Accessorize Me

By Mir
February 6, 2008

The lovely Courtney writes:

I’m having a wardrobe crisis. I hate everything I have, but I don’t want to buy anything new because I’m hoping to be a different size before I spend a lot on new clothes. So I’m thinking that updating my nonexistent accessories collection might be the way to go as far as making me feel a little less haphazard about my look. Do you have any tips on finding thrifty accessories to quickly update a tired (ill-fitting, ugly, wrinkled, boring) wardrobe?

The first thing I’m going to do is refer Courtney (and anyone else who’s stuck in a self-imposed can’t-buy-til-I’m-smaller purgatory) to this excellent post by Susan Wagner, because you shouldn’t just wear stuff that doesn’t fit you until some self-imposed deadline. It sounds like you do need some new clothes. And you’re allowed. I promise.

Now. Let’s talk about accessories.

I love accessories, because they’re fun and a little frivolous and no matter what you weigh, they pretty much always fit. The right sort of accessory can change your whole outfit, but more importantly, it can change your whole outlook.

Let’s work from the top down, shall we?

Hair adornment. If you’re over the age of 5, I certainly don’t want to be seeing any big floppy bows in your hair, or headbands with puppies on them, or anything like that. But a single, well-placed barrette? A fun little polka-dotted headband? They may be just the thing. This is an item you should never be spending a lot of money on—styles change, for one thing, and little baubles in your hair have a tendency to fall out or get misplaced. Go cheap on these items—Target or your other favorite drugstore or “big box” place is probably your best bet for those.

Glasses. If you wear glasses, a flattering pair can be the difference between looking blah and looking fabulous. I’m pretty sure we’ve already covered that!

Jewelry. I’m of two minds about jewelry. On the one hand, I think it makes good fashion and financial sense to have a few nice pieces you love rather than a plethora of cheap things you only sort of like. On the other hand, there’s plenty of really attractive, relatively inexpensive stuff out there that’s nice, too.

I own two Superhero necklaces and I wear one almost every day. (A pause here to note that I do not think they’re overpriced for what they are, but if you know me you know that they’re a lot more money than I generally spend on myself.) Between the two, they match just about everything I own. They’re pretty (and the philosophy behind them is awesome) and they work as well with t-shirts a with dresses, and for me they’re a perfect go-to item to make my outfit feel more special. As a result, I really don’t buy necklaces, ever.

Earrings, however, are something I change up regularly. And I’m not much for bracelets or rings, although I know folks who feel the same way about those. Whether you go for a so-called signature piece (something you wear most of the time) or a variety of accents you change as the mood strikes you, just be realistic with yourself when you’re shopping. It’s okay to spend a chunk of money on something you’ll wear all the time. It’s okay to spend a few dollars on something you might only wear once a month. And make sure to draw the attention where you want it, too—don’t wear a choker if you’re self-conscious about your neck, or a bracelet if you have some sort of issue with your arms.

I’m also really not a fan of fakery, which is to say that I love a cheap beaded necklace that’s colorful and fun and not expensive but not pretending to be expensive, either, but I sort of hate big fake pearls and diamonds which are obviously meant to look real but don’t.

Anyway. I’m not saying my style should be your style, either. I’m just encouraging you to think about what you like, beforehand, and make your choices accordingly. So! Where to buy jewelry on the cheap? I’ve had some good luck with the jewelry in the Coldwater Creek Outleticon, myself, and when there’s a coupon available (there isn’t one right now) it’s even cheaper. I’ve found a few cute things at Kohls, too. If you like silver, and you have some time, you can’t beat the prices at Silver Jewelry Club, where pieces are offered on rotation but everything is just $5.99 shipped apiece.

(Really, any place where you like the clothes and they have good sales may be a good place to look at the jewelry.)

Scarves. I’m not a huge scarf fan, possibly because I’m lousy at tying them, but they can be a fun fashion accessory for not much money. Target has lots of inexpensive options.

