In the rag trade we talk about three large categories of wardrobe items: clothing, footwear and accessories. Accessories are items like handbags, scarves, belts, jewellery, watches, hats, gloves, and eyewear. Footwear has its own category and is not lumped together with accessories. 

Accessories can be extremely powerful because they complete a look, often taking it from fine to fabulous. Accessories add personality to your outfit, dress it up or down, incorporate a playful element, add glam, amplify polish, add layering interest, make a statement, or strike up a conversation with a stranger.

More importantly, the right accessory is extremely practical. Winter hats, scarves and gloves insulate. Sun hats prevent sunburn. Sunnies prevent glare. Watches tell the time and more. Belts keep your pants up, and eyewear helps you see.

By all means sport many accessories at once if you have a maximal style, because there are no rules about how many accessories you should sport in one outfit. Gone are the days when it was best to sport one huge accessory at a time and make a statement with it. Sport two, three or more if that’s your preference. More can be more.

If you have a minimal style, less is more. This means you’ll sport few accessories or none at all. Or you can mix it up sporting as many or as few accessories that tickle your fancy on a day.

The accessory styles of my clients run the gamut. Here’s a sampling:

  • Client A is maximal and sports it all in one outfit. 
  • Client B wears nothing but a wedding ring or Apple watch, and doesn’t even carry a bag.
  • Client C wears simple outfits, and lets statement accessories do the talking.
  • Client D sticks to a few jewellery pieces and wraps up when it’s cold.
  • Client E changes their bag, earrings, necklace and belt daily.
  • Client F sticks to one bag a season, but goes to town with her jewellery. 
  • Client G makes a statement with scarves and belts.
  • Client H wears statement eyewear and big earrings.
  • Client I sticks to studs, rings, bracelets and contact lenses.
  • Client J wears arm candy and toe rings in the warm months.
  • Client K wears real jewellery only.

The accessories you choose are as personal as your style. You might feel like lots of accessories one day, month, season or year, and fewer the next. You might like bracelets one year, and brooches the next. There is no right or wrong accessory, as long as you’re happy with your look.

I adore accessories. I prefer accessories to footwear, and let them do the talking rather than the shoes I’m wearing. I wear accessories to add polish, dressiness, glam, shine, colour and interest to my outfits. Some accessories are extremely practical, and others an adorning necessity. Here’s my accessory strategy in order of importance. I wear #1 to #4 daily.

1. Eyewear

About seventeen years ago, I needed to wear prescription eyewear most of the time because I’m near-sighted. That’s when I decided that my specs would be the most important accessory of my style. I make a statement with them, and buy the very best that I can afford. Most of the time they’ve been non-neutral, and some style of cat’s-eye.

I wear sunnies regularly, but have few pairs because they need prescriptive lenses. Those have always been Modern Retro. At the moment, I have round tortoiseshell Ray-Bans, and a pearlized white vintage pair from 1960. Here’s my eyewear.

2. Handbags

I LOVE handbags. They are hands down my favourite accessory. I have 23, love them dearly, and swap them out daily. I prefer them dressy, structured, non-neutral, or white. Not too big, relatively classic, beautifully made, with minimal gold hardware, and with the option of a crossbody strap for travel. I have a large Italian family of Furlas. Here are my wardrobe pets.

3. White Pearls

I’m not a jewellery person, but what I have is very focussed, worn daily, real, and custom-made. Two chunky white pearl necklaces, two white pearl bracelets and and pearl wedding ring with gold metal. Occasionally I wear a very special gold and garnet vintage Yorkie brooch from 1961 that was an incredible gift from a client. I don’t wear earrings, although I have two holes in each ear.

4. Watch

I wear the same gold watch every day, and on the same wrist as my ring and bracelets. I would love to find another, but haven’t yet found a watch better than the one I have.

5. Scarves

I wear scarves to create colour complements with my bags and shoes, and to keep me warm. You have to wear a scarf in the Netherlands because of the nasty cold wind. In warm weather, I wear a gauzy linen or cotton scarf to keep the blazing hot sun off my neck.

6. Belts

I used to wear belts a lot more frequently with low and mid-rise jeans and pants. But now that 95% of my pants and jeans are high rise, I seldom wear belts. I’m keeping all of them in case I feel like wearing them again.

Finally, a smile is a great accessory. You can wear it daily, it always fits, and does not date. So are laughter lines, because they are evidence of smiles and laughter, which is good for the soul.

Over to you. What is your accessory strategy?