Accessory Sets

Adding accessories has always been a favorite part of getting dressed. For example, the shoes and bag can set an elevated tone for jeans and a white shirt. On the other hand, a black pair of slacks with a plain cashmere sweater can be boring, even if the pieces themselves are elegant. However, if we treat these combos as foundations to build upon, we can create endless looks for any occasion.

Accessories can elevate any look and make it more appropriate for a festive occasion. So, today I’m sharing some suggestions for accessories that can set the tone for outfits, starting with a plain white button-up shirt and plain black pants.

The shirt is a couple of years old. Here is a similar shirt, and similar pants are here. All of the outfit examples below include these pieces as a base.

People often ask me for suggestions on what to wear for special occasions. Of course, I may wear the same clothes for various events, from dressy to casual. However, I accessorize differently and build more formal looks from elegant fabrics. For example, I would never wear a cotton sweater with corduroy pants and brogues to a cocktail party since those fabrics and textures are inherently casual and more appropriate for country life. Instead, you could wear high-end examples of a cashmere sweater, dress slacks, and heels. (I’ve shown you the pieces I own inspired by these items but within my budget many times.)

This post will show you how I use accessories to elevate the basics from casual to dressed for dinner. In addition, I hope these examples give you ideas for fresh ways to use things you may already have.

Leather sneakers, a denim jacket, and a black leather tote bag have long been a favorite casual combination. Even if just running errands and going to the Post Office, I prefer to look like I made a little effort to get dressed. All of these pieces have a relaxed, casual vibe.

Do you have a set of accessories reserved for evenings or special occasions? You may wear other accessories only in the most relaxed and casual combinations. Building a wardrobe or set of accessories to complement a particular look can save money, time, and effort.

The Puma sneakers are here. The leather Coach tote bag is vintage. I won it in a sales contest about forty years ago. The tweed and pearl cap is here. A similar denim jacket is here. Similar sunglasses are here. The Nordgreen watch is here. Similar hoops are here, and a similar ring is here.

I might wear a coated denim moto jacket with animal print loafers to join friends for lunch. The colors and attitudes of these accessories are slightly edgy to tie in with the style of the moto jacket.

The moto jacket was from White House Black Market about three years ago, and the Dooney & Bourke bag is two years old. Here is a similar jacket. Here is a similar bag. Pointed-toe animal print loafers are here. A similar belt is here. Similar earrings are here. A similar ring is here. My watch is here.

I wear business attire when I go to the bank and my accountant’s office. The bag is roomy enough to hold what I need for the day, and the blazer adds professionalism. The jewelry is subdued, but the tones complement the blazer and the bag.

Similar items are linked when what I am wearing is no longer available. BlazerBeltBagShoesWatchRingEarrings. The necklace is here, and you can use the code SAS10 for $10 off any one item at Beauty in Stone Jewelry.

Dressing for a special occasion can be much easier if you have a small wardrobe of elegant jewelry, including ornate shoe buckles and evening bags. I recently styled this jacket with a denim shirt, but as you can see, it is also perfect for dressed-up occasions. The jacket is here.

The pearl necklaces are a couple of years old, so here is a similar one. Similar pearl earrings are here. The purple square stone ring is an antique, so a similar ring is here. Finally, the crystal dome ring is here. The little handbag is more than twenty years old, so here is a cute current bag for the evening.

As with many of the items I show you, I may have purchased them years ago, so the same thing isn’t available now. However, similar shoe buckles are here. Shoe buckles allow you to dress up a simple pair of pumps without buying a pair of formal shoes you may rarely need.

I’ve owned most of these items for years and used them as building blocks for countless looks. The tenet of my teaching is to buy what suits you and your lifestyle, then enjoy it for years to come. Dress to be comfortable for the weather and appropriate for the situation.

I’m retired now, so I don’t collaborate with brands or advertise, but I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. In addition, the shopping links I share may allow me to earn a small commission at no cost to you.

  1. Dear Susan,
    You are so talented! You should write a book.
    I thank you for all you’ve taught me. Especially on this post. You are an inspiration to so many people like me.
    Thanks, and many blessings for you and your family.