Shoooooooooes. You knew I was going to come around to shoes eventually, right? The right pair of shoes can make the outfit. Keep your eye on the clearance at Endless and then (if possible) pricematch at Zappos for the best deals. If you wear a lot of solid, neutral colors, don’t be afraid to get a little wild with your shoes! Think of them as an accent piece. If you tend to wear lots of colors and patterns, already, focus instead on something with nice lines in a neutral that will go with lots of different outfits.

Don’t rule out consignment. Generally when we talk about buying second-hand we’re talking about clothes, but what about accessories? It could be a great option, if you have an upscale consignment store near you. Don’t rule it out. Personally, I find the notion of buying/wearing someone else’s shoes a bit squicky, but a necklace or a scarf? No problem. This could be a way to score something a big more expensive or unusual without spending a lot.

Most of all, have some fun! You’re buying accessories, not committing yourself to a mortgage. At the right price point you can try a few things you might otherwise not, and that’s kind of fun.


  1. I do think that consignment and/or Old Navy/Target is the way to go. If you can stand sorting through the bazillion mostly unorganized things at the Goodwill, you can often find some great deals there.

  2. I actually got a group of friends together and we started a bi-annual accessory swap. We’re wildly different size-wise, and our tastes vary, but it’s fun to check out the stuff they’ve grown tired of and drink some wine. Sometimes I find several things, other times, nothing, but it’s always fun. Everybody brings the costume jewelry, scarves, purses, shoes and hats they are tired of. You can take as much as you bring. Everything has to be clean and in good condition. What doesn’t get snapped up is donated to a local women’s shelter. We have a snack and beverage commitee that rotates between us.

    And Mir, I’m with you on the Superhero necklaces. That’s my 50 lb reward!

  3. I have found fantastic earrings, necklaces, and bracelets at our local superstore, in the super clearance section. 50% off the last marked price means I sometimes pay under $2 for a decent pair of silver hoops or a funky, chunky beaded bracelet. I go for solid bright colors or interesting shapes, and it’s great to have a collection to draw from when I go to match them with an outfit.

    Also, I try to go for the less-is-more technique. I never wear earrings, necklace, AND bracelet – I always remove one thing. It’s easy to over-accessorize or to look too matchy-matchy.

    And there is nothing like a great pair of shoes to change the whole look of an outfit.

    Oh, one more thing? I spent a whole year waiting to lose all of my pregnancy weight, either squeezing into things that clearly didn’t fit and then throwing a bulky cardigan over the whole deal – or flouncing around in my maternity wear. AWFUL. I finally broke down and got two pairs of perfectly fitted pants – one black, one gray – and several shirts in basic colors that actually fit. I instantly looked thinner and felt so much better about myself, it was actually easier to eat healthier and exercise because i wasn’t all “I suck and I’m flabby!”

  4. Great suggestions. And those beaded necklaces are awesome. I know what’s next on my list of things to get.

  5. I love scarves! I’ve become quite addicted, actually, and it’s the perfect amount of splash to my otherwise quite plain wardrobe. I usually get the long ones and loop one around my neck (no tying involved) or put one in my hair headband-style.

  6. Oooo, I have information to contribute! Usually I just lurk and take in all of Pretty Mir’s Wisdom! I love Silver jewelry, so I’m a ginormous fan of Silvershake. They have a lot on the cheap, shipping is reasonable to dirt cheap, every month they have some category on sale and a lot of times a free gift with any purchase. I’ve also found some really unusual pieces, like my Murano Glass gold butterfly pendant. I think I paid less than $10 with shipping during their Murano sale, and I get tons of compliments on it every time I wear it.

    And my sneaky place to shop is Claire’s. I’m not sure how national they are, but it’s basically jewelry for pre-teens, teens, and prom. Great for cheap and super fun, or cheap and prom-style glitzy jewlery. None of it’s high quality, and it won’t last long, but you’re not paying much for it either. I’m not sure if they’re online, we’ve got one at our local mall.

Bargain Hunt





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