What's that One Fabulous Accessory?
August 3, 2007 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Help me find one or two "signature" accessories to make my boring work clothes super fantastic.

I have this bright red vinyl purse that I've had for years and LOVE. I've gotten more compliments on it than almost anything else I own, but it's getting a little tired and I'm looking for something to replace it.

Basically, I got it because I felt like my other clothes were kind of dull, and just having it makes the whole outfit way more stylish and interesting.

Any recommendations? It doesn't have to be a purse--it could be shoes or a jacket or anything. Just that one thing that you go "ooh."

My style is kinda-sorta "hip librarian", I guess. I wear a lot of little a-line or pencil skirts (kind of like this which I don't own) and mary-jane shoes (like these which I do own).

I am actually a librarian--I wouldn't say I'm actually hip.
posted by exceptinsects to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Scarves are my favorite way to zizz up a basic outfit, and they can be pretty inexpensive (e.g., if you buy them at ethnic/import shops instead of department stores). A few outsized, colorful scarves that you can drape over a shoulder, or wrap at the neck with ends dangling, will certainly liven things up.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:25 AM on August 3, 2007

Check out the rockabilly look. I'd have to do a search for any online sources, so I'll just leave that to you. You should be able to find a fabulous purse (or something) with an edgy feel. Also, check out etsy.
posted by yohko at 11:28 AM on August 3, 2007

Go vintage! Maybe a cool Enid Collins purse, a fitted 40's blazer, a beaded 50's sweater.

Or if you're feeling a bit more outrageous, maybe some novelty print pieces from Lilly Pulitzer or Vested Gentress.

You'll never have to worry about having the same clothes as someone else, and you'll generally get better quality for a lower price.
posted by suki at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

For great ideas read "Accessories: Chic Simple" by Kim Johnson. It's about 10 years old but it's still a good resource.
posted by Soda-Da at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2007

posted by poppo at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: I travel for work a lot, so all of my work clothes are basics in a mix-and-match color palette - ergo, boring. I jazz 'em up with shoes, jewelry, and handbags primarily, and as Kat Allison said, the occasional scarf.

For shoes, I like Fluevog, as they carry many styles that are familiar (like the mary jane style) with a bit of a twist, like a crazy heel or an unexpected color combination. I see that you're in San Diego - the closest store to you is in Los Angeles, but they do ship.

For jewelry and scarves, I tend to pick things up as I go along. I look for things that add a little sparkle here and there, or that have an unusual shape or texture. Organic jewelry works well for this (like stones, wood, etc.) - something like this amber necklace from Target. Piercing shops are actually a good place for this as they tend to have a lot of organic jewelry made from stone, horn, and wood, and will usually have a few necklaces and the like in those materials. Enigma is in your area and they have a big selection of organic jewelry.

You already know the handbag thing - get a color or texture that pops, and it'll perk up the whole outfit. Also, you might try things like little vintage (or vintage-inspired) cardigans with interesting details like contrast trim or cool buttons.
posted by bedhead at 11:42 AM on August 3, 2007

Fall is coming, and my vote is for awesome boots. Funky boots pair perfectly with a plain outfit - think purple, red, or with some neat chain/strap detail!

An animal print pump would be my next suggestion... check out Victoria's Secret for inspiration.
posted by infinityjinx at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2007

Well, maybe it would be cliche for you since you're a librarian, but I love having my eyeglasses be my signature piece. I try to go for unusual but flattering shapes & colors when I buy a new pair of eyeglasses. My latest pair is a plum colored geometric frame that has gotten a lot of compliments, though my last pair was my all-time favorite (in navy).

