Beads, Bags, and Belts: Bedazzling Your Wardrobe


A delicious and beautifully prepared gourmet dinner would not seem quite complete if it were served on paper plates. On the other hand, the addition of lovely linens, colorful glassware, and sparkling dishes can make even a simple menu into one fit for a king.

The additions are called accessories—nonessential items that dress up and complete the basics, adding sparkle and interest. And the same principle is used in creating a complete outfit of clothing as in planning a special dinner. Fashion accessories include shoes, handbags, scarves, belts, jewelry, and in this day of the layered look, vests, sweaters, T-tops, and shirts. Because of their importance, they should be selected with the same thought and care as the items that make up your basic wardrobe.

Accessories can set one person apart from a room full of others dressed in similar ways. They not only help create a total look, but they can turn one outfit into many. Keep in mind that an ideal wardrobe is one that makes the greatest use of the least number of clothes. The addition of such items as belts, scarves, shoes, and jewelry, properly used, can take the same outfit from daytime to nighttime and from one season into another. The dollar investment in accessories is much less than in new clothing, so it is important to use them to gain their maximum benefit.

Too often accessories are only afterthoughts, when they should be planned with the rest of your wardrobe. Begin by analyzing what you now have. Place your accessories on your bed and determine which one will go with which outfit to create the looks you like. Analyzing your clothing in this way will help determine what you need to buy, will help prevent you from buying something you can’t use, and will also prepare you to know with confidence what accessories to put with which outfit.

“What do I have that will go with it?” is a question you should ask yourself before buying anything. Keep in mind what accessories you have on hand or if this purchase will call for additional purchases to complete the outfit. Also, before throwing away that old skirt, dress, etc., first consider what you can put with it or add to it to make it look fresh and new. Experiment with accessories. You will find your wardrobe will stretch and so will your budget. (You’ll also have fun!)

Your clothing should express your personality and your values. Use your own preferences to select the accessories that best suit the real you. Do not merely imitate someone else.

Scarves are some of fashion’s most versatile costume extenders. They can be used around the head, neck, shoulders, and waist to give color accents, fill in necklines, or create a different look. They are great to mix or match depending on your taste and creativity. However, if you have a short neck, be wary of tieing your scarves around your neck, and if you are short, stay away from long scarves or stoles. They can make you look even shorter.

No matter what fashion may be in style, belts are always valuable accessories. If you want to look taller or slimmer, choose a belt in the same color as the outfit you are wearing. Keep its width on the narrow side, and avoid a shiny finish such as patent leather. Remember also not to belt yourself too tightly. To cut your height, experiment with side belts and those made of contrasting colors.

A plain, medium, or high-heeled pump with a rounded toe both shortens and slenderizes the foot. The classic pump is a good example of this type of shoe and is also the most versatile of all styles. A bow or narrow strap across the instep breaks the length. An ankle strap shortens the leg and foot and should be avoided by those with chunky legs and ankles. Because flat shoes are apt to make your feet look larger, compensate by selecting shoes that have slenderizing details. With pants, lower and wider heels are most comfortable. Generally speaking, the sportier the pant, the chunkier the shoe should be.

Buy the best shoes you can afford for school. Because of the amount of wear they receive, they will be the best buy in the long run.

Run-down heels and scuffed leather or suede detract from the total look and should be corrected. With only a small amount of time and money; even these shoes can look new again and give you many more months of service. It is also well to note that conservative styles and colors are the most versatile and will serve you for a longer period of time than fads.

Accessories should be selected in scale to the size of your figure: medium size if you are average, large if you are tall, and smallish if you are petite. The principle is especially true with handbags. Large totes are wonderful for school, daytime, or shopping, but when you are purchasing them, be aware of their size in relation to yourself. For evening, a more feminine clutch or envelope style is probably more appropriate.

The size of jewelry is right when it is in proportion to the face and figure. For example, dainty pieces are better on a small figure, and chunky ones on a tall or larger figure. The shape is right when the lines run opposite to your own—circular jewelry softens a bony structure, and more angular items complement a rounder figure.

Width can be added to a thin face by wearing pearls, beads, or ribbon—choker fashion—around the neck. More width is suggested by larger and rounder beads, but it is interesting to know that a thin face sometimes appears even thinner if extra large earrings or beads are worn.

The longer the necklace, the longer your face will appear. Pendant or dangle earrings also emphasize length. Long earrings need a long neck, tiny drop earrings make a full face appear fuller, and small button or loop earrings look nice on nearly everyone.

Gold is good for either day or night, but glitter jewelry is usually not appropriate during the daytime.

Avoid wearing too many pieces of jewelry (or too many accessories) at one time. Often a simple earring, chain, or pin is enough to complete the look you want to achieve. This is an important point since, as in a work of art, there should be a focal point of interest. If too much jewelry or too many accessories are worn at one time, the look is confused and the impact lost.

After you have accessorized your outfit, look at the total effect. If the impression you receive is too busy, start removing accessories. When in doubt, always choose the simpler look. Check also to see if all your accessories are appropriate. Are those dressy sandals the right thing with that casual skirt, or would a pump be better? Is that tote bag really the right bag to take to a dance, or would you feel more comfortable with a smaller, dressier one?

Now that you have given much thought to how you have put your outfit together, stand back and look at yourself. The effect is dazzling! And the feeling that you are looking your best now leaves you free to forget yourself and concentrate your attention on those around you.

[photos] Photos by Eldon K. Linschoten

[photo] Add a little sparkle to your outfit by using pierced earrings as lapel pins on your blazer. Try placing your finger over this pin in the photo to see the difference a few finishing touches can make

[photos] By simply adding the shimmer of a gold belt or the glitter of a necklace to a blouse, you can transform an ordinary outfit (Modeled by Rebecca Burgoyne.)

[photos] Polish up your addition and subtraction by choosing from a corduroy vest, a crocheted sweater vest, or a blazer and scarf to go with the same shirt

[photos] Select a sophisticated turtleneck or a sporty plaid shirt to suit your mood (Modeled by Robyn Ivins.)