Accessories can do a lot of “heavy lifting” to add personality and visual interest to your outfits. You don’t have to pile on; a few well-chosen pieces are all you need. Here are some tips on how to accessorize for effortless style, and some of my go-to accessories.
If your style is simple, accessories can be the “secret sauce” for personalizing and making your outfits look finished. Shoes, bags, scarves, hats, jewelry, and makeup can all count as accessories. If your style is “the more the merrier,” that’s great…go for it and enjoy. But if a more effortless look is your goal, you’ll want to be restrained and selective in your choices.
Accessorizing for effortless style
During my Color and Style training at Red Leopard in London last year, we learned that you should aim for 7-10 “points of interest” in an outfit. That doesn’t mean 7-10 accessories! Each color you’re wearing counts as 1 point, than add 1 point any of the following:
- details on clothing such as contrast stitching, rivets, ruching, embroidery, unique buttons or fastenings, patterns, texture
- each type of jewelry (earrings, necklace, watch, bracelet, rings, brooches)
- glasses or sunglasses
- patterned or colored tights or hosiery
- details on shoes and bags such as: pattern, buckles, color-blocking, hardware, bows, other embellishments, color or metallic finishes
- makeup: lipstick, colorful eye shadow, nail polish
- hair: color, hair accessories
As you can see, it can add up quickly! The more color, pattern, or detail in your clothing, the fewer accessories you need.
My suggestion for creating an effortless look is to prioritize those accessories that have personal meaning, or that most express what you want your style to say that day. Then add selectively from there.
I’ll also add that your Style Personality will also factor into how many and the types of accessories you add. Someone with a mostly Bohemian style personality can still look effortless while wearing more accessories than someone who is Classic or Natural for example.
Some budget-friendly ruched sleeve blazers:
My go-to accessories
These are the pieces you’ll find me wearing most days, or that always work “in a pinch.”
I usually don’t change my earrings from day to day, and find a pair of small gold hoops coordinates well with almost any other jewelry. I can no longer tolerate heavy earrings, so stick to lighter pairs.
Lately I’ve been wearing a pair that’s very similar to these. They’re comfortable enough to wear 24/7, and make a showing but don’t fight with my other jewelry. (These are also available in silver.)
After having lost quite a few earrings over the years, I now stick to costume/fashion pieces for my everyday hoops. (Fortunately I don’t seem to be particularly sensitive to most metals.)
Here are a few more styles that can work for everyday wear:
Link or chain necklaces
Most days I wear one or two shorter link or chain necklaces. A simple link necklace is one of those pieces that just seems to work with everything. Here are a few versatile link necklaces (the long ones can also be worn doubled):
A classic watch
I love watches and have never stopped wearing them. The one I wear daily is a Cartier Tank Française, which I purchased second-hand several years ago. (Similar) But there are many styles with a similar look available at more budget-friendly prices. Here are a few…
Neutral bags & shoes
Over the years I’ve purchased a few bags and shoes in fun colors. And I do wear them…occasionally. But for no-brainer, effortless style, I find myself reaching for simple pieces in neutral shades (usually in a range from saddle brown to tan to nude to ivory, or warm metallics).
The styles I wear most often:
I know some of you will ask about scarves. I haven’t been wearing them as much while at home, but in the past couple of weeks have begun experimenting with my silk scarves again. If you wear scarves as part of your everyday look, they’re a great way to incorporate color and detail, and absolutely can work with effortless outfits. Look for a post soon…
What are your never-go-out-without-’em accessories?
Loved this post! Never thought about counting my “points of interest”! My everyday go to’s are pearl studs, a 16 inch necklace with either a hammered gold disk, 2-3 delicate bracelets, my neutral bag and belt, and preppy sneakers. Can you tell I’m a “natural”? Haha
I wear my Rolex watch that I received for my tenth wedding anniversary and a Cartier Love bracelet I received for my 60th birthday every day. I rarely wear earrings as the holes in my ears have stretched from holding babies and having them yank on my ears! Have these little “stickies” you can wear behind your ears to hold earrings in the proper place but I don’t usually bother with them.
Good to know about 7-10 rule as it makes sense. I’m a tonal dresser, works best for my 5′ 2″ height, so I usually don’t worry about too many colors and wear minimal jewelry.
Just ordered the Willa blazer from J Crew in Petite. Hoping that works for me. I saw on IG you have the Devon J Crew blazer. May be an option if the above doesn’t work for me.
I love your teaching posts like this and your recent 12-piece travel wardrobe. I’ve never heard of the 7-10 points of interest guideline, and can’t wait to try it out. It’s so useful when you discuss fashion/design principles and show us how you apply them in your everyday life. Even though I’m the opposite season from you (Deep Summer) and tall, I learn so much from you. Yours is my favorite blog. Thank you, fellow Susan and Southern Californian!
Thanks so much, Susan! I’m glad you enjoy and find these posts helpful.
Aritzia has a great jacket with ruched sleeves: The Power Jacket in hip and cropped lengths and LOTS of color options.
Susan, I have lost so many earrings too (and dropped Raybans shortly after purchasing) that I now have a set of cheaper versions of my best accessories. The good items are worn when I am at someone’s house or a safer place where they are likely to be found if lost. Once I thought I lost a special necklace because I didn’t connect the fastener properly. Luckily when it fell off it landed in my bra!
Very interesting. I’d never heard of the 7-10 points of interest idea. It helps me understand why my look tends toward boring, um, minimalist. I think I could benefit from adding a point of interest. Thanks for suggesting this new way of thinking.
I, too, have had earrings pop out of my ears. Instead of gold earrings, I opt for gold-plated .925 sterling earrings, which don’t irritate my skin. I like the look.
Susan , thanks so much for hitting it out of the park once again. I have learned so much about style and fashion from you and a fellow blogger over the past 5-6 years. My daily go-to look includes a pair of small upside-down triangular shape filigree earrings. They are silver with gold edges. Very simple. I purchased those earrings just before the store went out of business, and the sales associate told me I would reach for the earrings every day and she was right. I also wear red lipstick, alternate my watches, and try to ensure shoes and handbag are in sync with my overall look. Last but not least , I wish you a very Happy Birthday , Susan. Enjoy your special weekend!
Thanks so much, Carol!
I often wonder Susan, when you’re out and about in Los Angeles, do people recognize you when you go in stores or restaurants and want to talk about fashion and ask you for advice?
Not often, no. It’s always a delight when readers introduce themselves, but it’s usually a quick meet-and-greet.