Alternately I like the idea of finding a unique handbag or a signature piece of jewelry like a funky watch or maybe a charm bracelet.
posted by tastybrains at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2007

I get a lot of my scarves for cheap (no more than a few dollars) from thrift stores. The scarves are usually dumped in a tangled mass off in some dusty corner, but if you dig, you can find some sweet stuff.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2007

Power Jewelry! I get comments on this necklace all the time. It's bright, graphical and made of camel bones, so I can use it as a conversation starter (Oh yeah I love Indian everything, I make a kickass Aloo Palak, you should come over sometime yadda yadda)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:14 PM on August 3, 2007

One of my friends is using glasses to be that part of her wardrobe, but instead of one very distinct pair, she has well over half a dozen from those bargain internet places. So she's able to buy those crazy types where you think, "I could only wear those with one or two things." I guess when you have a bunch of affordable glasses, that's not so much of a concern.
posted by advicepig at 12:29 PM on August 3, 2007

Target is selling $15 ballet slippers right now; my fave is in leopard print. These are NOT heavy duty walking shoes but man are they cute. I stocked up!
posted by media_itoku at 12:31 PM on August 3, 2007

Ooh, I'm glad to see someone else has mentioned those bargain internet glasses places. I'm planning on ordering a couple pairs from Zenni Optical myself.

People love my bright red Dansko sandals, and *I* love my ridiculously pointy brown Lucchese cowboy boots. They cost a mint, but they're plain but classy and just edgy enough to be super awesome. And they'll go with EVERYTHING.

I guess my comment is to never buy things you don't LOVE, and try to stay away from things you see everyone else wearing. You don't have to dress really "out there," but if you dress simply in general with your one or two awesome pieces, people will notice them (and you!).
posted by Madamina at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: I second Ambrosia Voyeur. Get big, chunky pieces of jewelry. Lots of brooches to go with cardigans (which I assume you own quite a few of, since we seem to have the exact same style), large , expressive earrings to go with an all-black outfit, nice cuff-style bracelet to go with typically "boring" outfit - that style.

Some links of things I own and get compliments on all the time but was unsure about buying at first but now I'm really glad I did:
Customized Cuff Bracelet with quotes/sayings
Betsey Johnson Necklace (all Betsey Johnson, really)
Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. pumps
Personalized Silver Name Necklace (ala Carrie in Sex in the City)

So many more, but I can't remember websites right now. But just go for it - pair electric blue pumps with a gray sweater and a black skirt. Wear one HUGE piece of jewelry like a necklace and then no other accessory.
posted by banannafish at 1:12 PM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: I would totally do the glasses thing, but I actually have perfect vision, and it just seems terribly smurfy to wear fake glasses, you know?
posted by exceptinsects at 1:14 PM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: Oh bannanafish, why did you have to show me those shoes??
I am now in love and there is just no way I can afford them.
posted by exceptinsects at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: (Sorry b-fish, please rearrange your 'n's to your liking.)
posted by exceptinsects at 1:18 PM on August 3, 2007

Big earrings or dramatic necklaces. Be 'that librarian with the awesome earrings'. Also, you can go to places like H&M/Zara/Accessorize (etc etc) and get lots of different funky ones for relatively little money; that allows you to have 'earrings' as your signature, while still having variety. (Things like jackets and purses need to be pretty poor quality in order to be something you can stock up on.)

Also, I love those shoes you linked to. Sooo cute!
posted by Kololo at 1:25 PM on August 3, 2007

Oh exceptinsects, they're worth it... they're worth it.
Oh, and if you're looking for amazing shoes you can't go wrong with Cynthia Rowley has some really cute shoes
posted by banannafish at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: Figure out what accessories work for you. I have always had a very boring (i.e. pretty much all black) work wardrobe, but recently I've been experimenting with scarves (short neck + big chest = not a good look), rings (distracting for everyone - I can't stop fiddling with them), earrings (get caught up in long hair), before discovering that for me, it's shoes (especially ones that aren't black) and bold necklaces that work for me. Not only do they give me the feeling that your red purse gives you, but they are the source of constant "Fab shoes / necklace! Where did you get them / it?" comments from my co-workers.

