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Feb / Mar 2011
Coordinated Style

WRITER: Sara White Wilson

Certain everyday accessories communicate much about our ambitions, our aesthetic education and the person we wish, or perceive ourselves, to be. 

While many a man will admit a secret identity association with his wristwatch, a woman’s greatest ally is likely her handbag. The figurehead of her multifaceted life - found within the depths of its either highly organised, or highly disorganised, interior - her handbag is her mobile home, and her shoes are ultimately granting her the essential mobility.

Shoes and handbags are keystone accessories that are inextricably linked. They are what gets you on in the world, what takes you where you need to go – physically and financially. They are the currency for town living, a passport through society. And inescapably, you will be judged by them. 

In the more conservative dress codes of the 1950s, it was a cardinal rule that a lady’s handbag and shoes were to be of the best quality, hailing from the same brand, matching in colour and style. They were the key ammunition in her fashion arsenal. Vintage photographs and grandmothers’ closets bear the proof: matching one’s handbag and shoes was an issue of propriety, sanity and sanctity, for fashion then was not governed by individuality. A brown leather handbag alongside black shoes and people most likely deemed you a lazy, colour-blind person, perhaps unable to afford proper accessories.

Women today claim to be entirely unconcerned with the idea of ‘rules’. While the spirit of fashion has become extraordinarily liberal, interpretive and conceptual, it would be advantageous to many women to remember the olden day propriety of having a well-governed selection of coordinated accessories – not as some outdated and restrictive social code but rather as guidance toward the fundamental goal of aesthetic unity.

As the accessories that take a sartorial ensemble out of the house, handbags and shoes are, by nature, paired communicators. Good communication here equals speaking with a unified voice; the effect is subtle and definitive for an overall ‘look’.

While quality will always speak volumes, colour and brand unity is less an imperative today. Common aesthetic sense still prevails. For example, brown leather shoes paired with a black leather handbag, and silver with gold metal detailing or brown leather accessories in the evening are, simply put, perennial no-nos. 

But, matching is no longer a hard and fast rule. Within reason, colours may be loosely matched and a dash of dare is considered fashion forward. For instance, cobalt blue patent leather shoes are quite a statement, but in company of a matching handbag it may turn into a Halloween costume. Instead, pair those bold shoes with a black leather, silver studded biker-style bag and you may be onto something intelligible – an echo of the urban, industrial chic. The rule of today is to get your stylistic ideas straight and your concepts clear. 

Handbag and shoes are like proper punctuation – most people will not realise when a mistake is made, but when an ensemble is properly punctuated, the effect is smooth and sophisticated. If your accessories are of excellent quality and in fine stylistic communication, the rest is just details. 

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