Finding the perfect gown to suit your after-hours style is only half the battle. It takes just the right accessories like jewelry, belts, bags and shawls to personalize your look. Matching metallic details like jewelry and a bag keeps your look classy and cohesive. The trick is to coordinate colors and styles so they complement and aren't all the same solid color. Accessories can also help highlight your favorite features, but can be distracting when piled on. Exercise restraint -- and focus on your most fabulous accessories to create a chic formal look for evening.
Both fine and costume jewelry make stunning evening accessories and can coordinate with any type of dress or gown. First, narrow your jewelry selection by color and type of metal. If your dress is a solid color, go for a multi-colored pieces that include the shade of your dress. Stick to one stone, like diamonds, and one metal if your dress is printed. Once you've chosen yellow or white gold and the type of gemstones to wear, choose one statement piece. Try a short jeweled necklace to showcase a low neckline, or chunky bangle bracelet with a sleeveless frock. Pull hair back to showcase statement earrings.
Adding a belt to your formal look defines the waistline and helps create that flattering hourglass silhouette. Just make sure you wear your belt at the smallest part of your natural waist, right above the belly button. For a black or dark-colored dress, try a slim metallic belt. Choose silver, gold, bronze or rose gold based on the metals in your jewelry. Don't go for a belt if you're wearing a long necklace, since they will overlap. A fabric belt should either perfectly match or contrast your dress. Try a wide black belt with a bright red dress, but avoid prints and leather.
Clutch handbags are the most appropriate handbag style for evening. Go for a clutch with removable or concealable straps for added function. Fabrics like velvet, silk and satin dress up the look of the bag for formal affairs. Choose a style with sequin, crystal or beaded embellishment, but not if your dress is already embellished. Keep bracelets simple as not to take away from a detailed clutch. The color of your clutch should never match your dress completely unless it is black. Use metallic hues, white and black to complement a colorful dress. Make sure metallics are the same shade as your jewelry.
A scarf or shawl is a timeless evening accessory, especially in chilly weather or air-conditioned theaters. Silk and chiffon shawls or scarves look elegant but don't provide much warmth, making them perfect for warmer seasons. Velvet and satin shawls are the best choice to keep bare arms warm. Stick to basic hues like black, white, cream and gray so you don't detract from your dress. Lighter shawls or scarves should be at least long enough for you to hold in both hands with your arms spread wide. Heavier shawls should be double that length, in case you want to wrap them.
Marie Sporich is a SoCal native, classical ballerina and devoted Yogi. She holds an A.A. in product development and B.S. in business management from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. She has spent nearly 10 years in retail, is a published writer and certified wedding planner.