I’ve posted about complements several times on YLF, and it bears repeating because a functional wardrobe has items that relate to each other, where items can be easily mixed and matched to create outfits that look and feel great. One way to create such a wardrobe is through building and wearing what I call complements.

A complement is a small group of accessories and footwear that match in colour, pattern or vibe, and can be worn together. Adding the items from a complement to an outfit makes it look more cohesive and rich, and gives it a punchy finishing touch. I create seasonal colour complements with footwear, bags, scarves, belts and sometimes eyewear. But most are created with shoes, scarves and a handbag or two.

When I shop to refresh my wardrobe, I think about the complements that I have, how I can build on to them, and which complements I might build from scratch. As I was shopping this year’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS), I had light neutrals like cream and oatmeal in mind. I have all sorts of optical white and off-white shoes, bags and belts to create complements with, but I don’t have a complement in a rich cream. Although I happily mix shades of white, I also like to match them. And because white wardrobe items are my thing and white is the most important neutral for my style, creating a cream complement is not a duplication.

I had a successful NAS, and unexpectedly came home with two pairs of cream shoes. A pair of loafers and a more refined pair of combat boots, neither of which I have in a rich shade of cream. I saw a great cream barrel bag and an oatmeal cashmere scarf that together with the shoes, would complete the complement. The bag is absolutely darling and beautifully made. It’s a richer cream than the stock photo and matches perfectly. The oatmeal cashmere scarf is darker but works well. It’s an unusual shorter length that is easier to tie and tuck into outerwear. The texture is pretty too. The collection shows the exact pieces of the new complement.

Complements are an easy, versatile and effective styling tool, which is why I go to the trouble of planning and creating them. They can be worn over and over again, season after season, and have a high longevity factor. Complement building also means combining old wardrobe items with new items, which gives me great satisfaction because I don’t like forgetting about my old stuff. So I bought the same cashmere scarf in light blue with an aqua tinge to match a handbag I’ve had for six years. It doesn’t look like it in the stock photos, but they are a perfect colour match. I’m in no rush, but it would be nice to eventually find a pair of hi-tops or boots in the same shade of blue.

I tend to stick to solid complements because I wear a lot of pattern. Some of my clients add patterns to their complements, and do so with scarves, or animal print bags and shoes. That’s because they generally wear solids allowing the patterns to emerge in complements.

Over to you. Do you build outfit complements with footwear and accessories? If so, do you find it an effective styling tool because it helps pull a look together.