What is an ensemble without the details? Sometimes the subtlety of a look is its greatest strength, which is something we can observe in old timey accessories. Think about it: If your outfit is a pizza, the accessories are definitely the toppings. Just like pizza with anchovies is very different than pizza with mushrooms, that little black dress exudes distinct character when paired with sparkly shoes, long white gloves, a fringe purse, or all of the above.
Even though women’s fashion has gone through so many transformations — corsets to bras, bloomers to thongs — there’s something so glamorous about vintage accessories that many women spend hours hunting for these rare antiques. For a long time, the rules of modesty pretty much dictated the direction of fashion. Since patriarchal guidelines were arguably in full swing during the earl party of the 20th century, women had to find creative ways to express their styles and attitudes, all the while keeping skirts below their ankles and dresses at an "appropriate" length.
So what better way to honor those fashion-forward ladies than to bring back some of the accessories they rocked? From the functional yet dainty look of a paper fan or a handkerchief to perfectly pretty parasols, these old timey accessories are due a fashionably late comeback in the 21st century.
Gloves have had a hands-on role in the lives of women since the days of the Egyptian pyramids. These days, people who brave the winter months wear them to protect their hands. But at one time, gloves were a total fashion statement. It's even been said that Queen Elizabeth I owned roughly 2,000 pairs of gloves!
Long, short, fingerless, silk, velvet, lace: This plethora of glove choices comes down to them being used for a wide spectrum of activities like fighting in wars or drinking tea. Yes, Madonna helped popularize fingerless gloves in the '80s, but more importantly Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg rocks fishnet gloves while ruling on important matters like women’s rights. If RBG wears 'em, a comeback is warranted. That's like a law, right?
So, sweat happens. If you’re like me and wiping your face with your sleeve during all seasons, then handkerchiefs (or pocket squares) are a really elegant solution. Hankies have, after all, been keeping ladies and gents spritely for many centuries as a wonderful gender-neutral item. Opting for a cloth handkerchief instead of a paper napkin (which I've never done, of course) makes for a better environmental choice as well. Just make sure to wash your hankie!
3. Personal Parasols
Doesn’t the romantic but perfectly functional parasol remind you of John Singer Sargent paintings? Parasols as we know them originated roughly 4,000 years ago in ancient China, Egypt, and Assyria, where they were made from eucalyptus, tree leaves, and palm branches. These fancy umbrellas will keep the sun off your face, but don't expect them to keep you dry in a rainstorm unless you've found a waterproof version (aka a conventional umbrella).
4. Folding Fans
Like handkerchiefs and parasols, this fashion statement is for the warm-blooded. I’m not kidding when I say that I carry a fan in my purse everywhere during the summer. Folding fans are the perfect stylish companion to an event where air conditioning may be questionable or nonexistent, so it behoves us all to bring these back when it gets hot. It's no surprise that this delicate accessory has been fashionable throughout history all over the world.
However, keeping cool is certainly not the only goal in fashion. Muffs (also known by their self-explanatory name "hand warmers") have probably been around since the 16th century, but Millennials may recall them from American Girl Samantha Parkington. Her winter muff and matching fur hat were memorable accessories from the classic Changes For Samantha.
Ask your grandparents about these if you're not familiar with the basically antique accessory. Since we adorn our ears, necks, fingers, and arms with sparkly fun, surely our garments deserve the same attention. Lucky for us, brooches were recently declared a spring trend, but I think there is no reason they cannot make a full comeback into perennial accessory. After all, they have been around since the days of the Roman empire....
I mean, this is a silky string of feathers draped across the shoulders. Why don't we wear these around the house all the time?
Thanks to the circularity of fashion, these accessories are sure to be hitting our favorite fast fashion stores sometime in the next decade. Until then, you can catch me in my boa, folding fan in hand, counting down the days until carrying around handkerchiefs is the norm again.