It was a humbling moment when I received a call to participate in the LOFT Girl Ambassador Program that was founded earlier this year by the LOFT team. As a part of this program, we host private events and share the LOFT brand with our personal communities. It's been an incredible experience, as I have always shopped Ann Taylor and the LOFT brand due to the versatility it provides my wardrobe providing an easy transition from day to night.

Recently, I was asked to participate in a photo shoot that promoted the LOFT Girl Denim Guide. During the shoot, I had the privilege of meeting LOFT's Senior Stylist, Lisa Bradkin. Her warm smile, gracious personality and incredible sense of fearless style immediately drew me to her.

Lisa and I often found ourselves talking about her passion for accessories and how she feels that they can personify your presence to the world. She expressed her belief in how simple it can be to get this sense of self-expression right, but also how easily it can go wrong. As someone who possesses almost no discernible accessorizing skills, I found this valuable, so I asked her if she would share her tips with the SHAPE community. Read on to hear Lisa's top style tips and see if you don't find yourself incoporating a few of these "dos and dont's" into your day.

THOU SHALT ACCESSORIZE
By Lisa Bradkin

 

In accessories, if in nothing else (hello, flip phone), I was an early adopter. My favorite costume as a kid was “gypsy,” because it meant I got to layer on the plastic jewelry and wear a headscarf. In high school, accessories helped me to declare and develop who I was: I wore two different-colored Converse high-tops, every day (don’t judge, it was the 80s). And now, I’m sad if I realize I left the house without a chunky necklace, big ring or major belt.

Accessories give those who encounter you an extra dose of beauty, a little more sparkle, just by looking at you. I really love them, though, because they’re a natural icebreaker. I bought a Native American necklace on vacation once that’s made up entirely of colorful little carved-stone animals. I wear a lot of look-at-me jewelry, but this piece garners more compliments than anything else I own. Men, women, kids, the checkout girl at the grocery store comment on it, stop to study it, want to touch it. I wear it when I’m feeling ready for attention, but I also wear it when I’m not—the human connection it creates is a powerful force that always makes me smile.

I’m a passionate stylist, but I’d be terrible on one of those shows that cleans out people’s closets, guerilla-style; I believe too strongly that people should just wear what they love. I don’t like the idea of “rules,” but I’ve come to realize that that’s because mine are so automatic that I follow them without even thinking about it. So, here are some of the more timeless, ahem, guidelines, I follow when giving an outfit the final once-over—whether I’m glancing in the mirror on my way out the door or sending a model out to be photographed:

Don’t crowd your face
By this I mean, wear big earrings or a major necklace, not both. Choose a wide cuff or a serious cocktail ring (your wedding ring doesn’t count, unless you’re rocking 20-carats Kardashian-style). Concentrate on one focal point per body part. Pair a killer necklace and ring, or a substantial bracelet and earrings, but heed the "Rule of 14." On a scale of 1-10, rate all of your jewels in size and intensity; they should add up to 14 or less. A “10” necklace with a “four” ring, or “eight” earrings with a “six” bracelet. Make sense? I just made it up, but it is, subconsciously, the way I accessorize. And if you’re small, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be overwhelmed by statement jewelry; just scale it down a little. Then own it!

 

Don’t discriminate
Multiples are another great way to make a personal statement with jewelry: a pile of bracelets, rings on several fingers, layered necklaces. Mix metals; the combination of silver and gold is often way more sophisticated than one metal alone (if it still makes you nervous, invest in one necklace or bracelet that incorporates both metals; this piece will “marry” your solid gold and silver pieces and help them to play nice). Layer on leather, friendship bracelets or rhinestones (I love a vintage rhinestone necklace layered with a couple of little pendants). Let it be a whole jumble of things you love.


 

Toss the self-belt
That tie sash that came with your pretty, floaty dress? Toss it. Or use it as a headband or knot it around your ponytail; just don’t tie it around your waist. Cinching your dress with a unique belt—distressed leather, shiny vintage stretch metal, $5 cotton webbing from the army-surplus store—is way cooler and more individual. I have a collection of vintage belts that’s almost embarrassing, but I always go back to the same ones: an olive webbed military belt that goes with everything (olive is my black); a vintage camel suede number with gold grommets and hinges; and a LOFT double-buckle belt that adds a little rugged interest to every dress without totally stealing the spotlight.

 


 

A scarf can make you skinny.
It sounds a little crazy, but stay with me here: a scarf that stands up a bit around your neck makes your torso appear longer, and when anything looks longer (or taller), the change in proportion also makes it appear slender. Same goes for a belt with a tucked-in shirt. Accessories draw the eye up and down the body, visually slimming it; I don’t entirely understand the phenomenon, but it’s true. Of course, I wore those high-tops every single day for four years of high school because I was convinced that the bigger my feet looked (and they’re size 10 to begin with), the thinner my thighs would appear. So consider the source. But I swear that it works!

 

 

Turn that frown upside-down
Cliché, I know. But it’s true; a smile is the best, most visible, most important accessory. No animal necklace, friendship bracelet or hand-knit scarf conjures the beauty and connection that a smile does. If you leave the house in an outfit that’s chic, interesting and accessorized, people will look at you. When they do, smile at them! It thrills the friendly and disarms the smug. If they’re already admiring what you’re wearing and then you look like a nice person on top of it, they may even muster the nerve to compliment you—and that makes everyone feel good.

 


 

 

Signing Off Delightfully Adorned in Accessories,
Renee & Lisa

Renee Woodruff blogs about travel, food and living life to the fullest on Shape.com. Follow her on Twitter or see what she's up to on Facebook!

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