The Accessory Advantage

By Glenda Winders

March 6, 2009 5 min read

THE ACCESSORY ADVANTAGE

Scarves, totes and sandals say spring is here

Glenda Winders

Creators News Service

The dress, pants or jacket might be the centerpiece of a new outfit, but it's the accessories that personalize an ensemble and infuse it with style and flair. They can also dress up favorite pieces, disguise figure flaws and help a person create the best look possible.

"Accessories create a focal point that tells a viewer where to look -- at asset areas and away from challenge areas," said Nancy Nix-Rice, author of the image classic "Looking Good: Wardrobe Planning and Personal Style Development" ($20, Palmer/Pletsch Publishing) and the new DVD program, "Looking Good -- Live!"

"They also set the tone for the outfit, quickly changing the same basic garments from casual to dressy for a minimal investment, and they can link to colors in an outfit for new, unexpected combinations," she added.

And with the heavy coats and long sleeves of winter now history, light, colorful pieces are popping out to herald the warm days of spring and summer ahead.

"These are exciting times for accessories," said Sheryl Shultz, director of trend for accessories, footwear and intimate apparel at J.C. Penney. "We're definitely in a color cycle. We're mixing warm colors together, such as orange and pink, and we're also loving the cool colors, such as blues and teals -- water colors -- used together. We're already seeing our new first lady embrace florals and fresh, bright colors for herself and her children, and that's sure to have an influence on fashion this season."

Shultz said we'll see exotic prints and fabrics such as snake and lizard in bright colors, as well as a global influence in ethnic designs and tropical florals. Leathers in shoes, bags and belts will be quilted, folded, gathered or pleated in interesting new textures.

However, the hottest trend, she said, is in versatile scarves.

"They used to be for winter," she said, "but now they come in prints and lighter colors that are more spring-like."

Shultz said that in a difficult economy, scarves are a way to breathe new life into favorite outfits: Use them as a head wrap or around the neck, belt a blouse or jeans, or tie them to a handbag.

Another must-have is a printed tote that can go from the city and work to the weekend and fun. Patchwork bags come in many combinations, so there's no worry that everyone will be carrying the same style. Tuck in a small clutch that holds essentials and can be used for a night on the town.

Pile up multiples of jewelry to make a statement -- stack up bangles in wood, plastic and metal. Pair a peace sign pendant with ethnic or plastic beads. Necklaces and earrings are bigger and bolder to give a favorite T-shirt or blouse a new look.

Strappy, colorful sandals can be flat or sit on wood or cork platforms or wedges. Last year's gladiator sandals are still popular as well.

And don't forget sunglasses in Wayfarer or aviator styles. Frames are wire or plastic in the same bright, fun colors.

Nix-Rice said some of the best accessories are the ones no one ever sees.

"Shoulder-shapers can square off or extend sloping shoulders and balance a silhouette," she said. "Spandex camisoles smooth out the lumps and bumps that can show in even the most stylish clothes."

Some other accessory tips she gives to clients who come to her for fashion and image help include:

* Calculate the size of earrings you should wear by the size chart on a pantyhose package: "A" people need earrings at least the size of a dime to make a statement, while "B" women need a nickel.

* Short necks and wide faces can be elongated with long chain necklaces while long, thin faces and necks look best with chokers. If your hips are wide, opt for link-chain or shaped-cuff bracelets that don't call attention to that area when your arms are at your side.

* Peep-toes, sling-backs and mules make your feet look thinner and your legs longer. If you don't match the color of your shoes to your skirt or pants, match them to the color of your hair for a top-to-toe finished look.

"Invest in accessories," Nix-Rice advised. "They can add mileage to a wardrobe, and except for shoes, they last for years. And they're not subject to weight fluctuation. You have to gain an awful lot of weight before your earrings get too tight!"

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