{iStyle} Closet Essentials pt. 2 – Accessories

By: Jenn Ortiz, guest blogger

So now that you have the absolute most basic essentials for your wardrobe {or at least trying to acquire them all} what do you do with them? How can we take all this plain stuff and make it…. less basic and plain? Even in picking basics, it’s very likely that you selected something that gives a hint of your style. So how to play that up?


Below is a list of accessories every man or woman should add to his/her wardrobe:

Umbrella – It is preferable that you own two. One compact as possible for travel. The other a full length standard umbrella. It’s an all too often neglected item that provides an opportunity to show your style and be playful. There are some great designs out there. Find the perfect expressive umbrella for you.

Scarves and ties – These are unisex, and being close to the face, very visible. Every man should own at least two or three ties of the highest quality he can afford. Neckwear is important for men, since it is an opportunity to add variety in shape and color to an outfit. In business or formal settings, a tie, bow-tie, or ascot should be worn. (There are several guides online that provide instructions on tying ties in different fashions of knots and on the varying widths of ties.) In casual dress, a man could add a scarf, which should be of the longer variety looped around the neck. Only women should wear square scarves, which are usually knotted.

Cuff-links – This one is mostly for the men, but a woman who wears a french cuff shirt could use this as well. Cuff-links are one of the more noticeable accessory choices for a man. A french cuff shirt looks more tasteful and luxurious. Getting creative with cuff-links is the cherry on top. A man should have an elegant set (think Tiffany’s) and a few fun sets (Paul Smith has some pretty cool ones, but you can find colorful and interestingly designed cuff-links everywhere these days.)

Statement Necklace – This one is mostly for women, although I’m sure the daring man could pull off some sort of necklace. More than any other pieces of jewelry this can change an outfit. Take a plain t-shirt and jeans and throw on a multi-strand necklace or a bib necklace and you are instantly styled. Anthropologie and J. Crew have great necklaces. You can find great pieces at any price range from Target, thrift stores, Shopbop, Saks, or wherever. Have fun! Make them big, colorful, long, short, or whatever you fall in love with. Then throw the necklace on with the plainest outfit.  Done.

Belts – The purpose of belts differs for men and women. No, belts are not supposed to hold up your pants. If your pants don’t stay up on their own, then you should not be wearing them. For both sexes, a belt can add color, dress-up or dress-down an outfit. For a man, a belt is a statement. A good belt is a subtle show of taste. For a woman, a belt will change the proportions and silhouette of any outfit. Tying a wide Obi belt above the waist and below the underbust, right around the ribs, will create a corset effect and emphasize a smaller middle. It can also gives the illusion of length on the bottom of the body. Put a belt around a shapeless dress and you can create shape. Consider the outfit in the photo above; without the belt, it would be nothing. For the most part, women should wear belts at the waist.

Legwear  and hosiery – Both women and men can have fun with socks. Why keep them plain? A peak of a well pick socked shows a great deal of style. It’s one of those details that isn’t often seen, but when it is visible, it shows how deep your sense of quality and style really goes. Ladies, stockings, tights, leggings, and socks are all at your disposal for adding variety to an outfit. Wearing an LBD with solid tights is very different than with fishnets.

Hats – It used to be that a gentleman and even a lady would never leave home without some sort of headdress or hat. Unfortunately, those days are gone, but hats are still a great accessory to have in your wardrobe. Fedoras look good on almost anyone. A newsboy cap is great to add onto a casual outfit. Ladies, try a floppy hat or cloche. (See here for a guide on ladies hats.) Go beyond the baseball cap! Try a variety of hats. You might think you aren’t a hat person, until you find the right style.

Brooches – Pins and brooches are rarely used these days. They had a moment a few seasons ago, but that was short lived. However, this gives us all a chance to be truly unique. Ladies, try wearing a pin in an unexpected place. Or, pin on a cluster of them. Men, I suggest you look for old military styled pins to wear at the chest or on lapels.

Earrings – Again, have fun with the jewelry. Every woman should own a pair of studs (diamonds or pearls, preferably both) and a pair of medium sized hoops. Anything beyond that is a free for all. Big chandelier earrings are a favorite of mine.

Purses and clutches – Ladies, your purse is a HUGE expression of your style. It’s also a dead give-away for whether or not you have an eye for quality and style. Every woman should own a clutch for formal events and one for going out in less formal settings. Clutches in skins are always versatile (or a good embossed faux.) Beaded clutches are also versatile and can be found in consignment shops and thrift stores quite easily.  For the everyday, a woman should own a moderately sized leather bag. It is preferable that the leather be patent or or not too soft in order to deal with daily stress. A tan bag is a safe bet, but owning one in black and one in brown is ideal. Beyond that, it’s all fun and games. This is where you can experiment with all sorts off colors, shapes, and details. Personally, I love carrying a clutch in the daytime; it keeps the outfits a bit dressier and also keeps me from carrying too much stuff. A tip: put all your essentials in a clutch and throw it into your larger bag. That way if you go straight out in the evening, you can just pull the clutch out and get rid of the larger bag.

Messenger bags and briefcases – Men, please take note. Once you are out of school, please stop carrying a backpack. Get a briefcase or a messenger bag. No arguments. This is not negotiable. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself, “What would James Bond carry?” Unless there is a parachute in it, I highly doubt he’d wear a backpack.

In addition to this, buying beyond the basic shoes will help add some kick to the basic wardrobe you’ve built. Start by buying colorful shoes in basic silhouettes. Then,  you can go nuts and buy whatever crazy fabulous shoe that strikes you. Men, one last thing: Take care of your breast pocket. The most stylish men in the world do not neglect the pocket; they fill it with elegant and coordinated pocket squares.

So, did you get all that? Just remember that this is where you get to have fun! Do something unexpected or try something you never have before. Experiment with your accessories, and I promise you will be instantly more stylish.

Additonal reading:
How to Cultivate Your Personal Style
See stylish people on The Sartorialist


Jenn Ortiz is a graduate of the University of Florida with degrees in History and Latin American Studies with hopes to pursue a PhD in Child Development. She believes there is beauty in everything around us; from the inside out, outside in. She currently runs {Bits of Beauty}, a place you just feel good about.


  1. I love this Jenn! Really great photos too! 🙂

  2. I love this Jenn! Really great photos too! 🙂

  3. I love this Jenn! Really great photos too! 🙂