Over-Accessorization: The Making of a Look Memorable for the Wrong Reasons

In my last post, I assessed an ensemble that combines a number of the season’s trends flawlessly, resulting in a comfortable, chic look.

Sampling the latest trends is fun, and more than that, it shows the world that you are current with what’s fresh in fashion. Choosing shoes and a bag that are reasonably current, and always necessarily in impeccable condition, is a credit to your personal and professional image. Adding jewelry and other accessories to an ensemble requires a sense of discretion and restraint. Today’s post presents an example of a look of over-accessorization, where that sense of discretion is lacking.

From the September 2012 issue of Lucky, here is a lovely $1200 lace dress from Burberry London accented with “whimsical accessories” piled on with no rhyme or reason. The elaborate collar from a silk top peeks out from the vee neckline of the dress, a necklace with a huge pendant in the shape of grapes accenting the center. A belt accented with an animal head visually clashes with the cluster of grapes above. To confuse the eye even more, a pair of elaborate and colorful cuffs completes the ensemble. The eye doesn’t know where to look. There is no coherence to the ensemble. This is a case of accessories turning the potential for a lovely look into the sad look of a fashion victim.

A silk top with an interesting collar from Maison Murasaki might be spectacular on its own, but worn under the dress gives it a prissy look and seems to turn it into a form-fitting choir robe or judge’s robe. Moreover, it bulks up the figure under the dress. Wear this type of layered look judiciously.

All of the other accessories – the necklace from Thea Grant, the cuffs from R.J. Graziano worn singly or as a pair, and the belt from Burberry Prorsum, are lovely on their own, but they do not work together cohesively. The animal head belt in particular is too casual a motif to do credit to the lace dress.

As between the pendant necklace and the cuffs, the necklace is the better choice for several reasons. It draws the eye up to the face. It has fine detail that complements the elaborate lace of the dress. And it does not present the potential for snagging the dress that might occur wearing a bracelet crafted of elaborate metalwork.

I do not subscribe to the old saw that, once dressed,  you should remove one accessory before leaving the house. In this case, however, I recommend removing at least three out of four. Imagine how stunning the dress would look on its own, accented with an elegant pair of earrings.

The Making of a Memorable Look

The introduction of the fall/winter collections is, for many, the most exciting time of year from a fashion perspective. The heat waves of summer soon to be behind us, the prospect of dressing stylishly and comfortably in layers beckons.

Here’s one example of how to combine a number of the season’s trends flawlessly: boots, slacks, a slouchy textured sweater with a turtleneck, a cross-body bag, and stacks of bracelets. The visual look of the multiple bracelets echoes the folds of the pushed-up sleeves of the sweater. The look is comfortable, practical and wonderfully chic.

There is something reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy in this look, as she was known for wearing white slacks, and the model’s thick side-swept tresses are reminiscent of the former First Lady’s hairstyle.  This styling appears in the August 2012 issue of  Town & Country.

Wearing white pants tucked into knee-high boots requires slim calves. To adapt this look if you don’t have the long, slender legs of a model, wear slacks in a dark hue combined with flats or booties (the latter especially on-trend this season) in the same color as the slacks to give you the longest possible visual line.

Rethinking the Pop of Color

Sometime over the last year or so, a new catch phrase became a fashion favorite for professional and would-be stylists: add a “pop of color” to an ensemble to make it interesting. The catch phrase became the stylistic rationale for adding shocks of color to otherwise coordinated looks, and typically justified the inclusion of a vibrantly hued accessory such as a pair of shoes, a belt or a bag.

Suppose you find a bag that you absolutely love in a vivid shade of lemon yellow, a fabulous red belt, or shoes irresistible in Kelly green. How can you make the pop of color work?

The addition of a hue to an ensemble works best when it is repeated elsewhere in the ensemble, because repetition provides a pleasing sense of visual harmony. Reds, pinks and corals often coordinate with lipstick. Nail polish this season is all about bold color, and can easily repeat or approximate an accessory’s hue. Gemstones set in jewelry also can be selected to coordinate with the favored color.  This season is all about prints, and finding a print that repeats the color is easily accomplished.

If you are determined to utilize a single pop of color, consider its visual effect. Where does the pop of color draw the eye?

Illustration:  From the July 2012 issue of Lucky magazine, here’s a photo of Leighton Meester in a dress from BCBG Max Azria in neutral hues with a pop of color that draws attention to her waist.

Shoes draw all eyes downward, so  if you’re thinking about a pop of color via your shoes, consider whether your feet is where you want people to be looking. If you have great legs and want the eye to sweep down over them, great. Otherwise, the effect suggests fashion victim rather than creative chic. A vivid belt accents a waistline. A bag, since it is held, is the most flexible pop of color, since it is entirely independent of your body. However, the bag should have the same level of refinement and coordinate with the overall style aesthetic of your ensemble, or it will just look as though you forgot to switch out your purses.

Quite aside from the styling advice, it’s time to let the phrase “pop of color” go. When a laundry detergent picks up on a fashion catch phrase, you know it’s well past its “use by” date.