How to Accessorize a Basic Outfit

We all know them... Those people who look amazing, no matter what they've got on. And they always manage to stay true to their personal style! Like how?

How to Accessorize a Basic Outfit

A guide to expressing your personal style through accessories

A drawing of a woman with an earing and matching necklace

We all know them… Those people who look amazing, no matter what they’ve got on. And they always manage to stay true to their personal style! How do they do this? 

Well, there are a lot of fashionable people out there who won’t want us sharing their secrets in this article. But we’re going to do it anyway.  

How do some people always manage to show up looking perfect? There’s a one word answer to that question: 

Accessorizing. 

We know it sounds too simple to be true. However, the people who always look good have mastered the fine – but surprisingly complicated – art of accessorizing. 

If you want to be one of those people, then let this article be your guide to this complex art form. So that by the time you have finished reading it, you’ll know how to release your inner fashionista. And you will know how to turn any basic outfit into something runway worthy. 

Table of Contents

What is accessorizing?

A set of Outfit with Accessories

‘Accessories are the vitamins of fashion’ 

– Model and designer Anna Del Russo 

Accessorizing is the secret ingredient that can turn any drab, old outfit into something unforgettable. 

Accessorizing is the act of using smaller pieces – also known as accessories – to add dimension, depth, and individuality to a look. Accessories can also be practical additions to an outfit. 

A well placed accessory can give a new life to an outfit you’ve worn dozens of times before. 

While accessorizing may seem like a simple concept at first glance, there is a set of skills required to pull it off. The good news is that the more you practice, the better you will get at it. 

If you are trying to look good on a budget, then investing in good accessories is a good idea. You can use high quality accessories to take bargain outfits from drab to fab. Even an interesting belt buckle can change a look. 

The key to accessorizing well is to be aware of the rules of fashion, not to overdo it, and to have fun. The most important accessory is your confidence, so never force yourself to wear accessories or outfits that make you feel bad about how you look. 

We’ll be covering more about the rules of accessorizing later in this guide. 

‘I’ve always thought accessories were the exclamation point on a woman’s outfit’ 

  •  Designer Michel Kors

The most notable types of accessories are: 

  • Shoes 
  • Jewelry 
    • Rings 
    • Earring 
    • Necklaces 
    • Bracelets 
  • Hairpieces 
    • Headbands
    • Bows 
    • Pins 
    • Clips 
  • Belts 
  • Hats 
  • Scarves 
  • Bags 
    • Handbag 
    • Shoulder bag 
    • Backpack  
    • Fanny Pack 
  • Makeup 
  • Hairstyles 
  • Gloves 
  • Nails 
  • Sunglasses 

Types of Accessories

Set of outfit with matching accessories

‘Accessories are important and become more important every day’ 

  • Designer Giorgio Armani 

Now that we have covered what accessorizing is, when are going to take a deeper dive into the 9 most common categories that most accessories fall into.

Footwear

‘I would be happy naked as long as I was wearing a fabulous pair of shoes.’ 

  • Model and designer Anna Del Russo 

Footwear is possibly the only type of accessory that you will need to wear on a daily basis. And for this reason, it often goes overlooked. Footwear often creates the foundation for the rest of our accessorizing. This means it is very important to get it right. 

Some outfits will call for your footwear to take a backseat. On those days you will want to be wearing something neutral or classic – like a pair of black pumps or a set of white sneakers. 

On other days you will want your footwear to be the center of attention. They will be the piece that elevates your look. 

Footwear comes in so many shapes and sizes, it’s important to have a good range in your wardrobe. Some days you will need a set of dainty flip flops and on another, you will need thigh high leather boots. 

Our one rule of footwear is to always keep it as practical as possible – i.e. stilettos are the wrong accessory for a day of hiking.  

Jewelry

‘You can’t cry on a diamond’s shoulder, and diamonds won’t keep you warm at night, but they are sure fun when the sun shines.’ 

– Actress and model Elizabeth Taylor

This category is one of everyone’s favorites. We all love shiny things, it’s in our nature. 

One of the great things about jewelry is that jewelry trends very rarely change. Once you purchase a piece you will be able to wear it for years to come. Particularly, if you’re investing in pieces made in a classic style. 

In fact, jewelry is one of the very few areas of fashion that gains value as it gets older. 

What would we include in the category of jewelry

Well, the obvious like rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. But the category also includes piercings (like belly button bars and nose rings), as well as body chains and watches. 

Because jewelry doesn’t go out of fashion, you don’t necessarily need a lot of jewelry. Particularly, if you are at the beginning of your accessorizing journey and are still trying to figure out your personal style. 

