Sometimes we hesitate to buy accessories with special details when we’re trying to build a cohesive wardrobe and get more wear out of our pieces. Buying shoes, belts, gloves, hats, and purses in coordinating neutral colors is a great way to make sure this goes with that—a camel-colored hat will go with your brown parka, and it can also coordinate with a future jacket you may get, such as a purple peacoat. We might tend to avoid accessories with pops of color that could get in the way of that coordination: a camel-colored hat with yellow accents would not coordinate quite as well with that purple peacoat. But even when avoiding pops of color, you can still find accessories with details that elevate the look without making them clash with other items. And it’s worth it for the style payoff: the more interesting design details an outfit has, the more elevated it feels, even when the main pieces are very casual.
Try looking for items that have:
- Two or three colors in the same family (such as two shades of brown)
- Layers, like an extra flap, tab, or some kind of decoration.
- Decorative seams or embroidery that aren’t in a contrasting color but that are still visible against the material.
- Interesting laces, chains, or straps—ones that are thicker, thinner, or shinier than usual.
- Bows, ribbons, fringe, feathers, or tassels in the same color family.
- Hardware, such as buckles or rivets in gold or silver.
- Neutral patterns, such as leopard print or tortoiseshell.
- Elements of texture, such as suede, leather, velvet, various faux snakeskins or fur, or other textured elements.
- Cut-out designs, such as small dots or circles, flowers, or scallops.
To give you some more ideas, here are some suggestions for upgrading classic wardrobe staples with small details—and a few outfit ideas for taking your coordinating wardrobe from good to glam.
Here are some very nice-looking Chelsea boots. These are a neutral black, seem to be of good quality, and are very simple.
However, you can upgrade the look by finding Chelsea boots with some interesting detail, such as a more pointed toe, a two-toned style, or a different texture.
(A pointed toe elevates the basic Chelsea boot.)
(Alligator print adds some interest.)
(Two-toned brown boots.)
You can upgrade any boot with some interesting details. Even boots that are very casual, such as combat boots, can be elevated.
(Plain combat boots.)
(Combat boots with extra hardware and texture play—quilting and wool.)
(The stitching pattern on these boots gives them a vintage vibe, like they’re a pair from the early twentieth century.)
(You can also go black with extra silver hardware, which has more of a punk, street-style vibe.)
Belts are easily elevated with different textures and buckle shapes. Do you remember a few years ago when the Gucci double-G and double-circle belts were so popular? Those double-circular designs added interest while still keeping the belts relatively minimalistic. Of course, you can always go for a big, statement cowboy buckle, but that’s a different look. If you’re not looking to wear a statement belt, and instead want a neutral belt that can blend into a cohesive outfit, look for one with small details, such as a belt buckle that’s oval, braided, or tortoise-shell.
Faux-snakeskin or leopard-print belts add texture and pattern while staying neutral.
It’s easiest to find an elevated purse, because while it’s still functional, it’s not literally hitting the pavement like your shoes are. Purse designs can be even more creative because they won’t be getting dirty and wet in the same way that footwear does.
Let’s look at this plain leather cross body: it’s a good mid-size purse made of leather, so it’s durable (though also heavy). It is somewhat plain, too.
You can find something just a little fancier, like this purse that has a V-shaped flap and extra zipper decoration on the front.
Even fancier, there’s this Aldo purse with a chain down the middle and a huge puff ball attached to the handle (that’s easy to take off if you prefer).
There are also casual two-toned purses, like this white and brown one that comes with a scarf tied around it. (Of course, you can tie your own scarf around the handle, too!)
Or you can try a purse that plays with texture, like this Michael Kors purse with faux crocodile texture and a few square studs.
Let’s look at some examples of people who have incorporated many different details into their outfits, such as pointed shoes, neutral patterns, and structured and textured purses.
Karalyne of @BestDressedWallflower, wears black pants, shoes, and a purse that all feature interesting details that contribute to the overall look. Her shoes are pointed, with a slim heel; the pants have black fringe going down the sides (something you could DIY). Finally, the black purse has a smooth leather bottom contrasted with a woven texture on top, and extra gold or brass hardware.
Here, Julia Berolzheimer’s patterned blue-and-white shoes are the star of the show. But her other pieces feature interesting but subdued details, as well. The jeans are a bit distressed and cuffed at the bottom. The purse is a two-toned brown and camel, and the white blouse is lightly peppered with navy circles and a scalloped collar.
In this photo, Lupita Nyong’o wears a jeans-and-a-tee outfit elevated by its details. First, her jacket is blue leather, which is different from the usual brown or black. Her purse is a bright, textured blue. And, the jeans are cuffed at the bottom to better show off the blue, two-toned kitten heels. All this adds up to an interesting outfit created from detailed basics.
When you have some basics that are also visually interesting, you can combine them to create fantastic casual outfits. These are the types of outfits that are often described as “effortless,” because it takes some analysis and a closer look to figure out why they look so good. (A more accurate description would be “subtle.”) It’s often a combination of cohesive colors (brown boots and a brown purse), pleasing proportions (volume in one area), and details (such as braid, fringe, stitching, and hardware) that add up over the whole outfit to make a big impact.
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