Accessories might be the biggest bang for my buck with respect to adding interest to and remixing my wardrobe. A great necklace, scarf, or belt can step up an outfit just by providing a simple finishing touch to bring everything together. A variety of accessories can transform one outfit into many different looks, making the most of the clothing staples you already own (the more remixing the better, even if it’s just a shift in accessories). A statement pair of shoes could up the ante on a multitude of outfits. And, I promise, none of them have to be expensive.
Let’s start by digging into the Archives of my little blog to the first remix I ever did ~ a super simple 7×7. Aside from a pair of stud earrings and small pendant necklace, I used essentially no accessories. It took no time at all (as I noted in my post that day) to realize how much value a few accessories could have brought to the table.
Time passed and I tried some similar looks incorporating more accessories. These looks are all casual and not for the office, but they help illustrate the impact a few of the right accessories can have.
Here, some color and interest from a fun belt and a statement necklace spice up a pair of jeans and cotton T-shirt. Neither look rides the highest of the trend-setting waves and certainly won’t land me a spot on the cover of any fashion magazine (that’s neither my intention nor my natural strength), but the accessories bring a little extra punch to the picture compared to the simple pink shirt and white jeans in the middle.
I buy nearly all my shoes at Nordstrom Rack or DSW. I don’t need the latest and greatest season’s color or style. Last season’s colors and styles often still reign quite popular and work perfectly at the office. More importantly, investing in the trendiest boots and heels may be fun for weekend wear, but sticking with classic styles and silhouettes will prove far more professional and versatile nearly all the time at the office.
I most often reach for my black and nude shoes when dressing for work, and I can say with near certainty that last season’s black and nude styles will be nearly indecipherable from the most current versions marked at full price on department store shelves. Black and nude match with nearly everything and don’t make too much of a statement. While I want to look great and perform well in my job, I don’t want my shoes speaking louder than my performance. Below, these shoes blend right into the outfit and let other pieces speak up.
That’s not to say, though, that I don’t own fun heels or use them to occasionally finish off an otherwise very quiet outfit. You can see below that I have grabbed my black and white hounds-tooth shoes to complete an outfit or two that remained very simple without them. I bought these from the clearance rack at Macy’s (with a gift card) some time ago and know that I will be able to wear them for many years going forward despite the hounds-tooth pattern being from a previous year’s collection.
I have also used these red shoes to add just a pop of color to an otherwise very simple shift dress. The belt, which I will discuss further shortly, complements the red shoes and balances the pops of color against the solid black backdrop of the dress and shirt. Similarly, the red shoes bring attention to the bits of red in the sleeveless blouse while the mostly black palette keeps the outfit subdued enough for an important client meeting (with a blazer or sweater over my shoulders, of course).
I also bought these shoes from Macy’s clearance rack with a gift card. I bought them right around the same time at a networking function (we received a gift card for attending) for females in which I participated during which Macy’s personal stylists shared with us some of their latest professional looks. I couldn’t pass up a networking style session complete with healthy snacks and free shopping?! But back to accessories…
Options with jewelry seem endless and reading other blogs and experimenting with my own outfits on this public forum have helped me to understand what a difference the right jewelry can make. On the contrary, I also struggle with the right amount and size of jewelry for the office, which may not always appear as “perfect” and inspiring in a photo online. While a wrist full of bracelets or layered statement necklaces can look fantastic in a beautiful style blog photoshoot, those layers of jewelry can sometimes translate to excess in real life. That being said, I use the wonderful style blogging world as inspiration, but take it with a grain of salt and go with my gut when I get ready for work in the morning; if it looks like too much for the office, I’m probably right. A few of my favorite go-to jewelry pieces for the office include:
This self-made statement necklace that adds a pop of color without distracting too much from the outfit or my presence.
I also really love this necklace I received as a birthday gift for my 30th birthday from my husband’s parents. It’s a great example of a piece that proves perfect for the office but doesn’t quite stand out through a photo shoot, so I can only trust that you’ll believe me that anything more with these outfits might have led to patterns and colors and textures competing with each other.
I don’t buy everything at thrift stores, but thrift stores can be great places to find wonderful and inexpensive scarves and belts to add color, texture, and interest to your wardrobe for just a few dollars. Many of the scarves and belts at thrift stores are priced between $0.99 and $4.99 (hard to beat) and they don’t require that “just-perfect, hard-to-find” fit that a blazer or blouse would certainly require.
I also have a plethora of belts from Target. Although I love Target for my casual attire, I find the more professional lines don’t quite fit right or become worn-out too quickly for me, so I don’t own much for my corporate closet from the store. (Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Target for almost everything else!! I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, Target’s hometown stomping ground, and couldn’t live without it, but I digress…) Without breaking the bank, I have found many great belts at Target that add the perfect finishing touch to so many of my outfits.
As a perfect example, see how the belt below completely changes the fit and flattery of this dress. Not only does it add dimension to the outfit, but it helps the dress highlight the best features of my hourglass-shaped body. Given my body shape, I have found belts to be particularly helpful in finishing outfits. (I know it’s FAR from office attire but this comparison illustrated my point so perfectly I couldn’t pass it up.)
This maroon dress below shows another example of a belt finishing off an outfit not only to create the right silhouette for my body type, but also to add a pop of color that I then complemented with a similar pop of color in the shoes (the same trick I used above with the black dress and red belt and shoes – no shame in recycling style ideas and ‘sticking with what works‘! I executed this combination yet again with my pink Tahari dress. While the belt creates shape, I reversed the color focus; the dark tones of the belt, tights, and shoes offset each other while the dress and cardigan bring more than just a pop of color to the table.
With respect to scarves, this scarf with a touch of purple that matched the shirt helped the extremely simple and comfortable outfit appear a bit more polished. Sticking with the jeans, I could exchange my comfy shoes for a pair of black heels or ballet flats to make this a great Casual Friday outfit.
Further, that scarf would make a perfect addition to my outfit below to add some color or an element of layering and depth.
If you haven’t done so already, head back to last week’s Corporate Chic on the Cheap post and assess your body type to determine which types of accessories will accentuate your greatest assets.