  2. Brilliant, sensible and inspiring as always. Who doesn’t have a pair of black slacks and a white shirt? I love that you have had many of your pieces for years (or decades!) So have I. Now I’m concentrating on collecting versatile accessories, including scarves, the colour palettes of which inspire mix and match clothing items.
    Thank you for all you do.

  3. Susan,
    What a great post. You look wonderful in each
    Outfit. May I ask the size of your Lagerfeld jacket
    You are much taller but I am curious the fit.
    I’m sure the sleeves are quite long.
    Thank you

  4. This was a very helpful post. Accessories are where I really fall down. This illustration was helpful for me to see what types of things I need for the life I have going forward.

  5. Oh my goodness!! Always beautiful and never boring using common basics. Also, you continue giving us new ideas! Thank you again.
    I’m still waiting for the “feed sack” or “potato sack”!!!!

  6. You have shared some more great ideas on how to wear what we already have! What I like most about your posts is that your not just pushing something on us but you really help us with ideas on using what we already have. I have most of these items in my closet but you give me new ideas. I look forward to your posts. Thank you!


  8. This blog was way out of the ballpark! So many visuals to help cement the ideas for changing a simple combination of pieces with accessories. Thanks again for an informative read.

  9. Just love your posts and tips. So many are just shopping links but yours are sincerely teaching wardrobe “management.”
    Happy holiday season to you and Mr. Mickey.

  10. Hello Susan.

    I enjoy receiving your emails. What advice do you have for those of us who don’t wear our tops tucked in?

    Enjoy your day.

    Michele S

  11. You have impeccable style and taste, not to mention you are absolutely stunning! I am a new reader and am thoroughly enjoying your posts! Thanks so much!

  12. Susan,

    I just love your blog! Your ideas are practical and wonderful! It’s so nice to read a blog that is not pushing a certain store or trend that does not suit my lifestyle. I try to follow many of your suggestions and they have helped me build a beautiful versatile wardrobe. Thanks again!

  13. I love how you show the basics of a pair of pants and a white shirt, which we all most likely have in our closets, and turn it into 4 completely different outfits. I now own several different long sleeve shirts and blouses, thanks to you, as well as dark pants and jeans, and the possibilities are endless! Thank you!

  14. Please style cashmere sweater, mine is v neck, with black pants in a way that they don’t look boring. How would you accessorize for casual, dressy, semi casual.

  15. Genius!! I love this post!! It was absolutely fascinating to see how accessories transformed the same outfit into whatever the occasion called for! Brilliant blogging!! Thanks for your hard work, for which we reap the benefit!!

  16. Thank you, Susan, for your helpful posts. I just found your blog and every post has been very helpful. You always look chic. Many thanks!

  17. Can you tell me what size you are wearing in the black Karl Lagerfeld jacket? I found some OTHER jackets in this brand and both the 8 and the 10 work, but I am concerned about ordering the 8 and having it be too small. How does it run? I am 5’6″ and 139 #. Alot of my blazers are mediums.

    Ginger Whelan

  18. Do the pants you are wearing have belt loops, or are they pull on pants that you added a belt to? All the looks you shared are lovely.

    1. The pants I’m wearing do not have belt loops. Since I added tailored jackets, I also added a belt and tucked in the shirt because only a narrow section of the front of the body shows. If you have a straight rectangle shape, wearing a belt without loops might not work since the belt would “travel.”

  19. Thanks for the post Susan. I have shoe ornaments that I can wear in the front of the shoe or in the back. When I wear a longer skirt, I like to wear the bow ornaments on the back of my shoe. Hi to Mr. Mickey.
    Patty V

  20. Many of us have reached an age when attending funerals is a more common, sad fact of life. I’m less comfortable with dresses at this age but wonder if slacks can be appropriate. Would you feel differently about your outfit if you’re a guest vs. family member? We’ve recently had a health scare in our family and it made me think how an emergent shopping trip could be too much.

  21. I have never owned so few clothes and felt so freed from the pressure of what to wear. I no longer make random purchases and waste money on clothing that does not fit my style. Thank you for all the tips and inspiration you have provided over the years that I have followed your blog.

