Style / Bonus round: accessories

Bridging the gap between the glossy ideal and the messiness of life

Beat Kicks headphone covers, ideas

Images provided by makers


“You shop like a man,” a man said to me as we stepped out of the hat store. I had tried on six royal-wedding-worthy toppers and left with two in a hat box, all in ten minutes. I had no idea what my strutting companion meant. He was older, so maybe to him “shopping like a man” meant that I was determined or efficient or willing to do anything to get out of the store quickly. But to me, it was as if I were a little kid on a rainy camping trip who suddenly got loosed into a tourist-trap candy store: I am not going to see anything so wonderful for a long, long time, so I must grab what I can.


I cannot be the only one who has experiences like this. Do you ever walk into a store, a bakery, a car lot—whatever your passion—and hear angels sing?


Hats, like shoes, golf clubs, and practical bras, are difficult to buy for other people. Sometimes, they are difficult to buy for ourselves. Fit is critical, and so is confidence. There may be no other style item where getting it wrong feels so internally jarring. Did you slip the wrong tote over your shoulder? Eh, swing it around to the back. Two different shoes to a party? Who hasn’t? (Or is that seriously just me?) You had no idea that the eye shadow you borrowed from your child was designed to sprinkle glitter atop your cheeks and nose? Relax. We can all stand to sparkle a little more. But a hat will not be dismissed. Like the top of a wedding cake, it demands attention. It is a frame for the face, a crown. Fortunately, there is a fail-proof approach to buying a hat. First, try them on, all of them, whenever and wherever you get a chance. Hat expertise, like most of the important things in life, has a learning curve, and, because most of us brave the winter climes with only our vanity as insulation, we never advance out of amateur status, and we freeze. A second bit of advice: only buy the hat if, while you are under it, you smile. You have to love your hat, and it has to love you.


Speaking of freezing, here is a scene I have memorized. My husband is outside. It is winter. He is wearing his leather shoes and his leather gloves because this is how he goes to work. Neoprene is not an option. Then his phone rings. He takes the phone out of his winter coat, looks at the screen and then uses his teeth to pull off a glove so he can answer the call. I have seen him do this thousands of times. OK, hundreds. OK, maybe he does not always use his teeth, but I have never once thought of looking for a leather glove he can wear outside and keep on. Now I have, and, in the process, I found a wider range of hand gear that caters to all areas of work and play—even running a chainsaw—while respecting our latitude and our tech.


Prada bag with gas station graphics, Francis Valentine bucket bag


Of course, adaptation does not always have to be weather-related. Hands-free and cord-free access to others and our systems is becoming the norm. But we are still human. We change our minds. We change direction. We stress. We sweat. We forget. We drop things. So I am constantly on the lookout for products that bridge the gap between high-gloss tech and messy me, like headphone covers to keep makeup and hair product detritus off the padded parts of my precious Beats, or a pair of Bose noise-cancelling wireless earbuds to help hear the angels sing, or a Prada close-body case for holding a phone and my bike key because, let’s face it, purses are ridiculous. I love them, sure, but I never feel safe balancing my item-laden life on the edge of my shoulder. And taking up an entire hand to do nothing more than hold a clutch or a pocketbook is positively medieval. My solution has been to throw every purse strap across my chest. But no, no more splitting of the breasts. That also sounds medieval. We need a carry-all cure for those times in life when we cannot carry less. Right now, I am leaning backpack, like the ones from Rains, Sweaty Betty, or Proenza Schouler, something that lets the content breathe or protects electronics as well as the bottom of the bag and the environment, and is designed for one shoulder, but hangs on the back. Then again, even when I am at my most medieval, I am never an absolutist. There will always be a reason to buy a purse, like Tod’s, with a plush sided offering that looks like it can double as a briefcase, or a bucket bag from Frances Valentine (the late Kate Spade startup) that reminds me of a red velvet cake.


Forget about cake for a second, and think. When is the last time you saw a tie clip? I saw one on the Tom Ford New York S/S 2019 runway and I beamed at the blast from the past. (Could it be that this is because I adore ties and always fear for their survival?) Bars come clean-styled, bedazzled, even branded, and donning one in 2019 bestows the wearer the Style King status of Tom Ford, Keyshawn Jackson, and Jesse Palmer. Even if you do not wear a tie, consider clipping one onto a turtleneck, or using it as a brooch or barrette, especially if you have found a nostalgic favorite, say from a grandfather’s collection.  


ideas from


Speaking of barrettes, I’ve had the same hairstyle since I was seven. This is less choice than surrender. My hair does what it wants to do, and because I have never really been a fan of surrendering, I applaud the wig. Wigs can be transformative as well as practical for grow-outs, hair-repair time-outs, emergencies, and, well, life. If you are not already a convert and the idea of wearing hair feels at first a little too uncanny valley—almost you, but not enough—then play around with one in a neon color or drama cut style (I got hooked on a short black bob from DC Theatricks (Main Street downtown), a choice that says “Hey everybody! This is a wig and I am wearing it on purpose ’cuz I want to.” Wigs are all over the runway this year and more and more at a Wegmans near you.


Now that I have asked you to consider buying a wig cap and giving up on purses, maybe the idea of going out to find your perfect hats will not seem like such a challenge after all. It will feel more like what it truly is, as easy and joyous and satisfying a journey as shopping for candy.   


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