How accessories can stretch your wardrobe

Affordable Wardrobe Accessories for the Workplace

Paige Estigarribia

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Accessories are such an important part of fashion. With a few affordable accessories, one can easily change the same outfit from weekend casual to workplace appropriate on Monday morning. We wanted to get some good tips on basic and affordable accessories for the workplace, so we reached out to Lisa Tufano, from Think Like A Boss Lady.

Q: Is there one purse color or style that you'd recommend that looks stylish and is also functional for the office?

Lisa: So much depends upon your work environment, but you can never go wrong with a classic tote or satchel in a color like black, beige, taupe, tan, navy, or gray.

I travel often and enjoy not having to change purses constantly, so I prefer a tote bag because it can accommodate my 13" laptop, a notebook/planner, a wallet, a bottle of water, as well as some smaller bags that I use to organize things like my makeup, snacks, pens, and business cards. The key to maintaining your sanity with larger bags is utilizing smaller, zippered pouches to keep things from just floating around your purse in a jumbled mess. It also makes changing purses a snap because you can just swap the smaller pouches between purses as necessary.

To keep your bag from looking cheap or outdated, as a general rule I would avoid the following:

- Rhinestones and lots of bling
- Over-the-top textures like metallic studs
- Decorative bows or ribbons
- Busy patterns like stripes, dots, flowers, etc.
- The Flavor Flav effect! Keep the hardware simple; you don't want your bag to have more gold chains than Mr. T.

While I love a bargain, I'm sometimes willing to splurge a bit in this department because a nicer quality, classically styled bag will last for years and survive fluctuating fashion trends. For example, I've been lusting after this Michael Kors "Hamilton" tote bag for almost a year. It's a design that's been around for a while, but luckily for close to $300, it seems like it may actually stand the test of time.

Affordable Wardrobe Accessories for the Workplace

Q: Is there a particular piece of jewelry that can serve many purposes in a business casual attire wardrobe?

Lisa: What a tough question! You can never go wrong with a pair of tasteful earring studs or a classic gold or silver chain necklace with a medium-sized link. For jewelry that can convert for multiple looks, perhaps a longer necklace that can also be wrapped twice to become a shorter, layered necklace or even triple wrapped to become a bracelet.

Q: If there's one accessory that you could recommend that would serve many purposes (i.e. dressing up an outfit, giving an outfit a different look) what would it be?

Lisa: A statement necklace and/or red lipstick are two of my favorite, easy tricks to elevate a look.

We don't always think of it in this way, but makeup is as much an accessory as anything else. When used correctly, it has the same impact as a gorgeous piece of jewelry.

The statement necklace is a very personal choice, so choose something you like, and as long as the rest of your look is relatively simple, then you'll be fine. For example, a white blouse with a black trouser (or tailored denim for a casual environment) will get an instant upgrade when you add a statement necklace and a red lip.

As for the shade of red lipstick, this depends entirely upon your skin tone, so I always recommend visiting the makeup counter to try a few options. For some, a muted brick red will be more flattering than a fire engine red hue. Hot pink, oranges, and other trendy colors come and go, but a red lip is enduring and truly any woman can wear red tastefully.

Q: What are popular stores or places that carry stylish and functional accessories at reasonable prices?

Lisa: Here are my top 5 favorites:

RocksBox! This is a relatively new find of mine, but it's great for stylish ladies on a budget. RocksBox provides a genius new subscription program that allows you to borrow three pieces of gorgeous jewelry each month, which you can then exchange at any time for three new pieces of jewelry.

If you'd prefer to purchase items instead of "borrow" them, try Purple Peridot.

Boss Lady Tip: Many of these retailers sell great looking jewelry, but the metals are not waterproof and even the oils in your skin might dull them over time. I find that a light coating of Krylon Clear Acrylic Spray does wonders for extending the life of your non-precious metal jewelry.

Q: What's the biggest mistake that women make with their accessories?

Lisa: In my opinion, the biggest pitfall is either over-accessorizing or wearing no accessories at all. Some women are intimidated by the process of matching accessories to their look, and so they play it super safe by avoiding accessories altogether.

On the flip side, there is definitely such a thing as "too much" when it comes to accessories. You don't really need earrings, a necklace, stacks of bracelets, and rings all at the same time. If you're unsure, try choosing two areas of your body to accessorize and call it a day.

Q: Is it ok for accessories to be a bit different in the workplace? Or should you stick with common themes and looks?

Lisa: At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks (including me!) about your accessories as long as you stick to what you love and you feel beautiful. Trends are constantly evolving and you may just inspire your own workplace trend by experimenting with a look that others aren't currently wearing. It's absolutely okay to be different!

That said, if you work in a conservative environment or you'd like to be noticed for the quality and content of your work more than your accessories/outward appearance, my best advice is to explore accessories but don't let your daily statement necklace be the primary reason that others notice you or praise you. Shine with your style, but don't let it outshine your real value. Good accessories should simply act as a convenient ice breaker, so when your boss compliments your tasteful stack of bracelets you can say thank you and then follow up with something like, "Hey, by the way, I'd love to share my thoughts on..."

Ultimately you want to be recognized by your boss and peers for the work that you do, and not just your stylish appearance.

Using affordable accessories is a budget-friendly way to build self-confidence with a stylish wardrobe. Hopefully these tips will help give your workplace attire a brand new look.

Reviewed August 2017

Lisa Tufano works full-time in the Los Angeles tech industry. Lisa believes that "a rich life shouldn't cost a fortune" so her side project, Think Like a Boss Lady, is where she blogs about tips and tricks intended to empower other women to succeed in work, life, and home without breaking the bank.

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