“This simple ensemble pops with a bold necklace and bright makeup.Adrianna Williams/The Image Bank/Getty Images
There are those days when every outfit you put together looks kind of blah. When no matter what you put on, something’s missing. When a penchant for neutrals suddenly feels like a problem.
And there are days when you don’t have time to start from scratch.
This is where go-to accessories come in. Just one can turn a look from dull to stunning in the time it takes to close a clasp, grab a bag or tuck the edges of a scarf.
Here, five pieces that consistently save uninspired looks or take the already fabulous up a notch. These are the accessories you’ll use, and love, and can feel comfortable splurging on — the ones you want to have around in an emergency.
To begin with, you’ll want at least one piece of jewelry that stands alone.
- The Statement Piece
- The Bold Bag
- The Stylish Scarf
- The Great Hat
- The Luxe Wrap
5: The Statement Piece
The term "statement" is perhaps overused right now, but it’s there for a reason. Statement jewelry speaks for itself. It says "bold," "high-fashion," "earthy" or "glamorous," and it needs very little in the way of support.
In fact, supporting accessories can detract from it. A statement piece, whether earrings, a necklace, a bracelet or a magnificent cocktail ring, does best as the center of attention, and it’s this quality that makes it essential. It can say so much on its own, you needn’t put a ton of effort into the rest of your look. On a night when you’re running late and have somehow ended up in head-to-toe black, wear a primary-colored, tribal bib necklace or cobalt-blue, shoulder-grazing chandelier earrings for all the pop and interest you need to turn monotony into something simply, utterly stylish.
If you must choose one piece of statement jewelry, consider a ring, which is unaffected by neckline, hair style or sleeve length.
Next, one with purpose!
Hello, shoulder dusters, chandeliers and waterfalls of metal. Long, ornate earrings are huge this season, reflecting influences ranging from tribal to art deco.
4: The Bold Bag
While great style is arguably essential, this accessory is undeniably so. Got a wallet and a phone? Looks like you need a bag. So why not make it a show-stopper?
We’re not talking about the leather hobo you take to work. The essential, bold bag is a true accessory: It enhances and completes your look. This go-to bag might be a beaded, vintage-style frame bag that dresses you up; a pyramid-studded suede satchel that dresses you down; a big, bright-colored leather clutch that adds pop; or a double-duty, fringed, cross-body mini bag that cinches a billowy tunic and adds some texture.
Whatever it is, it should not only add something to your outfit, but also draw attention on its own. This could be your saving grace on a "fat day": Get ’em looking at what’s hanging off your arm.
Next, one for the ages.
The 2012 bag lines feature lots of bright color-blocking, primary hues and endless shades of orange.
3: The Stylish Scarf
Just because your mother wears one doesn’t make it old. Fabulous silk scarves with dominant prints never go out of style and can be the centerpiece of an otherwise muted ensemble.
Of course, it needn’t be silk. Cashmere, wool, cotton and linen blends work, too. But we do love the way the silk ones drape without adding much bulk around the neckline.
You can go timeless, with a designer classic like a Burberry plaid or Hermès geometric print, or hip with big, bold florals, animal or tribal prints or nautical-inspired stripes. A classic scarf can help ground a trendy look, and a trendy scarf can add some flair to a classic, understated ensemble.
For versatility, look for a scarf with some length so you can wear it wrapped, tucked or knotted, or even on your head should your locks need some coverage.
Next, speaking of bad hair days …
Animal prints were (still) going strong at the spring 2012 shows.
2: The Great Hat
That a hat can do amazing things for a woman is beyond dispute. Going for sexy? Coquettish? Mysterious? Glamorous? Each can be accomplished almost entirely with the right hat, sometimes simultaneously, with an added bonus: Since not all women are willing to try it, the mere fact that you’re wearing a hat makes you stand out.
While this essential accessory is not essential for everyone, it probably should be. On top of the inherently high-style, confident nature of donning a fedora or a cloche or a retro, veiled pillbox number, a hat is the perfect cloak for crazy hair. Don’t have time to blow dry? Find yourself frizzy? There’s no easier, faster way to turn a bad hair day into a fashion statement.
And finally, for a chill …
Vintage-style, 1920s-era headpieces dotted runways at the spring 2012 shows.
1: The Luxe Wrap
What’s even better than comfy warmth? Comfy, fashionable warmth — and it’s easy enough to achieve with a luxurious wrap in a color that works with everything.
This truly is an essential. You’ll wear it in, out and around, whether you’re cold or not. In winter, it’s a layer of warmth; in summer, it’s a cover-up for sleeveless nights. It can make a strapless cocktail dress appropriate for a church wedding and turn a pair of jeans and T-shirt into stylish loungewear.
Silk-wool blends and lightweight merinos are beautifully soft and can cross seasons and occasions; cashmere, though, is as luxurious as it gets and adds elegance to everything it touches. We recommend a splurge.
In fact, splurge on any of these five essentials, if possible. When you wear it all the time, you want to love it — and you want it to last.
For more information on accessories, style and current trends, check out the links on the next page.
Lots More Information
- Top 10 Fall Accessories
- 5 Indispensable Holiday Accessories
- 10 Must-have Accessories for Vacation
- 5 Must-have Spring Accessories
More Great Links
- Elle: New York Fashion Week: Spring 2012 Trend Report — Sept. 19, 2011
- Feeling Fine: Vogue’s Guide to Exceptional Jewelry
- Shine: 7 Ways to Fix a Beauty Blunder — Feb. 2, 2012
- Style: Accessories Index
- De Sole, Rickie. Accessories Guide Spring 2012. Vogue. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.vogue.com/guides/accessories-spring-2012-guide/
- Gustashaw, Megan and Susan Cernek. "Spring 2012’s Most Wearable Fashion Trends." Glamour. (Feb. 16, 2012) http://www.glamour.com/fashion/2011/09/spring-2012s-most-wearable-fashion-trends#slide=10
- Sprint 2012 Accessories. Style. (Feb. 15, 2012) http://www.style.com/accessories/