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Styling an outfit takes time, and for many women, our daily routine all too often involves running out the door, late for work, and too rushed to think about details like accessories. Adopting a signature accessory is an easy way to solve this everyday fashion dilemma.

A signature accessory is a memorable piece that you always or nearly-always wear, so that you feel at home with it, and other people associate it with you. Wearing a signature accessory is a great way to personalize and punch up any type of outfit: It adds flair to basics and makes wild styles feel more you.

The signature accessory is a technique that many style icons have adopted, including Vogue’s Anna Wintour, best-selling novelist Zadie Smith, style icon Iris Apfel, and Gilmore Girls director Amy Sherman-Palladino. While it requires a bit of work to get your signature accessory right, it pays off big time in the long run.

While it requires a bit of work to get your signature accessory right, it pays off big time in the long run.

What Can a Signature Accessory Do for You?

Personalize Your Everyday Basics

On days when you wear a simple outfit, a signature accessory can easily kick up your style, no matter what your aesthetic is. Perhaps you prefer easy classics and neutrals. Maybe you work in a conservative office, wear a uniform, embrace minimalism, or telecommute. With little thinking required, because it’s something that you wear every day (maybe even all the time).

Make You More Comfortable with Experimentation

If you are nervous about trying out a new silhouette or a different vibe, a signature accessory can help you feel more like yourself while you experiment. Yes, you may be wearing a blouse in a color you don’t usually buy, but you’re also wearing that piece you have made an integral part of your personal style. Whether you’re dying over Cate Blanchett’s velvet suits in Ocean’s 8 (me too!) or the current nineties-style, button-front sundress throwbacks, a new style doesn’t feel so different when paired with your grandmother’s pearl earrings or your usual head scarf.

Create Continuity

When you wear a signature accessory, that piece acts as a common denominator across a variety of vastly different looks. Anna Wintour, for example, has used this technique: Her style in the late eighties through the nineties doesn’t look much like her current preference for ladylike dresses with defined shoulders. Still, we recognize her easily in all these different outfits because of her signature accessory—the bobbed haircut she’s sported for the last thirty years.

How to Look for a Meaningful Accessory that Works with Your Everyday

When choosing an accessory, you need to decide what you want this accessory to say about you. What does it mean to you? How will other people interpret it? You will also need to think about how often you want to wear this accessory and how frequently you are willing to remove it for various activities. Would you prefer to wear something all the time, 24/7? Or will you wear it almost all the time—minus showers, or sports, or sleep?

Interests and/or Message

Once you have worn your accessory enough to establish that it’s a permanent part of your look, people will start to associate this accessory with you. For this reason, you should also think about what this accessory symbolizes to you and to others. Maybe the takeaway is just that yellow is your favorite color, or maybe you choose a piece to remember a family member, identify with a group, or send a message. The best-selling British novelist Zadie Smith is so associated with her head wrap that even NPR asked about it. Smith said that wearing a head wrap “began as a way of saving time” but later became a “symbol or allegiance with exactly that kind of African ancestry.”


Be sure to consider your lifestyle and how functional or disruptive your signature accessory will be. Those who spend their days at computers may find loose bracelets rattle too much against the keyboard for their liking. Wearing lots of big rings would make weightlifting uncomfortable, so gym rats may want to pick a necklace, instead. If you have little ones, you may want to wear clip-on earrings so your ears will be safe from tiny hands.


Variations on a Theme: The simplest way to wear a signature accessory is, of course, to pick one piece that works with your lifestyle and wear it all the time. But if you do not want to wear the exact same piece forever (or you’re not sure your costume jewelry will hold up), then you may want to choose a theme. This way, instead of wearing one piece, you will wear a small number of the same type of accessories within the same theme. For example:

Size: You can always wear pieces of a notable size, such as oversize earrings, or statement necklaces, or small stacking rings.

Color: You could choose your favorite color, metal, or a neutral and then wear only purple glasses, gold cuffs, or beaded turquoise bracelets.

Number: In this case, your signature look could be the amount of jewelry or accessories you pile on. You can keep it balanced by focusing on one area or type of jewelry: Maybe you wear seven rings every day, or a stack of six gold necklaces of varying lengths and styles. (Or go all out and wear all the things all at once—why not?)

Location: Another approach is to choose one piece and then move it around as needed. Maybe you found an amazing square scarf or bandana while on vacation. In the cooler months of the year, tie it around your neck in different styles; then in the summer, you could wrap it around your wrist for a bracelet, use it for a sash, loop it around your belt, tie it to your purse, or even make an anklet out of it.

Motif: If you enjoy wearing your heart on your sleeve, pick something you love and stock up on cheap accessories that fit with the theme. If you’re into lemons, cacti, and avocados as much as I am, then this is your moment since these are everywhere right now.

Have fun experimenting. You will know when you find a piece that fits with your lifestyle, feels good to wear, and feels like you. And the next time you dash out the door, you’ll already be wearing it—it will take no more thought than signing your name.