using your favorite colors and materials,” Daniels points out.
Earrings, pins, bracelets, necklaces and rings are not the only wearable art forms, though, and Plum Nelly also carries handmade scarves and unique bags.
And while we’re on the subject of art to wear, as birthdays arrive and Mother’s Day approaches, giving an artwork that is also a memorable wardrobe enhancer never goes out of fashion.
Most of all—don’t take it too seriously.
The Guy’s Guide to Snappy Dressing
Obviously, the gals have the best and most abundant accessory options and often we fellas may not think of accessorizing as something we’re supposed to do. Simple accents wrist to foot can add a personalized touch to your look. It’s just a matter of taking a moment and thoughtfully choosing the right piece to finish your outfit. The easy addition of a pocket square or funky socks can take your regular wardrobe to the next level.
Here are a few tips for accessory success:
Your smart phone has a clock. Your watch may, soon, be a smart phone. But when it comes to style—from the slim silhouette of a leather band and traditional face, a sporty diver’s watch, colorful and casual with a grosgrain band, to the giant-faced sports watches favored by the Hollywood set—all make sense. Rose gold is in right now. However, unless you have a substantial timepiece budget, consider more affordable versions of trend pieces. As with your wardrobe, invest in timeless choices and seek less expensive versions of the latest fad from Urban Outfitters, Swatch and even Target. Match your watch and watch band (if it’s grosgrain) to the occasion.
Your navy or seersucker blazer or linen jacket is at the ready. What next? A nice shirt? T-shirt? Sure. Jeans? Khakis? Shorts? All works. Now what? A super simple way to add a pop of color and style is to tuck in a pocket square. Whether square, crisp “Mad Men” style or loose and leafy as though you just tucked it in, a pocket square can punctuate and snazz up your appearance. Silk tends to be more formal, cotton or linen squares are more casual. Luckily, a plethora of options exists across the spectrum of retailers.
Whether you’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt or a suit, take a moment to think outside the sock box. From high-end retailer Paul Smith to JC Penney, fun socks abound. Think stripes, polka dots or vibrant argyles as a start. Wanna dive in? Check out nicelaundry.com for a one-stop $99 Sock Drawer Makeover.
Stop! Don’t throw on those ratty sneakers or orthopaedic dad sandals. Consider your shoes. First, polish them. Second, comfort is king—but style is, too! A smart Converse or plimsole sneak is a great add to any wardrobe. Think differently and don’t be shy about pairing a dress shoe with jeans or even flat-front shorts. No socks, please, unless you’re Pharrell. Flip-flops are beach/poolside footwear only.
(Messenger Bag, that is…)
Sometimes you have a notebook, folder, laptop or other cargo to carry around and rather than a casual backpack, you throw a smart messenger bag over your shoulder. The messenger bag allows you to empty your pockets as well and make a visual statement. These range from well-priced options from Target, Kenneth Cole and Urban Outfitters to dressier, more expensive versions from Coach or J. Crew.
A Word About Jewelry
Less is more here. Unless you’re the Pope or a Super Bowl winner, take a careful look at your rings. Simple silver wins here. Necklaces? Depends. Are you over 30? If so: no. Leather bracelets and the like are a great accent with a T-shirt and jeans.
While many men may scoff at some of the more fashion-forward options, it still seems important to bring up the boutonniere. This may be an out-there option for some of you, but it’s gaining traction and is a neat way to really show your style. From actual flowers to menswear fabric and even wood, the boutonniere pinned to your jacket lapel is a fresh take on an age-old statement.