Buy Little But Buy The Best
Wise French women, who often dwell in homes with small closets and therefore spend carefully, know a great secret about shopping. Buy little but buy the best. Keep your items in good repair and wear them to death.
Those of us who have accumulated a few good pieces over the years understand this principle.
A great pant or skirt suit, a perfect little black dress, a chic trench, a few always-fresh looking cotton or silk blouses, and a selection of wool or cashmere sweaters will just about take us anywhere.
But unless we are thoughtful and creative, those very practical pieces can begin to feel a bit boring after a while. And, especially as we age, we don’t want to be left behind by the world of fashion. We certainly don’t want to appear dated!
How Can We Stay Fashionable?
So how can we best use the good quality pieces that we already own to make ourselves feel hip, fashionable and confident?
The great thing about an accessory is that you can sometimes get away with one that is not terribly pricey as long as it is well made. A lot of the faux leathers and suedes these days can fool the most discerning eye. But do make sure they are well made.
Nothing cheapens an outfit like a poorly made handbag or shoddy-looking shoes. Christopher Hopkins, a nationally-known hairstylist and makeover artist says, “You can always tell who your client is by the quality of their shoes and bag.”
Here are some ideas for how to freshen up your well-loved basics with a few great-looking accessories.
A Cool Blazer
Those clever afore-mentioned French fashionistas understand the art of deconstruction. That means, breaking apart the individual pieces of a pant or skirt suit and using them for multiple outfits.
Let’s start with the suit jacket.
Get more use out of it by wearing it with a simple top, maybe in one of the newer colors of the season, and a pair of slacks in a different textile. If your blazer is made from a flat, worsted wool, try wearing it with gabardine, leather or suede, or even pinwale corduroy. Or, for a more casual look, wear it with your jeans, a nice tee and a pair of booties. Alternatively, layer it over an untucked top (a tunic or tee that can be longer than the blazer) and cropped narrow pants with short heels or booties.
Booties For Everyone!
So, about those booties. A pair of leopard or snakeskin booties – and they are both ubiquitous now and available in every heel height and style – creates a nice but unobtrusive focal point.
The great thing about animal print is that it is considered a classic and a perennial. That means it can work for everyone and will be in style season after season.
A Patterned Bag
But if you want to keep your footwear more neutral, create some interest by adding a patterned bag instead.
Bags in leopard, zebra, snakeskin, and crocodile, are really popular right now.
You’ll also find a huge variety of shapes, colors, and styles. There are multi-colored striped bags, bags with shearling trim, geometric shapes or artistically shaped and constructed, and Chanel-type quilted chain bags.
If you go for a more classic bag try one in a more playful color. A favorite green, red, or even a playful yellow can add that little “pop” of color that can make the entire outfit.
Suit skirts and pants can get a renovation by adding this fun new accessory trend: patterned stockings and tights.
A hint of plaid, paisley, polka dot, stripe, lace or mesh stockings peeking out from the hem of your trousers is playful and eye-catching. If patterns are a bit too bold for you, try colored tights in a sophisticated neutral that complements the color of your skirt. For example, dark teal tights worn with a navy skirt or raspberry tights worn with a gray skirt are two nice possibilities. And to really add some elegance, go for a similar but deeper shade of shoe that matches the tights. Wear that combination with a satin blouse or a cashmere sweater and a sparkly piece of jewelry. Any of those could be a great date night or holiday event outfit.
Another popular accessory this year is the belt.
Now, some of us are loathed to call attention to our midsection. But worn strategically, a great belt can actually be very flattering. If you are fairly long-waisted, add one of the new wide belts to a perfect white blouse and your suit trousers.
Throw on a colorful cardigan and a chain shoulder bag and you have an easy and instantly sophisticated and chic look. If you are short-waisted, one of the popular chain belts, draped slightly below your waistline, will elongate your midsection and draw attention away from your waist and toward your legs.
Make that Little Black Dress Sparkle and Shine
We’re talking about jewelry, of course.
And you have so many options and ways of wearing them this year that each creates a unique fix for wardrobe boredom. If your little black dress is fairly simple and fitted, and you’re feeling a bit fearless, there’s an interesting trend right that will really ramp up your fashion credentials.
That is longer, mismatched, artsy earrings. This is not a look for a conservative office-type environment. Nor will it appeal to conservative-type dressers. But it can be a terrific look for those of you who are a bit more dramatic or experimental, especially for holiday events. It will definitely be a conversation starter. Make sure both earrings are made of similar materials: metals, beads, stones, tassels or textiles. Or, wear one fabulous, showy earring solo.
A Perfect White Blouse
For a slightly less artsy but still chic look, wear a perfect white blouse with your skirt or pantsuit. Then add one of the popular large, chunky metal link necklaces along with one or more wide metal cuffs. This will require that you wear your sleeves turned up or that the jacket is draped over your shoulders, without putting your arms through the sleeves. Keep your footwear and stockings simple and unobtrusive.
Colorful and Sparkly Items
If that’s all a bit much for your style, consider another, more toned-down but still showy, alternative by wearing something colorful and sparkly.
For several years now the men at Italian design house Dolce and Gabbana have given us permission to be slightly gaudy when it comes to fake gemstones. But it was actually decades ago that CoCo Chanel broke the boundary of jewelry exclusivity by mixing fakes with the real thing. Large, faux gemstones necklaces worn with real pearls, etc.
So try this: intertwine chain necklaces, pearls, and gemstones and wear them together. Or wear different types of necklaces of different lengths (pearls, chains, gems,) together, either separately, or intertwined. You can also wear opulent-looking gemstone earrings and a necklace set to play off a simple cashmere sweater.
Wear that with your suit skirt, dark tights and heels, a luxurious wrap and a sparkly or plain minaudiere. All these ideas can work with either your suit or with a little black dress.
So Many Options To Try
So, as you can see, any of these ideas involves very little effort. You’ll discover that your great classic pieces are a perfect foil for venturing into new and trendy areas. And what’s more, since you’re starting with things that you already know look good on you, you will wear these outfits with the confidence that comes from knowing who you are. But you may never look at that suit or little black dress the same way again. Here’s to old favorites being new!
What kind of accessories do you wear? Let us know in the comments.
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50 and is presenting an online class this November through the American Institute of Image Consultants.