Classing up an outfit

How to class up an outfit? Choose a great accessory

People always ask me how I resist the temptations that abound at Richards, working as the store’s personal shopper.

What I have learned is to make thoughtful purchases instead of impulsive ones. Like most women, I reorganize my closets twice a year. I won’t pretend I don’t dread it, but I won’t make a single new purchase until I have decided what I’m keeping and what I am giving away. (Glam Media published my biannual closet cleaning tips this past spring at http://divadebbi.blogspot.com/2012/04/divadebbis-suggestion-for-closet.html.) I strongly suggest you follow suit.

Once you have taken fresh stock of your wardrobe, you will be in a better position to see where the holes are. If you are aware of upcoming events, you can also prepare to make purchases for them if necessary. Frequently, my clients email me their event schedules, so I can keep my eyes open for clothes and accessories that will suit their needs. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of adding an Oscar de la Renta fur shrug, a great pair of Jimmy Choos, a new evening bag or a Loro Piana shawl.

In years prior, when the economy slowed down, lipstick sales would spike. Nowadays, accessories’ sales do. According to a recent article in The New York Times Style section (“Accessories Are Hot for Retailers and Fashion Students,” Aug. 9), some women are choosing to invest in new accessories to punch up head-to-toe black outfits and previous purchases, in the hopes no one will notice their recycled ready-to-wear.

I can’t say it’s not a viable plan.

A beautifully crafted accessory is often the thing others notice first. Certain pieces, like Monica Rich Kosann’s charm bracelets, are often conversation starters.

As Monica herself told me, “My charm bracelets were inspired by Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the Duchess of Windsor. My vision was to take this classic bracelet and recreate it with a modern approach. Each charm is incredibly personal, so no two bracelets are ever the same. That’s my definition of bespoke luxury”.

In addition to her well-known “image cases” for photos, Monica’s charms include continents, planets, stars, hearts, clovers, animals, sayings and sentiments.

“In essence, (a charm bracelet) tells the story of a woman’s life”.

I quite love this. This is an investment accessory that can be worn with pleasure every day, with everything from jeans to a ball skirt. It’s also something that isn’t finite. New charms are often purchased as gifts to commemorate births, trips and other milestones of a life well-lived, in progress.

Another must-have accessory for many women is a new handbag. Carrying one is a personal luxury that will add panache to anything you are wearing and an investment that pays off every day that you carry it.

If I am deciding between a dress and a bag, the bag will usually win. It’s not that I won’t enjoy the dress (often for years to come). But in terms of wear, it will just be one of many things that may get rotated in once every two months. By comparison, I may use the bag every day for a full season.

Some handbag seasons are better than others. A few years back, bags were heavily ornamented with hardware. It was an acquired taste that also required good biceps. This fall, bags are whistle-clean. I will have a hard time deciding between gorgeous offerings from YSL, Chloe, Loro Piana, Reed Krakoff, Valentino, Tods and Akris.

Whatever you choose to add – a bracelet, belt, cashmere cape, fur shrug, boots, tri-tone suede platforms or a new handbag – make sure you select things that coordinate with existing favorites. Care for them well, and they will be yours to enjoy not just this season but in the years ahead.

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