Top designer on how to transform an outfit

By Pierra Calasanz-Labrador for Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Accessories can be tricky things. Wearing too much can look over-the-top tacky; but there’s also a fine line between understated classy and forgettably blah. So: is it always necessary to pile on the bling, or should we subscribe to the “less is more” philosophy?

Fashion designer and style guru Rajo Laurel says, “It really depends on the woman wearing the dress. It can go either way. But if it were up to me, I think accessorizing is a good way to bring an outfit to the next level. It isn't essential, but I love to keep my options open.”

Dress it up, dress it down
Accessories can radically transform an outfit—imagine how many looks you can create with a plain little black dress just by changing up your accessories. For example, keep it looking Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s chic with a strand of pearls, oversized shades and pretty pumps; or walk on the wild side with an animal print clutch, tribal cuffs and killer heels. But when the dress is already a statement in itself, remember to keep your accessories to a minimum to let your frock shine.

Classic Choices

Are you into glamorously chunky pieces (chain links, jeweled bibs), bohemian touches (leather cuffs, tribal beads and prints), dainty jewelry, or all of the above? It’s important to build an accessory collection that reflects your own personal style.

Start with the basics (perhaps neutral pumps, a sophisticated tote, a sleek evening bag, pearl/diamond studs or gold hoops), then infuse your choice of statement pieces (quirky brooches, patent booties, your dad’s hand-me-down Rolex).

Adds Rajo: “A classic accessory that I feel is needed by every woman is a versatile/multi-way cover-up (shawls, capes and scarves). Done right, it should be both elegant and functional. Cover-ups can go a long long way with just a bit of imagination. Another thing I would suggest is a good belt. Sometimes what separates good dress and a great dress is just the right cinching; possibilities are endless.”

What’s Hot for the Holidays
When you don’t have the budget to splurge on a whole new wardrobe every season, simply incorporating a few trendy accessories keeps your look current. Party season calls for posh capelets, chic minaudières, and sparkly bib necklaces.

This Christmas, Rajo says, it’s all about statement belts. “In line with my House of Laurel Holiday Collection, we've developed a number of Japanese obi-inspired belts that can transform minimally cut dresses into fabulous shapes.” And his best bet for accessory colors? “I would go for jewel tones and deep luxurious shades.”

Be Adventurous

When it comes to picking accessories for an outfit, Rajo encourages women to step out of their comfort zone. For example, he says: A nude shoe doesn't go with everything. Be adventurous!” Forget being matchy-matchy; use accessories to your advantage by picking pieces that pop.

Says Rajo: “Being tone on tone or color coordinated is one thing, but there is such a thing as being too color-coordinated. It can kill a look. Experiment with color; the right complementary tone can really set an outfit off.”