Accessories aren’t just for fun, but they are one of the easiest ways to add fun to an outfit. That being said, I’m not very knowledgeable about accessories. I’m more interested in clothes. Usually the fun in my outfit comes from the clothing, whether it is bright color, prints, patterns, or texture. My accessories are usually more pragmatic. I carry a purse because I need it to hold all my stuff and I wear shoes…because it isn’t socially acceptable for me to be barefoot all the time. So in my outfits, accessories are usually supporting cast, not stars. But for a lot of people, it’s the exact opposite – the accessories are the stars of the show and the clothes take supporting roles.
I don’t dislike shoes. I like them on other people.
Shoes really can elevate an outfit, though. And I’m not just talking about high heels, which literally making women taller. That’s an added bonus. The simplest jeans-and-tee outfits can be beautified by a killer pair of shoes. They don’t need to be heels, but one of the hidden bonuses of heels is that they change the way you stand. So if you wear a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of really cool flats, be sure to have great posture. The posture sells the outfit. And ladies, you can tell when a heel is too high – you can tell when you’ve reached your shoe height limit when you can’t walk in them. We all have our limits and some of us are more limited than others. I’ve seen some women glide over the ground in stilettos and I’ve seen some women struggle with two-inch wedges.
Be honest with yourself about how well you can walk in a pair of heels and also about how much they hurt, THEN decide whether to wear them to something fancy. Some shoes are so pretty that the baby-giraffe-level unsteadiness seems worth it, but will it be worth it after the first 45 minutes of the event? I used to choose aesthetics over function for parties, but at this point, I know that my feet should not hurt after just walking from my car. That’s why I exclusively buy shoes from brands that cater to middle-aged women with back issues and they have words like “comfort” or “memory foam” in their descriptions. Oh, who am I kidding? If the shoes are fabulous enough, I’ll probably ignore the consequences and wear them anyway.
Caring about shoes isn’t just a girl thing. For a lot of men, shoes (especially sneakers) are way to be into fashion without it seeming weird. It’s a socially acceptable guy way to care about fashion. I personally don’t think that the high-end men’s sneaker trend is going to last for another decade, so my advice would be don’t invest too heavily in it right now. A good pair of leather shoes will outlast them all. You should ideally have a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown shoes, but if you had to choose just one, I’d suggest black. Brown shoes can’t replace black shoes for anything formal. Good solid men’s shoes can be expensive, but the shoes also tend to last and be versatile. A quality shoe is an investment, but a worthwhile one.
At various times, I’ve thought, “Okay, Ashley. You’re an adult now. You invest in a nice purse and have that be your purse for years and years.” But that sounds like a lot of commitment. What if I don’t like the purse in two years, but I still need to use it to justify the amount of money I spent on it? What if I put it down on the ground and then a water bottle tips over and the purse sustains water damage? What if I routinely stuff too much stuff in the purse and the straps strain and eventually break? (That’s happened to me before. But that was more the case during school, when my purse was also my book bag.) It almost feels like the responsibility of buying a pet. AM I RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO TAKE CARE OF A REALLY NICE PURSE? My answer is always no. So I buy a cheap purse at Ross or Marshall’s and use it until it until the straps fall off. (Repeat.)
I love the idea of having an elegant high-end bag, but it would need to win me over. It would have to be a thing of beauty. A joy forever. A bag that I wanted to look at every day for years and years. Until I find that one, I’ll buy inexpensive purses and use them until the handles fall off. I’m using this small pink one from Salvation Army right now.
If you love purses and are ready to commit to a beautiful investment bag, think through the pragmatic side first. Purses don’t have to match your clothes, but they should either blend with your wardrobe color scheme or be a good complementary color that provides a nice contrast. Complementary colors are on the opposite sides of the color wheel. For example, blue and orange are on the opposite sides of the color wheel. If the predominant color in your wardrobe is blue, a warm cognac brown bag would contrast beautifully against all of that blue, because brown is the neutral form of orange. If your whole wardrobe is black and gray, you could either keep that up that theme with a black purse or go very bold with a bright color.
Beyond color, you need to figure out what size you should be looking for. That involves thinking through how much stuff you need to carry around on a daily basis. If you always carry a laptop, look for a bag with enough room for a laptop. Otherwise, you’ll need to carry it loose in your arms (a recipe for disaster) or you will need two bags (a bit much). If you don’t want to carry a whole lot of stuff, you might want a small purse – it forces you to pare down what comes with you. Enforced minimalism.
But the most important thing is that you love your purse and think it is beautiful. On a purely practical level, a purse is just a sack to carry our things in. We could all carry our possessions around in plastic grocery bags and it would serve the same purpose. But beauty is important to us, even more than we realize. It’s a lovely thing to have a pretty purse and I’m keeping my eyes open for a great one!
I’m very into hats right now, because I’ve been trying my hand at hat making! I started a couple of months ago and made a conscious effort to figure out as much as possible on my own, only consulting the internet when absolutely necessary. The internet is full of entertaining tutorials and advice and yelling, but I’ve realized that if I fall down a tutorial rabbit hole, I just watch the tutorials and run out of time to make the real things. And the hard way has always proved my most successful learning system, so the hard way it was.
So I bought my wooden hat block, found raggedy old hats, steamed, reblocked, and retrimmed them. It is a long process and it is so much fun. This little blue number is the first hat I made:
This yellow hat is my third attempt:
Here’s what you need to know about hats – people notice them. If you want to blend in, hats are not the way. You need a certain amount of confidence and commitment to choose to be a “hat person” and I’m not even sure if I’m a hat person yet. Hats get a lot of attention and I’m not used to that. I love the process of making them and I love the hats themselves, but I’m not used to wearing them on a regular basis.
NOT ALL HATS ARE CREATED EQUAL. Not all hats will look good on you or match your personality, so (like purses) it is worth looking around until you find one that you love. Using my hats as examples, that little blue hat is not a good hat for me. I wanted to try wearing it once, because it was the first hat I ever made, but it really is rough. It looks like a lumpy blue fez and fezzes aren’t cool (no matter what Doctor Who says). In the photo, it looks kind of cute (in a Zooey-Deschanel-quirkify-your-life sort of way), but in person, it looked legit crazy. I had people avoiding making eye contact with me on that day. No hat is better than the wrong hat. But the yellow hat turned out much better and it feels amazing to have a bespoke hat that fits perfectly. I love that hat. A great hat makes wearing a hat fun, not awkward.
If you want to wear hats, but are intimidated by them, start by wearing a hat when the situation calls for one. There are situations where hats are completely practical, like working outside in the sun. But just because it is practical doesn’t mean it can’t also look great. Like cowboy hats. Real cowboy hats look amazing. They are practical and personal. If you live in a cold climate, winter is a great time to try a hat, because hats keep you nice and warm. You could go for a simple beanie, but if you want to step it up, try a wool beret or a cloche style.
Well, I’m going to wrap up this post, even though I know I haven’t been comprehensive. If there are other accessories you would like me to write about, let me know! I’m always ready to try things out. This post made me realize that I’m far more practical about accessories than I am about clothes. Not that I don’t choose practical clothes, but beautiful clothes move me emotionally. I’m far more likely to fall in love with a Kate Spade jacket than a Kate Spade purse. For you, it may be the complete opposite, so start thinking about things you really like. There are always practical considerations to keep in mind, but accessories are very personal and it is so important that you enjoy them!