Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Vivienne Files FAQ: Are Accessories Necessary?

Do you have to buy and wear accessories?  Absolutely not - except most of us will have to wear shoes... But I very strongly feel that just a few well-chosen accessories can make a world of difference in how the simplest of garments come together into ensembles.

If you're not comfortable wearing scarves, find a way to just throw one around your neck one day and then do your utmost to ignore it for as long as possible.  Make sure your first scarf isn't anything floaty or filmy that's going to blow up into your face at the first opportunity.  Maybe something quite small, tied up and out of the way so that you won't even really see it...

Jewelry is also pretty useful - earrings especially are the easiest of things to put on first thing in the morning and then ignore.  A bracelet or a necklace will require a bit more awareness, but can make a substantial difference in your overall appearance.

Say we take these accessories and put them with the simple eight piece neutral wardrobe from Saturday:
Chevron mix scarf – Halogen, ring – flake, bracelet – byrufina, necklace – YooLa, zebra stripe scarf – Nordstrom, boots – Munro, ballet flats – Geox

all clothes - L.L.Bean

So you can wear your black pants for a variety of events and activities.


 Your skirt can be dressy, or more relaxed.

Your jeans are good to be worn through many seasons.

And your khaki pants can be cozy or business-worthy.


When you wear mostly warm colors, you can focus on a single color, or a single material, when choosing your accessories.  The earrings and necklace here are both bone; the shoes are tan suede.  Knowing these key, signature colors or materials can make your shopping much easier.

Olive scarf – Apoccas, bone necklace – Nest, pearl, garnet and tiger eye bracelet - Anusara, earrings – Elvira Sanchez, sandals – Dr. Scholl’s, moccasins – Sperry Top-Sider, printed scarf- Nordstrom

all clothes - L.L.Bean

Now your camel knit pants go all year. 

Your skirt can go from a warm day to a cool summer evening.

Khakis are for leisure or work.

And jeans can get worn frequently, without looking bland or stodgy.

Artisan Jewelry Designs

17 comments:

  1. Totally agree! It has been my very recent experience (since following this blog) that it's the accessories that really lift an outfit from ho-hum to chic. Especially when the outfit is made up of neutral pieces. A scarf is an easy low-commitment way to experiment with a pop of colour.

    What I have learned (from Six Items or less), is that people aren't as observant of what people around them wear, as we fear. They remember a general impression, of being well- dressed, or maybe that I really like petrol... But not much else.
    Bookbutterfly

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  2. This is a great post to showcase the power of well-chosen accessories. Way back you showed us how to tie a proper square knot, and this is how I way my scarves. They are there and never get in the way. Love the colors you use here.

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  3. This is such a useful guide. I've been wearing more scarves lately, experimenting to find the right fabric and weight and shapes. My biggest concern is eating - some scarves seem rather bulky and I worry about spilling on them. I guess it's just a matter of practicing.

    Hope you don't mind reverting to a topic that came up earlier - 'do I have to wear neutrals'. I just saw this post about style with colour which I think you and others might enjoy.
    http://www.alreadypretty.com/2014/03/this-week-i-love-elisa-nalin.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+alreadypretty+%28Already+Pretty%29

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    1. I think of the scarf as a kind of bib. If I get something on it, I'm not getting it on my top, and the scarf is much easier to wash than the top. If it is really annoying, I turn it around to the back while eating. Does that look silly? If so, who cares? After seeing a couple of models dressed to the nines with their napkins tucked into the neckline of their tops/dresses to protect them at a very nice restaurant in Annecy, I don't worry about that.

      Thanks for the link to Elisa Nalin. It was refreshing. I think you could take any of those bright colors, use it as a neutral and build a wardrobe around it.

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  4. This makes it clear to me how accessories liven up an outfit and make it come to life.

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  5. I started wearing scarves a few years ago. I discovered that they alleviate some of my self-consciousness about standing in front of a classroom of 20 somethings. Who cares if my stomach sticks out???

    I appreciate that you're showing v. reasonably priced scarves. These are good beginner scarves. Even the "pashminas" that you can pick up for a few dollars look good.

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    1. In my experience, frugal, the acrylic "pashminas" (a misnomer b/c pashmina is goal wool, not a garment) look pretty good for only a few wears, then get ratty. Maybe that happens faster here as the coat rubs it and it gets shreddy and limp.

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    2. You are right-I am suggesting a $5 "pashmina" for a scarf-phobe. A small investment to test out the concept.

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  6. My task in 2014 is to stop buying orphans for my closet. Usually, they are for a fantasy life I don't live. And I now I ask myself, "Could Janice work this into my closet?" If she couldn't make it work.....walk away. Theresa

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    1. I am so with you there. 20 years of prim/perfect/profession turned into work-from-home mom. I see sleek sheath dresses and salivate, though they are utterly impractical for my new daily life. I have a hard time to change gears.

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    2. Guilty! I'm still drawn to professional clothes even though I've been a work-from-home mom for nearly a decade. My goal for this year is to use Janice's advice to convert my clothing collection into a casual chic wardrobe that functions better in my daily life.

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  7. Accessories free you from having to acquire a large wardrobe, and...you don;t even need that many accessories. But I find it very hard to resist a beautiful scarf!

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  8. Yes to accessories. I rotate mine all of the time. Every 2-3 months I change my jewelry and scarves to go with the season. I also clean everything before putting away for the season. Some accessories get used for more than 1 season. An example is earrings I love they are ivory halibut only .5 inches long but they go with so many things.

    I do have a problem wearing my bracelets. I have several ivory bracelets some are fossilized ivory and I worry about damaging them also their cost. I need some suggestions.

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  9. I'll admit, I'm a bit of a scarf whore! I went through a period of not buying clothes, because I was having a hard time finding things that fit correctly AND looked good on my body. Since scarves and shawls have been my signature accessories for almost 40 years, they got me through a rough patch clothing-wise: I could wear my "old" clothes, and still look fresh and somewhat chic.

    Now that I've been upgrading/updating my wardrobe, after my clothing fast, the scarves are the one thing that ties everything together. I'm a firm believer in Janice's neutral basics (as illustrated above), but any neutral gets a jazzed by a colorful, or textured, or patterned scarf. It's the one spot in my wardrobe where I don't hesitate to get bold and colorful. Now just need to branch out a bit with my jewelry...learning a lot from these posts, Janice; thanks again!

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  10. This post make me chuckle a little bit having read a posting on another blog about a "boring" black dress. I replied that "boring" dress is a great value because it can be styled a hundred different ways. I wish more women would read this blog.

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  11. instead of wearing dull clothes and questionable accessories like only decorative scarves i sew myself gorgeous dresses from beautiful fabrics. or skirts and blouses and jackets...... scarves and shawls are good when it´s cold, wet or to sunny outside. sorry.

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  12. I'm a bit with Beate- I tend to sew in patterned fabrics and then find that I can't find anything in my large collection of scarves and necklaces that stand out/coordinate. :-/ I would love to use some of these items (many never used!)- I need to have some more 'basics' in my wardrobe for days when I want to accessorize.This is a great article and I also appreciate the comments.

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