How to Accessorize Formal Evening Wear
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about accessories to go with a formal gown is jewelry. While certainly the star of the accessory show, your jewelry isn’t the only accessory you should think about—you’ll need an evening bag and possibly a wrap or bolero. Some gowns might even call for a belt. The key principle is to complement your gown, not overwhelm it. Here are some thoughts on how to accessorize formal evening wear.
Necklines Guide Jewelry Choices
The neckline of your gown will serve as the best guide for choosing jewelry. A deep V-neck calls for an elegant pendant necklace, while a sweetheart neckline or sleeveless gown looks best with a shorter, bolder necklace, or a refined choker, respectively. Necklaces don’t work well with one-shoulder looks, so try a bold cuff bracelet on the opposite arm, or just a gorgeous pair of chandelier earrings. These hold their own, and no other pieces are necessary. Statement earrings also work very well with high neckline dresses. If you’ve decided to forego the necklace, a glittering cuff bracelet and ring add a touch of glamour.
If you’ve chosen a two-piece look or a ballgown with a fit and flare design, you might get away with an accent belt at the waist. Just don’t make it too fussy; if the bodice and skirt are both in bold prints, you’ll want a simple, unadorned belt. On the other hand, if you’ve opted for the classic white-blouse-black-skirt look, an embellished belt might be just the ticket.
Your bag is more than functional—it is an accessory in itself. Beaded, sequined, fringed, or classic black, your bag goes everywhere you do. Choosing an evening bag is as important a decision as jewelry and shoes. It should be large enough to hold essentials, like ID, comb, lipstick, phone, and some “mad money” cash (in case you get mad at your date and have to find another way home!). In rare cases the bag is the major accessory of the ensemble. Just like jewelry, though, it’s important to think about proportion. If you are a petite person, a large bag will overwhelm you and the rest of your outfit.
Wrap and Outerwear
Getting there and back—and maybe fending off a chill while attending an event—is part of the equation for how to accessorize formal evening wear. For a sleeveless or off-the-shoulder dress, a shawl in a complementary color and fabric, like cashmere or silk, should work. If you want to go with a bolero jacket, be extra attentive to the fabric, texture, and pattern– if it is too different from your dress, it will just look like a too-short coat and could mar your look.
Tips for the Gentlemen
Men have more options than just what color tie and cummerbund to wear: there are choices for cufflinks, watches, shirt studs, and even bracelets. The same rules about not overdoing it apply to the gentlemen—less is more.
Many evening wear boutiques carry accessories selected to complement the lines of gowns they offer. Seek advice and suggestions from the experts who helped you select the perfect dress to complete and complement your look.