Makeover montage, part ten thousand—accessorize me!
November 24, 2014 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Please help me select, buy, and actually wear accessories/jewelry that look great and make me happy—from scratch. I need best practices, inspiration photos, or just that One Weird Trick that makes you look great and put-together every day. Go!

So I've been dialing in my clothes situation, and I suspect accessories are the next step to having A Look that feels more finished. My general style has landed on fairly polished, almost austere—slim jackets, cigarette pants, just-so slouchy sweaters. I wear a lot of conventionally feminine things like pointed-toe heels and pencil skirts but kind of in a hard, not-girly way, and my hair is a VERY short asymmetrical pixie. I usually like a little softness or surprise to temper the general hardass aesthetic, with mixed textures (handknits, silk, raw-edge wool) or one super-femme thing like leopard print pumps.

Or—this question is from my apparent style twin, down to the black and gray and gold.

Specific things I struggle with:

  • Understanding when I need an accessory. I often look at myself and despite liking the outfit feel like it needs...something, a visual stinger of some kind. I like my general minimalism so maybe it's not about something big, but more like wearing exactly the right black belt or piece of (small) jewelry? How do I know what it is?

  • Or if it IS about bolder touches, how do I do that well? Especially statement jewelry; for example I would love to wear a super-simple outfit with a fantastic necklace but whenever I do this it looks wrong and incomplete, like pajamas and a tiara. Is it about silhouette, or fabrics, or what? UGH.

  • Combining items and not wearing too many or too few things (I already wear a chunky-ish rose gold watch and thick black plastic-framed glasses every day). Can I mix metals? Can I wear jewelry AND other accessories together? Hair stuff?

  • Confidence—obviously the self-consciousness is not helping me get better at this. I would be more confident about accessorizing if I at least thought I had done a great job, but...I never do.

  • Finding things I love—where do grown-ups buy jewelry and accessories that are cheap (under $30) but don't look cheap for fun/novelty items, and not expensive (under $100) for everyday/workhorse pieces?

  • Things that I know I do like: 1) Metal jewelry, with a tendency toward hard/geometric shapes. I like organic things sometimes but more like one big unpolished stone than delicate floral or fauna motifs. 2) Interesting textiles, for a very specific value of interesting that tends to mean overall plain but richly textured and imperfect up close, like handwoven fabrics or raw weaves.

    ...And that's it. But I know there are more things out there! Basically I need help developing a point of view or sense of taste about accessories, and help developing a critical eye about them on me as part of an overall outfit, not random add-ons. I've been very specific about my tastes here, but I think general tips for thinking about accessorizing, no matter your own style, would totally help me out—I'm basically starting from zero here. Thanks, well-accessorized AskMeFites!!
    posted by peachfuzz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
    I find that statement necklaces are the easiest way to jewelry-ify an outfit, and if I'm wearing one I don't really need to worry about other jewelry or accessories. I like H&M and Forever 21 for cheap necklaces, and I prefer ones with colorful beads or plastic elements to metal/stones, because at that price point the metal ones are more likely to look cheap (or irritate my skin).

    Here's a previous question on matching necklace length to necklines; the illustration linked in the first answer is super useful.
    posted by Metroid Baby at 2:13 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    I'm still working toward my fully formed accessory self, but I've found that I do best when I go for extra pow with accessories I already like (earrings, rings, bracelets, scarves) rather than trying to force accessories I don't favor (necklaces, hair do-dads, pins). If I already like them, I'm far more likely to throw them on and feel comfortable and like myself. I've tried to incorporate things from the non-favored list, but I feel weirdly self-conscious in those items and that's not a good every day feeling.

    I mostly buy from artists and Etsy where I find more unusual pieces and then round out what I have with items from places like Nordstrom Rack where the finishes are better and I have less anxiety about weird metals that could irritate or discolor me (it's not a well-researched bias, but I haven't had a problem with items I've bought there).

    I wear glasses, carry a large purse, and have a bold wedding ring, so I try not to go overboard with extras. I'll usually just add two accessories past those every day things to round the look out. It helps me avoid the "take one thing off before you leave" rule.
    posted by quince at 2:31 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    If your outfits are very simple, maybe go with something that's a bold color, but shapewise simple. If you like a softer look, maybe go with organic shapes. Necklace or brooches are good for that.

    If in doubt, less is better wrt number of items.
    posted by Ferreous at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2014

    I love the aesthetic you're describing, and most of my favourite jewellery is from COS.
    posted by carbide at 2:41 PM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

    Seconding COS. My aesthetic is pretty similar to yours (at least part of the time) and COS is great in general for it. I tend to go for long chains with interesting pendants with my slouchy sweaters, they're highly visible, but subtle enough that I don't feel overdone. Scarves are what I wear in lieu of statement necklaces. Mine have either interesting textures or abstract patterns in a muted colour palette. Grey, black, white and dusty deep greens and purples are what I favour, as they match pretty much everything in my wardrobe.

