Friday, February 1, 2008

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Accessory Basics (Click here for Shop Doc Podcast)

I think I was about twelve years old and starting to develop my own fashion/style personality.I'd been reading Seventeen and Teen magazines for well over a year and was convinced that my preteen wardrobe needed some necessary upgrades. My own closet seemed bare and immature. I wore a uniform to school so my mother didn't feel that I needed too many clothes. I had a few dresses for church and special occasions and some casual knock about things for the weekends. (No jeans as my mother thought they were inappropriate for "nice" girls.) I had saved a little of my own money from Christmas, birthdays and allowance and was headed downtown to Shillito's, at the time Cincinnati's leading department store. I knew that I couldn't buy a whole new wardrobe, but I could certainly afford to buy myself a great pair of dress shoes to finally replace my little girl patent leathers. With my mother right behind me I ran into the shoe department looking for the perfect shoe befitting an almost teenager. I saw it immediately; a patent ivory colored heel with a small bow. In my eyes it was chic, simple and exactly what I was looking for. My mother had already started to talk to a sales person when I asked to please see my perfect shoe in my size. To my surprise they both said no. My mother said, "That heel? Absolutely not. It's far too mature for you."

"Oh no that shoe is too much for you." This saleswoman was about to lose a sale. By this time my mother had another shoe in her hand.

"Look at this one. It's some sort of snakeskin. It's cute...and very stylish." To my horror she was holding a snakeskin version of the same patent leather Mary Jane that I'd worn since I was two.

Despite my pleas to at least try on the shoe that I really wanted, I was told no ("Just look at that heel!" It was probably an inch and a half at the most.) I begrudgingly left with the shoe that had been selected for me, and worse yet paid with my own money. This was a disastrous shopping trip.

Years later when I was in charge of my own style destiny, I had no idea where to start as far as accessories were concerned. At age twelve I only wanted one pair of semi grown up shoes. Now there were just too many choices. I knew that I needed items that would work with my minuscule wardrobe for everyday life plus all other the other occasions that I'd encounter. A stylist on one of my very first jobs helped me to assemble a basic accessory collection that I still swear by. Sure I've added more pieces since then, but these seven basics are the foundation of my accessory wardrobe, which incidentally work with the 5 basic pieces of my wardrobe. Again my advice is to purchase the best quality items that you can comfortably afford now knowing that you can always upgrade later. There's absolutely no reason to ever go into debt over fashion. Today your options in terms of pricing and styling are endless!

The Magnificent Seven consist of:

3 pairs of shoes (heels, flats and casual athletic type shoe)

2 handbags (everyday bag, and a clutch)

1 reliable watch

1 pair of gold hoops

Does this sound too simple? It is. Remember that you’re going to interpret these items to fit your own specific needs and lifestyle. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Shoes: (heels, flats & athletic)

Heels (classic pump)
There are so many heel heights to choose from; demure kitten heels to sky-high stilettos. What do you feel comfortable wearing? When shopping remember that your basic heel should work with your trousers, your Little Black Dress and possibly your jeans, especially if you're dressing your jeans up. Avoid going too high. Walking in heels should feel like the most natural thing in the world

Kailey Patent Pumps: Payless, $19.99

I know that so many women were thrilled to see flats return to the fashion scene a few years back. The good news is that they are here to stay. With so many styles who says you can't be both stylish and comfortable? When buying consider your foot. Can you wear something totally flat, or do you need something that's constructed a little better to give you more support and keep your foot from slipping out. These will be points to consider especially if you have flat feet (little to no arch).
Nine West Mae, Boutique 9


Casual Athletic Inspired
I have always had a good pair of athletic type shoes to comfortably get me through a full day of errands, casual activities, and through some of the country's biggest and busiest airports. (Try running for a flight in heels.) There's a style and color to suit everyone. Your casual athletic type shoe will probably not be suited for actual athletic activity, as you'll want to stay with a simpler style with sleek styling. Both Keds and Sketchers have great selections.
Keds Hampton Sport Classic Sneaker: $39.99


Your basic accessory wardrobe will include an everyday handbag and a smaller clutch.

An everyday handbag is such a personal item. Before you consider purchasing one, consider your needs. Do you carry a lot or are you one of those women who is perfectly comfortable carrying keys, a wallet and cell phone? You'll definitely want to consider your size, as your handbag should compliment your figure. I know larger bags are in style this season, but if you are petite, a larger style could overwhelm you. You'll look and probably feel awkward.

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself before buying:

Does it have all of the compartments you'll need?

Is the bag open at the top or does it have complete closure?

Is it leather or leather-like? Leather when cared for properly will last for a long time, while some man made materials won't last as long and will show wear easily.

Do you treat your bags gently or do you use and abuse?

As I gotten older I've looked at handbags as investment pieces that I'll use for a very long time. I'm willing to pay a little more for quality. I'm not talking about the hot designer "It" bag that can cost a house payment. I know women who have finally broken down and purchased the bag of the moment, only to be disappointed a short time later when they realized the bag was going out of style. Sure if you can afford the bag of the moment, more power to you, but if not stay with a well made style that will transcend the seasons at a price point you can afford. Online Store
Laurie Shoulder Bag: $52.00


Your clutch is a smaller handle less bag that will work for dressier functions, and in the evening in place of a traditional evening bag. Today many clutches come with a detachable shoulder strap or chain that gives you two bags in one. When selecting a clutch you can select a dressier material. My first clutch was made from the softest black suede that dressed up everything I owned.
Merona® Satin Clutch - Gray : Target


Gold Hoops
As several stylists have told me, a basic pair of gold (or gold tone) hoops work with just about everything. Put them on with your jeans, suit, or your LBD. Hoops can be both elegant and Bohemian.
Betsey Johnson Large Diamond-Cut Hoop Earrings
Dillard's $40.00

A Reliable (and stylish) Watch
A watch these days can be both practical and fashionable. The bottom line is whether or not you can read the time at a glance. Your watch is an extension of your fashion personality, so if you haven't found the perfect watch already, trust that's it's out there. You may consider traditional styles, or go for enlarged faces, bracelet styles, or cuffs. Don't forget to stay within your budget. For two years my basic watch was a simple silver toned Timex that I purchased from a drugstore for less than twenty dollars.
FOSSIL - watches, handbags, accessories, and apparel -

Brown Hologram, $65.00

Again these seven items form the foundation of your accessory wardrobe. You probably own several accessories already, or if you're starting from scratch start with these basics and plan on adding on as time, necessity and your budget permit. You may want to expand your basic accessory wardrobe to include:

A Strand of Pearls
Silk scarves
Patterned and or Textured Tights
A Leather Tote
Gold and Silver Chains
Leather Boots
Antique or Vintage Broaches and Earrings

Your accessories will expand your wardrobe and allow you to further express your personality. Adding a few well-chosen details will take your overall look to the next level, setting you apart from the crowd.

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