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You know your dress is beautiful -- now you just have to figure out how to accessorize it.
You know your dress is beautiful -- now you just have to figure out how to accessorize it.
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There's nothing quite like finding the perfect dress for a first date, or for girls' night out or for strutting around the house looking cute. Ditto for dark-wash jeans that make your waist look tiny and the slinky beaded halter baring exactly enough to turn some heads and make them ponder respecting you.

And there's nothing quite like ruining it with the absolute wrong shoes, too much jewelry, or a scarf that makes you look like a cow.


Finding the outfit is often the easy part. Finding the accessories can be tricky, and the accessories make the look. Yet so many of us forget to put as much thought into accessorizing our clothing as we do into the clothing itself. That may be due to fashion laziness. More likely it's because accessorizing can be hard, really hard, and we figure it's better to go without than to look ridiculous. Which is accurate.

Still, it's a beautiful thing when you get it right. Shoes, belts, jewelry, headbands, scarves, gloves, tights -- all ways to take it to the next level. It's the difference between getting dressed and getting stylish. It can also be the difference between lean and dumpy, short and tall, and hourglass and apple.

A night out in the perfect dress is not the time to go without. In this article, we'll find out how to accessorize your clothes to create a great look, how to use accessories to improve your perceived figure, and which trends we should leave to the runway models who could pull off wearing a lampshade.

Since outfit possibilities are infinite, it's best to start with knowing what works for you and what doesn't. The ability to accessorize for your body can make a real difference in the way you look.


Accessorize for Your Body

Accessorizing for an evening at the opera or theater is sure to be easier than achieving this look.
Accessorizing for an evening at the opera or theater is sure to be easier than achieving this look.
Photo courtesy of Nashville.gov

Most designers are designing for 5-foot-10, 110-pound models. Unless you're one of them, you need to pick and choose from the accessories out there when designing your evening look.

And the look for you're going for, always, is balance.


If you've managed to escape modern society's brainwashed vision of beauty, more power to you. Otherwise, you're aiming for "hourglass." Skinny hourglass, curvy hourglass, athletic hourglass: The bust and the hips are balanced, and the waist is smaller than each.

About 8 percent of the fairer sex actually looks like this [source: NCS]. The rest of us fake it, and accessories can help us do that.

It's about balancing proportions, which is pretty easy if you just take an honest look at yourself. If your hips are the widest part of your body, a silk wrap around your shoulders and bust can even you out. An evening jacket, a tiered and ruffled top, or even a big pair of earrings can have a similar effect. A skinny scarf wrapped snugly around your neck would have the opposite effect, making everything below it appear huge.

Bust too big for the rest you? A wide, studded belt around your hips can fix that, drawing attention downward and balancing top and bottom. You could try a pair of platform shoes for that result, too. Again, avoid the skinny scarf.

Balance is key to looking (conventionally) great, but it's not the only key. Accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative always applies. In accessories, that could mean drawing the eye to a long, graceful neck with a choker, putting a statement bracelet on a slender wrist, covering up a bad hair day with a sexy fedora, and knowing if your waist no longer merits a sparkly, attention-grabbing cincher.

In a nutshell:

  • Look for simple, neutral, monotone accessories for areas you don't want to accentuate. Black, tan, or navy blue can work well.
  • Bright, intricate, "statement" accessories (aka "focal pieces") can draw the eye to your best features. Save beading, embellishment and multicolor pieces for areas you want to show off.

Accessorizing for your body will get you part of the way to looking your stylish best. The rest depends on the outfit your body's got on.


Accessorize for Your Outfit

Don't go overboard with your owl pendant -- it's charming enough on its own.
Don't go overboard with your owl pendant -- it's charming enough on its own.

If balance is the name of the game in faking a (conventionally) perfect figure, harmony is what you're going for in actually having the perfect look.

Harmony involves a lot of factors, but some primary ones to consider include theme and style.


Theme can be color, texture, a unifying element or even an era. Consider pairing a gold cuff with a drapey, Grecian maxi dress, or a pair of dark green earrings with a lighter green mini skirt. A wide, '60s style headband can look chic with a day dress or Gidget-y capris. Bronze-studded, tan gladiator sandals would be perfectly pulled through with a tan leather clutch and a bronze belt.

Style is related to theme and has a lot to do with the feel of an outfit. For instance, black leather platform pumps and a slouchy hobo bag would be far too clunky with a spaghetti strap, chiffon mini dress. Strappy sandals, silver clutch and maybe a small, rhinestone hair clip would be a better style match. On the other hand, platform pumps and a large bag, maybe with a couple of buckles, would totally fit with a bold, strong-shouldered cropped blazer and wool wide-legs.

With harmony in mind, it's still crucial to remember the golden rule in accessorizing: Don't overdo it. That's when the look falls apart and "ridiculous" comes together. That means:

  • Choosing a focal point (only one statement piece at a time).
  • Choosing between large earrings and a large necklace, or any other pieces in close vicinity.
  • Refraining from exactly matching your accessories to your outfit or to each other (the vintage owl pendant loses its charm when you pair it with an owl bracelet and owl ring).

Beyond that, have a field day. There's nothing wrong with a little fashion risk, and if you pay attention to your body shape, what works with the outfit and how much is too much, you can't go all that wrong. There's always next weekend to get it right, anyway.


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More Great Links

  • Brumby, Amanda. "Accessorizing tips." Examiner.http://www.examiner.com/x-36200-Gainesville-Fashion-Examiner~y2010m1d26-Accessorizing-tips
  • Lo, Danika. "How Not to Look Fat in Accessories." iVillage.http://makeovers.ivillage.com/new-look/0,,9kph91ch,00.html
  • The Magic of Accessorizing. StyleMakeoverHQ.http://www.style-makeover-hq.com/accessorizing.html
  • Tips to accessorize a bright color dress. FocusOnStyle.http://www.focusonstyle.com/Call-My-Stylist/accessorize-bright-color-dress