The oft dreaded matchy-matchy, just too coordinated, following all those old fashioned rules- bag and shoes have to match, match your shoes to your belt, all that...wait! Did you say old fashioned? Isn't that exactly the look we're after? Why yes :)
I used to be horrified by the idea of things being too matched, but then I started getting interested in vintage fashion and now it is the opposite that pains my eyes! There is a balance of course, monotone isn't the look to go for (unless it is, but that's a discussion for another time), we want nice balanced accessorizing that just helps scream VINTAGE!
Looking through vintage catalogs, fashion magazine images, and even vintage pattern fashion plates it is easy to spot the matched accessory trend. It is clear many catalogs even offered matching accessories for the easiest styling. For example the lovely little hat and box style handbag below can be purchased as a set (I'll take the lavender please!) from defunct mail order company Alden's. Gloves are available in many wonderful shades, and one could have a rainbow of handbags!
Another catalog page, this time a bit earlier in date from the 1940's, shows how even the dresses are styled with matching sets of accessories. Notice how every accessory doesn't match, sometimes just the gloves and hat match and the shoes are black, other times the other accessories match but the gloves are different for a pop of color. Coordinated accessories don't have to all match for every outfit, but having a "set" of accessories in a few colors makes mixing and matching a breeze.
Some more matchy-matchy sets going on in this next catalog page! Again see how the options in Mellrose Amber (great color name!) are all matched, while those in Persian Blue are only the hat and gloves paired with another color (in this case dark brown) for the handbag and belt. For a balanced ensemble it's good to have two colors like this arranged in a pleasing way. If you imagine an outfit has a top (your hat/neckline), a middle (gloves, belt, handbag), and a bottom (shoes), then you can start to determine how to balance the colors. A black hat and gloves with a red belt and shoes for example.
This lovely image below from John Rawlings shows how pulling one color from a print makes for a lovely pairing of matched accessories, this time a hat and gloves matched in wonderful rich green. Notice the belt is black leather, and perhaps the shoes would have been too? I think shoes in that rust red color to match the lipstick would have been nice too, or perhaps a spectator style in black and white.
Or have all of the accessories in one color, like in the styled shot below all in warm tan. The matched accessories below could have been broken up more by choosing a dark brown (like the jacket buttons) or coral orange (like the hat rosette) for the gloves perhaps. Having a full set of accessories like the tan set below is a great base to work from. The more accessories match, the more formal and traditional the effect, mixing in other colors starts to really set one's personal style apart.
In the outfit below the hat and gloves match, but the handbag is a neutral (black in this case). The earrings match the blouse and the lipstick matches the burgundy used for the other accessories. Lipstick is almost an accessory itself you know, if I am wearing red accessories I try and match the shade with my lipstick, or if I am wearing warmer colors I go for a warmer brownish red, or a blue based red for cooler red tones.
I think for those just starting to build their vintage wardrobes it is a great idea to gather one full "set" of accessories. What do I mean by full set? Well I would say a hat (doesn't have to be solid color, could be the embellishment on a hat for example), a scarf, gloves, belt, handbag or clutch, and shoes all in the same color would comprise a full set. As a bonus having jewelry too helps with harmonious accessorizing too. Say you already have black heels, then perhaps your next investment should be in a black belt and handbag to make more of a set allowing for easy mixing and matching in the future. For example if you had a set of each black and white accessories, you could break them up each outfit by wearing the white gloves and shoes with the black hat and belt, and then next time swap for a completely new look even with the same dress.
Further down this rabbit hole? How about matching not only the color but also the finish of your accessories? Meaning if you have black patent leather shoes, you find a patent belt and handbag. Or perhaps suede is more your speed, or leather embossed to look like crocodile or snakeskin. I feel like matching finishes is sorta next level but it can really lend an editorial look. Another thing to keep in mind is season, sure you may have a full set of black accessories but of your hat and handbag are woven straw they are better suited to spring and summer, for a really completed set you would perhaps add a black wool hat and wool or leather handbag. Then there is formality to consider, as some accessories are simply more casual than others, a silk or beaded clutch for evening, or a sequin hat perhaps. You can see how easy it is to expand what I call a set into a shopaholics dream Pokédex (yep, 90's references you're welcome) of vintage accessories, gotta catch 'em all!
But the simple basics are all a gal really needs to start creating really well coordinated ensembles, don't let me lead you down the path of zero-closet-space-left (and even less cash...ahem).
How do you learn to start mixing while you're matching? Well I think the eye comes from study, so study vintage images and absorb the styling goodness. Also there are several retro ladies who just do this whole accessorizing thing impeccably well, so I recommend checking out lillies_remains, greyhoundvintage, noaccountingfortaste, and the retail stylings of fabgabs on Instagram. A few other wonderful articles on vintage styling I recommend include this post from Tuppence Ha'penny and this 1940s styling breakdown from the ever amazing resource Vintage Dancer.
What do you all think? Do you like matching your accessories to one another or is it still too taboo for your modern eyes? I personally looove matching accessories, so I'm off to keep hunting down the perfect dark brown belt...