What do you get when you cross an accessory trend with careless habits or a lack of understanding?  An unrefined look that screams, “fashion victim!”

I’ve seen plenty such victims during my travels in recent months, so I know certain looks aren’t limited to one area.  Instead, like a nasty virus, they’re spreading unrestrained from place to place, becoming so commonplace that no one thinks twice about them.

They should.

How you dress communicates SO much about you, from your background and education to your probable income and occupation, that you’d be shocked by what others conclude about you from just a quick glance.  They respond accordingly.  With all the people-watching I’ve been doing in my travels recently, from the mountains of Colorado to the subways of New York to the lake shores of Maine, I can tell you that making the effort to dress appropriately makes a BIG difference in how you’re treated.

Here are three accessory trends-gone-wrong I’ve seen in recent months that have consistently inspired less-than-stellar treatment:

1.  Tennis Shoes with Cropped Pants

What it says to others:  You’re middle aged and out of touch

Like the high-waisted, saggy-bottomed “mom jean,” wearing tennis shoes with ankle socks and cropped pants makes you look middle-aged and out of touch.  Flip through a few fashion magazines or clothing catalogs.  You’ll see plenty of cropped and gaucho styles this year as in recent seasons, but you will never, EVER see them paired with socks and tennis shoes in a fashion publication (some teen clothing sites show them with tennis shoes and no socks, but it’s a look best suited for the under-20 crowd).  Why?  Because it’s visually shortening and frankly, it just looks tacky.  When you put a hem at mid-calf and clunky shoes with ankle socks on your feet, it makes the whole leg look shorter and heavier.  It’s particularly noticeable on petites.  Yes, you see this look everywhere you go, but I encourage you to “just say no” and opt for more flattering footwear instead.

Solution:  Opt for flesh-toned shoes, low-vamp shoes, or knee-high boots instead for a longer, leaner look.

2. Designer Handbag with Sloppy Clothes

What it says to others:  Your handbag is a fake

Luxury handbags are one of the few areas where middle class women splurge on themselves.  They may not always be able to afford designer clothes or shoes, but they’ll go without in other areas to pay for a status handbag.  So why then do they pair said handbag with everything they own, including their sloppiest clothes?  I don’t get it.  It’s like serving Dom Perignon in a Styrofoam cup.  The designer name doesn’t upgrade the ensemble; the sloppy ensemble makes the handbag suspect.  (If you knowingly buy counterfeit bags, shame on you!  Don’t condone piracy.  How would you feel if you’d worked hard to build a business, only to have thieves steal your profits and devalue YOUR name?  Don’t do it!)

Solution:  Pair luxury handbags with clothing that properly showcases them.

3. Many Large, Visible Tattoos

What it says to others:  You’re from the lower class

While tattooing has been used by many cultures for thousands of years to mark everything from skills learned to crimes committed, it’s fallen in and out of popularity in the west since Roman times.  It became popular among the British elite in the late 1700’s when Captain Cook brought back a heavily tattooed Polynesian prince from his travels.  Tattooing was an expensive, painful process in those days, but when it became affordable to the masses via the electric tattooing machine in the 1890’s, it lost its appeal to the upper classes.  The industry all but died out again in the early 1900’s, and for most of the 20th century, tattoos were associated with sailors, bikers, criminals, and the lower class.

I mention this history because while tattooing has become “all the rage” again in recent years across all income lines, the old stigmas that were ingrained for generations still remain for much of the population.  If you openly display many and/or large tattoos in some places, you’ll be ignored or treated with disdain.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes and have had dealings with companies who have felt compelled to re-write their dress code policies in recent years to address the issue of employees and visible tattoos.  Since most people don’t care about what they can’t see, sometimes it just makes sense to cover up.

Be mindful of your audience when showing your tattoos.  While they may be a sign up status among your own peer group, they probably aren’t elsewhere.  The more conservative the group or establishment you associate with, the more discretion is advised.

Now I realize that I’m messing with popular culture by mentioning these because a lot of people simply mimic these practices without second thought.  I WANT you to have second thoughts.  In fact, my goal with this ezine is to get you to STOP copying what everyone else does and start doing what’s right for YOU, to help you to reach your goals.  Understanding the bigger picture of how others view you will enable you to do that.

So don’t fire off an angry email to me, telling me why your situation is different or that I’m a snob or that I don’t know *@#!.  Hey, you’re entitled to your opinion.  What I’m relaying here is based on research, observation, and experience.  You can follow the crowd and be herded like a sheep, or you can consciously make choices that positively set you apart and quickly move you to the front of the line.  The choice is yours.

By all means, follow the accessory trends that appeal to your personality.  But do so in ways that flatter your figure AND contribute to your image goals.  Otherwise, don’t bother.

Need more help in finding the accessories that suit you the best?  Download a copy of ACCESSORY MAGIC


to see how easy accessorizing can be.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at www.fashionforrealwomen.com .

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