When shopping, remember the feeling you get when you are carrying your red purse and keep that in the front of your mind when shopping - if something makes you feel that way when you try it on, buy it! If you're anything like me, the first time you wear something new you may feel a bit selfconscious, but this disappears as soon as someone compliments you on it.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2007

I agree with the jewelry suggestion - I make a lot of my own jewelry, and I like traditional materials done in an unusual way (shaped or colored pearls, semi-precious stones in a big or unusual cut), and I like large, bold strands of single, big colors. We've come out the other side of the Wilma Flintstone enormous nugget necklace trend, but I think there's a middle ground between that and wispy. The necklace on the cover of this book always inspires me (not a rec for the book, btw) - the color combo is unexpected, and you could really wear it with so much, but I would never instinctively put those colors together. It's a nice reminder to keep your mind open (for me, at least)

Fall is coming, so I would also suggest patterned tights or an insanely cool trench coat-type thing. Bright patent is showing up for fall, too, so why mess with something you like? I've seen a couple deep blue navy bags that look really cool with neutrals.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:04 PM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks Kololo, I love them too, and they are actually very comfortable.

Speaking of fabulous shoes, they are having a kind of ridiculous sale at Fluevog right now.

I think I'm going to get these blue Lucille ones--they kind of give the feeling of the L.A.M.B. shoes Banannafish linked, but for 1/3 the price, yay!
posted by exceptinsects at 5:59 PM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, THESE.
Apologies for the broken link.
posted by exceptinsects at 6:17 PM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: I am all about mixing impactful colours in new ways. I love chocolate brown with turquoise or sky blue or kelly green; turquoise and red; red and pink; red, pink and purple; orange and pale blue; lime green and navy blue... I hardly ever wear neutrals except for denim and sometimes black.

I also (as part of a long self-improvement plan) started wearing jewellery. I try to avoid the ultra-cheap stuff since it's both too trendy and too young for me, but I upsized my hoop earrings, started to wear dangly earrings, and started making some of my own stuff (which isn't hard -- buy a string of lovely beads, transfer them to a wire, put a clasp on, and finito -- receive compliments.) I got a bunch of cheap semi-precious stone beads at a flea market of sorts and they are gorgeous and expensive-looking. All I had to do was restring them into necklaces or bracelets in single colours, or put a single bead on a longer wire for dangly but simple earrings.

Also can I just say how nice it is to have a girly thread around here?
posted by loiseau at 9:31 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

What about hats? I'm on a bit of a crusade to start wearing hats, myself, since no one seems to anymore! So they can really become a signature look and get a lot of attention. Vintage-y styles like a wool cloche would look great with your mary janes and skirts.

2nding scarves as well. A great way to build up your scarf collection is to go to a thrift/vintage store and get them for $5 or less each.
posted by clair-de-lune at 11:26 PM on August 3, 2007

tastybrains - what is the brand of those glasses? You linked to the picture but I can't find them on the site and they rock. I must have them.

For jewelry, seek out local artists. I recently stumbled on tiny little store in my neighborhood selling pottery, scarves and jewelry from local (like the surrounding blocks) artists and got the coolest necklace made from a bike chain.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:48 AM on August 4, 2007

Best answer: I dress in a lot of solid, basic colors, too, and I get a lot of mileage out of flower clips. I throw my hair up and pin a flower on the side, or under a bun, or over a bun, or right in the middle of a bun. Or I wear my hair down and clip one side back a little behind my ear, with the flower right there.

Sometimes, I buy silk flowers and make my own pins. I put velcro on them and attach them to shoes (that way, I can change the flower colors and styles, or just switch to a plain button or buckle or something). I put one on my collar, or somewhere on my coat, or... really, wherever.

Just don't put one on your ass or something. ;)
posted by houseofdanie at 1:05 PM on August 4, 2007

my favourite strong accesoiry was a red jacket i bought in netherlands. it stands out just enough to be a "fabulous accessory", but is easy to not overpower as you rarely wear it once. fwiw, i met my future husband in this manner. ;)
posted by olya at 11:46 PM on August 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I'm excited to try all these ideas

posted by exceptinsects at 12:44 PM on August 6, 2007

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