If you are new to buying jewelry then we would recommend starting with three main items – a set of silver or gold studs that appeal to you, a simple pendant, and a nice watch. Try to buy classic, simple pieces that could work with any outfit. 

The classic styles of watches really are timeless. Many designs haven’t changed on the outside in over 60 years. 

The same goes for earrings and bracelets. Many of the styles that were popular in the 1920s are still popular today in the 2020s. 

Hair Accessories

‘Hair accessories offer an easy way to show off your personal style.’

  • Stylist and Queer Eye star Tan France 

(Hairstyles and hair accessories are two different categories, we will cover more about hairstyles later in this section). 

If you’re blessed with enough hair to accessorize then you have a great opportunity to have a little fun with fashion. If you want to use playful accessories anywhere, then in your hair is the place to do it. 

On the other hand, you can use hair accessories (or lack of them) to add class and sophistication to a look. A great example that Tan France gives is to swap your brown hair tie for a white, silk scrunchie. 

Summer is a great time to break out colorful hair bands and hair scarves. Both of which are great at keeping your hair out of your face, and as a result keeping you cool. Accessories don’t have to be practical, but you may find impractical hair accessories are more hassle than they’re worth. 

Handbags

‘I’m very well organized these days, I keep my life in my handbag like most women’ 

  • Model Britt Ekland 

Bags are another great example of a practical accessory. Your choice of bag is often dictated by what you need to carry with you (unless you’re lucky enough to have an assistant or partner who will carry things for you). They are another accessory (like footwear) that you will find yourself using most days. 

Bags can range from totes the size of credit cards to wheelie cases you board a plane with – and everything in between. And they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. They also come in a very wide range of prices. 

Not every bag is appropriate for every situation. And not every bag needs to be a statement piece. If you are looking to invest in your bags for the first time then you should make sure that you have at least one neutral and practical bag that you can use every day, without being too worried about it becoming worn. 

Belts

‘I see BOLD accessories as womens’ armor.’ 

  • Actress and model Rachel Zoe 

Belts were born out of necessity. But they have evolved into something so much more. Now they are more than functional, they are fashionable. 

The main benefit of wearing a belt is its ability to define your waistline and give shape (or the illusion of shape) to an outfit. They look good on all genders and body types. 

Belts come in narrow, thin, plain, embezzled to the heavens, and pretty much everything in between. ,

In this category we are also including belt buckles. The oldest known belt buckle dates back to the iron age and they have been worn by nearly every culture since. In recent decades belt buckles have developed a mixed reputation, as they have been adopted by many political movements. 

However, do not underestimate the power of a well chosen belt buckle can have over an otherwise boring outfit. Just look at the Gucci Belt craze that started 40 years ago and is still going strong. 

Makeup

“I use color as a tool to enhance someone’s natural beauty and celebrate a woman’s radiance. Just the same way makeup is an accessory. I also believe strongly in enhancing women’s beauty with jewelry.”

  • Makeup artist Kerry Malouf 

The makeup industry is currently worth over $532 billion dollars. Yes, you did read that correctly. Thanks to makeup artists like Charlotte Tilbury and Pat Mcgrath making the move from the artist to the owner, we are able to learn from the best when it comes to using makeup as an accessory. 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to using makeup as an accessory. You can use it to reflect themes in your outfit, to contrast it, or to try and draw the attention away from your outfit completely. 

When beginning your fashion journey you should dedicate some time to learning how to use makeup as an accessory. You should experiment with different looks, and spend some time reading about to watch what the professional makeup artists do. Spend some time learning the rules. 

Because once you have learned the rules you can start to break them. More on this later.  

Many makeup artists are careful to draw the line between makeup as an accessory and a necessity. It is something for us to wear when it makes us feel good, but like all other accessories, we should never wear makeup because we feel pressured to do so. 

Hair

“I think that the most important thing a woman can have- next to talent, of course- is her hairdresser.” 

  • Actress Joan Crawford 

One of the true joys of hair as an accessory is that it is unique to us. Our natural hair is often a product of our family history. Treating our hair as an accessory and wearing it proudly is a great way to celebrate both our heritage and our natural beauty. Wearing your hair naturally is one of the truest and authentic expressions of your personal style. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with expressing through the way you style your hair. If you love rocking a mullet, then go for it. If you love dying your hair in all the colors of the rainbow, then rock it! As we mentioned above, confidence is the most important accessory you can wear. 

If you are new to hairstyling then the best thing you can do is to spend some time with a hairstylist who will help you get to know what suits you and what type of hair you have. 

Winter Accessories

‘A woman makes her outfit with her own accessories.’ 

