Polish your look with our picks for the best in staple fashion accessories and our tips on how to wear them.
By Anne Donahue
Who needs diamonds to dress up an outfit? With only a few key classic fashion accessories, you can take your ensemble up a few stylish notches while still capitalizing on the season’s hottest trends.
We spoke to stylist Michelle Gallant, the creator of Looks Image Consulting, to learn more about the fashion accessories every woman should own. She shares her tips and tricks on how to make the most of basic accessories this season.
1. Style Your Outfit with a Thick Belt
According to Gallant, a belt can make or break an outfit. “Belts go in and out of style, but a thicker style will help bring things in and call attention to a dress or looser top, making it more interesting,” she explains.
There are many shapes and sizes of belts out there, but thick, corset-style belts are the easiest to handle, says Gallant. By using a belt to create a defined silhouette, your outfits will seem sleeker and more streamlined. And since loose-fitting clothing can often come across as casual, adding a belt will immediately make your outfit seem more tailored and put together. Summer especially sees a lot of loose and flowing dresses and tops, making a belt an essential accessory for creating a more polished warm-weather look.
2. Bigger Earrings are Back
Since the current 1920s-era fashion trend involves details such as beading and sequins on blouses and dresses — often at the neckline — try swapping your usual necklaces for oversize earrings. “Don’t use your accessories to compete with beading,” stresses Gallant. “This season, earrings are back in a huge way and bigger is better. Make your focal point your ears.”
However, it’s important to ensure that your choice of earrings complements both your outfit and your skin tone. “The colour of metal that you wear is very important,” Gallant explains. “If you’ve got a warm skin tone, you’ll look better in pieces that are soft gold or antique gold, or even the brushed gold look. Cooler skin tones look much better in shiny or antique silver.”
You’ll also want to maintain a balance between your earrings and your clothing. If your outfit is streamlined, opt for big and bold jewelry to make more of a statement. However, if your outfit has a lot going on, keep your earrings understated to maintain a more subtle and delicate look.
3. Strap on Some Bracelets
To dress up your outfits and keep your look modern this summer, Gallant suggests donning bracelets: “Wearing a lot of mixed tone-on-tone jewelry on both wrists works well,” she says.
But before you load up your arms with every bangle in sight, have a look at your bone structure and consider your height. “People who are smaller and more delicate look better when they balance their jewelry accordingly. If you’re wearing something too big or too chunky, that’s too much,” she warns. For a less aggressive look, Gallant advises keeping the volume of bracelets on the skinnier side, especially if your outfit is already elaborate. “Accessories should look like an integral part of your outfit — not the focal point,” she says. “You have to look at how detailed your clothes are and where you can draw attention to other areas.”
4. Wear Simple Understated Rings
Unlike bracelets, which lend themselves well to stacking, sporting an excessive number of rings can create a messy, thrown-together look. Gallant recommends keeping rings minimal. “If you’re wearing a lot of jewelry on your wrists already, keep your fingers simple by just wearing one ring that complements or matches the tone of your bracelets,” she advises. “A cocktail ring on the middle finger is a great choice.” You don’t want to overdo it with too much jewelry, she adds. “It can make your outfit look messy.”
When choosing a statement or cocktail ring, keep the tones of the rest of your outfit and any other jewelry in mind — and when it doubt, let the statement piece shine. For example, a large gold ring dresses things up, but by adding silver bangles and earrings you downplay the ring’s beauty.
5. Use Your Purse to Complete or Enhance Your Look
A bag can immediately dress up any outfit, provided it doesn’t compete with the overall look you’re trying to create. “Don’t go too big for something dressy,” instructs Gallant. “The bigger the accessory, the more it will get noticed. If your dress has a lot going on, you don’t want a big purse that will draw attention away from the dress.”
If that’s the case, keep your clutch or handbag simple (think smooth or patent black leather). However, if you’re using the purse to enhance your outfit, think about adding colour (go bold with a refreshing shade of coral) or embellishments (beading is big for spring and summer).
Up the ante of your everyday outfits with one — or more! — of these five staple accessories. If you keep everything balanced and avoid overdoing it with too many extras, it’s easy to achieve the ultimate polished look.