10 Accessories That Work With Any Outfit
Easy items that make every ensemble look more pulled-together
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, January 21, 2021
En español | Tell me you've been there. You get dressed, ready to go only to find the planned shoes/bag/jewelry/scarf looks totally wrong. This is never truer than now when daily outfits are a mashup of athleisure, casual, sporty and more dressed-up items. The two choices are changing your clothes or scrambling for different accessories. Here's a new option that makes the situation easy. Just stick to a core group of 10 accessories that look great with anything. Here's what you need:
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Walmart; Target; Macy's
1. A polished tote
We love our bags and until last year counted on several to get us through the week. There was a basic go-to-work bag, a big open tote to haul extras, a casual weekend bag and a ladylike satchel or shoulder bag for tailored days. Well, we're done with that. Now we want one bag that can dress up or down and hold our masks, water bottle, sanitizer, wallet, cell and glasses 24/7. The do-all solution is a medium-sized tote with a softer shape, compartments or at least pockets, and a top that closes securely, like the C. Wonder Kimberly Quilted Tote in black or navy ($20, walmart.com), A New Day Soft Tote Handbag in olive or gray ($40, target.com), MICHAEL Michael Kors Lillie Large Chain Shoulder Tote in Luggage ($238, macys.com). Choose black or brown or a fresh neutral like navy, gray or olive.
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: Nordstrom (2); Zappos
2. An all-seasons scarf
You've probably been collecting cozy scarves for winter warmth, neck camouflage and making a basic top instantly fancy. Well, a generously sized oblong in supple viscose — like the Tasha Oversize Scarf in blue, brick or ivory ($48, nordstrom.com), Rebecca Minkoff Animal Print Scarf in Leopard or Snow Leopard ($68, nordstrom.com) or Kate Spade New York Enchanted Stripe Oblong Scarf ($98, zappos.com) — is the accessory you'll reach for again and again (so splurge) to wrap and drape and pull together your sweaters and joggers, your blazer and jeans. Choose a print or hue that accents the colors you wear most or brightens your face.
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: LOFT; Walmart (2)
3. Hoop earrings
Any stud earring is fine but when you want earrings with a little more star power, head for gold or silver hoops that will look right with anything from a black sweater to a hoodie. These earrings, unlike elaborate chandeliers and dangling styles, won't get tangled in your face mask. Stick with a medium-sized pair that are substantial enough to be noticed but lightweight on your lobes and piercings, like the Loft Heart Rope Hoop Earrings in gold ($30, loft.com), Forever New Sterling Silver Heart Hoop Earrings ($19, walmart.com) or Ross-Simons Cultured Pearl Double Hoop Earrings in 14-karat yellow gold ($99, walmart.com). And yes, hoops that feature hearts, chain links or pearls are hot and will satisfy your trend cravings.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Walmart; H&M; LOFT
4. A waist-defining belt
This essential item will save you from looking shapeless when wearing loose unstructured clothes or lots of layers. You know most women 50-plus don't wear belts (other than ties on wrap dresses) thinking they will emphasize a belly bulge, but they're real silhouette-makers regardless of your size or proportions. Even a slim statement belt like the H&M Chain Waist Belt in gold ($25, hm.com) can provide just enough waist definition over billowy tunic tops and sweater dresses. Wider belts like the Loft Horseshoe Buckle Belt in black/white ($50, loft.com) or C. Wonder Double C Elastic Waist Belt ($14, walmart.com) work like instant tailoring. Use them to cinch a long cardigan or blazer over leggings or jeans or wear it just above your natural waist on dresses for the illusion of a longer torso and flat tummy, too.
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Target; Eloquii; LOFT; Banana Republic
5. A chunky chain-link necklace
Sure you can always wear delicate layered necklaces from morning to night, but when you want to make a statement try a bold chain like the Banana Republic Chunky Link Necklace ($47, bananarepublic.com), Loft Heart Y Necklace ($40, loft.com), A New Day Thick Chain Link Necklace in Gold ($15, target.com) or the Eloquii Chunky Chain Necklace in Hematite ($37, eloquii.com). Yes, they're trendy but instantly give casual or classic clothes an edgy vibe. Choose a metal that is in sync with your other jewelry — cool and silvery or warm and golden — and sling it on. P.S. Don't wear the hoops in number 3 and the necklace … it's either/or these days!
