Accessorizing: How to Look Coordinated vs. Matchy-Matchy

Accessorizing Accessorizing is hard for a lot of women.  If you have been dabbling in adding more accessories to your outfits, and find that it’s just not working right, in today’s post, I am going to show some minor mistakes you might be making, and how to easily correct them, while also pointing out how some small tweaks can make a huge difference.

There aren’t many guides that show you exactly how to accessories because, really, there are no rules.  What makes an accessorized outfit look good has to do with aesthetics, personal preference and style.  Even as I give my tips here, I realize that some people might disagree with my viewpoints because it is all a matter of personal taste.  When I accessorize clients and myself, much of it is just instinctive.  I add a little here and a little there until the outfit looks balanced.  So, while there may not be any exact rules, what I will be sharing are some common pitfalls that I have seen and what can be done to save them.  The beauty of accessorizing is that it’s really easy to correct a mistake.  If you’ve been failing at accessorizing, trust me, all is not lost.

Matchy-Matchy vs. Coordinated

Let’s first discuss the difference between looking matchy-matchy vs. coordinated.  When someone looks matchy-matchy there is usually just too much repetition of a color, theme or accent and it starts to look repetitive, overdone and monotonous.  What winds up happening is, instead of looking accessorized and enhanced, the person looks flat and boring.  It’s just too much of the same.  Of course, there are some who would disagree with the negative connotations I am giving to this style of accessorizing, however, for me, it’s just a bit boring.  Sorry, matchy-matchy lovers.

Coordinated, on the other hand, means that a look is accessorized in a cohesive manner.  The pieces that are used work together and relate to one another but are more distinct.  A good analogy to compare the difference between a matchy-matchy outfit to a coordinated one would be like walking into a room where everything is one color vs. walking to a room that harmoniously has pops with different colors, textures and features.  Both harmoniously work, but the coordinated room is probably a lot more interesting.

Below are five different outfits shown two different ways.  On the left you will see the matchy-matchy version and on the right, with just some subtle corrections, the coordinated versions.  Little that has to be done to change an outfit from just okay to great.  If you have been stumbling with small accessorizing issues that you just can’t seem to figure out, these examples should help you.

How to Look Coordinated vs. Matchy-Matchy

 

Matchy Matchy Issue #1- Jewelry sets and too much of one color

matchy-matchy

Okay, you may not agree with this one, but I unequivocally cannot stand necklace and earrings sets.  To me, nothing is more uninspired then when earrings and a necklace match.  The only time I find it works is if one of the pieces, either the necklace or the earrings, is subtle, while the other piece is bold.  However, when it comes to both the necklace and earrings being stand out items it’s just is way to overwhelming because the two pieces fight one another and pull focus from the face.

The other mistake that you have to be careful about is too much of one accessory color.  I love pops of color, but you have to watch for repetitiveness.  In this first example, I took a burgundy and white dress from Reiss.  I love the way the yellow pops off the rich wine shade.  However, on the left with the matching earrings and necklace from Stella & Dot, it’s just too much.  In the coordinated outfit, all I did was pull back on the earrings and changed them to basic studs, also from Stella & Dot.

Next, the yellow bag and shoes, both from Nina.  While it can work to have both the shoes and bag in the same shade, it’s looking too matchy-matchy with the yellow jewelry.  My suggestion, in this case, would be to pull back and choose either the yellow shoes or the yellow bag, not both.  On the right, I swapped out the yellow shoes for a pair of gold metallic Kate Spade pumps.  Alternatively, if you wanted to keep the yellow shoes and the yellow bag, I would then eliminate the yellow jewelry and do something in gold.

Matchy-Matchy issue #2- Too much of the same color

accessorizing

This next matchy-matchy issue when there is just too much of one color used in an outfit.  It’s like what I talked about earlier, walking into a room where everything is the same color.  We all have favorite colors that we like to wear, but when we wear them too repetitively in one look it’s too much sameness.  Plus, you run the risk of becoming known as the <blank color> lady.

In this example, the matchy-matchy outfit on the left, the color red is just used way too much.  With this red sweater from The Gap, it is styled with these red shoes from Style & Co., this red bracelet fro Blu Bijoux, red earrings and a red bag.  While it is colorful, it’s also flat and terribly uninspired.

On the right, I cut the color by adding in an additional one.  You don’ have to go crazy with this additional shade.  Here I just added grey, to balance out all the red, using this Banana Republic bag, grey flats from Born and, instead of a red bracelet, used basic gold bangles.  With this solution, you can still enjoy your favorite colors without going overboard.

Matchy-Matchy Issues #3- Too many pops of the same color

accessorizing

You start with a neutral base, like in this outfit comprised of a basic Boden v-neck, charcoal cardigan from Athleta, grey Frye bag and grey KUT jeans.  Looking at your accessories, you get excited that you have so many pop accessory pieces in the same color and adorn yourself accordingly.  But something looks off and you can’t figure out what it is.  The problem?  You have gone overboard with too many pops of the same shade.

