A fashion accessory is an item which is used to contribute, in a secondary manner, to the wearer's outfit. The term came into use in the 19th century. Accessories are often used to complete an outfit and are chosen to specifically complement the wearer's look.
One of the most favored forms of semiotic distinction is fashion, because fashionable clothes, accessories, and body adornment are easy for others to observe at glance. Incidental items, particularly branded specific handbags, footwear, jewelry, accessories, and new hairstyles act also as important status symbols. Certain items of clothing, such as hats, were particularly important, sending instant signals of ascribed or aspired social status. As communications improved, styles also spread to members of the elite classes in other parts of the world.
Fashion accessories can be loosely categorized into two general areas: those that are carried and those that are worn. Traditional carried accessories include purses and handbags, hand fans, parasols and umbrellas, canes, and ceremonial swords. Accessories that are worn may include jackets, boots and shoes, cravats, ties, hats, bonnets, belts and suspenders, gloves, muffs, jewelry, watches, sashes, shawls, scarves, socks, and stockings.
Headgear and hair ornaments include hairpins (or the more commonly known bobby pins), hair sticks, barrettes, headbands, and flowers inserted into hairdos. Wigs, toupees, and hair extensions supplement natural manes or even completely replace hair that is close-cropped or completely shaven off in some subcultures, such as certain Hasidic religious sects.
Jewelry is a major subcategory, including rings, cufflinks, tie tacks, necklaces, bracelets, aigrettes, lapel pins, and other wearable adornments. Semi-permanent jewelry includes some earrings and nose rings, as well as lip plugs, earlobe plugs which can also be referred to as ear gauges, and other items used with more exotic body modifications.
Some professions have developed special clothing features or accessories whose distinctive look has later been adopted by others as fashion statements, as well as for utilitarian reasons. Examples include "ten-gallon hats" (cowboys), aviator sunglasses (aircraft pilots), sailor caps (mariners), cargo pants (military and outdoorsmen), fishing vests (fly fishermen), hardhats (construction workers), and a variety of athletic shoes from different sports.
In Victorian fashion accessories such as fans, parasols and gloves held significance for how women experienced gender, race and class. In this era, there was a trend for women to adopt, or aspire to, a more leisurely lifestyle. Consequently gloves were often used by women to cover their hands and mask any signs of labor.
Also, in the early 16th century in Italy hat badges were worn by civilian men of a higher social status as decorative item, in imitation of the cap badges worn by the invading military. Hat badges were often worn in conjunction with a decorative sword and hilt. Hat badges were fashioned after plaquettes and often depicted a scene with personal relevance to the wearer.
The Scottish sporran and Japanese netsuke are examples of fashion accessories that have become identified with particular nationalities and subcultures. Military subcultures, such as samurai, ninja, and special ops soldiers each have their own specialized equipment, some of which are recognized by the general public as signifiers of special knowledge, skills, and status. Physicians and nurses can be seen wearing stethoscopes and surgical scrub outfits on the street, marking them as members of the medical professions. Other groups, such as alumni of particular colleges or sports fans of particular teams, use fashion accessories such as class rings, patterned neckties and scarves, or baseball caps to recognize each other.
Hardware hackers may carry miniature flashlights and small handtools (such as the widely-recognized Swiss Army Knife), both for functional use and for in-group recognition. In the 20th century, slide rules and then pocket calculators and calculator watches became authentic "nerd fashion" accessories before smartphones rendered them obsolete, whereupon they were taken up as retro style. Pocket protectors are now available with special logos and in luxury materials such as leather or finely woven metals, taking their place beside money clips, wallets, passport carriers, and trucker's wallets.
Writers, poets, and artists use tools such as fountain pens, diaries, sketchbooks, and colored pencils for their work, and such tools of the trade have been taken up by would-be imitators, fans and admirers. Headwear, such as berets, has been adopted by people socially identified as "hipsters" to symbolize an artistic or creative orientation. Gay and LGBTQ subcultures have defiantly worn pink triangles, as well as rainbow flags and other insignia to mark their membership in sexual minorities.
Drug user subcultures have their own specialized portable paraphernalia, some of which were adopted by wider subcultures as fashion accessories. Alcoholic beverages became associated with hip flasks and other surreptitious containers, especially during the American Prohibition years. Tobacco use in various forms inspired decorated match boxes, cigarette lighters, cigarette holders, smoking pipes, snuff bottles and snuff boxes, portable water pipes (hookahs or bongs), and "electronic cigarettes". Coke spoons, roach clips, and various pill holders, as well as repurposed tobacco paraphernalia, have emerged as fashion items in some groups.
Flowers, in the form of nosegays, boutonnières, corsages, wreaths, bouquets and other forms, have long been used as living fashion accessories. In addition, small pets, including toy dogs, birds, lizards, snakes, and chirping crickets have been worn or carried as fashion accessories. Talking parrots are widely recognized as part of a stereotypical pirate outfit. For a time, the eccentric surrealist artist Salvador Dali would carry a pet ocelot during his public appearances. In addition, beautiful women companions of rich and powerful men have often been characterized as "arm charms" or "arm candy", and small children have been called the ultimate luxury fashion accessory.
- Pijpenkabinet & Smokiana — museum of tobacco-related paraphernalia and accessories in Amsterdam
- Sign (semiotics)
- Status symbol
- Valerie Cumming; C. W. Cunnington; P. E. Cunnington (15 November 2010). The Dictionary of Fashion History. Berg. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-84788-533-3. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Ariel Beaujot (June 2012). Victorian Fashion Accessories. Berg. p. 1. ISBN 9781847886828. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Marika Leino (7 December 2012). Fashion, Devotion and Contemplation : The Status and Functions of Italian Renaissance Plaquettes. Peter Lang AG. p. 1. ISBN 9783039110681. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Media related to Fashion accessory at Wikimedia Commons
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