Monday, September 19, 2011

Accessory After the Fact

I have been on a major clothes buying spree since I retired. Some of it has been because once I got rid of all my T-shirts with work logos, I needed new tops, and some of it has been because when I started my ambitious exercise program, I needed workout clothes. Then there were the three trips we went on this summer, one of which called for some dress-up clothes. Mostly, though, I tend to respond to major life transitions by buying new clothes.

Now that I have all these new clothes, I have to give some thought to accessories. I am not a good accessorizer. At one time in my youth I heard the advice that before you go anywhere, you should look at the jewelry you are wearing and remove one piece. As a result, I usually can be seen wearing my wedding and engagement rings and a watch. On most days, if I followed the advice strictly, I'd have to take off either the watch or the engagement ring. I don't think that helpful hint was really intended for people like me, who don't wear much jewelry, but I have it stuck in my head anyway. 

Of course, the most basic accessories are shoes and purses. I have bad feet and have to wear orthopedic shoes, and bad organizational skills, so I prefer to stick to one purse. My choices here are limited.

Then there are scarves. I love scarves. I have lots of scarves. I have scarves in just the right shades to go with my clothes. A scarf I bought last year in Paris to go with my old coat now is the perfect match for a new sweater. A scarf my son bought me at Harrod's matches a sundress I bought at Talbot's. I just don't know how to wear scarves. Whatever scarf I have on always seems to be the wrong size or the wrong shape.   I usually wind up tying them in the shape of the Girl Scout Triangle, the Old Country Shawl, or the I Have a Sore Throat Wrap.

What that leaves are hats. I love hats. I have a "hat face". Almost any kind of hat looks good with my face*, including the big brimmed hats that women of my generation think of as "Coty Girl" hats. I also have a short body, so big brimmed hats make me look like a mushroom, but I wear them anyway. I used to have a navy blue felt hat with gold mesh covering the crown and a large gold half-circle rosette above the brim and a matching half below, so it looked like the wide brim was bisecting the full rosette. I wore it to a friend's son's wedding, where the only other guest wearing something on her head was a nun in a modified habit. Years later, I'd run into people who had been at the wedding and they'd say, "Oh, I remember you. You had that hat." I began thinking of it as THE HAT.

Unfortunately, there aren't too many places you can wear hats, which is probably the only reason that I still go to church. Even there I am usually the only person wearing a hat, because we don't have Methodist nuns. I have a lot of sun hats, since I can wear them at the beach, the zoo, on picnics, and while gardening. I have winter hats, too, but they aren't as practical as earmuffs. My lovely dress hats, however, sit in my closet most of the time collecting dust and feeling unappreciated. I'd wear them out for afternoon tea, but here in the US the only places that serve afternoon tea are few, far between and way overpriced.

I bought a new hat anyway. It's a red newsboy cap which is casual enough to wear on our upcoming trip to Branson. It also matches a red and pink Argyle sweater vest and a red ballerina neck T-shirt that I already own, but just to be on the safe side, I bought a red, gray, purple and black plaid scarf to go with it, too. If I get charged with a major fashion crime, at least I have accessories.

*Except the Amelia Earhart aviator cap with ear flaps that I bought to wear in Antarctica. That looks hideous on me, but I'm fairly sure it only looks good on Amelia Earhart.


  1. I love hats! Unfortunately I only really look good in big, wedding-y hats with large brims, preferably dark brims, and there aren't a lot of places I can wear a hat like that. I haven't been to a wedding in ages...

    I wish I knew how to deal with scarves.

  2. I have a pamphlet with directions for tying scarves, but most of the styles they show wrap directly around the neck. If you have a long neck, they work fine; if you have a short neck, you wind up looking like a well-accessorized turtle. I need my scarves to drape across my shoulders and chest.

    I learned a simple way of tying a long, rectangular scarf, but it needs to be five feet long at least. You fold it in half, wrap the folded scarf around your neck with the loop on one side and the two ends on the other, then tuck the ends through the loop. I watched a friend do this when I was in London and thought, "I can do that".

    There are youtube videos that show how to tie scarves, too. I need to haul out my scarf collection and experiment.

  3. One of the fashion and body image blogs I read, Already Pretty, has a pretty comprehensive tutorial on styling silk scarves: The blog Academichic, run by several grad students has a bibliography of scarf tying as well:

    Despite that, I too have several scarfs that I just haven't put the time into to figure out how to wear.

    Hope that's helpful!