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: Uniqlo; DSW; Old Navy
6. Sporty sunglasses
Big, oversize diva frames are forever but may not be ideal with your sportier mixes. A bold black or tortoise acrylic and metal combo is the better choice, like the Kelly & Katie Vista Sunglasses ($15, dsw.com), Uniqlo Brow Line Sunglasses in 09 Black or 37 Brown ($20, uniqlo.com) or Old Navy Round Cat-Eye Metal-Tip Sunglasses for Women in Black Jack ($15, oldnavy.com). Just a reminder: sunglasses — with UV protection, of course — are now year-round accessories. Keeping our eyes healthy and hiding fatigue and stress with a dose of style couldn't be easier.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: DSW (2); Macy's
7. Gutsy black moto boots
If you read my recent AARP sneaker column you know it's stylish to wear sneakers with everything. If that's you, great! However, lots of women 50-plus wear sneakers only for workouts or don't like wearing them at all. Until summer's more bare-legged shoe options kick in, there's one versatile bootie that multitasks from skirts to jeans to joggers and that's black moto boots. Choose a mid-calf length like the Crown Vintage Denema Boot in black ($50, dsw.com) and Blowfish Raexly Boot in black or dark brown ($65, dsw.com) or an ankle-length version like the Gentle Souls by Kenneth Cole Women's Best Moto Lug Sole Booties ($195, macys.com). Before you say no: If you wear a black leather jacket (or black leather anything) have a tattoo, multiple ear piercings or even make eye makeup a daily, do trust me — you can handle these.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Old Navy; Eloquii; H&M
8. The duster cardigan
Maybe you never thought of a cardigan as an accessory, but it certainly is now. When the challenge is making a two-piece outfit like tapered sweatpants and a white shirt or a midi skirt and sweatshirt look more intentional, this relaxed third piece is what does it. Get an open-front, drop-shoulder style like the Old Navy Long Duster Open-Front Cardigan Sweater for Women in Light Gray Heather, Cream or Black Jack ($55, oldnavy.com), H&M Knit Cardigan in Gray Melange ($30, hm.com ) or Eloquii Long Ribbed Cardigan in caramel or black ($100, eloquii.com) for a relaxed contemporary fit over any sleeve. And thanks to the long silhouette and camouflage benefits, adding a duster makes everyone appear taller and sleeker — feel warmer, too.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; H&M; Bloomingdale's
9. A knit poncho or ruana
This one-size-fits-all accessory is usually found in the scarf section and is excellent for whittling away extra pounds and pulling together a simple two-piece outfit. The big difference between a poncho and a ruana is the latter has a slit down the front. The bottom of either softly drapes and it's designed to stay on and in place, unlike a wrap or big blanket scarf. Look for a neutral color or combo of neutrals that syncs with your wardrobe, like the Halogen V-Neck Cashmere Poncho in black, gray light heather or beige oatmeal light heather ($149, nordstrom.com), H&M Knit Poncho in beige ($20, hm.com) and Echo Colorblock Fringe Hem Ruana in black ($79, bloomingdales.com), and eat dessert!
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: Zappos; H&M; Nordstrom
10. A cool black hat
Most women have an oddball collection of cold-weather knit beanies, baseball caps and summer straws bought on sale or impulse. What never misses is a black hat that goes with every coat and jacket you own and saves you from bad-hair days. If you don't have a fedora like the Brixton Wesley Fedora in black ($59, zappos.com), a leather bucket like the H&M Bucket Hat in black faux leather ($18, hm.com) or an elevated beanie with faux fur detail like the Topshop Pom Beanie ($26, nordstrom.com), what are you waiting for? Get them for this year (and next) before they sell out!