    I find a lot of stuff at TJ Maxx, honestly. (Well, it's TK Maxx over here, but it's the same company.) There's a lot of horribly dated past-season stuff sometimes, and way too much blingy stuff for my taste, but most of my good scarves, bags, and some of my favourite pieces of jewellery are TK Maxx finds. The jewellery doesn't tend to be really awful cheap crap, where the metal is too bright and shiny, think decent department store costume jewellery as opposed to, I dunno, Claire's.
    posted by skybluepink at 3:14 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    I have a really tough time accessorizing so I go for cubic zirconia faux diamond studs, plus one of either a bold, beautifully designed geometric ring (which took time to find. gallery stores seem to be good for that) or a simple necklace with a no-frills silver or gold beady thingamajig. The faux diamond studs go with absolutely everything.

    Spending some time on Pinterest helped me identify a style, so even though I was hesitant to do it when it was recommended to me, I'd definitely recommend that.
    posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 4:04 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Scarves are amazing. Also, when you do feel like you nail it, take a picture of yourself so you can have a visual reminder of what works. Cocktail rings are fun. Try to integrate one print into each outfit... this is where scarves can help, or blouses... don't go matchy matchy
    posted by hippychick at 4:38 PM on November 24, 2014

    I think scarves are hard (I never know how to tie them right) but I think a bracelet always helps you look tied together but not too overdone.
    posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:41 PM on November 24, 2014

    Have you tried wearing some of the statement necklaces around the house/on weekends to get used to them? It probably just looks weird to you because you're not used to it. Taking a photo and looking at that instead of the mirror can help, too.
    posted by momus_window at 4:49 PM on November 24, 2014

    Regarding this question: "Understanding when I need an accessory. I often look at myself and despite liking the outfit feel like it needs...something, a visual stinger of some kind." A friend of a friend works at Nordstrom's. Have you ever noticed how all the salespeople look fashionable, smart or otherwise more pulled together than the average Joe? This friend says they have a rule there: if you're going to be on the sale floor, you have to be wearing at least 3 pieces. So if you're wearing pants and top, you need at least 1 more thing: a cardigan, scarf, necklace, blazer, etc.

    That's the answer for "when." I'm sure MeFites will help you fill in the "what."
    posted by purple_bird at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

    My rule is earrings + 1. So I usually have small, unobtrusive earrings + either an interesting bangle or two or a necklace. I don't have much, just a few basics and a couple of statement pieces to mix and match. I use grey (steel or charcoal), black and silver. Goes with just about everything and needs very little time or thought.
    posted by cestmoi15 at 5:34 PM on November 24, 2014

    I wear the same bracelet watch and my wedding band every day. I type a lot and I don't like a lot of stuff on my arms and fingers.

    I have pretty stylish glasses, and I don't do earrings.

    I like a statement necklace, but be careful, the really cool ones weigh a TON!

    I also like having one handbag. Who wants to fuss around with different bags? I pick a really classic one and use it with every outfit.

    I have many, many shoes, but truth be told, I usually wear the same three pairs.

    So my advice, go classic with all but one item. It's easy to do, easy on the wallet and you can wow them with your cool necklaces.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Chunky vintage Bakelite bracelets would look amazing on you. Like this. Added advantage: easy to resell if you get tired of them, unlike cheap modern stuff.

    Double layer möbius cowls in bold colors or interesting prints. Go see what Fancy Tiger has in the way of jersey, I bet they've got good stuff or know who does.

    My general rule of thumb is "the more functional, the better," which is why I like the cowls. Bracelets are easy to slip off if you need to dig your hands into something and don't interfere with typing as much as rings do, for me. Cowls can practically be a fabric "necklace," which is nice. Don't do hair accessories with the kind of cut you have, it's super cool enough on its own.

    Also: funky shoes make even the plainest outfit sing. Fluevogs. Yum. My secret weapon. Ditto Doc Marten high heels.
    posted by at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2014

    I read somewhere that Marilyn Monroe said that when she thought she was ready to go out, she would stand with her back to the mirror, twirl around, and take off the first accessory that caught her eye. This has worked pretty well for me too.

    I do mix metals but if wearing a necklace, I'll usually try to make both necklace and earrings the same. I like to wear unexpected pops of color in my earrings. Years of watching What Not to Wear taught me that things don't have to match, they have to "go". Also, one item with an animal print per outfit. Pinterest is good for outfit inspiration too.
    posted by tamitang at 7:17 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Your haircut + description of your clothing style is leading me to say "super cool earring will do the trick for you", so I'm going to make a couple wicked-specific recommendations:

    These look like polished safety pins (I have a pair in matte silver and wear them constantly), these are structural and bitchin'. I also bought a pair of these threader earrings a few weeks ago and they are very versatile. My ears are double-piereced, so I like something like these in the top spot (I have them in gold and silver, and sometimes I wear them together).

    You could also do tiny earrings and a long necklace with the clothing you describe, and each of the jewelers above do lovely stuff, as does this one. Good luck!
    posted by ersatzkat at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

    You sound like a statement watch , statement purse, and some great earrings would be fabulous with your style. Fuss free, not too fiddly, and very gorgeous.
    posted by shazzam! at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2014

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