  • Ciara 

The cold and wet months can be a tricky time for wearing accessories, as all we want to do is wrap up in a massive coat and not leave the house until spring arrives. But, don’t fear, it is possible to look good, even in the dead of winter, just ask Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Winter offers some great opportunities to stay warm and look good doing it. Scarves, gloves, and hats are an easy source of texture and color to pair with dark outfits. Or if you’re wearing bold outerwear then simple accessories can really make your coat pop. 

For us the real star of the show during the winter is the boots. We can’t get enough of them. We love rocking our scarlet Chelsea boots, our thigh high boots, and even our Huntington wellies. 

The winter months are the perfect time to break out your vampy and berry toned lipsticks and blushes. While it’s the perfect time to smother your eyelids with grungy greens and browns, or pop some jewel toned shimmers on those lids. 

How to Accessorize

3 women modeling their outfit

‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses alone’ 

  • Coco Channel 

Now that we have learned a little bit more about the basic categories of accessories. Let’s take a practical look at how to put an outfit together. 

Getting the right balance is key when it comes to accessories, and yes there is such a thing as too many accessories. If in doubt, follow the immortal words of Coco Channel: 

‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.’ 

(You can trust Coco, she really knew what she was talking about) 

Which accessory to choose

When you are putting together an outfit it is important to know what look you are trying to create. That will help guide you when it comes to putting on accessories. If you know you are trying to create a grungy look then you won’t need that string of pearls. Likewise, you can probably skip the bright pink choker for your Hepburn inspired look. 

We always recommend that beginners start by picking one statement accessory that they will work around when picking out the rest. 

You might decide that you want to wear your wide brimmed, straw hat. You can make that your focus accessory. Then try to pick out a few other accessories that really compliment that item. 

But, before you get too excited about extra accessories, make sure you find the perfect way to style your statement accessory. Make sure you love it and that you feel comfortable in it. 

After you are happy with your statement piece you can then go about picking items that are going to bring balance to your outfit, and key people’s eyes on the right piece. 

Think about colors, patterns, and prints

There are two way to approach this section: 

  1. Using plain accessories with outfits full of bright colors 
  2. Using brightly colored accessories to add to a plain outfit 

Using plain accessories with outfits full of bright colors

Sometimes it can be difficult to find an accessory that works with a bright outfit. It is equally difficult to find accessories that work with patterned pieces and/or animal print. 

Don’t panic, remember those classic pieces we told you to invest in earlier (the simple silver or gold pendant, the earrings, and the gorgeous watch)? This is where they come into their own. 

Classic and timeless pieces like a brown leather strap, watch, or diamond studs never go out of style. And they will work with any outfit. So, when you have put together a vibrant outfit, break out these understated yet classy pieces to balance out your look. 

Using brightly colored accessories to add to a plain outfit

This is definitely the more exciting of the two categories. Accessorizing a plain, nude, or monotone outfit is a great opportunity to have fun with fashion. 

Why not pair an all black outfit with a pair of leopard print boots. Or mix up an all denim outfit with a vibrant red neckerchief. 

Wear accessories that bring you joy and make you fall in love with an outfit, no matter how simple it is. 

One last tip – there is such a thing as being too matchy-matchy. Try to avoid this where possible – i.e you don’t need a leopard print bag, scarf, and watch strap to go with your leopard print boots. 

Use accessories to transform outfits

If you have got to this point in the article without realizing that you can use accessories to transform your outfit, then you need to start reading from the beginning. What we will be briefly discussing in this section is doing this with intention. 

An example of what we mean by this is using your accessories to turn an outfit from a daytime look to a nighttime one. 

A pantsuit with a matching blazer and comfortable shoes is a great look for the office. However, at the end of the day if you have to go on a date, you should shed the blazer and shoes. Put on a statement necklace and pair of heels to complement it – and you’re ready to hit the town. 

Makeup is going to be one of your secret weapons when it comes to this type of transformation. It really is hard to get your head around the transformational powers of a smoky eye and red lipstick. 

This trick is perfect for those days when you don’t have the time or the facilities to change your outfit between events. You should put together these outfit combinations in advance, especially if you’re someone who is a fan of last minute plans. 

If in doubt use colorful accessories on top of a monochromatic outfit. 

Make outfits unique

Despite how much we wish we could, most of us can’t afford to wear a new outfit every day. There are only so many combinations of the same clothing you can put together before you start to hate everything you own. 

This is where accessories come in. 

By adding three different accessories to your wardrobe, you have nearly infinitely expanded the different clothing combinations you have in your wardrobe. 

With the right accessories, you can breathe new life into your wardrobe. You can prevent monotony. And you can continue to experiment with fashion, without having to turn every room in your house into a walk-in closet. Although, we would totally do that if we could afford to. 