While there is no universal rule on how many pops are too many, before you ditch the outfit completely, remove one of those pop pieces and see if it looks better.  As you can see in the matchy-matchy outfit, the orange flats from Nordstrom, orange Marc Jacobs bracelet and orange bib necklace from Max & Chloe is just too much when compared to the coordinated outfit on the right where I simply took away one orange pop and traded it for a basic gold bracelet from Banana Republic.  Sometimes all it takes is one minor tweak or subtraction to look accessorized in a balanced manner.

Matchy-Matchy Issue #4- When accessories match too closely to the outfit

accessorizing

I’ll admit it, there is nothing more satisfying than when a piece of jewelry works perfectly with a print.  Okay, that is a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point, it’s quite a find.  However, be careful with this, sometimes it can be a bit much.  As tempted as you might be to wear that colorful necklace that works perfectly with your favorite print, you may have to use some restraint.

Now, I am huge proponent of prints being wonderful road maps in how to choose colorful accessories, however, when you do this you don’t want to do it in a matchy-matchy manner.  Take this outfit on the left.  This necklace from Bauble Bar is so incredibly perfect in color with this shift dress, however, it is too much and it makes the outfit look pedestrian and forced.  What also doesn’t help is how the look is finished with the pink Ivanka Trump shoes, a pink Michael Kors bag, and pink Kate Spade, bracelet.  So, in addition to the matchy-matchy necklace, the matchy-matchy use of pop pink is killing this look too.

On the right, with just some subtle tweaks, instead of looking matchy-matchy the outfit is more coordinated looking.  Instead of the necklace used in the outfit on the left, I traded it out for one from Stella & Dot that still works but isn’t so identical looking to the print of the dress.  Next, to break up all that pink, I changed the shoes for cobalt blue ones from Bandolino.  These two small changes make a world of difference.

Matchy-Matchy Issue #5- coordinating your outfit exactly to the color of your jewelry

accessorizing

I love this necklace from Modcloth.  It seriously stopped me dead in my tracks.  As you know, I think that, like prints, accessories can also be wonderful road maps for learning how to combine color.  However, you can also go too far with this as well.

In the outfit on the left, this is exactly what is happening.  While it would make sense to pair it with something like this turquoise sweater and brown skirt, both from J. Crew, it’s just too much, especially when finished with these turquoise Stuart Weitzman shoes, brown bag from Coach and gold and turquoise cuff.

Instead, on the right, to pull back a bit, and make this outfit look more coordinated vs. matchy-matchy, I just changed out the sweater for an ivory one.  This sweater steps in almost like a palette cleanser, and, instead of too much repetition, all the pieces stand out while fitting in at the same time.

Whatever your preference is on accessorizing, if you have found a way that works for you, stick with it, even if I am not agreeing with it.   However, if you have stepped out and tried to accessorize, have failed, and think that you’re not good at it, it is my hope that these tips will prove to you that all it might take are some subtle tweak to get it right.

Happy accessorizing!

 

  • Stacie

    I LOVE this article!!! I was always a fan of necklace/earring set, but since I started reading your blogs I have gotten away from that and get more compliments!! THANK YOU for sharing your experience so freely with us your faithful readers!

    • Hi Stacie, it’s all personal preference, right? I’m sure there are many women out there who still like sets. When I was a kid I would always break outfits together too when a top and bottom would be sold like a set. I remember having a Tommy Hilfiger skirt and top in high school that came together and I never wore them that way. I guess I have just always been a bit rebellious in this area. Haha. But I think that just because similar necklaces and earrings are sold it doesn’t mean they are to be worn together. When I was a fashion designer I was a sportswear designer, which means I designed a cohesive grouping of clothing to look like a collection, vs. a specialty designer who solely designs dresses or pants, or sweaters. I did it all. We would always put various pieces in the same fabrication with no intention of them being worn together.

      Anyway, I am glad that changing it up for you has been so helpful!!! I am sure you look great! Thanks for the comment!

      • max

        What a great post. Being from the matching bag and shoes generation, I have tended to do the matchy matchy thing. However I have recently started to break this habit including breaking up jewellery sets. I now realise being coordinated not matchy matchy creates a more effortlessly stylish image, which most of us would like to portray. Your post is great in helping me identify exactly how to mix things up.

        • Thanks so much, max! Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head saying that not looking matchy-matchy looks more effortless vs. being forced. I am glad this post helped you see through some things. I know that a lot of times people need to see visual examples of a what a difference a few small changes can make. Thanks for your comment!

  • tgchi (Mare)

    Great article Bridgette! I’ll be paying more attention 🙂

  • squidget

    I am new to your blog but have been blown away by your posts! As a working woman, I’ve tried to look more polished at work and have fallen into the uninspired, matchy matchy category. Working hard is important, but you also need your outward self to look just as professional and successful as your actions! Thank you for helping us do just that!

  • squidget

    I am new to your blog but have been blown away by your posts! As a working woman, I’ve tried to look more polished at work and have fallen into the uninspired, matchy matchy category. Working hard is important, but you also need your outward self to look just as professional and successful as your actions! Thank you for helping us do just that!

