Monday, May 11, 2015

A Red Handbag: Integrating a New Accent Color in a Capsule Wardrobe

Red seems to be a color that a lot of us want to incorporate into our lives; I've received a few emails asking specifically about what to do with either a red handbag or red footwear! Maybe a red sweater or dress is too bold, but smaller doses of red can be beautiful with literally any neutral color. I don't know of another accent that can be used as widely, and as universally, as red.

So I found a bag I really like; while this bag is styled very much like a tote bag, it's really just a medium-sized barrel shaped handbag or shoulder bag:

Bag – Longchamp

And I'm going to work with a VERY modest assortment of grey clothes this time. In addition to being a great way to illustrate the versatility of red accessories, this is a great object lesson in how to pack light! Wear jeans, a blouse and sweater in transit, pack these four pieces, some of the accessories, and go on a long, long trip...

Tunic, skirt, cardigan and jeans - Uniqlo

Red shoes are great, unless you're super self-conscious about your feet. They're abundantly available in any style you want or need...

Scalloped flats – Chloe, suede flats – Shoes of Prey,
wedge pumps – French Sole

And red accessories are pretty easy to find too! A beautiful scarf with just a touch of grey is very versatile, and jewelry that combines red and silver pull together your dominant grey with your accent red in a way that's natural and uncontrived.

Paisley scarf – Etro, braceletVivien Frank Designs,
Red onyx hoop earrings – Bhaveshred agate bead necklace – Rita Addo Zakour

Here again, you can see that you can use as many, or as few, red accents with your outfit as you prefer. While many of us would be comfortable with earrings AND a scarf AND a bag AND shoes, others might want to use only a couple of red pieces. It's your choice! There's not a law or a rule about this - it's just whatever gives you a look of "red on purpose", without making you feel gaudy or too "matchy matchy". 

Listen to your instincts...

How many accent pieces are comfortable for you? I go overboard, but I'm an overboard kind of woman!


Looking Back:

2013 - Closing the Triangle of Hot Pink, Turquoise and Orange; traveling again with Hermes Fleuri de Provence

2012 - What to wear with a scarf: Hermes l'Ivresse de l'Infini

2011 - Vivienne Veto: long toenails

Beara Beara


  1. I love red, so I'm fine with as much red as you use =)

    That scarf is delicious!

  2. Here in Australia red is very much in for the winter season. It brightens up my navy. Looks a bit garish with just black but is fine with black and white, as a third colour.
    One pair of my glasses is red - adds another red accessory and brings colour to my face. (My other pair is blue...)
    This selection is lovely but not for me as grey makes me look ill...


  3. KiKi is signing more red please! !

  4. I just ordered the grey tunic top. I love the red with grey, all reds, but particularly this red. I've moved in recent years to softer and bluer reds, but I still have snazzy red Italian sandals, a little vintage clutch bag of finely woven straw, and two-strand coral beads that are the same red. So I'll give it a try... I tend to fewer accessories, but not minimal.

    Love, Swissy

  5. Love red and just gave me some great ideas for items in my closet! Thanks Janice!

  6. I really would like to travel like this; it would be so easy BUT somehow I need to have more options.

    Deb from Vancouver

  7. PS I like your new "prove your not a robot food selection!!"

    Deb from Vancouver

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  9. Love the red and the grey - more, please!

  10. Oooh! Loving the red - I have a gorgeous leather one in a real 'lipstick' red and have struggled to use it except with black. I love it with grey and a red scarf - very classy! Red shoes are fun, but being British they have certain connotations (often worn to denote 'ladies of the night'!!) They do look lovely though!

    As I make most of my clothes, I am now going to dig out some grey fabric!!!


  11. This is wonderful. Love the grey and red combination. So stylish.

  12. Back when I was wearing nearly all black I bought a red bag that I love (and a few other things -- scarf, bracelet, shoes), but now I'm wearing navy, natural linen, and denim, and I can't figure out how to incorporate the red without looking like I'm dressed for a 4th of July parade. Can you do a set with those colors?

  13. I have a classic red DKNY leather purse that I get so many comments and compliments on whenever I carry it. It goes so well with my black or gray or navy outfits.

  14. That scarf is beautiful; many possibilities spring to mind. Love gray and red much more than black and red.

  15. One thing that I have learnt from here is that if you have at least two accessory items that go together (ie same accessory family) then you can kind of co-ordinate your outfit. I think I have said this poorly. Sorry. Carol S

  16. This is me to a tee! Most of my wardrobe (apart from denim) is black, grey, white and red, including red eyeglass frames.

  17. Great ideas thank you. I have quite a few red accessories and sometimes struggle to know how to wear them, so I like the use of the plain pieces as a backdrop.

  18. I err on the side of disliking matchiness, so for me--3 accessories maximum in the same color, and only if one of them is discrete (like jewelry or gloves). I would probably never do shoes + handbag + scarf in the same color!
    On the other hand I have no problem doing just one and feeling fully intentional. I noticed a young woman wearing grey jeans, moss green flats, and a soft beige/linen top today, and I thought she looked wonderful. The similar intensity of her garments just brought everything together even though nothing "matched" precisely with anything else...

  19. I have always had some red in my wardrobe. Such a great accent with so many things. I wouldn't mind the shoes, scarf and bag at all!