Don’t worry about matching

We have already mentioned this briefly. But it is very important so we want to bring it up again. 

Putting together an outfit with all matching accessories is a mistake that beginners make all the time. The more you experiment with accessory combinations the more confident you will get. And you will get better at doing it too. 

Matchy-matchy outfits scream beginner. They also can remove a certain level of class from the outfit. A top tip from Tan France is to learn more about color theory as it will help you come up with more creative ways to combine accessories. 

Unleash your inner fashionista

Woman on chair posing

Stepping into the world of fashion is a daunting task. When you do, remember that everyone started somewhere. It took us all time to wake up our inner fashionista. 

It took us many years of (sometimes embarrassing) trial and error to work out how to discover your own fashion tastes and style. However, we have decided to share our findings so that you can avoid some of the mistakes that we made. 

So, here is our quick guide to unleashing your inner fashionista. 

Find our inspiration – fashion magazines, blogs, and social media

When you learn how to paint, you begin by studying the masters like Michelangelo and Monet. This is a great way to learn what makes a good painting and how they are put together. You are also encouraged to look at art you don’t like, as you can learn just as much from that. 

When you are beginning your journey into fashion you should try and explore as many avenues as you can. Look through fashion magazines and through the social media of clothing lines. Make note of the things that appeal to you and why. Try and recreate something similar yourself. If you like it then great if you don’t then you have learned something new about yourself in the process. 

Consume as much fashion content as you can in the early stages. 

Looking for Accessories – Check out thrift stores and clearance bins

When you’re starting out you should try to avoid spending too much money on items that aren’t classic or timeless. 

At this point in your fashion journey, you are learning about who you are, what you like, and how you dress. 

You may be tempted by a designer body chain now. But you might find that, for you, putting on body chains is too much effort so you never end up wearing them. If you have picked up a body chain from a clearance store then you learned this lesson without losing a lot of money. What you don’t want is to have a designer body chain that is sitting around and not getting used. 

 As you get to know your inner fashionista more, you will start to learn what types of items are worth investing in. If you love hats and will wear them all the time then it might be worth buying a designer hat. Whereas you might also have no interest in handbags, so you definitely shouldn’t buy yourself a Burkin.

To summarize, as you are exploring your tastes don’t invest too heavily in accessories that are not classic or timeless pieces – like simple jewelry and watches.

Don’t be afraid to spend big on those classic items

Carrying on from our previous section, let’s talk about why, even as a newbie, it’s okay to invest in classic pieces – particularly jewelry.  

If you invest $600 in a classic watch, you will have no regrets. That watch will never go out of fashion. The likelihood is that if you get it from a desirable brand then it is only going to get more valuable the longer you have it. The watch is also going to last you for decades. 

Another benefit of investing in jewelry rather than other types of accessories is that watches and jewelry are relatively easy to repair if they get damaged. Watches will occasionally need their battery replaced – which usually costs less than $20. Jewelry may need to be taken in to be clean once every decade or so. Or the pieces may get damaged once in a lifetime. However, goldsmiths will have no problem repairing high quality jewelry.  

Other times like sunglasses are things that you can invest in. Sunglasses are another item that tends to be timeless. If you invest in a high quality pair of sunglasses they will last you for well over a decade. During that time the style will most likely not go out of fashion. 

Try to avoid investing in ‘trendy’ items – like trendy rings or sunglasses. They will age quickly and you won’t want to wear them a few years (or sometimes months) down the line. 

Rules are made to be broken

When you have spent the time studying the art of accessories and feel comfortable creating your own outfits it’s time to throw the rulebook out of the window. 

When you have reached this point you should start breaking the rules and experiment. You’ll find that now you understand your own tastes you are able to pull off things that go against the rules. 

5 tips to make accessorizing every day easier

  1. Plan your outfits the night before 
  2. Keep a catalog of outfits that you have put together that you love. You can go back to this when you’re stuck with what to wear
  3. Have your clothes tailored, it is a lot cheaper than having clothes made for you, but the end result is very similar 
  4. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes when you can 
  5. Learn how to store your clothes correctly, they will look better in the morning and they will last a lot longer 

Summary

Set of accessories from necklace to rings and earings

Accessories are a powerful tool in the hands of any fashionista. They can give you the ability to turn a drab monotone outfit into something exciting. Or even to take an already flawless outfit and elevate it to something Ralph Lauren would be jealous of. 

By taking the time to understand color theory, to study successful outfits, and practice with your own wardrobe – you will quickly be able to master the art of accessorizing. 

We can’t wait to see what outfits you come up with.

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