    • Hello and welcome!! I am glad you found my blog and it has been helping you! My specialty is definitely the professoinal woman as this is most of my clients. However, I have worked with plenty of stay-at-home moms, brides, women preparing for TV appearances and I even helped a client pack for an Africa safari. 🙂
      You are so right around outward appearance! There have been studies done on this and the #1 way we are perceived by people is based on our non-verbal communication, which includes image. Also, there is a scary truth about first impressions. Not only do we only have a few seconds to make a good one, but for every bad first impression we make, we have to make 6 subsequent positive impressions on that person to have them change their opinion of us. Few of us have that many opportunities to make it right.
      Again, so glad you are here and thanks for your comment!

  • Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I agree totally on the necklace-earring set comment.
    I also note the red sweater outfit illustrates why I have pulled back from a colored bag. I usually wear a colored top or bold scarf –I live in SC, where neutrals can seem drab without a major shot of color, and color really helps my aging complexion. I love jewel tones, and they suit me. A red or emerald green bag too often meant I couldn’t wear a red or emerald green top or scarf without clashing or seeming too matchy-matchy. Add in colored shoes and the bag was a liability.
    You seem to limit the “pops” to two instances in most cases. A good strategy!

    • Great point and I think a good neutral bag can be very versatile! Plus, red can be a tough color to combine. I think I usually do limit the pops to two. I don’t keep count but if I was to go back and look at everything I have styled on this blog you are probably right on the money. I try not to be formulaic, but 2 usually is a good number, you’re right!

  • irene

    I have been following your blog for about six months and find it most inspiring!
    My question is for Look 5, what other colour would work if the wearer was petite and heavy on top. I can’t white or ivory on top. Do I reverse the colours? Wear a navy top or brown top instead? Change from turquiose to brown shoes. Any ideas are most welcome.
    thanks
    Irene

    • Hi Irene! Thanks!! In the case of look 5, what I would do is cut out the turquoise shoes and do something neutral and keep the turquoise sweater just so it isn’t overkill. Usually when something looks overdone it’s just a matter of pulling back on one thing. I hope that helps.

  • Keri

    Great post– I love it! thanks for your very helpful examples.
    Could you please show some work looks without heels? They do look great, but are too uncomfortable for me to actually wear. thanks.

    • Noted. Sometimes, for the sake of time, if I find a pair of shoes in a heel I will go with it. But I know that isn’t the reality for some women. I will try to be more mindful of having more variety.

  • Sarah

    Awesome post, Bridgette, thank you so much for putting it together! I feel like this will be a great resource when I’m trying to figure out why an outfit just isn’t quite working. Really helpful and well explained!

  • Ebony

    Bridgette, this is brilliant!
    With the changes you have made to the outfits, we can see the huge difference. I must admit I find this hard to coordinate verse match.

    I notice you use pops for shoes. How would you coordinate an outfit that is a column of colour?

    My figure priority is long an lean or waist highlight in fit and flare.
    In fit and flare styles I have started to follow you colour, pop, accent. And the results are encouraging for sure!

    But for autumn and winter where I prefer to wear a column of colour I am have a great difficulty to bring life to my outfits.

    If there is enough interest can you consider doing a post on accessorising when wearing a column of colour in Autumn & Winter. And how to bring life to these outfits.

    I have learnt to add pattern, texture & shine. And am playing around with pops for my 3rd piece, but I still find my outfits bland.

    Thanks for your great work!

    • Hi Ebony, I am glad this helped you. Yes, if you want to do a column and avoid pop shoes, just put the color in another spot. If you do a solid column and then a jacket in a color, let’s say. What you can do is add a third color through accessories. Take a black pair of pants, black top and cobalt jacket. Maybe you add a pair of orange or green earrings and then maybe a scarf that picks up the the cobalt and some other shades. Just try to not stop with one pop color, try for an additional one and see if that helps.

  • RohnaH

    Thank you for this post, Bridgette! I am one of those people who think I’m not good at accessorizing. Having an example of what NOT to wear (how I miss that show, too!) right next to how to fix the outfit is very useful.

    • You are SO welcome! Yes, I think side-by-side comparisons are great! They are double the work on my end, but well worth it, I’m sure! Glad this helped!

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  • erin

    I love looking at these comparisons. Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this post. As a side note, and maybe this will help other readers in a cute way, my kindergartener was sitting beside me as I perused this post. She chose the match-matchy outfit every time! So, maybe the lesson is to ask ourselves is, would a kindergartener love this? If so, pull back. 🙂

    • That is an AWESOME story about your kindergartner! It really made me smile when I read it!

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  • Lorelai B.

    Hello, I really need an opinion. I bought a blush pink bomber jacket and want to buy sneakers for spring. I really like this pink pair in Aldo, but are they going to look too matchy-matchy with my bomber jacket and jeans? My purse is taupe or grey and I usually wear silver hoop earrings. ?? THANQ!

    • What color pants do you plan on wearing?

      • Lorelai B.

        Most often I wear medium blue skinny jeans. And was thinking of my skinny grey cords as well.