  22. Thanks for this building of 2 common pieces. We are going on a cruise with the family next summer. I always over pack and your ideas will help me take a light suitcase. Thank you.

  23. Susan, you have so much outfit making knowledge to share with your readers. You do the thinking for me! Luckily, I wear the same colours as you and have clothing very similar to yours, so I can use your outfit “recipes” without buying new items.
    Each outfit above is a winner. Thank you!

  24. I have always loved your posts, but have never publicly posted as I’m also an introvert. I am retiring this week and you have helped me to curate my wardrobe for the next phase in my life. Many thanks, Susan. You are a treasure

  25. Very good examples of how to dress from casual to a evening out!!! I do what you do!! I was taught to do this from my grandmother and mother growing up!!!

  26. Hooray! I’ve adopted your advice. I always get comments about looking put together.
    Who knew how easy it would be. Packing is simple, dressing is simple, and looking great is simple.
    I have autumn coloring so my accessories pull that in. Thank you Susan

  27. Yippeeee for shoe clips! I have multiple pairs that get regular wear on my house shoes.
    Blank clips are easily purchased on Amazon, if you want to really make them your own! They are a great use for costume jewelry that is no longer worn or making a little “pop” of color/glitz (on an area too often ignored). I have even used them on slip-on canvas shoes!

  28. Susan all your posts are helpful and appreciated. I am currently in a bit of panic mode. Even though it’s winter, some of us are preparing for cruises to tropical locations and would greatly love help with packing for that. Everything from horseback riding in the sun to formal night (hubby wearing his new tux). What shoes to wear with my little black dress, looking semi chic and staying comfortable in the heat, not overpacking, . . . help?

    1. Metallic sandals can be elegant with a gown or appropriate with a sundress. Tropical fabrics such as linen, cotton, or viscose in neutral colors or vibrant colors that work together will allow you to mix and match for more looks from fewer clothes. I hope you have a marvelous time!

  29. I lost 40 pounds over the past few years and have rebuilt my wardrobe using your guidance. I traveled to Switzerland for a week in September and used your tips to dress well with a streamlined travel wardrobe (everything fit in a suitcase that went in the overhead bin!). Susan, I look forward to every post!

  30. Susan, I am frequently down in your lovely Johnson City to visit family. East Tennessee is gorgeous and so refreshing!

    On a random note, do you have a facialist you recommend in your fair city?

    Thank you!

  31. Susan,
    Your hair is lovely and I can’t imagine it any other color than gray. It is beautiful on you.
    Just curious, as a young woman, what was you hair color ?

    1. My hair was light blonde when I was a little girl, but it started darkening before my teens and was chestnut brown in adulthood. I saw my first gray hair when I was nineteen.

  32. Very enjoyable & informative post. Susan I like your longer hairstyle. Very youthful & flattering, although you also looked pretty in the shorter style too. Kind of nice to go with longer in the cooler months I think.

  33. Dear Susanne,
    In one of your posts, you wrote about the inside length of the pants. I would also like to know how many inches the bottom is? Is it possible to know this?

  34. Thank you for giving me so many ideas! I would not have thought of shoe buckles but I’m going to buy some today to add some sparkle to new black ballet flats.

    1. Look for that notation in the description of the garments. Many companies include both the inseam and leg opening measurements. If you need fuller legs, look for tailored slacks, flares, or bootcut pants. Skinny and ankle-length pants will usually have a smallest leg opening.

  35. Good morning Susan,

    Asking my husband for a Norgren watch for Christmas, and in looking at their site, am wondering what size dial you have on your watch.

    Thank you and warm regards,

    Barb Wierzba

  36. Your style is what I aspire to. Classic and elegant. Now that I am retired, I am not sure that I will be able to afford everything I would like to have, but I do have some of the basics already. Thanks for the inspiration.

  37. Love love love this fashion article! Seeing how you put together casual & dressy fashion & by adding various accessories you made every look a classy statement piece! Thank-you! Appreciate & look forward to your blog! ❤️

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.